These days, it is highly boring that everything’s normal, for, once, it was not so. Actually, when you have a wife of a really rare history, you would better understand that, believe me. When we first came to this town, the town of Dwaraka – oh, not the one of Krishna in Gujarat, no, a little town in South India – so, as I was saying, life suddenly had a hike, like, how can I say; it all of a sudden became exciting. Strange things frighten us, right, but at the same time they are curious things too, don’t you think? Like, when something eerie is happening, when you feel everything around is so ominous, one part of you is very afraid, because as Sherlock says somewhere – fear is the wisdom in the face of danger, but at the same time the other part knows, something out-of-the-world is happening to you and that is totally fantastic! You would have a tale to explain; just like how I am doing now – of course you should be alive too to do that, true. So, yes, anyway, you have known the word, and most of you have heard the rumours of this and you ask me personally what was it that has happened, so I thought, maybe I should not try to keep it a secret anymore. I mean, what is the point of keeping it a secret when every knows parts of it and together it already makes a whole? It is better that I give the whole story out before an interesting rumour takes its place.
But I just have one thing to ask. After the tale, I request you people not to go after in the search of the places I describe and not to replicate the things that have happened. I wish this would fill you with sanity and not shake you with the opposite.
The Living Castle of Garodas
Sometimes the Dead Awakens
Chapter 1: The Grievous Call from The Castle!
Ancestry is always a precious thing to hold upon; of course, when you’re not supressed but got something glorious in your family line to boast upon; and fortunate for her and unfortunate for me, my wife has a precious one. When I saw her for the first time – three years ago, I was not expecting myself to get married to her, she was so aloof. The first thing, she’s beautiful, damn, I was blown off right away, I am no match, I know, and keeping that aside, in the place where I saw her, their family got a great influence. It was coming throughout the generations. A few generations back, it was like their people were Poet Laureates of various courts of the king. It was a rich history, both in name, fame and in money. Keeping that aside, as a simple guy trying to prove myself in the arena of literature – I already published a book by then, which no one knew or read, of course – I was excited by listening tales about her ancestors. Keeping novels aside, which I thought would need a lot of experience to produce one masterpiece, I started, by then, working over dramas. Like, not lengthy ones, but dramas around 3 acts, hardly around 15 scenes. Most of them inspired by Martin Esslin’s group, if you understand what I mean: I was working on absurdist drama.
I used to travel from town to city and from there to another place looking for any producers who would be interested in my plays; but you know, right, even traditional dramas are coming down. It is a pitiful that the heritage of stage is coming down and no more interesting the normal audience. But it is pitiful only for a dramatist. Cinema is flourishing and yes, being a living for countless people. So, I used to be like that and we both got close, and I can’t explain what has happened after that, I simply realised I love her and she, can’t live without me.
We got married.
Oh no, that was not as simple as I dropped a full-stop at the end of that statement, but we had wars we had to do. We did them, with time, we were inseparable. Even our parents couldn’t get us apart. But the tale is not of our marriage, so, lets quickly get down to what I was about to speak.
It’s been thee years since we’re married. My wife is now holding a really good position in of the government offices and she would soon be in the elite sections. And with her support I am continuing my writing; I am very glad to say that my first major novel came out and it is a success. The times were perfect for us. We were what we wanted for each other. I always give her the word that I would bring back the literary glory to her family and she believes me like I’m her heavens. So, six months ago, we came here, to this place, Dwaraka. My wife got transferred actually, and that, that was not an accident. When she had a chance to choose where she wanted to go, even I suggested many other places where sanitation would be better – for we are planning our children now, like always thought: after three years of marriage – and yeah, for many other reasons. But she, she has one point in her head, this one thing: This Dwaraka has been a residence for their family for centuries – that should be quite exaggerating, at least, as I believe, for generations. At the far end of the town, if you see, which is quite popular, you would find a huge palace – desolated now-a-days, and that palace was once a gift for my wife’s ancestors from the kings who rules this land. Yes, Garoda Palace. My wife belongs to this ancestry of Garodas and that was what has led to these traumatic. . . – I don’t know what to say – incidents and all.
