Cities and towns used to have colonies as dwellings; these colonies had parks where children played in large groups. Parks were an intrinsic feature of any colony. These parks were a good centre place and acted as meeting points for children and gupshup joints for women. One could overhear a lot of intellectual discussions around politics and current affairs by senior citizens and elderly. The parks were entertaining hotspots and allowed free flow of ideas and emotions. TV and mobile had not invaded our lives and plundered us of our emotions so life in 80s was fairly simple.
Every evening, we finished our homework and flung to the big park in the heart of our colony. Children came out of their houses and ran towards the park like many overzealous arrows shot from all directions hitting the bull’s eye.
As children we were fond of digging mud and making castles. During which we often found bones from underneath the ground. One day we got to know that many years ago the park served the purpose of a graveyard.
Outside the park gate, on the right side was a well touching the boundary wall of the park. It was a dry but quite deep well used by the colony residents to dump garbage. Children usually get excited when they discover simple things around them unexpectedly while playing. I don’t remember exactly but we must be 7-10 year olds in that group of children. Around three decades back, children were allowed to play freely in the vicinity and parks, without parents hovering on their heads. Probably there were less cases of child abuse, molestation, sodomy etc and environment was comparatively safer than what it is now.
On one such adventurous expedition, we discovered that if we scream on the mouth of the well then our voice echoes back. Excited by our discovery, we were looking down and screaming at the top of our voices. Suddenly, we saw an apparition inside the well screaming at us and asking us to run away, it was a woman clad in white clothes and open hair. She wasn’t scary but looked normal like any other woman. There were many children in that bunch and I was with my younger cousin that day. We were young but had enough sensibilities to understand that she is a ghost as there were no stairs to get inside the well and it was quite a deep well. The picture is still vivid in my mind’s eye as if it has just happened yesterday. I still remember the sudden gush of emotions we shared, both of us felt bewildered.
We got so scared and petrified that only thing we could do was run away, We raced to our home at supersonic speed and told about it to our mothers. Obviously no one believed us and we were shrugged off. Our mothers thought we are concocting stories from our figment of imagination.
When I recall that day, the memory still sends chill down my spine. Looking back, now I could connect the dots. The park was a graveyard earlier, owing to which the park was named as ‘Mrityunjay Park’ by the residents. The meaning of the word Mrityunjay is ‘victory over death’.
The park is still there and covered with beautiful flowers during spring. Its sprawling garden is still a meeting point for children, women and adults alike. The well head outside the park was closed long time ago.
Now I believe that children love telling stories, but they are not necessarily fictional. So give a patient ear to what your child is saying. Also, I am a strong advocate of giving ample free play opportunities and nurturing independent children, but a boundary should be set for that too. It should not cause irreparable damage to the child physically or mentally.
It is a real story. The Mrityunjay park still stands tall in the Niralanagar colony in Lucknow. It has been renamed as Shastri Park. The well outside the park has been leveled to make a footpath along the road. This post is not meant to spread superstitious beliefs, there are some occurrences/events in the world which are beyond our understanding.So I just want to share one such experience.