Saturday, January 23, 2016

Prologue: This is a true story. Well, it almost is. I've used some poetic license to embellish it a bit. I was inspired to write this after reading Nyctophilia - a very brilliant poem by Maniparna. 

The names and event are real. So are the facts about astrology and séance. I don't believe in supernatural, but don't deny it either. The decision is kept pending till science finds out what happens after death or till I experience it first hand - whichever happens first. All I can promise you is, once I know what happens after death, you will be the first to know. Although, I doubt that you will be pleased to see me then. :D


Man by nature is a mystery lover. That's the reason we excelled over other fauna. Mystery, apart from being highly attractive, is also intimidating. We are scared of death, because the afterlife is shrouded in deep mystery. Some day we will decipher the ultimate enigma - Death, and then we will treat it as any other phenomenon, like lightening and hurricane, which used to scare the prehistoric men once.

During my engineering days, we had a rowdy group. Like all other youngsters during pre-social media era, we were intrigued by afterlife and spirits and always tried to dabble into various loony things, such as graveyard visits at nights and long discussions on hypothetical scenarios involving paranormal etc. Once I got hold of a medieval book on séances at some Raddiwala and we decided to try it out.

Astrology is one of my various hobbies and pastimes. People know only the prediction aspect of astrology and spurn it as nonsense when the predictions aren't fulfilled. Astrology is an exact science. At least, the chart casting part is. The chart resembles the location of planets in the heavens at any given point of time and can be verified by a simple telescope with a magnification of 15X. The horoscope is nothing but a map of the sky. The entire chart is divided into 12 sections of 30 degrees each, totaling to 360 degrees of the circular universe. The topmost part or the 'house' is called the Ascendance and represents east. It is considered the first house. Rest of the houses are numbered anti-clockwise. The zodiac sign rising in the east is entered in the ascendance and is numbered according to its position in the zodiac, for example, one for Aries and 12 for Pisces. The current positions of planets and signs can be derived by any reputed ephemeris, published by observatories across the world. I used and still use the Raphael Ephemeris, published by the Royal Observatory, London. As I said, astrology is tied to the pure science of astronomy. It's when people begin to interpret the effects of those heavenly orbs that they goof up, because predictions require an acute intuition and powerful sixth sense. I used astrology more as astronomy.

According to the book, séance can be conducted when retrograde Saturn is in conjunction with Hershel. Saturn is one of the slowest moving planets in the solar system and takes seven and half years to go around the sun. Eight is considered to be the number ruled by Saturn. We decided to summon the spirits on Saturday, the eighth of September.

We all gathered in my room on the stipulated time. I cast a chart of the current time and found that Saturn in conjunction with Hershel was going to ascend by 11.30pm. At 11.30pm, four of us sat around a table, holding hands, while Saturn Hershel conjunction was rising in the east. The table had a crude planchètte, drawn by me.

Planchètte is French for small map. It is a small board or piece of paper 18 inches square with a small circle in the middle. There are many ways to prepare a planchètte using words and images etc. I prepared the simplest ones, using 26 letters of alphabet and 10 numerals around the circle. During the séance, a leader is selected. The leader is always a psychic medium. Usually, it's a female as they are considered more sensitive to ultra sensory perceptions. They all sit around a center table, usually circular in shape and hold hands so that the positive energy is circulated in everyone. Beeswax candles are lighted near the four corners of the planchètte in the center of the table. The leader sits facing south and keeps something flat and small, such as a coin in the center of the planchètte. The light of the room is dimmed and the room is perfumed. Then the spirit is summoned. There is no particular method in summoning them. The uninitiated consider that the spirits need some mantra or arcane Latin chants to arrive. It's unseemly that the spirits require humane languages to communicate. Like God, they are just a power, and use telepathy to understand us. Once seated, all the members focus their thoughts on one particular spirit and begin to summon it in unison in whatever language they are capable of. Usually it is in the form of never ending chants. Once the spirit is summoned, the coin in the center of the planchètte vibrates and the leader keeps their right forefinger on it. The members ask questions and the coin moves automatically to the letters or images. A recorder is present there to note down the answers. Usually, the leader and the members are totally drained out at the end of the séance and don't remember anything afterwards, hence the presence of a recorder is a must.

We chose Divya as our leader, because she was considered a most receiving medium. A medium requires certain traits. They need to be ultra-sensitive, so that they can sense and react to slight changes in the atmosphere, they shouldn't have much will power, so that their psyche doesn't resist when a spirit is trying to control it. I was selected to be the recorder as I'm a total loss as a medium and am always kicked out of any such activities, in spite of my overall enthusiasm and ever ready willingness.

The session began at 11.40 pm. You need to attend a séance to believe the mystical environment it creates. Mere words are insufficient to enact a true image of the scenario. In the ghostly atmosphere, a number of somber people sitting around a table, holding hands in semi darkness and chanting eerily... It's enough to freak out any weaker willed person! The skeptics say that it's the power of suggestion and the mystery imbued in the atmosphere instead of any real paranormal force, which causes the members to believe that a spirit has arrived. May be, they are right. The team was trying to invoke the spirit of Meena Kumari, a film actress, who died in the early eighties. The small room resonated with the monotonous humming of their chants. In spite of my iron will power, I was affected by the ongoing humming, just as we feel drowsy when we hear the incessant humming of a turbine engine. Suddenly I felt a cold breeze at the nape of my neck and was fully Alert. I looked at the faces of the members sitting in trance. None of them had stirred. The room was stifling hot with no sign of any breeze.

They sat there for nearly an hour, chanting and meditating. Nothing transpired. Finally, they gave up. Everyone stood up and we switched on the lights. We were silent for some time then everyone tried to explain their experiences at once. When we perform some activity, truly believing in it, we don't concede defeat immediately, even when we are faced with certain proof of failure. We always console ourselves that we did achieve a modicum of success. People were explaining to me - the only not-so-gullible audience available - that they saw some spirits in their trance etc. I didn't believe any of their rot.

Divya went to the mirror and started to brush her hair while talking to us. I was insisting that it was a failed experiment. Rahul and Steve were still arguing that it wasn't an entire failure. We appealed to Divya, who was our leader. She laughed and finally admitted that it was a failed experiment. We decided to try it again some day. After all, whoever expects success in the first try? Divya promised to get candles of genuine beeswax instead of the paraffin wax ones, which we had used. Possibly, the spirits didn't come because of that! While analyzing a failure, it's always normal to blame it on any of the smallest details available. After all, we all need a scapegoat.

Suddenly she froze and looked at her reflection keenly. She realized that it had been still as a poster and was staring back at her intently all the time she talked. It hadn't laughed or moved when she did.

Terror dawned in her eyes, when her reflection suddenly smiled at her and winked.