|UG and the ‘unknown’ ( Photo Source: Goner, Louis Brawley)|
Recently I and family spent a couple of weeks in a ‘medical resort’ renowned for Alternative Medicine on the outskirts of Bangalore. My wife was undergoing some treatments and therapies for some ailment and we all moved in with her to give her company.
This excellent medical facility (kind of resort) is in a ‘green zone’ amid scenic setting that boasts of a peacock reserve forest.
Every evening our family along with some inmates at the medical centre would gather in front of the facility and spend time under the clear skies enveloped all around by greenery. A few friendly dogs, mongrels that stayed on in the premises, stuck around the front yard keeping us company during these times.
Here, during our short stay, we were to witness a strange phenomenon that occurred almost every evening.
Just before the nightly darkness devoured the twilight, we were invariably treated to a strange spectacle. The dogs lying about here and there on the front steps and the terrace, suddenly would sense something that was odd and eerie. Springing to their feet after apparently spotting ‘something in the air ’ they would all sprint towards the main gate, in a single pack!
Barking, whining and howling ferociously at some 'invisible entity' that appeared to ‘hover in the air’ , they would follow it from the gate till the main entrance of the building. The furious cacophony that accompanied the ‘aerial movement’ invariably stopped near the main entrance. Their loud wails and hysterical shrieks slowly turned into feeble whimpers and groans and stopped after a little while. They would then go back to their places.
It would all be over, till the next evening! The same thing happened all over again. There was not even a hint afterward to suggest that anything had happened at all!
This triggered off my past memory when I went through some strange happenings at my place of stay. In the mid-80s and early 90s, I had rented a small terrace apartment in Bangalore. The place had a separate entry, a long narrow corridor that led up to a flight of stairs on to my terrace flat. A small iron gate secured the entry into the corridor from the street.
I lived there alone for quite sometime before a friend of mine joined me as a co-tenant. In those days I worked as a lecturer and he worked in a private company. Usually I returned home after my lectures late in the afternoon and would be all alone till my friend joined me late in the evening for dinner.
Sometimes while trying to catch some afternoon siesta, I would instead fall asleep only to be woken up by the typical whistling sounds of my friend and his footfall on the staircase. There was a large window in the living room that opened into the terrace. Any sound or movement either on the terrace or stairs would alert me to the coming of visitors.
On some days, as I would be busy preparing for my class or making evening coffee, I would be treated to the familiar sounds of footfall and the accompanying whistles of my friend. I would then whistle back in turn , flinging open the door and calling out his name, “Hi, buddy! You are early today!” But to my utter surprise, I would be greeted by an empty terrace, empty staircase and an empty corridor with no human anywhere in sight!
This happened time and time again and became a routine. Initially I was curious but since there was no rational explanation for such a thing, I let that be. I eventually got used to this strange invasion of my privacy!
That evening I was all alone in my room. My friend was out of town. I was tired and exhausted after a long day at the college and decided to retire early to bed. It was around 9 PM ( in those days Bangalore went to bed at 9 pm and all streets wore a deserted look by 10 PM). I was not particularly hungry, nor was I inclined to go out for dinner given my sheer exhaustion that day. Turning off the lights, I slumped into my bed. A few moments passed.
There was again the clear sound of footfall which came all the way up the stairs, and then stopped in front of my door. I wondered who it was and waited. I then heard a knock on the door. I heard the familiar voice of Shiva, a student of mine, a young man from a far-off suburb in Bangalore. I used to coach him. Sometimes he would come to my place for tuition and sleep over at my place after the tutoring session and then go home early morning the next day. I knew his family well and sometimes I paid them a visit at their farm house.
I got up, opened the door and welcomed Shiva and inquired about his food, luckily he had finished his dinner. Since I was very tired, I told him we could retire for the day and we could talk about the technical subject in the morning. We tried to catch some sleep.
Even as we were still exchanging pleasantries and notes, we heard the sound of footsteps once again and Shiva started to wonder who could it be, visiting me at this hour? I tried to think hard and suddenly recollected that this could be a colleague of mine who had invited me over to dinner at his place. He had requested me to participate in an all-night session of ‘song and dance’ at his residential complex next to the Geetanjali Cinema ( now it is transformed into a famous shopping mall) in Malleswaram . The song and dance are a part of the famous nightly festivities of Durga Puja ( Nava Ratri festival). I was to join the music band that was performing that night, lending my voice to some tunes of Rabindra Sangeet ( a genre of music attributed to the prodigious Rabindranath Tagore).
As the clear sound of footfall approached the door, I reassured Shiva, “ I will offer some excuse to Naveen ( my colleague ) and pack him off. Nothing in the world can make me leave my bed tonight, not even Rabindra Sangeeth!” Saying thus, I got onto my feet. By now the sound of the footfall had almost reached the door, I flung the door open…and ….lo and behold! There was no one there! I stared into empty darkness!
