A trip to the hills was routine for Avi. Having been born in the Himalayas, he loved the trips. Over the years the visits to the Himalayas had reduced. He made up with visits to the nearest hill stations. Avi lived in Hyderabad with his parents and used to visit Ooty in Tamil Nadu and Munnar in Kerala. On one such visit to Munnar, he had a rendezvous which was unusual. After reaching Munnar, the first rigmarole was to search for the hotel his father had booked through one of the many travel booking sites. There were at least three hotels with the same name and in the same locality. They visited all the three hotels only to find their names missing from the prospective guests’ lists.
The challenge was to locate the hotel that was booked. After lots of enquiries, a gentleman guided us to the place which was 4 kilometers away from the town. The thing about small towns is they look haunted at the best of times. When evening falls and it is raining, you better be inside a house or a hotel. Somehow Avi managed to reach that place. It was very clear that the place had seen better days. Apart from the caretaker and Avi’s family, there was no one around. It was right in the middle of the forest with no tar roads nearby. There were Nilgiri hills for company. Avi and his family let the cab go. It was time for dinner. A gentle enquiry with the caretaker led to the conclusion that no food was available there. Food had to be eaten in a restaurant somewhere in the town. There was no means of transport available.
Avi and his family started walking towards the town in absolute darkness. There were no streetlights. Only Eucalyptus trees on either side of the road were accompanying them. They walked for around two kilometers in the darkness and then they saw a figure in absolutely white clothing approaching them. As the figure came closer, Avi began shivering. This was a man who looked exactly like the caretaker in the hotel they had left behind. He stopped right in front of the family. Avi started asking something but the words didn’t come out of his mouth. He was a one eyed man with lots of scars. With great courage Avi’s father asked him what did he want but there was no reply. He kept staring for around 2 minutes and then started walking straight ahead.
The family was shocked. They literally ran the remaining distance to the nearest restaurant with hardly a word spoken. The food was not going down their throats. They somehow finished eating and started their long trudge back to the hotel. As soon as they came back they checked with the caretaker whether he had any brother or cousin who looked like him. The answer was an unequivocal “NO”. It was impossible to sleep after that incident. Early next morning the family vacated the hotel and looked for another place to stay.