By Lawyer Asad
Raj was in his mid twenties and an amateure painter, who carried his canvass, paints, brush and other peripherals with him all the time.
His paintings were commendable and have received several favourable critics.
He was 5'9", fair skin with curled hair. The unkempt locks of hair crammed his forehead and dangled like snakes for his head. He fashioned beard and it had matched with his personality and temperament. A very romantic person at heart; obviously artists and creative personalities are dreamers and romantic in nature.
He travelled a lot, mostly to the distant places where the people is yet to be polluted by the side effects of civlization. He could easily interact with the tribes and the natives. The healthy ebony tribal girls looked at him with much curiosity and amazement in their eyes. They've not seen someone from the City who wore Jeans, T-Shirt and painted the people and places around.
This year he went to a remote village after six hours of tedious train, then Bus and then bullock cart and lastly on foot. When he reached the village it was dusk.
The head of the tribe received him cordially and took him to a big palace like house. Raj was astonished to see such a manson amidst this far fetched place where electricity or tap water were yet to reach; not to mention about the newspaper and television.
On enquiry he was informed by the village head that almost a hundred years ago their King used to reside here with his family, servants, staffs and others. The King and Queen had a daughter of 18 years. Once there was a heavy cyclone and storm whole night. In the morning they noticed the King and Queen in remorse as their only daughter was missing since the night.
Being unable to bear the grief of the loss of their only child they left the palace and gone to the City 300 kms away, not to return again. The palace is now being looked after by them.
Raj praised the taste of the King for his choice of location for building his palace. An ideal location for a peaceful living.
At one side there miles after miles of barren land, dotted by shrubs and scattered plant to rich the foot of the hill. The hill looked blue and resembled water painting at the vast canvass of the nature from the place where he stood at the large portico of the palace. The hill was at the North and Raj has already made an itineris in his mind to make a trip to the hill on the earliest opportunity. At the South the river flowed from the side of the palace. The palace was constructed on the bank of the river. As the place was high from the level of the river so at the backyard of the palace there was stairs to go down to the river. Raj counted the stairs it was fifty and touched the water of the river.
He became immensely happy and thanked the village head for making his accomodation at that nice place.
As he had done some studies in architectures he figured that the building was constructed on the earlier part of the 20th Century, possibly within 1900 to 1910 and the sign of Gothic structure was all over. Thick walls, rounded pillars topped by statutes and sculptures of nature created with morters. Yes Portland Cement was not invented then. Big bims of pure Machester Steel and Burma Teak were at the top ceilings. The King took every measure to make his palace a strong and long lasting one so that even the erosion of land from the river side couldn't affect the structure. It has a long Hall room once used as a Court room of the King where he stayed in session to hear his subjects and executed his royal functions from there. Big ached doors with wooden blinds. Windows were as big as the doors.
Fine Italian prism glass chandeliors were hung from the ceiling, which once served as lamp stands.
King has a personal library. Though the glass covers of the book shelf were matted and greasy from dusts settled on those for almost a century still the collection of rare books could be seen through those stained glasses. The reading table was nice and make of precious timber. It had a covered curtain made of wood fixed on strong twil. When the covered was wound the paper, few books, the pen made from feather and an inkpot were visible. Even the roller with blotting paper for drying the ink was there. Papers were browned and so were the pages of the books. Raj didn't touch those for the fear of causing damage to those. He opened the only window of the river side and instantly the entire study was illuminated. Wow! All he could say to himself in utter amazement!
All the four walls of the study was covered with priceless paintings of the famous British and French painters. It was like the whose who of the famous painters of the Victorian era rubbing shoulder with each other. Hamilton, Dalrimple, La Pierre and many more.
Queen Victoria's potrait was alive and fresh. Coronation of the King was there.
As the darkness settled in the large study was illuminated by a kerosene lamp brought by the person who's in charge of the place. Furnitures appeared mystical at the dim light of the lamp creating huge abstract shadows on the near by walls.
Raj closed the window and left the study. He thought of frequenting the study again during day time and made mental note of the things he'd look after. He thanked his luck for being in such a place and hoped to learn a lot from those paintings alone which he is yet to learn from the teachers at his Art College.
