Saurabh and Kiara stood triumphantly in front of their newly built house, watching it with a sense of ebullience. It was actually a bungalow. Painted elegantly in pristine white, the interiors of the bungalow were a visual delight for them. The huge hall contained plush Victorian furniture. There were two bedrooms, a kitchen and a restroom adjoining the hall, each room carrying its own artistic intricacy. To the left of the hall was a flight of stairs which led to the top floor consisting of another bedroom, a small reading space and the entrance to the terrace. The elegance of the bungalow could not be explained with words. It was spacious, bringing in cool air from outside, as it was situated at the foot of Nilgiris mountain range.
“I know you had loved such artistic bungalows. That’s why I built one for you. Do you like it?” asked Saurabh. Kiara did not reply anything. Instead, she moved closer to him and kissed him on his cheek. It was her way of thanking him.
Kiara began dusting the sofas with a worn-out towel. While doing so, she picked up an old newspaper, which, according to her, wasn’t there when she had started dusting. Creasing her eyebrows, she grabbed at it.
“Saurabh, did you notice this newspaper lying here before?” she asked, flipping through the pages of the newspaper.
“I didn’t observe, Kia. It must have flown from the teapoy,” he answered, absentmindedly.
“I can accept your explanation if it was a single paper. But it’s an entire newspaper. How can it fly away from the teapoy? It defies every law in Physics.”
“Never mind. You might have not noticed properly. Why are you blowing this up into a big issue?”
“Maybe you’re right. I might have not noticed properly.” She was about to throw away the newspaper when something caught her eyes. It was a special news article named, ‘The curious case of Kashmora: the girl who was ridiculed for her unusual name’. Flailing the towel away from her shoulder, Kiara plopped down on one of the sofas and skimmed through the article.
‘Kashmora. Have you heard of her? Many people aren’t even aware that such a girl existed. She was a beautiful 19 year old girl wronged for the weirdest reason ever. It was her name that caused trouble for her, driving her to death. Yes, you read it right. She is dead. Or people have assumed her to be dead.
Kashmora was a girl from Calicut who possessed a plethora of talents. She could paint, sing and dance. But she wasn’t able to come out and showcase her talents properly, all because of her name. She was demeaned in the reality shows just because she had a name that was not acceptable by the society.
The meaning of ‘kashmora’ literally translates to an occult practice followed in many parts of India. The girl was named as Kashmora by a witch. The reason was Kashmora’s dad was also a witch who wished to name his daughter after his favorite occult practice. But he died due to brain tumor (which couldn’t be even cured by the so called ‘magic’) and Kashmora’s mother named her ‘Kashmora’. Though the name didn’t make any difference to her initially, it soon turned out to be the hot topic of humiliation. She was ashamed of herself and requested her mom to change her name. But her mom denied it, citing that she must be devoted to her ‘dead’ husband. Soon, Kashmora was diagnosed with depression.
In August 2010, Kashmora had written a letter to her mother stating that she was going to end her life. She had also added that her body would never be found. With that, she disappeared. Even after an extensive search, she was never found. The Internet also could not help in finding her or her body (if she had committed suicide). That was the end of Kashmora, a girl with unsung wishes. It has been three years since her presumed death. It is as if Kashmora had never existed. If the girl had been accepted by the society with her original name, she would have survived by now. She might also have become a celebrity. But we, as human beings, were unfair to her. It was not her name; it was we who drove her to death.
This strangely happens only in India. Ridiculing people with their names. Why can’t we just embrace the fact that people are meant to be weighed by their character and not by their name? Let’s begin to accept people for what they are and for the good qualities they possess. Let’s not degrade or discourage anyone because of their name. I hopefully pray for Kashmora’s soul to find peace in heaven. Ponder upon what I have voiced and send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.’
Astonished would be an understatement for what Kiara was experiencing at that moment. Her lemon yellow skin procured a reddish tone. Her doe-shaped eyes and her pink lips contorted into angst, thinking about the plight of poor Kashmora. Tucking some of her curls behind her ears, she placed the newspaper on the teapoy and turned to Saurabh. The broad chinned man looked at his wife with a sense of anticipation. Inquisitiveness was hovering in the space between his bushy eyebrows.
