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This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 15; the fifteenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.
It was a lazy Sunday afternoon as Vikrant deboarded the Uttar-Dakshin Express. Despite the one day long journey, there wasn’t a trace of laziness in his stride as he marched towards the exit. He was beaming from within with an odd mix of anxiousness for what awaited in his new assignment.
One could easily make out from his demeanour that this was a man of strong will and he had established himself as one, fighting the hardened criminals in his last posting as an Assistant Superintendent of Police.
Lalitgarh was a new place and he had a new position to take over. He was joining its police department as Superintendent of Police, having climbed the rung much faster than others.
He had just moved some paces when he got thronged by a dozen men with garlands in their hands. It took him about half an hour to get through the sycophants and their hollow pleasantries before he could move to the awaiting car.
As the car moved towards the officer’s guest house, Vikrant was surprised to see the railway station, he had seen just a few kilometres before his journey to Lalitgarh had ended. When he had seen it just about an hour ago, he was amazed by the beautiful architecture. It was reminiscent of the British era, something that he had only seen in the cities of Mumbai and Kolkatta.
“How come we have such a beautiful station in this remote district?” he asked his subordinate.
“Sir, this is Herbert Station. It was commissioned by the Nawab in the early 20th century and designed by the British architect Sir Herbert Manning,” he replied.
“Well, that is interesting. But then how come it is deserted and I had to deboard at that shanty of a station in the outskirts of the city instead of here?”
At that instance, the driver chipped in nervously, “Sirji, there is a long story behind it. Let us pass through this area. I’ll share it with you later.”
Vikrant had been in the district for a week when he decided to make a surprise visit to some distilleries in the outskirts of the city. It was then that he saw the Herbert Station again and all of a sudden all those unanswered questions sprung up again.
“Listen Raju, you never told me the story behind this deserted station,” he asked his driver.
“Sirji, its inauspicious to tell such a tale at the very place where it all has happened,” replied the driver, again trying to steer clear of the issue.
However, Vikrant wouldn’t take a no for an answer and asked again with a hint of anger in his tone.
Raju had to relent but only when they had driven past the station.
“Sirji, as DSP sahib told you that day, this station was designed by a British. He was paid heavily by the Nawab and hence, he took great care in its construction too. On the ill-fated day of the inauguration, among the entire hullabaloo, the man of the day, Sir Herbert slipped from the platform. He fell on the tracks, his head hitting hard on the steel frame. Despite the best possible medical attention of the time, he lost his eye sight due to this incident.”
“Oh, that is sad. So, this station never got inaugurated. Such a waste,” commented Vikrant empathically.
“No, sirji. That’s not the issue. The Railway Station was fully functional after that day. However, after this mishap, Sir Herbert became very reclusive. He never went back to Britain. On his request, Nawab arranged for his stay at a luxurious cottage near the station itself. One day, his caretaker, found him dead at his cottage. He had consumed some poisonous herbs. It was a suicide or yet another misfortune, no one could tell. He is buried just next to that cottage behind the railway station.”
“Ah, so that’s when this railway station was abandoned. I don’t think such a great artist would have wanted his creation to be deserted like this.”
“Sirji, even that’s not an issue. In fact, it was after this incident that the station got its name in memory of that man. No one even knew about this story until about ten years back. It was then that the first incident occurred.”
“What incident?” blurted Vikrant in a jiffy.
“It was a morning after the full moon. Just a day before that, the proposal for the renovation of the station was passed by the administration. It was then, that the Station Master’s body was found on the platform. His eyes had been gouged out mercilessly. The autopsy showed that he died of poisoning. Many investigations were carried out but no trace to the perpetrator could be found.”
“Oh, that’s terrible. What happened then?” he coaxed, fully engrossed in the story.
“Before the people could forget this incident, another body was found in the same condition. It was then that people started talking about paranormal explanation behind these happenings. The local newspaper came out with an article about Sir Herbert and gradually, a link was established between his misfortune and these deaths.”
“So, you mean to say, it is the angry ghost of Sir Herbert that is doing all this. What nonsense?”
“Sirji, there can’t be any other explanation. Till now about a dozen people have died; their desecrated bodies found on the platform by the drivers of the passing trains. People have heard noises, they claim they have seen things. After another couple of incidents, even the station was abandoned and the new make-shift station was built.”
“What about the investigations. Couldn’t they find even a single clue in all these years?”
“Sirji, one of the victim was an investigating CID official himself. There are things for which there can be no practical answer, you see. You may not believe in these things sirji, but remember, there is a big vacant space beyond our individual beliefs. Who or what resides in that void, no one can tell.”
