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, I am Biswajit Banerjee, and it is a great pleasure to be welcoming you to this episode of OBSCURUS. Some of my followers have wished to know if I believe in the paranormal. Well, the answer depends on what you think 'paranormal' is. I am essentially an agnostic with a firm scientific temper. But that doesn't mean I discount the possibilities of the apparently impossible happenings. There's no doubt that our understanding of the universe is grossly limited, notwithstanding the most significant scientific strides. I have discussed why the paranormal shouldn't just be thought of as a domain of ghosts and demons. Rather paranormal, if you ask me, is what we cannot explain with our understanding of the universe. In reality, our world is full of unexplained puzzles. The human body, for example, is a huge mystery. What we understand of it is nothing more than an infinitesimal part of a vast ocean of undiscovered truth. So, in one sense, the human body is also paranormal. Think about it. From the responses I have got so far, it appears that my readers, listeners, and followers are enjoying OBSCURUS. So please subscribe to this podcast on whichever forum you are following it. Also, please spread the word about OBSCURUS to your friends, family, and colleagues. I take this opportunity to invite you to my website biswajitbanerjee.com where you will find all information relating to my books, movies, voice-over projects, and this podcast itself. The OBSCURUS episodes and their transcripts are available on the blog of the website. Do not forget to become a member of my website and to join my mailing list. I will keep posting articles, audio messages, and videos for your entertainment. And my dedicated website for this podcast obscurus.buzzsprout.com also has all the OBSCURUS episodes and their transcripts. It does provide chapter markers, too, for the ease of your navigation through the episodes.
Now, let's dive into today's story. Mr. Manav Basu goes through what he claims to be a near-death experience. What really happened – was it NDE or a consequence of depletion of oxygen in his dying brain? Let's find out…
THE NDE 00:04:03
Written and Performed by Biswajit Banerjee
All my energies accumulated at a point close to my heart. I was out of my body a moment later, floating in the air. The doctors were still working hard to bring life back into my corpse.
"It's all over," Dr. Prabhat Sharma, a senior heart surgeon in charge of the surgery, said.
Disembodied existence felt so different -- it was as if a huge load had been taken off my being. Physical obstacles were no longer barriers. A part of my released consciousness moved up the building through the ceiling. Three of my senses, I realized, had become super-sharp. I could see, hear, and smell way better than when I was alive.
An illuminated plate showed 'Intensive Care Unit' over large twin doors. Anxious relatives of patients paced the area. Some were seated on the couches arranged against the walls. The view of things from the floor was so new; I had never seen things from such a low angle. My head had virtually jutted out to the next level.
I dipped myself back into the operation theatre. The doctors were still on the job, although the vital monitors displayed straight lines everywhere. Dead ... I was dead now -- the thought brought a touch of sadness to my free consciousness. I remembered that I had had numerous discussions with my friends about life after death. All the time, I argued against such a possibility. Now I knew I was so wrong.
The charm of the airy existence was short-lived. Soon the shock and grief of separation from my loved ones weighed heavily on my being. I rushed out of the theatre through its locked door and flew past the narrow passageway that led to the waiting area. There was a large couch where my parents, wife, and son were seated. Two people stood against a short wall separating the courtyard's space from the walkway running along the foyer's length.
The constant movements of paramedics through the walkway reflected the hospital's everyday drama of life and death. Now, I was on the wrong side of the drama, a piece of news waiting to be broken to my loved ones.
Soon I found myself suspended a little over the couch. There was a movement to my left. A paramedic, in blue, opened the passageway door and stepped in.
"Can't we talk to one of these paramedics? More than two hours have passed since they shifted him to the OT?" My father asked.
"The doctors will surely tell us when the surgery's over, grandpa,” my son said.
What shattering news it would be for my family. The frail health of my parents, I hoped, held on when the doctors told them the outcome of the surgery.
Movements had gotten so much easier -- I descended to the level of my loved ones.
"Papa, Mama, Anushree, Tushar."
Well, I knew they wouldn't respond - my disembodied self was unnoticeable to the material senses. A few more minutes ticked by as I watched their growing restlessness. Then again, I moved up in the air as I could not bear their uncertain and anxious looks anymore. The thought of how they would grieve at their loss pushed my anguish to unbearable degrees.
