Monday, October 4, 2010

My first (Little) Guide to Varanasi

27th June in the year 1997, I was in Varanasi with my children unwillingly. WHY?  Because my husband was transferred to Varanasi from Hardwar. Me and my children were very well settled in Hardwar and I didn't want any change at that stage. In this city my first priority was to get admission for both of my sons in a good school. I asked my neighbours about a good school where I could put my sons. Some mothers of children recommended St. Johns school. I decided to visit St. Johns. On the evening of 1st. July one of my neighbour Mrs. Mukherjee told me "Minu! I will go with you." Dr. Mukherjee was professor in Physics department in science college BHU (now retired). He was a good friend of my father in law.

2nd July - I took all the necessary papers, passport size
photos, pen, money etc. and came to Mukherjee's home. Mrs. Mukherjee was down with fever and Dr. Mukherjee had gone to doctor's place for lady's medical help. I was disappointed because I didn't know anything about Varanasi - neither geography nor the people of the town. I told her "Please give me some direction at least." She was also feeling low because she felt that she could not keep her words. I said "Don't worry! I will manage." She said " May be Rohit can help you." Rohit was her nephew. I hadn't met Rohit earlier. I was thinking that Rohit was a big man but she pointed towards Rohit, I was a bit amused. He was a little 8 years old boy below my waist line. His mother was also hesitating because she also didn't know me. While we three ladies were discussing about other options, Rohit had put on his socks and tied shoe lace. He combed his hairs and told me "OK Minu aunty I will go with you .I will show you my school." I was not very confident about him.
I was on the road with three children, Paku - 14 years, Piku
- 7 years and Rohit - 8 years. Mrs. Mukherjee had advised me to go to BHU gate and from there take an auto-rickshaw for DLW (Diesel Locomotive Workshop). So I took a rickshaw for BHU. I and Paku sat on the seat of rickshaw. Piku was on Paku's lap and Rohit was on my lap. Rohit was talking like a well trained guide "This is Durga temple. That is our grocers shop. This is the way to Sankat Mochan Temple. This area is called Lanka." I looked at my wrist watch; it was 8:45 already. Rohit looked at my face and got down from my lap on the rickshaw's foot rest then he patted the rickshaw puller's back by his little palm and said "Tanik jaldi chalawa bhaiya"(move little fast brother). I grabbed him in my arms and settled him on my lap. He started again "This is a good medicine shop and all other nearby shops are thieves. This is La-Bella restaurant, very good Chinese food is served here. Minu aunty! Do you like Chinese food?" Piku immediately replied "I do." Rohit asked Piku "Do you have power in your spectacles?" Piku got irritated and said "What do you think.....why should I be taking load on my nose and ears? Just like that eh?" Rohit didn't like this answer and he started talking with me.

At BHU gate we left the rickshaw. Rohit said "Aunty that auto rickshaw will go to DLW." I asked "How are you so sure?" He said "Because that is facing towards DLW."  Simple common sense. We took the same autorickshaw and reached DLW. The school was inside the DLW colony. We were walking towards the school. Piku said "Maa, I am thirsty." I pulled out a water bottle from my bag. He took 2-3 sips then he told Paku "Dada, whenever I want cold drink mom always has a water bottle. I don't know why?" Paku was absolutely in serious mood. He said "Because she knows you better."

A notice was there on the notice board of the school for
admission to class XI mentioning the entrance exam would be held on 6th and 7th July. I went to office. From a window I purchased a form. In the reception I sat down and filled the form then attached Paku's class 10th mark-sheet. Now I have to paste two photographs on the form. I was searching the gum tube in my bag. Piku said "Mom the gum tube was on the dinning table at home." I felt hopeless. Rohit said "Wait aunty." He rushed into clerk office. I was watching him from the window. He approached a clerk and spread his two little fingers in front of him and said "Sir! Please give me two drops of gum so we can paste dada's photo on the form. "The gentleman smiled and gave him the whole bottle. I finished my work and submitted the form and asked the clerk about 4th standard admission. He said very blankly that there was no vacancy for 4th class and suggested that I might talk to Principal Sir. I went to the Principal's office. There was a receptionist. He gave me an appointment at 11:30. Now it was 10 O'clock. I have to wait. Three children went to explore the school. My sons were nostalgic about their old school - DPS Hardwar.

