SHILLONG: 20th April 2022
We don't know if anyone has ever heard about Peachland. It was once a large beautiful garden replete with roses, forget-me-nots, carnations, sweet peas, pansies, holly, and a variety of blooms that normally grow in Shillong- a quintessential hill station known to many as the Scotland of the East. A variety of apple orchards and trees bearing cherries and several other fruits grew there. Pinkish and whitish blossoms draped the plum and peach trees during springtime. A tennis court nestled on one side of the lawn, and a stretch of bamboo groves covered the garden to the end. On the other side, one would see workers draw water from a pond with long hoses for gardening and watering the plants.
It was here that Seema spent the first few years of her life. The property owners were a retired couple from Britain who had remained in India, like many other former British appointees. They had created lovely residences that they did not want to leave. A peaceful hotel was once part of the vast estate. The hotel began to deteriorate when the family moved into the cottage on the property. There were only a few visitors. It had fallen off the radar of people and was in perpetual decay.
There were two large manors that lay adjacent to the Peachland. One was owned by the royal family of Manipur, while the other was occupied by a minor nobility from Northeast India.
The area was lovely, but it would grow silent by the end of the day. Shillong was a peaceful hill station with squeaky clean air and lush vegetation that blew through the pines gently but occasionally picked up momentum and screamed in rage, rattling doors and windows while frightening the little ones.
The Peachland featured pine slopes, a bamboo thicket that took on an ominous air at night. The dining room, kitchen, and storeroom were all located separately from the main house. There was a rocky pathway that connected the cottage to the kitchen and dining area. The road was thick with shrubs, interrupted by peach and plum orchards. For their meals, the family had to walk down the pathway and across the tennis court. The servant quarters were situated near the dining room and they'd frequently speak about seeing ghosts. However, her parents dismissed tales of apparitions at night, arguing that servants invented them to terrify the youngsters.
The food had not arrived from the kitchen one day when she was sitting down for dinner, and her brothers had left as they usually did to check out what they were having for dinner. She had no idea why she didn't accompany them; this was something she usually did. She just sat at the table waiting for supper to arrive.
She was sitting in the dining room, which had been left open. One could see out onto the lawn from there. She noticed a man draped in white-gold apparel just like a King float past the open door as she sat there, his back to her. He was facing me. He was dressed in a long white coat with gold trim, with a golden sash around his waist and a flowing turban of the same hue. She was gobsmacked. That person glided into the dining room in slow motion, his gaze bloodshot. She was looking at him from a different angle, and the sight vanished when it had gone past the middle of the wide doorway. She was enthralled. She couldn't move. As terror choked my voice, she didn't yell out.
During the meal, She remained silent and revealed nothing to anyone about her experience. She was shocked. But fear of being mocked or scolded for making things up compelled her to keep quiet. Her family was a group of rationalists, and no one believed in the supernatural. It is a possibility that she may have kept her secret as a result of this.
The family had moved out several decades ago. The Peachland has been sold to investors, who have built a huge concrete structure on the site. We don't know if the tennis court and the bamboo grove are still there.
After graduating, she told her family about it for the first time. She still has no idea why she didn't come forward sooner. The figure was genuine, and she was haunted by it for many years. She wondered if she would discover a similar image draped in white and gold. The notion still gives her chills. Was it a ghost or merely her imagination? She's still haunted by the ghost that showed up from nowhere.
(Story courtesy: Seema Guha, Author at Outlook India)