Saturday, February 20, 2010

What Ravi Saw

Out of the blue Ravi and it was always him that gave us the fright. We jumped and shouted. He shrieked and screamed in a terrified manner. He screamed, "AH…. There! On the tree! Look!… Look!… A GHOST…"
That was the signal we had been waiting for to sprint again. Without looking back we ran the two hundred metres across the dreaded cemetery like the wind. As we were doing so, I thought I heard the laughter; a chilly and uncanny laughter coming from the direction Ravi had mentioned earlier. Was it a joke; my imagination or just one of us laughing in fear? Up till today I still cannot explain. I did not dare to ask my buddies until we were safely out of the place.
We were panting and hissing and it took quite a while before we could gather enough courage to ask one another what it was all about.
Guna said in between breadth, " Hey, what happened? What did you see?"
Ravi also in exhaustion said, "Oh, very scary. I saw a figure; a ghost on a tree. A dark thing sitting on a tree."
Gopal interrupted, "Yes, I also saw something. It was waving its hand at me. Did you see it, Koong?
I replied softly, "No, but I thought I heard something, a laughter, a terrible laughter."
I then asked the other four if anyone of them had heard the strange and uncanny laughter.
"Me too. I also heard that. A terrible laughter." Thaila added.
That was the last straw. Gopal finally said, "No more. I'm not coming here again; never again."
All of us agreed by nodding. We then promised never to venture into that area again even if it was the shortest possible route. Once bitten, twice shy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Better go home, guys!

Guna said, "Hey, guys, let's throw all the rest of the worms into the pond. Why must we waste the food? Maybe if we come again the next time, they will remember us."
"Good idea," we said.
So we dumped all the remaining worms into the pond as quickly as possible because back in our minds there was only one fear; the thought of going all the way back home by crossing the cemetery.
Ghosts. Spirits of the dead. Shadows. Dark shapes. Strange noises and all the things of the night! We had to cross the dreaded path to get home.
Hurriedly we walked; at first in brisk walking steps, then to a jog and finally into a sprint. We were not shouting but a kind of whisper because we were really scared. Getting nearer to the cemetery, we were exhausted. We could not run any more. So we slowed to a walk; huddled close together. No one dared to be left behind or near to the tombstones.
It was so silent that we could hear the other's heart beat. Doom! Doom! Doom! Boom! Boom! Boom!
Sweat flowed freely down our backs and our hands. We did not realise the weight of the fish on the reeds. We had completely forgotten about those poor fish dangling there. It was the fear that had all of us transfixed.
The fear now was not one would feel sitting at home and watching a really scary movie but one of real terrifying sensation embedded in us. We walked slowly in a group all huddled up; not one brave enough to walk near the tombstones. Although it was dark, the moon and the stars provided a little illumination to guide us. We could still make out the strange shapes that were distinct in graveyards; the tombstones. Once in a while a breeze brought a nice fragrance of flowers; or was it. We were expecting for a sound or something to appear or to spring out. There was none. Only our ears were pricked for anything strange.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Gopal whispered excitedly, “Hey, hey, look. The float is moving.”
Sure enough, his float bobbled up and down at first slowly and then quite violently. Must be a big one. Pull it up. Pull it up. Our thoughts must have been the same.
Gopal pulled up his line eagerly. At the end of his line was a big fish, a tilapia. In those days few people caught such fish and ate them, as they were common and cheap. They were meant as food for the chicken. They were abundant in mining pools and rivers. They tasted of mud and soil as they live in such places.
Now they are a delicacy and quite expensive though. They are not caught from rivers or ponds but reared in special cages; high-tech fish farming, they now call it.
My line was still in the water; its floating peacefully. Suddenly it started moving, so were the others. Gopal was right all the while. We should not have doubted him all along.
Hauling up the lines was such fun now. Fishes of all sizes were hauled up. Some big, some medium and some really small ones. Each time a small one was hauled up, we laughed and teased the fisher. Soon each of us had about three or four fish. The problem now was how to keep them alive. We had not expected so many of them and so we did not bring a long any nets or baskets.
Thaila had a brilliant idea. It was to be a standard idea used by many-experienced angler. There were reeds growing on the surface of the pond. We pulled one and made a knot at one end. We inserted the sharper end through the gills of the fish and out through the mouths of the fish. Then we placed the reeds of fish into the water. In this way the fish were kept alive in the water until it was time to go home. They could not escape and therefore could not inform the other fish; we believed. Wow! An idea was born due to necessity.
Even with the noise, laughter, shouts of delight. And the sound of footsteps running around, the fish kept coming at the baits. Removing the fish from the hooks and putting new worms as baits were carried out in precision.
Soon each of us has four stings of fish. Each string contained eight fish. Only then did we realise that the sun had already set. It was quite dark. I guessed it was about eight o'clock. Without any delay, we hauled up our reeds of fish and carried our fishing rods to go home.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Disappointment - No fish

