Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Detective Shamu and the wandering ghost

My friend Bhargavi lives in W.Virginia and kindly invited me to her house during Navrathri. I could not make it that week so she graciously said I could come later and so in mid October I got ready to go and visit Bhargavi. My Uncle Swamy and Aunt Sheila also wanted to accompany me on my drive. They were staying with me during their short visit to this country. I could not refuse as they liked to visit people and for them this trip appeared like Disney land.So one evening when I got home from work the three of us piled into my minivan. My aunt sat in the front beside me and my uncle sat in the back. Soon it was pretty dark while I had to make my 30 minute drive to Bhargavi’s place.And as luck would have it I got lost. My Uncle had taken directions from mapquest but my aunt had snatched the paper from him. She ended up telling me to turn right off the exit when I should have made a left.In the ensuing arguments between my aunt and uncle, I quietly made a u-turn and headed back the right way. Or what I hoped was the right way. That I could not concentrate when my uncle yelled at my aunt,” You are always like this. You have no sense of direction” and my aunt yelled back “You took the wrong printout”, was a mild understatement.We finally got onto the right track because we all agreed that the name of the road we were in also appeared on the print out sheet.Here the houses seemed to be further apart. Easily a half mile or more passed before we could see the next house.Suddenly my aunt shrieked loudly and clutched my arms which held the steering wheel yelling “Ghost, Ghost!”.She then turned to the back seat and clutched my uncle’s arms and went into panic mode. Her mouth was chattering and her hands were shaking. I refused to take my eyes out of the road stating that we might lose our way again.If truth be said, I was scared to look. My uncle felt safe sitting in the back seat that he peeped out of the windows. It was really dark outside and with the houses far apart we could not see much.“Ghost!! Ghost” now it was my uncle shouting. At the sound of my uncle’s voice my aunt renewed her shout and I could barely focus my attention on the road.They refused to let me pull over to the curb.They also somehow did not allow me to drive. In sheer desperation , I called Shamu my brother. It must have been God’s grace as he happened to be in the vicinity. Understanding my location, he asked to wait by the curb so that he could reach me safely.That wait was worse than waiting outside a delivery room for a baby to be born.First I had to deal with two hysterical elderly people. Second I had to contend with their imaginary ghosts. Thirdly I had to appear to take this whole thing seriously and not laugh outright at their faces.Aunty Sheila had gone very pale and was clutching at her heart. Uncle trying to appear more braver could not help his hands from shaking or his lips from sputtering.I tried to make them drink a little orange juice that I found beneath my seat. Maybe that was not the time to tell them how long the juice box had been sitting there unknown to me the car owner.Soon enough a Toyota car pulled behind us and the car driver got out and started to walk towards us as we all recognized Shamu.I rolled down the window on my side and my uncle and aunt acted as if the wandering ghost might just step in through the window.The sight of Shamu calmed my uncle and aunt and then they both together started the narration of the wandering ghost.By now my aunt was reminded of the white swaying figure she had seen in front of not one but two houses and my uncle also confirmed the sighting of this wandering ghost.Together they recommended we turn around and run for our lives.While I was busily being smothered like a cushion by my aunt, I happened to notice Shamu’s face. He appeared calm and perfectly at ease. In fact he had a knowing smile on his face.His benign face must have had its calming influence as my aunt and uncle quieted enough to listen to him.“I also saw those ghosts” he started to talk quietly as my aunt watched him with her mouth wide open in horror.“On October 31st, we celebrate what is called as Halloween”.“Towards that celebration many houses would be decorated with skeletons or ghosts and such” he said.Now there was not a whisper inside my car.My aunt and uncle were stunned. “Why would anyone want to hang skeletons on their front yard or even ghost figures” my aunt asked aloud.“That is part of the Halloween decorations. To ward of evil. Nothing to worry”. Shamu said.Once he was assured we all had returned to normalcy, he took leave of us and left us to drive forward.The rest of the journey was quiet with both my aunt and uncle now peering though the windows to see f they could catch any more sightings of the ghoulish variety.They managed to see many more ghosts and vampires and skeletons all lit to attract attention crowded around by huge pumpkins all carved and lit well by a candle.We arrived safely at Bhargavi’s house relieved she did not share this ghoulish delight and we stepped in sheepishly apologizing for our tardiness.We did not want any one else to be aware of our scared adventure mistaking hanging cloths for real wandering ghosts and hanging skeletons for the real graveyard beings. As a group we felt the sooner we crossed Halloween the safer our travels would be. If not for Shamu’s arrival and his deductive capabilities we would still be stuck in that forsaken road imagining the white beings were following us through all the trees in the midst of the eerie darkness.

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