It was quite a funny encounter with a self-claimed Pheku fortune-teller who visited us in Pune and claimed to know about our love lives while visiting one of our flatmates and stayed with us for a couple of weeks. He happened to be a close relative of our friend when he came as a guest and his tales regaled us. There was one such hilarious tale to fool everyone of us and naturally, we played along by listening as an enraptured audience.
The self-claimed fortune-teller would study my palm and say that the girl in college loves me and it’s the right time to play the cards properly before making a move. The dude would narrate to us how his clients fund his air ticket and stay abroad when he is called far-flung corners of the world to solve their woes and perform a miracle. He apparently dabbles in spirituality, foreseeing ghosts, priest and astrologer. No wonder, we were entertained by his fancy tales.
The best story would give the Ramsay and Bhatt brothers a complex was made to be eerie and chilly but the bubble burst when you have a horrible actor, learning the wrong lines that made him falter. I was in second year when the uncle called asking if he can rest for sometimes in my room since I was out. I am pretty cool that way. I normally don’t hop straight home once done with lectures or the time I skip them to whine time with pals at our favorite hang-out, Savera opposite college or to CCD indulging into tp with friends and watching the glamorous views. When I came back, uncle had a tale to tell everyone and asked me to be cautious since I stay put in the room. He promised to perform a prayer before leaving. The tale read that as he was resting, a ghost family lurked past the window and the wife tapped him on the back. The man with super power that he is, sensed danger and didn’t turn back to respond to the ghost call. His sixth sense apparently saved his life when he pretended to be in a deep slumber.
Had he turned, he would have died on the spot. The power that he holds as a deeply spiritual manner and the gift of astrology helped him to see the man, woman, and their small son. In fact, the ghost tale is a real one but his encounter was quite a concocted, saucy and sassy story to impress us with the mighty power that he holds on human and non-living entities.
The place where we stayed at that time is located behind one of the several gates of Fergusson College where you go straight to Deep Bangla Chowk (DBC) and as you enter the gate, there is an abandoned house. The moment you walk past this house which was left unattended for a decade, you experience an eerie feeling and once we tried to take a peek through the broken window glasses, there were broken furniture and chairs lying in shamble and pile of dust. The owner hasn’t been able to rent the house because of the ghosts who once were human tenants and their small boy who perished along with the couple in a road accident. Apparently, the little boy wouldn’t let anyone stay there since he believed that it’s his personal property. But, the self-claimed astrologer must have heard the story from our flatmates and he played on that to make it sound as if it’s his personal battle with ghosts.
The same year I almost missed becoming a caged animal when we took astrologer uncle to visit the Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park, famously known as Katraj Park which is located at Satara Park. It was a boring Sunday and took us more than one hour and 30 minutes by rickshaw. The group was huge and two rickshaws were booked. Adi and his then and now ex-girl friend rode on the bike which means they reached before us. The park was magnificent, grand and spread over more than 7 acres nestled in the center of Parvati Hills.
It was a sheer delight to see the amazing bunch of animals like leopard, tigers, black bucks, peacocks, cobra, sloth bear, four legs antelopes, deer, monkeys, and vipers caged in the spacious, secure and concrete enclosures made of steel. It was fascinating to spend time for a change in the company of animals and seeing the birds flying from one branch to the other was a magnificent sight. The best thing was that no matter how tired you are, it doesn’t dent your spirit of exploring the zoo and space that never seem to end.
The only good thing that the uncle had, an amazingly powerful high-end camera that you could focus on the animals and zoom on them in and out. Normally, I am quite bored to visit zoos but I loved this gorgeous natural terrain on a boring Sunday. The Pune authorities have taken extensive care in maintaining the place and ensuring that there is no hazard to the visitors. I was quite wary of approaching the steel bars since there was always a fear that our friends in the zoo may do an angry act to eat you raw. It sent shivers down the spine. We were tired walking and the bottle of waters was quite an energy-saving act, plodding our weak legs to explore the animals that we would perhaps not see in the entire lifetime.
Rocky terrain, sand path, and stone crafted stairs to get a peek of animals nestled in their abodes coupled with facts about the zoo and captured or endangered animals kept for conservation was an education in itself. At some point, I started to get bored and sat on the ground for a nap or taking a lone walk. It was hard to believe that such a grand place could be found in the far-end of Pune. It was my first tryst with a zoo worth its name. I am quite scared of such huge animals. The face off with species and sound made by them was a uniquely thrilling experience that stayed and haunted me throughout the night.
A funny incident happened to me when we were set for a ride in the lake and truly yours was freaking out to make the leap from the ground to the boat on a suddenly acquired phobia of falling into the water. The gang convinced me to get on first but freaked so much that I entered last. The joy ride was smooth and pictures were taken sitting inside the boat. When we were finished, I got off last and nearly stumbled into that cold water but was saved just in time. Ha! Man that was hilarious. I faintly recall the sock, shoes and jeans being sprinkled with water as if I have jumped in the Ganga to attain salvation. It was nearly 5 p.m when we were done. We were lured by the pistol target game hitting balloons outside the park where I failed to hit the targets on several occasions. But, it was compensated by the spicy channa wrapped in a newspaper cone and other local savouries.
At the end of the day, we had no life and once we came home, pizza and beer did the trick. I slept early like a baby after being drained and the energy sucked out of the body at the park. Do you think on Monday, I would get away with things? The astrologer baba uncle convinced me to accompany him again at the park and at first I refused, because having only this man for company was quite a pain with his concocted stories, imagining himself to be Peter Pan or the living ghost of Ruskin Bond getting inside his body. In fact, he wasn’t that bad but visiting the zoo again?! But, he bribed me with beer and offering to buy my share of cigarettes for the day. The offer was too good to resist. Monday was spent in the zoo in the company of animals, far away from the bustling city life that I was planning to book a place to stay in the zoo. Ha! Thankfully, we stayed there only for half-day or else chances were mighty high that I would start behaving like animals, not that I am not one.
The post made me relive all those moments spent a decade back in the city of Peshwar but never thought that I would pen my experience on zoo and ghosts as part of the memoirs. 2004/5 was such a year in Pune. Life was beautiful and near perfect. Hope you all like this episode as part of the memoirs.