Kalimpong has it’s own set of paranormal stories, writes Sandip C Jain
Every town worth its name has its own set of ghost stories. Kalimpong, considering its various past influences has several sets of it. Its Bhutanese, Colonial, Tibetan and Gorkhali influences have all left behind their ghost who haunt Ghost Story enthusiasts till this day. In fact this town even has Bihari spirits to add to the cosmopolitan flavor.
All names of persons and places have been changed to protect identity of all concerned and also so that the paranormal does not catch up to me and of course I do not vouch for the authenticity of any of the under-mentioned stories. They are just stories that do the rounds and I am just reproducing them in print hereunder.
So let’s start with the Bihari babu who, even in death, seems so desperate for his favourite dose of khaini (tobacco) that he is on the hunt for tobacco chewers along dark lonely pathways in the outskirts of the town.
This is the story of my friend, lets name him John- we have been friends for a long time, picked many of our vices together and at one time were crazy over the same girl. It another horror story that a third friend of ours is now making her go crazy having been married to her for the last 19 years.
John was a resident of a small hamlet on the way to Teesta. Being superbly talented in the art of playing a guitar he was one of those in school whom ordinary souls like me were perpetually in envy of. We had a common friend; we will name him, Dawa, who used to live at Dungra busty. Today, thanks to the massive road construction projects under taken by the local as well as state governments, a fully pitched road runs right across his doorstep but in those days one had to trek a kilometer from the nearest road head through a narrow meandering and slippery footpath across paddy fields and bamboo grooves. This deserted footpath (we call it chor batto in Nepali) was spooky even during the day time so you can imagine what it was after dark. Even residents of the area avoided traversing this path after dark.
But John, being the man he was, drove his father’s Vespa scooter each day in the evening to the road head and walked the one kilometer to Dawa’s house where the two had a daily music jamming session despite everyone warning him about a Bihari Ghost that was supposed to lurk around the area. Mo affai bhoot ho (I myself am a ghost) was what he always retorted. So one day early in November he was returning back to his scooty at about 10.45 at night. It was an arduous 15 minute trek from Dawa’s house to the spot where he usually parked his two-wheeler. Lobouring up the unpaved pathway he suddenly realized someone was approaching from the opposite direction going downhill. He appeared to be an old Bihari person with very dirty crumpled dhoti-kurta and his expressions were blank as an empty sheet of paper. It was at this moment that the stories of the Bihari ghost came flooding back into his mind. The old man had a weird expressionless look and he stopped right in front of the by now utterly shaken John. Again with the same blank look in his face the old men utterd just one word- “Khaini”, in a manner that my friend understood as a demand/request for tobacco. Being a khaini chewer himself John fumbled out his packet of khaini with trembling hands and a pounding heart, gave the person some and the wrinkled old man almost glided past my trembling friend without uttering a single word. With his heart in his mouth John scrambled from the scene as fast as his 5 foot 3 inches could carry him. Having covered about 250 meters uphill in a matter of seconds he entered a bamboo groove. The path through it was just wide enough for one person to pass through at a time- the wall of a terraced field on one side and a cluster of bamboos on the other. As he hurried through it he heard footsteps coming from the opposite direction again and he heaved a sigh of relief thinking locals were on their way back home and at the relief of meeting another human being. He was wrong, it was the same dirty, crumpled dressed, wrinkled old man with the stoned expression and the same scene repeated itself, like a bad dream- only that it was real. In a replay of the earlier incident that took minutes ago, the same demand was made for khaini and this time with an even more fumbly hand John dug out his packet of khaini doled it out, half of it falling on the ground and the whoever or whatever that had accosted him simply faded downhill in an action replay of the earlier episode. John’s state was beyond words. His mouth dried up, his urge to relieve himself grew immense, he could literally feel his heart in his mouth and could hear his heart pound as loud as a drum. Hardly able to breathe he started sprinting up the path knowing there was a small house besides the road a hundred meters ahead. Gasping for breath he reached the house which had a small electric bulb illuminating the front of this wooded single story cottage. John almost doubled up just outside the bamboo gate of the house gasping for breath. His head was spinning and his body covered in cold sweat yet he had some relief on being next to a house where humans were residing. He suddenly got a sensation of someone looking down on his crouching figure as he was desperately making efforts to catch his breath. He looked up- screamed and blacked out. It was the same old man asking him for khaini again.
