Dec 25, 2013

George Converts Ghosts

The lure for making easy and quick money is so enticingly deep rooted in men that the unscrupulous persons devise and resort to all sorts of merciless means to exploit the weaker members of the society. We, who are told that everything is fair in love and war, sadly see that this convenient let - out to practice deceit extends to the dark art of making black money also.
Herein I am to share with you the devilish tactics of a mean landlord who exploited many of his tenants by relentlessly causing them untold mental tensions and monetary losses.
For convenience's sake, let's call him Seth Durgaprasad. This man owned a beautiful double storey building in Bombay, where he lived with his wife, a young son and a servant. He used to rent out the ground portion of his house to well-to-do people after accepting sizeable pugree money and six months’ rent in advance from them.
The modern civilisation does not tolerate those who don't make hay while the sun shines. Such people are generally branded as fools and are thrown out of social cycle as misfits. This being the case, perhaps, there is nothing wrong when the landlords who invest a good deal of money on the buildings, taking advantage of the housing shortage, act wise by accepting pugree from those who can pay for the accommodation let out to them. To believe that the landlords alone are the profiteers in the deal is not correct, though of course they certainly are the immediate gainers. The resourceful tenants, we must also know, stand the chance of reaping rich dividends, when they cleverly sell their tenancy rights to others for a higher pugree. Complex though this revolving and involving game of pugree is, no tenant does really lose in the long run.

While sunshine opportunities for subsequent pugrees come to some landlords after very long intervals, only when they are able to cunningly get vacant possession of the accommodation let out to tenants, the wicked Seth Durgaprasad had his own ways of creating paying situations which brought him pugree moneys a number of times from his various tenants, on whom he, in league with his wife and servant, played the ghosts.
The scare that he had villainously let loose on his helpless tenants, infused fear and inflicted on them unbearable losses to their belongings, aimed at forcing the tenants to quit the house in utter disgust and discomfiture. Seth Durgaprasad and his household members so deftly played the hoax that none of the unwary tenants who vacated the place least suspected the sethji to be the perpetrator of their troubles.
His modus operandi was such as would pass the subtle imagination of even the adepts in the coloured art of mischiefs and deceiving. He treated every member in the family of all of his tenants with sweetness and love. He took them out on rides, allowed them the use of his car, invited them to dinners occasionally, and on every Saturday night he played bridge or chess with them. If his tenants happened to be religious-minded, he would read out to them portions from the scriptural texts at least once in a week. For reasons best known to him alone, he rented out his place only to the Hindus and Christians and he happened to possess a superficial knowledge to read and explain the Holy Bible and the Ramayana. Who would suspect such a man?
Outwardly armed with the above detailed love and trust-winning behavior, the smug-faced Seth Durgaprasad saw to it that after the occupants had been in his tenancy for five or six months, his servant caused losses to them by slyly breaking the crockery, spoiling the food by mixing lots of condiments in them, pouring kerosene oil in milk, passing blade-cuts over the clothes put out for drying, throwing fecal matter in the kitchen and the bathroom. The sethji and his wife, who because they had a welcome access to the inner apartments of their unsuspecting tenants, cautiously inflicted blade - cuts on pillows, mattresses, quilts, damaged the clothes in the ward-robe, planted dead lizards and rats in the house and indulged in such other acts of mischief as would involve them in losses.
When the tenants spoke about such happenings to the landlord, the sethji and his wife used to appear very sorry about it. They informed the tenants that similar were the experiences of people who remained in his tenancy in the past. When the tenants countered as to why he had not informed them of it before they took up residence there, the sethji used to convincingly say that he had then thought those happenings had stopped. To cover things and exhibit sympathy, he would bring in a Brahmin to perform some religious rituals said to be capable of driving away the ghosts, which, he told them, might have come to inhabit the place. By his clever arguments he negatived his tenants' hazy suspicion of human hands in the affair. In few cases, he had even engaged private detectives to investigate. The detectives drew a blank and expressed complete helplessness, indirectly suggesting that invisible agencies must be at the bottom of the damages that were taking place in the building. Within a short period of 4 years, eight different tenants hired the place on a decent pugree and vacated it in fear, believing the house to be truly haunted.
Once, when it was lying vacant, the Maharashtra Government requisitioned it for lodging one of its top officers. That officer had also to leave after suffering considerably.
While people were hunting for space to live in and were prepared to pay any amount for even a small house or a room, the ground - floor of Seth Durgaprasad's building remained unoccupied for quite some time. No one hired it because people soon came to hear and believe the place to be visited by ghosts.
