What do you say when the usual calm that you feel at a place turns to stillness of an eerie kind and the air itself seems unwelcoming, whispering us to leave?!
It was 10PM on Saturday night, and we were sauntering in the woods around Mehrauli, just beyond the Qutub Minar Complex. The setting had the perfect ingredients of a horror movie; trees (many barren), tombstones, darkness except a faint glimmer cast by the hazy moon, heaviness in the air, hushed conversations of the group of more than 30 walkers (men, women and children) that are cut off abruptly now and then by the hoot of an owl, the cracked, shrill shriek of a peacock or the distant howls of dogs. But it wasn’t just the setting, there was more to it…
The man leading the group, my team-mate Asif, suddenly asked everybody to take a breather, and started walking towards the back of the group, where I was bringing up the rear. Moments back I had slipped and fallen and sprained my ankle, and was now trailing the group by a few yards because of my limp.
Asif came towards me quietly and held me by my arm to support my limping frame and then said the words which I had been dreading since we began our night walk at 8 pm. He said, “Ramit bhaiya, aaj kuch hai yahaan par, I can feel it.” And I respect what he says about things beyond our worldly comprehension. A student of history, he has also spent and honed his learning about the mystic arts, Sufis, Tantriks and Fakirs.
I had been getting that feeling for quite some time too. And it grew stronger when I slipped and hurt my foot. I have probably walked those paths a thousand times both during the day and night. We, Asif and me, know it like the back of our hands and can almost find our way through the jungles blindfolded. It is one of our favourite hideouts in the city – we come here whenever we feel the need for some calm and spiritual peace away from the madding crowds.
And yet I slipped on the paths best known to me inside the Mehrauli Archaeological Park. I was puzzled. And it had started bothering Asif too for the past 10 mins since I fell.
As our walk was a ‘Ghostly Night and Shadows Walk’, naturally some of the participants asked me when I fell if ‘I had felt someone push me’!! I had laughed the matter off and just continued with our walk as it definitely was not the case. No ghost had pushed me!
But the fall made me think. I didn’t want to scare any of the participants. But Asif’s words “Ramit bhaiya, aaj kuch hai yahaan par, I can feel it” made me even more alert and a wee bit wary of continuing the walk any further.
Me and Asif both also agreed that from the time when we entered the forest area around 8:30PM, the usually breezy environs of the park, seemed to have suddenly become dead. The air hung heavy. Not a leaf moved. We had never ever felt such an oppressive ambience inside the Mehrauli Archaelogical Park. Ever. Rain or Shine. Winter or Summer.
Was it that the souls of the hundreds who have been buried here, including the Sultans like Balban were asking us to leave? Were these signs to tell us, the walk leaders of this quest for Ghosts, that we had overstayed our welcome for the evening?
We thought so, and therefore without alarming our participants we called it a day. We walked all of us out leaving those long-lost tales of ghosts of Dilli behind us…with a silent prayer on our lips thanking the good Djinns and Spirits that all our participants were feeling fine even though Asif and I felt totally drained out by the end of the walk. Not physically. But mentally.