In a small village in Gujarat we have our ancestral house. There we've spent a few summer days lazing on its large wooden swing solving a majority of the world's problems. The house was maintained by an old woman, in her eighties. She was unmarried. Taking care of the house was her only passion. She loved it and she loved us. She cooked and cleaned for us. She told us stories of witches and daakus at night. The few days that we spent at the house was what she looked forward to for the rest of the year. She had thick long gray hair which she was very proud of and hoped that that would make a handsome young man fall in love with her. We provided her money enough for food and clothing. She was at the house for more than 20 years until she passed away. We called her Dosi Maa. This story is of her passing away.
One morning, in the summer of 1990, she didn't come out of her room and a low thumping sound was emanating from it. We knocked and enquired whether she was all right. The thumping ceased and she said she was not feeling well. We concluded she just wanted some rest although it was very unusual of her. We did not see her all day and to let her rest we ate our meals at a neighbour's house. The neighbours were surprised too because Dosi Maa was very active for her age. But they did mention her disappearing at times for a few days and they also heard thumping sounds in the middle of the night sometimes. We played outside until we were tired and returned home and immediately collapsed in our beds.
After a few hours, around 2 in the night, a few of us were awakened by a sudden sound. It was the same thumping, only much louder. We waited for a few minutes, stared at each other and decided to go downstairs. The electricity for the entire village was knocked out so it was pitch dark and we had to rely on candles. We knocked on Dosi Maa's door but got no response and the thumping continued. After a half hour of knocking we decided to break the door down as we were very concerned. A few of us started kicking it. The thumping got louder and, raising our concerns, we heard an angry moan, almost like a cat's. After a few kicks we managed to break the door down. And we were horrified at what we saw. Dosi Maa had stripped herself of all her clothes. Butt naked. Her shrivelled skin hanging loose over organs that had lost all shape and form. Her thick long gray hair was left open. She was jumping up and down vigorously on one leg. The other leg was balanced in the air like a yoga pose. She was smiling wide but moaning angrily. Her face was happy but her voice was terrifying. She also had a shaving blade in one hand. We were shell-shocked for a few seconds and didn't know how to react. We implored her to calm down but to no effect. One of us ventured close to her to hold her still but she violently pushed him away. Then, as if irritated by our efforts, she dangled the raw blade and suddenly began to shave off her head with it. Her hair started falling out in clumps coated with blood from her scalp. She didn't seem to get affected by it. By this time the neighbours were at our house. One of them thought that she was possessed by a ghost and the only way to get her to calm down would be to beat her with sticks. Beating our beloved Dosi Maa with sticks ! What a terrible thing to do. But we did it. We started thrashing her with bamboo logs. But it made no impact on her. It was as if she was made of iron. Our sticks broke but she still kept jumping on one leg, now completely bald with a bloodied head and face, naked and still screaming.
The local priest was brought in. He concluded that the only way to get rid of this ghost was to threaten to throw her from a big height. We decided to take her to an abandoned five storeyed building. Six of us caught her with great difficulty as she was biting and scratching us, tied her up, threw her in the back of a tempo and drove towards the building. While driving we could hear her jumping in the tempo and screaming. Upon reaching there we got her out of the tempo and carried her to the top floor. It was dark and we had only a few lanterns for light and she kept biting us constantly. We dangled her from the top floor but she only got louder and more violent. This method did not work. We were in tears and dejected by the horror. The local priest then said the only way now was to chop her head off and when the ghost leaves the body you could sew it together and she would still live. We were confused and did not know what to do anymore and that made us very vulnerable to bad suggestions. We did it. We chopped it off. With an axe. In one blow. The head came off and rolled on the floor. And to our horror of horrors it started screaming and bouncing up and down on the floor like a football. The headless body just stood erect balanced on one leg. Most of us just fainted at this sight. I caught hold of the head and stomped on it a few times to drain its life out but it didn't matter. Instead it slipped from under my foot, bounced behind me and gave me a sharp bite on my left buttock. I still have the marks to prove it. And it continued bouncing. Then in one final desperate attempt we flung the head out of the building. It went down in slow motion, chattering, screaming, looking angrily at me until it faded into the blackness of the night.
And then I woke up from my dream, sweating, with my heart beating rapidly, thanking the Gods for alarm clocks.