The Mellow Ghost.
I met Bhupinder at the Kumbhalgarh fort. He ate on a yellow banana leaf and had the most amazing voice I ever heard. When I asked about the voice, he told me that he inherited it from his great grandfather, who was a peripatetic folk musician and was the farthest traceable point in his family tree.
Oh my, he had very sharp features! An amazing pair of twinkling blue eyes and a long long french beard. It was grey flour interspersed with silver lines. I can’t help it but notice him caressing it whenever he uttered a beguiling charm. He let out a booming sigh every twenty seconds. It left me wondering if it was the sigh that kept him alive.
I was listening to music at one serene corner of the fort where the cluster of nine temples are situated. I had to climb up a hill to reach there and the hills made sure that the families in shiny dresses with creepy kids would never dare to come there and ruin my hard earned peace. I sat down near the pillars of a Jain temple, finished my lunch and started scribbling in my journal.
The only humans in sight were an elderly french couple who were meandering around a temple far away. I shifted my bum a bit so that they are sent behind the leftmost pillar - away from my sight. No humans to feel around and I was about to plunge into the perfect evening I could hope for - one without this fancy human beings.
And that is when he happened.
He was strolling through the lengths and breadths of the fort in his long white rob that was left wanting an end or a beginning. I tried hard to find the point of inflection, but I couldn’t. His robe was perfect!
I wasn’t happy when he walked into my lonely life all set on the top of a rock with a temple by my side. He don’t need an ice-breaker to begin a conversation, neither did he really wait for my replies. He didn’t respond to my questions either. He was talking to me (I hope so) as if a ghost retrospecting it’s own past life for absolutely no reason.
He was a traveler. He has been traveling for the past 30 years across the subcontinent. He has had the pleasure of going through the lives of thousands of unsuspecting men and women. He has had a life across people and places.
He gave this idea to me that one could travel across places and people. You leave a part of you at a place and the place modifies you. You can’t cross the same river twice. I realised that the same is true when you travel to people. It struck me that all solid people I have met in my life defined me.
People are places. And all conversations are some sort of a travel to places and experiences you haven’t experienced before. When someone puts forward a philosophy at your face, you are actually being transported to a world of philosophy that exists as a thought process inside their head.
They would have created people and places inside their heads to make their philosophies look meaningful. This “phantom” people in their mind is actually a reflection of the way they perceive the world. When you talk to someone, you get a chance to take a glimpse to this world inside their heads. Isn’t it some sorts of travel?
Then Bhupinder started talking to me. He used to be a family man. He worked for the government. He loved and protected his family the same way each one of you did. He loved them dearly.
Bhupinder belong to the privileged class that enjoyed a hassle-free education. People didn’t bothered to evaluate him based on his caste or racial outlook. He traveled on top of the conveyor belt that took him through school, college and landed him on a comfortable government job that guaranteed a stable income and would pay him even after retirement. Bhupinder thought that he was settled for his life.
Till the day he undertook that fateful train journey to eternity.
He had just got a transfer to the north-eastern most point of the country. He had to travel for two days straight from the coastal town where he was posted. When the Bhupinder family packed up the luggage and hopped on the train, not even in their farthest dreams they had a notion that things will change forever in the next 48 hours.
No it was not a train wreck. It was much more than that.
36 hours into the journey, Bhupinder starts to notice this young girl in the other side of the compartment who wore a white sunflower on her hair. She was mesmerising. He was surprised to learn that he could feel her even compartments away. He undertook an excursion to the caboose to make sure that he was not mistaken.
Clinging on to a side bar inside the caboose, he tried to tune into her thought processes. It was an entirely new experience to him- to be able to get into someone else’s thoughts.
Sure there were defences to overcome - The outermost part was hard like a shell and he could hardly get inside. But standing there, he could feel her innards twitching and twirling, there was an unquenchable thirst lurking inside. He felt the urgency to bring down the defences and get absorbed by her, the transmission was crystal clear, he could feel it inside his guts.
He knew for once and all that he was hooked forever. But the biological defences in place warned him against going forward with the sorcery. Going forward would damage him forever, but he realised that he couldn’t control himself anymore and he has to go as close to her as possible.
He despised the thought of being a Warg. He withdrew himself and started walking towards his car. It was pitch dark with passengers deep asleep. He made his way through half-dead bodies and the omnipresent dust to reach his compartment. When he reached there, he saw something he would never forget for the rest of his life.
So vivid that when he explained that sight to me 30 years later, I could even pinpoint the pixels that were lost to noise in that frame.
There was a blue aura around the girl. The white sunflower was shining like an halogen lamp and the blue aura permeated the space-time to find him at the other part of the compartment.
He was drawn towards her. He couldn’t feel himself, but his feet were taking him close to her. His senses went numb and he couldn’t even feel his breath. The time stood still and a cosmic darkness slowly crept into his eyes. He couldn’t hear the sound of the locomotive, his world felt alarmingly silent and damp.
He found himself close to her. She was looking straight into his eyes. He couldn’t decipher the feelings. There was no common tongue through with they could communicate, till Bhupinder tried to make sounds. Nothing came out.
He found her smiling. They could feel the attraction. They looked into themselves as if nothing else in this world mattered to them. The train chugged monotonously through the plains with a melancholic moon above the clouds.
The night was pregnant with love and Bhupinder could feel everything longing for something else. The animals around the woods, rodents in the bushes, the earth longing for the skies and even the snow longing for the grass blades. Everything felt perfect and he found himself lost inside her.
Within no time, they found themselves talking with their mouths shut.
