Monday, June 12, 2006

Close encounters of the wierd kind

It usually starts with a shadow of a shiver teasing the small of your back, before digging inward, chilling your gut with raw fear.

Of the several times this has happened, the eeriest was when W and self were motoring back from Calangute to Ashvem on the leftovers of a Kinetic Honda.
Too much beer on the beach had ensured bladders fit to burst while a drunken U-turn made sure we were heading the wrong way.
The thing about urinating (to be polite) is that you can never hold it. When the torrent is unleashed and the turbines begin pumping, you HAVE to ensure immediate release.
Not like bombing Pakistan, which can be controlled through self-taught 'yogic movements'.

Anyway.. getting back to the story, we were careening down this curving village road with no headlight (thanks to a helpful cow), no streetlights (thanks to the Goan government) and just a tad drunk (thanks to Sandyman).
A cool night breeze and the rushing of the Zuari river meant we had to take a quick stop or risk sprinkling each other. We pulled over at what looked like any other strectch of road and unzip at the nearest wall.
The night was so black, we had to use the light from our cellphones to find our zippers.
Which we did after much fumbling and cursing.

As near-identical jets of liquid fertiliser hit the wall in front, a lazy streetlight flickered on behind us. The cavernous, echoing mouth of the well we were pissing on was the first thing we saw.
Having just been scared shitless by The Ring, wells weren't anywhere we would have liked to be. Plus the alcohol and an endless supply of Mary had set paranoia levels on maximum.

Spurting leftovers at its yawning mouth, we raced to the scooter and hopped on. Shouting to be heard over the whine of the scooter, I leaned forward to tell W that we'd had a lucky escape from the witch of the well when we see HIM coming toward us.
At first all we could see was long, waist lenght white hair and an even longer beard and I tell you watching hair running toward you can do serious things to your belief in the spiritual.
HIS skin was so dark, it was near invisible with the dregs of a loincloth wrapped around his waist
HE was running at a wolvish lope and as he came up on us, he slowed down, staring us right in the eyes. Ancient black eyes with no whites. Or maybe I was too blasted to see the whites.

The second he looked at us, W wobbled a bit on the scooter and we had to pull an emergency stop. When we looked back, all we could see was the faint lights of the village we'd just left. Looking around, the paranoia returned tenfold.
To our left, the moonwashed bones of a cemetery lay before us ... stretching out to the sea, to our right, a gigantic Banyan tree looked down at us, its dreadlocks groaning menacingly.
All that W had to say at that point was, "Oh BHENCHOTH!!!

--

Back when we used to live in PV, there was a school right next door to home. The school's basketball court was a wall-hop away and that's where all the neighbourhood boys would get together in the evening for 3-odd hours of full court.
Since PV was entirely village land before Ansals bought over, there are several pockets within the colony that still belong to the villagers.
Like the cremation ground a hedge away from the court.
Occasionally, but not often, we'd see a line of villagers in white with a body wrapped in a shroud, parading into the area from the other side, gingerly stepping between mounds of ash.

We had to stop playing every time this happened because they'd get pissed with us bouncing the ball and the general commotion.
Besides, being downwind from a burning body can be pretty goddamn nauseating.

This once, the villagers had chased us off, but a few of us came back later to catch a last game of half court before heading home. It was winter and it was dark by this time, but the court had bright orange lights that we could switch on when we were playing.
Fifteen minutes into the game and Vikky the Beast chucks the ball at the hoop in a desperate attempt to score. The ball goes over the board, past the hedge and into the cremation ground.
Almost on cue, the court lights blink out and through the dark mist we hear the disembodied voice of the school's security guard telling us to fuck off and go home.
But we couldn't leave without the ball. We'd all pooled in and bought a brand new Spalding. At that time, these were prized possessions.

So we sent the Beast in to retrieve it, since he'd been the one to dispose of it.
To help him, we all stood by the hedge and shouted verbal encouragement like, "abbe gandu, tatti math karne lag jaana" and "bhen ke lode, andar kya kar raha hai? Kahan mar gaya saala?"

With no streetlights and a slight mist, we couldn't see anything past the hedge except for the blurred outlines of silent mounds.

All of a sudden, we see Viky the Beast. He's got the ball in his hands, but he's backing out of the cremation ground. We shoout at him to turn and run, but he doesn't listen to us, clutching the ball tight, he keeps stepping backward while still looking straight in front.
We could see him tripping, and with the precise aim of the dumbass, lands stomach-up in a pile of white ash. There's a sickening thunk sound that follows and the next thing we see is the Beast flying over the hedge, ball still in his grasp, face white with fear ... but all right.
We gather around him and dust him off, laughing at him and ourselves when one of us, lets out a canine howl - a pretty common thing to do in such circumstances.
He never expected to get a reply.
A deep, low howl ending in a strangled cough that could also have been a bark.
At first, we thought it was a dog and there were a lot of them in PV.
And then we heard the cracking sound of twigs being crushed by a heavy weight... from within the cremation ground

No idea what happened next because it took the six of us roughly two seconds to jump the wall and run to the club for cover.

--

This past time, when I went to Goa with Lulu, Fez and AFA, we'd gone to Arambol to check on the graves of Fez's grandparents. It was a bright, hot Friday afternoon and we'd just been chilling on Vagator.
When we get to the graveyard, it's locked, so Fez goes to look for the priest, while Lulu, AFA and self sit around outside.
The priest eventually, woken from siesta, strolls up the hill to open the gate.
The graveyard's a disaster. The markers are wooden sticks that have rotted and fallen away. Dead flowers, dry brown grass, burnt scrub and not a single cared for tombstone.
It took us a while to find Fez's grandmother's marker, because she'd been moved into the wall. Since we hadn't had the time to buy flowers, Fez broke two branches of bougainvillea to stick upright into her marker.
We said a small prayer and then started looking for Fez's grandfather. Lulu found him on the opposite side of the cemetery. Another grave covered in trash and dead vegetation.
Fez bent down to clean the grave of rubbish and Lulu said, "We should have got more flowers, we don't have anything to put here."

Right that instant, one of the branches of bougainvillea stuck in Fez's grandma's marker, bent down and turned to point in his grandfather's direction.
As if to say, "Here, take this."

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