The family residing in the small farming house rushed out on hearing his scream to find an unconscious John flat on his face. Recognizing him to be a friend of Dawa, they first though he was either drunk or drugged but when they found him clear of any alcoholic smell they assumed he was epileptic and even used the old smelly sock treatment. Finally Dawa arrived and shifted the unconscious John to a hospital where he came about to his senses only after another two days. It was then that this story was known.
Now, John resides in Dubai and works in the airline industry but he still has goose bumps whenever this episode of his life is recalled. The only positive thing for John from this hair rising incident was the fact that he quit his addiction for khaini.
Talking of addiction reminds me of another story- this of one in which the protagonist is someone who loved his daily quota of half a bottle of brandy at a popular restaurant in Kalimpong. Lets name him Cowboy for he loved to wear cowboy hats wherever he went.
Cowboy had this tough guy image around him. Shopkeepers feared him; the police was fed up of him; yet he was a man with a good heart and when sober was a man who would talk intelligently. His dressing was consistent to the fashion of those times. The flashy hippy looks of the 1960s.
His day in town started at about 6.00 PM every evening, he swaggered down into town in his cowboy hat from his house which was below the SUMI school. If in a foul mood, some unfortunate person would get a slap or two for no reason or for no fault of his own. His presence filled the restaurant the moment he entered it and even regulars at the restaurant fell into a hushed silence for fear of rubbing Cowboy in the wrong way. In typical fashion he drank his first two or three drinks alone in the corner table which was always kept empty for him in the evenings. With the liquor warming him up and easing up his tensed self he became the star at the drinking hole. He regaled all in the restaurant with his funny stories and quick wit. After the sixth or seventh drink of the evening the restaurant owner, his friend for a long time, started to coax him to leave but he was ready to leave only after a few more rounds. Bidding good night to the staff of the restaurant he started up the K D Pradhan road which led to his house. It was generally close to mid night every day that he reached home. The route he took daily was up the K D Pradhan road, through the Mission Compound ground, up a flight of steps besides the Christian graveyard, rejoin the K.D.Pradhan road next to the mortuary and then home which was further up the road.
On this particular day, Cowboy who had a nagging headache since the morning, had had a few drinks lesser than what he normally partook. He was more in control of himself on this day then he generally was as he walked up the K D Pradhan road and across the Mission Compound Ground. It was nearing midnight and he could feel the chill of the February breeze. As he approached the pathway/steps which bordered the graveyard he somehow felt uneasy in a way he could not comprehend. Things just did not seem quite as usual. To his left hand was the ground a few feet below him and on his right was the cemetery. As he climbed the unpaved path he suddenly stopped dead on his track. He was dumbstruck with surprise. He could not comprehend whether his eyes were playing games or he was drunk or whether his advancing age had made him miss something which had happened right under his nose in the area where he was considered the boss. He was astonish by the sight of a beautiful cottage which stood on his right hand. Cowboy wondered how he had missed seeing this cottage on all the days he walked this route. As he stepped closer for an inspection the doors of the cottage opened and out came two beautiful young women. Now his ego was hurt too. He fancied himself as a ladies’ man and he was somewhat annoyed with himself for having never seen these two lovely women that too in his own domain. The women looked enchanting, one was wearing a beautiful white dress the other a flowing gown. They looked captivating, he was spellbound. The women looked straight at him and in their smile he was mesmerized. They walked a few steps closer to him and asked him “etti rati kaha janu bhako” ( where are you going so late at night) to which he tried to find a reply. Before he could say anything the second lady invited him in and there he was following the two beauties like a lamb. Once inside they closed the door and invited him to stay over which he gladly accepted. They led him to a bed and he undressed in haste flinging his cloths one by one, the cloths landing in all directions. Whatever may have happened that night happened and then he went off to a blissful sleep. The next morning arrived. The February morning was a bright and sunny one and half in sleep he heard people talk around him. He smiled as he awoke thinking of the lovely ladies in who’s home he was. He opened his eyes and as his eyes adjusted to the sunlight- he screamed.
He was sleeping in the center of the cemetery, in his birth suit, with his cloths flung all across the numerous tombstones.
Cowboy lost it that very moment. It is said he lost his mental balance there and then and within the next three months his life had a sad and abrupt ending.