So, one day – the same day I was ready to finish my first five act play, actually – so, she came home and she’s pretty high, like, very excited. She came home and made some coffee or something and there was smile on her face. I started asking her, like what was that and why was that blush all about. You see, an unusual blush on a woman’s face really gets the man into a hostile situation; if you know what I mean – it means that the woman is so happy and at any second moment she would keep the proposition before you and then you’ll be in a big soup! If that is about something you like, that would be fine for both of you. She hugs you, if you’re young enough you’d kiss each other and a romantic night follows up, but. . . If that is something which you wouldn’t approve, what are you going to do? She is happy already; the passion would all go back and hit you straight in the, you know where right, so, in the beginning I was excited too, looking at her smile, but when she wasn’t saying the reason and started preparing specials for me, ‘there’s something really big, big unwanted thing under there!’ and I know that. I was waiting; thinking how to protect my precious day now.
“We are going to get a transfer,” she said, handing coffee over to me and she sipping hers.
That was something we all were waiting for, I was happy and relaxed, “To where?” I ask, curious, simply. See, the previous place, I don’t wanna mention the name, is a pretty pathetic place. Any place other than that would be fine for me – but this, no!
“Anywhere,” she said, her smile much widening up; her teeth all out – I know, an unnecessary detail, but still. “Anywhere I can choose in this zone!”
“That is,” that’s good news actually, really, but then I got this question popped up. “That is a really great news, but what would we pick then?”
She didn’t answer that, and that was a dangerous sign; means she already decided. “This is a result of all the hard work I did this one and half year,” she said. “Isn’t it?”
“Yes, true, really. The work you’ve done is tremendous!’
“Now, I finally got what I always really wanted.”
She laughed at it and took the glass away from my hand. “We both can really live together near the ancestral home, that would be so warming for me and inspiring for you.” Beckett is on the list, Salinger is on, Heller is on and Bradbury is on; even Vonnegut is on, but her ancestral home is never on my inspirational list. But I know, if I say it then, my peace of mind would be in a grave danger. “Isn’t it?” she asked at the end again.
“You mean, you wanna go to Dwaraka?”
“Yes, that’s where you too always wanted to be, right?”
“Ah, actually. . .”
“You always say you want to bring glory back to Garods!” she was dreamy. Actually, I say that, yes, but it doesn’t mean I would paint the mansion walls again. “I am so happy for us! I will be back, wait!” she said drawing herself into the bedroom to get fresh. She was singing inside!
That was how fate has sealed us to come here. If I ever write this as a story, I would name this chapter as “The Grievous Call.” That is what it has proved to be by the end, isn’t it?
Chapter 2: The Blood Smeared Talking Castle.
Okay alright, I am not trying to show my wife in a negative light here. I shall explain her cause. Ha, she was bearing the prestigious surname, but the problem was that their family was long broken. I know right, a problem which is faced by any expanding family. When, it cannot be placed, but the family was all broken. From that broken piece my wife’s family people came out. It was long since anyone from Garodas have contacted these people. It is my wife’s wish that everyone will be together once again, and it was the mild anxiety that they might reject her was what drove her insane when she was preparing for the exams she broke – we were in love then, waiting to get married.
When we were reaching the town, you should look at her face, she was enquiring the driver about the whereabout of the Garodas so much that it seemed like she talked more with the driver than me: I was almost jealous of him. But from his words we got where the mansion of the Garodas was. It was the other end of the town while our residence was in the middle of the it. “I saw it when I was very little,” she told me with dreamy eyes. “It would be so fun, right, Indra?” she asked. She would always put a question at the end. That actually is a wonderful opportunity to support her or provide my insights at times, but at troubling times like these, I wouldn’t know how to react. But that day, she didn’t wait for me to react. She was all talking by herself. “It would be great to visit the palace once, right?” she said, or yes, asked.
“Now?” I tried to hide my surprise. I heartily didn’t want to disappoint her in any way.
“Yes,” she said and didn’t ask me anything. With the ‘eureka, eureka’ face she asked the driver to take her towards the mansion.
“But the mansion was abandoned long back, ma’am,” he said. There was a struggling face of my wife.
