Thursday, June 11, 2009


Can hostels and ghost stories ever be separated?

I was staying all alone in a 2nd floor flat in north Delhi. The landlord's family stayed on the first floor, while some more tenants stayed on the ground floor. It was summer. 1999. Being a poor student, I couldn't yet afford a mobile phone with its exorbitant call-rates. The landlord and his family were going to the hills for a week. They had an interesting proposition. I could stay in their living room while they were away--that way, I could attend to my dad's calls. I didn't mind sleeping on the sofa and watching TV. So it was fixed.

Every night, I'd finish my dinner by 8:30 pm, lock my flat up, and park inside the landlord's living room before retiring at 10:00. I'd peep downstairs to check if the other tenants were in or had gone to work. If they were in, I'd feel better that there were other humans in the house and sleep a good night's sleep. On the nights they weren't in, I'd pray more and buck up for a night all alone in the house.

It must have been the fourth or the fifth night. It was a moonlit night. 10:00 pm. I checked all doors and windows were bolted, the heavy iron gate closed, and the tenants were out. Of course, I didn't have to worry about the terrace door. It was an iron door bolted from the inside and the house was virtually impregnable once you bolt the gate and the terrace door. I switched off the lights, lay down on the sofa, closed my eyes, prayed, and then opened them again. My hair stood on end at what I saw. A young man was walking down the stairs from the 2nd floor and he looked straight ahead and walked silently down. He looked like a north-easterner. He was bespectacled and wore a T-shirt that could have been blue or gray. The glass window at my foot could easily be broken into if he wished! Who was he? How did he get up there? Why didn't he make any noise? Why was he walking like a zombie? Had he seen me? I froze and lay immobile for minutes that seemed like ages. I was so scared! After a while, I mustered up enough courage to peep downstairs. As expected, he was nowhere to be seen. Strangely, the other tenants were back just then. Why didn't I hear the gate opening? It usually made such a loud noise. Why didn't the other tenants find anything strange? Who did I see--man or ghost? I will never know. But either ways, it was one of the scariest moments of my life. I can only thank God that the lights were switched off and he didn't seem to have noticed me. The next morning, I went up to my room and found my flat was untouched. I checked the terrace too. It was still locked. All I know is, I had a narrow escape and I am really thankful.