The Pappuparai bungalow had many more adventures awaiting me that evening. As I looked around me in the candle’s flickering light, I could hear hubby calling out to someone. Within minutes, I heard a generator start and suddenly the room was lit up! I could hear voices outside and was relieved to know there were people around us. Thank heavens, I thought, for little mercies.
A strange welcome
Meanwhile, I noticed a gift box, beautifully wrapped up, sitting on a table in what I assumed was the living room. I walked up to it excitedly and tore open the wrapping. Hubby walked in at the same time and together we opened our first wedding gift in our new house. I almost screamed in terror when I saw what was inside – a bunch of stinking rotten bones. I snapped the box shut and ran towards the washroom. A worried hubby followed right behind and opened the door for me. When he switched on the lights, I really did scream out loud! There was blood everywhere I looked. On the window sill was a fierce looking dagger, blood dripping from it all along the wall.
I was about to faint when I heard loud laughter. Terrified, I walked out of the room, wondering what was coming next. But to my huge relief I saw humans – normal ones just like me. I was still in a daze when they greeted me and I realised it was them who were behind the whole macabre scene. Apologies and introductions ensued and soon there was laughter all around. And thus, began some of the most enduring friendships of my life! Till date, they hold a very special place in my heart and I love them all dearly.
On a path to self-discovery
Over the next few days, I found myself exploring the unfamiliar territory of our bungalow, and its surroundings. To my surprise, I found I took to it all like a duck takes to water! I simply loved the bungalow, the beautiful garden around it and the wonderful staff who made me feel so comfortable.
What followed were some of the most blissful days of my life. But I must stress on the word ‘days’ here. All this heady blissfulness seemed to disappear with the setting sun. As darkness fell, all I could hear was the echo of whispering voices and the sound of footsteps along the long corridor leading into the kitchen. All I saw were fleeting shadows dancing in the moonlight, which seemed to take on horrific shapes.
This went on for quite a while until hubby had had enough and went ranting and raving down that very corridor to the kitchen to give an earful to the staff. There was no mention of the perpetually sad English lady or the dog that had disappeared into thin air after that. From then on, life settled down to a much calmer routine. I did, however, ensure that every single curtain was drawn when came evening came. The curtains would be drawn tight to not reveal even the slightest of gaps anywhere.
A Glittering Haven in the Dark!
The spookiness was not all that remains etched in my memories of Ambadi nights. I often think of the beautiful evenings when hubby would return from work and insist on taking me for a ride on his motorcycle. And as we rode downhill along those winding roads, I would see the most amazing sights. For spread across the hills were millions of fireflies making me believe, for a few precious seconds, that I was floating in the skies amid a billion stars.
It was a vision that surpassed anything I had ever seen before! We would stand there in silence looking around spellbound. Words couldn’t really describe what it felt like, standing there amid those twinkling stars in the darkness. In fact, this particular memory was the inspiration behind some of my favourite lines from among all that I have ever written.
“I saw the stars
sparkling like jewels in the sky,
I longed to grab a handful
and scatter them on land
to create a glittering haven on earth”
Memories for a lifetime
This bungalow shall remain forever special in my heart because it holds the most precious memories of my bundle of joy, who now stands six feet two inches tall. The creepy shadows and footsteps all were forgotten in the pitter-patter of his chubby little feet and innocent laughter. He had the most wonderful time as a toddler there with the most loving people pampering him. And of course, his dogs, ducks, chicken, love birds and gold fish thrilled him to bits, although he may have no recollection of any of it today.
The transition from the rubber plantations in Kanyakumari to the beautiful tea estates of Valparai in the Anamalai hills were a welcome transition. The charm and beauty of the plantations is best experienced amid the sprawling, beautiful and fragrant tea gardens. And the tales of ghostly sightings always are more prolific and even more terrifying! But that is another long and enticing story to be told on another day. A story that will eventually venture across oceans into the African shores.
All in good time though!