At 11:45 receptionist allowed me to meet the Principal. I
went inside the Principal's office. The gentleman offered me a seat. After formal greetings, I asked him that I wanted a 4th class admission for my younger son. Paku and Rohit were standing behind me but Piku was hiding behind Paku. He said that I must leave an application with my address and phone no. If there was any vacancy available due to transfer etc., then the school will inform me. The message was loud and clear - NO.  I came out and wrote an application and gave it to receptionist and asked him hopelessly "Is there any hope?" He looked at the application and said "Yes yes! Why not? We just need donation." DONATION for class 4th student?? I suppressed my anger and asked him very softly. "How much." He said "2 lakhs." I said "That's all?" He looked at me blankly.

We came out from school and asked Rohit "Now we need
cold drink. Any good shop nearby?" He took us his favorite shop near the school. First time Piku smiled since morning. We came back to BHU gate. Now I wanted to go to BHU Central School. Not a single rickshaw wanted to go inside the campus. We were compelled to walk. It was 12:30 in the afternoon. The sun was scorching over our head. We walked a quarter of a kilometer and reached Central School. Children's faces were glowing red. They sat down on school's veranda. The school was empty. I was thinking now what should I do?  Suddenly I saw a man with a bicycle was coming towards us. I asked him that when I can find some one responsible in school. He said that school would reopen on 5th July for children and Principal Sir was not in school. "From where can I get any information for admission procedure?" I asked. He showed me a corridor and said that end of the corridor was the staff room. There I could find some teacher. I walked into the corridor. It was empty. At the end of it was a room, in which five men were sitting and two of them had put their feet on the table. I knocked on the door. They looked at me but did not put their feet down. I asked few questions but their way of talking, their attitude and their beetle leaf chewing faces made me extremely repulsive. I came back to my kids. The bicycle man was talking to the children. When he saw me he directly asked me "What happened Madamji?" I ignored him. I told my kids "Let's go." That man said "I will arrange admission for all three of them. Just money will be required. "I suppressed my disgust feeling inside me and started walking holding Piku and Rohit's hand. Paku was few steps ahead. The man was following me and saying the same thing " is negotiable." I almost burst out in anger. I turned around and looked straight into his eyes then said very strongly "Don't follow me...otherwise I'll do something that you wouldn't have imagined... don't follow me..." and I stayed there until the man vanished.

The sun was painful enough for the children and now my bad mood had made them silent. After walking for a few meters, Piku said "Mom, I can't walk." I picked him up in my arms and felt pity for Rohit. Now Rohit was holding Paku's hand and walking quietly. We came out from BHU campus. Paku said "Maa I am hungry." First time he talked to me since morning. Piku and Rohit said in chorus "Me too." I asked Rohit "You told me about a Chinese restaurant. Where is it?" Suddenly three faces began to glow up again. Piku got down from my lap. Rohit said joyfully "I will show you aunty."

In the restaurant, the children felt happy and relaxed. They enjoyed their food. Even Piku had consumed the whole soup for the first time in my life. When we returned home it was 2:45. Rohit's mother was standing at gate. Anxiety was clearly visible on her face. When she saw Rohit was well and good, she smiled. I also felt relaxed. That day I experienced lot of good and bad things in my life, but Rohit was a constant positive energy with me.

So Rohit where ever you are in this world keep your spirit alive. May God bless you.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Love Dogs

I am basically a dog lover. Is it a quality of a person? I think YES. Humans may not be able to recognize a dog lover at the first sight, but dogs have this quality of recognizing a dog lover at first sight. I feel that it is bliss to be an animal lover, but sometimes it creates some awkward or nasty situation. It is a natural phenomenon that dogs bark at unknown persons, but even the fiercest and unknown dog does not bark at me. Generally they would wag their tails and show affection towards me. I sometime wonder if it is a normal behavior!

