GHOST STORIES, MUMBAI
Stella Miss leans toward me
to ask if I know any scary stories.
Barely waiting for my no, she arches an eyebrow.
“I’ve got one.”
It begins, as good tales do, in the girls’ bathroom.
A seventh-standard student, she says
so casually, was raped.
By a male staff member,
most likely the groundskeeper.
After some time, the legend goes,
the girl wandered into the washroom, weeping.
These things happen.
Decades ago she died—
but last year, Stella leans in,
the head boy invaded that same washroom;
he’d heard ragged weeping while passing by
in the damp midday’s thick heat.
Like a movie hero, he swept in
to save the silly girl, but found only
sudden silence and sharp air,
a cold caress that both disturbed and pleased him.
Sitting between us, Elvira Miss clicks her tongue.
“Such stupid people, these men.”
She describes a relative’s landlord
who lived like an angry god,
violently silencing his opponents,
unchallenged, protected by police.
His son fancied a woman,
who refused him until death
threats fell upon her family.
After the inevitable wedding,
she disappeared—then, months later,
was spotted off Grant Road,
living as a prostitute, pimped out
by her own husband to his uncles and friends,
500 rupees an hour,
a touchable kind of ghost.