“What’s up, Kia? You have turned all sweaty.” He moved closer to her.
“Is this story true?” She pulled him to the teapoy and pointed at the article on the newspaper. He picked it up and read the complete feature.
“Ah! Yes, I have heard about her. I was all agog when I had listened to the story from my mother. I had Googled about her and found the story to be indeed true. Kashmora remains to be one of the mysteries of India. I don’t know where she is or where her body is. Well, it doesn’t matter to us. Even though we sympathize with her, we cannot do anything about it now. We…”
SLAM! The front door of the bungalow slammed violently, frightening both Saurabh and Kiara. They stood still for a few moments. The shocking aspect was that there was no wind blowing outside and even then the door had shut by itself. And what happened the next second will be the most eerie experience they would ever have. The door opened slowly, by itself. It was as if someone was turning the doorknob. As they watched in horror, the door once again slammed shut. Kiara clutched Saurabh’s shoulder and hid her face. Hot stream of tears wetted his t-shirt. Saurabh patted Kiara’s head, reassuring her.
“How did this happen?” She asked teary-eyed.
“I..I cannot figure out. Maybe the wind…”
“There is no wind. It’s sunny outside.” Kiara’s voice was shaking. Just then, a chill breeze swept past her face. It was jittering cold. She shivered for a second.
“Saurabh..Touch my cheeks!” she screamed.
Saurabh touched her cheeks and found it to be icy cold. Then he touched his own cheeks. They were intact.
“Something swept past me. It was cold..too cold!”
“Cool down, Kia!. Nothing. It’s nothing. Don’t worry.” He pulled her into a tight embrace. Soon the chillness from her cheeks dried away. The rest of the day passed by as usual.
2 AM. Kiara shuddered and woke up startled. She was perspiring profusely. She heard someone scream at a high pitch. It almost sounded like a banshee’s scream. Terrified, she opened the door and went to the hall to investigate. Her fingers moved to the switch board. She was terribly afraid of darkness. She switched the chandelier on and examined the hall. There was no one around. She entered the kitchen next, only to be met with silence. She explored the other bedroom too. But she couldn’t find the source of the scream. Maybe someone might have screamed from outside. Thinking so, she unlatched the doorknob and went to the porch. Not even a single person was at sight. The heavily designed metal gate stood strongly, blocking her view to the street. She locked the main door and entered the hall. Reaching the flight of stairs to the left of the hall, she stared at it, contemplating whether to climb up and investigate the upper bedroom. But her conscience decided the better of it. Dismissing the scream as a bad nightmare, she set foot inside ‘their’ bedroom which was right opposite to the staircase.
She tried to wake Saurabh up. But then she thought that he might get annoyed by her experiences which were childish. Slowly, she fell asleep.
The next morning, Kiara decided to speak up to her husband about her horrifying mini adventure the night before. The reason was, she found the same newspaper that carried the ‘Kashmora’ article beside their bed. Picking up the paper with trembling hands, she tugged at Saurabh who was hurriedly brushing his teeth.
“What?” He asked through the foam surrounding his mouth.
“Now what do you say to this?” She held the paper in front of his eyes.
“What about that?”
“I found this beside our bed now. How can a newspaper from the teapoy end up beside our bed?” Her tone was sarcastic.
Though Saurabh was equally horrified to hear that, he pretended to be calm and replied, “Look Kia, I think you are forgetting things. You might have placed it beside our bed.”
“Don’t ridicule my memory. I didn’t place it over there. How can you blame me?”
“See, I don’t have time to argue now. I have to go to work. Prepare the breakfast. We will discuss about this in the evening.”
Glaring at her husband, Kiara moved on to do her chores, forgetting to mention about her midnight escapade.
After having his breakfast, Saurabh noticed Kiara dressing up. “Where are you going?”
“To meet the publisher. I have completed the final draft. The manuscript is ready. I need to see my name in print as soon as possible.” She spoke all those in a single breath.
