Saturday, June 26, 2010

A FUNNY ENCOUNTER WITH A GHOST

It was on a pleasant evening about 12 years back in November, that this happened. Chennai seemed to be getting colder every year, and a layer of mist slowly started hovering as the evening crept into darkness. Larsen and Toubro's heavy engineering division was a beautiful area with three huge bays, office buildings, raw material yards and a beautiful garden that sprawled a large area of the campus. I being part of the Sales Co-ordination and Planning Department was responsible for the dispatch of machines from the Assembly and Testing Shop from one of the bays. Although we all wished that dispatches happened before sunset, so that we could get home early, most of them crept into the late evenings and or even into the night, due to various reasons that could be attributed to all kinds of pathetic planning.

And on that day we had a machine to be dispatched to GE Plastics somewhere in North India. The truck was already in there and the Punjabi driver, tall and lanky was already going around our machine and making a mental assessment of how he should get it inside the truck. A few hours crept by and I could see small streams of smoke come out of the truck. I went closer to the truck to see if a potential fire was about to break out. But to my surprise, a small boy, who I believe was assisting the Punjabi driver was busy preparing rhotis, using a small stove from inside the truck. I waved to him and he smiled.


The dispatch of the machine was about to happen soon, and it would be through the huge exit right at the end of the bay. And that is where the huge factory back wall existed with the warehouse department just inside. Beyond that wall was a small road within the factory that led straight to the security gate which opened to the outside world. We had security personnel posted at different corners and areas of the company, as there were a few thefts reported in the last two months. And so things were kind of beefed up.


Across that small road lay another small building, beyond which came the company’s wired fence, which divided its property from that of the neighboring company. It was in this small building that the company had its conference rooms and it was also from here that the Sales Co-ordination and Planning Departments operated. There was a main glass door that was used to enter into this building, which opened straight into the several departments with false separations. A small glass door on the left opened into a small aisle that led to one of the conference rooms. The walls of this aisle area had the switch board panels, that controlled all the power to the different sections of the entire building. It was spacious enough to hold a few chairs so that people could sit and wait, to meet someone who was busy while into some meetings in the conference room.


Being part of the Sales Co-ordination and Planning department threw up challenges like these where one did not know when one could get home after a dispatch. But this machine was heading for a 9.30 p.m dispatch. A few more hours went by and I saw the truck with the machine slowly making its way through the exit. The driver waved to me as the truck slowly made its way to the security gate. For one moment I felt that he was carrying the product of the efforts and involvement of atleast five hundred people who worked for it.


With my job done, I slowly ambled to my department building. It was almost 9.45 p.m. There was a small distance I had to cover on the road from the exit of the bay area to where this small department building lay. I walked slowly through the natural canopy that the trees built up over most of this road. Two of the road lamps on this road close to the department building had not been working for the last few days, and the situation was still status quo. The road was all dark and I could only use the reflection of the lights from the lamps near the security gate, to get to know my directions. The factory dinner time was from 9.30 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. and all the workers and supervisory staff were already into the canteen about 300 metres away. The manager’s and general staff’s closing duty time was 5.30 p.m. And so it was like nobody was there in the factory at that moment.


There was eerie feeling that crept into me, the kind I used to feel when I walked through my house searching for a torch or a candle, when I was alone in there and the power went off. And the sudden silence inside the factory multiplied this feeling. All the machines, blowers, fans, etc had been switched off just before dinner time. I could only hear the silent hum of a huge exhaust that was still running somewhere inside. May be someone had missed out swithching it off.


Up in the sky the moon was full and trying to get out of a pack of clouds. The sky wore a shiny black colour, as though the moon had scraped through it for a distance. A gentle breeze swept past my sweat soaked shirt. I reached the building and slowly approached the huge glass door. It was so dark that I could hardly see anything inside. People had left early and nobody was there to switch on the lights probably.I had informed the security that I would be there this time around, and so they had not locked the door as yet. I felt for the door knob and located it.Then I slowly opened the door. I told myself that my next immediate attempt should be to switch on the power, so that the lights would come on. And so I slowly approached the small glass door on the left.


A little of the moon light crept through the glass and painted the upper part of the sidewalls of the aisle. And I thought I could see some part of the switch panel, but not really enough to discern the right switch. So I ran my hand on the wall and spotted the panel and then started counting the main switches. I knew it was the fourth switch from the left, that would switch on my department's lights all in one go. While I was trying for the fourth switch, I could see another hand, all pale yellow in the moonlight slowly go up and feel the switch panel. At one moment, the hand touched mine and I almost froze. I could not speak although I wanted to yell in horror. And then the lights came on, although I was not sure whose hand did that great job finally.


And there standing right in front of me was a young company security guard in his formal attire. He got up and gave me a funny smile which I thought he was slowly trying to develop, to come out of the embarrassment. My immediate reaction was that I expressed my anger at him for all what happened, but in the next few minutes I realised that he was there as part of his duty, although he could have done that keeping atleast one light on. But then he told me that he was trying to catch some sleep, and that is the reason why he did not switch the light on. On that day, this happening really shook me, so much so that I took time to come out of that feeling.But today after so many years, when I recall the whole thing, I feel it to be something funny that went by in my life. But then, is it real fun when we encounter the real ghosts???

DREAM STREAMS THAT QUENCH








Our heart is replete with dreams,
Dreams that we hold on with such passion.
It runs through our life like streams,
Leading to the sea of our mission.

We see oysters of coarse talent,

Lie within us as in a deep sea.
Let’s gather the hidden pearls without relent,
And exhibit them for the world to see.

For a thrust of love we yearn,

For a pat from a dear or near one,
Who could drive us in our zest to learn,
And explore all the oysters under the sun.

Let us work to realize that big dream,

When every pearl of our talent refined,
Would prove to be a quenching stream,
For mortals with lives confined.

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