As I write these stories for readers in a hurry,( who isn’t!)I do think of the truth of the saying that “ truth is stranger than fiction.” People are amazing with the things they do. There is just no end to what the human mind will create as a reality.
 Sheila ji was an astrologer and a kind of oracle for disturbed people who went to her with their problems. She often foretold things that were astoundingly true. It was said she had this gift because of her hold on some benign spirits of the dead. She was also a nature cure writer and had become famous for some strange things. 
 She lived on the ground floor of a three bedroom ancestral house in a rather crowded locality of Delhi. There was also a first floor which was vacant, at least to all of us who visited her and saw it locked up. But Sheila ji would get angry if you said it was vacant.
 She maintained and firmly believed, that an entire family of an old couple and their two daughters still lived in the first floor of her house behind the locked doors. The family had been tenants of her late father and had perished in a train accident. They were to be left alone and never disturbed. The staircase to the first floor was swept every day for them.The only person who ever went into that first floor was she herself and this was said to be on the days of the Eid festival for the people had been Muslims. 
 One day in the year on the night Muslims observe ‘Shab-e-Baraat’, the first floor house was cleaned up. It is the Muslim belief that on that night the gates of heaven are open and souls can find their way there. Candles and oil lamps are lit by friends and relatives and placed on gravestones in all Muslim graveyards. So it was that Sheila ji placed lighted candles in all the rooms where her family of ghosts lived. The windows too were thrown open so that they could move freely. On both sides in adjoining houses, the neighbours shut their windows.
 That was not all. Her communion with the spirits also focussed on street dogs. All the stray dogs in the locality had a free run in her house and at any given time, there were more than a dozen mongrels of all shapes and sizes sitting on the carpet and floor of her small sitting room.
 I went to see her for an interview for my paper and had to walk gingerly between the tails and legs of the dogs, all dirty as sin and some growling at the visitors who had to go through this obstacle course. I sat on a sofa with a dog sleeping in her lap as Sheila ji read horoscopes for her clients and a dozen stray dogs watched the proceedings. It was an eerie feeling. But she told me quite seriously that the dogs could see the spirits and helped her to communicate.
 Being a reporter prepares you for all sorts of surprises. But I confess that spending that one hour or so with her in the company of those mongrels, unnerved me. Before I left it was lunch time for the dogs and she brought a basket of wheat flat bread ( unleavened bread or “ rotis”).”All my dogs are vegetarian,” she told me. “ Non-vegetarian diet kills sensitivity to the spirits. After they eat, they sleep here and communicate with me.”
 Well, I was glad to get out in one piece. I have never unravelled that mystery. People begin to believe the weirdest things, I am convinced, not necessarily because they are true, but because they spin their own realities. You can call them crazy but that’s neither here nor there. Because its all about fantasy and imagination. And, you know well that fantasy and imagination do also help create art and fiction and music. When exactly does imagination turn into madness is a tricky question. Look at Vincent van Gogh’s painting of the Sunflowers, then recall that he cut off his ear in a fit of temporary madness, and then answer.

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