It was a dark night. We sat huddled in the darkness, inside an old and deserted farm-house. Suddenly a dog howled at a distance. Then we heard footsteps, first faintly then with more authority as someone approached the door. The echoes of the footsteps died away and the door knob turned.
The door, an old and rusty one, creaked open and a man entered. He briskly walked up to us and announced, “I am the one few have seen but all know. I am the one who is the resident of lonely and desolate villas. My stories are narrated to people by night when it is raining cats and dogs with crackling thunder and shining lightning. I am the ghost, the ghoul, the spirit and all of you are terrified of me.”And so saying he stopped, seemingly out of breath.
Meanwhile I was doubled-up with laughter for he was the sickliest ghost that I had been seen – a 98 pound weakling who was just a mass of bones with a very wrinkled body. Seeing me laugh, he got indignant and asked me the reason for being amused. I told him that he didn’t quite fit the bill of a ghost that I had heard of. Ghosts are supposed to be scary, with very large teeth, their very appearance is eerie, they glow, they float, they cackle and now you just walk up to me and expect me to believe that you are a ghost. Bah! If you are one I don’t see why I should be so scared of you.
“That’s the point”, pleaded my ghost. “Its you people who have created such weird notions, about our physique and appearance. We didn’t ever say we look like that. Dracula was no more than a figment of Bram Stoker’s imagination. And the movies that you make are equally bad. Oh my ! You do let your imagination run awry.”
But I countered, “Still why are you so sickly – you do don’t seem to be in good shape?”
He retorted, “Again all because of you and your race. You adulterate food, you adulterate water – in fact your homeostasis, pardon the scientific technicality, I mean your system has been so much spoiled that you can only eat adulterated food. And if you were to have something really pure, fresh and good you won’t be able to stomach it and will land up in a hospital. But I and my creed are no magic workers, our pure and delicate systems have been put to the severest of tests by you.
Oh! How many months have passed since I sucked the juicy and nutritious blood of your ancestors. I still remember on my last trip after having one prey of your kind I was taken so sick that I landed up in the ghostpital to have the blood checked for adulteration. The specialist there told me that it as not adulterated. I stopped for nothing but at once gobbled up half-a-dozen more men and landed up in the G.I.C.U. (Ghost Intensive Care Unit). It was only then that the specialist was kind enough to add that he had meant to say that the sample was pure, unadulterated dish water containing 0.069 ppm (parts per million, again sorry for the scientific jargon) of what seemed to be human blood.
So all of you roam around having your system filled with filthy dishwater and then expect me to maintain good, healthy physique. Why, I am still recuperating from the episode and it will take me some time before I will be ‘ship- shape’ and at least a year before I attain my original shape and physique, the shape of a ship.”
Then he just sat down panting and gasping, poor fellow talking so much to me had taken its toll of him. I felt rather sorry for this under-nourished chap and suddenly I had an idea. I asked my mother sitting next to me for the recipe to prepare ‘idli-sambar’ and using the ‘home-made’ and pure dough, made a batch for him. To say that he literally ate his fingers would certainly be no exaggeration. I also gave him the recipe and he said that he would grow the ingredients somewhere in the dark corner of Africa, still uninhabited, hence unpolluted and free of pesticides and other chemicals.
He thanked me and was overjoyed. He babbled something about getting me an admission into the swanky and exclusive club of ghosts. He said that it would be useful for me, some of the ghosts had been geniuses in their life time and using telepathy I would be able to link up with them and then all my homework and exams will be easier than the child’s play.
What calculus with Newton helping me out, what theory of relativity with Einstein aiding me? Even I was happy and also just realized, “Ghosts certainly aren’t all that scary as I dreamt them to be, all that people had told me about them in such menacing tones turned out to be 100 % false.”
I was studying in my XIIth standard when I won the First Prize in our school competition for ‘Best Story in English’ using the above piece. We had been given the opening line as mentioned : ‘It was a dark night …”. Subsequently the same appeared in our school magazine, ‘Young Expressions’, as well sometime in 1994.