(Pic Courtesy : Rajarshi Chatterji)
From across the long alley riding past the busy street shops of Heerapur, there stands an old dilapidated house, a few kilometres away.
If one looks straight from Dhaniya’s tea stall, where I often frequent ever since I have come to stay here, which is around a month back, one can get a diagonal view of this house. Apart from squirrels and rats rustling past the wild bushes encircling the house in the day and some jackals and hounds barking ominously in the night, the house is by far abandoned by humanity.
“It used to be a government house during the British Raj, which has been looted and raided by thugs of a nearby village, years ago”. Say some locals.
Others have an interesting tale about the house. Dhaniya, the tea stall owner falls in this category. He seems to know about this area, its history and its people quite well. He puts the big kettle onto the oven, points his chin towards the direction of the haunted house and speaks, “they say, in this house lived a ‘White Sahab’ (English man, probably a British official) who had a young and beautiful daughter of aroung 16-17 years. This girl had fallen in love with a local guy of this area. Nobody knows much about this boy. The father was strictly against this match and had warned his daughter to sever all ties with this boy. When the White officer realised that his daughter was adamant and wouldn’t listen to him, he imprisoned his daughter inside the house. She wasn’t allowed to go out of the house, whatsoever. The servants who worked in their house at that time where witness to this cruelty of the man. Once she had tried to sneak out to meet her lover with the aid of a trusted servant, both of them were not just caught red-handed, the servant was later beaten to death for his disloyalty towards his master.
Few days later, the young lad, the daughter’s lover was found dead on the road, his body packed inside a sack, badly mutilated.
One had never heard about the daughter ever again. They say, she never even tried to run out of her caged life after that. The officer was often seen in his car going out and coming into ‘this house’.”
As I sip my morning tea, sitting on the slender wooden bench at Dhaniya’s tea stall, thoughts meander through my mind. This white girl might have loved the local guy so dearly! Their love defying all barriers of caste, colour and creed.
Did she commit suicide after learning of her lover’s horrific death? Or was it her father who after getting the boy killed, finished his daughter as well? Was she sent to England, back to her family? Or did she live on in that haunted house, which once had light and laughter run through its every brick?
“Who knows what’s the truth”, said Dhaniya while serving tea from a big glass to smaller glasses on the tray. “No one strays past this area after 8 in the night. Once, a few years ago, the night watchman was on duty in this area and had heard some strange noises coming out of this house, he had fainted out of sheer fear.
Next day morning, when he was woken up by fellow passersby, he said he had heard a female voice singing from inside the house, on further probing, he said it was some English song that he had heard”.
Ever since that day, neither the night watchmans, nor anyone else have dared to walk past the lane beside the house at night. Even we had to put our stalls at a safe distance from that lonely house.”
Even years later, different versions of the story around this house hovers through the lanes and bylanes of this place. Will this cover of mystery ever be lifted from this lonely house? Will someone someday find out who sang the song that night? I sink into deep thought, startled and intrigued myself, while slowly sipping into my hot, masala tea.