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ISSN: 0974-892X


July, 2017



Sweeping Eyes

Dr. Shobha Diwakar, Ex-Head Dept. of English,  CP Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur (MP)

Suddenly it boomeranged into her muddy head the thought about her chilling experience the other night. She was sure she heard a creepy voice just beside her bed. She woke up with a start; looked around, under the bed, below the cupboard but saw nothing; with a heaving sigh, she lay down and closed her eyes and floated into a dreamy world of luxury.
Strangely, she felt as though a tender hand touched her hair, fondled it and disappeared. She lay still, frightened to the core. Cold sweat ran down her spine as she struggled to stifle her cry. The rustling curtains drew her attention as she spied a silent figure disappear from her view. She shut her eyes as tight as she could out of fear for the unknown. Was it a ghost? Was it some ill omen or was someone simply trying to frighten the life out of her?

Misha lived in a beautiful seaside apartment all by herself. Her parents lived far away down south. She had recently taken up a lucrative job in an advertising firm as co producer and settled down comfortably in this sea view apartment in Mumbai. The gurgling rushing waters of the sea, the pigeons settling around their perches, the chaos of halting traffic and pattering feet yelling to sell their goods all soon became a part of blithe Mumbai. At first this rattling sound of vehicles, the fuss and flurry of early mornings crabbed her nerves but gradually she imbibed the routine and began to relax and feel a part of the hustling cosmopolitan ‘mahanagar.’

Before shifting to Mumbai, Misha was based at Hyderabad. Surprisingly she found herself comparing her stay here to her former place. She realized unlike her neighbors there, here were no nosy parkers; people minded their own business. While at Hyderabad she could not forget the prying eyes chasing her indoors and out and goggling at all the visitors who came to visit her. Their queries marked their faces with a big question mark grounded with serious concern. ‘Are you single?’ ‘Was that your brother or someone else who came to see you last evening?’  ‘Where are you parents?’ ‘You are putting on in years why don’t you settle down?’ ‘Are you in a relationship?’ The list of questions seemed never ending. It was now more than a fortnight of her stay here and though people saw her coming and going no one had pried into her private life. What a relief not to have to look a culprit, a bad character or a carefree person in this wonderful city, sighed Misha to herself and once again settled back on her pillow to enjoy the peaceful calm environment with the soft lulling sea breeze drowning her into a restful slumber.

The mellow sun peeping through the window woke her up with a start. The beautiful red rays falling on her pretty face jostled her; she stretched herself and with a big yawn, rolled out of her bed. Hurriedly she straightened the sheet and spread the counterpane. She let herself into her bath while the kettle boiled and soon with a sandwich and boiled egg, was out of her flat. Down the lift, she hailed a taxi and sped away, admiring the rushing milieu of hawkers, cyclists, vans, cars and women buying veggies and daily stuff from the clamorous pavements.

Well this was a good life she reflected, everybody busy with his/ her own work and no curious sly eyes arduously fixed on anyone. The taxi came to a halt as she paid him off and entered her office. Yes there were some new ads she would have to work on they were eagerly looking up to be picked- up and scanned. She immediately got busy and even while she turned the pages she felt a shadow fly past her. Looking piquantly around, she still shivered but soon forgot all about it and immersed herself in her urgent file. Bang on five she left her office and still cowered with the plaguing shadow, reached home and made herself a cup of tea to feel refreshed.

The shrill phone rent the air and even as she sipped her tea, heard her mother’ s cooing voice from the other end enquiring about her welfare. She thought awhile whether she should narrate her grilling nightmare then decided otherwise. It was no use making her tense. She was a responsible young woman, independent, secure and an achiever. This was her problem and she must learn to deal with it by herself. ‘Hello, she cried excitedly, how are you and papa? Trust both of you are enjoying your retirement and not worrying about me. I am fine and will come home after a week, so don’t worry about me. People here are very accommodating and nice … I am enjoying my work.’ Before her mom could say anything else, she hung up. The parents were happy their child was doing well. Their mind was at rest.

