A winter’s evening at my ancestral home in the village.
My cousins and I have formed a circle around the bonfire, some sitting on chairs, a few on low stools and one squatting on the ground, poking the fire. The atmosphere is convivial – my sister toasts marshmallows and the kids line up from time to time to collect their share, before scampering off again to play. The grown ups discuss their jobs, their lives and gossip about other relatives who are not present.
As I stare into the fire, and listen to the pleasant hum of voices, an image floats up from the past — of another evening, many winters ago, when we were little kids ourselves, sitting around a bonfire just like now, the smell of smoked pork in the air and the pitch blackness around us which the flames did little to dispel.
We sit in rapt attention, the fire dancing in our eyes, as our grandfather recounts tales of horror — of ghosts that paid visits to our village from time to time, particularly on dark nights such as this. We huddle closer together and clutch our blankets tighter, horrified and thrilled at the same time.
A servant walks by with a kerosene lamp that casts ominous shadows. Is that a banana tree in the distance, or a woman waiting in the dark for her dead lover, her head covered with one end of her sari? Hard to tell. The wind makes eerie noises as it whistles through the bamboo.
‘Dinner’s ready!’ – a voice calls out to us, bringing me back to the present. Any ghosts there were, have surely all disappeared in the harsh glare of electric bulbs and the noise of TV.
As we step away from the dying embers and make towards the house, I flash my torch at a banana tree in the distance, just to be sure it is not a lady, standing with her head covered, waiting for her dead lover, just like that evening many winters ago.
This post is the eighth in a series of 26 posts that I am writing throughout the month of April as part of the A to Z challenge 2016.