“Okay baby, go ahead. I am proud that my wife too will become an author soon. Your novel should be a bestseller like my two novels.” He cupped her cheeks as he spoke that.
“Why don’t you leave your hectic bank job and turn into a full-time novelist? It might help you in completing your third novel. We have enough money with us,” she said with genuine concern in her voice.
“I am planning to do that soon!” He assured her and started his car, offering to drop her at the publisher’s house.
Please do that soon, Saurabh. I cannot stay alone at home with terrible things happening around me. She thought to herself. For a moment, she looked back at the bungalow and her eyes registered the eerie newspaper on the porch!
The alarm clock went off at 3 AM. Saurabh rubbed his eyes and switched it off. He couldn’t remember setting the alarm. He looked at his wife who was sleeping soundly. All of a sudden, he felt extremely thirsty. He opened the door and entered the hall. As he walked towards the kitchen, he froze on his path. In the streetlight reflection which was strewn across the hall, he saw a shadow of a woman. What terrified him more was, the shadow resembled his own wife. Sweat beads broke on his forehead. He retraced his steps back to the bedroom. Switching on the light, he noticed his wife untouched, sleeping in a foetal position. Once again he went back to the hall, only to find the shadow at the same place. All the hairs in his body erected in goosebumps. And then it dawned upon him. The shadow wasn’t that of a woman at all. It just appeared to be in the shape of a woman. But it was just the shadow of the curtain at the entrance of the kitchen. The curtain’s shadow resembled like that of a woman, which appeared like Kiara’s shadow.
Saurabh was partly overjoyed. Quenching his thirst, he went back to sleep. What he missed to notice was the shadow of a woman forming in the ray of light from the kitchen, though the curtain was pulled aside!
Kiara felt the urge to throw up. She opened the attached restroom and vomited violently. To her dismay, no water flowed from the tap. She tried all the taps in all the restrooms in the ground floor, but in vain. It was midnight and she didn’t dare to wake her husband.
She switched on the staircase light and confidently climbed up. Though she dreaded the upper floor, she mustered the courage to open the bedroom. As her fingers searched for the switch board, a soft humming emanated from a corner of the room. The staircase light wasn’t enough to light up the bedroom. She made her way through the darkness to find the origin of the humming. She was sweating a lot as she advanced further inside the room. It was a larger bedroom than the others in the ground floor. She tried to speak but no words came out of her mouth.
Suddenly the darkness of the room was shattered by an ear-splitting thunder accompanied by lightning. In that fraction of a second, Kiara’s eyes made out the silhouette of a woman. She gasped in horror as her heart pumped with fear. Her breathing became faster. She tried to dash out but she couldn’t move her legs. She was almost paralyzed. There was no more lightning and the room was once again filled with darkness. Finally, she found her voice, “Who..Who are you?”
“Ha haaaa!” A shrill of devilish laughter filled the entire room.
Kiara adjusted her eyes in the darkness. But the silhouette wasn’t clear enough to reveal itself.
“You are scaring me. What do you want? Who are you?” Her entire body was trembling.
The silhouette began to emanate hushed sobs, sometimes laughing and sometimes groaning.
Kiara’s eyes brimmed with tears and she was ready to collapse at any moment. “Are you a spirit?” She put forward the question carefully.
“YES!” came the reply in a high pitch.
“What?!” Kiara hollered. “Why are you here?”
“This is my place. Get out!” The spirit’s voice was determined. A dim bluish light filled the entire room and the spirit came into display. She was a young girl, beauty personified. Her mascara lined eyes, her beautiful fluffy lips and her soft spotless cheeks were assets to die for. Wearing a black Anarkali salwar-kameez, the spirit looked like a goddess rather than a ghost. Kiara couldn’t believe her own eyes. She never knew that spirits could be ravishing. The spirit moved closer to her and stared hard into her eyes as if hypnotizing her.
“Why do you call this place as yours?” Though her rational mind screamed at her to run away from the place, she faced the ghost with some kind of renewed confidence. Maybe the appearance of the spirit looked deceptive.
