I have this eerie feeling that someone has been living within my mind. Someone who has been watching me. I'm scared of it sometimes. Sometimes, it's the only support. I don't know who it is. It has been living inside me for a very long time.
It's like a silent invisible ghost whose shadows become visible in darkness, in stark silence, at times, when I want them to be farthest. It's difficult to trace it, it's difficult to define it. It's not like the children's story where the ghost turns out to be a friend. It seems to me - an eternal enemy; its dark evil laughter sometimes wakes me up from my sleep to look around, in search of my mother to save me from it. It has a smile, a very evil smile, the smile which shines from the darkness, cruel and barbaric, looking as though it will slice my soul with its razor sharp edge. But it doesn't do anything. The smile smiles at me from a distance, its mind playing with mine when I'm fast asleep. Sometimes, it seems to be a memory from the past life but sometimes it seems to be coming from the future. It's morbid. It's macabre. Though with time, it has become subtle and less effective, but I still tremble in fear, when I remember what I'd once faced. As I blink, the smile still flashes. Fainter though. But enough to make me fear going to the loo, even today.
When I was a child, the fear of encountering it in darkness used to prevent me from going to the loo and most of the times, it used to be my only companion on my wet bed that used to scare me to lull. I never made any noise while it enjoyed its dark play. Only once did I dare to fight it. I started sweating in my sleep. It was torturing me with its appalling laughter. In the sleep, I started calling my mother. She came running, thinking that I'd been attacked by a cat or something. I was profusely perspiring. She got worried, woke me up when I tightly held her waist. She recited Hanuman Chalisa to comfort me when I asked her to sleep beside me, to prevent it from assaulting me. She assured me that she would. I held my golden Hanuman locket, which I had around my neck since god knows when, tied with the sacred red thread that panditjis always used to carry. I thought it would stop it. It indeed did its magic. My nani told me that Hanuman had been the strongest of all Gods. No wonder I thought, as I stretched my imagination to merge with darkness. The darkness was haunted. He was still there, with his haunted smile, his small dot like eyes staring at me like a white dwarf far away in the sky. I was scared. In my sleep, I was conscious enough to wrap my right hand tightly around my mother, while my left hand clung to the golden locket. His smile soon faded in the unassailable darkness.
The morning came. Light came. The night was over. I found my power in my locket. I was happy, as though Lord Hanuman had taken away every bit of darkness haunting me. But still, the thought that even Hanuman's eyes couldn't see in the darkness scared me. I wished why couldn't he be an owl instead of a monkey. But no matter how powerful my wish had been, history never had a reason to hear an intimidated kid. I forgot about the previous night, I forgot that the sun sets every day. I played - played ghar-ghar with my neighbouring kid-friend, my childhood crush whose name I no more remember now, who used to call me Harshu and I used to love it. The evening faded, sun kissed the horizon. It was time. Time to go back home, watch my favorite TV-shows Centurion and Swat Cats on Cartoon Network, disinterestedly finish my homework, enthusiastically play with my globe and atlas and then count my collected money - to ensure that no theft had taken place - and go to sleep. I asked my mother to be near me, to call Hanumanji, if need be. He didn't come that night. I was relieved. My mother strongest!
It forgot to inhabit my darkness for over a month. Times change. My childhood crush stopped talking to me since she saw me accidentally looking at her through the window when she was changing. Okay, it was not accidental but I was a child then. Curiosity is what defines a child. No more ghar-ghar in my life, since I'd shifted to following the man with an MRF bat. Swat Cats still remained the second best pass time and now, since all her windows remained closed, when she was in her room, I had nothing else to fix my mind to. I resorted to studying. I didn't study course-books. I studied Children Knowledge Banks Vol 1-Vol 6, which my brother gifted to me on my birthday; I read Robinson Crusoe and another book known as Tees-Maar-Khan which was the Hindi translation of Oliver Twist and I started drawing birds, in a drawing book. I was happy and I, despite having a bizarre feeling, decided to sleep all alone once again.
The same pillow, the same bed, the same darkness, the same smile. The same torture. Only this time, I had a resolve. I won't be scared. It smiled. I smiled. It looked cruelly at me. I pressed my eyelids tighter to stop seeing it. No effect. It was still there, as visible as before. I had an idea. I spat on it. A moment later, the spit fell on my face. I thought he spat back. I was fighting with it, with all my vigour. He seemed effortless, the dark vicious smile didn't fade at all. I had another idea. It was afraid of light, I would kill it with light. I opened my eyes. It was gone. The darkness outside my eyes wasn't at all dark as compared to what I'd just seen inside my eyes. The pillow was wet, my breathing faster. I went in search of my locket. It was there, intact.
I was nervous. I started mumbling Hanuman Chalisa, broken but still the heard verses in place. Sankat se Hanuman Churave, Mahavir jab naam tu laave. I started trembling. Appalled by the dread of experiencing death, I touched my locket. It sent an electric current down my spine. I was absolutely clueless about where I was going to be the very next moment. Loud villainous laughters struck my ears and I thought the earth was going to end for me. In a moment, the sacred red thread tightened itself around my neck and in what I think lasted for a minute, I was almost asphyxiated to death, when holding the locket, thread by thread I managed to disentangle it and break it apart. Oxygen. It was bliss.
I could have died to take one more breath in. My voice wasn't in a condition to call out my mother. I somehow managed to stand up. Fear, no more. I went on to the loo, peed in darkness, watering all around the target and washed my legs, as I had been taught to be hygienic and came back. The locket was lying on the floor, it was upside down. It resided on the other side of Hanuman. It smiled at me. The cast of Hanuman resembled the dreadful darkness upside down. The same dark vicious smile. Entrapped with fear, I stepped back, trembling. Somebody caught hold of my shoulders. My blood ran cold, I couldn't dare to turn back. The hand moved away from my shoulder and patted on my head, and rebuked, 'Why don't you flush after using the toilet?'
Father. He went back to his room. While I, with the suddenly found inspiration, moved over to the locket and picked it up, despite the dark smile. Spat on it. This time it didn't hit me back. I abided by my father's order. The water was just enough to drown the golden darkness.
Next day, when my mother was not able to find the locket, she got frenzied. I decided not to be the victim of her frenzy and blamed it on the game where MRF bat defined who batted first as the reason why Lord Hanuman decided to get 'flushed' away. She wasn't convinced but she couldn't help it. She brought me another Hanuman after a few days which I boycotted, saying I'll rather have one of Lord Kartikeya - my favorite God, if she could find. Being just 9, I was smart enough to know that Lord Kartikeya was not a big-shot in the Indian God Industry and my mother would never find him. The trick worked; I inwardly thanked Ganeshji for taking all attention away from Kartikeyaji and went back to smash the cosco ball over the roof with my self-decorated bat with stickers of Sachin, Ganguly and Dravid stuck on the opposite side.
I never needed a Hanuman Chalisa after that. And Lord Hanuman got a kilogram of laddoo from me in return, for the disgraceful act that I had to commit. I always argued with him, that it was my father who provoked me to do it, not me. He seemed to be at peace with me now, since my crush, who used to call me Harshu, made a card for me in the coming month and gifted it to me.
When I opened it, to my utter disappointment, it said, 'Happy Rakhi, Harshu.' I forgot to make peace with the dark devil, I guess.