Satoma Asadgamaya

In Memory

Migrated Datasets


Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Thing

I grew up in a most wondrous and idyllic place. Nestled in the haematite hills of the Chota Nagpur Plateau and hidden from civilisation by the forest of Saranda, Noamundi was an anachronistic dot on the map. It was amazing. It was also infested.

At least that’s what Binu always told me. Binu – our servant and my trusted sidekick. He was a local who knew the entire area like the back of his hand. Well, almost. The forest preferred to keep some of its secrets.

Fourteen year old daredevils do not like secrets. Amit bhaiyya was one such character. He was my hero. He had also once busted my left eyebrow open with a vicious bouncer.

Summer vacation was on. Things were pretty boring. Most of the gang had split for the hols. The remaining few were gathered at my place for a matinee show. Binu had been sent to fetch ‘Mr. India’ but he had returned with the spine-chilling title ‘Kabrastan’. Nobody was amused except for Amit bhaiyya. Fifteen minutes into the movie and half of the kids had vamoosed. The others (including me) were cowering behind the sofa. Only Binu, Amit bhaiyya and my dog Arrow seemed to be watching hideous creatures splash blood and gore all over the television screen. Fortunately, my mother came to our rescue and had them turn it off.

Binu then proceeded to entertain us for the rest of the evening by digging deep into his treasure trove of lore. He was a raconteur par excellence who had us utterly spellbound. Everything was going fine until Amit bhaiyya innocuously asked him, “Binu! Woh DVC waale kabrastan ke bare main bataon na.” A clouded look came over Binu’s face as he said, “Nahi. Nahi. Who sab bachon ke liye nahi hai. Sunny dar jayega aur humko daant padega.” Amit bhaiyya turned to me and hissed, “Darpok Sunny! Theher main Prerna ko batata hoon!” This jibe saw me go beetroot-red and also provoked hearty laughter all around.
‘Darpok Sunny’ thus being taken care of, Binu started off with the macabre tale of the ‘DVC kabrastan’ that had once been buried deep in the bowels of the Saranda. I will do away with the embellishments that were so inimitably put forth by Binu and attempt to convey the matter in a nutshell.

Many years back, before I was even born, there had been a graveyard in the forest, right on the outskirts of Noamundi. As most graveyards were and still are, this was reputed to be haunted by ghouls and spooks of all shapes and sizes. In its case, however, the reputation had assumed formidable proportions on account of numerous unsolved cases gathering dust in the local police station. In fact, according to old-timers, it was not an uncommon occurrence to find a severed human head the day after Ammavasya. Everybody, including the police, washed their hands of the business and gave the graveyard a wide berth. This was until a certain Col. Sinha was contracted by the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) to erect a major grid station at the very spot that the graveyard stood. Locals, ostensibly, were aghast at the idea but the DVC’s top brass were adamant. There was a lot of money involved and the topography was just perfect. So in came the Colonel, all gung-ho and irreverent, with his bulldozers. Before anybody could bat an eyelid, the demolition crew had razed everything to the ground and packed up. The Colonel didn't have too much time to celebrate though - he was found with his guts sprayed all over one of his own bulldozers.

It was not a pretty sight. The SP threw up and the entire Singhbhum district administration was thrown into a tizzy. The power and mining lobbies were stopped dead in their tracks. Although the graveyard was reduced to rubble and dust, there was not one man alive who would even touch it with a barge pole. So it lay there, undisturbed, until the forest reclaimed its own. The Colonel’s death was never explained and the grid station was never built at the site. It was relocated to a place about four kilometres away, but not before the consecration of a twin temple dedicated to Kali and Shiva. The DVC mandir, as it is popularly known, still stands sentinel over the area today.

The legend of the DVC kabrastan grew dim over the years. Perhaps it was because of the emergence of new hotspots like the abandoned slime dam and the dilapidated ‘Manager’s Office’. Most attributed it to the presence of the temple. Whatever the reason, it had started to fade from popular memory. But it always remained a forbidden place.

It was with great thrill and rapt attention that I listened to the dark history of the DVC kabrastan. Even Amit bhaiyya gulped nervously at the end of it. It was a red-letter day that would lead to events culminating in horror. But little did I realise it then.

Ever since Amit bhaiyya had heard the complete story, he had become totally obsessed with it. He had gone off his rocker. Some great man had once said that there is a very thin line dividing foolishness and bravery. But I never thought that Amit bhaiyya would surpass himself and put that idiom to the test.

It had been two weeks since Binu had unwittingly brainwashed the hare-brained Amit bhaiyya. I was rolling in some flowerbeds, struggling to retrieve my prized ‘crazy’ ball from a boisterous Arrow’s mouth, when Amit bhaiyya’s head popped up over the garden wall. He just happened to be my neighbour too. He whispered, “Oye Sunny! Jaldi aa! Aaj phod-phad machne waala hai!” Sensing excitement in the air, I wasted no time in joining him across the wall. I found that two of his comrades-in-arms, Vikas bhaiyya and Amarendra bhaiyya were already there. Not every eleven-year-old could hang out with fourteen-year-old bhaiyyas but being Amit bhaiyya’s favourite came with its own privileges – and pitfalls.

My head reeled and I staggered. I wished to disappear in a puff of smoke when I understood the intentions of the trio. The lunatics were actually planning to pay a visit to the DVC kabrastan. I mean, hello, was the DVC kabrastan supposed to be neighbourhood Pizza Hut or something? This was the sort of place that would make hardened criminals quake in their boots and cry like babies. Who did this guy think he was – Tom Sawyer or Indiana Jones? They even had all sorts of paraphernalia ready for the expedition – torches, Vikas bhaiyya’s airgun and ‘bhuti’ from the DVC mandir in addition to other odds and ends. The icing on the cake was that they actually wanted to do it at night - that very night by sneaking out of their houses, jumping the security perimeter of the township and cycling for about seven kilometres in the deathly darkness of the Saranda.

And I was being handed an invitation. It was like being invited to dinner with, or rather, be dinner for disembodied phantoms and headless zombies. I desperately tried to worm my way out of it. “Mummy dantegi.” “Bhoot ayega.” “Dar lagta hai.” “Andhera hoga.” “Cycle theek nahi hai.” But each and every time I met the stern and disapproving gaze of Amit bhaiyya. “Look here Sunny, it’s not Ammavasya. Nothing will happen. Don’t be chicken.” But I guess I was chicken. That is why I was unceremoniously tossed backed over the wall with a dire threat to keep my big mouth shut: “Spill the beans and I’ll spill your teeth.”

That night I did not sleep. I kept my eyes peeled for any sort of activity along the back path. There was nothing. Maybe they had finally shrugged off the crazy idea. At the stroke of eleven, however, a shadowy form on a bicycle went furtively by.

The Thing to be continued...

Management Class : Tall Tales

mental baba 3:02 AM
baba ka katora |