It was sometime in 2002-03, if I remember correctly. I’d applied for a course at TISS, Mumbai and had travelled to the city from Nagpur. My first solo trip to a place unknown.
So I reached Bombay in the afternoon, and by the time I reached TISS campus the sun was about to set. All those who were appearing for the different exams and discussions were to stay in the various hostels. It was summer vacation in the college, so the hostels were more or less empty. The campus suddenly dropped its deserted look and was abuzz with activity again. We were given our rooms and I went to mine. Two girls were to share a room and my roommate had not arrived. I asked, and was told that she will arrive the next morning. Okay, cool.
On the first night, I mingled with the other girls who were staying in that particular hostel. For dinner, we went downstairs and to the mess building where we met girls from other hostels and the guys. We became friends quite quickly because that’s what young people do and we were all there for a similar purpose so the bonding was quite natural.
After dinner, we strolled around the campus. There was a pay phone outside the mess and most of us took time to call home and report. Now anybody who has been to TISS, would know that it is an extremely forested area apart from the buildings, the quarters and other facilities, the entire campus is filled with huge large trees and it is a beautiful place at night. Since monsoon had set in, the entire campus was wet, green and gorgeous.
By 11, we all went to our rooms to sleep. The next day was to be an important one and we all decided we should rest. I went to mine and while entering my room, I noticed that the far-end of the corridor was open. No grills or anything, and though we were on the first floor, anybody could come in through that side too. Downstairs, the building was guarded with security and collapsible gates. Funny, I thought.
Once inside the room, I changed and got ready to sleep. Outside the room was a small verandah next to which, almost touching the veranda was a huge banyan tree. I stood by the door of the verandah for a while, wondering if snakes would climb up – since it was monsoon!
A while later, I switched off the lights and went off to sleep. I slept like a baby despite having this problem where I never can get proper sleep on the first night at a strange bed. I woke up at 7 the next morning and some time later, my room mate arrived. We were appearing for exams of the same course and we hit it off almost immediately. The rest of the day went in sitting for the exam and them in the second half of the day, we had our group discussions.
In the evening, I went out with a friend for a while and came back by dinner time. We all, girls from the hostel I was staying in, had our dinner together, strolled around the campus for a while and went upstairs to our rooms. Few other girls came to our room and we started chatting. Groups had formed in other rooms as well and one could hear bursts of laughters from the rooms at regular intervals.
That night, we went to sleep around 2. The other girls had left a little before, and my roommate & I lay in our own beds talking for a while until we dosed off. The room was very small, to be honest. The door was in the center and it opened to two single beds on either sides of the room, touching the wall. After the beds were one study table each and then the windows. That’s it. Cupboards were outside the rooms, lined across the corridor. There was a common bathroom at the beginning of the corridor.
Now I have this habit of sleeping on my stomach. Some time in the middle of the night, I don’t know for how long I’d been asleep, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I am getting goosebumps even as I write this. It’s been 15 years and even remembering that night gives me the shivers. So, someone tapped me on my right shoulder. Assuming it is my roommate I looked up. Only it was this lady, a very familiar looking lady whom I couldn’t locate back then, standing there. She was slightly hunched towards me, since she had just tapped my shoulder. Her hair was jet black and straight. She herself was fair skinned and had a serene smile on her face.
I suddenly felt a jerk. Her left hand was on the center of my back and with some weird magnetic energy, she was pulling my body up. I looked back again and I noticed my body was firmly on the bed. Yet my body was moving up. I screamed loud with ALL my might. I used every bit of voice I had in me to scream. Suddenly there was another scream and the light of my room switched on. It was my roommate, woken up scared. She was screaming too, scared, and had somehow managed to switch the light on – the switch was right above her bed.
We both screamed for a while more and somehow registered our surrounding before we calmed down to catch breath. We looked around. The door to the verandah was open. We both knew it was not open when we went to sleep – both its clasps had been shut. But it was open now. She ran out to see if someone was there. But no one was and the empty, forest-y campus was silent. She came in and locked the door. It was 4:45am. We sat there talking until day break, because we couldn’t dare close our eyes. I kept recounting every minute detail to my roommate over and over, and nothing changed. There was nothing that I noticed later, as an after thought.
On the hindsight, I’ve always felt that whoever or whatever it was, had been trying to extract my soul from my body and I’d screamed myself into living that night. In years after that, I’d read a lot about this condition but I am not sure what exactly it was. Something similar happened again last year, on a day I was very happy and sleeping in a room I’d slept once or twice before. I’ll keep that for another day, maybe. Or maybe not, because remembering (and then writing) these incidents give me anxiety attacks and I am not sure how well I will be sleeping tonight!
The next day, when my roommate and I were discussing what to tell the others if they ask about the scream, we discovered one surprising thing.
Nobody else in our hostel had heard our blood curdling screams. Nobody.
AND, IT WAS ONE OF THE FEATURED POSTS – July 24!