Sometime in the year 1957, one Mr. Paranjoti, a devout Christian friend of mine, who happened to be a partner of a firm in Bombay and who then was in need of a suitable residence, chanced to hear about the vacant accommodation in the building of Seth Durgaprasad. As he was negotiating with him, Mr. Paranjoti came to learn from the people around that locality about that ground-floor being haunted and how, the former tenants suffered apprehensions and damage to their belongings. They seriously advised my friend not to take up residence in that building even if it were to be leased to him gratis.
Faced with that sort of frightening reports, Mr- Paranjoti naturally dropped the talks for hiring the house inspite of persuasive statements by sethji's brokers who told him that the ghosts' term of presence in that building having expired, it was no more a fearful place to stay in. Mr. Paranjoti wasn't prepared to test and suffer.
As the ground floor of his building remained unrent all that while, seth Durgaprasad whose palm was itching for some more easy money, saw in Mr. Paranjoti a potential victim upon whom also the old ruse could be advantageously played, he hit upon a handy way to deal with the prospective tenant.
So, through his men, Seth Durgaprasad informed Mr. Paranjoti his willingness to offer the top floor to him on a little higher terms.
As the landlord had been living on the top-floor for some years, it was believable that, that part of the building wasn't visited by the ghosts. So, Mr. Paranjoti agreed to the proposal and occupied the top-floor and Seth Durgaprasad shifted to the so-called haunted ground-floor. When people who very definitely knew the place to be haunted wanted to know as to how he managed to get on with the ghosts, Seth Durgaprasad went about telling them, with airs of triumph, that he had got the ghosts driven away with the help of a Brahmin from Udaipur, whom he said, he was fortunate enough to come in touch with and that, that man possessed powers to control spirits and show them the doors.
All went well for seven months and Mr. Paranjoti felt himself very lucky for having got such a fine residential accommodation in the central part of the city with all sorts of facilities very close by. He was staying there with his wife and his poor - sighted mother.
In response to his loveful request I went to Bombay in the hot month of May 1958 to spend a fortnight with him. During the course of my halt there, Mr. Paranjotrs brother - in-law who was a Security Officer in one of the mills in Delhi came on leave to stay with us.
It was about that time that Seth Durgaprasad, who had relieved Mr. Paranjoti of a good sum by way of pugree, took it into his head to get him also out.
The same troubles soon started. As the landlord had kept the terrace of the building for his exclusive use to store charcoal and dry the clothes, his servant and wife who had to do up down by the back stairs which passed by the kitchen on the top floor, found it easy to snatch opportunities to play their vicious roles. They threw rubbish in the kitchen, scattered the things there, and broke some expensive dinner sets. On few occasions, even filthy matter was thrown in the dining room. The Paranjotis began to look blue and fear further forebodings.
When the sethji was called up and informed of the happenings, he posed to be hurt. Saying that he would ring up his friend and arrange to call a priest who could be of help, he took up the phone directory. Turning on to the page with names beginning with the letter ‘S', he searchingly passed down his index finger muttering Uttam... .chand.... Keshava. .. .lal Parikh - ummm 29765, He dialed that number and began speaking instantly, as though, the man at the other end was on the wait to be called. The seriousness or the reactionary feelings of hearing the person on the line was conspicuously absent on sethji's face. I noticed Mr. George, the brother of Mrs Paranjoti, detecting that mock call with his still eves. Over the phone the sethji spoke thus " yes. you Uttamchandji ? Please send an express telegram asking him to start by the next available tram - direct him to come to me straight. I find it very difficult to bear to see my good tenants in a squalid trouble. Okay then, yes, yes, that very fellow from Udaipur. Good day to you”. Sethji replaced the receiver, rose and before leaving he asked Mr. Paranjoti to bear it for two more days, till that Brahmin came over to set the ghosts on the flee.
After two days which passed without further incidents, Sethji brought with him a man, who he said was the person from Udaipur come to perform the poojas to drive away the ghosts. As desired by him, he was given a room where he did his poojas by remaining closetted therein for two hours. We were thereafter told that the ghosts have been ousted. A few more days passed without troubles.
One morning, Mr. George had gone to meet his friend in the next building. As his chum was then bathing, he had to wait in the drawing room. While there, he began scanning some sketchy scripts that were lying on a cupboard near a window.
When he casually happened to look out of the window, he noticed the servant of Seth Durgaprasad rushing into the kitchen of Mr. Paranjoti and running back to the terrace from where he had descended. That sight set Mr. George thinking. When he returned to us, he heard his sister reporting to her husband about her having found dead cockroaches in the strawberry pudding which she had prepared and left open on the kitchen table to allow it to cool.
