In my college days I used to go for a morning walk very early, three o'clock, four o'clock in the morning. Just beside my house was a small street with bamboo groves, very dark.... And that was the best place, because it was very rare to meet anybody there... just one watchman from a rich man's house used to see me.
But one day-this is what perhaps you would call going out of control:
I was jogging along the street and the idea came to me that it would be good if I jogged backwards. In India there is a superstition that ghosts walk backwards, but I had completely forgotten that, and anyway there was nobody on the street... so I started jogging backwards. I was enjoying it so much, and it was such a cool morning.
Then the milkman happened to see me.... People used to bring milk from small villages, and he had come a little earlier than usual, so he had never met me before. Carrying his buckets of milk, he suddenly saw me. I must have been under the shadow of the bamboos, and when he came close to the shadow where there was a small patch of moonlight, I suddenly came out, jogging backwards. He shouted, 'My God!' dropped both his buckets, and ran away.
Still, I did not realize that he was afraid of me, I thought he was afraid of something else. So I took both his buckets, although the milk was gone.... I thought I should at least give him his buckets, so I ran after him. Seeing me coming... I have never seen anybody run so fast! He could have been a world champion in any race. I was very surprised. I was shouting, 'Wait!' and he looked back, and without saying anything....
The whole scene was being watched by the gatekeeper of the rich man. He told me, 'You will kill him.'
I said, 'I am simply going to return his buckets.'
He said, 'You leave the buckets with me; when the sun rises he will come. But don't do such things-sometimes you make me afraid too, but because I know.... For years I have been seeing you doing all kinds of strange things on this street, but sometimes I become afraid; I think: who knows whether it is really you or a ghost coming backwards towards me? Sometimes I close the gate and go inside; I keep my gun always loaded because of you!'
I said, 'You should understand one thing, that if I am a ghost, your gun will be useless-you cannot kill a ghost with a bullet. So don't ever use it, because a ghost will not be affected by it; but if a real man is there, you may be arrested as a murderer.'
He said, 'That's true. That I never thought about it, that ghosts....' And right in front of me, he took out all the bullets. He said, 'Sometimes the fear is so great... I may shoot some man and kill him.'
I said, 'Just look at me: first be certain whether I am a real man or a ghost. You are taking your bullets out, and it may be just a ghost who is persuading you!'
He said, 'What...?' And he started putting the bullets back in his gun.
I said, 'You keep these two buckets.' I remained for almost six months in that part of the city, and every day I asked the watchman, 'Has that man come yet?'
He said, 'He has not come. These two buckets are still waiting for him, and I think that now he will never come. Either he has gone forever, or he has become so afraid of this place that he never comes on this street. I have been watching and when my shift changes and the other watchman comes, I tell him that if somebody comes... and we keep these buckets in front of the gate, so he will recognize that his buckets are here. But six months have passed, and there is no sign of him.'
I said, 'This is a very strange thing.'
He said, 'There is nothing strange about it. You would have killed anybody, coming suddenly out of the darkness. Why were you going backwards? Jogging I know many people do, but doing it backwards....'
I said, 'I have been jogging, and I became bored always going forwards; just for a change I was trying it backwards. I never realized that just on that day that idiot was going to come-nobody ever comes on this street. That man must have spread a rumor-and rumors spread like wildfire. Even the landlord in whose house I was living heard that on this street....
He told me, 'Stop going so early for your morning walk; go only when the sun has risen, because one man has seen a ghost.'
I said, 'Who told you?'
He said, 'My wife told me, and the whole neighborhood knows; after eight o'clock in the evening the street becomes empty.'
I told him, 'You may not believe it, but there was no ghost. In fact, it was I who was jogging backwards....'
He said, 'Don't try to fool me.'
I said, 'You can come with me. At three o'clock in the morning there is nobody.'
He said, 'Why should I take the risk? But one thing is certain: if you don't stop going, then you will have to leave my house. You cannot live here.'
I said, 'This is very strange. Even if the street is full of ghosts, why should you insist that I leave your house? You cannot force me. I pay the rent... you have given me a receipt. And in the court you cannot say that it is because this man goes on a street where ghosts jog-I don't think any court is going to accept this reason.'
He said, 'Do you mean you will drive me to the courts? If you are so insistent, you can live in this house. I will sell it. I will leave this house.'
'But,' I said, 'I am not a ghost.'
He said, 'That I know-but mixing with ghosts? Some day some ghost may follow you into the house-and I am a man with a wife and children. I don't want to take any risks.'
Here in my commune, you don't need to be afraid: you can jog backwards, and even if you are a real ghost, nobody is going to take any notice of you!