Many years ago when my husband was posted in Haridwar, we were living in a ground floor quarter. There was no boundary wall. Instead of wall, there was a fencing of barbed wire. The dogs used to crawl under the wire and come into our compound. I gave them food very often. Two dogs stayed there before we moved to that quarter. One was added latter. There were many quarters in that area but the dogs stayed in our compound most of the time. WHY??  I don't know. When it rained or in the scorching summer heat, they used to take shelter under the shade of my veranda. It was such a familiar site to see the dogs in our compound that many persons in the township thought that the three dogs were our pets.

Wherever I would go walking, they would also walk with me as if they were my bodyguards. If some one on a bicycle or scooter went past me, they would chase him, barking loudly. A couple of times the cyclist fell down and got hurt. I used to feel very bad. One day I went to dispensary for some medical help and they (all three of them) went with me. As long as I sat on the bench in the waiting room outside the doctor's chamber, the three dogs sat under the bench. When my turn came, I entered the doctor's chamber. One of my self appointed bodyguards followed me into the doctor’s chamber. The doctor bounced up from her chair. "Please Mini don't bring your pets in dispensary." she said with little anger and irritation. I wanted to explain her that they were not my pet but I could not say anything because I didn't have any logic to explain that they had come with me on their own and they will follow me even if I ask them not to do so.

One afternoon it was raining and the dogs had taken shelter in my veranda. I was busy inside home with my house hold work.  Meanwhile a man, who used to record our electricity meter reading, came. He was scared of the dogs and could not dare to come to veranda and push the calling bell. He started shouting "बनर्जी साहब, कुत्तों को हटाइये" <"Banerjee sahab kutton ko hataeeye."> (Mr. Banerjee please remove the dogs.) Suddenly all three of them were barking and howling in full volume. I and my maid servant came out and I picked up a stick. They left the veranda immediately. My maid went up to the road and called the man back. The man said “If you have dogs then you must train them. I am an honest humble man and they are chasing me as if I was a thief, and you ladies are laughing." I said very seriously “They are not my pets and beside that we are not laughing."The argument continued... He finished his job and went off.

From that day, I stopped giving them food - not even left over’s. Few days latter I was walking on the street, and all three of them started to walk with me wagging their tails. That night I again gave them food.

Four years later we left the quarter and I lost them forever...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Paku pass ho gaya

In the year 1992 in the month of October my elder son's quarterly examinations were going on. Next day he had his Sanskrit  exam. I was in extreme  tension  because he was very weak in languages. I forced him little hard so that he could pass in language subjects and I needed more time to help him in his study - at least 2 hours.

That evening my husband returned from office with a guest. He introduced him to me "My college friend Mr. J.P.Dwivedi.............he is here for some official work." I hid my tension about my son's exam the next day and very politely  welcomed him and after formal greetings I came to the kitchen to prepare tea and snacks.

With the tea tray when I entered  in the living room my younger son Piku was sitting on his lap. He was asking him "Where is your dada (elder brother)".  Piku told him that dada was reading 'pathantu....pathantu'.  "What's that?"  He questioned. Nobody could understand what Piku wanted to express. I explained him "Tomorrow my elder son will be taking his Sanskrit exam so he was trying to memorize the 'shabd roop and dhatu roop'  (part of Sanskrit Grammar)." "Oh! he means पठति, पठतः, पठन्ति' (pathati...pathatha...pathanti.....)" Bhaisahab said. My husband told me to prepare dinner. Meanwhile Sen family came.  Every one was busy with tea and chatting.

Now I had to prepare dinner for our guest. Time passed and I had a tension for exam. My son needed my help. My mind raced - what might happen if he is not able to secure pass marks?  In the  parents- teachers meeting his teacher and his father both will scold me. Oh! forget it, nobody will understand my problem. I came in the kitchen and concentrated in cooking. My husband came into the kitchen and said "Sanyals have come, so please make another round of tea." Then he asked me "Where is Dwivedi gone?" I was surprised "I don't know, he is your friend and you were sitting with him, not me."

More then two hours passed. I finished my cooking and called everyone for dinner. I came to my kids room and saw an amazing scene. The gentleman (Mr. Dwivedi) was sitting on the study table and Piku was hanging on his shoulder. Dwivedi and my elder son Paku were talking happily. Amazing!!! It seemed that they knew each other since long.  I called them for dinner. My tension remained inside me.

