Manish and I smiled at each other as we looked through the paper, Could this be the one? It was 12:15 am, the air was warm but our hands were cold and our hearts were racing. We handed the scrawny looking man our money, and headed home. I feel my chest, making sure the paper was still there under the shirt. It cost me and my eight friends quite a sum of money- the question paper for the next day’s examinations. We had to make sure we passed with at least 98% marks so that we could get into a professional college paying a minimum donation.
The previous evening all of us met at the cafeteria near our college to pool our money. There was a cemetery close to the printing press where the question papers for the exams are scheduled to be printed. None of us were really thrilled at the idea of waiting at the cemetery for a rendezvous with our “question paper Man”. So we drew two names from a lot, and I was one of them. We’ve heard many stories of ghosts that have been sighted within the cemetery walls and the road close by. We’ve never seen one but it was unnerving to be so close to the cemetery late at night. To top it all, this is the first time we were doing something illegal. If the cops catch us, our life as we know it, is over. If we don’t get above 98%, we will be disappointing our parents and family, which in turn will riddle us with guilt for the rest of our lives. Our fear of not living up to our family’s expectations far outweighed the fear of cops or ghosts.
In the euphoria of having an ace up our sleeve for the next days exams, we were each lost in our own thoughts of how great a day tomorrow, hmm, today would be. We had about 25 minutes of walking through the path between the graves, when suddenly my friend stopped walking and said “Did you hear that?” I stopped about two paces from him and said “what?” He said, “Nothing, It stopped”. I figured he was playing a prank on me, so I started to walk and he followed. That’s when I heard the “ching, ching, ching” go in sync with my footsteps. I stopped, Manish stopped and so did the “ching”. I looked at him and he stared back, we simultaneously checked our pockets for keys. No, not keys, no change either. We were 18 and we were so not willing to submit to fear, I say “Hmm. guess we are imagining it.” He plays along “Yeah, I guess”. So we start walking and the “ching, ching, ching” gets louder and closer, like its almost right behind us. We also smell a whiff of the nightqueen. Our fear started to take over, we stopped and looked at each other with eyes in pure terror, and yelled “RUN!!!”
We flew to my house which was the closest, got inside, shut the door, and were totally breathless. We turn out the lights and look out the window. At a distance we see a beautiful, pale woman walking in a streaming white sari under the moonlight. For a moment neither of us spoke and then Manish whispered “Bhoothni(female ghost)”. Wordlessly we made a pact to not mention this episode to anyone, and went about our day like nothing had happened. For many nights after the event, I would wake up in a sweat.
To this day, when the two of us meet, we still wonder what we saw on that day. We are almost double the age we were then, but even now, talking of this event brings goose bumps. Our wives know about it, but they think we just made this up to frighten them. We wonder if we really saw that lady in white. We’ve had many discussions about what we really see in life. Logically we can only see what our eyes see, but we did see something that day that we instinctively know defies logic. Could fear change our vision of reality? Could two people have the same imagination? Could we have dreamed the same dream on the same night? Could we dream while we are awake? If it was a dream, how did we manage to dream while walking home. Our lives are filled with uncertainties, there are always questions that cant be answered and events that escape our understanding. Perhaps, I need to go with the flow, cause in the not knowing, I felt humility. After all we can never Know everything but we can always live with grace, no matter what happens.
P.S. This was a story I wrote on another site in 2006.