Vikrant was pretty uneasy that evening. He had taken the customary shower and a drink upon returning from work. Usually, he just watched some news and waited for the dinner to be served. However, today he decided to go out for a jog. Maybe, a little fresh air will lighten me up, he thought. He decided not to go too far, the sky being cloudy; but lost in his own thoughts and jogging to the tune of the cool breeze, he didn’t realise how far he had jogged to.
It was then, that he saw that railway station again. It was across the fields with thick vegetation growing all around it. However, despite the dimming light, it looked magnificent. Someone else would have called it haunted, but at that moment he was just mesmerised by it.
It reminded him of his visits to his paternal village. There used to be a beautiful mansion there which was rumoured to be haunted. He always loved walking by it in the evenings while his cousins steered clear. It was only as he grew up, he realised, the mansion belonged to a rich influential family which now resided in the city and all the stories were just cooked up by the elders to keep the children away from it.
Suddenly, he had an urge to take a closer look. Aided by the full moon’s light, filtered and scattered through the clouds, he moved towards the station.
When, he had heard the story about Herbert’s ghost in the morning, he had been amused. If I meet this guy, I’ll surely compliment him for this beautiful architecture, he chuckled.
Upon reaching the station, he crossed the railway tracks and climbed onto the platform. He started walking on the platform enjoying the cool breeze and singing some old melodious song. It brought back the memories of his minor halt at another station while going on a trip with his college friends. They ended up making the life of other waiting passengers, a hell by playing antakshari whole through the night till the connecting train finally arrived around dawn.
Vikrant decided to enter the central hall which led to the main entrance and the exit. However, upon taking a glance, he realised there was no point exploring it as it was too dark inside. So he decided to go around by climbing a small wall which extended for some yards beyond the main structure.
Just as he jumped onto the other side, he could see a cottage on his far right. One could easily sense on seeing the courtyard that it had not been mowed since years. He got all the more excited on seeing a grave just next to the cottage. Though apprehensive at first due to the fear of any snake or scorpions, he decided to go and have a closer look.
Vikrant had always been adventurous. It was this love for adventure that made him opt for IPS instead of IAS despite the grander status associated with the latter. He couldn’t see himself stuck with the files in an air-conditioned office. He always wanted to have a slice of the real action.
Just as he reached closer, he heard some ruffled noises. It made him freeze in his tracks. Upon concentrating, he realised they were coming from the wall behind the cottage. He moved towards it cautiously trying to find a spot from where he could see through.
Finally, he found a crevice in the wall and peeped through. It was pretty dark and he found nothing suspicious. It must have been some animal, he thought. Just as he was about to turn back, his eye caught something odd. For a moment, he didn’t realise what was happening. However, it just took some seconds to realise what lay in front of him across the bricked wall.
He stood there stunned. A drop of sweat slipped down his forehead as he reached for his revolver that was tucked in the holster below his tee. Usually, he never carried it during his morning exercises but it being evening, he had decided to keep it handy. However, standing there, he wasn’t even sure if he was relieved to have it.
There was obviously something sinister about this place. How else would one explain such stories, he thought. How could he be so naive? All this police training and on the job action and this is what I get stuck into, he cursed himself. Adventure was one thing but acting like a jerk, a different. He knew he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. He had to make his move quickly and quietly. He couldn’t just keep standing there. It was too dangerous.
He loosened his grip on the revolver and turned back. Concentrating hard on his track in the dark, he moved back slowly through the courtyard towards the wall. He was relieved that the overgrowth was cushioning any noise that his footsteps were making.
Despite the soup he got himself into, he humoured himself with the instance when he had walked unannounced into his elder brother’s bedroom while he was busy watching porn in the dark. He had tip-toed across the room to pick up his comics and moved back so stealthily that his brother didn’t have a chance to realise his presence.
Tip-toeing through the courtyard, Vikrant finally reached back to the wall adjoining the platform. Just as he tried to climb it, his foot gave away its grip and he fell down hard on his back.
Despite the heavy rains that had drenched Lalitgarh over the night, there was a lot of hustle and bustle around. For those who were surprised to see a sudden rush of police jeeps and other vehicles, the picture got clear as the evening newspaper reached their doorsteps.
It carried the following headlines.
Herbert Ghost strikes again - Body of new SP found with eyes missing.
The people were terrified upon looking at the picture that accompanied it. It took another month or two for normalcy to return to Lalitgarh. Investigations were held but as usual nothing suspicious was found. Meanwhile, the local community got a new tale to add to the existing tales of the haunted station. Vikrant, the illustrious police officer got reduced to a vignette in these never ending tales.
And yet again, the mystery of the deserted station remained a mystery.
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