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The Woman on the River Bed

The other day when me and my wife were discussing about ghosts and their existence, I read her a short thriller by Ruskin Bond – A face in the dark.

She told, “Interesting, but I have a more interesting story for you and it’s real.”

I exclaimed, “Real?! I don’t believe.”

She said, “I am not asking you to believe, it’s up to you, but to me it is the most real story about ghosts as it was experienced by my Grandfather”

 I said, “Ok, Then tell me...”

 ‘Do you know, how safe a wooden boat is?’

‘No, how come?’

‘It is said that, evil spirits can never do harm if you are on a wooden boat. That’s the reason why, mothers tie small pieces of the wooden boat in form of a Tabis around the waist of their small children to protect them from evil powers.’

‘Is it?’

‘Yes, my Grandfather had narrated once how a wooden boat had once saved his life from a very evil ghost.’

I felt interested to listen and said, “Tell me”

She began.

My grandfather used to work for Gun Shell factory In Kolkata. He was a tall handsome man during his young days. Every once in two month he used to visit home with lots of shopping for all in the village.  After travelling by train till Cuttack, he takes a bus to Tarpur, from there he takes a ferry to cross the Mahanadi River and at about a kilometre walk from the river bund is our village.

‘Now a bridge built there over it, isn’t?’

‘Yes, they have built it recently, but this event has happened in early 1950ties. Even before my father’s birth. There was no bridge over the river then. Only way to cross the river was by ferry. But in summer when the river is devoid of water and only a narrow steam of water flows in between. People cross the river by walking on the sandy river bed. When the narrow stream comes across, they cross it by walking over the ankle deep water.’

On sunny days it’s very difficult to walk on the hot sand as it is about half a kilometre wide river bed. The ideal time to cross it is at the evening when the sand is cooler. At that time many others also come and go over the river.

That day Grandfather reached late in the evening it was about half past eight or nine. There were only a few shop open in the Tarpur Bajar as he got down from the bus. As he was a much known person in the locality, the shopkeepers in the Bajar advised him not to cross the river and suggested him to pass the night in their place. But Grandfather was excited to meet his family and would never let the dry river come in between.

Carrying a luggage bag in his back, and two hand bags in both of his hands, he descended down the, river bund. The half moon on the sky made the path on the white sand of the river visible to certain extent. After walking about 10 minutes on the sand, he had a very odd smell. A dead cow was decaying. Probably it died of summer heat in search of water in the river but couldn’t reach up to the stream, he thought. As he was thinking about it and walked further a figure came running from the direction where the smell was coming from. It was of a woman, her face was hardly visible.

She said, ‘Wait for me’

Grandfather was astonished. How come a woman is there on the river bed unaccompanied, at that odd hour?

She was about a hand distance from Grandfather, still he couldn’t see her face clearly.

Grandfather asked her, “Who are you?”

She said, “My name is Jamini and I belong to Siripur village. I have a family there. I have three little kids”.

Grandfather knew where Siripur was. It is a village on the bank of the same river and is about 10km upstream.

Grandfather asked her again, “How you came here? Siripur is too far from here”

She said, “I came here at the evening, I am ill, I lost my way back home. Help me reach my village”

Grandfather said ok and asked her to follow him.

She followed grandfather for about 10 or 15 mins,but after that he couldn't hear her steps. To make sure if she was following him or not, he looked back.

She was not there!!!

Grandfather took a gulp. He felt heavy and his heart throbbed faster. When looked ahead, she was just there in front of him.

She was standing in-front him face to face. He could see a bony face behind the hairs.

She laughed frantically. The laugh was indeed ghostly.

She shouted, “Why you flown me in the river when the river was full. Because, you couldn’t treat my illness. You thought I am dead. I am not dead, I live in this sand. Like to join me?”

And she cried with howling.

Grandfather threw his hand bags ran to the stream. A boat was anchored nearby.
He jumped into it. He felt safe in it. The woman followed him there but could not do any harm to him.

He could hear phantom flapping on the water near the boat and it continued till the dawn. Grandfather father remained on the boat till the sky was clear with the early morning rays.

The river bed looked beautiful in the morning rays and he didn’t care to take those hand bags he had thrown at the night.

At home he fell severely ill for days and he was treated by a famous witch doctor.

“How is my story”, my wife asked at the end.

I said, “I will write it down and dedicate it to the memory of my Grandfather-in-law, Late Purnachandra Mallick.”

Google earth location:

Location where it happned

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Biswajeet Kuila said…
Nice you penned it down in your unique style. Its indeed a story of many others in our Great Grandpas & Grandmaas era. We need to pay tribute to such memories. But the credit goes to your wife for sharing with you this priceless piece of a story.

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