Time passed. After a couple of weeks there was the dreaded 'Parents - Teachers Meeting.' I and my kids went to the school. I was mentally  prepared to listen to a lot of complaints about our elder son from his class teacher Mrs. Shreenivasan . When I entered the classroom Mrs. Shreevasan was surrounded by parents. I said "Good morning." She raised her head and said " Oh! Mrs. Banerjee...before I show you the result, would you please meet with Mrs. Verma in room number 17? She wants to talk to you."  Me and my son looked at each other. A kind of hopelessness showed up on our faces. Mrs. Verma was his Sanskrit teacher. We went to room number 17. Mrs. Verma joyfully welcomed us and said "Look!  Mrs. Banerjee...I thought that your son could never do well in languages - specially Sanskrit, and I have to struggle to give him minimum pass mark. I am happy that I was wrong. He can do excellent if he wishes so. Now you just see he has got full marks in Sanskrit.  I have cut half a mark because of his poor hand writing ." He got nineteen and half out of twenty. This is first time that he has scored excellent in a language paper.

I remembered Mr. J.P. Dwivedi said that night that Sanskrit was his favorite subject and by mistake he had become an engineer. He had taught Paku for a little less than two hours that day - that too casually - and now he got excellent marks in Sanskrit.

I realised that day, that a good teacher can make any child excellent.  

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Gourmet and The Chef's Love

Recently my dear friend wrote in her blog "A happy couple?" I am quoting her "No one can be happy every moment of his/her life and that does not classify them to be unhappy. We all have happy moments in our lives."

I totally agree with her. If we enjoy these moment we can make our life happy and fruitful. In this context I want to tell about my self. Me and my husband are north-pole and south-pole. It's not just the appearance that is different, but our thoughts, beliefs, behavior, our tastes, our likings and disliking are totally different - poles apart. But one thing is clear that two poles make a world. The world where the children are safe and happy and where our elders are comfortable and cared. Two like poles can not make a world. I am going to tell you about two romantic dishes here which reflects the relationship and love (of a happy couple).

One Holi, (festival of colors) evening I and Abhijit visited our friend Dr. A.K. Singh's home. Doctor-saab and his wife 'Suman-ji' welcomed us warmly. Soon after we settled down in their drawing room, Suman-ji served us a lots of eatables. 3-4 types of sweets and variety of snacks plus 'Dahi Bara'. [Dahi Bara is a dish made of urad dal (lentil). Soak the dal and then make a smooth batter . Add some ginger and other spices. Take a dollop of batter and deep fry it. Then serve fried Bara with sour cream (dahi) and garnish with roasted cumin seed.]

Dahi Bara is one of my favorite dishes. So at first I picked up the Dahi Bara plate. I was amazed to see the size of Bara. I took a good look at the plate again and asked Suman-ji very politely "Did you make this at home?" She laughed and said "Bhabi-ji you are very intelligent." I could not make any relation between the size of Bara and my intelligence. I looked at her blankly. She pushed her husband by her elbow and said "Will you tell them please?" Doctor-saab smiled and told us the whole story. "In the early morning of The Holi, Suman was busy frying Dahi-Bara in the kitchen, when her friends came. She left the kitchen and went off with her friends to play Holi. I thought let me help her finish this job. By the time Suman came back, I had fried all the Baras. She was surprised and said "What the hell have you done... ...look... big these Baras are???" I said "The size does not matter. You may serve one piece instead of two." Then Doctor-saab asked me "Bhabiji! How about the taste"? I smiled and said "Romantic Dahi Baras are always tasty . What's the difference if the size is masculine or feminine."

Another evening of Holi festival - I and Abhijit visited Mr.Sanjoy Sinha's home. This time the dish is Malpuha. [Malpuha is a kind of pan cake shallow fried and soaked in sugar syrup.]

