It was summer and Kalyani’s daughter, her son-in-law, and grandkids who had come from Bombay, were all stuffed into her humble abode in Palakkad, the little house almost bursting at the seams.
She was busy cooking in the kitchen with her daughter Lata, while her son-in-law was trying to fix the age-old TV, but it looked like he was not making much headway with it.
The kids were distracted and running around screaming, “TV, TV…we want TV!”
“Akash, Sudha can you please stop making a ruckus,” said Lata exasperatedly. “Please sit down quietly in one place and let Dada fix the TV.”
Kalyani smiled when she saw her daughter trying to bring some order to the house.
“You were just like this when you were a kid,” said Kalyani turning to her daughter.
“I wasn’t this bad,” said Lata defensively, “and your stories always used to calm me down. Why don’t you tell these little monsters one of them now? It will probably make them less fidgety.”
Without waiting for Kalyani’s approval her daughter announced, “Grandma is going to tell you kids a story.”
As if on cue the kids started chanting “Story, Story!”
Kalyani sat herself on the sofa and made the children sit on either side.
“Both of you give me your hands.” The kids reluctantly placed their little hands in their grandma’s palms. Kalyani guided their hands to the top of her head and said, “Now feel this.”
No sooner had she said this then the kids recoiled their hands from her head.
“Ewwww” screamed both simultaneously. “What is that?”
“It is a scar from an injury long ago. You want to know how I got it?” she asked, mysteriously. “When I was a kid I used to love running around and my mother was forever screaming at me, urging me not to run around the compound.”
“She used to keep telling me that if I kept running around and creating a ruckus, Kuttichatan would take me away because that is what this mischievous spirit does with naughty kids. But I never listened because I didn’t believe her.”
“One day I was outside playing with my dog Chikku when I heard a strange voice call out to me.”
“’Kalyani…. Kalyani,’ it said in a sing song way. I wondered where the sound was coming from, and I started walking towards the source of it.”
“’Kalyaniiiiiii…. Come to me!’ continued the strange eerie voice.”
“I realized that the voice was coming from the well in our yard. The closer I went, the louder the voice became. I reached the well and looked down and suddenly the voice stopped.”
“I moved forward a little bit more to see why the voice had stopped, and just as I was moving away from the well, I felt…”
“What did you feel Grandma?” the grandkids said, their eyes widening in anticipation.
“I felt a cold hand on my neck, and before I could turn it pushed me inside the well. I fell in screaming. The well was not that deep, so I hit my head at the bottom of the well. Before I fainted, I looked up and saw a dark figure with red eyes staring down at me.”
“How did you get out of the well?” asked Sudha in a whisper.
“When my mother realized I was missing, she came looking for me and found Chikku standing near the well and barking. She saw me floating in the water and got my father from the fields to get me out.”
“I recovered soon but the injury on my head was deep. The scar and the memory of that face remain with me even today, constantly reminding me that one should never disobey their mother.”
The children sat quietly staring at each other as Kalyani got up and walked to the kitchen where her daughter stood smiling.
“Why did you lie to them Ma, didn’t you get that scar when you were learning how to ride a cycle?” she said, her voice barely a whisper.
Kalyani replied with a mischievous glint in her eyes. “Yes, but as they say, why let the truth spoil a good story.”
* * *
Sandeep Narayanan is a writer, storyteller and an info-junkie who loves writing short stories. He is based out of Bangalore and currently working on his first novel. Sandeep has donned many hats in his life: as a a dentist, an advertising professional, curator of an independent film club called Chennai RTFF, and brand manager — but writing is something which has been close to his heart and has stayed with him all his life.