Thursday, April 3, 2014


"To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.  Shes not worth your time, buddy.  I am sure there is someone out there waiting for you. "  says my roommate to Akash, who just had a breakup with his girlfriend.

I really hate that quote.  Because it works both ways.

Ok, let me try to explain this with my own story.  The story of my childhood.  The story of the first time I fell in love.

It must have been in my eight grade.  I sat in the class wearing a clean pressed uniform and my  hair trimmed short.  I took utmost care of my looks back then.  I wanted to look as handsome as possible.

Then, as usual on time, she walked into the class.  I sat up and put on a radiant smile hoping to catch her attention.  But, as usual, I didn't.  She walked to the front of the class and declared,
"Alright, settle down guys!"

Ya, I guess you figured it out.  My first love was my 8th grade teacher.

Dressed in an yellow churidhaar and a red bindi on her forehead, she looked beautiful as ever!

"Alright guys, why don't I give you a unit test today?" she said.

Groans were heard throughout the class.

"Alright settle down now.  Take a sheet of paper and start answering these questions." she said turning to the board and starting to write questions on it.

With her back turned, some of my friends were trying to sneak a peek into their text books and get the answers for the questions, but I just sat there watching her graciously move herself as she wrote the questions across the board.

This was the most favorite part of my school days.  The highlight of my day.  To sit there and look at her for an hour.

After writing the questions, she sat down in front the board and started reading some book.

To tell you the truth, I had no idea what the answers were, so I just sat there doodling on my page in-between the times I spent gazing at her beautiful face.  Then, all of a sudden, this idea hit me:  I decided to write her a letter proclaiming my love to her.

"Ma'am, you are very beautiful and I really love you.  I know I am a bit younger than you, but I will really take care of you.  We have a really huge house in my native place.  We can get married and go live there happily.  Its very beautiful there and I am sure you will love it.  We will be very happy there."

That was more or less the gist of what I wrote, but what I wrote filled up the entire test paper.

"Alright guys, time's over.  Don't forget to write your name on the paper.  I will come collect it now." she said.

Of course, by then, I was having a nervous breakdown.  I realized what I had done.  Imagine if my parents came to know about this!

My first instinct was to replace it with some other paper.  But before I could do anything she was right next to me and grabbed my paper and went on to collect the other's and then walked back to her desk.  And thats when I realized that I hadn't written my name on it, so there was no way that it could be traced back to me.

A fucking genius!

Just then, the bell rang and I walked back home with a grin on my face.

Next day, she turned up with a stern look on her face.  The first thing she did was to hand out all the graded papers.

Groans were heard throughout the class.

Of course I didn't get mine.

Then she folded her hands and said,
"Alright, who didn't get their paper?"

I knew what she was up to.  She had my paper with her, and she knew that the person who didn't get the paper was the one who wrote it.  I wasn't stupid that I would actu....
"Dude, where is your paper??" my stupid friend sitting next to me asked with wide open eyes.

I told him to shut the hell up.  He jumped up and shouted pointing at me,
"Ma'am, he didn't get his paper!!"

The fucking asshole!

She looked at me with an even sterner look.  Then she ordered me to follow her.  I followed her out of the class and into the teacher's staff room.  There was nobody else in the staff room.  She walked to the corner where her table was, opened a drawer, pulled out my paper, and said,
"Is this yours??"

I stared down at my feet and stayed mum.

"Is this yours?? Answer me!" she said again.

To tell the truth, I was getting pretty scared by then.  I looked up at her and nodded my head.

Then, to my surprise, she started laughing.  The exact words she used trying to control her laughter were:  "So cute!"

I just stood there feeling embarrassed.  She continued laughing for sometime and finally said,
"Actually I am a bit relieved.  I thought all you guys hated me.  Glad to know at least one of my pupils love me."

"Please don't tell my parents," is all I said standing there like a little scared boy.

She gave me back the letter, which I folded and hid in my pocket, and we went back to class.

It was on my way back to class that I remembered that she hadn't answered my question in the letter as to whether she would like to marry me or not.  I decided it better to ask her some other time.

Everyday I would sit expectantly waiting for her to show me some sign that she loved me too.  But there was none.  She treated me just the way she treated every one of her other students.

I continued to secretly love her throughout my school life, and then the time came to finish school and move on.  It was a very difficult time for me, but as years passed on, I slowly forgot about her.  But still, every now and then, I would remember her, but it never hurts as much as it had back then.

