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ISSN: 0974-892X


Jul 2015 - Jan 2016



The Crushing Moment

Shobha Diwakar

Rtd. Head Dept of English, C. P. Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur M.P.


The wind smashed the window open. A spell of rain rushed to meet the windy growl.  I shivered a while before I snuggled beneath the quivering blanket. The weather these days seemed so unpredictable. Whether or not there were clouds, or thunder or lightening the weather like the tidal waves of the sea just swerved, and lo and behold, there it reversed and took a U- turn.

The night grew denser and presto! The power went off. A blinding dark night and no one around gave me the creeps. Mom and dad had gone to attend a wedding and would not return until the next day. A distant cousin was assigned the duty to check on my little brother and me, while an old withered helper around the house slept outside our room.  His constant hoarse snoring added a ghostly nightmare.  Peering through the window, I beheld a stealthy shadow creeping behind the bushes. I froze and felt a cold shiver trickle down my spine. Just then, an owl screeched and I heard a flutter. Probably a mouse ran down the empty staircase, but I dared to take a step forward, mustering up all my fading strength. My brother was innocently fast asleep; he knew nothing of the adventurous night’s happenings.

The constant snoring of the old man got on my nerves. It was nerve racking. I made a vain attempt to wake him up, to no avail. Clenching my fist, I withdrew and retraced my steps. Should I or should I not wake up my baby brother? That was the million- dollar question, which rattled my brain. Brothers are brothers and though small, they do give you moral support. And pray why not? Their special genes do provide them the aura of being fearless, though inwardly they may tremble with fear.
That decided I once again stared outside. The wind was still howling. The shadow (s) still persisted racing against each other. Initially there was a single movement, now it had doubled. Who knows how many must be lurking behind those massive neem trees? I remember grandma narrating that evil spirits resided in banyan trees and it was good to keep away from them. As far as I could stretch my fleeting memory, we did not have any banyan tree around the house, so obviously there were no ghosts fleeing across the threshold. Then who could be peeping from behind those horrid bushes?

Again, a movement behind those trees and a flutter of wings and a snarl irked me. What was I to do? As far as I could remember, I had never seen a dog around the house. The meshed gate and the spiked boundary wall kept everyone away. Except some daredevil no one would even venture near the walled compound, besides a current passed around it with security bells to shriek at the least attempt to tamper; yet something definitely had gone amiss

This time the growl grew louder. A low wailing sound accompanied it. I perspired profusely at the next moaning I heard. I was rooted and could move  neither forward nor backward. Somehow, I gathered up my restraining strength as the idea struck me to turn on the TV at the loudest pitch. “That would scare away anyone who was lurking behind those horrid bushes”, I murmured to myself. So with renewed strength I retraced my steps and switched it on. A sigh escaped my parched throat as I realized that the power had gone. I pinched myself hard for my foolish idea until I realized that I had forgotten to turn on the inverter. I moved forward to switch it on and the house was flushed with light.”What a relief” I muttered to myself and burst into tears. It was an odious feeling. All sorts of stupid ideas crawled into my head and then I moved stealthily against the wall as though some inexplicable shadow moved along with me until I slumped into my bed.

All this while my brother was happily drowned in his untold dreamland. What innocence? I said to myself as I caressed him fondly. Just then, he opened his eyes wide and looked at me full of surprise “Are mom and dad home?” “No” I replied and saying “ok” was once again fast asleep. I too slid my arm around him and cozily tucked my aching head against the pillow and thinking about the night’s happenings fell asleep. I am sure I must have barely slept for a while when once again I jerked out of my beauty sleep. This time I was sure the shadowy figures were still lurking and the growl fainter but there was no denying the fact that whoever hid behind those bushes was still hiding somewhere nearby.

“Should I or should I not get up and peer behind the window?” I whispered to myself, mustering up the little courage that goaded me to keep still and close my eyes; as it was I could do nothing.  My so- called guardian angel was still snoring to his delight and my agitation. Yet a little voice whispered softly into my ears that I must act and not lie low like a coward. So up I got and like a wounded soldier dragged myself with heavy steps towards the window, but by then the figures seemed to have dissipated into thin air.”Hey,” I pinched myself was I awake or asleep? “Where have those spirited figures dissolved?” I stared through the windowpane; the night had deepened and a weird gloom greeted my tired, drooping eyelids. I clutched my head and rested it upon the sill  until I was rudely awakened by a rap-a tap-tap upon the door. “Oh my God I wailed. What was I to do?”Now I was sure there was someone or more than one person lurking around. I broke into a severe bout of perspiration and not knowing what else to do, tugged my little life support “Why are you hurting me?” He cried with wonder struck eyes.

“Sh… sh… I whispered holding my finger to my lips. He got up startled.”There is someone rapping at the door. I am scared. I saw some figures lurking in the garden but did not wake you up. I have kept awake all the time… and now there is someone at the front door. The old man is fast asleep. Follow me and we will peep through the eye glass.”  Saying “O.K. the little hero got up in a high and mighty manner as if he was the real man around the house, albeit his attitude fused me with renewed strength and confidence I tightly held his hand and walked towards the front door. By now, the snoring had subsided and the haggard old man was contentedly still fast asleep. I decided to leave him to his fate and trudged along. Since I had not turned off the lights, the room was flushed and gently the two of us tiptoed towards the door. I peeped through the eyeglass and a sigh of relief rang out as I clutched my little brother and heard a click….

There stood mom and dad with a smile on their face as I caught them and burst into tears.”Why, what is the matter?” Slowly amidst hiccups, I told them about what I had heard and seen and how I had kept awake the whole night. My dad comforted me while mom tried to convince me that I must have seen a bad dream and was frightened because of that. However, when I insisted they offered to take me outside to inspect the premises. I resisted but dad held me saying “If you do not confront danger bravely you will never gain confidence. Don’t turn your back. Come, be a brave girl, together we will see who is hiding behind the bushes.” So saying he put a protective arm around my shoulder, opened the front door and stepped out while my mom trailed behind with my brother who was now fully awake and looking curiously around with a big question mark on his face.

The compound was big and as we walked around there was not a sign of anyone who might have been there .Dad pointed out towards the spiked boundary wall guarded by electrical wires running parallel and concealed in such a way that they were not visible to the naked eye. It was obvious if anyone dared to enter, he would be electrocuted. But though my fear was controlled, yet I was not convinced and I kept repeating what I had seen. We were now behind the house where I had seen those ghostly figures but they seemed to have vanished. “Where, oh where could they be hiding?” I muttered to myself until I heard my dad laughing.”What is it?” I said.  He cuddled me fondly as he pointed towards a couple of branches that had grown old and withered. The cracking rain and thunder, the gushing, cold harsh wind had  severed their joints and rudely thrashed them to the ground where they had fallen with a thud. The russet leaves still clinging to the branches were humbly

bowing and breathing their last casting deathly shadows upon the wall as they swayed and wavered with the receding wind.
So those were the ghostly figures I saw moving and lurking behind the bushes, that had stolen my sleep and scared the life out of me. Indeed this was an experience that reminded me how a rope could be mistaken for a snake at night if you happened to stamp upon it.