Pratap got into the old style elevator of the 14-storey building in Connaught Place. He was going to pay the premium of his Relevance Life Insurance at the office on the 8th floor. Built during the days of the British Raj, the building which looked quite ghostly had elevators with grille doors. Pratap drew both the grilles shut and pressed on number 8 on the panel. As the lift was about to raise itself with a thud, a shabbily dressed man with a grisly beard crept into it through the grille.
“How did you that?” asked Pratap whose rationalism couldn’t accept a solid body making its way through iron bars.
“I am a ghost,” said the fellow traveller.
“Oh, I see.” Pratap looked at the guy with his rationalist eye and wondered what this phenomenon could be. E=mc2. Mass can be converted into energy. But not this way. Pratap was still exercising his rational brain when the ghost started sobbing louder than the noise produced by the crawling lift.
“Hey,” said Pratap with the compassion that comes quite naturally to any genuine atheist. “What’s wrong? Can I help you?”
“I am a ghost but nobody is frightened of me. How horrible!” The ghost sobbed.
“How stupid!” said Pratap. “You expect Delhiites to be frightened by such melodrama? We are people who have seen politicians and babas separately and together. We live with a whole lot of bloggers too, let alone managers and traders. Who can frighten us anymore? By the way, why did you become a ghost?” Pratap was actually trying to find out whether ghosts were indeed real. His rational mind could never accept ghosts.
The lift had reached the 8th floor. Pratap put his hand on the ghost’s shoulder and brought him out to the narrow corridor.
“Oh, I was a businessman working for Bill Gates. Providing software. Outsourcing of software, you know. Billy was supposed to be the only producer of billionaires in the 21st century. Cutthroat competition, you know. Cut my throat in the end. I became a software, you know.”
“I love software,” said Pratap still holding the ghost by his shoulder. “But some software is beyond my understanding. Anyway, I think I can help you.”
“Yeah, you can,” beamed the ghost. “Give me a few drops of your blood. I’m hungry.”
“Don’t be stupid,” said Pratap. “I have Pepsi here, drink it.” He took out the Pepsi bottle.
The ghost’s nose wrinkled. Forehead wrinkled. Body wrinkled.
“Ok, ok,” said Pratap. “I understand.”
They were already inside the Relevance Insurance office.
“Wait a moment,” said Pratap as he went to the counter to present his cheque.
Having completed his business, Pratap turned around to look for the ghost. The ghost was sitting inside the office on a chair.
“Bye,” said the ghost. “I have got a job.”
PS. This is inspired by one of the few ads that I love watching again and again. There actually is a private Life Insurance office on the 8th floor of an ‘ancient’ building near Connaught Place in Delhi with an ‘ancient’ elevator. I did meet a ghostly man who had been following me for quite a while when I went to pay my last premium for a policy that I want to cancel but am not able due to the conditions laid in the policy. He left me when I entered the Insurance office. The rest is fiction. Delhi is watchful, I understood. The man was following me right from the Rajiv Chowk Metro station where I spent some time trying to figure out from the map provided where I should get out to reach my destination easily.