This next paranormal story isn’t sad or has an abrupt ending. This is an ongoing story as I write these lines,
I have this very close friend who is considered one of the biggest names in the sports scene in the region. His elder brother, let us call him Tarzan. I select this name for him because of the fact that he really is the type of person who comes close to what the reel life Tarzan was. Our Tarzan was a professional working in the logging industry in a certain South East Asian country and came back to Kalimpong with a bulging pocket. His dream is to establish a jungle camp where he can train the next generation in the art of being close to nature as well as to give adventure seekers the outdoor thrill they seek. For this purpose he procured a large tract of land in a location which is on the very fringe of the Kalimpong geographical district. To reach it one has to drive for an hour and a half then trek through dense forests for an hour to reach the jungle resort he is in the process of setting up.
The resort he is making is so remote in its location that one needs to trek for 20 minutes to reach his immediate neighbor. Having started the construction of his resort about six months prior to the Covid 19 outbreak, all construction activities had to be put on hold due to the subsequent lockdown. With the abrupt closure of all work in the construction site he was left with expensive construction materials strewn across his property. With all his workers back home he was left stranded holding fort all by himself. As a temporary lodging for himself he had a small two room cottage constructed on the edge of his property where he used to stay all by himself in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. He enjoyed this lifestyle- all alone in the forests he so loves. His only company were the foxes that howled all night, the snakes that slithered in and out of his cottage, the monitor lizards that no longer were shy of him and of course the constant sound of water in the river flowing a stone throw away. This was the life he believed was perfect for him. He was in bliss and so satisfied with his lifestyle that he cared a hoot about what the locals said about the place being haunted. Of course he was aware something was not right from the very first day he started to stay in the cottage with weird sounds and activities occurring time and again. Being the man he was, and is, he wasn’t too bothered about it. He was used to a lonely and solitary life. This was the lifestyle he chose and loved. It was after all his workers left due to the lockdown and he started to reside alone in the vast estate that things started to get weird. He would get up at night with sounds of footstep outside his room or he would get this acute feeling of someone looking down on him as he slept or of things being thrown about in the middle of the night. He took all of these in his stride.
Then things started getting more personal. One night he went off to the river after dark, tried to catch some fish and washed himself by the river and sat on a stone platform smoking his favourite Sikhar cigarette humming a popular Nepali song. Tired and sleepy he started back looking forward to a good night’s sleep. As he stood up from where he had perched himself he clearly heard someone else sanding up from another boulder just across himself. He jerked his head towards the stone wherefrom the sound had come but there was nothing or no one there. Thinking it could be his imagination he retracted his steps towards his small cottage just about a hundred feet from where he was. Having taken a dozen steps he again distinctly heard someone coming out of the water and following him. He jerked around again and there was nothing but darkness all around. No footsteps too. By now he knew there was someone or something there. Tightening his grip over his mobile phone which also served as his emergency torchlight he quickened his steps, all the while hearing very distinctly footsteps, about six to eight steps behind him- quickening or slowing as per his own pace. Three quarters of the way to his room Tarzan abruptly turned around drew out the box of match sticks that he was carrying, lit a stick and flung it across, like a fire arrow, towards the direction of the footstep following him. The footsteps ceased thereafter as he walked into his room and prepared to sleep. He lay down in bed, tried logging on to the YouTube to see some videos but unable to connect, he prepared for bed. Saying his bedtime prayers, Tarzan slipped into a deep sleep which his tired body was demanding.
The nights in his resort, being in a bowl shaped valley surrounded by thick forests, was unusually dark even on moonlight nights- this night moreover was a no moon day- the only light was that could be seen in his room was the small red colour indicator emitting from his battery powered mobile charger. Tarzan suddenly got up with a start. He left something behind him on his bed, his first thought was that there may be a monitor lizard in the room but he discounted this possibility. He was suddenly scared and his breath seems to be stuck right in his chest. He could feel beards of cold sweat flowing down his chest and neck and his mind was racing as fast as his heart beat. Lying motionless trying to catch any sound that may indicate any thing he suddenly felt someone or something snuggling up behind his back as if trying to draw heat from his body. He could distinctly feel something or someone, or whatever it was, cozying up behind him like a loved one would do if sleeping under the same blanket. Every sense in his body was at its edge, alert and hyper sensitive. His heart pounded like never before and to distance himself from whoever or whatever was cuddling up against him, he moved his body a few inches towards his side of the bed. Seconds seemed like days. And then he could feel the frame behind close the distance between them and the warm feeling of someone spooning him made him freeze like a rock. Tarzan lay frozen in fear thinking of all the Gods he could think of, saying all the prayers he knew and finally when he couldn’t take it any further, he sprang out of bed and started showering the choicest abuses in a volume he never knew he possessed. He somehow managed to reach the bed switch and switched it on only to find nothing or no one besides him in bed- but he could very clearly make out that the he wasn’t the only person sleeping on the bed. The other side of the bed was equally crumpled and slept on as his side was.
