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Tale With A Twist

Tale With A Twist

Uncle Brown walking in the lawn

The pitch dark forest looked thrilling but then I recalled the article on the ‘haunted road’. I closed the car window, convinced that it would defend me against paranormal activity

By Somashis Gupta

Bato ramro chaina Sir” said Gurung referring to the indigent condition of the road. No sane person plans a trip during rains on this track, but the exhilaration was such that no sanity worked.

College Street Calcutta is a paradise for any bibliophile. Besides the books, this place also prides in having ‘The India Coffee House’. In fact,this is where our story begins.

Abdul, my waiter, had just finished pouring the second cup of orange pekoe. My vision circumvents across the hall and finds Alan Bruce. Instantly I knew it is going to be a long day with plenty of bents. I called out loud, “Oye!! you don’t want to be in hot waters, do you? So come over here mate”. Alan and I used to be partners in crime during our teens.

An elated Alan, comes rushing for a hug espying me. A long 24 years have passed since we last met. (Hugging was a social norm before the pandemic – in case you have forgotten).

Both of us being Deadheads (Grateful Dead fans) the colloquy soon shifted to music,after the initial salutation. Alan boasted that he had ‘10 hours of Grateful Dead Live’ collection. “Are you kidding…are you serious?” I was incredulous. With the look over his eyes, then and there I realized, my curiosity had killed the cat (Alan never jokes about Jerry Garcia). I rephrased at once, “Could we tune in today?”A sad Alan was down in the mouth as he replied “It’s in our Darjeeling bungalow.”

Two heartbroken friends, sipping tea, smouldering cigarettes,pondering on fate, but as the smoke reaches the cephalic region, eureka, we get the best idea since sliced bread. We will fly to Daj. “So it was not back to the drawing board this time,” Alan winked, as we checked in for our flight to Bagdogra. Finding a book stall I picked up a newspaper. The headlines read,


Gurung, our driver, greeted us at the airport and our journey of 100 miles commenced. It was drizzling as we crossed Sukhna. The pitch dark forest looked thrilling but then I recalled the article on ‘haunted road’ and controlled my emotions. I closed the 3mm glass window, convinced that it would defend me against possible paranormal activity.

It was a smooth drive to Kurseong. The anxiety in anticipation of  paranormal events dispelled somewhat. I freed my defence mechanism. A cool breeze caressed my face, I was relaxed. But happy hours don’t last long. Just as we took the second right turn towards Ghoom, things changed drastically. I could smell something… it seemed familiar… was it burnt flesh? Yes you get this smell in cremation grounds…. Suddenly the music stopped.

I saw Gurung frantically trying to steer the wheels which seemed locked. I realised the engine had surprisingly stopped, the wipers fluttered. I could not see anything outside but felt that we were being gradually dragged towards the cliff… we are about to die! I hear a squeal. We were being hunted by the haunted.

A white light was approaching me, ‘it must be the wormhole, or was it?’ No. It was just a truck heading down the road. Someone splashed water on my face and I saw Gurung. “Am I not dead? Or perhaps Gurung is dead too?” I could see Alan next to me, “Wow. Spirits can see each other,” but then I felt something prickling my posterior. It turned out to be the news paper, “Even the newspaper is dead? That’s some thing!”A second splash of water stopped my growl. I heard Gurung say, “Sir, Topeko thik huncha?”And I realised we are alive.

The Retreat was a stunning villa, located on Robertson Road. Thomas Brown, Alan’s father, was waiting for us it the lobby. “You fellows were at a hand-shaking distance with death. Thank God Gurung pulled the handbrake on time.” True, we were lucky to be alive.

Evening continued with a fine dinner. I had always cherished dining at Alan’s place and today was no exception. We started with a Potage Crecy followed by Beef Bourguignon, slices of Baquette and a bottle of  Bordeaux.

The dinner was great but the music was grand. Box of Rain, Warf Rat, Sugaree…we played almost all ‘Dead’ songs until three in the morning.The Bordeaux helped with the morning clearance.

I was quite hungry. We went to Keventers for breakfast. A view of Kanchenjunga from the terrace of the restaurant along with bacon, pastarma and eggs in our plates, Resham Firiri playing somewhere. Oh! It was a delight.

We walked passed Glenary towards the mall after breakfast. The aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls kissed my nostrilsbut the sound of silence in my intestine warned me of an upcoming tempest, and I moved on.

The Darjeeling mall is a charm. The Chalet Hotel, The Oxford book store give you a feel of the colonial era. The charm enhanced with Gopal Daju performing some Bob Dylan numbers. I cheered, “timro awaj ramro lageko ho daju” while drinking some tongba.

Gastronomic delight continued in ‘Penang’ with Dal, Gorkhali Lamb, Choila, Dhindho, Gundrukand Yomari. Bon Appetit. But morning did not show us the day this time. We returned home with a devastating news. Alan’s father had succumbed to a massive heart attack.

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At the funeral, friends and relatives joined the eulogy. I was asked to speak, I started “I am….” and as I spoke I went deep in thoughts, so deep that I could see Uncle Brown seated in the audience. Strange how human mind works.

Returning to ‘The Retreat’ I went for a shower. The splash of the warm water relaxed me but suddenly the light started blinking. I came out and saw a shadow outside. Normally it wouldn’t have bothered me but a combination of a blinking light and a shadow, under current circumstances, was stressful.

I decided to light a cigarette. But the kaput lighter compelled me to go downstairs to fetch a match box. As I crossed the living room and found a match-box near the fireplace, the high back chair next to it reminded me of Uncle Brown. He used to sit there, smoke his pipe or read a book, and just as I was about to leave, I saw Uncle Brown walking in the lawn. I froze. Regaining my senses, I blinked and looked again…. there was nothing. I must be hallucinating. I went upstairs.

The veranda of the house was my favourite place for smoking. Sitting in an arm chair, smoking my cigarette,
I recalled, how in this very place, Uncle Brown had hand-held me on guitar. One day prior to his demise he had wanted to hear me play but I couldn’t fulfil his wish.I was sad and regretful.

Sadness soon turned to horror. The sudden gusty wind forced me to turn around and I noticed the rocking chair moving. I bounced back and hit the wall. Instant pain in my elbow made me turn and as I did my eyes saw something moving in the lawn. I narrowed my eyes to get a better look. Yes, it was clear now. It was a man.

It is… it is… Uncle Brown. I rubbed my eyes but this time he did not vanish, he kept coming closer. I widened my eyes and noticed he was looking straight at me. That is the last I remember before I fainted.

When I regained consciousness I found myself in bed and Alan seated next to me. The doctor was checking my blood pressure. And as I looked around, I could see the paintings of the Alan’s ancestors Next to it was a huge clock and then… there, right next to the clock… he was standing and checking me out.

I was traumatized and knew that Uncle Brown would be troubling me for a very long time to come. I should have played the guitar for him. I must go and meet a psychologist. But then I saw Alan pointing towards Uncle Brown.

He said, “Meet Uncle Tom, Dad’s twin.”

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