Planchette and the pandemonium ….a scary game we played in Simla of the Sixties

Planchette and the pandemonium ….a scary game we played in Simla of the Sixties

December was the cruellest month as the teachers of our school would be sitting in the staff-room evaluating our exam papers while we would be asked to sit quietly in the class….waiting for the Godot!

The class monitor would be asked to mind the class….and we would keep ourselves busy in mundane activities where only mind worked and not the wobbling tongue!! We would play crosses and circles, making a word by adding just one alphabet at a time, reaching the home by marking digits ensuring no lines to cut each other while precariously traversing from one digit to another….making new pathways! Some others, the dreamy eyed romanticized souls, were just sharing urdu couplets and filmy songs…all on the last pages of the tough copy! The list was as endless as were the last pages of the rough copy……which would never ever end!!

But our excitement would end because of the repetitive games that we played endlessly…. while the teachers checked our answer sheets of the final exam ….and our frenzied anxiety bordering on mad wait taking control of our rationality!!! All these three factors culminated in one memorably frightful event in the class room of Lady Irwin School……

The sky was overcast with very dark clouds that particular day with cold wind accompanying. It was quite cold in the class. Some of the girls having gone to drink water from a tap outside the staff room came with the news of the class teacher preparing the final results. And all the girls were “Ohooooing” and “Haaasseing”

We were asked specifically to maintain “pin-drop-silence” during that time but can girls sit quiet….was well neigh impossible especially when anxiety levels run high!

That particular day we were sitting idly in the class tired of playing all the games we played on the pages of our rough copy. Suddenly one of the girl came up with an idea to call a spirit and everyone was excited to this new activity! Something NEW was taking place…at last….breaking the monotony! One of the girls detached the hard cover of her copy and cut a heart shaped piece out of it. Another one inserted her pointed divider in the three corners to make a hole wide enough to hold a pencil. And a planchette board was ready with three pencils inserted into it. Now started the second phase of laying a big plain sheet on the teacher’s table and put the planchette board on it. There were two big questions…. The first was who would be the three brave girls to volunteer to hold the pencils softly …rather not hold the pencils but only to put their little palm over it. When three volunteers had come forward…the biggest question was whose spirit to invite? Someone said, “We would invite some benevolent spirit hovering by!” But another one countered that sometimes the spirits refuse to leave so how can we take this chance. Meanwhile whole of the class was absolutely silent….waiting for the magic! The magic of a spirit entering the girls, taking hold of them and answering the questions that were to be put to them.
No one could decide which spirit to invite….spirit of a departed dear one or any spirit hovering over the vicinity of Lady Irwin School!
There was a girl Shyamlee, a Bengali damsel, who lived in Upper Kaithu. She had a pet dog who had died a few days back. She suggested to invite the soul of her dog. Everyone agreed. This particular dog was known to many girls who would visit Shyamlee’s home. The three girls putting their fingers on the pencil ends started inviting passionately the spirit of Shyamlee”s dog. All other girls in the class were, with equal fervance, extending a humble invitation to Shyamlee’s dog. There was absolutely pin-drop-silence in the class! Everyone was waiting for the heart-shaped planchette board to move to register the presence of the spirit. We waited with abated breaths. A few were waiting for one of the girls to announce a welcome to the spirit though all we could hear was”Have you come?”
All of the girls wanted to know about the marks awarded to them in the exams though a few thought of requesting the soul to increase their marks in the list….there were so many desires and wishes…we were waiting to be fulfilled! If only……

There was the real pin drop silence in the class…..suddenly the silence was broken by the barking sound of a dog…….

The hell broke lose…..the girls of two classes assembled together sheirked to the sky…..everyone shouting….he has come!!! The teachers sitting placidly, warming themselves around the coal stove in the staff room, rushed to the classrooms to find all the girls huddled together with closed eyes shouting in full throated voice!
It was after a great effort that some semblance of peace and normalcy could return to the class and a further investigation proved that a dog in the vicinity of our school had made his presence felt by barking and we, the poor, girls thought that the spirit of Shyamlee’s dog had announced its arrival…..

All the questions that we had thought of asking the friendly spirit remained unanswered and the dread of our class teacher deducting marks for this utter indispline hovered over us like Democles’ sword till the final day of judgement!

Everything went fine…the teachers didn’t punish us gor that. I am sure they must have enjoyed all this secretly though! We never dated to call s spirit after this event but a few daredevil girls did try in iting spirits before examination to inquire of the questions that would be there in the examination..,… Or the first letter of a boy’s name who would propose them….. Or marry them! This last wuedtion was more important than the questions of the class examination!
Or many other questions….It’s time it is revealed the questions asked, the answers provided by the spirit, the guess reached at by the seekers and the real turn of events in one’s life!!!

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