The Call Of The Dead

The house was abuzz with the preparations for the grihapravesam (formal occupation of a new house) due to begin in a couple of hours. There was a steady flow of vendors of goods and services calling.

‘Amma, here’s 50 liters of milk you had ordered…’

‘Yemmao, take these flowers…the garlands are in this basket – there are two in them like you had wanted and this has the loose stuff…’

‘Sami, the temple poojari (priest) sent me here. He said you wanted coconuts to be picked. If you show me where the trees are…’

images  Thumba Agro Technologies, Palani

The Brihaspathi (family guru) arrived and the ceremony commenced on time.

Before long a child signaled to her mother to take him to the toilet. The houses in the village had toilets far back past the rear door, the backyard with trees and plants on one side and the dung-smelling cowshed on the other, the huge haystack well-removed from everything else for the fear of catching fire and the ubiquitous water-well. Business finished, the mother irritated at the distraction dragged the child back to the house even before he could pull his pants up.  Once near the trees in the backyard, the pants slipped down the child’s legs.

They were startled to hear loud and clear like a ringing bell a small girl giggling at the scene – the child standing there with pants around his ankles. The lady was not amused – she looked around and could find no one.  She checked going behind the trees in the backyard. No luck. And then the giggling ceased as suddenly as it had begun, all within a couple of minutes. Puzzling as it was she hurried back thinking no more about it.

The ceremony was conducted to its ritual conclusion as planned. In the time taken to set up for lunch thereafter, the guests relaxed stretching their limbs and circulated to connect up with friends and relations. In the ensuing banter two more guests mentioned about their strange experience of hearing a child’s laughter when they had gone out to the back of the house and couldn’t locate the source.

Within minutes everyone in the assembly had heard of it.  The more venturesome among the lot made a beeline for the backyard. The elders shrugged it off – they had seen and heard much worse in their days. Evil spirits were known to play cruel pranks. And this was only a harmless child having fun.

Presently, the team that had gone to check out returned. One batch confirmed hearing the sounds though somewhat muted while the second reported there was no sound, no girl and no cause to worry. A young man from this batch brought them to speed on phenomenon of mass psychosis quoting instances from world over.

The old man, a neighbor residing across the street and quiet until now, was not in agreement. Shaking his head slowly from side to side and waving his walking stick at no body in particular, he spoke up: ‘Tch, tch, it’s not simple as that…she isn’t going away.’

All heads turned to him. Who was this ‘she’?

He continued: ‘I remember – an incident that happened years ago when I was a young boy

images www.thehindu com.jpg

Shorn of drama and details, it was about a hapless girl visiting the house from the city accidentally falling into the well and was drowned. And for some reason not known she’s back here after a long break.

At this point disrupting the story session, the host emerged from the interior of the house to get the guests settled for lunch. But this was matter on hand was more pressing than lunch.  After all houses generally did not come with disembodied girls giggling at the back – a bit disconcerting, admittedly. The poor man at once drew everyone’s sympathy for his unfortunate lot. He was duly apprised of the developments starting at the beginning – the eventful return from the toilet of the mother and the child – and finishing with the old man’s story of the girl who had returned from the past. This was too serious to be settled in a hurry. Also it wasn’t the best to take decisions on empty stomach. They decided to deal with the girl post-sumptuous-lunch.

They still had to contend with the proverbial slip between the lunch and the lip. A compassionate lady intervened to point out the poor girl in the backyard must be hungry. She must be fed first. The thoughtful suggestion was accepted without any demur. Did the old man know what she liked? No? Never mind. So a small plate was brought out and the food fit for her age – more of the sweet – was laid out. Now popped up a question: Where should they keep the plate for her? The old man was helpful – he remembered the little girl liked playing around the coconut trees.That must be it. Even the sound had seemed to come from those coconut trees.  So the plate was placed under a coconut tree with a glass of water.

They had lunch with a relieved conscience.

Luckily the Brihaspati was still around for consultation. He assured the host it was not inauspicious that the girl had appeared precisely on the day of grihapravesam.  It was more likely she would protect the residents from all evil influences like kaaval daivam (guardian angel). Nevertheless a shanthi homam (an appeasement ritual) would help.  So it was agreed a homam would be performed – the date and the arrangements to be firmed up later.

Just as the venerable Brihaspathi was taking leave, the coconut picker appeared at the gate.

‘Didn’t we pay your charges in the morning itself?’ inquired the host.

‘Yes, Sami, you have already settled my accounts. I came for a different reason.’

‘You’ve come at a very inopportune time. The guests are still around. Tell me.’

‘Did you hear a girl giggling, Sami?’

The host gasped. How did it get to him so soon?

‘Yes, what about it?’

Why was he here? Did he practice exorcism on the side?

‘Ah, I thought so – it must be here. I was so worried. So careless of me to leave it here.’

What was he blabbering about? Did he practice exorcism in the reverse, planting spirits wherever he went? And then offering his services to take them away?

’Kindly allow me to find it and I’ll be gone within minutes. It must be in the coconut trees, the ones I climbed up.’

The host took a hard look at him. Was he staggering? Were his eyes alert? Hands steady?

‘I called out several times to see if I could find. ‘I’m sorry if it disturbed you.  My daughter loves it. Now of course the blessed thing is dead. 3-year old Nokia na, Sami, have to charge it up again now and then.’

It was now the host’s turn to stagger.

End

 

 

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Source: Based on a report in Times Of India.

Images: Thumba Agro Technologies, Palani, the hindu.com

 

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15 Responses to The Call Of The Dead

  1. God… the damned mobile 🙂 ha ha… nice but thrilling experience for the house owners

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mani S says:

    Hilarious.

    S. Mani

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nithya says:

    Kids enjoyed the story!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rajanga Sivakumar says:

    Wonderful articulation with clarity and suspense built! At the end the coconut picker could have indicated the fact that his young daughter with the mobile was with him when he had come in the morning. Or did I get it wrong somewhere? I am posting in my FB page.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ankur Mithal says:

    Ha ha! Great story. And connecting modern technology and spirits 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. V Narayanan says:

    was hilarious and can be used to tell the world how mobile penetration has taken place in India ! No more a snake charmers’ country!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. this is too good!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. oldpoet56 says:

    Excellent post.

    Like

  9. oldpoet56 says:

    Reblogged this on Truth Troubles: Why people hate the truths' of the real world and commented:
    Excellent piece of work.

    Like

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