“Oh,” she said, sinking into the car seat. She (we) didn’t know this. She didn’t speak for a while. I couldn’t take that silence from her. I felt bad.
“But, can we visit the mansion, like, from the outside?” I asked the driver, placing my hand on her shoulder.
“Yes sir,” he said.
“Then, go on, lets check it once before we go home,” I said and it lighted the face of my woman again.
But let me tell you this first – I have read a hundred novels in which these ghosts and other supernatural elements reside in these castles and forts. Starting from Radcliff’s classic till Stoker’s Dracula, all these remote places and abandoned palaces are portrayed as the residences of these disturbed and deceased people. Like I mean, ghosts. But that is all fiction, right? Even I can think of a loose plot and then sit down typing out the story, but that necessarily doesn’t mean anything. So, I didn’t bother, and come on; under the broad day light, what can possibly happen?
That was the mistake.
The driver, after nodding head to my order, took a diversion and started driving through the out-skirts of the town. We would reach the place in fifteen minutes, he said, and my woman was looking out of the window, very eager to reach the place.
In the next ten minutes, the horizon was lifted up by these green mountains and the sight was beautiful and then, when I was trying to concentrate on a Rumi’s poem in the moving car, my woman called me tapping on my shoulder and thigh. I looked at her and raised the eyebrows, questioning what that was.
“Look,” she said, and pointed out of the window. It was like, she could see what she was pointing at, because it was on her side of the window. I adjusted myself and crouched a little to look through the car’s front glass. Then, I could see the huge, desolating castle.
“Is that Garoda’s?” I asked the driver, in a soothing tone. The castle was nearing us. I was struck by its magnificence. I wasn’t expecting a castle of a Gothic architecture. The driver said, yes, that was. “Wonderful,” I said, in disbelief. “How could they muster up a European style in a remote town like this?”
The driver turned towards me. He was offended, may be.
“Truly,” my woman said, in a dreamy tone. “Truly magnificent!”
“Local people say that to commemorate the laureates, the king never bargained. He wanted to bring in the culture through the poets.” The driver added, and shot a look at me through his rear-mirror. “And he thought this small town is the right place to do that. There should have been a reason.”
“Yes,” my wife said, getting down the car slowly as it stopped at the feet of the mountain. “I believe the same. There should be a reason.” And she asked me to get down. I was okay in inside the car, but couldn’t say that out then. I slowly got down.
“It isn’t like our palace, really,” I said. “Like an Indie style.”
“How much time would it take to reach the top?” my wife asked the driver, eagerly.
He looked up, like measuring with his eyes. “Generally, it takes more than forty minutes, but,” he paused.
“But?” she interrupted out of curiosity.
“There is a fence after a few meters.”
My wife then insisted that we would walk till the fence and have a good look. Even I was interested. The place was beautiful, except for the decays marked over the castle. We walked slowly through the grass, rocks, weeds and our knee-height thorny bushes. I was hardly a hundred feet and there was this fence.
“I wish I can go in there and feel how it is like,” she said. I nodded. She walked a bit and held the fence off-minded. Suddenly, she squalled and yanked back the hand and, her palm was bleeding.
“Careful,” I screamed and held her hand. I pulled out a kerchief and tied it around the wound. “Is it deep?” I asked typing the cloth. “You should be careful, come on. You are not a child.”
She wasn’t answering and when I looked at her, her eyes were fixed on me. “I love you,” she said, with a mischievous smile.
“This is ridiculous,” I simply said walking her into the car.
“I know you are excited to look at your mansion or something, but this is not
right. You gotta be careful.”
After that, it was clearly marked in the car, there was an ominous environment. I was able to get that. You would understand, right? Till then it was all cheerful, but all of a sudden, even if my wife was tremendously happy and excited, there was something wrong, and then, I understood it was because of the driver. He was peaking at me through the rear mirror. Like, he was staring at me and when I shoot a look, he changes his glance. I didn’t understand what it was. All along the way she kept on talking about the mansion and its history and the grandeur of the architecture and all. I simply kept my book away. And then, we reached home.
Our new home.
