Welcome to OBSCURUS, your weekly dose of paranormal fiction. Every Wednesday OBSCURUS features new short stories and serialized novels written by novelist, screenwriter, and voice-over artist Biswajit Banerjee. The realm of the paranormal stretches far beyond the usual horror story. So, while you will get to listen to lots of ghost stories on this podcast, there will also be many tales of lesser-known paranormal themes. To get us started, here's your host Biswajit Banerjee.
HOST TALK 00:00:47
Hello and welcome to OBSCURUS, I am your host Biswajit Banerjee, and it is such a pleasure to be with you again! In the last episode, which featured the first part of the story, we saw how after forty years of paranormal investigation, Alok concludes there is no life after death. Are his conclusions in sync with the truth? We will find out in this episode. But before that, may I request you to visit my website biswajitbanerjee.com and become a part of my mailing list. Also, I would be grateful if you visited obscurus.buzzsprout.com, my dedicated website for this podcast.
Now, let’s plunge into the second and concluding part of the story. To recap, Alok’s book describes many of his adventures as a ghost hunter and how he debunked each of the reports of paranormal phenomena. In the last chapter of the book, he declares there is no life after death. After he retires from what he regards as a successful career in paranormal investigation, Alok gets to meet a strange man who claims to have powers to demonstrate the essence of life after death. Does the peculiar man have such capabilities? Come, let’s find out.
PHANTOM CHASER PART 2 00:02:38
Written and performed by Biswajit Banerjee
The high-end security system allowed Alok to see and speak to the person at the door through his mobile phone. A man, roughly in his forties, was standing outside. Upon zooming in on the face of the man on the smartphone screen, Alok recognized him. Often, the picture of this man appeared in magazines and web-articles on paranormal phenomena.
"Why is he here," Alok whispered to himself at the sight of Dr. Ramcharan Dahiya.
When he opened the door, the ill-reputed biochemist smiled and said, "Namaste, Mr. Tiwari. I am Dr. Ramcharan Dahiya."
"Yes, I know," Alok nodded.
"Really sorry to bother you like this without an appointment, but the matter was urgent, and I had little choice."
"Urgent? What is it?"
"Can I come in for some time, Mr. Tiwari?"
The time was close to nine in the evening. What could make this man visit Alok at this odd hour? Surely, the man did not have any malicious intent. Although he had crazy ideas, Ramcharan, by no stretch of the imagination, was a criminal. After some quick thoughts, Alok made way for Ramcharan to come in.
"I hope you had your dinner," Ramcharan said as he sat on the edge of a large sofa in the living room.
"Well, I don't have dinner," Alok replied, taking his position on another sofa, "the evening supper is the last meal of my day."
"It is so good to see how you look after yourself. Discipline is the key to good health. Meeting you is such an honor."
"Would you like some tea?"
"No, Mr. Tiwari, thank you so much. I had my dinner a while back."
"So, what brings you here?"
"Well, this is difficult — I don't know how to say it."
"What? The book I wrote is bad?"
"No, Mr. Tiwari. Perhaps you are upset with my critique of your book in Decoding the Infinity. Trust me, I respect you and your team a lot. What I wrote in that article is just a set of my views on your conclusions about life after death. I did not intend to show the slightest disrespect to you. Sorry if my article caused you pain." Ramcharan spoke in a meek tone.
"Oh, please don't apologize, Dr. Dahiya. One is entitled to one's views. I firmly believe in freedom of speech."
"No doubt, you are a man of principles."
"Feel free and tell me what is in your mind."
"I am here to pass on a message to you, Mr. Tiwari."
"The message is from Sonakshi."
"What? Sonakshi? Who are you talking about?"
"The girl you broke up with to become a paranormal investigator."
"Message from Sonakshi! But she is ..."
"Yes, she is dead, I know that. But the consciousness never dies, Mr. Tiwari. Last night while I was working in my home laboratory, Sonakshi's disembodied spirit visited me. And she left me a message for passing on to you."
After a minute of silence, Alok said, "I thought you had something substantive to tell me. This is ridiculous. Not that I am not aware of why the scientists banished you from their fraternity, but I didn't expect you to say a thing as disgusting as what you just said."
"Well, your words don't surprise me. I knew you wouldn't place trust in my words."
"No man of reason can place trust in your words."