Sanjoy and his wife Ruby welcomed us. As we settled down in their drawing room, Ruby placed a big bowl of malpuhas on the table. I was hesitating to eat as I am diabetic. But Ruby said "Please Bhabi, take one at least I made it with great love and labor."
Sanjoy interrupted and said "Hey! I made it."
"NO!" said Ruby "You just fried it."
"Frying malpuhas are most important". He raised his voice little.
But Ruby said softly "And making the batter is nothing? I alone did all the preparation."
Sanjoy said "On a holiday, I wake up early morning and fry the malpuha. This is not a matter of joke."
I interrupted them and said "Let me taste it first." I shoved my blood sugar aside took a good size of malpuha in my plate and ate whole of it, then said "This is excellent, Sweet and Romantic."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Memories about a Friend

Barsha is a bright and beautiful girl. She is very poised, well behaved and an intelligent girl. Today, she is a married woman in her mid twenties and is living in a family way. When I got this news from her mother Kabli, I became nostalgic and was transported to a few years in the past.

The little Barsha and her deep black mischievous eyes always drew my attention. She never called me Auntie or Kakima or anything like that. She would call me by my name 'Mini' and claimed me as her friend. When she started to go to school, everyday complains would come from the school or elsewhere about her misdeeds. Her mother used to get disturbed and it would take her 3-4 days to be normal again and as soon as she was normal, a new complaint would come. Lot of parents used to come to me and complain about Barsha as they didn't want to tell anything to her mother and disturb her more.

One day I had gone to attend a Parent - Teacher Meeting in the school and I was busy with my son's class teacher, when someone patted me. I looked back. The lady was my friend. She said "Mini, I want to talk to you about something very important." Her voice expressed that she was in a low mood. After I had finished with my son's class teacher, we came to the lawn. She said in a very wet voice "Look Mini, perhaps you can understand my problem." I was waiting patiently to listen to her. She continued after a few minutes of pause. "Barsha always teases my daughter about her dark complexion. Now my daughter does not want to go to school. The other schools in the township are no good; otherwise I would have admitted her there. Please do me a small favour. Please tell Kabli as I do not want to tell her anything directly." I was confused. I did not say anything to Barsha's mother, but that evening I called Barsha. Barsha rushed to my lap. I asked her "Why do you tease your class mates?" She replied "Class mate... Who... That dark one?" I was shocked. She knows everything she had done. Very politely I told her "Yes that girl. You should not do that. After all, she is your class mate and a friend. Besides that you yourself do not have a fair complexion." Very carelessly she said "So what if I am not fair, but she is dark." I realised that this girl had a much better I.Q. than me. I said "Look Barsha any person may have dark or fair complexion as it is God gifted. You should not criticize God's work. This is the theory of natural selection and..."I almost delivered a theosophical lecture. She pushed her little hand on my mouth and asked "What is God?" I removed her hand from my mouth and said "OH GOD!"

Few days later Kabli came to me with Barsha's school almanac. Her class teacher had written something in red ink. As per the school's rules, whenever they punished a child they informed child's parents. The teacher had written that some other child's mother had complained against Barsha with the school authority and next day Barsha may be punished if the complain was found correct. Kabli broke into tears. "What should I do?" she asked me. After a good thought I said "Be strong and let her go through punishment. I am sure that school will not use the third degree."

Next day Miss Bantta, Barsha's class teacher held Barsha by her ear and dragged her out from the class room to courtyard of the school. There she asked her to stay holding both ears. Barsha asked "Why?" Miss Bantta said in a harsh voice "You have teased a girl just over her dark complexion. This is bad." Barsha said very innocently "So what? You are also very dark." I do not know whether Miss Bantta lost her temper or mind on hearing such a reply.

I came to know that Barsha had not stopped teasing that girl. In the evening, the children were playing in the lobby. I walked up to Barsha and grabbed her. In strong voice I told her "I am kutti (stop talking) with you and never call me your friend." I came back to my flat and shut the door. Four days passed. Meanwhile whenever Barsha met with me in the lobby or any other place, she always tried to draw my attention, but I ignored her.

Fifth day in the noon I finished my son's lunch and asked him "Put out the books from the school bag while I bring back the dry clothes from roof." I opened the door and I saw Barsha was sitting silently outside with both her cheeks on her palm.