As the evening was growing into night and the care taker was eager to serve him dinner he had no further time to inspect the building and the rooms. As soon as the dinner was finished Raj was taken to a room at the 1st floor and told that its his room for the rest of his stay here. The old man had kept a bucket of water and a mug at a corner, in case Raj has to use those as night. He kept a dimly lit lantern in the room and left to retire at some corner of the building in the dark. The light was not enough to illuminate the entire room still he was surprised to see what he could at that half darkness. It was a large room. Two big windows on the side of the river. An antique dressing table with full sized Belgium glass mirror, a wardrobe and a spacious bed rising almost four feet from the ground. A wooden stool was there for climing into the bed. The bed was made of some pricey timber, must be Burma teak with curved out figures of two fairies at the side of the head and two lion head at the leg side. Wonderful decorations.
Raj had not taken any flash light with him so he didn't venture to spend some more time to satisfy his curiosities. At the end of the verandah there was the wash room. Raj reclined to his bed and started making plans in his head to best utilization of his stay at the place.
He didn't know when he fell asleep or how long he had slept. His sleep was interrupted by a nudge at his side. Someone was trying to push him out of the bed.
Raj got up startled and tried to assess the situation. The lantern was put off. The room was dark. Even the open windows couldn't help him much. But he could sense the presence of someone else in the room besides himself!
Raj is generally a brave boy and don't believe in ghosts. But he started feeling uneasy at the bed. So in the darkness he had opened his luggage, took out a sheet from it and spread it on the floor using one of the bags he brought with him as pillow and got laid on it.
Somehow he was feeling that he has intruded into someone's privacy and whoever it might be it didn't like his presence in the room.
Astonishing matter is that once Raj slept on the floor there was no disturbance and he had slept comfortably.
He got up in the morning and to his surprise saw that the bed upon which he had slept for half or so of the night has been straightened neatly, pillows were stacked one over one. As if someone after leaving the bed has put the bed in order. There was no sign of anyone's body mark over the bed.
It was a strange feeling for him. Is there anyone with him in the same room? But who'll answer it?
The care taker brought him tea. He asked him about it. But the old man was very reluctant to satisfy his querries. Rather advised him not to mind about all these because it won't do him any good.
Anyways, Raj brought out his camera and painting materials and started towards the locality and had spent a considerable portion of the day sanpping tribal people, special young girls in various poses and did the pencil sketchings in his Sketch book. He had his noon's meal at the house of the village head.
Raj asked the village head if he had seen anything abnormal in the palace. But astonishingly he also kept his mouth shut.
He thought of exploring the entire building.
Upon returning he had found that all his luggages were moved from the room and has been put in another room. And the previous room was locked. Even on request the care taker didn't open it.
Out of disgust Raj went to the South end of the building and sat on the stairs which had lead to the river bed. After a minute or so he heard a soft music or rather the sound of "Payel" or the anklets which causes sound when a woman or a girl walks by wearing a pair of those silver ornaments at her feet. He looked around to find the source but was disappointed by not finding any one. He almost jumped from his position what he had seen next.
The stair case was clean of dust and dry. But water marks of two foot prints were coming up from the lowest of the stairs which just touched the river water. The foot prints were coming from downstairs to upstairs in a rhytham as if someone has just taken a dip in the river water and returning in a hurried steps leaving a trail of wet foot prints and sounds of anklets. Raj looked for seeing someone, seemingly a girl or a woman, because no male would put on ankle ornaments! But none could be see. He's a brave boy still had some chilling sensation in him when the foot prints neared him.
He was sitting at a side of the stair case. The foot prints stopped at a distance of about 3' from him in the same stair where he was sitting. Raj could feel the coldness from the air which generally comes from wet clothes. Someone in the air giggled as if ridiculing Raj and a splash of river water was spead on his face.
Then the foot prints went upward towards the palace in a running gesture. Raj could hear the giggle. It was a girl's chuckle. He knew that she was kidding with him.
Instantly he got up and followed the foot prints. It had lead to the rood in which Raj had slept last night. The door was locked but for someone who has no corporal body its no problem to pass through the closed doors or solid walls.
Raj assumed that she has gone inside the room. If he can hear any sound or such thing so he went near the door and had stuck his right ear on the door.
Whoooosh! Someone had blown air to Raj's ear which tickled him much and he jumped. He could hear a clear female voice, its no decency to look into a room while some girl is changing her clothes.
