The Haveli

The Haveli

The gushing Netravati river winding its way through the lush green paddy fields, the towering coconut palms made Mayapur appear to be picturesquely beautiful village at the foothills of the Western Ghats.

It never failed to mesmerise new visitors -until they heard the tale of the ‘haveli’.

The three-storeyed mansion that stood nestled among mango and jackfruit trees. Rumour had it that decades ago a young woman was burnt alive by her own husband who suspected her of infidelity.

Tales of her unparalleled beauty were often heard.  The widowed village lord who saw her on one of his travels was smitten by her goddess-like beauty. Her father who was an impoverished farmer had gladly given her away in marriage to the man old enough to be her father. Her pleas had fallen on deaf ears.

No one dared to venture within a hundred feet of the once majestic iron gates of the haveli, now rusted and creaky with years of neglect.

Once in a blue moon, a non-believer passing by had pooh-poohed such talk as mumbo jumbo and fearlessly ventured inside with superheroic display of bravery. Every time, this happened her blood-curdling laughter was heard, followed by horrified screams.

Years ago the head priest of the Kali temple had sealed the gate with sacred ash that kept her confined within the four walls of her abode.

Sumedh who worked at the local bank was new in the village. He had recently been transferred from Bangalore and was still getting accustomed to village life. Being a bachelor, he missed his friends and the vibrant city life.

It was a Sunday and he was bored to death. When a neighbour told him about the haveli,  he thought he found the perfect medicine to cure his boredom.

He was excited and thrilled, tonight he would have some adventure, a welcome break from the dull existence of this godforsaken place.

As darkness descended, he made his way there, carefully avoiding being seen.

He climbed the fence and jumped down, landing on a bunch of tangled thorny branches. It was dark all around. With not even the moon to guide him, he kept walking in the dark. He didn’t want to risk spoiling all the fun by flashing a light and alerting people who might stop him. He felt the surge of adrenaline. He felt like a protagonist in a thriller mystery.

He made his way inside finally.

She couldn’t thank her husband enough for setting her free from her earthly body where she was restricted to please only him. Her desires were wild and the one time she had strayed, he had killed her in a fit of rage. The foolish villagers believed she was wronged, a pitiful victim. But life after death was bliss, euphoric. Today was her lucky day, after a long time.

Her wild laughter echoed through the village and people closed their windows and doors to shut out the ominous sound.

Sumedh was never seen again.


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Shailaja Pai
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