The Ghost That Never Was

Sulochana was the most beautiful girl in the village, but unfortunately, her father did not have the money to provide her with a dowry for a suitable husband. So he decided, much to Sulochana’s despair, to marry her to a village lad named Ranga.

The thought of having to marry this Ranga, the very sight of whom she disliked, made Sulochana very unhappy, and after days and nights of brooding, she decided it was better to die than to become Ranga’s wife.

One evening, Sulochana quietly slipped out of the village and crossed the fields to the river. She was about to jump into the river when a young man, realizing her intention, jumped from his horse, caught Sulochana by her sari and pulled her back.

Later a tearful Sulochana blurted out her story to the young man. This beautiful girl in distress deeply moved him.

“Please listen to me,” the young man said. “My name is Sridhar, and I am a merchant of Rameswar. I beg you to come with me this night, and I will marry you and make you happy.”

Sulochana realized that this gallant young man was offering her a new life, so she gladly accepted his proposal and mounted on his horse. They rode through the night to his home in Rameswar.

The following day they were married; Sulochana found that with Sridhar at her side, life offered unbounded happiness.

Meanwhile, in Sulochana’s village, after a fruitless search, everyone assumed that the poor girl had committed suicide in the river. Ranga, her would-be husband, soon found another bride, a girl named Radha from a nearby village. But their marriage seemed dogged by misfortune, as Radha always seemed sick and ailing.

In the end, Radha went to the local witch doctor, who, after a lot of hocus pocus, pronounced that the ghost of the dead Sulochana possessed Radha. The witch doctor pocketing his fee told Radha to pilgrimage to a temple in the south to get rid of the curse that had be- fallen on her.

Radha and Ranga were upset by the witch doctor’s words and, packing up their meagre possessions, set off on the pilgrimage.

That same night they arrived at Rameswar and found shelter in a somewhat derelict cottage. During the night, whilst Ranga and Radha slept, thieves broke in and departed with all the couple’s possessions.

The following morning, stranded and miserable, Ranga and Radha were advised to go to the house of Sridhar, the merchant who always helped those in distress.

When they called at Sridhar’s house, they were greeted by Sulochana, who recognized Ranga. He had never realised that this realizedejewelled woman was Sulochana from his village.

After Ranga and his wife had bathed and eaten, Ranga started to tell his story of their misfortunes, but Sulochana interrupted him, saying, “You are Ranga.” “And once you were pledged to marry a girl named Sulochana.”

“How do you know?” queried Ranga, greatly bewildered. “What you say is true, but this Sulochana committed suicide, and now my poor wife is possessed by Sulochana’s ghost.”

“You are wrong,” Sulochana said, “Sulochana is not dead. She was rescued by a young man who married her. I know because I am Sulochana, and I am certainly not a ghost.”

Ranga was so amazed he could hardly speak. “Now I do recognize you” “he starecognizeof, course you are Sulochana, and all this time, we have been worrying about you being a ghost and the words of that fake witch doctor.”

No longer worried about the ghost, Radha soon got better, and Sulochana and her husband were more than generous in making all that had been stolen good. So Ranga and Radha set off for home, full of praises for the ghost that never was.

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