“I don’t need to give explanations to you. I just want your husband and you to immediately evacuate this place.” The spirit’s voice sounded sweet.
“But this bungalow is mine! I won’t vacate it.” Kiara was aware of the consequences of behaving rudely with a spirit.
“I said LEAVE! Otherwise both of you will be trapped forever. You will be my slaves. I will take away your souls to my world. Either give me the bungalow or suffer. The choice is yours.”
Kiara fidgeted with her fingers. She turned around to move away. But the staircase was gone. There was only a hollow space behind her. It was as if there was no bungalow and she was in some kind of netherworld.
“You cannot leave this room without answering me.”
“I…I don’t know what to do. Please let me go!” The fear of losing her precious bungalow to a spirit petrified Kiara.
“Are you ready to lose your soul then?” The spirit spoke in a seductive voice as if seeking for fresh blood.
“Nooooo. By the way, who are you?”
“KASHMORA!” The spirit shrieked.
“Kash..Kashmora?! Are you the one about whom I read? Why are you here? Did you make that wretched newspaper to appear in front of me always?”
There was another screeching laugh from the spirit.
“Kia, Kia, where are you?” It was Saurabh’s voice. Kiara was relieved. Her husband was climbing up the staircase to find her. He entered the bedroom and was startled to see Kashmora, with a wicked smile pasted across her face. He had already seen her images on Google.
“This is Kashmora! What are you doing here when the entire world is searching for you?” he asked, unaware of the fact that she was a spirit. He pulled Kiara closer to him as Kashmora was engaged in her thoughts.
“I am the soul of Kashmora. My body is buried inside the ground on which this bungalow has been built. I had ended my life by burying myself. Nobody could even suspect where my body was. I thought this would remain as a wasteland forever. But I secretly hoped that someone would build a house so that my soul can haunt it. And you did it. I have no other way now. I am going to stay here and fulfill my second desire.”
“What is that?” asked Saurabh, unperturbed by the fact that he was facing a ghost.
“I wouldn’t tell that to you. I am sure that you would exorcise me if I tell you about it. Now, just leave this bungalow as it is. I am going to haunt this place.”
“Look! We cannot do that. But I can offer a part of this bungalow to you. The entire upper floor is yours. You can haunt it how much ever you want. We’ll seal the entrance of the staircase and we’ll never disturb you. We are writers. Once we finish our work, I assure you, we’ll leave this bungalow immediately. Do you accept to this?” Saurabh put forth his idea. Though his entire body was shaking, he tried to negotiate with the spirit. He couldn’t afford to lose the precious bungalow which was a gift for his wife.
Kiara swayed from his grip and sent a tight slap across his face. “Are you nuts? How can we live along with a spirit in our house?” she yelled.
“Understand me, Kia. There is no way out of this mess. We have invited trouble. We shouldn’t have built this bungalow here. While the construction was going on, one of our workers complained of a rusting manhole lid. It was I who told them to ignore it and continue building. But I didn’t even have a faint idea that a girl might have buried herself under it. Trust me Kia, Kashmora is a good spirit. She wouldn’t disturb us. When she lived, she was wronged for her name. Let her at least achieve peace as a wandering soul.” Though Saurabh made sense, Kiara reluctantly nodded her head.
Kashmora held an evil smile. Yes, at least a part of this bungalow is mine now. My first desire is achieved. Right after that, she disappeared. The dim bluish light also vanished. The husband-wife duo found themselves in the hall, surrounded my aromatic candles and a writing on the wall which read, “Thank you”.
As promised, the entrance to the staircase was sealed. Saurabh and Kiara revealed the presence of Kashmora’s spirit to the entire world through press and social media. Though people did not completely believe their tale, they were convinced up to an extent. Once again, Kashmora became viral news in India. People began to feel sympathetic for her. Those who visited the bungalow, stayed away from the staircase. They did not feel the presence of any spirit in the other parts of the house.
