I must tell you about the time we employed some men to clean a well in our backyard. The work was abandoned even before it started , because the hired help dug up our family secret.
Never in all their lives had they been called to clear something like this. It scared the daylights out of them and made them run for their lives.
Though it makes a hilarious story to tell your family and friends and we laugh our guts out while recounting this tale, my father refuses to join in.
I must start the story at the beginning to make you understand how it came about.
When my brother joined Medical College, he bought himself a human skeleton – the whole 206 or so bones and joints, all in their right places.
These days online notes and photographs are at hand to clear the student’s doubts. But in the 80’s, students procured a set of bones to help them with their anatomy lessons.
My brother proudly brought the skeletal system home and my father blew a fuse. He hated it and this skeleton literally became a bone of contention between my dad and my brother.
My brother often left it lying around all over the house, sometimes deliberately to scare my father. The skull would be perched on the dining table, where my brother would sip his tea and scribble some notes in a notebook or it would be lying recumbent on my brother’s bed or be swinging from a hook in my brother’s room where he would be studying through the night.
“Is this a morgue?” My father would say, making no bones about his hatred for it.
After five years, my brother completed his course. My father gave a sigh of relief.
“Get rid of that.” He said pointing to his pet peeve. “No more skeletons tumbling out of your closet.”
But my brother would not put it away. My father looked for ways and means to get rid of the offensive thing. No one was willing to take it off his hands. There was no place at home where we could store a box of bones.
As a last resort, he decided to dump it into the dry well in our backyard.
This well was the recipient of many useless things from our house, swallowing up stuff nobody wanted or could not be sold off to the rubbish collector. Even in the heaviest of monsoons the well remained somewhat dry, hiding ugly trash in its depths.
My father flung the abhorrent bones unceremoniously into the belly of the well, to join other junk, hoping it would disappear from our lives for ever.
Soon we forgot about the skeleton in the well.
Some months later, a relative visited our house. Seeing an unused well in the back yard gathering rubbish, he pointed out that it was probably dispensing bad energy. He reprimanded my father and said that according to traditional beliefs it was unlucky to have such a well so close to one’s living quarters. A dry well meant a drying of fortune and would bring bad luck to the family.
Though my father did not believe in superstitions, he decided to clear up the well for health reasons. He felt that it was attracting rodents and insects.
On my father’s instructions, our driver hired four men to clean up the well. Their regular work was to remove silt from wells and clear the debris. The men were professionals. All their lives they had been cleaning wells and promised to do a good job.
The men had brought the necessary tools of the trade. Two guys were let into the well with stout ropes tied around their waist while the other two waited above, ready to haul the refuse the men inside would send up in a basket.
No sooner had the two men gone down, then there was a great furor and commotion among the crew. In a few minutes, all the four men were up, packing up their paraphernalia and fleeing from our house as if they had seen a ghost. Which if you think about it, they really had.
As they fled they shouted obscenities at the driver who had engaged them to do the job.
My father was nonplussed by their behaviour and could not understand what had incited the men to bolt like that. He asked my driver.
“Nothing sir. Nothing sir.” Our driver tried to dodge my dad’s questions.
After much coaxing, he told us the reason why the men had sprinted away like that at top speed.
“Sir, they found a skeleton in the well. They think you murdered someone and hid the body there.”
My poor father cursed the set of bones for never giving him any peace, since the day my brother brought it home. It is another story how my father got the well cleared and put a mesh door over it so that it just collected water in the rains and nothing unsavory.
PS: My cousin told me this story and I have written it exactly as she told me.
Image courtesy: Zixwix, Abilash Jacob, luc Mahler, Jazella, Clikr-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay