A tour guide shares his experiences with the supernatural
I tell stories for a living. Stories about historical characters and heritage monuments; stories of trees and the birds that make their nests in those trees; stories about food, and ghosts!
I am the founder, Chief Explorer and tour facilitator on the ‘Ghost night walking tours’ conducted by our team of DelhiByFoot Adventures. We take people through various hauntings and tell stories of disturbed souls who remain attached to this ancient city of Delhi.
Most of the time, I consider myself a rationalist. I believe that for every ‘supernatural’ feeling, there is a scientific explanation. But yes, every now and then, some incidents are beyond explanation too. And on occasion, as you will see, the haunter becomes the haunted.
Once when I was giving a tour, a lady suddenly felt an immense overpowering cramp on her shoulders and believed a spirit had come upon her, more so because of a sudden splitting headache... The others on the tour halted, skeptical about her 'theatrics', though my teammate and I thought otherwise, as we had heard of such incidents happening earlier with other people. We tried to calm her down, explained to her husband that she was probably tired from excessive walking and high humidity and just needed some rest, as he naturally was worried for his wife. I advised them to leave the tour, escorting them out from the nearest exit point, to go back to their home. Later, I found out that the woman got a good night's sleep and as I had suggested, two large glasses of lime water, and gradually the 'spooky' feeling disappeared. The spirit had left her, she felt... and we heaved a sigh of relief!
Most nights are the same. People begin the tour with skepticism and an air of disbelief, but by the end of the walk you can see doubt clouding their eyes and they’re afraid to speak any louder than what is barely audible. A case in point was when we took a bunch of teenagers on the tour. At first, they were energetic and mischievous, scoffing at the idea of ghosts. By the end, not a single one of them spoke. The start and end point of the tour are at two different areas around the Mehrauli jungles and the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, so when I suggested walking back the way we came so we could go back to the spot where we had parked our cars, all of them disagreed furiously, pleading that we take a taxi or auto-rickshaw instead. They could have been tired with the 2km walk, as they claimed, but their 'hysterical' insistence not to go back in the dark jungle paths once again was, what we think to be, more related to 'fear' than fatigue!
Sometimes, I believe, one has to acknowledge a power beyond science.
It was 10pm on a Saturday night, and we were walking in the woods around Mehrauli, just beyond the Qutub Minar Complex. The setting, as usual, was laid out like a set of a horror movie: barren tree shadows lengthening in the pale light of a full moon, tombstones littering the ground and the wind howling in the night sky. But this time it felt different. My teammate agreed with me, though we had walked this path many times before, that there was an overpowering feeling wrapping itself all around us tonight. The night had become still and the leaves had stopped rustling in the trees.
We continued with the tour. Somewhere near the fag end, I was standing on a ledge – on which I have stood countless times in the past dozen years – when suddenly I had a weird sensation running through my legs. I looked down to see what was bothering me, when suddenly the ledge underneath gave way! I fell crashing down and twisted my ankle.
We tried to keep going, my colleague supported me while I struggled with a limp. He finally said the words I had dreaded all evening, “Ramit bhaiya, aaj kuch hain yahaan, I can feel it.” (There's a presence here) I agreed in a heartbeat. Naturally, some participants in the tour were curious about my fall and started asking me if I had “felt someone push me.” I laughed their questions off, because the idea of a ‘ghost’ pushing me was absurd. But at the same time I did not want to scare them by telling them what I had actually felt.
My fall continued to bother me throughout the night, not because of the pain, but because I had walked this area numerous times without any misfortune befalling me. It was an odd, eerie feeling. We got through the tour without alarming any of our participants, and called it a night soon after. We thought we’d give Delhi’s spirits some peace.
So much for being a rationalist: I don’t have an explanation for what happened that night. Maybe, in a way, the ghosts of Delhi were having fun at my expense. At any rate, I’m okay with the thought that they were gently mocking my complacence… and telling me to be more careful when trying to haunt others.
By Ramit Mitra
Photo Credit: Alisha Vargas