It was December 1971, and tensions between India and Pakistan were escalating, fueling fear of an impending war. As a young child, I was oblivious to the gravity of the situation, preoccupied with playing games with my friends on the school ground of Central School, situated above our house in the eerie Christorphen Hotel in Simla.
One chilly evening, a group of about 10-12 kids from our neighborhood gathered to enjoy some playtime in the fading daylight. As the sun began to set, casting an ominous shadow, a sense of unease settled upon us. Suddenly, Sona, one of the girls, broke the silence and suggested it was time to head home. She said, “Chalo ghar chaley,” which loosely translates to “Let’s go home.”
Just as we prepared to depart, a spine-chilling voice echoed from behind, whispering, “khelo khelo,” beckoning us to continue playing.
We turned around in sheer horror, only to behold a peculiar-looking lady with dark, piercing eyes, extravagant makeup, and alarmingly bright red lipstick. Her gaze fixated on us, sending shivers down our spines. Paralyzed with fear, we instinctively sprinted towards home, shrieking “bhoot bhoot” (ghost, ghost) without a second thought.
Once we reached a safe distance, some of us dared to glance back, only to find the lady still standing there, her gaze unyielding. Suddenly, she rubbed her hands together and sparks seemingly erupted from her fingertips. That was the tipping point; we lost all composure and continued shouting “bhoot bhoot” at the top of our lungs, racing back to the safety of our apartment complex. Concerned elders rushed out, seeking an explanation for the pandemonium. We pointed frantically toward the school ground, still screaming “bhoot bhoot.”
Everyone looked up, but there was nothing there. That night, I couldn’t sleep. The eyes of the lady haunted me, and I clung to my sister, staying awake.
Two brave uncles from our building decided to investigate the peculiar incident at the school ground. They witnessed the lady descending the hill and confronted her about her terrifying behavior. To their surprise, she merely smiled cryptically and walked away. Alarmed, they promptly reported the incident to the police.
When the police arrived, they were skeptical. They didn’t believe in ghosts or wizards, and they thought that we kids were just making it all up. But they decided to investigate anyway, just to be sure. They went to the school ground and looked around but couldn’t find any sign of the woman. They asked us kids what had happened, but we were too scared to say anything.
In the end, the police decided that there was nothing to worry about. They thought that we had just imagined the whole thing and that the woman was probably just a figment of our imagination. But we knew the truth. We knew that we had seen something strange and frightening that day. And even though we never saw the woman again, we never forgot that December evening when we came face to face with the unknown.
Reflecting upon it now, that bone-chilling experience stands as the most frightful episode of our youthful lives, forever intertwined with the eerie mysteries of that time.