Shiva immediately sensed that something was amiss and sprung up on his bed. Even as I rushed out, I switched on the terrace lights and called out to Shiva, “ Shiva don’t waste time! Go out on the terrace, someone is playing pranks, check every nook and corner of the terrace. I am going down. I will check if anyone is hiding under the staircase or in the corridor or hiding behind the tree ( We had a huge tree in the backyard).”
The search took us a full five minutes; we didn’t spare any corner, either on the terrace or in the backyard. The gate at the end of the corridor remained untouched - bolted and secured. My landlord was out on vacation and the ground floor was dark and locked. Not a soul stirred anywhere in sight! The whole street was empty!
Even after we returned to our beds and made a vain attempt to sleep, the excitement was palpable. Shiva was visibly shaken and continued to sit upright on his bed trying to digest what had happened.
There was no more exchange of words, an uneasy silence descended on us.
Seconds ticked by!
Suddenly, we heard a loud knock on the door! This time there were no footfalls even!
By now, the rational mind had given up! We both were exhausted and in no mood for another search. Search in this situation appeared futile and unfruitful!
Following the knock on the door, something unusual happened, the whole living room was suddenly flooded with a wonderful fragrance that lingered for a long time. First of its kind for me!
For the first time, I began to relax! I wanted the young man also to relax. I joked about the strange turn of events, “ Shiva, don’t you worry! This could be a friendly spirit who knows that I am all alone here and wants to give me some much needed company!”
All these strange occurrences made absolutely no sense to me.
My first meeting with UG was in Poornakuti in the year 1992, I had continued to stay alone in my terrace apartment. Several friends came by and left my abode.
After one of his trips to Madras ( Chennai), UG was back in Bangalore addressing his friends. He recounted that he had met up with a young couple, both practicing advocates, who had come to him seeking solution for a ‘spooky’ encounter! In fact they wanted to invite UG to their home to solve the problem and exorcise some ghost that had started troubling them, especially during the nights! There were rumbling and tumbling noises of vessels in their kitchen during nights that disturbed them terribly. They could not sleep. UG told them that there were no such things as ghosts and that they need not worry about trifling things!
The couple came back the following day and profusely thanked UG. After reporting their problem to UG the previous day, they went back to their place and spent a peaceful night for the first time in many months. They heard no more disturbing sounds in the kitchen!
This incident emboldened me to bring up the strange occurrences in my own place and query UG about them. I had not discussed this with anyone else before. It all sounded like so much poppycock! But with UG one never knew! He might look at it differently!
When I finally got the opportunity to be with him alone, I asked UG whether I could discuss my strange encounters with him. Surprisingly he agreed and gave me his patient hearing.
After the narration, UG began, “ Sir! Once I was invited by Brahmachari ( Sivarama Sharma) to stay in his Jnanashram ( near Bannerghatta Reserve Forest, Bangalore). He insisted that I should sleep in the main hall while he preferred to sleep in the veranda. [i] I found his proposal quite odd but still agreed to do as he pleased.
Somewhere in the middle of that night, I was suddenly woken up! I felt very cold. My hands and feet, my whole body was frozen! I was unable to move. I suddenly glanced at the wall. I saw ( the apparition of ) a beautiful lady, clad in a white sari, bedecked in gold ornaments, oh ! She had lots of jewelry…
…the next morning, I mentioned about this to Brahmachari, he told me that a young woman had been murdered there for property and that the place was haunted…I now understood why Brahmachari was so particular that I should sleep in the hall...there is a belief among people that the presence of an enlightened being helps in exorcising ghosts, emancipating them. I really don't know!”
In his book, ‘The Goner’, Louis Brawley recounts an incident where he finds UG gesturing to someone behind him, “ Scoundrels, filthy scoundrels” and when Louis sees no one standing behind and UG talking to thin air, UG jokingly tells Louis, “ Just because you don’t see them, doesn’t mean they are not there!”
Yet another young couple in Bangalore , very close to UG went through some eerie occurrences. The young lady could see the apparition of a woman ( incidentally murdered and buried in a dry well on which their residential complex was built. Subsequently the foul play ( I believe) was discovered, and the body exhumed and given a proper burial).
The young lady in question was really scared and approached UG but he put his foot down and rejected her proposal to move over to a different place saying, “ Why are you so scared? You have done 'her' no harm! 'She' would do you no harm! Leave 'her' alone! ” and when pleas for permission to shift to a new house continued unabated, he raised a red flag, “ Be warned, I am telling you, don't change your place! If you shift to another place, it will also move over with you to the new place!”
Thanks to UG, the young lady eventually developed enough strength to carry on with her life despite all the eerie happenings in her place!
UG’s long time associate Chandrasekhar Babu says that UG always preferred to stay in 'haunted' homes and mansions as they were cheap or even free to stay!
[i] ( Incidentally this was the place where UG was woken up by the king cobra the next morning and together they began their morning walks! This incidence is covered in the blog on fear - https://ugunplugged.blogspot.com/2016/01/you-are-nothing-but-fear-ug.html!)