It was a moonlit night and a strong wind was blowing outside .I could hear the leaves rustling in the quiet wintry night as I lay in my bed.A little away from the bungalow we stayed in, I could hear the machines roaring in the tea factory down the hill. I was tossing and turning in my bed . Just a week ago I had moved in with Sunil as a new bride in a tea garden at Darjeeling.It was a completely new world for me–a picturesque view with the bungalow in the middle of the tea garden surrounded by hills. The entire place was so calm and serene. It was a great change for me from the hustle-bustle of city life. It had been sometime that Sunil had left for the tea factory for his routine night supervision. He was going after a long break.This was something new for me. Just then our watchman Gaura rang the bell. After every one hour he was supposed to ring the bell, a tradition followed since the British days. I counted and it was 1am. I knew Sunil would be back sometime.
The wind started blowing harder.I could see through the window of my bedroom the branches of the trees swaying to and fro. I sat upright in my bed. Suddenly a kind of fear ran through my body. I got down the bed and started pacing up and down the room. I wanted to go in the verandah and wait for Sunil. I thought of chatting with our watchman to kill my time. Somehow I decided to stay in my room.I asked myself, “Will I adjust in tea?”. My heart was beating faster and faster. My mind was occupied with all the spooky stories narrated to me by our watchman about the ‘Angrez’ (British) tea planter ghost moving around the tea garden on a horseback at midnight. Gaura was an old man whose family had served the British and these stories were passed on by them. I stared outside the window for a long time and started visualizing things. I was thinking about the British tea planter on a horseback going for his factory round. When I was lost in my imagination, I suddenly saw a silhouette quickly going towards the backyard. I started shaking and sweating badly. With a loud scream I ran out of my room.I started shouting at the top of my voice calling out “Gaura bhaiya ,help! I saw a ghost !!” till I reached the verandah.
The quiet night suddenly echoed with my desperate shout for help!! Gaura rushed back hearing my screams. With tears rolling down my eyes ,I tried to explain to him what I saw behind my bedroom. He immediately realized what had happened and with a smile on his face started comforting me by saying that it was him that I saw. He was as usual going at the backyard to close the supply of water in the tank when he heard my shout and rushed back!! I was still frightened. I repeatedly murmured that I saw a ghost. I refused to go in. Soon Sunil got back and learnt what had happened. He had a good laugh and advised me not to listen to cooked up stories. He said they have a habit of exaggerating things to scare the occupants especially the women so that they can sleep away to glory in winters without anybody disturbing them!! It was their strategy to create a fear in someone new to tea life.He gave Gaura a piece of his mind too!!
My mind was still struggling to accept that it was just my imagination and that I actually saw Gaura. That night I had a tough time going back to sleep. It took me couple of years to realize that such spooky stories had been circulating in every tea garden since ages but nobody encountered such an incident in real. I realized that it was a thrilling topic to discuss among the ladies during the club days! It’s almost 20 years and I’m still waiting for the ‘Angrez’ tea planter on a horseback!!