Then one day, I met her.  Like the cliche in the movies, I met her in a fucking supermarket.

"Ma'am!" I said with overflowing joy.

She looked at me confused and a bit scared.  I was disappointed she didn't recognize me.  I quickly went on to say that I was a student in her class.  She forced out a smile, but I could make out that she still didn't recognize me.  She asked me what I was doing then.  I told her that I was pursuing my graduation.

"That's good." she said forcing out another smile.

Before I could say anything else, just like in that fucking ad you see on the TV, this little girl came running to her screaming, "Mummmiieee!"

She picked up this little girl, and the little girl starts saying,

"Mummy, please buy me this toy! I want it!"

"You already have lots of toys at home! No more toys!" said a man walking towards to us.

You are probably gonna laugh at this, but I felt my heart break into a thousand pieces at that point.  I stood there trying to smile and hoping they didn't notice that I was actually starting to tear up a bit.

"Well, it was nice meeting you.  Keep up the good work." She said looking a bit more scared now because of the mixed emotions on my face, then turned around and walked away with her family.

And that was the last time I ever saw her.

Oh great! Now Akash is crying out loud.

"To the world you may be one person, but to ur teacher you will always be just one of her students!"  I shouted.  Oh fuck!  What the hell did I just tell them?!?

Both of them are now staring at me.

"What?" says one of them.

Without answering, I grab my laptop and stomp out of the room.

- Rejo John


The Stranger in the Corner:  A Horror Short Story.  A well-respected pujari has an unusual visitor with an unusual request. 

The Mystery Illness:  A man is afflicted with a strange illness.

Pickpocketing Gone Wrong:  A couple of youngsters try their luck at pickpocketing.

The Metro Murderer:  A series of murders rip the city apart.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Stranger in the Corner - A Horror Short Story

Nobody stays over at my place anymore.  Not even my assistants.  I guess they must think there is something wrong with me.  What with all the rice powder I put religiously around the house every evening and my incessant chanting of the mantras.

They must think I am paranoid.

Once in a while someone asks me what the rice powder is for.  I tell them its to keep the positive energy from leaving the house.  I dont tell them I am actually trying to keep something from getting in.  But I guess they already know.

I dont want to sound braggy, but I am a rather popular and well respected pujari around here.  My schedule is always busy with pujas all over the town all around the year.  And when I am all done, at the end of the day, I sit in my room and recite mantras.

Three years ago, I was a completely different person.  I was one of those puraris for whom being a pujari was just a job:  Go to people's homes, do the pujas habitually, then by evening return home and relax.  But then, something happened.  Something strange.  Something that changed my life forever.

It all started at this home cleansing puja I was performing.  Sat before me were the parents and their 2 daughters.  Now, normally, when I do my puja and chant the mantras in vigor, people normally have a very serious and frightened look on their faces.  But on that day, it was a bit different.  One of the daughters kept staring right into my eyes.  There was no fear.  And I sensed a bit of mischief.  The red saree she wore accentuated her beauty.  And I began to feel distracted.  I tried to concentrate on the puja, but everytime I instinctively looked at her, there she was, staring right back at me.

I tried not to think much of it.  I finished the puja and left the house.  Few hours later, I and my assistants went to another house for a routine puja, and there she was again.  Sitting along with that family.

As I performed the puja, I looked at my assistants at times to see if they noticed her too, but they seemed to routinely go about with the puja with no sign of surprise whatsoever.  And as before, she continued to stare at me.  I once again ignored her and finished the puja.

After the puja, on my way out, I took the man of the house aside and casually asked him about the girl.  The man turned wide-eyed and exclaimed,
"What girl?!?"

"The one sitting with your family, dressed in the red sarree."

"What?  Ther.... there was no one else! Just my wife and son!" the man exclaimed.  I could see the fear in his eyes.  He was convinced his house was haunted.  I finally suggested that we do a house cleaning puja, and he agreed.  I then walked in the house to see if she was still there, but there was no sign of her.  I didn't ask anybody else about her because I didn't want to create a scare.

Back home, I lied down on my bed thinking about her.  The way she stared at me.  And the slight suggestion of a smile.

I woke up in the middle of the night with a start.  I must have drifted off to sleep.  And then I felt someone looking at me.  I saw her from the corner of my eyes.  Looking at me from outside the window.  Wearing a red saree.

I pretended to have not seen her and completely ignored her.  That's what my guruji had told me about these spirits.  You should never talk to them.  You should never let them influence you.  If you make any attempt to communicate with them, you are opening the gates of deception.

