Thursday, August 28, 2008

The haunted house

We were having a tea break after a grueling session of daily gossip, fondly called “Absolute Thinking” after office hours. It was early 1969 and all five of us had joined a unit of Larsen & Toubro in Orissa, about six months earlier.

Though we had lots in common, all were from IIT, Kharagpur, mechanical engineers, bachelors, extremely argumentative and lazy, we were also quite different in many other ways.

Ajit Mandal was from ’63 batch and was the senior most. He had the single ambition of going to USA!

Amlan Sen was from ’66 batch and was the best of the lot with regards to all human qualities. He was a connoisseur of everything good in life be it literature, music or playing bridge.

Santosh Singh did his M. Tech from IIT in ’68. He was a very intelligent, clean shaven sarder who always used to come up with some “Blue Sky” ideas and used to feel sorry for the world in general and us in particular if we were not supporting his ideas!

Sumit Satsangi was from ‘68 batch and was a sportsman to the core. He used to sport a mustache to look like army personnel in deference to his boyhood dream which could not be fulfilled due to a mysterious attack of bronchitis during army selection!

I was from the ’68 batch as well and as far as I was concerned there was nothing to write home about me except that I was quite popular with the kids in our colony since I could flip them on my shoulder. And most of the ladies in the colony had the misconception about my ability to fix up anything except broken hearts (a few attempts met with disastrous consequences)! So I had free access to all the families in our colony for cookies.

It was during the early stage of industrialization in India and our company acquired a vast track of hilly forest land in a God forsaken place called Kansbahal in the tribal heartland of Sundergarh district in Orissa. Kansbahal was about twenty five kilometers towards Bombay from the steel city called Rourkela.

Our unit was sandwiched between the Calcutta-Bombay main railway lines on one side and the Calcutta-Bombay national highway on the other. Workers’ colony, called South colony was relatively big and was near the railway lines. The factory was situated just after the south colony. The officers’ colony was called North colony and was on the other side of the factory, near the highway and was having hardly fifty bungalows.

Most of the carnivores, except jackals and a few friendly neighborhoods wolves left the area when the factory was being set up, due to the destruction of the habitat. However, snakes and scorpions were not wiling to give up and were putting up a spirited fight! The whole set up was very picturesque but danger lurked after every sunset. Till late night during the full moon period, we used to hear the faint melody of tribal folk songs accompanied by the haunting beats of madal (tribal drums). There were occasional reports of human sacrifice during the sowing season which, however, could never be confirmed.

If we are now unsatisfied with our poor infrastructure, it was simply non-existent in Kansbahal during the later part of the sixties.

After spending six months in south colony during our probation, five of us had just moved into two adjacent bungalows in the north colony. As you entered the north colony from the national highway you would be quite impressed by a wide concrete road with perpendicular arterial roads on both the sides flanked by bungalows. On the furthest end of the first perpendicular road to the right was our club, the sole entertainment facility in our colony. Our bungalows were just behind the club.

That particular day we were a little sad since Ajit had submitted his resignation and we all went to the club to douse our sorrow. Ajit, Amlan and Santosh were only occasional drinkers and were soon in a different world after a few glasses of beer. Sumit and I were sitting on the two extreme ends of the bar table and were still in our senses being teetotalers and had just finished our eighth bottle of Coca-Cola!

Suddenly I was startled with a gruff voice from behind “Good Evening, Mr. Sengupta”. I slowly turned and was surprised to see the smiling face of Mr. Muralidas, our estate manager!
“Good Evening, Mr. Muralidas” I replied, still in a state of sock.

We were not in best of terms. Some how or other, Muralidas would always give us a raw deal whenever he could. We would also fight it out with the active support of our bosses. We were a constant source of headache for each other.

“May I just have a couple of minutes with you, Mr. Sengupta?” said Mr. Muralidas almost apologetically.
“Sure” I said while moving out to a nearby sofa, still wondering about his intention.
“It is sad that we are loosing Mr. Mandal” said Mr. Muralidas while seating on a sofa opposite mine.
I didn’t utter anything, knowing full well that condolence could not be his main agenda.
“Mr. Sengupta, I have a proposal” said Mr. Muralidas after a swig at his glass.
I was alarmed! “It couldn’t be Deepika! She is too young. Anyway Muralidas would never select me as his son-in-law, unless he believes in those funny scientific theory of opposite poles attracts and would like to postulate that for human relationships as well!” I almost thought aloud.
“As you know, we are having a serious shortage of bungalows. We had to accommodate you in bigger bungalows since bungalows for you, I mean for junior engineers, are not yet ready. We are now having a lot of requests for these bungalows for family accommodation” said Muralidas taking another swig from his glass.
I was tense but still did not utter a word. My less than average brain was doing overtime to read his thoughts.
“At the same time there is a large bungalow lying vacant for quite sometime. I wonder whether you and Santosh would be interested in moving in there” said Muralidas.
“Which one?” I asked tentatively.
“On the first row, second from the right as you enter the club road” said Muralidas in an even tone.
“You mean the haunted house?” I exclaimed!