Soon, Saurabh and Kiara published their respective novels and vacated the bungalow. A ‘To let’ board was hung with a large paragraph of warning. But for a year, there were no takers for the bungalow. It was deserted and it really resembled a haunted bungalow.
“You can stay as long as you want. But make sure that you don’t break the chain and climb the staircase,” warned Kiara, with a three month old baby in her hand.
“I wouldn’t do that! I am also an artist. I am here to find some solitude and paint pictures. I wouldn’t go around exploring for spirits,” replied Shaan, the very first tenant to the bungalow which was unanimously named as ‘Kashmora’s Bungalow’.
“Well, it’s good for you. You’re young and you might be eager to investigate such things. But Kashmora is dangerous. Though she is good, she wants to be left alone. You must not disturb her. This place is popular to be termed as a partly haunted bungalow. Don’t turn it into a completely haunted bungalow. We had invested lots of pain and sweat in constructing this one. But we chose the wrong place. Yet this bungalow is precious to us!” Kiara’s stern remarks registered deeply inside Shaan’s mind. He was a 25 year old professional painting artist. He was handsome, with a creamish skin, well chiseled muscles and perfectly aligned teeth.
“I promise you I’ll take care of your bungalow as my own house.”
With a satisfied smile, Kiara handed a bunch of keys to him and left the place. Shaan picked up his belongings and entered the bungalow. The untroubled part of the house was well maintained and whitewashed. He arranged some needed furniture in the hall and occupied the bedroom opposite to the forbidden staircase. He wasn’t a believer of the paranormal yet he maintained a distance from the staircase. It had acquired cobwebs, providing it an abandoned look.
Soon, the news of Shaan moving in ‘Kashmora’s Bungalow’ went viral. He was constantly questioned about his stay in the bungalow. Many were surprised to find him unscathed. Many were even jealous to see him leading a posh life in an expensive house which was ‘partly’ haunted. His activities were normal. He would buy milk in the morning, visit the nearby park for an exercise regime, prepare breakfast and find a corner in his bedroom to paint. Sometimes he would visit art exhibitions, sell his paintings and earn a lot of money. People admired him for his guts to live in a haunted bungalow.
Saurabh and Kiara were in an astrologer’s house. They had come to inquire about their well being and also about their bungalow. The astrologer consulted some papers, books and drew charts that made no sense. He studied them deeply, his eyes displaying various kinds of expressions. After fifteen minutes, he looked up to face them.
“This is a very good time for both of you. You have given birth to a baby girl. She will surely bring joy and happiness in your family. It would be better that you don’t visit your bungalow often. Though there are no negative energies in the undisturbed part of the bungalow, you might leave your negative thoughts in that part which might attract those energies. Right now, the tenant in the bungalow is leading a happy life. He doesn’t even have a vague idea of visiting the haunted part. So, I am sure that the bungalow would remain serene. As for the spirit Kashmora, my prediction tells that she dwells there still. Her first desire was a house to be constructed upon the soil in which she buried herself. Though the native place of her soul is the netherworld, she prefers the bungalow for time being. She is eagerly waiting for her second wish to be achieved. Do you know about it?”
They feigned ignorance and the astrologer continued, “Well, I cannot speak about the unsettled wishes of spirits. I will write about it in this paper. It’s very dangerous. Kashmora is determined to achieve her second desire. She is eagerly looking for potholes that would lead her to success. You must be careful about it. Warn your new tenant as soon as possible.” Saying so, the astrologer wrote a few sentences on the paper and handed it to them.
After reading what was written, Saurabh and Kiara exchanged anxious glances. They paid the astrologer and left the place.
Shaan gulped down one more glass of vodka. He was already drunk, having had four shots. He was blabbering to a hot chick seated beside him.
“I am gonna do the unwanted today…” he trailed off.
“What’s that?” the blond questioned.
“I am gonna meet her. Her…her…” He seemed to pass out. The blond called an escort and directed him to drop Shaan at his house.
