Colleagues at my office will concur that I am a dicey character when it comes to going out for dinner after work. They have realized that whenever I say, ‘Will let you know later’, it means ‘I will skip’. I have several reasons not to go out for dinner after work. First, I don’t like to dine out. Second, it gets too late to get back home. It gets too dark. It’s not safe to ride at night. It is dangerous.
Absolute Barbeques, Kalyani Nagar, was chosen for our team dinner (I’ve never refused to go out for team dinner) on a Friday evening, if I’m not wrong. While others were checking out the menu, I had opened up Google Maps and was studying the route to the restaurant from our office at Aundh and back. I’ve been living in Pune for five years and I still haven’t got the hang of the city roads. What’s crazy is that it is full of one-way roads. You just can’t take one road to Absolute Barbeques and take the same one back to where you started. Moreover, Google Maps is quite notorious at showing routes that take you through lanes and bylanes that nobody knew existed.
So, the ride from Aundh to Kalyani Nagar was quite straightforward. It was a road I had traveled before. I took the Baner road to Shivaji Nagar, went left from Sancheti Hospital, and made my way to the Sangamwadi Road that goes to Yerawada. From there, I rode to Kalyani Nagar, courtesy Google Maps, and ended up at Absolute Barbeques. My colleagues poured in one by one after me. The food, how do I say it, was 2.5 stars out of 5. You know what I mean, right? Well, I’ve had much better buffet than that.
We must have left the restaurant well before 10:30 pm. The 7 of us went in 8 different directions! I stopped some distance from the restaurant and charted a course on Google Maps. The road seemed familiar for a kilometer or so. After that I was at the mercy of the maps app. The moment I felt something was different, I stopped and checked the route. I would ride some distance and stop at a crossroad or a fork to check the direction I was going. Once I was sure I was on the right path, I would move on.
Wait. Here comes the dangerous part.
After some kilometers, the road got all dark. There were no street lights. The bike’s headlamp could light up only so much of the road. I was not scared, but I was like, ‘Okay. Time to be alert and ride cautiously.’
Soon, I came up to what looked like a main road. The street lights were glowing bright. I picked up speed on an otherwise deserted road. I passed Bombay Sappers and headed toward a bridge, which forked at the peak. My friend Neelesh had told me about the bridge. He had also told me whether to go right or left. But still I stopped and checked the map. It showed go left for the shortest route home. So, I took left.
The moment I was down the bridge and riding on a flat road, the street lights simply ceased to exist and it was quite dark. I could hardly see beyond what the headlamp showed. And at the same time, it got cooler; cold wind blew across from right to left. I rode for some distance and stopped to check if I had taken the wrong path. The map still showed I was going in the right direction. I put my phone in my shirt pocket and adjusted my helmet. Then I don’t know why I looked to the left. At first, it was all dark. But as my pupils adjusted to it, the white tombstones slowly appeared in the distance.
‘Shit!’ I swore to myself. Neelesh had told me to go right once I was on the bridge to avoid going past the Khadki War Cemetery, rumored to be one of the haunted places in Pune.
Guess what? I held my nerve and looked at it for a minute. Then I started my bike and rode home.
I’m glad I made it through.
But Anaath Babu is out to investigate a haunted house. To know how that adventure pans out, you might want to read my ebook, ‘Last Adventure: A Chilling Account of a Ghost Hunter.’
You could also check out an overview of the book on my blog page Last Adventure.