The bungalow he mentioned was one of the best bungalows in our colony. Long before we joined, the then chief accountant Mr. Gurubox Sahani used to stay there along with his family. He retired from the service and the day he was supposed to leave for his home town, he died suddenly of a heart attack. It was the first death in our colony and he was cremated on the bank of Brahmani river nearby. Death was quite normal but the timing was very unusual. Company then converted that bungalow into an extension of the guesthouse. The first guest was one Mr. Antia from our head office at Bombay. Nothing happened till the evening. But the next day Mr. Antia was found in a state of shock and was shifted to guesthouse proper. It was rumored that Mr. Antia heard some unusual sound on the rooftop and was under the opinion that it was Mr. Gurubox Sahani’s spirit! Since then nobody stayed in that bungalow and slowly it got the dubious status of a haunted house. Anybody taking the club road after the sunset used to pass that stretch very quickly without looking at that bungalow.

“You are young engineers from IIT. I don’t think you believe in all that nonsense. Do you?” he asked sheepishly, working on my male ego.
“Why don’t you move in?” I challenged him.
“I would love to” he said with pseudo boldness “but you know your Bhabi (sister-in-law) is, unfortunately, very superstitious. More over Deepika is so young” he added, pricking my sentiment.

I could understand that Muralidas wanted to outsource the dirty work of throwing us out to a ghost. If we were killed it would be all the more better. At the same time I was quite tempted about that bungalow. I was sure that there was no chance of our staying in such bungalows in coming ten years. I had to only convince Santosh which I was sure I could.

“See, it is a very difficult decision. Let me talk to Santosh when he is in a good mood. Give me a few days time” I replied with an impassive face.

“Oh, sure. Take your time” said Muralidas. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to convince Santosh even if he tried turning cartwheels or belly dancing. [To be continued]


Rini said...

Had he tried belly dancing - that would surely have been another very very interesting story :))

Looking forward to more of this...

biplab said...

rini, just imagine the interesting sight....six footer with beer belly having original telephone complexion!

Indrabhom said...


Bhoot Bangla!

Intro ta besh hoyecchhey, Ebar kicchhu bhuter agomon hole aro jome jaabe..E bar kar Sharadiya Anandamela te Shirshendur "U*hu" te kono bhut nei, tai amader mon ektu kharap..tor lekhate kicchhu paropokaari bhut der dakha pele shei mon kharap bhab ta kete jaabe..

Amader schooler (1961 HS batch) Shyamal Datta Chowdhury tar BE College ey katano pa*ch bacchhar er nana kahini niye ekti oti upadeyo boi likhecchhilo, boi tar naam "Engineering college ey Amitabha". Janina podecchhish kina.

Amar mone hocchhey Shyamal er pawdanko anusharan kore tui amader Kharagpurer pa*ch bacchhar niye shomoy kore akta dharabahik lekha shuru kawr. E byapare tor theke better candidate aar keu nei..


biplab said...

Indra, friendliness of the ghost could be ensured. but it is not too hostile, otherwise i wouldn't have been here to write the story. End is, however, quite interesting.

i would love to write a serial on our five years in Kharagpur, but unfortunately i started writing only at a tender age of 61 and did not keep any notes. If i get some help from my friends then i will definitely be interested.

Satyesh Naik said...

Dear Mr Biplabji...
Well written...hats off
Seems like next Ruskin Bond...
Well to freshen up your memories of Kansbahal...u can visit my blog
I have worked there for 1 year and had taken some snaps.
Happy writing...

biplab said...