I bounced "Barsha! What are you doing here?" Her face looked as if she was extremely sad. I knelt down and asked "What happen?" She said "Why are you kutti (stop talking) with me." I said "You tease your class mate, this is wrong. A wrong person must not be my friend." She climbed up my back and put her little arms round my neck. I said "You promise me that you never hurt that child again." She said "Promise". I stood up taking her on my back. I went to the roof, took the clothes and came back home. I had to help my son in his home work so I asked Barsha to go home. She said "Maa will beat me." Before I could say something she said "You come with me." I had a unpleasant suspicion in my mind, but I went up to her flat. The door was open. I pushed the door. There was a bucket kept upside down near the door. I went inside and peeped in the drawing room. I saw Kabli was lying on sofa bed with a book . She was totally pre occupied with reading. Barsha hid behind me. I made a knocking sound on the door. Kabli looked at me. I asked "Where is Barsha?" She said "She is sleeping in the bed room". I pulled Barsha from behind me. She jumped up and shouted "Barsha!! How did you go outside! I had bolted the door. How did you open it?! Who taught you?!" I understood why the bucket was there. Barsha said innocently "Mini has taught me."
"NOO" I screamed "I did nothing. I never taught her such things. My locking system is different than yours." But I was sure Kabli did not believe me.

Days passed. One evening I met the other child's mother in the market. I asked her about her daughter. She told me very happily that Barsha had stopped teasing her daughter and now they were good friends. Thanks to God. I said "Yes thanks to God." I purchased a big chocolate as I wanted to give Barsha a prize. I directly went her flat. Kabli opened the door and without saying anything she turned back. I did not understand what happened. I kept my bags . Barsha rushed to me and climbed up my lap. Kabli showed me her school almanac without uttering a word. 'Oh God!' another complaint! I settled Barsha on the dinning table and asked her "What did you do this time". she said "I erased Ankit's work book." "What! Why did you do that?" I questioned. She said "His hand writing is very poor." her mother shouted "Taate tor baper ki."(That is not your problem!). Barsha continued "I erased Mohit’s and Abhishek’s and Parul's note book also."
"But why did you do that?" I absolutely did not understand anything. But very innocently she told "I wanted to use my birthday gift"
“Oh no!” I bashed my head by my hand. In her last birthday I gave her a beautiful set of colourful erasers.

My son patted my shoulder and said "Mom you are smiling alone."
I came back to the present.

Yes Barsha always make me smile. Even her memories bring a smile to my life and lips - even today.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


In the year 1981 when I went to Haridwar immediately after our marriage with my husband, I was 21 years old. My mind was still in a dreamland. Hard facts were yet to come in my life. Haridwar, Ranipur, BHEL E.T. Hostel -166 was my first home - my own home. In E.T. Hostel, the first person I met was 'Kabli'. Now she is a good friend of mine. Another person I met was was S.K.D. Barman. He was a colleague of my husband Abhijit. Barman-da stayed next door to us at 168 E.T. Hostel.

First two days on our arrival at Haridwar, Abhijit stayed on leave to help me settle down in his bachelor flat, which I was to make our own home. On the third day, after Abhijit went to office, I went to the kitchen to prepare a cup of tea for myself. The main door was open. Suddenly Barman-da entered and made a howling sound. The milk pot almost fell from my hand. I got scared. Barman-da just smiled and went away. He would often try to scare me by his pranks. One evening I was sound asleep at about 4:30 p.m., when the door bell rang. I woke up and went to the door. I remembered my husband's instruction about peeping through the peep hole to see who was there before opening the door. I followed his advice and tried to look through the lens. It was absolute dark. I looked again and it was still dark. Just to see why it was dark outside at 4:30 p.m. I opened the door and screamed out "Barman-da!!". Barman-da was was standing taking support of the door and had the peephole covered with his palm. When I opened the door, he was about to fall but managed somehow. He smiled and asked "Why did you open the door without verifying who was outside?". I said "I had guessed it could be you only". "Don't act so brave." he said. I told him very politely "I don't get scared so easily by these childish pranks." He said very seriously "I came to inform you that Abhijit would be late from the office by an hour or two."