By the time we were there, the truck which carried our house-hold things was already there, and the family servant Govind was setting everything up with the help of packers and movers. She got down and wished Govind with a wonderful smile. Govind is an elderly man, around his sixties. He was staying with us since a very long time. He asked her, with a certain horror, what was that on her hand, and she waved him off with a smile without answering. By the time I got down the car and payed the taxi driver, Govind asked me what it was on my wife’s hand. I told him that’s nothing to worry about. I wished Govind and asked him how the arrangements were going. He explained me in a few short sentences. With reverence, he held our suitcases and walked inside and I was about to follow him.
Then, the taxi driver called me with a hint of hesitation.
“Sir,” he said and I turned back.
“I have something to tell you,” he said and that was not something of a pleasure, I thought.
“Yes, please,” I walked towards him. “You can. What is that about?”
“It is about,” he hesitated, may be trying to put it best possible.
“About that mansion, sir.”
“Is it?” I was curious. I stuffed my purse and folded my hands, showing my willingness to talk about the topic. “Tell me, yes.”
“I don’t mean to offend you or your wife,” he said, and such a gratified politeness surprised me from a taxi driver.
“Oh no, I will not take any offence,” I promised him. “You can let it out. Go on.”
“That mansion – ah, it has a, a lot of word about it going around sir.” He said, and there was a pause. I waited for him to go on, but he didn’t.
“Like. . . Rumours, you mean?”
“Exactly sir, yes,” he said, nodding his head.
“Alright,” it caught my head slightly. I understood, to get the information out of him, I should ask him the right questions. “Rumours like what? Like, an example?”
“I don’t know sir. My grandmother says that the castle talks with people at nights.”
“What!” that caught me off guard.
“I know sir, it seems ridiculous, but I just wanted you to know because I found your wife very interested in it and . . .”
“And?” I was impatient then. “Just go on, don’t give me these breaks!”
“And, she seemed enchanted for me.”
“What do you mean?”
“The elder ones in this village think that the castle can enchant a few people to drive towards it, sir, and when I looked at your wife today at the castle and when we were returning, I just thought. . . The symptoms are the same; just like how people describe.”
I didn’t know what to say. What can I probably say? I just wished I could shush him away, but I didn’t want to do that. I just said, “And?” I want him to keep talking.
“Nothing much sir. All I know is that people believe that the mansion talks and, I wanted you to know that for you seem to love your wife very much.”
“Thank you,” I said. After all he tried to help. “So much.”
“Yes sir,” he said and was getting inside the car, staring the engine. Suddenly something stuck my head.
I bent at his window, and even though it seems stupid, I just placed safety above prestige. “Where can I know the history of this place?” I asked. “Like, the palace?” His face was blank, like he didn’t understand the question. “I mean, I tried to know about it, but nothing is written on it. It seems like no one outside even knows there is a castle here. But I think I need to know about this place.”
Then, he thought for a moment. “There is nothing written on it, sir, yes.” He agreed with my mild observation. “If you can go to the next village, Saavaram-Dwaraka, there you should find this woman sir; I don’t know if she is alive or not – an old woman named Kasturamma. Maybe she can talk about it, sir.”
“Kasturamma,” I said out, remembering the name.
“Yes sir,” he said, adding up, “their family used to record lives and family trees of the elite sections of this area. But now-a-days they are not doing it, but still she might know the story through her ancestors.”
That was a fine observance, I thought. “So, yes, what you said is right. But I don’t know anything about the place around, you know. . .”
“I will take you sir,” he generously offered.
“That is so nice of you,” I was glad and that was evident over my face. “Give me your number, I will call you.”
I took his number, warmly shook his hand and told him that he didn’t offend me by any means. I just took a sharp breath and walked inside the house.
Chapter 3: The Gaudy Invitation.
