Saturday, 17 July 2010


It was a “sprawling” graveyard lying in the comparatively deserted part of the bustling city. The Authorities deemed it appropriate to put the barren land to adequate use. Soon the ground was leveled and up rose the rafts on criss-cross wooden ladders amidst heaps of concrete rubbles - the paraphernalia of a massive construct was initiated.

It is rumoured that the construction failed to be a seamless and smooth affair as thrice the half complete structure crumbled down, reason unknown. The labourers would put up the edifice with due diligence till nightfall and come back in the morning to witness it pulled down to smithereens. IT is, I think at this juncture, that weird tales about unidentified presence started floating about the site. There were a few graves which were left untouched and still lie in haphazard order somewhat corroborating the bizarre surmises. Stories of gory aftermath akin to those associated with vandalization of Egyptian pyramids did the rounds. Half truths and obfuscated facts contribute to myths, mystique and the making of legends. This was the beginning.

Notwithstanding the uncalled for impediments, the behemoth was finally put to readiness – an architectural grandeur of pink and beige squares and domes; an assemblage of several blocks which were called “cores”, apparently exclusive of each other but internally inter linked through a maze of passageways almost like secret runaways.

The grand building was to house the more sophisticated arm of the government. Every floor was a wide, open, orbital space divided into rooms, cubicles and halls with false ceilings and vinyl flooring overlooking rectangular terraces, which if one crossed over, curved into the other core. Up came the chairs, tables, cupboards, cabinets, closets, folders, stationery, paper, files, photocopiers, printers, PCs, laptops, fax machines. Pantries were stocked with food, snacks and beverages. Water filters were installed in the corridors. The hustle and bustle of 9 to 5 working hours commenced. But along with the preconditions of a conducive work culture came “the others”, in surreptitiously, uninvited, unwanted, useless to busy executives and harassed subordinates, they stayed put and made it their permanent abode.

“The others” who roamed the floors on silent feet like a swish of air, a whisper into one’s ears, weightless, formless, nameless their empty footfalls plodded the place during office hours as well as after closure. They were always there. They did not disturb much and remained confined to their own clan. But sometimes, the night guards complained of muffled male and female voices, avid conversations and suppressed laughter. Strangely after eight in the evening these guards would shut all the entrance doors to the offices and remain huddled in the main reception isolated by the closed doors; sometimes even outside the office on the landing opening to the lifts. Quite a few years back, one guard chucked up his job without prior notice and fled the city after being a terrified witness to an apparitioned figure in white stalking the grounds at night.

Employees working late were often disturbed by the eerie feeling of being “watched over” and the printers and photocopiers whirring into action on their own volition. Two weeks back one of the guards taking a round after office hour unlocked one of the rooms to do a routine check. As he was fumbling for the switch, he received a smothered but curt instruction of the unseen occupier not to put on the lights. The guard quickly locked the door and almost bolted out of the office.

The premise boasts of many hideouts which when chanced upon add up to the creepiness of the atmosphere. Our washroom has a kind of a small trap door pasted to the back wall which usually remains locked. The other day it was slightly ajar invitingly swaying to and fro softly with the breeze. Curiosity had the better of me. I opened it wide, poked my head in to stare at a dark longish slice of space big enough to snuggle a dead body in. It most probably was a part of the main shaft running along the backside of the building. But it gave me the creeps and for a few days I had to muster the last remnants of my faltering courage to visit the loo.

The latest to this genre of blood curdling instances was the story narrated by our peon, Sompal, who usually sits late in office as his chartered bus, the only one that takes him home, plies after seven. That day his friend had come to pick him up and not finding the guards in the reception walked straight into the corridor which took him to the entrance of the hall where Sompal usually sat. The glass and aluminum paneled door was unexpectedly shut. As he approached the door he had an odd feeling that he was not quite alone. as he saw shadowy reflection of three figures on the glass panel as though standing right behind him. He turned back to find nobody around.

This incident could have shattered the equanimity of any jelly hearted weakling. But we are a department of level-headed, logical, slightly non-imaginative legal minds (I being an exception) who chewed the cud so much that the topic under vociferous discussion almost turned into a sour lemon. The intermittent debates that took place throughout the next day followed like this –

Karun said: “I am not surprised. This is very common in this part of the building which remained unoccupied for a very long time due to these unearthly invasions”

Kiran said: “What rubbish! Sompal’s friend was not in his senses. Better still Sompal must have jabbered about these stories to him which gave his friend ideas. Where were the guards?”

Karun said: “Even the guards vacate the place after a certain hour”.

Priyanka said:”I refuse to hear about such things”

Kiran said: “There must have been someone. Perhaps the workers renovating the toilet day and night”

I said: “And that someone vanished in thin air in a jiffy. It can’t be!”

Bidisha said: “But madam, it is strange. The corridor was well lit. How could he see the reflection on the mirror from so far?”

Kiran said:”Where is Sompal? Why is he scaring us?”

Sompal said:” Kya madam! It really happened. Although I sit late I have never experienced such things. But my friend was new here and it happened to him.”

Life is not a canvas with black and white strokes alone. There are certain shady, shadowy zones of grey, the unknown and the uncharted ones. Choice is ours whether we believe in them or not, but what we cannot surely overlook is the fact that they are intriguing, mind boggling and sometimes nerve racking too. In this entire episode wherein the unknown fenced with the known, I and Bidisha were the worst hit who had to seek each other’s company to visit the washrooms or the dark and deserted nooks and corners of the office even during the busy work hours.

1 comment:

  1. I am reading this at 9 in the morning and mind you, i dont feel like opening my store.
    While reading I felt myself a part of the strange weird experience and jelly hearted as I am, enjoyed it with a pinch of uneasiness. And thats the success of your writing, [ as usual].