That was the cue to get back to our business of fishing. The sun was still bright as ever. It was hot. I guessed it was about four o'clock. In those days none of us had a watch as there was no actual need for it. We were quite good and accurate at estimating the time during the day by looking at the shadows of trees and homes.
The floats on our lines did not move and this meant that the fish did not take the baits. Strange! came up with a logical explanation. He explained, “Look, the sun is so hot. So is the water. The surface must be hot but not the bottom. It must be cool down there. The fish would rather stay there, right?”
He added, “Be patient. Give it some more time. When the air is cooler, I’m sure we would get some fish.”
So we waited patiently. We kept very quiet because we did not want to frighten any of the fish and hoping that our luck would be better. Minutes passed and soon the sun was dipping slowly over the hills. Our patience was wearing thin. Gopal must be joking; fishing here and not a single bite. Could it be that the fish here are the spirits of the dead from the graveyard? Maybe so! That was why they knew we were waiting for them. All sorts of crazy questions ran through our minds. We were discussing all the possible reasons quietly.
The sun dipped further and Ravi and I were about to pull up our lines.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Through The Graveyard Part 2

“The pond! The pond!” We shouted as we hurried to a tall and shady tree; an excellent spot to rest and fish. Even Ravi had a wide grin on his face. The tranquility and peace of the surrounding was similar to the graveyard.
Due to the excitement and the expectation of getting to fish, all else was forgotten. Hurriedly we took out the long wriggily worms and attached them to the hooks. As I inserted the sharp end of the hook into the worm, it wriggled and squirmed; probably due to the pain. Sorry, but worm, you are bait for the fish.
Eagerly we dropped the lines into the pond. Plop! Plop! Plop! Plop! Plop! Five lines were dropped into the pond instantly. We then waited for the float to move. We waited and waited.
It was at this time that some of us looked around and noticed that we could still see some of the tombstones not far away. They were not clear though because of the bushes and the trees but we could make out the distinctive shapes.
It was also at this time that we felt a little queer about the surrounding. The trees around the pond were mostly wild cherry trees and there were plenty of little ripe and red cherries hanging from the branches. Usually the birds; mostly mynahs and sparrows would be feasting on them. There was an unusual silence surrounding the area. It was as if the birds feared coming to this place. There was only a rare twitting of birds quite far away.
The fear crept into us as if someone had cast a spell. We kept totally silent expecting at any moment some great beast or spirit to spring from the pond or drop from the tall trees around us.
Suddenly a meek voice broke the awful silence and it made goose pimples appear on our skin. It was Ravi.
He asked, “Are there any ghosts here? I’m afraid.”
Trying to be brave Gopal replied, “What ghosts? This is a pond, not a graveyard, ha, ha.”
“Gopal, is there another way to go home? I mean can we go home without having to use the same way that we came through?" I asked.
Gopal hesitated and replied, "Yes, but it is longer and we need twice the time. That was the shortest. Anyway, why? Are you afraid?"
"No, it's just that we Chinese are advised not to trespass such a place especially at night. That place belongs to the dead." I said.
Gopal with a smile said, "Don't worry. If we do not disturb them or harm them, we should not be afraid. Let's talk about fishing for now, okay?"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Passing through the Graveyard

We did not notice the flat slabs of stones in rows. They all had inscriptions in Chinese. The lettering was in red and gold. We only paid attention at them until Guna pointed at them and asked what they were. I told them that those were tombstones and we had arrived at the Chinese cemetery. Only then and from the cold facial expressions that we were scared.
As we made our way along the path with the tombstones we saw pictures of the dead attached to some of them. We were looking at them and passing remarks like; "Hey, this one is an old lady or this one is a man or this one is quite young or this lady is young and beautiful." We were not scared because we were in a group and it was in broad daylight. If it had been at night our tune would be different and we would not have walked so calmly along this path. I for one would surely have sprinted all the way home. It's funny what can happen or do when we in a group. Spirits are high and there is bravery among us. Of course who would admit one was scared shit-green. Then the others would have called him a "chicken".
We increased our pace. What a relief! The thought of having to return to this place on the way back was too much. Could there be another way or detour instead of this? I was sure these questions were churning in our minds all that time. Nobody asked and nobody dared to query. Deep down we were just acting brave.
Once out of the yard and into the open ground, we slowed to a slow walk instead of a jog. Stunted trees and bushes turned to trees and beautiful landscape. To our left we saw a huge vast span of water.

Friday, July 24, 2009

On our way again

“Go now. Oh, where re you going to?”
“Fishing,” Thaila answered.
“Where?” he asked.
“A pool nearby,” Guna replied.
“Did you ask your parents?” he asked again.
“Yes,” we chorused.
“Okay, but be careful and go home early. Do not play in the pool.” He advised further.
We thanked him again and again and watched him walking away. We picked up our gear and with the guavas in our hands we set off on our way. I was certain that encounter with the Sikh must have left a deep impression in our lives.
Further up the path, we smiled and were soon laughing like hyenas as if the whole incident had not happened at all. The guavas were really delicious and thirst quenching. After munching half way through the fruits we then realised that we had altogether forgotten to wash our hands. We ate two each within minutes even with those dirty hands.
Ravi was still sighing and cursing because he felt guilty about the whole affair. It must have been the bump on his buttock that hurt too. We consoled him and asked him to forget it.
At one point he had really wanted to go home because he was disappointed and afraid. After much coaxing and support, he forgot the idea of quitting.
The afternoon was hot and we were sweating profusely. Our shirts were stuck to our backs and we were feeling uncomfortable. We were hurrying along the sandy track because we wanted to reach the pond that was supposed to have a lot of fish.