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Friday, December 13, 2013

The Haunted Haveli

In the village of Hoshangarhi, there was a huge haveli that stood in the outskirts of the village. Tall, proud, pristine, painted bright white yet abandoned and haunted.  

Once upon a time, a big family of two brothers, their wives and several noisy children lived in that mansion. There was a complete harmony and celebration; Devjani was the wife of the younger brother. They had no children of their own but they loved all the children of the elder brother Somesh and his wife Mridula. 

One day Devjani went to her parent’s house for a visit. Her mother gifted her some of her family jewelry. On her return she was too tired; she kept the gift in the cabinet without showing it to her sister-in-law, Mridula. Being close-knit, like siblings, this pinched Mridula. The rub of feelings grew; before Devjani could realize anything squabbles and fights grew between the two. Husbands began to notice the discord but decided not to intervene. The differences turned into intolerance and Mridula decided to get Devjani out of the house. She started filling her husband’s ears against Devjani and her brother in law.

 Evil words worked like slow poison. The elder brother started doubting and questioning her young brother. The entire mansion resonated with disturbance. Devjani’s husband resorted to drinking because of the disharmony in the house. One day he came home drunk to find two women in a heated exchange of words. He tried to intervene but the elder brother got in the middle and called him, lazy, selfish and a cheat. Frustrated with the lambasting, he started beating up his wife Devjani that night and threw her out of the house blaming her for their childlessness. All this while Mridula gloated with evil joy. Devjani was deeply shocked. The irony was that when they threw her out of the house, she was pregnant. Her parents took care of her. When her child came into the world, there was no sign of joy or recognition in her as if she had lost her mental equilibrium and her connection with the world. She ignored the baby and roamed around in the streets talking gibberish.

One day she passed by the haveli. She saw Mridula inside. She walked in and asked, ‘Didi (big sister) whom are you cooking for? Everyone is gone.’ And laughed manically. The next day virulent cholera hit the village. All the family members got infected and died within hours. The villagers cremated their bodies. Devjani now roamed around the village like a recluse hardly visiting her parents’s house. She rather preferred to live in her old haveli. In the night, she fought with the spirits of the diseased relatives or laughed and played with the disembodied souls of the children that waxed and waned in the night. She ran around on the terrace laughing eerily. The villagers avoided the area around the haveli during the night. They started calling it the Bangru haveli.

The old fakir sat under a tree and witnessed the whole drama. He summoned Devjani and she sat next to the fakir in the state of complete disarray. She laughed, cried, pulled her hair and showed no sign of recognizing the presence of the fakir. Fakir understood that the pain she has endured made her disconnected with her physical mind so she could remain blissfully unaware of her sad reality. He touched her forehead and reconnected the two. Suddenly Devjani felt as if she woke up from sleep. She stood before the fakir. Tears ran down her face and she felt at his feet and thanked him for freeing her from her misery. While she got her conscious self back and reconnected with life, the legion of souls of her relatives stuck in the haveli were released all at once as if a big curse had lifted. She went back to take care of her child. She never saw the fakir under that tree again but thought about him often.

One day she inquired about the fakir. The old men of the village told her that there is no such fakir in the village anywhere. Although, the babul tree that she had mentioned is exactly where the mazaar (grave) of the old fakir was. The old fakir was a Sufi saint who lived in the village centuries ago. When she went back to the same spot under the tree, she found the mazaar right where the Sufi sat that night when he liberated her from her suffering.

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