A visit from the dead

Sudha heard the pattering of her husband’s footsteps on the stairs before the door burst opened.   

“Sudha, I’m home,” Sudhir hollered from the hallway and scampered off to shower.  

Sudha’s eyes sparkled, and her cheeks dimpled.  

It was her husband’s monthly weekend off, and as always, he had boarded an overnight bus from Delhi to reach their hometown.  

She put the cardamom and tea leaves to brew and felt a rush of joy as she thought about the plans for the evening.  

 The phone at the end of the hallway broke her reverie. It was Brijesh, Sudhir’s workmate from Delhi.  

“Bhabhiji… the bus carrying Sudhir crashed into a river after falling off a bridge today morning. All the passengers, including the driver, were killed on the spot.” Brijesh inhaled sharply.  

“I can still see Sudhir waving at me, as he mounted that ill-fated bus.” Brijesh’s voice cracked and caught in his throat. 

Sudha’s heart pounded as if ready to explode. She felt her breath sucked out of her body, and the room swirled around her.  

****  

She was in her bed with Sudhir sitting next to her; his eyes fixed at something outside the window.  

Brijesh’s words echoed in her head. It meant Sudhir was d-dead.  

Fear flooded through her being, and her mouth went dry.  

She gawked at his face, and something melted inside her. He had risen from the dead, for her, for her love.  

Her eyes seared as she held back her tears. Her brain quickly assimilated the low-down it had gathered from the books and movies over the years about ghosts.  

Maybe he had no clue about his death, as was usually the case, she speculated.   

Oh, she couldn’t let him know, so soon. 

She hastily pushed a stool underneath his feet and rearranged the mirror, lest he noticed his feet dangling above the ground and his absent reflection. However, her primary focus was not to touch him; she didn’t want him deliquescing into a rush of the white blur just as yet, which she knew happened when the deceased progressed to higher realms.  

A babble of voices suddenly made her jump out of her skin. She swiveled around; Sudhir had flicked on the TV.  

The news of the accident was all over the local channels.  

Dread gnawed at her insides as she threw him a glance. He had turned ashen.  

*****  

“Brijesh had already left when I noticed the nankhatai wallah. I remembered how much you relish them, so I debarked from the bus for them.   

“As the driver was reluctant to wait, so I boarded the next bus. Your nankhatai brought me back, Sudha.” Sudhir exclaimed as he drew her towards him.   

He wiped away her tears and continued, “And… even if I had died, I would’ve come back to haunt you forever.”  

“These wacky movies have unbridled your madcap imagination.” Sudha murmured amidst her sobs.  

A classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, eh?
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Glossary
Bhabjiji(Hindi)- sister in law
Nankhatai-(Hindi)-shortbread biscuits
Wallah(Hindi)- seller
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Supriya Bansal
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