Inside the bungalow, Shaan was lying down in the hall, singing songs. His eyes were red with tears. Never once had he consumed too much alcohol. But that night, it was different. He tapped his feet and clapped his hands. He made funny noises with his voice and even mimicked many actors. He felt that he was his own companion, though the darkness of the bungalow accompanied him. He was too much drunk to even switch on the lights.
All of a sudden, he stood up. He did something which he had dreaded doing for the past six months. He slowly marched towards the chained staircase. He looked up. Though his vision was blurry, his eyes could make out the numerous cobwebs that adorned the once beautiful staircase. He clutched the chain tightly with his right hand and yelled, “Are you there Kashmora?!” His voice echoed throughout the bungalow. There was no reaction.
He started pulling the chain with all his might. He gritted his teeth and kept pulling it. “I won’t believe anything. You are not there Kashmora. I am coming…I am coming…” Turned into a complete drunkard, he forgot about all the promises he had made to Kiara.
After a long struggle, the chain gave away. Shaan was overjoyed. He removed all the cobwebs as he climbed the staircase. Like a child moving towards a candy shop, he was moving towards the bedroom that presumably housed Kashmora’s spirit. He disappeared inside the room.
Police vans surrounded the bungalow. The officers were clicking photos around the dead body. A ‘Do Not Enter. Crime Scene’ tag was tied all around the bungalow. Saurabh and Kiara stood silently as they watched Shaan’s body being taken in an ambulance. His mom was crying inconsolably.
“Move aside, madam. We need to take the body for postmortem,” said a police officer.
Kiara joined her husband who was inspecting the bungalow along with an exorcist.
“The postmortem cannot answer anything. There are no injury marks or any signs of struggle in his body. It’s clear that he had an unnatural death,” remarked Saurabh. Kiara nodded her head and rushed to the upper bedroom to investigate its condition. The room seemed to be in good order with no trace of a spirit’s reign. She alighted and met the exorcist who had a toothy grin on his face.
“There’s some good news for both of you. There are no more spirits in this bungalow. You can even use the upper floor. You can completely live a peaceful life here.”
“Thank you!” The couple chorused in unison.
As the exorcist left the house, they were engulfed by sadness. They exchanged glances of remorse. They could have warned Shaan. They could have at least tried to trace his location and warned him in person, if he wouldn’t attend their calls. They had committed a terrible blunder. They could have saved him from Kashmora.
What Shaan did not know was the second desire of Kashmora. During her days, she was never loved by any guy due to her name. She was rejected by everyone. After she departed from the world, her soul deeply desired for two things: a dwelling place and a male soul to accompany her to the netherworld. Her second desire was so deep that she always wished Shaan to unchain the staircase. And it happened!
Kiara drove the car to the bungalow. She had a few things to be rearranged before moving in completely. She whistled a happy tune to herself, relieved that her lovely bungalow was all hers finally. As she entered the street, she was met with just an abandoned wasteland. The bungalow was…..GONE! It had vanished into thin air. There was no rubble to prove that it had been destroyed. It was as if the bungalow was never constructed in the first place. At that moment, Kiara wished she had never left the bungalow after Shaan’s soul departure. She wished she had a time travel machine along with her. Her eyes filled with tears as she looked around the wasteland. She wished she could find at least a stone that was used to build the bungalow. But she couldn’t find even a single brick. She immediately called up Saurabh and conveyed the news.
As soon as she hung up, her eyes caught something half buried in the soil. It was a paper. She picked it up. A few lines were written on it.
“I loved your bungalow very much. That’s why I have taken it along with me to my world. Now I can live peacefully with Shaan. You know, it was my third desire. To take away the bungalow to my world. And I forgot to tell you something important. If it wasn’t Shaan, it would have been your poor husband Saurabh’s soul. Wondering, eh? It was you who saved him by climbing the staircase first. If it was he who had climbed up, I would have taken away his soul. I had almost fallen in love with him while haunting you with paranormal activities. Though I am happy with Shaan, I wished I had something that reminded me of Saurabh. That’s why I took away your ‘precious’ bungalow, a gift from your husband. Now live happily. Don’t worry, I won’t come for him. Hope you lead a good life on Earth.