Mr. George saw through the incident. He told his brother - in - Jaw what he had seen from his friend's house and said, " We have now come by an important clue. We must now-onwards be on a regular watch without showing signs of our suspecting and catch him red - handed. The kitchen being on a vantage --point for playing the mischief and escaping unnoticed, we must be more vigilant there. We must also have an eye on the sethji and his wife. For, I don't understand why this otherwise well - behaved servant of sethji should harass you this way for no cause.”
" Oh, go steady with the Durgaprasads " broke in Mrs. Paranjoti : " They have all along been nice to us. It would be nothing short of ingratitude to suspect them of foul play. "
"My suspecting the Sethji is not wholly baseless ", retorted her brother.   “Joining the pieces of what I have heard from the two former tenants of this building, the gait of the servant's entry into the kitchen today, particularly when you were not there, the finding of the cockroaches planted into the pudding and, above all, the fake phone call of Sethji to a person whose name and phone number is not in the phone directory compel me to deduce that the sethji is at it full length and that, may be, through this type of harassment he wants to boot you out of his tenancy. "
" No, no, don't be so hard in your conclusion? ", said his sister. " Why should the sethji want to get us out and why indeed when we are not troublesome and are regular in the payment of rents? And what, makes you think that the phone-call which the sethji made on that day was simply a sham? You, security people, like the police and the apothecaries are neck-deep in suspecting. I don't follow how you can sum up that way."
“You never will. It needs a good deal of training in the field of penetrative and analytical observation coupled with a little knack to dig deep " said Mr. George. " When the sethji left us after putting in that mock phone call, I discussed it with Swamiji and he has concurred with my findings. What confirmed it more was, my meeting that Brahmin last evening near the Bandra Railway Station. It made me whistle in surprise when I saw him hawking " Free Press Bulletin" there. I went up to him and purchased a copy. He didn't recognise me as being from here. I offered him a cigarette and got talking to him first about his sales and what he gets out of it and when by the by I asked him the particulars of his native place and where he stayed in Bombay, he told me that he was from Cawnpore and that he lived in Andheri, a suburb of Bombay, with some of his townsmen. That puzzled me. To doubly make sure that he was the very person who visited us in the company of our sethji and performed the poojas here, I asked him, '' What is the truth about people from Cawnpore being good at driving away the ghosts ?” He said, " That's wrong, sir, I have only heard of people in some parts of Rajasthan capable of doing that and that too, particularly the Adivasis around Udaipur I know to be adepts. " Giving himself out, he added. "I myself learnt the art from that side and by the grace of God, I have mitigated the troubles of quite a many here. It is not very often that we get cases, nor do we receive much from the line. Why! only some four days back i had been to a place to perform the poojas and was paid just Rs. 5/-. Not that it is bad as a little extra income." When I questioned, " Did you find the ghosts there, " the hawker said, " What I do when I am called by people who suspect their places being haunted, I go there and perform the rituals and the troubles cease. There are certainly people who invoke ghosts, make them talk, work and all that. But I only perform the rites in which I have been initiated and I find that it works wonderfully well. "
" What would you say to that ? ", hit back Mr. George to his sister. "It is all very fishy and can only mean that this sethji is the creator of this game of ghosts. What would happen is, if these troubles continue, sooner or later you are sure to leave this place and the sethji would rent it out to someone else and make more money in the process. Hasn't he done it in your own case ? "
" If everything that your brother - in - law has told us is wholly and really true, it is all going to be very terrible for us, " sighed Mrs. Paranjoti. " He wants us to believe that Seth Durgaprasad is the master mind behind all this play of ghosts and that it was his machinations which forced the former tenants to leave the house, after some month's stay here. Now that we have been here for seven months, my brother wants to warn us that ours is going to be the next turn. "
" Yes. you get me right, " thumped her brother. " That's exactly what I think must be cooking in the head of sethji. My enquiries have revealed that these mischiefs generally take place in the mornings when the members of the tenants' household happen to be engaged in their early morning routine work. And speedily so, during the afternoons when the male members are out and the housewives are resting. I have, also gathered, that people with cooks have suffered lesser damages than those who hadn't one. Doesn't this appear odd and suggest that there must be physical bodied persons in this game who fear detection? For, otherwise, why should these ghosts be so partial or fear human presence when none can see them and much less do them any harm ? My professional norms require me not to disclose to or discuss with anyone my findings while the case is still in the primary stage of investigation. Yet, I have shared it all with you just to enlist your co - operation. So, please help me to help you and save others as well. "
"Swamiji, what do you make out of all this ? " questioned my bewildered host.
