Saturday, February 13, 2021

Uber ghost story

Ravi was an investment banker, who had a paranormal experience at a suburb in Mumbai. Did it change his rationalist way of thinking?

Ravi was an investment banker who graduated from a top business school in India after having completed his engineering from the prestigious IIT.

Right from the time he began working as an investment banker in Delhi with a fancy salary, he was used to the luxuries enjoyed in the corporate world – like a swanky sedan, a three-bedroom apartment at an upmarket location, various attractive perks reserved for pass-outs of sought-after business schools, and of course, a plush corner room in his office.  

Ravi, a rationalist, had to undertake numerous official tours to metro and other cities and there was nothing unusual in any of his tours.

But a visit to a Mumbai suburb, Borivali, in mid-2019 has been something that keeps on reverberating in his mind. His rationalist way of thinking had somewhat fizzled out after this client visit.

It was in July 2019 in Mumbai when he had gone to the office of one of his big clients which was planning a crucial short-term investment. It was a do-or-die situation for him as well as his client.

His client’s office was near a cemetery that had hogged the limelight in the recent past as newspaper headlines indicated that it was the den for paranormal activity.

Some claimed to have seen a woman, who was hit by vehicles, disappearing and reappearing with blood all over her face to men going into the cemetery and coming out headless, with blood oozing out from their necks. The stories were myriad with one claiming that a three-year-old boy comes out suddenly on to the road and with a shrill, tries to warn drivers about something. No one knows what.

Even an employee Jose, working with the client, had warned Ravi about the gossip around the cemetery but only met with a frown from him. “These incidents can be a good recipe for a horror movie. But in reality, they are somewhat far-fetched,” Ravi told Jose, patting him on the back.  

In the next few days, Ravi became very busy with work at his client’s office and it often took him past 9:30 pm to leave for his hotel. But the office gave him a car every day and it took Ravi about half an hour to reach his hotel, Taj Lands’ End in Bandra.

This was the normal routine every day in the last fortnight. And, in one of the days at his client’s office, he had almost had a late night session. That day a heavy downpour throughout Mumbai had brought the city to a grinding halt. His driver could not come to pick him up that day. Uber and Ola, the two app cab services, were also almost paralysed and whatever was available, the rates were almost thrice the normal prices.

Momentarily, he was lucky to see in his Uber app that a taxi was available and the fare was Rs 360, which was almost near the normal charge… but only a tad higher. He booked the cab. The cab driver came in a while and Ravi set out for his hotel.

But inside the cab, some strange smell was coming… of rotten fish. Upon getting inside, Ravi shouted at the driver, saying, “How come there is a rotten smell inside your cab. Can’t you keep your taxi clean.”

The cab driver gave a cold response, just nodding his head in apology. But it seemed he was going to a desolate area. Even though Ravi thought, “Where is he taking me,” he kept quiet. Five to six minutes later, the driver stopped the vehicle near a cemetery gate, asking Ravi, “Sir, can I get my food.”

This infuriated Ravi further, who said, “Do whatever you like but tomorrow, I will lodge a complaint against you.”

Staring at Ravi, the driver went out of the cab, opened the cemetery gate and disappeared. Around five minutes later, he arrived with a tiffin carrier. Ravi was baffled at this and thought the driver was playing a prank.

Fuming, Ravi asked the driver, “Is this some kind of a joke. You go into a cemetery and come out with a tiffin box full of food. What are you up to?”

The driver opened his tiffin box, and to his surprise, Ravi found there were hot chapatis, rice, a curry and dal.

Then, the driver headed for Bandra and dropped Ravi at the hotel within half an hour.

Ravi went inside his room and while refreshing himself in the washroom, he thought how bad the day was, which ended even worse with the Uber ride.

The next morning, after Ravi got up, he immediately lodged a complaint with the Uber call centre. “The cab number MH03...8991… driver Sandy D’Costa.  I had a very bad experience with the driver yesterday. There was a rotten smell inside the car and he started doing strange things… Please register my complaint and see that the driver is either removed or suspended.”

At the other end, a voice said, “Sir, I am Himesh. Can you please hold the line? I will check out the driver details and revert. It will only take a few minutes.”

“Okay,” said Ravi, as he waited for a response. A few minutes later came the reply.

“Sir, we don’t have a record of your Uber trip last night. Also, the driver you are talking about — Sandy D’Costa — had an accident about six months ago while driving his car MH03...8991 and died near Borivali Cemetery road. Sir, there must be some mistake on your part. Please check.”

Dumbfounded, Ravi dropped his cellphone on his bed and wondered whether last night’s ride was real. Looking at his mobile phone, he was shocked further — in his Uber app he saw that driver D’Costa was seeking his rating for last night’s ride.

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