Amin was an infamous thief. People dreaded him. Such was his notoriety that parents often used his name to frighten their children.

One day, Amin committed a huge theft in a rich man’s house and made off with a lot of gold jewelry and cash. After this rich haul, he set off for his hideout in the woods, on the outskirts of the town.

On the way, it started to drizzle. Soon, this drizzle turned into a heavy downpour, which was followed by gale. Amin had to take shelter in a nearby choultry. The old, abandoned building wasn’t in a very good condition. It was pitch-dark inside and absolutely nothing was visible. The violent flight of bats could be heard not so far away.

As Amin settled down in that unsettling place, it dawned on him in a sudden, strange way that he was not alone. He shouted out loud, ‘Hey! Who’s in there?’

His gut feeling was right, for a woman responded at once, asking him who he was.

Twisting his mustache, Amin proudly announced who he was and carried on the conversation.

‘It’s actually nice to have some company in this boring weather,’ he remarked confidently.

The woman kept silent for a few seconds before speaking again, ‘So, you’re telling me that you’re the notorious thief, Amin. Well, that reminds me of a story. And since you’re bored, I’d like to tell it to you.’

Amin laughed. ‘You seem like quite a resourceful lady! A story? Well, sure, go on!’

The woman cleared her throat and started, ‘Actually, this isn’t a story. It’s more like a real-life thing. There was this girl named Ganga in a nearby village. She used to enjoy stories about thieves and dacoits. As she grew up, she found such tales even more fascinating. She was so into such stuff that she wanted to marry a notorious thief and no one else. But what parent would give their daughter’s hand to an outlaw? Ganga’s father chided his daughter and married her off to a farmer’s son against her wishes.’

‘One night, a major theft occurred at Ganga’s in-laws’ house. Unperturbed by the loss, Ganga rather wanted to get a glimpse of the thief, and so she did, falling for him at once. She was even ready to elope with him should he turn up again and accept her!’

Amin was beginning to enjoy this story. He couldn’t bring himself to believe that a housewife would be smitten with a man who had just robbed her house, much less that she would be willing to run off with him. It sounded pretty strange.

‘It’s unbelievable, you know! You’re telling me she was a real person, huh? So, where is this Ganga now?’

At this, the woman let out a heavy sigh. ‘Her desire went unfulfilled. She’s dead.’

‘Oh, my!’ Amin grimaced. He couldn’t help feeling sorry for that stranger. In a way, he felt disappointed as well. He had actually wanted to meet Ganga. His train of thought was interrupted by the sound of a cough. Startled, he asked the woman. ‘Hey! Who’s that? That sounded like a man out there. I thought you were alone. Do you have someone with you in there, lady?’

Even before the woman could reply, there was another fit of cough, which was followed by a male voice.

‘You seem interested in the story. Let me take over and narrate the rest of it.’

Amused, Amin asked this new narrator how Ganga had died.

‘Well,’ said the man. ‘Ganga loved the thief so much that she started chanting his name even in her sleep. Her husband, Balu, felt increasingly betrayed. Things got to a point where the couple had a pretty serious argument. In a fit of anger, Balu stabbed Ganga to death. Thereafter, he went to the police and confessed to his crime. He was sent to the gallows.’

Amit was lost for words. It was the woman who continued the story now. ‘Due to her unnatural death, Ganga became a ghost. She has been looking for the thief ever since,’ she concluded.

‘Not just that, even Ganga’s husband, Balu, became a ghost. He too is looking for the thief, though for a completely different reason,’ added the man.

Amin was puzzled. ‘What do you mean…?’

‘Balu thinks that it was the thief who ruined his family and caused their deaths. Ganga too has come to believe the same of late,’ the man explained. ‘So, you see, both these ghosts have been frantically searching for the man to avenge their own deaths.’

By this point, Amin was completely overcome by a morbid curiosity.

‘Did they find him?’ he asked.

‘Yeah, they just did,’ said both the voices in unison.

Amin was startled. Suddenly, it dawned on him that something was amiss. With unease creeping up on him, he got up abruptly.

‘Just who the hell are you two? How do you know the story? And how come you’re here… at this godforsaken hour?!’ he asked in a stern voice.

The woman laughed out loud. ‘I know the story because I’m Ganga. And this here is my husband, Balu.’

A chill ran down Amin’s spine. Fear was writ large on his face. Just then, lightning flashed outside. In that flash, Amin could make out two human forms – that of a man and a woman. Both of them were huddled up in a corner. He was petrified. His mouth dried up.

‘But you… you are already dead!’ by then, he was trembling like a dry leaf.

‘We sure are,’ said the woman. ‘It has been a year since we died. Our unnatural deaths have turned us into ghosts…’

‘…but our long search has come to an end today,’ the man completed for her. ‘Luckily, we found you here. Our long-standing wish is about to be fulfilled. At last.’

Amin was so scared that even before the man could conclude, he shot off like an arrow. He didn’t care if it was dark. In his haste to save his life, he left behind all his booty and disappeared in the rain.

The man and the woman had a hearty laugh after realizing what had just transpired. Had Amin not been so timid, he would have seen through their made-up story. They were no ghosts, but rather human beings like him. They had been walking back to their village after visiting their relatives before the heavy rain and gale had left them stranded inside the temple. Clever as they were, they had fabricated a story to give Amin the impression that they were actually ghosts.

They had only intended to scare the thief away, but now they could also take all the money and jewels that Amin had left behind. They patiently waited for the rain to stop. And once it did, they safely made it back to their village.

The next day, they went to the police station to hand over the spoils. The police superintendent praised the couple for their presence of mind and honesty.

鈥ow that you鈥檙e here

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Pravin Kumar Ameya
Pravin

As fond of writing a good story as he is of reading one, Pravin is one of the most promising writers at Ameya. He can be contacted at pravinkumar2788@gmail.com.