My wife has OCD. Yes. She might agree or not, but, she simply has it and it’s been evident in everything she does. By the time I walked inside the house, she made the workers shift the wardrobe ten times. She would make them place it somewhere and think of it a moment and then, she’s be like, “No, no, I thought it would look good, but with sofa back there and T.V in the contrast, it will not look nice,” and then she’ll be like, “do a thing, place it there, yes, yes, and bring the sofa here,” when they move it, she’ll again be like, “No, no, keep the sofa back, it is not matching with the fridge and kitchen, it will be on the way. Take it back to the place where you brought it from,” and the she would check everything. “This is good,” she would say and that will bring the sigh of relief in the workers and all of a sudden, she’ll be like, “Just for once, we shall try the wardrobe in the other room, what say?” those poor workers look at me to save them, but I would be like, sorry dudes, can’t help. I simply shrug my shoulders with a look of pity marked on my face and I would move on. Then she would rant at me. She complaints that I simply sit and she is the one who is taking care of ALL the things in the new house. Alright, I get ready to help. I make one suggestion and, she trashes my self-esteem so much pointing all the flaws in my judgement; my god – I get a doubt if I am a stupid being all in myself! I simply say she is the best-one who can do all such creative stuff with home and she says she already knows it!
That night was a beautiful one. I know I cannot discuss all the private activities of myself and my wife, but I just can’t skip it at least without a mention. We had wonderful lighting inside the house. My woman got everything set down, and then I understood why only she should get the house done: if it is I who set the things up, the house would probably be like ‘my’ house, but when she does it, it feels like ‘ours’. She said she’s too tired to cook, and when I generously offered that I would cook, she simply said she wants to eat stomach full. I know, but hey, I cook really good at times. We got a parcel from a nearby hotel and we sat in the cushion; I sat in the chair and she in my lap. We didn’t on the TV; I was just planning to mark the first night in the house with love – if you understand what I mean: Men, you see.
So, yes, she just sat her eyes closed, tracing my lips against her spine. Slowly she opened her lips and softly whispered, “In the next couple of days I want to make a press notice,” I didn’t get it, and I simply moaned in agreement busy with what I was doing. “By that they can easily find me.”
That caught my attention. I hated to part my lips off her skin, but I did, “Who?” I asked, taking care I wouldn’t sound offensive.
“My ancestors,” she said off-minded. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to ask what she means by that. But before I could do so, she suddenly turned towards me, “It would be fantastic, right?”
I, with an unsure smile, nodded my head.
“Yeah, I will ask the press reporters to mention my surname grandly in the paper, and then someone might try to contact with us. What do you think, Indra?” she asked, playing with my hair.
“Yes, that might really work,” I said and went on. “So, that’s the first thing you wanna do after coming to the place?”
Her gaze turned highly cajoling, “Oh no, baby, no,” she said. “Not the first.”
I was almost afraid thinking what she might come up with. “Then?” I asked.
She became animated all of a sudden, “Don’t you really remember baby?” she asked, tracing fingers over my temples.
“Oh no,” I said. “Did I forget something?”
She slapped me, “Listen to what I am saying!” she said.
“Okay, okay, go on, what that?” She rolled her eyes and was about to get off my lap. I held her strongly and asked again, “Come one, give me a chance, what’s that? Say again.”
“Ayyoo stupid, you repeat what I said, you will get it yourself.”
She pushed me and got down, walking away. I tried to recollect what she said. In the next few moments I understood what she said. She said, ‘oh no, baby,’ and she asked, ‘don’t you really remember baby,’ and then I screamed out loud across the house. “We are going to make our babies!”
She stuck her head out of the room with wide opened eyes and mouth, “Shut up!” she whispered.
“My god, not just shirt, we would keep all the things away, great god, at last!”
The night before was not a beautiful one. I know I cannot discuss all the private activities of myself and my wife, but I just can’t skip it at least without a mention. Because, there was something important in there which I missed in the rush of adrenaline and testosterone together. She said something which I didn’t care to understand that moment. Exactly after a week, after a few incidents (about which I would talk later), there came a parcel to the home on the name of my wife. There was slightly blood smeared on the parcel. It bothered me, but I thought it is an accident or something. And, the other thing was, the mentioned surname before my wife’s name was not mine but of her parents’ side: Garoda – It surprised me. I took the parcel instead of her, for she was not home then, and waited for her to arrive. When she did and opened the parcel, I understood, with a certain ominousness: Something evil has awoken, something evil has arrived and then was when I started to dig deep within the mystery of The Living Castle of Garodas.