It was freezing cold this 31st December. Suhel, Rohan, Amar and Abhishek were excited to ring in the New Year together in the boys’ night out to make it memorable. Rohan picked his gang of friends from their offices in the brand new Skoda car borrowed from his Dad and it was the time to make merry.
The party was on in Pune, buzzing with the crowd teeming on the busy streets at 9 p.m. Celebration had already started as people thronged to the malls, shopping for clothes, shoes and other goodies. The car stopped at the wine shop on the MG road and loads whisky bottles, crates of King Fisher Beer, Old Monk Road and Smirnoff Vodka was purchased. The crate of beer nestled in the ice box in the car dikki. The boys were happy to get away from WAGs (Wives and Girl friends). Rohan shouted, “Guys, I don’t know about you but I am feeling like David Beckham with the WAGs at home. How posh-ed we are!!! Cheerz.”
The rest of the boys cheered with their iced bottles of beer in hand and shouted, “Cheerz to our friendship.” Abhishek was wary of the cops and said, “Guys! Guys! Saalon bhenchod! Do you have plans to welcome the new year in jail or what? Don’t brandish the alcohol bottle like or else, Pandu log (cops) will be after us.”
“What do we do?” Suhel asks.
Amar, Rohan and Abhishek agreed that they should drive miles away from the city and find a cool place to hang out at night where they can drink their way to heaven, shout as loud as they can and put out loud music. ‘No one should bother us,’ they agree.
The question was where to go!!!! Names of places popped out and slashed for being dumb and prone to Pandu attacks, writing challan. Cuss words fused in all directions and gentle slap on the head with the usual chutiya. maderchod!!! The boys were already high and behaving like school kids, praying silly pranks on each other. Finally, crazy and fatso Rohan who was half-asleep in the car yawn and shouted, “Shanirwada chalo.”
The occupants in the car turn their gaze towards him, “Abe saale!!! Itna door kaun chalega..waise suna hai bhoot bangla hai wahan pe (Who wants to travel that far? We’ve heard that there is a haunted bungalow there.” Rohan suddenly sprang on his feet and reclaimed his energy, ‘Phatu saale saab hain yahan pe (Everyone is a coward).
Abhishek teases, “Yeah! Except Mota Rohan. Let’s go all there. The ghosts will run away seeing the size of Rohan. After all, who wants to take his burden. Even the dead cannot afford his size. It will spoil their business of scaring people.”
The car ambled its way in the busy New Year traffic, honking doing the trick and reaches the silent Shaniwar wada in an hour. It was 10.30 p.m. There was no soul on the deserted street which was occupied by few dogs and cows, strolling their way in silence among the dust. The sky line wore a rainbow color and an uninvited stranger would wonder on the futility of a place surrounded by tombs and old dilapidated buildings burying secrets of dark nights.
The soldiers of the night found a spot and the car screeched near an old bungalow which seems to be unoccupied and strange feeling wafted through the cold and breezy atmosphere. Alcohol poured, cigarette smokes curled its way inside the car and disappeared out of thin air. Foot steps were heard from afar, whispers and howled. The gang of boys brushed the sinister noise to some children playing prank in the outskirt of the city to enjoy themselves at the stroke of midnight to keep their active mind occupied. Ten minutes to go before the clock struck midnight.
They waited with bated breath, listening to rock music and alternating between the Hindi chart busters, remix songs and the cut voice of the RJ accompanying them to brace towards the new year. Suhel, Rohan, Amar and Abhishek lost their mind to alcohol and yaked almost anything, going hysterical to shout like maniac where no soul could remotely hear their slurred voices.
“Hey!! Guys!!! What if this huge bungalow is haunted? I mean, I’ve heard stories about this one.”
His pals silenced his voice. After all, who spoils such an awesome night filled with booze. Suhel challenged everyone to walk past the open gate, surrounded by a lake and garden to barge into the bungalow, dating to colonial times. “Guys. it’s two minutes before the new year. Let’s do something crazy.”
They were drunk like fish and walked in tipsy-turvy manner, embracing each other and shouted, “Oh!! Ghost!! Show your face to the world. Where are you?” The echo of their voices could be heard as they pushed the cracked wooden door, making hissing noise to enter the building in shamble. The white coated walls sported a faded look and an abandoned bird nest was the only thing spotted in the mansion. They jumped on the stair, thumping their feet and yelling in coarse voice, hitting a high note.
“Koi hai (Is there anyone?” they asked in unison. Holding beer bottles in their hands, they held each other by the arms and started singing, “Gumnaam hai koi, badnaam hai koi.” They walked down the stair and spotted a vintage and rustic recliner in a corner which they dragged in the spacious living room. Suddenly, the door made a thumping and detonating sound like a bomb exploding, opening and closing on its own. The windows made popping sounds and creaking steps were heard on the stairs. The boys looked at each other in fright, sweating heavily. They run towards the door, pulling it with all its force but it was bolted from outside.
The armchair was swinging on its own with a pack of reshuffled card swirling in the air. A strong gush of wind percolating inside the bungalow and the four men were violently thrust down the floor, a sensation of a jab on their chest. The Reebok shoes miraculously disappeared from Amar’s foot. The felt a dizzying sensation, chill down the spine and eyes became red with tears rolling down their cheek. They lost their voices, begging for forgiveness.
The armchair was swinging in the air and a coarse, creaky voice yelled, “I’ve observed you drunken fellows inside the car, making fun of my spirit roaming in this place. You think it’s daring to come inside and yelling, poking fun at me. I was dormant and you’ve made the grave mistake of waking me up. Your time is up.” The broken voice seemed pissed and red with anger.
A conch could be heard from a distance far away from the bungalow. Tinkling of temple bells re-kindled hope in them and the four boys stammered and begged for forgiveness. They exerted their force and energy draining, chanting the Gayatri Mantra. The door slowly opened half way. The lights flickered and the scary voice went silent. A loud bang was heard. “Move away from here. You have been saved by the Gods and don’t ever come here. Just buzz off. The door will not remain open for long.”
They dragged their feet towards the door when they heard a voice in despair shouting his lungs out, crying like a child. It was Amar. “Please save me.” They turned around. An unknown voice was pulling Amar towards the stairs. The rest of them ran towards him, holding his hand at one end and at the other end, he was being carried. They pulled their force to save their friend being pulled like a huge object. Finally, they grab Amar and ran towards the door as it closes.They get out in the nick of time as the door bangs close. The lights still flicker as they run to the car and swerved their way towards the city.
The alcohol tapered off their body with the heart-pounding action of their encounter with the ghost. The car drove speedily and its occupants sat in silence, secretly praying to reach their destination safely. Hands were trembling as minds couldn’t comprehend what happened to them during the new year celebration.