THE BHOJPUR APPARITION… A Ghost Story

2.

The horizon appears, but it’s still very far. The weather changes its mood. Sun reappears. The gloominess disappears from the faces of the two. Iqbal thinks that the incidence of the sari-clad dead woman was mere an optical trick. He is a little ashamed of his reaction to that incident in front of an illiterate boatman. He must reinstate his image.

IQBAL. Darkness surely plays tricks on your mind. Even dark clouds can make you believe in ghosts. The sunshine makes everything great. See the beauty of this wilderness. 

BOATMAN. I don’t see any beauty in the wilderness, Saab.  To me, the wilderness is darkness. I love the company of human beings. Unfortunately, I always find myself in the wilderness. 

IQBAL. Oh, I see. Why don’t you go to the cities then? You’d find many jobs for yourself. Patna is not very far from here.

BOATMAN. I tried my luck there twice, Saab. It didn’t work for me. Cities are good for those who are born there. I couldn’t survive there for long. It’s suffocating there. 

IQBAL. What is your name, by the way, I forgot to ask?

BOATMAN. They call me Chandu Lal, Saab.

IQBAL. Where do you live? How will I find you if I need your service again?

BOATMAN. Lord Rama knows how we meet again. I don’t live in the village anymore. I keep flowing with my boat these days. Karamnasa river is my home, you can say.

IQBAL. You don’t live in a village anymore, what do you mean?

BOATMAN. A few years back they killed my wife. The villagers… they killed her. She was pregnant then. They called her witch. But, I know, she was not. She was just mad. Oh, I’m sorry Saab. I shouldn’t be talking about bad things. Let bygones be bygones!

IQBAL. I understand. I’m sorry for your loss. Well, we’ll meet again anyway. Ah, we’ve almost reached the shore. I don’t see any sign of anything. 

BOATMAN. It’s just the shore, Saab, not your destination. You still got to walk for three miles from here. You can ask anyone you come across for the direction of the Kali temple. I’m afraid you may not find anyone in these times in these areas. 

IQBAL. I’m on my own, I guess them. How much do I owe you? 

BOATMAN. Your wish, Saab. You can pay me in coins or food if you got any. 

Iqbal gives him a few coins as well as some packaged food that he brought along. The boatman appears content. 

IQBAL. (Smilingly.) Well, Chandu Lal… We’ll meet again, hopefully. 

BOATMAN. Lord Rama knows. Will you do me a favor, Saab.

IQBAL. Yeah, say it. 

BOATMAN. When you meet the Babaji, ask him for my wife’s salvation and redemption. I’m a small man, but he’d surely listen to you. (Sobbingly.) I want Mukti for my wife; that’s all I want.

IQBAL. Okay, I will. Listen, I’m really sorry about what happened to your wife. But, you know, she’s at a better place now. Away from the misery of this brutal world. She’s at peace.

BOATMAN. (Angrily.) No, Saab, she’s not at peace. She’s not at peace. She’s suffering. She’s still suffering. She’s not got her Mukti. She is still stuck here. 

IQBAL. Calm down, Chote Lal, calm down. I’ll surely speak to the Babaji on it. I know how you feel, but, listen to me, and listen to me carefully. Listen, your wife is dead. She’s at peace. And you should know that. She’s not stuck or anything like that. You are a good man, don’t be like other illiterate villagers. 

BOATMAN. Oh, Saab, you don’t understand. The dead woman you saw in the water is my wife. She follows. The devil’s got her. She’d follow you now unless you seek the Babaji’s blessings. 

IQBAL. Ah, you’ve gone crazy Chote Lal. I must go now. Goodbye!

BOATMAN. Be careful of the devil. Ram, Ram!

Iqbal picks up his luggage and leaves in panic and confusion.

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