(The Story Till Now – A 27-year-old young man named Bond falls off from his balcony while clicking a stunt selfie with his girlfriend. He refuses to move on after his death and stays stuck in Apartment 328, where he has spent the most beautiful days of his life. His parents and girlfriend leave after his funeral but he is unable to move on due to his extreme grief.
Slowly, he comes to know more about the after-death existence and a funny reality – he has become quite a creepy ghost himself. He is sighted by many of the residents in the apartment complex. It is well-accepted that no one would rent the apartment but Bond is surprised to find that an Indian couple has rented the flat. A rare one-sided friendship develops between the ghost and the Indian lady, who is depressed and friendless in a foreign country. She is a typical case of a dependent, Indian visa wife in the USA. Her relationship with her husband worsens and she runs towards the balcony to jump off. At that moment, the ghost appears in front of her…Read more to know what happens next…)
Like a scared cat, she ran to grab her phone. I almost laughed. Just a moment before, she was ready to give up on her life but, desperate self-preservation prevailed on seeing a ghost. Maybe ghost sightings could do magical wonders in pushing people from one extreme to the other.
Breathlessly, she dialed her husband’s number but his phone was on airplane mode since he was flying. She dived towards the bedroom to grab the iPad – contacting any living person in the world was her sole motive. Shivering like a leaf, she face-timed her folks back in India and tried to show me – the tall, weird-American ghost, on the face-time. But I had already disappeared by floating away from the selfie spot.
I heard her mother chanting some mantra loudly. And then, they all began to chant Sanskrit shlokas in chorus. Holding the photo of her god, she obsessively chanted to drive me away while I gloomily sat observing her from the balcony. It was a heavy night as my sole companion in a lonely world wanted to get rid of me.
Techie returned the following evening and although he didn’t believe a word of what she said, he brought a funny looking priest to exorcise me. Then followed an elaborate ceremony accompanied by loud chants and bangs. It was quite interesting to watch the ghost-exorcising ceremony. However, she was under a lot of stress so, I moved away from them.
I decided to stay away as much as I could. They had no clue that the living world was far more savage than our ghost world – where tormented and stuck souls lived. But would they believe me? I made the dark ceiling of the store-room as my new haunt.
Meanwhile, Techie turned over a new leaf since that day. Perhaps, he thought his wife was hallucinating and losing her mind. And that made him consciously make efforts to take care of her. He cooked for her, fed her, and cheered her up. He even got her enrolled in English lessons and driving classes. Life brightened a little for them as they began to talk more.
She had also got another companion! Techie gifted her a handsome talking parrot; she loved it. For hours, she would teach the parrot to talk. I hardly went near the parrot, as it would screech and round its eyes on seeing me.
One day, the fire alarm went off in our building. This was mostly an entertaining event for me because I had the pleasure of watching panicked human behavior. The authorities expected that the residents leave the building before the doors got sealed. She was alone and had never experienced these fire-alarm security measures but Mrs. Raju came to her rescue. They ran out of the building with her. The firefighters and the police arrived within minutes and they began to secure the place. I watched it all from the balcony.
But one particular thing caught my eye, Mrs. Raju was chatting with her and pointing fingers towards my apartment. What was she telling her about me?
After the incident, I strongly felt that she had become comfortable with my presence around the house. Maybe she had gathered that I was harmless. Maybe Mrs. Raju had related my sad death story and she was sympathetic… Maybe she had become used to me… or maybe I was reading too much into things!
Things started to look up for everyone in Apartment 328, but my indiscretion one fateful evening changed everything.
That day, Techie was chatting with her on the balcony. For a change, his conversation seemed entertaining to me. It was about his encounter with an Indian ghost in his childhood. I hovered closer to know more about my Indian counterpart. But lo! In a flash, I reached the ‘selfie’ spot, and unwittingly presented myself.
What a sight I might have looked – a tall American ghost hovering over them, trying to listen to a ghost story! My lady remained unperturbed but the effect on him was pretty disastrous. He grimaced, rubbed his eyes, and looked horrified. A scary ghost lived with them – this information was too much for his mind to process. He ran out of the apartment, dragging her with him. She tried to calm him down… but he was not in his senses.
The next day, I learned that he had decided to move out of the ‘haunted’ apartment. I saw them packing things up. She looked calm but Techie was super-stressed, fearful that I was lurking around.
Memories came flooding back of the days we spent together. The lady and I were partners in loneliness and distress. I remembered her spices, her films, Mr. Khan, and her Gods. Somewhere, someone was playing a haunting song again, giving dark background music to my dejection.
I escaped to the storeroom to avoid seeing my sole friend go. By evening, I listened to the sounds of things getting moved out, luggage dragged, and doors getting closed behind them. I was lonely once again.
It was dark when I came out on the balcony. There was silence everywhere; the mild fragrance of Indian spices was still there in the empty, dark rooms. I felt like I died again, and there was no closure.
Suddenly, I heard a screeching sound from the maple tree in front of my apartment. What was ‘Mitthu’ her talking parrot doing there? Did she set it free before leaving? The bird circled me and squawked- “Thank you from Mukta! Mukta means freedom! Be happy and free!.”
Mesmerized and energized, I spoke her name softly – Mukta! Mitthu was delivering her message. That was her ingenious way to communicate with me and express her gratitude for saving her life before leaving. I thought I had unwittingly helped Mukta when she was lonely and depressed, but she had come to me for a reason as well.
I spoke her name again, and something in me clicked. I had never paid attention to her name. ‘Mukta’ was a divine sign. Was it time to let go, to surrender my despair, and move on…be Mukt?
I whispered ‘Thank You’ to ‘Mitthu’ as it flew away to its freedom. I chose to follow the bird’s illuminated trail…wherever it took me. I felt I was blissfully accepting things, moving on, leaving all the bad as well as good memories of Apartment 328 behind me… to go wherever I was supposed to go!
(I had great fun writing this story. Hope you liked it. And thank you for being with the Ghost named Bond for the past three weeks.)