Satyesh, i have visited your blog on Kansbahal. It is simply wonderful! Excellent photographs! Keep it up

amrik said...

haha ... interestingly some characters in this blog/story are familiar to me ... Amlan Sen of the famous "Amlan Sen inter departmental cricket tournament" when i grew up in KBL in the late 80s and 90s ... and Mr. Muralidass (or Muralidass uncle) would go around North Colony chasing mischevious kids like me from playing cricket and soccer at the famous "Susheela Kashyap park" because invariably our sporting mis-adventures would end up destroying plants and lamp-posts .. haha :) ...My recollection of Mrs Muralidass (Muralidass aunty) is that of a a very gracious lady and while i dont think I have ever seen Deepika but their son Pankaj Muralidass was only a few years senior to me at school .... Sad that both these person (Amlan Sen and Mr. Muralidass) had breathed their last much before I left Kansbahal ........
The haunted house you were referring to was last habitated by Mr. P.N.Prasad.
@ Biplab Sengupta = Thanks for writing this blog :) and refreshing some old memories. When did you leave KBL ?

biplab said...

Though i was with L&T till July' 90, i left KBL in January' 78

Suvendu Halder said...

I quite enjoyed your writing and the many pleasant memories that are associated with KBL. I was born in KBL and grew up in its caring and oh so enjoyable environmens. That raises eyebrows with comments of it having being a 'dead' place but i would not trade that childhood for anything.
Today I live in Kolkata and miss KBL every waking moment.
Your truly
Suvendu Halder.

Naomi said...

Hi Uncle,
Great work!!!! Am really interested to know how it will end. Will show it to Dad and get him to comment.
Naomi ( Rodrigues)

Dipu Chanda said...

Biblab Kaku, you aleady have a huge fan following.....Very well written "The Haunted House" posted by many, we are eager to read the rest & particularly the climax, which you claim to be very interesting.......I am 100% sure all KBL'ites will love any story/blog on KBL & its mesmerising memories.......I have spent my entire childhood here & like all KBL'ites have fond memories of the place & the people....Incidentally I was Deepika's classmate right from Nursery to Class 10......eagerly looking forward to this space...for your story....Pranam...Dipu Chanda

biplab said...

Suvendu, i never could imagine that i will have such a lot of fan-followers from recent next generation Kansbalites! After retirement in December' 2007 i also leave in Kolkata (Patuli) and i do miss my KBL days.

biplab said...

Dear Naomi, what a wonderful surprise! Sorry to delay in my reply since i was very busy last few days...enjoying Durga Puja with my daughter (Rini) in USA. You could read the concluding part in my blog only (newer post) which i have posted. Please show my blog to Rodo and Juli and i am sure they will enjoy the same. With best wishes....please keep in touch

biplab said...

Dear Dipu,i could remember....seeing with your parents Mr. & Mrs. Chanda whom i have met quite often. Thanks for your comments. I am sure that you have read the concluding pars as well (already posted)and liked it. With best wishes

Dipu Chanda said...

Dear Biplab kaku, have read both the conluding parts of the "Haunted House"....aapni daroon lekhen....Jackals & Bats na hoae kichu bhooth-tooth (harmless) thakle....story ta aaro spicy ebong moja aasto...keep writing...Thanks & regards...Dipu Chanda

biplab said...

Dear Dipu, till now i am writing in my blog only what actually happened. That's why i am using more or less actual names.....places or impart authenticity. You might get some thrill if you read "Jeep No. 510" which is also based on KBL...probably your parents may be knowing some incidence described by me. If i ever start writing stories i might think about changing the ending and put in more masala. By the way is "Shampa (?)" who acted in "Shama" in KBL your sister?

Dipu Chanda said...

Biblab Kaku, read "Jeep No.510" ....Daroon....unfortunately unable to relate it to my parents...keno na Baba passed away in 1996 & Maa aamar sathe he aachen...but suffering from Dementia (memory loss)....wish I could make them read your blog as well as show them your profile pic.....I am sure dekhe onara khoob beshi aanondo peten...yes Shampa is my sister & she had enacted in the "Shyama" dance drama held both at KBL & also Maxmuller Bhavan - RKL (now German club)....If my memory serves me right (keno na aami khub choto chilam) she played the role of CHITRANGADA & Shyama was enacted either by Veeni or Mala didi...aapni & Amlan kaku budhoy bes koekta gaan o geye chilen...Those were the days...I still remember how passionate my parents were about organising such cultural programes.....

biplab said...

Dipu, Sorry to hear about the sad demise of your father and the health of your mother. Amlan and Dipankar Gupta (Dinky) sang a few songs for Shyama but unfortunately during that time i was in Germany for about two years. I only heard the stories later.

rana panigrahi said...


Sriyasri Patra said...
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