“Daddyma, do you know of any ghosts?” asked Nina
Nina’s grandma propped herself on her cottony white pillow and turned around to look at Nina.
“Have met a couple of them in my days,” she said rolling her eyes.
Nina sat up excitedly, her eyes wide. She cuddled up next to her daddyma.
“Tell me! Tell me!” Nina pressed.
Daddyma cleared her throat.
“When your father was around 10, that’s your age, every summer we used to drive down from Bombay to Madras…”
“Was grandpa also there then?” Nina interrupted.
“Yes dear. Your grandpa passed away when your Papa was in college. This happened a number of years before that. Now where was I?”
“You used to drive down from Bombay to Madras. Every summer.”
“Yes. Yes. Your papa, Grandpa, the driver, the nanny and I . It was a long drive, nearly three to four days and we had to stop at this motel for the night.”
“That’s where you met the ghost?”
“It haunted your room?”
“Not exactly. Grandpa and I didn’t sleep in our room. I spotted a cockroach under the bed and you know how terrified I’m of those creatures.”
Daddyma shuddered and then continued, “I insisted that we sleep in the hallway. So we pulled out all the bedding and camped outside our room.”
“All of you fit there? Must have been a big place”
“No, no, no. Only grandpa and I slept there. Your papa and the nanny were in a different room and the driver slept in the car. I couldn’t get any sleep wondering if there were cockroaches crawling around in the hallway. That’s when I heard it.”
“What? The ghost?” asked Nina, her grip on her grandma’s hand tightened.
“Hmm. But I didn’t know it was a ghost. I heard footsteps coming up the wooden stairs and thought it was some other guest at the motel. Then my toes felt wet. I opened my eyes and I saw a man standing over me, clad in a swimsuit, his wet towel hanging from his arm and the water was dripping on my feet. I jumped up to my feet wondering what it was he wanted with us.”
“ ‘I think you’re occupying my room,’ he said in a heavy British accent.”
“ ‘I think you’re mistaken. This room was vacant when we moved in. Perhaps, it’s another room you are looking for.’ I offered.”
“ ‘Is this room number 301?,’ he said gruffly”
“ ‘Yes,’ I said.”
“ ‘Then it’s my room,’ he growled.”
“ ‘I think there has been some mix- up mister…?’”
“ ‘Harris. George Harris.’”
“ ‘Mrs. Menon,’ I said and stuck out my hand.”
“Mr. Harris shirked away and said menacingly, ‘ I don’t shake hands with dirty Indians’.”
“My blood boiled and if he weren’t taller than I and not half as well built I would have punched him in the face.”
“Daddyma!” said Nina disbelievingly. She couldn’t imagine her frail little grandma smacking an Englishman.
“ Anyway, he kept insisting that it was his room and I insisted that it was not and told him to take it up with the manager- if he was awake. I then heard him muttering and thumping his way down the steps. That was the last I saw of him.”
“How did you know he was a ghost?” asked Nina.
“ The next morning we asked the manager about it and he said there was no one by that name staying at the motel. Grandpa said I must have dreamt about it but I was pretty sure I didn’t. I asked the staff to look up their guest books and later that day they found his name in a very old guest book. He stayed there during the Indian freedom struggle and was shot by an Indian in room number 301.”