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A 'ghostly' experience!

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Coming from a Defence background, my brother and I had enchanted childhoods, to say the least.

Coming from a Defence background, my brother and I had enchanted childhoods, to say the least. Our long tenures in Bangalore, which back then was cool, verdant and beautiful was the mainstay of our growing up years.

Large protected open spaces were at our disposal and we made good use of them, with lots of friends for company.

As we grew up, being the one more in contact with our superciliously superstitious Tamil help Manoamma, I was the one influenced by her way of thinking. For her, most natural phenomena were either connected to ghosts or devils.

The tumbleweeds which are balls of dry grass and leaves tossed around by the wind and the small whirlwinds which lift up dust and dry objects in a tall spiral, a common sight there at the time, were actually ghosts to her and I was advised to run away from them.

Naturally, I had learnt 'details' about a 'ghost house' a few rows down our lane, from her, who vouched that 'paranormal' activity was still going on going on there.

The story was that a violent death had taken place in the house and some 'untoward incidents' thereafter had forced the authorities to keep it locked.

To add to the mystery, she warned me to keep off from the area because the 'ghost' still hovered between the solitary tree in the front courtyard and the house and sometimes scared passers by out of their wits.

In spite of all the tutoring about the nether world, we children would never compromise on our fun and games with our friends, as we had no restricting factors like mobile phones or TV back then.

It was just pure wholesome outdoor games after school as tuitions and coaching classes were unheard of.

One day it was decided that we should have a club house of our own. Putting our heads together, the only vacant place we could come up with was, the 'ghost house'!

The idea was vetoed by the brave older boys and brushing aside all protests by the less brave, it was decided that the 'ghost house' it would be. I was not too perturbed as my brother was also there.

So we shifted our activities to the new venue. We girls used to peek through the windows to make sure there was nothing strange happening inside.

Since the house was locked we only had access to the long L shaped verandah which included the car porch and a fairly big courtyard outside.

The lone scraggy pine- tree with unwelcome needle like leaves, took on a personified form in my mind and appeared to be standing in a corner viewing the goings on in a detached manner. I managed to keep a respectable distance from it.

We used the club premises only during weekends and all activities were concluded before dark as there was no light. Wanting to do something unique, we had planned a variety entertainment programme, with our parents as the invited audience.

Planning and rehearsals went on in real earnest and finally the big day arrived. We were decked up in our costumes and impatiently waiting to show off our skills.

The porch doubled up as the stage, complete with draw curtains and a single light that was installed in the middle of it, which was plugged using a long wire, to the next house. Everything was done on our own as we had older boys and girls in the group.

On the big day the parents dutifully came and made themselves comfortable on the chairs in the open ground in front of the porch.

The curtain opened to a round of claps and one by one the items unfolded. The programme included some innovative skits, mono acts, songs and dances.

We didn't notice the time pass and the sun bidding adieu from the sky. Even as the evening faded into night, everyone was engrossed in the show which was almost coming to an end.

Suddenly the light went off and the small children started screaming, realisation having dawned on the significance of the premises. What followed was sheer pandemonium.

Power failures being a rarity in the area, the sudden plunging of this particular house into darkness was foxing, when there was light elsewhere.

Luckily some parent (all the fathers being seasoned soldiers who could handle any situation) told everyone not to panic and that the matter would be looked into.

The children were rounded up and told to remain calm. My eyes instinctively went to the eerie pine tree, the outline of which looked ominously bizarre against a distant light and which appeared to be grinning at our plight and ( thanks to Manoamma's coaching) I was consumed by an inexplicable fear of the unknown.

Within no time the light was restored . It was curtains down for the rest of the show, as many did not want to continue.

A quick Jana Gana Mana wrapped up the evening and we beat a hasty retreat never to come back again and no one spoke of continuing in the clubhouse anymore.

Looking back, I can laugh off the electrical malfunction as a mischievous prank by someone but at that time the fear was very real, showing how superstitious beliefs can cause unwanted fears and influence our thoughts and actions.

By using logic many a situation can be explained and we can live a life devoid of unnecessary fear of the unknown.

Elizabeth Koshy

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