I said, "The existence of ghosts can't be reasonably denied. They can harass people. In the course of my wanderings all over the country, I have heard of and encountered ghosts. But the happenings that I hear about and see here is something very peculiar and i can say with certitude that they are not of ghosts as people have been made to believe. As our Mr. George has logically opined, I am also inclined to believe that human hands are craftily at work in all that has been happening in this building. Mr. George has come by some vital links, I am also disposed to agree with him that, contrary to the judicial procedure, we must proceed with the assumption that seth Durgaprasad and his people aren't innocent till the results of our further digging into this sordid affair proves them to be otherwise.”
What happened in the next two days puzzled all of us. For, we learnt that troubles began in Sethji's house too. They found the clothes put out for drying on the terrace stripped with blade cuts, a dead cat was found in the kitchen, lots of rubbish thrown there and in other rooms and their electric clock was battered.
The sethji and his wife, who had been advising others to be detached and cheerful in times of troubles, began to appear expectant and pale.
The course of the events made Mrs. Paranjoti, who had earlier discounted Sethji's having anything to do with the ghost's game, naturally ask Mr. George and me as to how we accounted for the troubles at her landlords's house. Mr. George only waved his hands expressing surprise and inability to say anything. I myself couldn't tell her anything.
Seth Durgaprasad used to very particularly visit the Paranjotis on every Saturday at 8-30 p. m. to read the Bible with them. But, he didn't do so on the Saturday that preceded the troubles in his house. What surprised the Paranjotis most was that none of Sethji's family members liked to talk to any of them, even when out of true courtesy cum concern they went to the Sethji's house to know the extent of losses the ghosts had thrust upon them.
Sunday came and all of us were preparing to go to the church. In the meanwhile, Seth Durgaprasad and his wife called on us, they appeared fresh from their beds and also showed signs of not having slept well. They sat on the floor instead of making use of the settees It was strange. They acted like the guilty, who, when nabbed doing low deeds, shrink and cringe. Sethji obsecratively burst out. “My mania for monetary gains drove me to act satanically. I am guilty of having harassed many people in the name of ghosts by tricking them to trust and believe me through my pretentious affection for them. I have sinned enormously. I implore you good souls to forgive me for my devilish deeds. Not till my own tactics were turned upon me by all of you, did I realise how much harm I had done to you and others out of avarice for the transient wealth. As a proof of my sincere repentance and desire to make amends, I have resolved to make good all the losses suffered by you and my past tenants. In the name of Christ, the embodiment of mercy, please forget and forgive my wrongs even as the gracious Lord had pardoned those who slandered against and harmed Him. " His heart-rending confession concluded.
When I turned my eyes towards Mr. George, I found him laughing in his sleeves.
Like the good Christians, Mr. and Mrs. Paranjoti lifted the Durgaprasads by their hands and patted them to cool down. They were asked to hurry up to join us to go to the Church. We sped to the house of worship and returned reverberating with added cheer.
The whole of the next week saw Seth Durgaprasad returning the pugree moneys and making good all the losses which his former tenants suffered at his hands. Mr. Paranjoti was the first to be compensated. The sethji, however, refused to accept Mrs. Paranjoti's offer to pay for the losses suffered by the sethji on account of Mr. George playing back the ghost.
Akin to a season swimmer who, when thrown into the waters or having accidentally fallen in, comes up and swims back to the banks, even so, Seth Durgaprasad who had fallen to bad ways redoubtedly retraced his steps and reascended to the platform of a virtuous life.
When Mr. George played back the ghost on the Durgaprasads, causing them a little loss, all that he expected was the cessation of harassments to his sister and her husband. But, it brought about a miraculous change of heart in Seth Durgaprasadji who acted quickly and saved himself from landing in the hell. A discriminatively tactful conduct when placed in annoying situations surely does good to all.
A fortnight later i heard that Mr. George succeeded in persuading Seth Durgaprasadji to embrace Christianity. He was baptised according to the solemn rites of the church and admitted into the community. His Christian name is Miranda, which in Latin means ' admirable. '
Mr. George's fine detective work and adroit action did an abundant deal of good to so many, including the sethji who from a bad Hindu has become a good Christian. May Lord Christ bless him to remain so.
All those, who benefitted out of Mr. George's intelligent handling of the case, entertained him at the "Bombay's popular Tajmahal Hotel, in turns, where, I was informed, Mr. George the ghost-burster dined and danced delightfully.
That's how this educative episode ended.

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