05 September, 2008

A family gathering and a ghost story

Families when they get together yak a lot but ours goes a step further , We try for new world records in this department every other time we meet. Our roots in Ratnagiri ( on the western coast of India ) are to be blamed for why we cant keep shut, ever.

Once a year at least we meet up for a grand family get-together during the Ganapathi (The god with the head of an elephant and a potbelly) festival. These conversations have the usual catching up of current whereabouts of family members, mildly gossipy sound bytes and the latest happenings.

My paternal first cousin Minal, the eldest of her brood was in full flow this year. My uncle and his family (two daughters and a son along with their families) had driven down to Ganapathipule a seaside resort temple on the Ratnagiri coast. It’s on the Mumbai-Goa stretch. It was on the return journey that this incident happened. The party was distributed amongst 3 cars, Manish-my cousin,his father, mother, wife and kids in one, Jyoti- his other sister, her twin daughters and her hubby- Umesh in the second while the third had Minal, her husband Milind with her son Mohit in the drivers seat.Milind sat alongside Mohit in the front and Minal had the backseat. This cavalcade had decided to leave Ganapathipule around six thirty, evening.

It gets dark pretty early in those parts and it’s a hilly forest area when one leaves the beaches. Its an excellent road but pitch dark always.All one sees are silhouettes of trees and inky blackness where the road ends and the valley begins. Cicadas shriek in the dark, Owls screech and you actually hear the wind whistle through the trees. It’s an eerie atmosphere to be driving through, for sure.

Night driving requires a special attention and can be very boring and strenuous. Headlights of oncoming vehicles hit u from the front and zip past. You blink back into pitch dark again and keep at it. A conversation in such an atmosphere is always stilted and erratic. Tired bodies & the darkness around makes the mind wander. It was a good car and the distance was being rapidly eaten up till they came to a ghat (a geographical formation of a hilly valley road that gives us Maharashtrians our generic name ...Ghaatis). There was no civilization around for miles , one side was a steep mountain around which the road curved upwards and the other slipped into a deep valley. Completely empty, bereft of visible life at this time.

The other two cars had passed ahead and their tail lights were not visible anymore. Mohit is a good driver and was cruising at a steady 80 kmph speed, when the clock on the dashboard blinked a furiously fluorescent eight. It’s then he saw a figure materialize right in the centre of his headlights.He hit the brakes and horn hard. The sound echoed into the still night as the car screeched to a stop burning rubber, barely a foot and a half from the figure. It was a woman of middling age. She was standing facing the other direction, unperturbed by the sound created by the braking automobile. Neither did she turn. Long dark gray hair had splayed till her waist. She sidled past keeping her right leg to the side dragging the left leg to join it in a queer shuffling gait. It was a full three minutes before she reached the edge of the road near the valley side that had a steep fall and ended in pitch darkness. Here she stood for a few minutes and vanished as eerily as she appeared. The three people in the car were stupefied.Too stunned to react or speak. Milind, recovered first and urged Mohit "put the car in the gear quickly and move on now , don’t even look back". Mohit kept wondering who was she and where had she suddenly sprung from? Despite the cars cooling system all of them were sweating bullets.

It was another 50 kms before the ghat ended as they stopped at a roadside joint. The stall vendor was an old timer and he served them tea. As he looked at them and their strange expressions he asked, what was the matter? Milind told him about seeing an old woman and described her to the oldtimer. The guy looked at them and asked , was it eight 'o' clock then? The three almost choked on their teas. The old man murmured that you are very very fortunate. One that u didnt run thru her, Two you did not roll down the window & Three thankfully u did not get out of the car and shout cuss words at her. Puzzled they asked him who was she? He told them that she was a young woman from these parts. She was hit by a car at that spot nearly 15 years ago and the driver had run away. Her spirit roams the mountains and those cars that pass through her without braking or swear at her on seeing her , find themselves in deep trouble. Either the vehicles fail on them , or they crash into the valley and people too have disappeared. Buses or trucks dont encounter her, only cars. Every villager knows about her and avoids taking that road around 8 in the night. He said that this is the only ghost that ages. The hair turns greyer with every passing year, it used to be black once upon a time. If she turns and faces you then you are dead.

This was the experience that Minal shared with us in this years gathering. Was it a fantasy or just a story from a very fertile imagination? I had a strong urge to laugh as she told it but for some reason didnt. Minal may be the scared-easy types but Milind & Mohit certainly were not .Their eyes had held confusion & fear as they recounted. It certainly was a strange tale ,and too weird to be all imagined....


shazia said...

hi!!! yet another scary one coming from you but i am wiser now :-)

where'd you get the pictures?


Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

cool hai na...one is a real pic from the windshield of a car..the other is a minscule part of a large photograph of a play...when i saw that piece i knew it fit into this post..so there

Meghna said...

hahaha...nice write up...though i dont believe in ghosts and all, but this incident does scores a point as there are three witnesses(and two guys therein)... its like jisne experienc kiya usne vishwas kiya....like the UFO thing!