I suffered from a relatively common congenital heart disease called Patent Foramen Ovale or PFO. It means the presence of a hole between the upper heart chambers, which fails to close after birth.
I could remember when I was diagnosed with the affliction; the doctors advised against surgery as that could lead to higher risks for a stroke. They also told me to take good care of myself. My condition worsened despite following a strict diet and sleep schedule, as was evident from the increased frequency of migraine headaches. Therefore, Dr. Sharma decided to stitch the hole and assured us that it would be a minor surgery.
How a risk-free surgery, as Dr. Sharma had us believe, led to my end -- I had no clue. Maybe something went seriously wrong at the operation table.
I flew over the walkway and exited the hospital's entrance. The afternoon sun had no effect on me. It seemed the senses of touch and taste were now negligible, if not gone -- maybe balancing out the enhanced faculties of sight, hearing, and smell.
Despite knowing the moving vehicles could no longer harm me, my self-preservation instincts were very much alive when I crossed a busy road. I didn't let any car run over me.
I wondered if I would run into other disembodied beings in the air while floating over the city's buzz. And just then, I spotted two misty figures coming from the opposite direction. As they flew past me, I noticed the uncertainty and distress on their faces. Perhaps they were just dead like me and wondering as to what would follow. At that moment, I also realized that one's disembodied self essentially looks the same as one did just before dying. For example, I was now a smoky impression of my final physical manifestation. Towards my feet, though, I had a rather smudgy appearance.
Some more disembodied spirits came my way afterwards. Some of them appeared self-assured and contended, and some were anxious and upset.
The biggest distress in this state, I soon discovered, was the absence of the body. Imagine not having a body with all material desires still attached to your being. To bear the instincts and urges of the body without a body is a torture of an extreme kind.
As I wrestled with questions such as how long would I have to endure the distress and what the next stage of my existence would be, there was a sudden flood of light from above. Riding on my survival instincts, I arrested my flight and floated back by a few feet. However, I was soon immersed in light. It felt warm and soothing. What can be best described as a wormhole had opened before me. I found it to be a tunnel after careful examination. Oh, so the tunnel really exists!
The warmth of the light invited me to flow into the tunnel, and so I did. Suddenly I was full of hope. The further I moved into the tunnel, the more comforting it was. I spotted the light at the end of it and was eager to reach it.
Soon other misty beings appeared as I traversed through the tunnel. They were mostly people I knew were dead. My paternal grandparents were the first to make an appearance, followed by several of my friends and relatives. Their smile and welcoming gestures filled me with untold bliss. Yes, indeed, death was beautiful.
The light at the other end grew bigger and bigger. A flurry of questions ran through me. What was that light? God? The Ultimate Truth? Was there something beyond it? Something more supernal? The prospect of the answers following one after the other excited me. I never imagined incorporeal existence would be so blissful.
A woman appeared before me when I had covered around two-thirds of the tunnel's length. She was made of dense mist, giving her a relatively solid appearance. The woman's beauty transcended all words -- one of the Greek demi-goddesses!
"This is the final point of your ascent; now you have to go down," she said.
"No, I don't want to go back."
"But you must; you cannot go any further."
Then she touched the center of my consciousness, and I began to recede.
"Tell him o good man not to grieve," she said.
"Also, tell him sugary lass is fine."
And then a strong force pulled me back. The next thing I remember was to struggle in an enclosure; an enclosure called the body.
Four years down the line, I was rich and famous. My book 'Incorporeal Consciousness - The Truths I learned from my NDE' had become the number one international best-seller in its genre. The money I earned through the book was more than enough. So I had to quit my high-profile corporate job. The royalties kept pouring in thousands of dollars.
Around this time, during one of the book signing sessions, I was pleasantly surprised by the presence of a man to whom I owed my life.
"Won't you sign my copy, Mr. Manav Basu?"
"Yes, sure," I took the book from his hand and looked up.
"Do you recognize me?"
"Dr. Sharma, you!" I said and stood up.