Raj replied, but who're you? I can't see you so how do I know whether you're changing clothes or doing something else.
The female voice told, its not the time to tell who am I. But I think that you've intelligence at par with your physical appearance. And don't you see that I just returned from the river after taking a dip to cool myself off. So its obvious that a girl who has taken bath and has returned to her home she'd change clothes! Common sense!
Awwww....Raj's jaw dropped at the clear and instinct voice coming across the door. He started feeling humiliated at her voice.
He stumbled but somehow managed to speak. But ma'm....err...whoever you're I can't see you! And its not also decency to spray water on someone's face whom you've not met or not introduce. Girls should behave like girls. Isn't it? Common sense!
He felt some comfortable to give a fitting reply and smiled to himself.
Hmmm.....what I can do except spraying water on your face when I noticed that you're watching a girl taking bath? Huh..?
Again you're telling that I was seeing you but you know very well that you're a spirit and invisible to me. Raj interrupted.
You can't see me but I can see you and I'm feeling ashamed to change my clothes before you. And for your information my name is Nandini. It'd be a pleasure for me to hear my name from your mouth rather than being called as a girl, spirit, invisible, etc.
Ahan! Raj chuckled. Nandini! Very sweet name. Well I'll call you as Nandini. How old you're?
Naaah....thats not chivalry to ask a girl or woman her age. Hey mister...it seems that you're getting impatient to know all about me?
Sure I'm interested.
But for the time being would you please move from here and go back to your place where you were sitting. I'll joining you in a moment.
I'm feeling cold in my wet clothes. And if I fell ill or get cold then who'll look after me? Huh..?
Raj laughed out...a ghost will catch cold...oh my my....if that happens I can assure you Nandini I'd be there to look after you.
Yes I know you intention. You're waiting to see me and touch me. All guys are same.
Mind your language Madam! I'm a gentleman and has a reputation of being courteous to ladies, young and old. You ask the village head about me. He'll certify that I'm a good guy with whom the tribal girls feel comfortable to get their photos and sketches done!
What! There was a scream from the other side of the door. You snap pictures of those tribal girls? And even take their sketches!!! Then you must be sleeping with them too....I guess.
Nope! Raj snapped. I'm an artist, a photographer and a painter. Its no point to sleep with someone whose picture I'm taking or doing the painting. And I think you're also going beyond the common decency of speaking dirty things about a man who's yet to be introduced to you.
Raj felt disgusted and left the place. Came back to his place at the stairs and started thinking about Nandini.
This girl must not be beyond 20 and very smart. Educated and has a sense of humour.
Suddenly Raj felt someone at his vicinity but could see none. A soft voice came from the air, I'm sorry Mister.....err..Raj supplied the word Raj. Yes Mr. Raj I'm sorry for saying all those hard and crude words to you. Actually I'm not accustomed with men for long years and thats why my feminine sense became alert to thwart the intruder off when I had seen you. My name is Nandini. I never have any male sharing my bed. So last night when you were sleeping I just wanted to push you off!
Yes, you almost succeeded to push me off your bed had not I was awaken by the sudden impact. Don't know what would have happened to me if I'd have fallen from that high bed! Quirped Raj.
Hi hi hi....Nandini giggled.
You're laughing at my peril?
Oh no no...I didn't mean it.
You're a ghost?
No I'm not a ghost.
Then how can't I see you.
How could I tell why you can't see me?
Hmmm....strange thing. A female ghosh is saying she's not a ghost. She needs bath, food and sleep and still she's not visible. May I know what else you need here?
Hey Mister...mind your language. Talk to me with respect. I'm the only daughter of this owner of this Palace and landlord of this area.
Whoever you might be why should I be afraid of you?
If you don't like my presence here then I'll move to some other place.
Oh no...please try to understand me Raj. I'm living here alone for so many years. I've no friend here. I was studying in Class XI in the St Xavier's School. Here people are all tribal and if I try to talk to them then they'd die of the shock or go mad. And may be they can call some Tantrik to drive me out from here. I'm scared of Tantriks very much. Please don't go away. I'll not disturb you any more or say you any foul language.
Ok. I'll ponder over it and then I'll decide what to be done.
Raj could feel Nandini has sat by his side and her body was touching his side. It was a strange feeling. He couldn't see anyone still could feel its presence very much.
