The story I’m going to narrate today is what happened to me when I was a very little boy. I can’t definitely tell you how old I was at that time. The details regarding my age, the class I was reading in have been lost in the unfathomable depths of oblivion. After attempting hard to recover some scraps from the darkness and stitching them, I present it before you.
The thing happened in the evening by popular judgement, but to me it was dead night, enough for me to go to bed. Usually, in my boyhood days I used to take my dinner by 8 p.m. in the evening and up to around 9 p.m. I followed my mother wherever she went─ from the kitchen to the dining room, from the dining room to the cowshed, where, before going to bed, my mother used to feed the cow and the calf. After that with the greatest guidance and security of my mother from the fear of ghosts, I went to bed.
That evening, after taking dinner, I was doing my habitual works when suddenly a sound of loud cry came from the house next to ours. I became afraid. My mother hurriedly went out of the house and after a minute came back with an expression of sadness on her face and said, “Barun’s grandmother has died. Can you stay with your sister for a few minutes?”
Though I was afraid to stay with my little sister on such an inauspicious evening, it was a matter of greater fear to see a dead face at such an hour. So, despite my reluctance to let my mother go, I said, “Yes ma, I’ll stay with her. But come soon”
She fondled my hair and said, “Yes my son, I’m just coming back.”
I went upstairs of our two-storeyed mud house with my sister with an expectant heart. To pass somehow the time of my mother’s absence I started talking to my sister, “Barun’s grandmother ill for a month. How it pains her to come to the tube-well! So much pain and yet the smiling face! Better if she not died!”
My sister also replied in the same vein, “Yes, she’s a very loving woman! Tonu grandma loves us too much!”
Saying this, she started sobbing. I also joined her. I could not accept Tonu grand ma’s death. I said, “Sister, how I long to see her, but I can’t see a dead face! I’m so afraid of ghosts!”
Tonu grandmother used to visit our house every morning for a cup of tea from my mother. My mother, after preparing tea in the morning, used to call her, “Aunt, please come. Tea’s rready!” Tonu grandmother immediately obeyed her call and arrived before us. While taking tea she used to bless us, “God make you a great man, my son. Your mother is so kind!”
It was very difficult thing to forget Tonu grandma’s loving face. I told my sister, “Do you remember she gave us so many guavas and mangoes the other day.”
“She tells beautiful stories of fairies and princess whenever we approach her to tell her a story!” my sister added. She also said, “Bhai, Tonu grandma is not only Barun’s grandmother but our own. Our mother must be late in coming. Each loved the other too much!”
My sister and I cried for a few minutes and then when we were asleep we didn’t know.
The next morning, after waking up, I went outside my house for brushing my teeth. During our boyhood days, there was no tube-well inside our house. There was a common tube-well in our locality. We as well as our neighbours used this one tube-well for any purpose ─ be it for bathing, washing clothes, drinking water. So, it was a common sight to see people waiting around it for their turn to use it.
As I went there I found one or two people were going inside Barun’s house and then again coming back. Unlike these days, people then were very sympathetic and when a person died in the neighbourhood, people took care to help them in every way possible.
The aged persons of the locality started interacting with each other. One said, “When will they return after cremating?” The other replied, “Not before evening today. Walking such a long distance for burning the dead body! One said, “Isn’t it so sudden? No one could think of it even in the afternoon! She has died a peaceful death!”
I was listening to such talks with attentive ears. I could make no head or tail of the utterance “Isn’t it so sudden?” Tonu grandma was ill for a month! However, being a tiny little boy, I thought that perhaps I was entering into forbidden territory for me.
I started washing my mouth with fresh water from the tube-well. Suddenly I heard from behind, “Are you washing your teeth, my love?” I turned behind and said to myself, “Oh my God, What am I seeing? No doubt, it’s the spirit of Tonu Grandma.” I was frightened terribly. I tried to shout and run at a breakneck speed. But I failed. My legs seemed to have been paralyzed. It seemed to me that the ghost was trying to pull me from behind. Anything I could utter was some indistinct sounds, “bo-bo-bo”. I stood motionless and almost fainted.
When I regained my consciousness, I saw I was in the lap of that ghost and the ghost was sprinkling water on my face. With that loving voice, despite her illness, she now said, “What has happened to you, my love?”
Somehow I managed to free myself from her. Then I saw my mother was sitting beside her. I embraced my mother and said in a frightened tone, “Ma, Tonu grandma is dead, and yet, she is here! Are we possessed by the Ghost?”
My mother held me in her bosom tightly and then said, “where is the ghost? Are you afraid of Purnima grandma who died yesterday? She has burnt already.”
Hearing this I jumped up and said, “Who died yesterday? Wasn’t it Tonu grandma?”
“Who told you, my son?”, my mother replied with an expression of uneasiness and surprise on her face.
You told me, “Barun’s grandmother has died. Tonu grandma was ill, and not Purnima grandma.”
“Yes, you’re right. Purnima grandma was not ill. It is unfortunate that she has left us suddenly.”
After this incident, Tonu grandma recovered her illness and lived for another four years. Whenever she came to our house for a cup of tea, after that day, she said in a vein of humour and smilingly, “The ghost has come to take a cup of fresh tea!”