In the four days since my father’s departure, the only notable incident was that visit by the local police, something that brought in some excitement to the otherwise sombre mood in the house. Even back then, the policemen were considered to be a bigger trouble than what they were supposed to stop or contain, and nobody wished to see the police in their premises, be it as a suspect or as a victim. The house was already crowded with random visitors, despite our attempts to keep the door closed and after the police visit, we resigned ourselves to our fate and kept the main gate closed, but without latching it from the inside, so people could still step in, if they managed to ignore the basic principles of courtesy. Random visitors had by now figured out the specific timings when my aunt was in her so called ‘demonic avatar’ and thus, we had certain time slots as ‘peak hours’, when the numbers became pretty uncontrollable.

It was the fourth day and my Jethu was asking me to prepare some water, because ‘peak hours’ was to begin soon. Many of these visitors, after watching the outbursts of my aunt, would find their throats dry with fear, and ask for some water and out of courtesy, we would serve them. As I was preparing the two buckets of water and covering them with steel plates, I heard a knock on the door and looked at my Jethu, who was smoking his beedi a few meters away. A knock was somewhat unusual, as most visitors would just push the door open and step inside. I lowered the plate and walked to the gate and pulled it open. There was this gentleman standing outside, decently dressed with his hair neatly combed, and with a notebook tucked under his arm. He asked for my uncle and as I escorted him inside. He politely greeted my uncle and introduced himself as Aurobindo Ray, a reporter from the local newspaper Anandabazar Patrika. 

He asked numerous questions about my aunt; when it had started, what were the first symptoms, if she had hurt anyone, and if we had figured out what was the reason behind all this etc., and when my uncle assured him that no one had a clue, he seemed very pleased and consoled him by saying;

– “That is even better, for mysterious incidents like this, let the readers decide what they think might be the reason”

When he started to see the visitors gradually queuing up in anticipation, he knew that something was about to happen and expectedly, decided to stay back and witness the demon phase, to make his report even more ‘from the ground’

My aunt had woken up as her normal self that morning, without any hint of aggression, and had finished her first meal without much fuss. The sedative mixed in her food had made her fall back to sleep soon after, and usually the next time she woke up, we would get to see the most violent form of her. This had been the usual pattern and lunch time was almost here, the most anticipated time for the gathering crowd.

But she was still fast asleep, much to the disappointment of many, and when Mr. Ray peeked inside through the window grille, she was lying on her side and talking in her sleep. Her fits of ‘Somniloquy’ had increased over the last few days, but her words were mostly gibberish and didn’t make much sense.

The room itself was in a disastrous condition and anything inside that could be broken, was already broken. The bed, the wardrobe, the shelves, the glass mirror, the showcase, were all shattered and lying around in pieces. The afternoon of the day the police had come, she even stepped on the broken bed, reached out for the ceiling fan, and pulled it with a force that the blades couldn’t take for long. While the appliance was still hanging from the hook, the shape was now more resemblant of an octopus. 

Mr. Ray silenced us with his index finger, as he leaned forward and tried to listen to what my aunt was mumbling in her sleep;

– “They are coming for me. They will kill me!”

Mr Ray looked at me, as if to confirm what he had heard, and then leaned back again  to listen, as did most of us.

– “You think he can stop me? You are all idiots!”

Her voice became louder with time and after repeating “They will kill me” a few more times, her body suddenly jerked violently for some moments, as she woke up from her sleep, and stared at the audience gathered at the window. Her eyes looked somewhat different, or maybe even strange. Apart from the usual aggression, there was also a hint of fear, as she recoiled in her posture. But then, she suddenly rushed to the window, straight at us, and started tugging at the iron window grilles. It was such a scary sight that most of us felt a sense of panic and ran away from the window, as if fearing that she might break herself free through those iron grilles.

She seemed unusually perturbed, as she pulled at the iron bars with her full strength and shouted;

“Don’t let him in! Stop! He is my enemy! He is coming for me. Don’t let him in!”