Night drew on, a loud thunder crashed the still environment and lo! The power went off. Misha sat down dejectedly. She had hoped to cook a regular meal for herself but now she would just make herself some spicy noodles for dinner. The back- up was out of order and the emergency light and candles were out of reach. Next time she thought, she would keep things more handy for situations such as this. She got up and while she boiled some water, she felt a shadow cross the kitchen. With a start, she dropped the spoon and stood aghast. ‘Who could it possibly be?’

A cold shiver ran down her spine and drops of perspiration trickled rapidly making her tense and desperate. She decided she would pluck up her courage and talk about it to her next- door neighbor,  in the morning before she left for her office, with the hope that she would not sound stupid narrating her experiences of the last few days.

Up and ready the next day she finally boosted her courage and knocked at the next flat. A grand old gentle woman peeped through the keyhole before opening the door looking kindly at the new stranger standing tense before her. ‘Good morn aunty, sorry to disturb you, may I come in for a moment? I am Misha, your next- door neighbor.’ With a slight hesitation, the old woman nodded her head and let her in. ‘Yes come in but please be quick about whatever it is you want to say,’ she said and told her to sit down in the couch. Even as she looked around the cozily decorated amicable room, a rough voice broke the serenity of the moment. “Who is there Amelia?”  “Our new neighbor Jeff,” and saying so she silently withdrew into the room.

Misha was a bit surprised. Aunty was so adorable but Mr. Jeff… he appeared to be someone gruff and unsocial, or who would be so rude before a stranger. Anyway, she excused herself and quietly left the room as aunty said bye and locked the door behind her. Misha did not get the opportunity to narrate her weird experiences and she decided to let the matter rest for the time.

Nothing surprising happened the next few hours of the day and soon Misha forgot all about it as she immersed herself in her work. Surely, she thought she must have dreamt all the strange happenings of the last few days and felt happy with the idea that she did not trouble her parents with these ‘silly’ incidents. Happily, she reconciled to this fact and after the day’s expedition of exploring Mumbai’s ambitious spots, she lay relaxed on the soft couch and soon fell asleep. It must have been less than an hour when she felt a tender touch on her shoulder but the next moment  before she could really open her eyes, whatever/ whoever it was had vanished from her sight.

Misha was beside herself. She felt this defiance would tear her mental peace to pieces and make her a nervous wreck. She sat bolt upright like a jack in the box and decided enough was enough. She had to muster up all her strength and get to the root ‘motive’ of this fishy fluster. With goose bumps and draining inertia, she crawled out of her ‘sleep’ and tiptoed so as not to alert the intruder. She stopped near the TV cabinet as she felt she heard a mild creepy noise coming softly from behind the window curtain.  So she exclaimed to herself whoever it was had hid behind it least expecting the sleepy person to get up so soon.

Misha wondered what she should do. Perhaps the agitated person might be armed with a gun or a knife or … her mind raced in all directions giving her no respite but she had to act and act she must if she wished to have peace of mind. So she gathered up all her strength, entered the kitchen, threw open the drawer and fished out a nice long knife for self- defense… just in case she needed it. Now she felt more confident and her draining spirit rose up like an ethereal nymph. 

She stepped out as stealthily as she could and stood before the swaying curtain. “Why”, she exclaimed to herself, “the curtain did not sway before, there was no breeze and Mumbai humidity could drive anyone crazy so why this swaying now?” Whoever was hiding behind was still there waiting for an opportunity to pounce upon her. Gathering up her courage but with a trembling hand, she pulled aside the curtain and stood rooted… still. What did she behold? A jet- black cat with glittering green eyes staring into her face with a dead pigeon clutched in her paws. Misha stopped. She let the knife fall out of her hand and stared at this unpleasant sight, while there behind the TV cabinet this devil of a cat had  converted the empty space into a nice maternity home. The shadows were of course of this ghost of a cat that frightened the life out of her. All these days this cunning cat was in search of a place to litter and finally had decided this to be the safest place since there was no disturbance of people coming and going and of course must have exclaimed to her glory  ‘eureka,’ bubbling with joy like Archimedes!