Once there was a boy called Timmy who wanted a vacation. He was a teenager. He loved to have fun while travelling, so he wanted to go on a vacation with his friends.
He chose his friend, Maxy’s resort, situated in Coorg. While they were on their way to the resort, they looked for a place to stop because they were hungry. Luckily, they saw a café and decided to go there. They felt the owner of the café was strange. He looked a little scared. They wanted to buy burgers, so they enquired if they were available. The owner’s reply was short and angry.
“Sorry boys! The café is closed,” he said.
Disappointed, the boys drove back to the resort. There, Timmy and his other friends met Maxy. They shared a fun time, chatting away. After a while, Timmy asked Maxy about the café and its strange owner.
Maxy replied, “There was a café a year ago, but it burnt down in an accident!”
Timmy was shocked to hear this. He explained to Maxy what had happened while they were on their way to the resort. Maxy was equally shocked to hear what Timmy told him. Maxy assured Timmy and his friends that he would look into the issue the very next day. He asked them to retire for the night. He then joined his friends to have fun that night.
Timmy and his friends had planned to stay over only for the weekend. The weekend went by with lots of fun. Maxy, Timmy and all the other friends enjoyed the weekend a lot.
The night before they were to check out, Timmy heard a howling sound. The doors and windows were fluttering in the wind. He could sense some kind of disturbance around him. He found one of his friends, Nick, loitering around the resort, laughing and giggling to himself. Timmy was so shocked and perplexed to see Nicks’s change of behaviour, that he rushed to wake Maxy and explain to him what he had seen.
Confused by his behaviour, Timmy and Maxy went near Nick. Nick rushed to the swimming pool when Timmy and Maxy stopped him to enquire what was going on. He seemed irritated. He pushed them and jumped into the pool by himself. As he swam, he played and splashed around in the water.
Timmy and Maxy were shocked, as the real Nick was afraid of water and didn’t know swimming! Not knowing what to do, Timmy and Maxy kept staring at Nick.
After he finished swimming, Nick bathed, changed and went into his villa. Timmy and Maxy utterly confused, waited until morning to check with Nick. They didn’t know they were awaiting an unimaginable story.
Timmy could not sleep. He kept rolling on his bed, thinking of all possibilities for the change he had seen in Nick. Maxy couldn’t get any sleep either. Having heard of some ghostly encounters among their acquaintances, they started to relate the incident and discuss the things they had heard about through the night.
The next morning, Timmy asked Nick about the previous night’s events. Nick, unaware of the changes he had gone through, was surprised! Timmy and Maxy wanted to put the issue to rest. They did not want the other boys to know of Nick’s condition.
Early next morning, Timmy and the others packed their bags to check out. Nick refused to come. He insisted on extending their stay. Timmy and Maxy accepted his request as they wanted to get to the bottom of what was wrong with Nick. They also wanted to save Nick from whatever had happened to him.
Nick, excited about the extension of their stay, wanted to go out and explore the outdoors. He vehemently planned the itinerary, as if he was familiar with the area. Timmy and Maxy let him take control of the day. Nick effortlessly planned the day’s event under a couple of minutes. However, knowing Nick in and out, Timmy and Maxy wondered if he was either possessed, or was letting his inner child loose.
They had a reason to think that way because Nick was a very naïve, innocent, scared, reclusive and dependent boy. He was always scared of something or the other, and had a reason to avoid involving himself in anything. He was scared of water splashing over him, so he avoided going near any large water bodies- whether it was a pool or a pond. He was scared of heights, and so he avoided looking down from the second floor. Adventurous activities were never usually a part of Nick’s wishlist, but on that particular day, he made an exception. To put it mildly, it was a day that was to be etched in Nick’s life history.
The reason for for this was that the itinerary he had planned, included trekking and rafting! Timmy and Maxy, unable to control the shock they were experiencing, asked Nick about this. He didn’t bother to respond to them, and went about preparing for the trip.
Timmy and Maxy were excited to overlook the surprises Nick was throwing at them. Knowing he had changed and wanting to know the reason behind these changes, Timmy, Maxy and their clueless friends got into the mood. The boys were all set for action.
They started to trek the nearby plantation, next to Maxy’s resort. The plantation included coffee, pepper and cardamom. They soaked in the aroma of the spices and coffee beans. Nick volunteered to be their guide. He explained to them the planters’ process of growing the coffee plant to the perfect height, when to prune the plant, the best time to plant a sapling, how to choose the perfect bean, when to go to the pulper and much more.
Everybody was in awe of Nick. Nick had always been a shy person, but today, he enjoyed the spotlight and was happy to share all his knowledge!
He moved on to explain about peppers- the difference between the green and black pepper, the right techniques to pluck them, the methods used to yield maximum crop, and other trade secrets behind the art. He explained why peppers always crept on to coffee or cardamom plants. He also addressed the financial layback the planters were paying, and how middle-men were playing with their finances through money mongering. All of them could feel real concern and grief in Nick’s voice when he addressed the suffering of the planters.
