She slowly opened her eyes. Her eyes widened. It was the most beautiful place on earth. Or was it earth? She did not know. The cobbled pathway was leading into the woods. Low hanging branches of trees had juicy fruits hanging. The scent of the flowers was intoxicating. The sound of the flowing stream was the only sound to be heard other than the chirping of colourful birds.
She turned around a whole circle. No one in sight, except for the birds! At the stream, she bent and took a handful of water and splashed it on her face. The water was ice-cold but it made her feel fresh. Where was she? How did she come here?
She could remember nothing.
She began to walk into the woods. Alert and a little scared as to what she could encounter on the way. The dried leaves made a rustling sound. The wind too was whistling in the woods. As she went deeper into the woods, the light almost vanished. Far, at the end of the road she saw a small house, or more like a hut, with roof made of dried leaves. She could see a flicker of light inside the hut. At last, there could be someone there who could help her, she thought. Her feet were hurting.
When she reached the house the door opened, on its own, without her even knocking it. She peeped inside. The smell of sandalwood incense was coming from the room. In the far corner she could see a figure, someone sitting cross legged probably in deep meditation she thought. Not sure if she should disturb him, she stood still. But her cough probably disturbed him. “Come in my dear, I’ve been waiting for you so long.” The voice sounded familiar but she did not recognize him. “Who is it?” she could barely say the words. “Come in, I am a part of you, you are a part of me. The universe will never be complete, unless we meet.” Her feet slowly moved towards him.
“Can you see me in my office?” the voice on the intercom was that of Rohit, her Manager. “Congratulations Vinita”, he handed her a letter. “You have done great work last year, and I am sure you will do the same in your new assignment. All the very best!” She was almost in a trance. “Thank you Sir, I will try my best.”
“Are you sure you want to take this assignment? You know what it would mean? I was hoping we could settle down by end of this year.” Nitin was almost shouting at her. She had been waiting for this challenge for a long time, and each time she came close to something good, someone else was given the job. And now, when her dreams were coming true , instead of being happy for her, Nitin was fighting with her.
Vinita came from a very humble background. She did not have a very good childhood, but was a brilliant student and managed to study on scholarships. Her career in the company began at a very junior level. But intelligence and her dedication soon made her a favourite amongst peers and seniors alike. But politics saw that she was always side tracked when an opportunity for promotion came. Finally luck seemed to shine on her and she was to be posted in the beautiful city of Aruku in a new facility as a section head.
“You will get an opportunity of a lifetime. Don’t lose it for anyone or anything. Grasp it with both hands,” she remembered the voice inside her had told her.
At the station, Nitin bid her an emotional goodbye. No words exchanged, just an uncomfortable silence between them.
As she descended the train, the smell of eucalyptus in the air made her feel relaxed. A slight breeze was blowing, ruffling her hair. The ride to her new home was very pleasant.
“Madam, please be careful around. The place is filled with dense forests, and one could easily get lost”, the house maid Shanta was telling her. The house allotted to her was palatial. She wished Nitin would join her. She had almost fallen in love with the place.
It was her first night at the new place. Normally she always found it difficult to sleep in a new place. She was trying hard to sleep when a creaking sound scared her, as if a door was opening. “Who is that?” she tried to say, the words were not coming out. Then it all went silent. Must be some animal she thought. But somehow she could not sleep till almost dawn.
“How was the night? Did you sleep well?” Shanta asked her. “I was disturbed by a creaking sound, and had a disturbed sleep,” she said. “I don’t want to scare you, but they say that this house is haunted, though I have never seen anything”, said Shanta. Vinita felt disturbed.
On the way to work, she walked past the outskirts of the forest. The fresh air of the place made her feel nice. Her first day at the office was very satisfying. The simple people from the hilly town were more innocent than the ones she had worked with earlier. She only felt sad about one thing - that Nitin had not called to find out how she was doing. “May be he is busy”, she tried to console herself.
After dinner she was very tired and almost fell asleep immediately. She decided to sleep with some lights in the room on. Sometime in the night she suddenly woke up. There appeared to be a bright light coming in from a corner window. She almost froze. After a while the light vanished. It may be a car or someone going around with a torch she thought. Unable to sleep after that, she lay awake in bed till the alarm rang.
“I think I need to change my house, I am not comfortable there,” she was speaking to the HR manager. “Why, what’s the problem? It is one of the biggest houses in this place,” he said. “Anyway, I think you would need to wait for a few days, till one of the houses gets vacated.”
Vinita did not believe in ghosts or spirits. But the strange things happening in her house, made her uncomfortable, and almost nervous.
“Can you stay the night with me?” she asked Shanta. “Madam, I would have done it, but my husband is very suspicious and will not allow me to stay outside in the night.” Vinita missed Nitin. He called her once in the day, but that was the only contact with him. She had not told him the trouble she was going through.
She was shocked when she saw her face in the mirror. Just the first week at the new place and she looked pale and sick. I cannot let such a stupid thing happen to me, she told herself. A girl of great grit and determination, fearfully independent before she came here. How could she let a stupid thought of a ghost trouble her?
Her positive thoughts began to help her. She decided to read late into the night so that she would be very tired and sleep well. Her health improved and she became more like her old self.
One day she was walking home, when suddenly a weird looking stranger came up to her and said, “I think you are new to this place,” she smiled and nodded at him. “You must have not heard the true love story of this place. Let me tell you. And he began to narrate the story of the zamindar (landlord) who lived in that house; he pointed at Vinita’s house. The Zamindar’s family was of a high caste and his son had fallen in love with a low caste beautiful girl, a daughter of one of his workers. The legend says that when the zamindar came to know of the love affair, he arranged for his men to kill the entire family of the girl. The zamindar’s son went into the forests and became a sanyasi (saint) and he never came back from the forest ever,” Vinita was shocked to hear the story because she felt she had heard this somewhere before. Suddenly she realized that the stranger was nowhere in sight.
She rushed home. Shanta was just leaving to go home. She narrated the weird incident to her. Shanta laughed and said, “Madam, I think you met the mad man around. He does that to every new person. The story is the same always. Though there are some old people in the town who also say that this story is true .”
“Are you fine?” she opened her eyes and there was Nitin leaning over her bed. “Where am I?” she asked, barely able to speak. You are at your home. I brought you back from Aruku. You were possessed by a spirit there. “A good one at that, you are very lucky.” She heard someone say from behind. “This is my friend Shekhar. He is a psychiatrist by profession and specializes in hypnosis and past life regression therapy. He is the one who brought you back into my world. Thanks Shekhar, I don’t know what we would do without you.”
Vinita could not understand anything that was happening. Then Shekhar told her to slowly close her eyes and relax and think about something good. She could hear his voice say, “To free the spirit of the past, it was necessary for you to go back to that place” Then the entire last scene of her reaching the hut and meeting her soul mate played like a movie in her mind’s eye.
“Now slowly open your eyes”, she heard Shekhar say. After a very long time she felt refreshed and enthusiastic about life again.