With his heart still racing he continued with his abuses and withdrew himself from the room, went out on the porch and lit himself a cigarette where he sat all night praying till morning broke.
This isn’t the end of this story- rather the beginning. The uninvited bed partner of Tarzan started making unannounced visits to his bed, snuggling up and warming up to his body- not on all days but intermittently- maybe twice or thrice a month. Tarzan could now somehow feel it from within, even before he entered bed, that this night he will have a bed partner. He was getting used to this ghostly affection but his family would have none of it. After prolonged prayer sessions, rituals and religious ceremonies Tarzan now sleeps in peace and without any supernatural company at night.
Tarzan is made of a different stuff though- the last time I met him and discussed this story with him, he confided in me saying- I miss the warmth and the company…
Kalimpong has many more such paranormal stories and which I have researched but telling them all here would entail more pages than this book can afford, hence I conclude with one last story-
This story is of a spot which is within the town limits. A group of boys believed that a Jhinn (supernatural being as per Islamic belief) dwelled in the area just opposite where a popular school now stands and exactly at the spot where now the office of an emergency service is located. The boys, in their early 20s swore that on particular nights the Jhinn, all in white, trekked about a hundred meters down the lonely patch of the road, entered a small forested area and disappeared. Over time the legend of the Jhinn grew- some said that the Jhinn made a return journey roughly half an hour after he entered the forest, some said he walked bent as he entered the forest while he was erect on his return journey, some said he carried what looked like a thigh bone while others swore his face was black as coal. The myth around him grew and grew till people started to believe that the Jhinn could grant any wish any person daring enough to ask him.
A young man from the locality had been hearing about these stories from the time he came back home from Chennai, where he worked as a waiter in a star category hotel. Being out of work and a family to support he was willing to do anything for additional funds to support his family. Hearing of the Jhinn and his powers to grant any wish anyone would ask him, Javed (that’s what I have named him) decided to wait for the Jhinn, meet him and ask it to grant a considerable amount of funds. His wait on the first three nights went in vain. On the fourth night, scared yet with the hope in his heart he waited hiding himself inside his old Maruti Van, which he had parked strategically. At just about 2.45 AM, suddenly he saw a figure emerge round a bend about fifty meters ahead of him. Clad in full white the figure seemed to be carrying a long bottle like object in his hand, the thigh bone story immediately sprang into Javed’s mind. His heart pounded like it would explode and as his mind went into a tizzy yet Javed leapt out of his hiding spot and attempted to follow the Jhinn. The shadowy figure suddenly jerked around and looked at Javed in an odd expression then continued down the road before entering the forested patch, just like the stories he had heard. Javed was close to faint out of fear yet his resolve to get the Jhinn to grant him his wish was so strong that he followed the eerie figure right into the forest. As he entered the forest he could hear the rustle of dead leaves and the sound of twigs snapping a few feet away. Sweating like a pig and breathing like a exhausted dog Markus took a few more steps and there hunched before him was the creepy white figure. As their eyes met, it appeared to Javed that the Jhinn was equally startled by this encounter as he was. Javed immediately dropped down to his knees in a praying position, closed his eyes, folded his hands and started blabbering off his request for his wish to be granted. Still in his kneeling position, Javed felt he could smell the Jhinn clearly and it smelt foul, yet he continued.
He suddenly heard a very thickly accented voice trying to shoo him away and telling him to meet him the next day. Markus was not the type to give up easily. He persisted harder and harder desperate in his effort to extract the granting of his wish. He suddenly left himself being pushed backwards and before he knew anything else he was flat on his back. Trying to overcome his fear and to comprehend what was going on Javed opened his eye to see the white clad figure looming all over him. He had crossed the limits of him courage by now. In abject fear he screamed the loudest he could and was close to passing out. It was then he felt he heard the figure calling out his name and pleading with him to stop screaming. Javed opened his eyes to recognize the familiar figure of Narayan Bhiya, the corner grocery shop owner.
It was then that Javed realized and understood the entire situation- there was no Jhinn or any paranormal angle to the entire episode. Apparently it was Narayan Bhiya just using the lonely spot in the small wooded area to perform his early morning bladder cleaning exercise, the toilet at his residence being in operational due to a blocked sewage line.
The moral of the story- not every ghost story has a terrifying ending- some like the above have a hilarious or even a smelly conclusion.