"So, what do you want, Mr. Tiwari. Should I leave immediately, or do you want me to pass on her message to you?"
"Now that you are here, you could very well pass on what you call the message from Sonakshi to me."
"Well, she said, 'Alok, what I told you before we broke up was wrong, and so is your conclusion. The truth is there is life after death.'"
A faint smile crossed Ramcharan's mouth.
"Is that the message Sonakshi left for me?"
"Yes, Mr. Tiwari."
"You expect me to believe that?"
"I keep no expectations; it is for you to believe me or not."
"Look, I never had high regard for you, but I never thought you could stoop to such levels."
"Mr. Tiwari, I never tell lies. I had promised Sonakshi's soul to give you her message, and I have done so. Now, I will leave."
Alok responded after a minute of silence. "What was your purpose of coming here?"
"The purpose should be clear by now. Sonakshi's disembodied spirit ..."
"Stop this rubbish, will you?" Alok shouted.
"What else? You thought by telling me such a brazen lie, you would be able to disturb my peace. Perhaps your intent was to instill doubts in my mind about my conclusion. The truth is you are unhappy about more and more people placing their trust in my solidly reasoned inference that there is no life after death. If people stop believing in spirits and ghosts, who will read your stupid articles on astral life, exorcisms, seances, reincarnations, and life after death. People like you will be jobless. So, you thought your stupid lie will change my perception of things and force me to write an article or maybe even a book to tell the readers that my conclusion was wrong and that life does continue beyond death. How could you think your foolish talk would influence my mind?"
"Need I repeat, Mr. Tiwari, that I never tell lies."
"Oh yes! As if I am going to believe that."
"Perhaps you should apply some logic — how would I know about Sonakshi, your ex-girlfriend, and what she told you before the two of you broke up."
"The social media is full of such information. Besides, in so many television interviews, I spoke about Sonakshi and her views on life after death."
"But I didn't pick up information about Sonakshi from any social media. Also, I never watched any of your interviews on the television."
"More lies — you are such a big liar, Dr. Dahiya."
From the way Ramcharan looked down without protesting, it was clear Alok's words hurt him in a big way. For quite a while, he didn't move.
Maybe he shouldn't have been so rude, Alok thought.
"I had no desire of insulting you, Dr. Dahiya. But your words crossed all limits."
After another minute of total silence, Ramcharan looked up.
"For the third time, I am telling you this — I don't tell lies, Mr. Tiwari."
"This conversation will lead us nowhere, Dr. Dahiya. We should put a stop to this. Sorry about losing my temper. It's time we end this meeting."
"Like you, I too believe in absolute freedom of speech. Disagreements and counter-views are crucial to a healthy discussion. That's why even when I know that the person opposing my views is wrong, I do not venture into proving my point by using my powers. However, what you said today is so demeaning and offensive, I think I ought to prove my point."
"What are you going to prove with your powers?"
"That you are wrong, and that life after death is a reality."
"And how do you intend to do that?"
"By demonstrating life after death to you."
"What are you going to do? Call a spirit or something?"
"You will soon know, Mr. Tiwari."
"Don't worry, no harm will come on you."
"In case you don't want to see the demonstration, I will not force it on you."
Could Ramcharan be serious, Alok wondered.
"What are you thinking, Mr. Tiwari? Do you want proof for life after death?"
"Yes," he said after a short while with confidence.
"Fine, but you must ensure no one disturbs us when we start the process."
"What do you mean by process? A séance?"
"You will find out soon."
"Umm-hmm, okay. Nobody is going to come now. And I will switch off the phones."
"Mr. Tiwari, you are required to do one more thing."
"You must transfer three million five hundred thousand rupees to my bank account. For the kind of money you have, this amount is a pittance."
"Oh, so now I know the reasons behind all this drama."
"Again, you are insulting me, Mr. Tiwari. This is no drama. Trust me, this money will be the biggest investment of your life. Although you say there is no life after death, I am sure a part of your mind doubts if your conclusion is correct. Allow me to remove all your doubts and prove to you that life after death is a reality."
"Can't you prove it to me without the money?"
"Of course, I can, but the money is important."
"You sound like a businessman."
"No, I am no businessman. I am a spiritual aspirant chasing truths beyond the intellect."
"Then you shouldn't be asking for money."
"There is no need for arguments, Mr. Tiwari. The choice is yours - spend the money and learn the biggest truth of your life, or continue to live with your incorrect inferences about life after death."