Thats what they do. These spirits. They deceive you.

As long as I didn't let her influence me, I had nothing to fear.  I faithfully wore the Kashi string that my guruji had given me a long time ago with his blessings to protect me against evil spirits.  She can't harm me as long as I wore it.

But the more I ignored her, the more she started invading my personal space.  A week later, she had suddenly moved inside my house.  Now I would see her standing motionless at the corner of my room just staring at me all the time.  At night, in the darkness, even though I couldn't see her, I could see her eyes at the corner of the room, fixated on me, waiting.

It was a couple of weeks later that I made the worst mistake of my life.  I woke up from my sleep and found her form standing right next to me.  For a moment, I was taken aback.  I sat up exasperated and exclaimed,

"What do you want?!"

"I want you to help me!" she said talking in loud gasps as if she had been holding her breath all this time.

I sat there looking at her.  Her face had concern written all over them.

"How?" I said finally.

"My daughter.  Her soul is lost in her body.  I need you to help her find her way back into her body.  If its too late, her body will die.  She just needs some help!"

"Where is she?"

"At an hospital in the city." she says.

"Okay, we will visit her tomorrow.  Now leave me alone!" I said trying to sound as authoritative as possible.  She noded slightly with a thankful smile and moved away towards the corner and stood there, once again, staring at me.  I felt the string on my wirst with my fingers just to be sure.  I had gone against what guruji had told me.  Never talk to the evil spirits he had told me.

Next day, I finished the pujas early and headed over to the hospital alone.  And, there she was, showing me to a room.

In the room was a girl on a bed with tubes running in and out of her body.  There were machines continuously beeping as they monitored her vitals.  Luckily, there wasn't anybody else in the room.  I really didn't want to explain to anybody that the spirit of the girl's mother brought me here to save her soul.  I just wanted to be done with it and get out of there.

I grabbed one of the stools nearby and sat beside this dead-looking girl and looked at her.

"I know you can help her." the spirit said placing her hand over my hand.  Feeling her touch, I quickly withdrew my hand.  I frowned at her and sat up straight trying not to show my fear.  I turned to the girl on the bed and started uttering the mantras.

Ten minutes later, the girl was still limp on the bed.  The beeping continued rhythmically.  There was nothing to indicate there was anything different.

"I have never done this before, but according to the scriptures, if her soul was stuck somewhere in her body, she should have been freed." I said finally starting to get up.

"No, please dont give up on her!," the spirit said.

"I dont know what else to do." I said.

"Wait! May be I can help.  I can go find her." she said.  I looked at her confused.

"I just need your help." she said looking at the Kashi string tied around her daughter's wrist.

"Please.  You are her last hope.  She might die!"

I hesistated, but then finally said,

"Okay, but hurry up."  I went ahead and carefuly removed the string off the girl's hand uttering mantras.  With that, the spirit smiled at me and then slowly swept into her daughter's body.

"What are you doing here??" I heard a voice from behind me.  I turned around and saw a woman in a nurse's attire.  Before I can mumble out a response, the machines started beeping loudly and the nurse rushed to the girl.

I got up from the stool and slowly shifted myself towards the door as more people rushed in:  doctors, nurses, and some other people who must be her living family.

After a few minutes, it was clear:  The girl was now breathing on her own and was on her way to a possible full recovery.  I felt relieved.  I begin to walk out of there before someone asked me something, but unfortunately I was stopped by an old couple.

"Swamiji, its God who brought you here.  Because of your blessings our daughter is getting better." said the woman.

I hesistated and asked the woman,
"Is she your daughter?"

"Yes swamiji."

"Is she adoped or a stepdaughter?" I asked again.

"No! She is my daughter.  My only child." the lady was now looking at her husband concerned that something was wrong.

I looked at the girl on the bed.  She looked back at me with a stare and a familiar smile.  Realising that I had been tricked, I quickly walked out of there without saying another word to the parents.

I never wanted to think about it again.  I considered telling guruji about this, but then thought otherwise.

Now, I dont know how things worked in the spirit world, but since this incident, I began to see more spirits walking around my house.  Some of them were so powerful that they could walk into my house after just a few days of waiting around.  I finally told my guruji, and he advised me to draw a circle of rice powder around my house as a defence against them and recite the mantras whenever I can.

And he instructed me again to never talk to them again.

But they still haven't left me.  Even today when I go out to conduct pujas, I still see them following me.  Standing around.  Waiting.

- Rejo John.

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