We discussed many things over coffee later in the day, including the surgery and the book that made me a billionaire. Dr. Sharma was happy with my success but was blunt about his views on the book. He thought the book's contents were unscientific and could promote false and irrational ideas about death.
"I hope you've read it," I said.
"Of course, I have, not even once but twice," he said, "but I purchased another copy today so that I could get it signed by you."
"Do you think I lied, Dr. Sharma?"
"I never made such a charge. All I am saying is your book is scientifically untenable."
"But it really happened."
"Mr. Basu, you thought it happened."
"Sorry, what is that supposed to mean?"
"Near-death experience is not an ethereal or spiritual experience as you have written in your book. Several research findings indicate that excitation of parts of the brain can trigger false impressions, such as traveling out of one's body. NDE-like experiences are very common to drug users. Thousands of people on drugs have experienced all that you have written in your book. The tunnel vision can happen due to a depleted flow of blood and oxygen to the retina. Have you read any scientific explanation for NDE?"
"Yes, I have read most of the things you said."
"So, you know you never had a near-death experience?"
"Sorry, Dr. Sharma, I am not inclined to believe that."
"I know, anyone who has had an NDE usually rejects all kinds of scientific explanations."
"But, I saw things that cannot be mere tricks of the brain."
"Such as what?"
"I saw you and your team working on my body, the instruments measuring vitals showing straight lines, my parents, wife, and son waiting in the foyer, the streets outside, the tunnel -- everything."
"Once again, I will say the same thing -- what you saw were images generated by your body's biological mechanisms."
"No, I can't accept that."
"It doesn't matter what you accept or don't accept, Mr. Basu, the truth is you were tricked by your brain."
An attendant came with a bill folder and a payment terminal. Dr. Sharma took the folder from his hands.
"The coffee is on me, Dr. Sharma."
"Maybe some other day, Mr. Basu. Today's coffee is on me."
He brought out a credit card from his wallet. An old photograph came out with it and fell on the table. Dr. Sharma picked it up and put it back in the wallet. Moments after the attendant left, I realized that I had seen the woman in the photograph somewhere.
"Can I take a look at that again?"
"The one that fell from my wallet?"
"That's the picture of my wife. She's no more."
"Oh, I am so sorry, Dr. Sharma, but can I see it?"
"Why not, sure."
He pulled the photograph out and placed it on the table. No doubt, I had seen that woman before. But where exactly? Oh yes, the answer came like lightning -- she was the one who stopped me in the tunnel!
"I know her, Dr. Sharma."
"You knew my wife?"
"I met her in the tunnel; she is the angelic lady who stopped me in the tunnel."
He took a while to absorb what I said.
"Is this some kind of joke, Mr. Basu?"
"Believe me, I met your wife ..."
"That should be enough; I never thought you could stoop to such levels."
"But I am telling the truth."
"The entire world knows my wife is dead, and her pictures, including this one, are all over the social media. Shame on you for playing this dirty trick."
"Do you know what she said to me? I can remember every word of hers. She said - Tell him O good man not to grieve. Now I know that message was for you."
"Shut up; I have had enough of this."
"That's the truth."
"No, that's not the truth. You are lying. What you are saying is not even mentioned in the book; you are cooking up a new story now."
"I mentioned the angelic lady but not what she said. That's just because I couldn't understand the import of her words, and mentioning them would only confuse the readers."
"Thank you for your time, Mr. Basu. I am leaving."
He left the table in a flash and rushed to the door of the cafeteria.
"Listen, Dr. Sharma. She said another thing -- Also tell him sugary lass is fine."
He then stopped, turned around, and walked back to me.
"What did you just say?"
"That she asked me to tell you sugary lass is fine."
A period of silence followed as Dr. Sharma fought his tears.
"I guess I need more coffee. Will you join me?" He said.
"I don't mind that."
We sat across each other for a long time without talking. It was only after the coffee was served, did we speak again.
"Seems something is bothering you, Dr. Sharma."
"Sugary Lass -- I called Jasmine by that name. Only the two of us knew about it. I didn't mention the name to anyone even after she passed away. That's because it was so personal. It practically defined our bond."
He could no longer hold his tears.
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!