"And what if you are unable to prove anything after taking the money?"
"That is impossible. Why are you thinking so much about the money? It's such a small amount for you. Just think what you stand to gain."
"What if I make the payment after your demonstration?"
"In any case, you cannot transfer the entire amount today. There is a limit on online transactions. But you must transfer the maximum permissible amount before the demonstration."
"All right, but if your demonstration turns out to be more of a sham, I will not transfer the remaining amount. In fact, I will see to it that you return the already transferred money."
After rearranging the furniture in the living room, Ramcharan created space for the demonstration.
"Do you have a mat?" Ramcharan asked.
"Please bring it."
Alok brought his yoga mat and gave it to Ramcharan.
"Oh, this is too small. Do you have another one, Mr. Tiwari?"
"Well, yes, but it's quite an old one. Some parts of it are torn."
"Is it of the same size?"
"No, it is slightly larger."
"Get it, we will use both the mats to expand the working area."
In another half an hour, the arrangements were complete. Used together, the mats made a near-square and covered most of the available floor space. Ramcharan sat close to an edge of the covered area in a posture called Padmasana. It is also called the lotus posture, meant to be used for meditation. Then Ramcharan took off his shirt and vest. Dark black hair covered most of his chest and some parts of his stomach.
"Please switch off all lights in the house. Then sit facing me right across from my position close to the opposite edge of the square."
Just as he had been told, Alok made the house completely dark. Then, with the help of a flashlight, he moved over the arrangement of the mats and sat right where Ramcharan had asked him to sit. Several minutes passed without any exchange of words. The room was not fully dark. Some light from the light posts outside poured in through the drawn curtains. Soon Alok's pupils adjusted to the dark conditions. He noticed Ramcharan's eyes were open.
"Are you comfortable?" Ramcharan asked.
"Yes, but I am not in Padmasana posture."
"No, you can sit in your normal posture."
"And do I need to take my shirt off?"
"No, Mr. Tiwari, you don't need to do any such thing. Just relax."
"Will you be calling a spirit now?"
"That you will know soon."
During his forty years of phantom chasing, Alok had dealt with his fear on countless occasions. By now, he had practically tamed his fear — at least, he believed so. Strange that a chill should course through his spine now.
"Close your eyes," Ramcharan said.
With his eyes closed, Alok wondered if he made a mistake by agreeing to be a part of what Ramcharan called the process. What if Ramcharan's intentions weren't good? What if he harmed Alok, now that his eyes were closed? Was he dealing with a criminal in the garb of a man looking for truths beyond the intellect? Why did Ramcharan take his shirt off? Could he roll and use it as a rope to strangle Alok?
One doubt led to the other, and soon, he cursed himself for having fallen into what now appeared to be a trick. Should he open his eyes? Well, he wasn't sure if that would be the right thing to do. What if the man was genuinely trying to prove the existence of life after death to Alok? By opening his eyes, Alok would spoil the process. After dealing with this confusion for quite a while, he decided to face the possible risk of being harmed by a possible criminal posing like a mystic.
For a long time, he sat with his eyes closed, listening to Ramcharan's deep breaths. Sometimes the breaths sounded like snores. Did Ramcharan fall asleep? Yet again, Alok resisted an impulse to open his eyes.
After a few minutes, the deep breaths stopped. For a moment, there was pin-drop silence. And then Alok heard Ramcharan's voice.
"Be ready to witness the truth, Mr. Tiwari."
The voice now had what may be called an airy or spirit-like quality about it. It was as though the voice was floating in the air and not coming from inside a human body.
"Now, you can open your eyes," Ramcharan said.
What he witnessed upon opening his eyes was difficult to make sense of. A white divine light filled the room. The source of the glow was a translucent figure sitting in Padmasana on the mat between Ramcharan and Alok. What was it? A spirit? Not quite. It resembled a human for sure. Soon the translucent figure smiled. Oh, this smile was familiar. Alok had spotted the same smile cross Ramcharan's mouth during their conversation. The figure in between them, Alok realized, was Ramcharan's translucent version. A blue chord connected the translucent entity to Ramcharan's navel.
