The Dak Banglows or Circuit houses, the government buildings of the Raj evoke nostalgia as they had a certain mystique about them. The mysterious tales are more popular in Telugu States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Some of the dak bungalows of the British days were said to be haunted by the ghosts of sahibs long dead and gone. Then there were the spectres of ‘native’ women who had fallen in love with a passing firangi and died of a broken heart when he left them in the lurch. Besides these, there were old khansamas whose spirit could not rest in peace and made an occasional appearance at midnight to surprise some young Englishman with a tray of whisky-soda.
The Dak Bungalows were built in the 1800s as rest houses for the constantly touring British officials to break their journey and rest overnight. As the officers usually arrived unannounced, it was up to the khansama to whip up something with the available ingredients.
Provisions for sahib
In Delhi there were some PWD dak bungalows, like the ones of Alipur Road, Nizamuddin and Mehrauli, for which the khansama bought weekly provisions. But the meat was bought only when an officer in transit arrived. If he came late in the evening, he could only be served vegetable soup, egg curry and potato cutlets, rounded off with a dessert of pudding made of baker’s bread and milk brought from a nearby gwala (milkman). The ‘sahib’ had to make do with his own bottle of whisky or rum.
Once a sahib went looking for the khansama and found him hanging from a tree. When he called out to him, the man just vanished. But who would ever imagine a Baby Morris suddenly emerging in front of a dak bungalow at midnight, depositing a ghostly form and then zooming off with a headless driver, who wore a muffler round his bleeding neck? Believe it or not, that was what William Chinga, the late PWD supervisor, who had six fingers on his left hand, used to say.
Such strange happenings at dak bungalows were not uncommon. Ever heard of Siri dak bungalow made famous by Kipling where the old khansama had lost touch with the world and used to call dinner “ratab” or dog’s food?
Paranormal commonly means anything far beyond normal, something odd, we hardly come across, mostly associated with a sense of uneasiness, anxiety and eerie feeling; the sudden or lingering reaction depends on the mental makeup of the people.
There are many stories across the globe in popular culture and folklore related to purported paranormal phenomena. Invariably, such stories are intertwined with an old building far removed from the urban space or in an isolated place in a semi urban area. The presence of paranormal phenomenon, when it comes to serious discussion, is not based on empirical or factual evidence rather it is based on a legend, a belief or speculation. Though explanations are available, they are outside the purview of established science. Ghost-sighting, life after death, incarnation and even ESP are some examples encompassed within paranormal phenomena.
A research study on college students undertaken in the USA concluded that ‘those with higher grade do not believe in paranormal phenomenon and the other study came up with the finding that ‘psychological “absorption” and “disassociation” are higher among the believers’. Any way, there exits a correlation between irrational thinking and paranormal belief. The subject of ghost-sighting or the presence of spirit appears to be more of subjective in nature rather than objective. Such stories of purported sighting of ghost or haunted houses attract the people with inquisitive mind who who are ready to take care of their anxiety- driven and stressed experience.
The dak bungalow at Fatehpur Sikri was frequented by British officers on their way to the erstwhile Rajputana. It now serves tourists and other visitors to Akbar’s dream city – and also officials of the Uttar Pradesh government. But some confess to feeling scared there at night.
The dak bungalow at Sikandra was until lately preserved in 19th century style, complete with a lantern that mysteriously got extinguished at midnight. There are extensive grounds all around with shady trees. If one doesn’t mind the bugs that infest its ancient beds and the scary yarns associated with it, one can enjoy a stay there.
Delhi Dak Bungalow was situated near where the ‘Mutiny’ memorial now stands, opposite the erstwhile telegraphic office. It was the abode of officers in transit – or on holiday. Some of the old residents used to recall how it looked and provided easy access to Skinner’s church, the Kashmere Gate, the Civil Lines and the Delhi main railway station.
This dak bungalow also had its share of strange happenings, for a young British officer shot himself dead in it after an affair with a woman.
Some said she was already married, others that she decided to get engaged to someone else. The girl’s name was Madeline but she was better known as “Maddie”.
To end this bizarre yarn, one can only add that the officer’s Baby Morris one night drove off on its own and was found wrecked near the ruins of the Purana Qila.
Believe it or not, but the late Mrs Whelpdale of St. Xavier’s School, Raj Niwas Marg, used to swear that it was true. You may perhaps even spot it on a stormy night. Beware! #livehyd #hydnews