Whenever the Halloween comes, I wish I could become kid for a day and dress up as a ghost and a witch and go out celebrating Halloween. Sure, it’s not an Indian festival. But hey, it must be so much fun. Of course, I can still dress up as someone dead or deadly, but from where would I get the super fertile imagination and the ready sense of thrill that’s a special property only of childhood? And without these, I can’t see dressing up being even half as much fun.
On the other hand, when I was a child, I could never have imagined ghosts ever being fun! Ghosts, at that time, were only something terrifying that parents didn’t want us to know about. That was why they kept on telling us that ghosts didn’t exist. But of course, being a smart kid, I knew better than to believe in everything that the grownups said. If ghosts weren’t real, why would my mother say that it was not a good idea to sleep under a tree at night? She may give whatever reason, but I knew well. It was only because ghosts lived on trees.
That, actually, was not really a good thing to know. Ignorance really is bliss sometimes, you know. But what to do? I was a smart and intelligent kid, and I knew everything. So ghosts lived on trees. And we had a backyard where there was a whole clump of banana trees. And banana trees have big and shiny leaves, you know. And when light from a street lamp falls on them, you can sometimes very clearly see a ghost sitting and swinging on those big leaves.
Well, as I told you, I was a smart and intelligent kid, I knew well not to go near the trees or look at them at night. I didn’t want the ghost to catch me looking at it! But then, one night it just happened that my mother left my elder sister and me to our means and went to do some emergency shopping. Father, that day, was out on official tour. So it was just my elder sister and I at home alone.
It is a fact that when left to their own devices, kids always delve into their store of courage and become more daring. And it was the result of just that daring perhaps that my sister and I agreed to play in the backyard.
Okay, so I was smart and intelligent and all that, but my turn at the game we called staapoo somehow never lasted as long as my sister’s. So there I was, sitting on the doorstep and waiting and waiting for my elder sister to get out. And as I waited, I just happened to look towards the banana trees. Maybe, it was the ghost that forced me to do so by its magic. But whatever the reason, I looked at the trees. And there, right before me, I saw it! I saw the ghost! It was bright and shiny and shapeless, but I could see its big teeth. And of course I knew instantly that it was staring at me and would come flying at me any moment.
‘Bhooooooooooooot!’ I shouted immediately. ‘Didi, bhooooooooooooooooot!’
‘Bhooooooooooot!’ my sister shouted, without even bothering to look where I was pointing at. But then, as I said, I was smart and intelligent, and she trusted me. If I said there was a ghost, then there was a ghost, no doubt about it.
In two steps she was back inside the house, and I was right there beside her. And together, with our two heads and four hands, we pressed the door shut against the ghost.
‘You hold it shut, I’ll pull a chair, climb on it and lock it,’ suggested my sister.
‘No! If you let go, the ghost would push at the door and I won’t be able to hold and then it would open the door and enter the house and eat me and then it will eat you too and then when mummy comes, it will eat her too!’ I hissed back.
We couldn’t have risked our mummy getting eaten by the ghost. So we decided to keep holding the door shut and to keep shouting for help.
‘Bhoot! Bhoot!’ the cries echoed from our house. And they were loud enough to reach mummy when she was still half a block away. Down went her shopping bags and she ran to save her darling daughters.
‘What’s the matter? What happened? Why are you crying?’ she asked, bursting in through the front door.
‘There’s a ghost in the banana tree,’ my sister replied.
‘And it has seen us, and it was showing his big teeth to me, and it wants to eat us all,’ I added, giving the full information.
‘Nonsense, there are no ghosts,’ my mother replied. That, of course, was a lie. If there were no ghosts, why had she come running to save us upon hearing us crying ‘bhoot?’
‘There is a ghost!’ I cried out, feeling insulted at being told a lie even in such a situation.
‘Yes, I saw it too,’ my sister added, even though she hadn’t even dared look.
‘Yes, didi saw it too,’ I turned my sister’s lie into a truth. If my mother could lie, so could my sister. She was, after all, a fellow sufferer. ‘It is big, and ugly, and it has big teeth, and I saw it clearly.’
‘Well, I’ll go and see for myself,’ said my mother.
“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!’ my sister and I shouted in unison. There was no way we were going to let our mother go out and risk her life.
There really are times when grownups behave in most foolish ways. That was one of those times most surely. And despite our screams, shrieks, screeches and howls, mother pushed us aside and went out. Worse, holding our arms, she dragged us out too. There we were worrying about her life. And there she was, dragging us right into the mouth of a ghost!
‘Where?’ she asked, getting angry without reason. We had a reason to be angry, but we weren’t. We were only pleading to her to be sensible. But she again shouted, ‘Where is that ghost?’
My sister looked at me, and I pointed out the leaf where I had seen the ghost sitting and grinning at me.
‘There’s nothing there,’ my mother said.
‘It was there. It must have become hidden,’ I said.
‘Well then, let’s bring it out,’ said my mother. And then, beyond all sensible reason, she walked up to the tree and starting slapping the leaves!
Well, I was proved right and she was proved wrong! Out flew the black ghost!
‘See? See? There it is!’ I said, pointing to the flying object. Fortunately, I think the ghost didn’t like mummy’s slapping the leaves. So it went away and didn’t bother to even taste us. Which was a good thing, of course.
‘It was only a bat,’ said my mother, lying of course, as I knew very well.
‘No, it was a ghost, and it had big teeth and it even showed its teeth to me,’ I said.
But what to do. Mothers are mothers, and when they decide they don’t want to listen to you, they won’t listen to you no matter how much sense you talk.
So I was made to shut up, my sister was made to shut up. And we did. We stopped crying. And we agreed with her that it was just a bat and that there are no ghosts. Though we knew too well it was a lie. Our own mother was telling us to believe a lie. But then, she could make us nod our heads to her words. But our beliefs were our own.
We knew we had seen a ghost.
We believed it.
And nothing else mattered.
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