We looked at each other and then followed my aunt’s gaze which was fixed in only one direction as she kept on yelling “Don’t let him in! He is my enemy!”

Just then, the main gate’s wooden door opened with a creaking sound, and in walked my father! There was a loud collective gasp, as the crowd saw my father and he looked surprised at the number of people inside the house.
And behind him walked a man, who was unlike anything I had ever seen in my life. A tall man of substantial built, in a saffron robe that ran from his neck to his toes, with a head full of hermit hair, and a face full of sadhu beard, which had probably never been shaved or trimmed. His eyes were dark red, his gaze was sharp, he had beads of rudraksha around his neck and his wrists, and in his hands he carried a Trishul (trident), while on his back he carried a large black sack. 

My mother was the first to run and approach my dad, followed by my brother and I. My mother was literally in tears, and when my uncle came and hugged my dad, we could see the expression of relief in his eyes. The whole house did miss him. My dad introduced ‘Bihari baba’, the tantric, to my uncle, who knelt down and touched his feet immediately. 

Meanwhile, my Aunt had become increasingly restless ever since this “Bihari Baba” had entered the premises, and she was constantly shouting, “Don’t let him in, he is my enemy!”.

The big man calmly looked back at her and then carefully looked around the premises in its entirety, and then expressed his primary desire to see the spot where my aunt was found unconscious for the first time. There were over forty people who had entered the house as visitors and were eagerly standing there, waiting for some action. Keeping their inquisitive eyes fixed on this strange man, they were all murmuring to each other about their feelings and what they thought would happen now.

The Baba was taken through the rear door to the pond side, and almost the entire audience wanted to follow him wherever he was heading, but my father gave then a stern warning to stay put. On being shown the area and the palm tree, Bihari Baba took out some chalk powder from his bag and made a trident mark on the trunk of the tree as well as on the ground, where my aunt was found lying.

Later, he made a tour of the entire house, carefully observing every corner and every room meticulously by himself, and eventually came back to the center of the compound. Then, he took out a wooden frame from his sack, set it up as a stool and sat down on it, almost ignoring the stare of close to forty pairs of eyes, and the presence of the people they belonged to. He opened his sack, took out a chhillum and started preparing a fresh dose of ganja for himself. The whole audience silently watched him crush the ganja leaves, clap his hands to dust it, then stuff the greenish powdery stuff inside the chhillum and hold it to his mouth, at which point he looked up at my father. My uncle swiftly moved forward, lit a match stick and lighted the chhilum, as Bihari Baba took a long drag and let out a massive cloud of smoke. 

Baba then asked how many people were in the whole house on the first night of this incident, and when my uncle replied it should have been about fifteen or sixteen, Baba insisted that my uncle go and talk to the landlord, and give him the exact count, without making any mistakes. He also commanded my uncle to make a list of each and every person, with full names and their relationships, and bring it to him. My Uncle went, discussed with the landlord, and came back with the exact figure of sixteen including the landlord’s aunt, who had left the house a couple of days back. Bihari Baba was not very pleased to hear that.

Baba then took out an old piece of cloth and scribbled some notes on it. Then he stood up, and taking steps in different directions, seemed to be measuring the place. All this while, he seemed to be muttering something to himself, without looking too happy. Then he took out a short white stick from his sack, and crouched down to draw a circle on the ground, a ‘gandi’, which looked almost like a perfect circle with a radius of about seven feet. He left two discontinuities in the circle, one facing the House 1 and one facing the rear gate, not exactly on opposite ends of each other.

When he finished this whole process, he inspected the circle closely from every angle, to make sure it was exactly as he wanted it to be, and finally, looking content at his handiwork, he sat down and placed his sack and the white stick on the ground in front of him. There was a loud shriek from the whole audience as we realised that the stick, with which he had just drawn this ‘gandi’, was nothing but a human bone!

Coming up next: CHAPTER FIFTEEN

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