The Man in White
Image source: www.fineartamerica.com
I have a somewhat morbid fascination towards ghost stories, though I am not sure if I feel the same towards ghosts as well. I remember spending quite a few nights swapping ghost stories in the company of cousins, college friends, hostel mates and others. On separate occasions, of course, and spanning several phases of my life, from childhood to present.
The fact that I moved my residence several times also helped to substantiate my collection of ghost stories. Each place that I stayed in fed me more such stories, vouched for their authenticity by the story-teller. At every late-night gathering I would wait with eager anticipation for one of the guests to start with an account involving the paranormal. More often than not, we would be sitting around a bonfire and all of us would take turns to relate such a tale. I recall I was sitting absolutely quiet as a new bride, just a few hours into marriage, and all it took for the husband’s cousins was to start a session on ghost stories post dinner and there I was, gleefully lapping up all of it with a big grin on my face.
Maybe someday I shall write about all those wonderful tales, before they get lost in the recesses of my mind.
For the present, let me share an experience that I personally felt, though on all probability it was a mere co-incidence or too much ‘thinking’ about the event.
In 1990, my father had got transferred to Dehradun and his office was located in the beautiful campus of Forest Research Institute of India (FRI). The FRI building was (is) a brilliantly designed structure from the British era and the campus was a sprawling one. The main gate to FRI would be generally closed for public and opened only for dignitaries and other VIPs. It was a grilled edifice, flanked on both sides by two stations for the sentries. There was another gate used for practical purposes.
Soon, we made friends and acquaintances in the FRI campus and got invited to several households for dinner. It was on one such dinner that the host related to us the legend surrounding the FRI main gate. Apparently, the area around the gate was haunted and it was the fiefdom of a Muslim gentleman after 12 o’clock at night. Nobody would agree to sit out in the sentry-post near the gate. The ones who did, later complained about something or someone trying to suffocate them at the dead of night. Some had high fever that continued for several weeks. Finally, the posts were abandoned and by the time we were there, they were almost crumbling down and wild creepers and weeds had taken hold of them. The shrubbery around the gate was not trimmed and it grew extensively. It was a sad sight to behold, for a gateway that led to such an imposing building as the FRI.
Legend had it that no person was allowed to pass by the FRI main gate post-midnight. A young fellow who was ignorant of this unspoken edict had to face the consequences of breaking it. He had just reached the gate one late night when a formidable figure in a white kurta-churidar approached him. The man seemed furious and asked the poor fellow what he was doing there.
“Don’t you know you are not supposed to be here at this time of the night?” he had thundered. “This is my area and I don’t want any trespassers!”
The boy could make out that the man was not an ordinary one and he feverishly begged for forgiveness. He was finally let off with a dire warning and the fellow took to his heels. But once home, he caught a terrible fever that lasted for many days.
While my dad scoffed at this story, Ma made sure that we bade goodbye to our all our dinner hosts much before midnight and pass the gate uneventfully. For some reason, the story had not seemed scary to me and I almost hoped to meet that man in white on one of our nightly passages.
A few months into our stay, my cousin Bhaiti Da who was studying mechanical engineering in Kurukshetra REC came to visit us. He would take me out for long walks in the evening where we discussed anything under the sun, although he was much older than me. He loved the tranquil environment of the FRI campus and we would visit it quite frequently. One day, we had started out late for our walk and by the time we reached the FRI building the sun had set and the heavens were rumbling with signs of an impending rainfall. There was no way we could make it home on time.
“Unless,” said Bhaiti Da. “We take a short-cut.”
I could see no short-cuts to exit the campus.
“We can jump over the main gate wall,” Bhaiti Da suggested. “The walls around the gate are anyways broken. I can lift you up and you can jump over it easily. I will then follow you.”
I was struck with foreboding on hearing that we would have to cross the wall near the sentry-post, the domain of the man in white. But I decided to keep quiet. I had told Bhaiti Da about the ghost previously and if he was unperturbed about it then perhaps so should I.
We reached the gate and Bhaiti Da chose a part of the wall that was more broken than the rest and hoisted me up. The thick undergrowth around the area provided footholds and I was almost on the top of the wall when suddenly we heard a long wail.
For a moment, both of us stood dumbstruck. The voice seemed very close.
“It is a fox howling,” Bhaiti Da stammered uncertainly.
I was too unnerved by that time and decided not to jump over the wall.
“Let’s go home the usual way,” I told Bhaiti Da and he agreed to it without a word.
Rain drops had already started falling and we ran hard through the rain, not looking back, till we found shelter at a shop.
Later, when we reached home we did not speak a word about our experience to my parents. Neither did we discuss this amongst ourselves again.
It has been over 24 years now since that incident and I had quite forgotten it. I am sure even Bhaiti Da would have no recollection of it today. But now that I am older and wiser, I think it must have been a fox. Our minds must have been heavily influenced by the urban legend at that time. But then again, who knows? I will leave you with some food for thought.
Image source: www.flickr.com Image copyright: Bhumesh Bharti
PS: I visited Dehradun again 2008 and the gate looked very well maintained. The sentry posts have been rebuilt and the shrubberies removed. Perhaps the man in white had relinquished his fiefdom over the area and shifted to some remote corner.
(Note: This was written for the Indispire topic ‘Do you have a ghost experience?’ with Indiblogger.)