"What you see now is my disembodied consciousness, Mr. Tiwari," Ramcharan's translucent version said in the spirit-like voice, "I have thrown the consciousness out of my body with the powers of yoga. Please appreciate, Mr. Tiwari, asking if life exists after death is the same as asking if consciousness can exist without a body. What is a spirit, after all? It is incorporeal consciousness or what you may call consciousness without a body. Once you understand consciousness can exist independent of the body, the problem of whether there is life after death stands resolved. Traditional science would have us believe that one's consciousness results from the chemical reactions happening inside one's body. The yoga I practice has made me understand that it is the other way round. Chemical reactions do not cause consciousness. Rather consciousness causes the chemical reactions. This is advanced science which humankind will learn with time. I am sure you now understand that consciousness exits the body at the time of the phenomenon people call death. But yogis can throw their consciousness out of their bodies even while they are alive. I am a small yogi, but after years of practice, I learned how to make my consciousness exit my body. The blue cord joining my disembodied consciousness to the navel of my body is the path the exited consciousness will use to get back into the body. If this blue chord gets snapped, the disembodied consciousness or the soul will not be able to get back into the body anymore. And I will die. But the truth is one never dies as one's consciousness can never die."
Stunned to the core, Alok gathered some of his wits and said, "I am sorry I doubted you."
"No problem, Mr. Tiwari. Rationality is the key to uncovering truths. So, I respect your rationality."
"But I insulted you, Dr. Dahiya."
"Oh no, don't think about that. Tell me now — are you convinced there is life after death?"
"You may be wondering as to why I asked for money. There is a reason for that. I support myself and my family with my meager income. My younger son has Thalassemia and needs frequent blood transfusions. Now, every time I throw my consciousness out of my body, I lose about five to seven years of my life. That means if I am supposed to live for eighty years, and I make my soul exit my body once, I will die at the age of seventy-three or seventy-five. This happens because after the soul returns to the yogi's body, the original combination of the body and the soul is never achieved. As a result of the loss in the originality of the body's overlap with the spirit, physical life gets reduced by five to seven years. Mr. Tiwari, this is the third time I have thrown my spirit out of my body. That essentially means I have lost about fifteen to twenty-one years of my life. I am not sure how long I will live now. So, I need to do something to give my family some amount of material security."
"Well, it is quite an honor to be of help to a spiritualist like you. In fact, I will give you a lot more than what you asked for."
"Thanks, I respect your feelings, but you don't need to do that. I hope I will live for a few more years. During that period, I will add to the financial security of my family. Time for me to get back into the body, I guess."
In a flash, the translucent figure moved back into Ramcharan's body through the navel, and the room got dark again. After a minute of silence, Ramcharan said, "You may now switch on the lights, Mr. Tiwari."
After he switched on the lights, Alok observed that Ramcharan's chest hair wasn't as black as it was before the demonstration. Shades of white and gray were visible in many places.
"Your chest hair ..."
"Oh yes, it has gotten white and gray in places. Perhaps you can guess the reason — the change in chest color is indicative of my having lost some more of my life."
"How do I thank you for the wisdom you have passed on to me? You have been the greatest guru of my life."
"Practice yoga and understand the true nature of consciousness. That will be my greatest reward. Although I respect paranormal investigators, phantom chasing is not the correct path to learn the truth. As a ghost hunter, you may be able to unearth some surface-level truths, but you can never reach the depths of superior knowledge."
"Indeed, Dr. Dahiya."
"Take care of yourself, Mr. Tiwari, and I wish you a long, healthy, and happy life. Goodbye."
Alok's fingers were moving rapidly on the keyboard of the desktop computer in his study. The book needed two more chapters to be complete. It wouldn't be appropriate to remove or revise the chapters, especially the last one, that suggested there was no life after death. If Alok revised those chapters to bring them in tune with what he learned from Ramcharan, the book's original character would be lost. Instead, it was more prudent to leave the book in its present shape and add a couple of chapters that described how a solitary meeting with a yogi made him realize how flawed his conclusions on life after death were. There was no way he was going to delay writing the chapters. Every detail of his meeting with Ramcharan was fresh in his memory now. And he wanted each one of them to enter the new chapters in vivid details.
So, he was at work powered by his new wisdom.
Thanks for listening to OBSCURUS. If you like what you heard, please subscribe and visit biswajitbanerjee.com for more information about Biswajit's books, movies, documentaries, and other creative pursuits. We shall see you next Wednesday with another episode of OBSCURUS. Till then, take care!