The Curious Incident of the Room

Posted by on Jun-18-2011

(Part I)

It was a warm summer in the south Indian port town of Tuticorin that my reminiscence now leads me to. I was enjoying a few months of sojourn waiting for my ship to arrive at the docks of the Tuticorin port situated about 590 Km south of Madras. I was with my wife Raziya in our moderately comfortable villa built during the British period. The villa was a perfect place for resting as it had an air of tranquil luxury about it. We spent our days breathing in all that we could, of the historic place. Raziya had engagements with the music concerts and the public library of the place.

It was one such evening about 6 o’clock, Raziya returned from her evening walk. She came in with another woman of about her own age. I was introduced to her as her old school mate Aahana. She had met Aahana on the way back home, after a long while. They were so excited to meet and to enlighten each other of their lives on all the years that had gone by. Raziya invited her to our home for an early dinner. She was a quiet woman, with a suppressed smile as she listened while my wife and I talked about the place and its people. It wasn’t difficult for me to notice that Aahana was feeling uneasy. There was something about her demeanor that displayed her anxiety, no matter how hard she tried to conceal it. Point blank as I am when something engages my keen attention, I approached the subject without any ceremony. “Aahana, what is troubling you? Pray, tell us about it. Tell us everything”. Aahana knew there was no point in hiding anything when she has become so transparent to me. I could also feel a very subtle feeling of relief escape her countenance!

Raziya got her a glass of water in the mean while. Aahana took a sip, which seemed to ease her from within. She sat up straight, and began her narration.

“You know Freddy, how delighted I am to have come across my old friend Raziya and you, at this juncture when I need a friend’s company the most. My mother had died at a very early age and it was my Dad who brought me up, in all the wonderful ways that a single father could bring up his only daughter, with all the norms of the society and an education which he used to say would set me off flying to explore the world. He was a hard working man, who never lost an opportunity to earn an extra rupee by working overtime at the Indian railways, where he was the engine driver. Years of his exposure to the hazards of pollution while at work, he contracted a very severe kind of chest infection, which debilitated him for a while and eventually took his life. I consoled myself by thinking that it was God’s way of putting an end to his sufferings. After my father’s demise, I was left a complete orphan. Luckily for me I got a job as a music teacher at the public school at Tuticorin, and for the past 2 years I am picking up and placing back the pieces of my life. I was offered accommodation moderate enough for a woman who is contended with her means, with decent food by an old couple in the neighborhood of the school. I live there with them as their paying guest. Mr. and Mrs. Pai is a sweet couple who have had no children. They have a big house and a large sum in the bank with which they lead a wonderfully happy life. I have been leading a happy trouble free life until a few days ago, when something started stirring my mental peace.”

She paused to drink water and I could notice that she was shaking from head to toe.

My mind started racing. “Pray continue” said I. The house where I am living is an old duplex house. The lower portion is occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Pai. I occupy the top portion that consists of a small study and a bedroom with an attached bath. “

“Where is the staircase to your portion situated?” I interrupted.

“It is from inside the house, from the living room of the ground floor.”

“The owners of the house are early sleepers. I retire to bed after my regular reading and writing at precisely 10.30 and very soon I would be fast asleep. Three days ago I was woken up by a strange sort of murmuring sound that somehow seemed to come from very near. I distinctly remember the sound even as I am telling this to you. Words were unintelligible. It went on just for a minute or so intermittently. I noticed with the faint light in the room brought by the glass windows, that the clock on the wall showed half past one. There are two windows in my bedroom both facing the east. On the south is the bathroom. The north side has the door that leads from my study. There are two other doors in the study. One leads t o the open terrace and the other one comes from the staircase. I lock these two doors invariably. My bed is near the west wall which is a blank wall. There is nothing beyond that wall. The strange murmuring sound as if a man was talking to himself in an undertone, came from this blank wall which causes my anxiety. I waited for sometime frozen in fright to hear more such sounds. None came, and I slowly drifted into sleep. The next day I spoke to the housekeepers and they, out rightly dismissed it as a figment of my imagination.”

Last night again the same thing happened! I could not sleep after that.

At this point I interrupted again. “When it is just a murmur that you heard which didn’t have any manifested results, and harmless as it appears, why do you have to pay too much heed to it?”

“That was exactly my own thoughts Freddy, and I was ready to throw it out of my mind when the event took a frightening turn last night!”

I was sitting on the edge of my seat, when Aahana continued.

“Last night the voice CALLED OUT MY NAME!”

(To be continued…)

Next week… The Invisible Intruder…

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