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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

Mumbaiwale: Haunt and happening

They’re dead serious about spirits, but Mumbai’s ghostbusters are also dead cool. See what they get up to.

mumbai Updated: May 12, 2018 15:07 IST
Rachel Lopez
Rachel Lopez
Hindustan Times
Paranormal researchers at a crematorium in Panvel.
Paranormal researchers at a crematorium in Panvel. (HT Photo)
         

“After being ghosted by so many people, I might as well be ghosted by actual ghosts.”
My friend, the indie magazine editor Arun Kale, thinks heading to Panvel on a hot Sunday for a sold-out paranormal meetup and investigation session is a good idea and joins my quest. We are, of course, not meeting ghosts, but some of the 18 members of PAIRS, a Parapsychology and Investigations Research Society.

“We live for paranormal activity! When I sense a presence, I get so excited.”
Sarbajeet Mohanty, PAIRS president, has no doubt ghosts exist. He encountered plenty of them as his family moved homes growing up. “They used to scare me, I used to be afraid of the dark,” he says. “Now I realise that some spirits just stay back. It could be from sudden death (when the person doesn’t realise he or she is dead), unfinished business, or heavy emotions.” Fellow member Pooja Vijay believes that what we call possession is just a spirit getting too attached. “Don’t believe the movies.”

“Urban ghosts are not like village ghosts”
On his weekly Odiya-language show, Mana Ki Na Mana (Believe It Or Not) on Kalinga TV, Mohanty says the team would attend to calls for paranormal researchers in deep in Odisha villages. “City people see death as a gateway to the other side, that ghosts are those who exist just beyond,” he says. “It’s scarier and more intense in rural areas, when you have less control over your environment. There are malevolent spirits and shaitans. In a city, the woman ghost will chase your car if you don’t offer her a lift. In the village, she’ll threaten to eat your child if you don’t feed her onions.”

“If anyone asks, we’re a local history group.”
Tons of instructions precede our investigation session at the neighbourhood crematorium. The group of 12 is warned against attracting attention from living locals, making a noise, and generally appearing less than chill. “Respect the spirit as much as possible,” says Vijay. “Refer to them as ‘aap’. Don’t show aggression. Do nothing to offend.”

We don’t. Theories suggest that paranormal activity causes electromagnetic anomalies. The team brings out the electromagnetic sensor, a beeping K2 milliGauss meter and a gun-like device to measure temperature changes to check. A bit of moving around and we find one. A slow, polite questioning begins. Is it female? Beep beep beep! Did she die nearby? Beep beep beep! Would she like help crossing over? Beep beep beep! One visitor from the group even takes selfies. It’s not clear what he’s hoping to see.

“There are two kinds of hauntings: Intelligent and residual.”
PAIRS member Savio Futardo, like his fellow researchers, offers plenty of ways to make sense of the nebulous beyond. “Intelligent haunting is when the being interacts and reacts to you,” he says. It’s when people report of waking up to find they were dragged to the bathroom in their sleep, as the researchers found in Thane and Pune’s Shaniwarwada recently. “Residual is when there is no reaction to you, no talk. It’s just leftover emotion,” says Vijay. Panvel residents, she says, have reported seeing two people get out of one well and into another on a full moon night at the Amardhan area. They never engage.

Other teachings: Meditation, Vijay says, can “strengthen the soul” against bad energy. Inanimate objects have the power to manipulate you. And paranormal forces, just like living people, can be both good and bad.

“Sometimes the problem is the living, not the dead.”
One woman discussed the strange phenomenon in her Andheri home and her father-in-law’s adamant refusal to get paranormal investigation. “Perhaps he has something to hide,” the investigators inferred, calming her somewhat. Mohanty explains that every unexplainable phenomenon can’t be attributed to spirits. “People kept seeing a woman crossing the road on one accident-prone spot on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway,” he says. “We investigated with drones and found that the road was not level. Even in the villages, people tell us to bring our devices. Even if we don’t record anything, they say it’s validation enough and stop being scared.”

“I’m a strong believer of any sense that makes sense.”
Siddharth Bhagat, a dentist from Panvel who attended the meetup thought PAIRS did a good job “connecting all the dots” and helping him “tune into the frequency” of paranormal behaviour. They certainly created a world where poltergeist met zeitgeist. Gender bias? Check. “The popular perception is that witches are bad but wizards are good.” Mental health? Check. “Lots of people who don’t realise they are clairvoyants hear voices in their head go into depression. This is not to say that depression isn’t real or that everyone who hears voices is clairvoyant.” Genetic memory? Oh yes. “There is no junk DNA, it’s spiritual DNA. And DNA is magnetic.” Big data? Of course. “Akashic records, (a library of all events, thoughts, words and emotions that existed and are yet to come) can be ‘accessed’ and selectively ‘downloaded’ into your mind.”

First Published: May 12, 2018 01:10 IST

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