Thursday, December 23, 2010


In these pages, I have written to you of lands far and near and of lives forgotten and dear; of food we eat and people we meet; of those we love to love and those we love to be, but amongst it all, every now and then, I’ve written about the time I spent staring into the abyss, into worlds beyond ours. And aft er each trip to these dark corners, this question would linger– “Is there life beyond death? And does this ‘life’ at times wander with questions of its own, looking for answers it hasn’t found, stumbling into realms that intersect our own?”

Let me take you through these journeys, some of which you might have encountered in previous issues, and let’s together brush away the dust that had settled on these experiences…

According to lores and legends that speak of the world of spirits, there are places all around us which, because of the way the earth rises and folds (fault lines, river banks, formation of hills etc.) or due to the history and nature of the energy trapped in certain areas, have become receptacles for supernatural experiences. In other words, those places are haunted. And even those who walk in flesh and blood aren’t immune to the seductions of these corners. Perhaps that is why I oft en find myself wandering about these places, not with a preconceived notion seeking to either refute, or reaffirm, but with an honest curiosity, seeking to know and understand…


Begunkodor is a tiny station on the Purulia-Jharkhand border. Here the earth is dry and red and the black hills cast long shadows on the tiny village of Bamniya that lies to the south of the station. The station lies deserted today, with tuft s of grass peeping through the red brick walls. No passenger walks this platform and no train would stop here today and none have for decades now. The air is still and heavy and for some reason, even the birds seem to avoid the station and the lone dead tree that stands next to it.

It is said that the last station-master was a kind man who helped the village boys with their studies and games. Then one day, the children ran crying to him and told him of their playmate who’d died aft er being bitten by a snake. The station-master was saddened by the news and retired early that night. In the middle of the night he heard a voice that seemed to be calling out to him. It was a child’s voice and he wondered why one of them was calling at this hour. In his sleep he walked up to the door and even as he opened it, he recognized the voice – it was the voice of the boy that had died. The next day the villagers found a delirious station-master lying in a dry well.

The boy’s mother heard rumours that the station master had seen her son and went looking for him the next night. She must’ve found something because the station-master said the next day that he heard her banging on his door but he was too scared to open. He heard a train thundering past that very moment and heard a terrible scream. He dragged himself to the door and with quivering hands, opened the door. What he saw left him rooted to the spot and the next morning villagers found him lying in a heap by the doorway. On the tracks below lay the mangled remains of the mother. They found an arm and the head some metres away.

Two nights later, the station master disappeared. No one knows where he went and none of his successors lasted longer than a week. Some of them said they saw a woman running along the platform at night screaming out a name, while others said they saw a child sitting on a branch on the tree in the dead of the night. I later learnt that if a child died in the village, it was buried under that tree. Since then, no station master has ever agreed to man Begunkodor station and no train has ever stopped here since…

As night fell and I walked away from the station, I felt a strange gloom that had descended on the place. Twice, I felt I was being followed and while a part of me knew it was the sound of my cargo-pants brushing against the grass, another part of me made me stop and turn…but when I did, all I could see was the silhouette of the station and the dead tree framed against the inky-blue sky and a lone light from the village flickering against the shadow from the hills. I wished the village well as I drove away…


This one happened by chance. I was travelling through the forests around the Seoni hills in search of the potter’s village that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book when my car’s radiator broke down on a rocky forest track. There was a stream running through a shallow valley not too far away and as I walked down to the water I saw a red flag fluttering in the cool breeze. Now this forest was in the heart of a great wilderness where wild beasts stalked the night and even in the day, we hadn’t seen a soul for miles and miles. So what was a flag doing over here? I looked around and found a cave and a cow tied to a stake. The cave seemed empty so I waited for a while and then I saw this hulking figure draped in black walking towards me.

The man was a tantric, and once an engineer from the city of Nagpur. But he had given up his job with a public sector power company because this place called out to him in his dreams when he was a child. He had sleep walked his way to this valley when still a child but then he had been found by his family and had to return. The dreams followed him though and then when he was old enough and had fulfilled his obligations, he returned to this valley. He had no guru in the flesh but there were evolved spirits in this valley and this river, he said who were his teachers… They had taught him all he knew about tantra. He told me that the hills around the valley formed a yantra which attracted spiritual energy and spirit guides and to meditate here brought the sadhaka closer to siddhis and salvation.

I didn’t know what to believe and so the man said “wait till the moon comes out… you will see the spirits frolicking in the river with your own eyes. You’ll hear their songs and power of their spells. ” This is the closest I had ever come to a ‘promised spiritual experience’ but I had a plane to catch. I thanked the man for his time, filled up the jerry-can with water from the river and hurried back to the car, but I vowed to return.

It has been many moons since I went to these places and some others like them and it is time I returned. Death is our final frontier and one day we’ll all know, through objective experiences what it means to die and do we really live on aft er the body gives up the ghost. But until we do, perhaps it is these in-between places straddling the realms of the flesh and the spirit which might hide the mysteries of a world beyond death. This new year, I’ll try and go look for some answers, and will keep you posted.


1 comment:

  1. Good spirit I say! (pun intended)
    Only Ruskin Bond's ghost stories convince me about their authenticity and now your post.