Ask a person, anyone, about why he or she believes in ghosts and you will leave him or her thinking for a moment. No one can immediately answer this question because no really knows. It is a belief rooted deep in our hearts yet we cannot explain why it is there. We are all afraid of ghosts but take a moment and think. Is it really a fear? And if it is, then what is it that you are really afraid of? Is it because they can hurt you or kill you but then there are a million other things in the world that are capable of doing just that. The fan rotating on your ceiling can any moment fall down right on your head and kill you yet you sleep so peacefully under it. Similarly there are so many things around us in our lives that can prove fatal yet we do not fear them. Is it because we think that we have them under control? You sleep under the fan because you know that the bolts are tightened and it will not fall but think again, when was the last time any of us went up there to check on the bolts? How do you know if there is a bolt now there at all to keep the fan from falling on your head?
Maybe we are afraid of ghosts because as human, it’s natural to fear things that we can not in any way control. Things that are out of our hands, things that we can not tighten any bolts around. But if it is true, then why do we pat that pet dog on its head so fondly. We have all heard of fatal dog attacks in the world yet we keep one right inside our house. Bigger the dog, more proud we feel despite the fact that as an animal, you can never gain full control over it. Yet we do not fear that dog sitting right there on our couches, on our beds.
Truth is, no one can tell for certain that why they have a certain fear for ghosts and evil spirits, something that they have never seen or come across to. Something that doesn’t have a recorded proof of in all of human history but still scares everyone.
Another question that no one can seem to answer is what gave birth to the concept of chawls and where did that name come from? I have lived in Mumbai for so many years yet no one could ever tell me what the word Chawl exactly meant. Yet, they are all around. Legend has it that every powerful thing or person in Mumbai came out of these chawls. Powerful parties like Shiv Sena were formed right here in these chawls. And they are so filled with life. Walk into a Chawl and you will find every recipe for a Bollywood movie, be it a drama, love story or action. One of these chawls however present a recipe for a horror movie as well. This Chawl is called D Souza Chawl.
Located in the busy area of Mahim, this Chawl is like any other of thousands of chawls in aamchi Mumbai. The structure is quite the same as well; a 3 storied building that houses hundreds of families. Walk into it and you will witness every problem of a common man’s life. Poverty, trying to make ends meet, shortage of electricity and water, family problems, neighbor problems, love problems, they are all here, all of them yet there is nothing sinister about this place. It is just another building packed with people.
Theories, that is all there is to the concept of Supernatural. There is no hard evidence, no proof, no research, just theories. What I mentioned above about the fear of ghosts is a theory too. When it comes to places believed to be haunted, there are always two types of theories. First theory is all about why the place is haunted. This part usually covers all the deaths and tragic incidents happened to have taken place at the haunted site. Second theory however disregards ghosts as make-believe stories and talks about why and how the rumors of that place being haunted started.
In case of D Souza Chawl, if we look at the first theory, there is a tragic incident, a death that has taken place here, or at least people believe that it happened. Though it no longer exists, legend has it that there was a well right in the center of this Chawl. Water problems are common among all chawls of Mumbai and D’Souza Chawl was no exception. To come up with a solution, residents dug up a well on their own in the center of the Chawl and it kind of solved the water problems of this small residential colony. No one at that time thought that someone can actually fall in the well as well so a boundary wall was not built. It was just left as a deep hole in the ground right there in middle of the Chawl like a disaster waiting to happen and happen it did. Years later, a woman walked up to the well to get some drinking water late at night, slipped and fell inside. There are rumors that she struggled for a while, cried out for help. Her painful screams were heard by everyone that night but by the time people came to help, she had already drowned. Her body was pulled out and cremated but no one could ever imagine using the water of that well for drinking or for any other purpose for that matter so the well was filled up. Woman’s family could not bear to live in this Chawl anymore and out of pain, they moved out. Ever since this incident, people talk about still seeing the woman at the exact spot where the well was. She seems to be harmless, never hurt anybody but keeps making appearances every now and then. Some people even mention that they can still hear the painful cries for help at night.
If we go as per the second theory though, both the hauntings and the reason of stories kind of becomes hard to establish. First of all, no one will ever be able to tell you exactly when this incident happened. People will tell you that it was a woman but no one knows who she was or how long ago. There are elderlies living in the Chawl but even they have never seen this woman in life. So when did this incident actually happen, half a century ago at least? But then this Chawl cannot be that old. The nearby police station has no record of any such drowning in the Chawl but then it is possible that maybe they lost the record. If you ask the residents, the reason they will provide is that because the woman died here in pain and agony is why she is tied to this place. She lived here all her life and died here and this is why she cannot seem to let go. But if that is the case, then what about all the other people who lived and died here? This is a Chawl after all, not a five star hotel or a palace so it is for certain that all the other residents too would have difficulties in their lives. Even they have their share of pain and agony so how come all the other residents went to heaven peacefully?
There is a theory of sudden death which people mention as a reason about why souls get stuck in the mortal world but doesn’t that contradict every religion known to humans? After all, what our religions tell us is that every person’s time of death is pre-determined. Death has a schedule for all and will come for all. So if death is pre-determined, how can anyone die suddenly? Another theory is of unfinished business which leaves souls wander earth but come on, has there been a person in all of human history who died and had no unfinished business behind? Everyone has one thing of another that was not finished and the person died so how come they did not stay behind?
One thing that however either of our theories cannot explain is why the ghost stories? There is no scope of tourism or fame here? There is no money involved so where did this mysterious ghost come from? Who gave birth to it and why? Or is it only because someone had a big mouth, quite an imagination and came up with a story that stuck?
Any why is it that it is always a poor woman doing the tiring work of haunting? Delhi Cantt, Dow Hill, Tunnel of Shimla, D Souza Chawl, it’s always a woman running after people. Even in movies its always a woman walking around all night in circles with a candle in her hand, looking for a man she was in love with in her life. I mean all their lives, women are chased by men but after death they have to run after men?