It had been a lazy day. I had taken time out from the constant buzz that is called life and the never stopping rollercoaster of work and human intervention. It was raining incessantly with sudden bursts of heavy showers intermittently. The earth was still radiating the heat from the extremely hot summer months and every now and then I would break out in a sweat until there was a cool breeze that flowed in through the arched window at the foot of the bed.
The frogs had started croaking and I was loath to leave the comfort of my bed although my stomach was already rumbling and asking for its daily fill. I resisted and continued reading the book that I had propped up rather awkwardly on my knees as it had taken an interesting turn. No it was not fiction. In fact it was the scriptural text the Mandukya Upanishad and was elucidating the concepts of waker, dreamer and deepsleep. The head was heavy from two hours of contemplation that such reading normally results in.
Not far off, I could hear the faint drum beats of the dhol (a big drum played in religious functions and temples) being practiced upon with great vigor and strength but not loud enough to disturb. In fact the continuous playing could lull you into a dull stupor.
My stomach had stopped complaining and I turned on to one side and decided to take a short snooze before I went down to have dinner. I was not yet prepared to leave the comfort and peace of my room and bed. It was pretty dark outside and the rain had reduced to a mild drizzle. The considerable foliage around the house was silent and stood still, bearing the brunt of the rain, but reveling in its freshness and the new life it brought. The drums now had stopped and it was quiet, except, for the odd flutter of the birds in the branches adjusting themselves on their perch or shaking off the water from its wings and the plopping of the frogs in the pond below.
There was a sudden gust of wind, pretty sharp for the time of the day and it drew my attention enough to want to sit up on my bed. The breeze was cooling but left me with an odd feeling of unrest. I shook of the feeling and snug down again under the covers ready to play a game of patience on my tab.
I was well into my second game when there was an indistinct knock on the door which I had left open. My dog who was blissfully sleeping, got up hurriedly and started barking. At first I thought it was the wind that had banged the door against the wall so I shushed my dog, but failed to quieten him.
By now my uncle had locked the gates and shut the lights so there was only the faint light reflected from the clouds and the many porch lights from the neighbor that lighted up my garden. The leaves glistened in the light and the shadows of all shapes and sizes danced as the wind shook the branches. By now I had reached my door sure that I had heard the knock and started down the stairs to question my uncle if he had harkened me in any form.
At that moment I heard the sharp and loud ring of the bell. This could only mean that there was someone at the gate. I had to go through the doors and put on the street lights before I saw a thin figure standing under the flowering bougainvillea, tall with Egyptian sharp Pharaoh like features. I hesitated wondering if I should call my uncle or just ask the gentleman to call back later. Deciding to take the chance I went ahead and asked him what had brought him here at this late hour.
“I am already late, and am just a messenger “he said. I was tempted to ask him what he meant by being late, but decided on discretion and let it go at that. He seemed of a serious disposition and looked ill at ease. I wondered why for I was at my mildest and respectful best. He kept looking towards the gate as though expecting some onto come and catch him in the act so to speak.
“So what is your message and why are you here.” I was not about to let him go without an explanation. Without a smile he extended his hands. I stepped back a little intimidated. He smiled at my reaction. It was then that I saw that he had four books in his hands. My curiosity peeked and I took the books. They were thick and heavy and now I was too intrigued to bother about the messenger as I was in a hurry to look at the books that seem to have come out of nowhere. Yes I had not ordered or asked for any books and had no idea what they were about. They looked old but important, and seemed to hold many a secrets.
Seeing the books I had lost interest in the messenger, thanked him, bid him goodbye and turned to return home in a great hurry to unravel the mystery of the books. I had taken about ten steps when I suddenly froze. I felt a crawling sensation and bold and fearless though I was I felt the eerie sensation the unknown has on one. My subconscious had suddenly thrown up the fact that the gates had been locked so how had the messenger got in . My curiosity had got the better of me and I had not only forgotten to ask his name I had lost awareness of time and being. I turned to look behind and saw empty space, and a dim light giving off long shadows.
I again shook off the strange feeling and hurried to the house where the safety of the brightly lit rooms and the friendly dog and my uncle would bring back saner thoughts and a calmer environment to think things through.
As I stepped into the house I walked into the kitchen and was welcomed by a dog who was silent and merely stared at me. I realized my uncle had already gone to bed during the whole episode and there was this pin drop silence. Everything had gone quiet. “Perhaps the gentleman had jumped over the locked gates to deliver the books “I reasoned to myself and so saying had a cup of hot chocolate to soothen the nerves and proceeded to climb up the stairs to my room. My senses however were on full alert and my ears took on an extra keenness. .
Deciding to put everything behind me I prepared to go to bed shut the lights and lay down only to be jolted back again …. …. Who had knocked on my door!!!! What had my dog seen!!!! Why had everything gone silent!!! And above all what was in the books that was so important that they had to be delivered so late in the night !!!!!.
MAMTA APTE July 26,2017