I can remember a time when I was about 14-15 years of age; I was still fascinated by the big screen. In this instance I refer to the Indian movies that played only on Thursday and Sunday evenings.
The reel-to-reel films arrived from India or England either by ship or aeroplane and these were the selected nights of showing. Clearly we had to wait awhile for the new release to get to our little corner of the South Pacific. Once they arrived at the cinema house, the advertising could then go up for the next week or so and I’d make my plans to attend!
I was hell-bent on going to the cinema no matter the consequences! In this case the consequence always came afterwards, when it was time to go home. Yes I would have to face the squishy unpaved, shadowy and extremely long path which -if I survived- would lead me home.
I’d take this dark path, the only way leading home in fact and 9 out of 10 times I was walking it alone. A simple fact one could count on most every night was at the very least, a solid rainstorm with or without a good wind accompanying it. I knew full well I’d have to face this night path every time I went to the cinema yet I remained a stubborn lad who faithfully followed his heart’s current desires.
In the evenings the movie always started at 8 o’clock and would end between 10:45 and 11 at night. You could probably set your watch by the night’s rain, which started as the show was letting out. After all when you’re sitting in the warm theatre, captivated by the big screen you don’t fret about what comes next when it’s all over and the time has come to go home.
We’d take the last bus of the night aptly named the Hospital Bus due to it’s routing which serviced the hospital along the way. Mine was nearly the last stop in the residential area. I got off near the ditch at the bush illuminated by a street lamp on the roadside. This was it!
As the bus drove off into the dark night, I was left standing with my umbrella somewhat protecting me ☔️ and I’d quickly glance at the finely built house with its electric porch light on the other side of the street: hmmm I could be 🏡 already. Oh never mind.
I quickly turn my attention to the muddy path over here knowing this was my way and proceed to roll up my trousers to knee length, removing my sandals before entering the field that lay before me. I switch on my torch with its dimmed light, it was still faithful.
I was only a few moments into the dark walk when my hearing was assaulted by thousands of cricket bugs, a choir of croaking 🐸 and the sobering moos of the cows in the field.
Picture if you will, a cow is sitting down in some random pasture location minding her own business just chewing away at the cud and I unknowingly approach her position. She suddenly stands up – equally startled as me I think- and the brush that’s touching her manages to crackle, even as it is wet with rain. Although I cannot see the cow, as it’s so dark, I do see shadowy figures that I’d rather not see.
Add to that the sound of my own bare feet squishing through the mud, the feel of my heart pounding in my chest and then the occasional frog decides to leap across my path, sometimes ending up either on or under my bare feet… aaagh! Squish!
This wasn’t at all helpful especially when my senses were already heightened by the thick raindrops and *flying shadows and I thought for sure this was it; the ghosts were coming for me! ^^
I dare not direct my torch light away from the path in front of me because there was no telling what I might see surrounding me; I really didn’t want to know what else was out there. My steps increased in speed. And while there were just a few other homes around the area (very few and far between), their house lights were off as they were already in bed or gone out; this wasn’t useful to me here at all!
I remember these fairly large trees in that field -we called them ivy trees but I’m not certain what they’re known by in English- and sitting in those trees were the **oolooos, the watchful onlookers 🦉 who couldn’t help but to hoot incessantly after darkness arrived.
Oh this was all just too much for my youthful imagination and I could hear them asking me, “Whoooo goes there?” Of course the wind seemed to pick up and the cricket bugs were going at it. I thought I was hearing the whoosh of flapping wings, the jungle sounds surrounded me and my steps were becoming more slippery with the deluge of rain beating the already mudded earth! It was time for this boy to run like hell and just as fast as I could towards the safety I knew I’d find at home.
Whew! Finally that comfort comes -once more and thankfully I might add- when I’ve reached the end of that nearly one mile stretch and I can see my mother standing at the window with the lantern in her hand, as though she were watching out. My heart knows she definitely was waiting for me.
She opened the door as soon as she caught sight of me and as I arrive at the front of the house, she reminds me to wash and dry my feet. There’s an outside tap next to the porch, so I wash and dry as I’m catching my breath. I go up the porch and as I go through the door I cautiously look behind me to be certain I’ve not been followed!
“Change into warm clothes and I’ll get some hot food for you.” These words she lovingly repeated to me every time I put myself into this situation. She also never failed to tell me, “I told you so!”
I am proud to say that I know how much my parents loved me. I always felt it, I always knew it.
It was around the summer 1951 when my father passed away.
* flying shadows – 🦇
^^ Quite common in the Indian homes (speaking of the ones here in Fiji of course) are tales of spirits; ghost stories and a lot of them. Oft times these stem from tragedies, sad, scary and experienced sometimes by those known as well as unfamiliar to anyone kind of stories.
** oolooos – owls