“Is this the journey you want to do for the rest of your life?”
“Is the world satiating you enough?”
“I don’t know the world enough.”
“Have you felt love?”
“I have seen it disappearing into nothingness.”
“Mangoes or Guavas?”
“Tiramisu any day!”
And so it went.
It wasn’t a conversation of any sorts, It was a transmission, a prattle to nothingness. There was no order. Nobody knew who asked what question or was certain if the ensuing sentence was a reply to her/him.
That was a discovery, a shock and an emotional roller coaster he could not handle. He tried to bring in order to their conversation. He tried to make sense. But to no avail, he failed miserably.
Well into the transmission, she asked if what is that one thing in the world he desires most. He couldn’t answer. He decided to look in to himself. Deep in his dreams, he knew a place were he could search for memories. A place that will show him what he desired. He knew that it’s one abandoned well in some far corner of his mind were the unfulfilled fetishes of his life lurked.
He plodded to the valley of lost dreams to reach the well at it’s farthest side. With much effort, he leaned over the parapet to see what’s inside and he found her. She read the answer from his eyes and raised her hands.
The train came to a screeching halt. He could feel that it was moving through the clouds. There was heavenly music flowing from somewhere far far away. It was perfect - even the strangest dreams wouldn’t come close to this. They found themselves alighting and walking towards the valley.
The train slowly found life again and went back to pursuing it’s life’s goal that lied at the end of the rails.
He could now feel their heart beats loud and clear and in a split of a second, he knew that they couldn’t hold it any longer.
His eyes asked her if she was okay with doing it under the moonlight. Her ears said no. They had to find a place under a roof. They wandered around the valley. A Ráðspakr within the woods told that humans left this place thousands of years ago, however they might find the abandoned houses if they are to walk one and half miles to the east.
The lovers hearts were pounding with excitement and Bhupinder could feel true love oozing through his crevices. He longed to be under a roof. So that he could finally get lost in his lover - whose name he still didn’t know.
They walked and walked for ages and finally reached the abode. They couldn’t wait any longer and unable to resist, they diffused into each others’ arms spread out.
The house was dark and the lighting systems were long gone. Bhupinder foraged around the house, with her boiling inside his veins, to find a suitable spot. He found one at last.
There was moonlight coming in through a portion of broken roof. A tiny piece of furniture left on the floor stood illuminated. It was a small teapoy, probably a place were the family got together in evenings that was cold outside. His hands cleared the centuries worth dust accumulated on top of it and went back searching for her.
When his hands found her at last, they got hold of her bingo wings and placed her bum gently over the teapoy. He saw her basking in moonlit perfection and he found wanting for another pair of eyes that would help him savour her to the fullest.
Her inviting eyes won’t let him waste another second and they made mad love under the moonlight for a time that seemed like eternity. But they wouldn’t have it forever.
When sun rays woke them at last, he found himself clinging on to her belly. She looked like a nymph from another world. He kept looking at her and couldn’t think of anything else. His hands travelled along her curves until an unexpected contraction of his carpel waking her up.
He asked her in their language and if she needed the moon for he was ready to bring even it to her if that was what she wished.
There was something wrong with the transmission. It wasn’t properly getting through. She stared at him sheepishly. He tried to make sounds and this time the sound came out booming.
They were stranded deep in the jungle with no clothes. Clothes were ruined the frenzy. It dawned to him that they were mere mortals now. But he knew that she made him excited. He mustered all the courage in the world and asked -
“What do you want now, my dearest?”
He could feel the heartbeats picking up again. He was lost in a cloud of thought obstructing his vision. After a few seconds of being lost in the woods, he made himself available to listen to whatever she wanted. He came back to earth for her.
“I want money. All I want is money. Just a few pennies to feed my siblings, all I want is money. Rupees, dollars, shekels, money!!!”, she said sobbing.
That was the last words a sane Bhupinder would hear. The image of a single lady and three children sleeping in berths close to her dawned him. The family he left behind in the train would never find him, The money that he left in the suitcase will help them to survive for a few days after which his wife found a job and settle to a life of nothingness till the end of her days.
The world came to him screaming and twirling. He lost his balance and fell head over heels. Before his face met with the earth, he felt his sanity leaving him through his ear canals.
After 30 years in this planet, he had to sleep with a prostitute to understand the true meaning of his life. Suddenly, everything divine turned profane. He became the defiler of souls and the ultimate purifier at the same time. He wasn’t sure if he was Agni - the fire or Varuna - the quencher.
He started travelling around the sub-continent starting from that day. He believed that repaying her would set him free and he could get back to the quotidian days. But he couldn’t. He kept travelling in and out, near and away, far and close and always found him coming back to one point were he made love with the nymph under moonlight coming through a broken false ceiling.
The only difference being that for every time he came back, he re-learned the lesson that the passion for one was a profession for another and the profession of one was a fit of frig for someone else.
He kept talking and I couldn’t do anything but listen. The earphones had dropped through my shoulders and the rays of afternoon sun travelled through my eyelids to hurt my iris. I woke up slowly to a Kumbhalgarh fort in green and blue.
Bhupinder was nowhere to be seen, but I could feel him. I knew for once that I could lock with his thought process, but I found myself hesitating. My thoughts kept on looping around and around till I found myself coming back to the same point. I picked up the remnants of my lunch and packed my bag. My stomach reminded me again that I was running on Loperamide and has to get back to hotel room fast.
I stood up, let emotions leak into the atmosphere cracking and walked towards the entrance. I could see the electric monkey coming down from a neighbouring hill after being chased down by an army of dyspeptic ghosts.