Nandini, like any girl of her age, was very much thrilled to see Raj and she talked and talked and talked.
For last twenty years she had not spoken a word and all on a sudden she got the opportunity to speak. So it was non-stop talking from her. Only to be interrupted by the care taker when he came to serve dinner.
Raj told the Care Taker to bring his luggege in the room where he stayed previous night. There was a mild protest from the Care Taker but on the insisting of Raj he agreed.
Raj shared the bed with Nandini or it'd be better to say that Nandini allowed Raj to share the bed with her. First time in her life. May be she's invisible still she's a young girl and very much apprehensive of the boys and their touches.
It was a very pleasant night for both of them. She talked about her childhood, her school days and about her parents.
Nandini told that on that fateful day she had returned from her School Hotel for the Summer Vacation. In the afternoon there was thunder storm and rain. She had gone to the roof to get wet in the rain. Her Mother warned her not to go into the open at this stormy weather. The sound of lightning with flash were heard in every moment. But Nandini didn't care.
She was being drenched by the first rain of the season and all on a sudden there was a tremendous sound and blinding light all around.
All she could remember it. Because when she was awoke she couldn't find her parents. She searched for them all around the palace but there were no where.
She tried to enquire from the local people but they couldn't see her.
She didn't believe that she's been invisible. When she looked into the mirror or her bed room she could see herself. Excepting herself none could see her.
Her first shock was then when she realized that she could enter closed rooms. She feels hungry. So takes food from the kitchen of the local people to survive.
Raj was dying of curiosity to see how Nandini looks. So he got up from bed. Unpacked his luggage and brought out a T-Shirt and a Pyjama.
He put them on bed and asked Nandini to put them on.
Wow! Nice figure. Young, full and supple.
Nandini became shy. No please don't look at me with wide eyes.
Well. I now know how your figure is but how do you look?
Ureka! Got an idea.
Raj brought his painting instruments. Put white, red and some yellow dye on his painting palate and using a thick brush he painted the face of Nandini.
Muaaahhh! Hey Nandini your face is very nice looking. A fine oval shaped face she has. He had applied red paint for her lips and black for eye brows. But what about eyes and hair.
He thought for a moment then jumped up at his idea to solve the problem.
He bought out his Sunglass and the hat. Now Nandini looked like a complete girl. And she giggled and laughed and embraced Raj out of ecastacy.
They hugged each other.
Its for the first time in the life of Nandini she has embraced some boy other than her father.
During day time she'd put off the clothes wash the paints and became invisible to save herself from the eyes of the Care taker and others.
But the nights became their own.
Nandini teased Raj, so you think you're in love with a ghost?
Yup! But the problem is that whenever I try to kiss her I only get the taste of the paint and when the paint peels off there's only air.
Raj now ordered more foods from the care taker who couldn't figure out what happened to this City lad all on a sudden and he's eating like a starved man. But Raj and Nandini knew that they were sharing those foods.
It was time for Raj to return home.
Nandini pleaded to stay for few more days. But Raj has some urgent work back at home and he has some plan too to take Nandini with him.
He told Nandini that he'd return there after some time and then he'd take her with him. He'd make it sure to give her some body so that they can live together happily.
Raj left in the morning. Nandini couldn't hold her emotions and tears started flowing from her eyes.
She could feel tears rolling down her chicks.
Raj looked back in anticipation and got the shock of his life.
Before him stood a beautiful girl with long curled hair.
Its you Nandini?
Yes I am. Why you're asking?
You're visible Nandini!!! I can see you.
Yessss!!! Raj ran towards her and touched her. Yes there she stood in flesh and blood.
Wow! Amazing! Miracle!
But how could it happen?
Its for your love Raj. I felt for you so much and thinking it was impossible for me to live without it.
The thought of you'll not be around me was so much painful for me that I started crying. For the first time since I've been invisible. My heart twisted and breaking like a piece of glass. I desparately wanted to have a body of my own.
And your love has made it possible Raj. Please don't leave me here alone.
Raj was speechless. All he could do is to hug Nandini which was equally reciprocated by Nandini.
Soon the news spread. The Village chief came and recognized their King's daughter.
Now their children and children's children talk about how they saw a ghost get back her body by the love of a man.