Lastly, he spoke to them about the cardamom. He explained to them the importance of cardamom- why it was the most expensive spice, what the perfect season of planting and harvesting the plant was, the market value of the queen of spice, and also the various manuring components involved in maintaining the cardamom tree.
Nobody uttered a word, other than “Hmm” or “Oh” while Nick spoke. He was at ease. His flow was uncontrollable, and most charming. They couldn’t but be engrossed by what he said. They were all filled to the brim with the information Nick gave them. He was more like a local- a boy who belonged. Not like a paid guide! Unanimously, they agreed this was their best field trip ever.
Since they had started early for the trek, they rode ATV bikes through the rest of the terrain. They hogged some breakfast at a local chai shop. With the cool breeze soothing their soul, the aroma of the spices singing along, their heart and soul were at peace. They enjoyed every minute of their field trip. No one felt exhausted, or hungry for food in all the three hours of their trek. Nick engaged them continuously with his constant flow of information.
Timmy and Maxy, forgetting that Nick had changed, enjoyed the moments with Nick, although they didn’t forget to protect their friend as they walked alongside him all through the trek.
The first part of the day was spent trekking and trailing. Then, they headed to the river rafting area, which was most famous in the region because of its Barapole river- a fierce, turbulent and magnificent white water body.
The boys were so excited by the vastness, the gushing sound, the peace that prevailed in the whole area. Nick (with a wink) arranged a boat through a guide, along with life jackets and paddles for all his friends. Timmy and Maxy consistently stayed close to Nick.
The paddling had begun with the slow-paced flow of the river. With the continual increase in water current, the need to paddle fast was compulsive. With the instructions from the guide, the sway of the river and the forceful water current, the boys seemed to have the best time of their lives.
They screamed, giggled, splashed and let themselves loose as they rafted. They did everything they could to enjoy those precious moments in the water. With a heart full of satisfaction, Nick burst into laughter. Eventually, Timmy and Maxy caught up with Nick’s mood.
The rafting ended after four tiresome, yet fun-filled hours. The boys had no energy to do anything anymore. All they wanted to do was retire to their own beds.
Getting back to the resort was a task in itself, as they forced their energy to override their tiredness. Timmy and Maxy failed neither to observe nor relish the changes in Nick.
When they reached the resort, Timmy and Maxy disappeared to discuss Nick. They wanted to help Nick with whatever he was going through. Timmy and Maxy shared the memory of the very innocent Nick they had known, just a day earlier. Timmy was adamant about finding out what really could’ve happened to Nick.
Timmy and Maxy started to traverse the entire journey, not leaving any detail behind. The stop-by at the café left a pang in them. Just then, Maxy looked at Timmy and asked him an important question.
“Hey, you said you stopped by the café right?” Maxy pointed out.
“Yes!” Timmy said, “We were also irritated by the owner’s hospitality!” Timmy had forgotten what Maxy had told him about the café.
“Areaae, I told you the café was demolished a year ago by an accident, didn’t I?” Maxy reminded him.
It was then that Timmy was reminded of Maxy’s story. He narrated the whole incident to Maxy and Maxy felt shivers down his spine. Both of them were on the verge of confirming that their visit to the café may be a reason for Nick’s change in behaviour, but they wanted to know for sure. Both of them decided to jump to action immediately.
Meanwhile, Nick crossed their way again, giggling to himself. Wanting to know his intentions, they followed Nick around the premises. He went on to explore the resort. He was excited about everything- from seeing a fountain, a well-pruned bush, the uniquely picked couches, the colourful, blooming flowers, the hammock, the domed chimneys, the decorative creepers, exquisite antiques, the authentic kitchen, the huge swimming pool, and more.
Nick was in awe of every detail of the resort. He would cry seeing a luxurious room, and wiping his tears, he would run to the next attraction he spotted. He would laugh and run around like a child. Not able to bear the pain and the struggle Nick was going through, Timmy and Maxy decided to meet a priest.
Nick left them and went on to explore the resort. Timmy and Maxy found this to be the right time to go and seek help. After a short enquiry, they found a priest in a nearby town who understood the reason for Nick’s change in behaviour and volunteered to help them.
Timmy and Maxy rushed to see the priest. They were tensed because the priest had to be available to them at their time of need. Not giving up, they reached the temple. It was late at night.
The temple was closed. They told the helpers that they needed to see the priest urgently. They were let in after some persistence. The priest, who was deep in meditation, understood their problem and offered to come immediately, without even hearing the full story.
Surprised, Timmy and Maxy followed the priest. They reached the resort. Timmy stayed with the priest while Maxy went to bring Nick.
Nick refused to come at first, but accepted to come along if Maxy gave him a whole tub of ice cream. All three of them reached the area where the priest waited.
