Arun looked at his watch. It showed ten past thirty minutes. Except for five to six passengers, the bus was empty. The night breeze blew through the opened windows smoothly and made him shiver. Desperately he wished to reach home soon and cuddle on the soft bed completely covered with thick bed sheets.
Moments driven in silence made him feel low. For no reason, he felt restless and unhappy at heart. When Arun drove the bus into the shed, the shed looked full with parked vehicles and so he went to the rear end of the shed. Unusually on that day, the rear end of the shed looked dark and gloomy. The lights at the corner on that part of the shed were not glowing, but mild rays of full moon peeped into the shed through the slits on the tin roof. Arun could sense the scrambling foot steps of rats and bandicoots through the space under the parked vehicles.
Arun had gone for long night trips. He never felt scary and nothing had ever happened to take his wits out. But on that day, he felt uneasy and restless. The previous night’s scary experience lingered still deep inside him. Suddenly it brimmed to the surface and made his heart palpitate faster. Arun started to sweat profusely and with struggling hands he wiped his face. Instead of feeling warmer he felt colder. Arun felt the invisible presence of someone over there and as a natural instinct he walked away taking big strides and came out of the shed.
The watchman who sat near the gate greeted him with a big smile.
‘Hello, Arun, what’s happening? You look pale and white.’
‘Don’t know. I am ok.’
‘I feel something wrong with you. Come and meet me tomorrow evening. I will pray for you.’
‘Thanks. But I am alright. No need to worry. Good night.’ Arun walked inside the cloak room to get his lunch box and joined his colleague who was waiting for him at the office.
After yesterday’s experience, Arun’s colleague did not want to leave him alone. He accompanied Arun till he reached his home safely.
‘Never leave things untold.’ With a chuckle his friend read the words on the ad board.
‘I don’t have anything to tell you now.’ Arun replied him back with an irritated tone.
‘Oh, but in my heart I feel something is there for you to tell.’
‘If I have anything I will tell you tomorrow. Now leave me to sleep in peace.’
‘Sure, unless you get messages popping in even in your dreams.’
Without replying back, Arun jumped down from his friend’s bike and banged the door loudly for his mother to open.
‘See you tomorrow. Leave others to sleep in peace.’
Without giving Arun time to reply back, he left the place immediately.
As his colleague told Arun, Arun could not sleep in peace on that night. He kept tossing on his bed till 3 am and slept soundly till 9 am in the morning.
When he woke up from his bed, he could see his mother restlessly walking here and there.
‘Arun, brush your teeth and come fast.’
‘Ma, what is happening here?’
‘You get up first. If you can take your bath, it will be fine.’
When Arun came back after ten minutes his mother called him from the front room.
‘Arun, come here.’
Arun saw an old lady sitting in the front room. Arun recognised her. She was the same old lady who would always come to their home to pray when Arun or anyone in the house was sick. In addition to visiting the doctor, his mother would call the old lady and pray for quick recovery.
The old lady was an ardent worshipper of the local deity. If she prayed and offer the holy ash to the person who was sick, it chased the illness away within a short time. She would pray for all types of problems and his mother believed her strongly.
The old lady asked Arun to sit before him. When he sat before her, she took the plate filled with holy ash and started to recite some slogans in Tamil that invoked the blessings of the local deity. She asked his mother to lit the camphor in the middle of the plate. For sometime her right hand fingers went in circles on the holy ash. She started slowly but after a few rounds her fingers went faster. She continued to do the same till the camphor burned away. Then, she took some holy ash from the plate and applied it on his forehead.
‘You can go.’ After Arun left the front room, the old lady looked Arun’s mother.
‘Nothing to worry, some evil spirit was following him for the past two days. Ask him to apply this holy ash when he goes for work. He will be normal in another two days.’
‘Ma, do you believe all these things?’
‘I don’t mind even if you don’t believe. But I want you to apply this holy ash before you go for work.’
‘Whatever it may be, for your sake, I will do so.’ Arun replied his mother with his usual smile.