That evening after Abhijit was back, while serving tea, I complained to him that Barman-da always tries to scare me. He laughed and asked "Do you get scared?" I said "I do not get scared exactly, but I am getting irritated." He said "Don't worry. Barman is a good person and he will not harm you in any way." Next sunday morning Barman-da came to meet Abhijit. As I served them tea. Abhijit said "Barman, Mini told me that you are always trying to scare her." Barman-da burst out "But she is simply not scared. Even Kabli and other ladies get scared but Mini - I failed to scare her." Abhijit said "You must tell her that you are trying to take revenge by scaring her." "Revenge?" - a big question hit my brain. I asked "Barmanda, what is this REVENGE business? I haven't done any harm to anyone."

Abhijit started to laugh. Barman-da said "It is a long story. When we joined BHEL we did not have any powered vehicle. The only personal conveyance we had was bicycle. Some times when we were fed-up of mess cooking, we used to go to Haridwar and take food at 'Chotiwala Restaurant'. It is a vegetarian joint but the food is good. One evening Abhijit, me along with two other friends decided to go to Haridwar. Four of us paddled our way through the bye-pass road to Chotiwala restaurant. After we finished our dinner, the friends wanted to do some shopping in the lower market but Abhijit said that he wanted to go back to the hostel. I also felt like going back. Abhijit and I started paddling home-wards. Since it was dark already, I wanted to return by the main road but Abhijit suddenly took a turn towards the bye-pass road. The road was absolutely empty and there were no street lights either. I wanted to return by the main road which was well lit and also there was sufficient traffic. I pleaded with him but he was adamant to take the jungle road and I will never forget what he did to me that night. I could have died." I protested "No! Abhijit cannot kill anybody. I know him very well." Barman-da said "Do you think of murder? What he did was worse than murder."

Abhijit then told his side of the story - "When I turned in the bye-pass road or the jungle road, it was totally deserted and dark. Barman was cycling behind me. He tried to convince me that the road was not safe, but he did not turn back to the main road either. I told Barman that we were not carrying much of cash or valuables with us, so what was the fear? Barman said "You might be a non believer, but there are ghosts and they can take up any shape and form - even human form and they prefer dark and deserted areas and if they find people like us, they can kill us. Please Abhijit, we have not come far, we can still return and take the main road." I told him that in our childhood we were told such stories so that we would not venture in deserted areas and get lost. There was nothing to fear about as we were two of us. But Barman continued to tell me rubbish ghost stories. He said that he knew a person who had met a ghost who had hooves instead of palms in his hands and that person also had met a headless ghost (Skandakata). He also told me that these ghosts create such a situation that one gets lost in the way. He said "Abhijit, till now we know the way and can return back to the main road. Please let us not go any further. We may fall into some kind of trouble." I just ignored him and continued to paddle and Barman also followed me. Meanwhile we had traveled almost midway of the dark jungle road and I also understood that this fellow was scared of darkness. Ahead of us was the industrial area and we saw some men were sitting around a fire. Barman told me "Abhijit, let us ask them if we are on the right way. A kind of mischief came to my mind. A week ago we had seen a film "Dracula" in the club. So a plot came to my mind. I told him "Don't go there. They are not humans." He was taken aback. He asked "How - how can you say so?" I told him "Look into their eyes - they are hollow." He didn't even look at them and was really scared. After a while at a lonesome spot, I stopped and put my bicycle aside. Barman was already scared and now he got confused. He asked "What happened?" I told him "I am thirsty." He said "There is nothing to drink here." I said "Look Barman, this is a new moon night. My canines grow as night grows and I drink human blood. I brought you here so that I can quench my thirst. I haven't had human blood since I joined BHEL." Hearing this Barman started to shiver. He said "A...A...Abh...Abhijit you a...a....are joking r...right?....." Suddenly it came to my mind that if this fellow faints now, how will I carry him and his bicycle? So I faked a laugh to sooth him and said "Of course it is a joke." It took me a good half an hour to make him normal."

Now Barman-da said "See your husband frightened me so much that I could have died. He is worse than a killer. I know I cannot frighten him so I wanted to take revenge on you, but I failed to do so. TUMI TO ORO BAAP HOCHCHOO. (YOU ARE MUCH GREATER THAN HIM)"