A few days ago, I stepped out to meet some friends. It was a special meeting because we were meeting one of our friends after almost 2 decades. We were really looking forward to the meeting.
Since the said friend lived somewhere between where I live, and where we had decided to meet, I volunteered to pick her up.
I booked a cab, climbed in and settled down. The cabbie turned around and said he was happy to have a customer who spoke the local language. Usually, his customers are always out-of-towners, and do not speak the local language.
I agreed with him, and mentioned that most often, the cabbies are out-of-towners too, and I end up speaking their language. So I was happy to see a local cabbie.
With that easy camaraderie established, I looked forward to a pleasant 20 minute ride.
Suddenly, the cabbie turned around slightly and asked me if I believed in ghosts!!
So Many Deaths in the Family
I wasn’t sure how to react. Where was this conversation going to go? I made some vague noises about how I try not to think about such things.
We drove on for a bit. Curiosity got the better of me. I asked him why he wanted to know.
Looks like he had been waiting for a local language speaking person for a long time to unburden himself. He launched off into a detailed story.
Alert: The cabbie proceeded to tell me a lot of stuff involving tons of relatives. I tried to hard to keep up, and you may have to struggle a bit too.
Apparently, a year ago, an aunt of his was very ill and died after a prolonged period of suffering. After a couple of months, her poor husband could not bear the separation, and he too died.
A bunch of relatives had gone to the funeral of the uncle. There were assorted aunts, uncles etc., in 2 cars. After they finished the funeral, they were heading back home. Sadly, both the cars were involved in a freak accident with a tractor, and the drivers of both cars died on the spot. A few others in the cars died too. An aunt was serious. She was in hospital for a while, then she died too.
By this time, I was confused and reeling under shock. How could so many people in one family die at such regular and disturbing intervals…? What was going on?
But the tragedy hadn’t ended. He went on to narrate two more incidents involving two more deaths.
And finally, he said, about a month ago, another aunt had passed away after a brief illness.
Through all this, the cabbie lamented that he had to keep visiting his hometown for the funerals, and he was absolutely cash-strapped.
Twist in the Tale
Meanwhile, about 15 days ago, his nephew suddenly announced that he was the most recently deceased aunt. In short, he claimed he had been possessed by the spirit of the dead aunt.
What’s more? He said (or she said) that all the other folks who had passed on over the last year had also come along with him (or her…). The nephew proceeded to speak and behave like the departed aunt, and even insisted on wearing her sarees.
The cabbie did not seem to find all this too strange. He made it sound almost common place — this possession of living humans by dear departed souls. He had one grouse though. The possessed nephew had informed them that even the cabbie’s mommy was part of the entourage that the dead aunt had come down with.
That got to the cabbie!! His mom had passed away nearly a decade ago. He did not appreciate her being disturbed and brought down. He was really angry about his mom’s blemish-free name being bandied about as a ghost!
A local exorcist was called. A few goats and chickens were sacrificed, and other rituals were carried out. But the recently deceased aunt refused to let go of the nephew!!
At this point, the driver paused. I felt the strong need to contribute. I explained to him about how highly emotional and sentimental people may sometimes manifest their deepest desires in different ways. Since the nephew probably missed the aunt a lot, maybe his mind was playing tricks on him. I recommended that they visit a psychiatrist.
Interestingly, the cabbie understood what a psychiatrist specialized in, but he did not feel the solution lay in that direction. He had his own theory.
The cabbie was once again on a roll. He blamed the nephew for all the woes in the family. If only the nephew was sensible and had done all the right things, these complications would not have occurred.
What had the nephew done?
He had married an outsider, someone not from his immediate caste and community. That was still not a problem.
He started visiting the wife’s family temple and praying to that God. He now spent more time and faith on the deities on his wife’s side of the family.
There is no standard number or representation of deities in Hinduism. However, popular theories suggest that there might be 330 million deities in Hinduism.
The cabbie’s family deity is apparently a powerful sort. In fact, the cabbie said she is more powerful that the nephew’s wife’s deity. She was unhappy with the nephew who had defected and wanted to do something about this.
Sending the dead aunt down to possess the wayward nephew, and also sending a horde of other deceased relatives in tow, was the powerful deity’s way of showing the nephew who was in charge!!
What Happened Next?
We had reached this interesting part of the story, when we reached the place where we had to pick up my friend. She bounded into the cab, and everything else was forgotten in my excitement of meeting her after so many years.
There the story ended abruptly. I wonder if I will run into the cabbie again to hear what happened next, and how the nephew was exorcised…
All through the journey though, I could not help wonder, and get a bout of goosebumps when I thought:
When he asked me if I believed in ghosts, if I had said no, what if he got upset, and I was left in the back seat of a moving car with no one at the steering wheel…