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Does Lucknow have a haunted colony?
Built on a graveyard, in the 1960s, residents fear that Nirala Nagar colony, Lucknow, is haunted. Some people were ruined. Girls do better than boys or widows survive. Are the dead haunting residents here? What’s the way out?
WELCOME TO Nirala Nagar, Lucknow’s haunted colony. Two out of ten houses here are unoccupied. Servants live in a few, the owners stay away, in others the house owner met with a tragic end or suffered a major loss in business and then left the area. Very few children are seen on the streets, in fact there are hardly any children in the colony. An eerie silence descends in the evening. In adjoining Jankipuram and Aliganj it is business as usual. The lights are bright and the streets are a riot of colour and fashion.
 
What is it that makes Nirala Nagar so unique? What is the secret of its drab moroseness? It seems only girl children are born in Nirala Nagar and they excel in their careers, boys are hardly ever seen. In case a boy is born, he will never be the eldest, as the first child in the family will be a girl. The second striking feature is the absence of young people and children.
 
Brahma Prakash Agarwal lives in front of the lone mosque in the colony, he is the secretary of the Nirala Nagar Residents’ Association and he recalls that it was only as recently as 1980 that two large shamshaans (crematoriums, where Hindus cremate the bodies of children) existed in the colony.
 
Senior citizens recall that when the Lucknow Improvement Trust drew up the colony in 1960 there was a large crematorium, two large graveyards and a temple, six mazaars and a peepal tree where the ashes of the dead were deposited.
 
One is reminded of Steven Spielberg’s movie The Poltergeist where a builder asked to build a colony over a graveyard has to remove the graves but only removes the grave stones and leaves the graves behind. What happens later is that the ghosts haunt the residents of the colony. There is no respite from the wrath of the dead.
 
So is The Poltergeist being revisited in Nirala Nagar? Is the colony haunted? According to Pandit Indeevar Tripathi, a Phalit Jyotishacharya, who resides in Chaupatian in old Lucknow and is a well known astrologer in the city, a cemetery or cremation ground should never be used for making a colony, in case this is done, a procedure known as Shalya Shodhan Kriya has to be followed.
 
He explained that for this, the plot is first dug up and all human remains are removed from it. A cow has to be first kept on such a plot; the gobar (cow dung) is allowed to mix with the soil and purify it and then certain plants are planted on it. Once these begin to flower it is assumed that the area is fit for habitation and the resident evil has left it. In case this is not done the residents will never flourish, they will always have something unfulfilled in their lives, whether it is children or old age security or financial security or health.
 
But such a prayer has only been carried out in one part of the colony confirms Agarwal. The army was called in to perform this task. This is the park behind the post office where the bodies of children were cremated. A maha mritunjay jaap used to be recited every Sunday in the area till 1986, today it is the most prosperous area in Nirala Nagar.
 
A visit to the colony shows that that an eerie silence hangs over the colony like a shroud. And no young people are visible. “They have all gone away to do jobs,” says Agarwal, “some are in Mumbai, some in Delhi and some abroad.”
 
Unfortunately anyone who resides in land, which was once a graveyard will never be able to enjoy ‘santaan ka sukh’, says Tripathi. “Uskey jeevan key vikas ka koi ang apurna raheyga.” he adds. What he means to say is that happy family life will elude those who stay here.
 
But Agarwal and others do not agree. This is a colony of middle class people and their kids have migrated in search of jobs. But what about homes where only children have been left behind and parents have died prematurely, asks Tripathi. He cites the case of a particular house, which was raided by Babloo Srivastava. The house owner, a Bengali, died after building it. His nephew a LU professor sold it to a Tamilian, who was a rich man in his times. He left the house in abject poverty suffering from liver cirrhosis. The house was then taken by a relative of a famous writer, one Mr. Pant who died of brain cancer. Then one Mr Khan then took the house. He had a prosperous business, which was ruined within two years. The house was then sold again but the new owner suffered a stroke.
 
Similarly, an electronic business tycoon of the city was ruined when he shifted to the colony. There is another area where only widows can stay, adds a senior resident.
 
Tripathi insists that house owners must play a CD of the vaastu mantra every day and the Maha Mrintunjay Jaap. Vaastu is the son of Lord Shiva and it is important to appease him in such a case. 
 
Regarding the children he says more girls will be born in Nirala Nagar, because they are reincarnations of dead girl children who were buried in the colony and he provides logic for this. The girl child was a victim of neglect in the era of the 60s and 80s and more girls must have been buried in the colony than boys. The colony is named after Surya Kant Tripathi Nirala, a famous poet who died in abject poverty. Nirala means unique and the story of Nirala Nagar is indeed unique!
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