The priest started his ritual by chanting the needed phrases. Nick refused to cooperate. He insisted on leaving to eat the ice cream.
The priest strengthened his prayers. Finally, Nick gave up. He started to open up and the answers for all their confusion started to pour in.
Nick said “I am Shyam, who worked as a cleaner at the old café. I lived with my parents and an elder sister. We were a lovely family. My father worked as a planter at the coffee plantation. Since I was 7 years old, I would accompany him to his work. He would explain everything about the coffee, pepper and cardamom plantations. He was a hard worker, and also an activist. The owners of these plantations were either corporates or millionaires. They paid the workers meager wages. My father wanted me to acquire real knowledge, unlike other fathers who cared only about their children’s grades.
He thought it was okay to not send me to school, but he made sure I learnt how to read and write, and to learn as many languages as I could. But under my mother’s compulsion, I went to school. I was good at academics, as I loved to gain knowledge. I would wait for the weekends to join my dad on his work trips. When my dad refused to take me, I would dream of a life of luxury. I promised myself that I would acquire as much knowledge as I could, and to earn money the smart way.
I used to wonder why my dad was still very poor, knowing so much about everything like he did. He was an ocean of information. I always wanted to fill the gap between working hard and working smart.
My dad, who was an alcoholic, lived in a small, withered hut. He wore the same two pairs of clothes. I was always living in my dream world, with a need to go higher, earn more and take care of my parents.
All my dreams were shattered when I heard that my dad had died in an elephant
stampede. They could not save him as he was drunk before the stampede had begun. My mother did not want me to stop studying, so she chose to work.
To fuel our problems, loaners who had lent money to my father started pushing hard for us to repay them. I volunteered to work from the age of 10. My laughter-filled, dreamy days turned to dreadful, tiresome days. I hardly ate one meal on a day.
However, the dream continued every night! That was the only time I had for myself.
Now, I am 17. I, who should have been a college topper, turned out to be a cleaner, as fate played around with me.”
The priest interrupted and asked him, “How did you die?”
Shyam continued, “Not many stopped by this café while it was functioning. We had only a handful of locals who came to fill their already alcohol-filled tummies. I was so averse to these men. One day, unfortunately for me, I mishandled the stove and the cylinder in the kitchen exploded. I happened to be one among the worst hit in that accident. It swallowed the whole café in one big burst. The ones who survived were left with deep scars and agony.
The day these boys visited the café, I was in the kitchen where the accident had happened.”
The priest asked angrily, “Why Nick?”
Shyam retorted, “He was weak!” Everybody nodded in unison.
The priest directed Shyam to leave Nick immediately. Shyam pleaded, resisted and cried to live within Nick’s body for a few more days, to live his dream. The priest explained that it was impossible, and the necessity for him to leave was urgent. Shyam was stubborn. He didn’t want to leave.
Timmy, Maxy and his friends felt sorry for Shyam. However, they could not let Nick suffer. They had to be hard-hearted to save their friend.
Finally, Shyam pleaded for one last wish. He promised to leave Nick’s body after living his life for one last day on Earth.
With rising pity for Shyam, the boys accepted his request. They made a pact with the ghost. Shyam swore to leave Nick at the end of the next day. Accepting it, the boys listened to Shyam’s wishes and planned accordingly.
The priest warned them about the consequences they would face. He refused to trust Shyam. But Nick himself convinced the priest and expressed his wish to help Shyam relive his day. Nick also liked to do impossible things through Shyam.
On Shyam’s wish, the next day was planned accordingly. He swam till his tummy rumbled, he ate till his stomach was satisfied, he played until he was drenched in sweat, and ate again to compensate for the lost sweat.
He groomed himself with style and the boys arranged everything he wanted. He laughed out loud with the boys. The boys loved the new Nick.
At the end of the day, Shyam was so happy to leave. The boys were happy for Shyam as well, and they bid him goodbye. A small pain remained in everyone’s heart, for he was one guy who deserved to live.
Nick was back to his naïve self after Shyam left him. Not a minute later, they packed to return home. They bid goodbye to Maxy and drove back.
On their way back, they stopped to see the demolished cafe. Nick was surprised and asked the others, “Aint this the same café? Can we go there again?”
“Never again!” Timmy replied and hit the accelerator.
Sai Sashwath Ganesh aka Sash, hails from Chennai. He is very fond of listening to his grandfather’s stories. His grandfather narrates every story with great detail and structures them in his own style, making Sash and all his favourite characters a part of them. If he were to go wrong, Sash would never fail to correct him; this is how he began to imagine and create stories of his own.
Sash always wants his stories to end on a happy note, and makes sure the defendant (the villain) is punished for all their wrongdoings in the end. He says, “He who causes trouble must be punished!”
Being a very active child, Sash spends most of his time playing outdoors or swimming. He also loves to make music and cook. Sash is a huge entertainer and makes everyone around him happy!