CHAUBURJI While Lahore is home to millions of living beings its old environs have played host to things that can at best be called supernatural. There is a school inside the old city ramparts that was once the grand residence of Sikh royalty, whose basement is reputed to be the home of a presence. It is said that this portion of the building now remains locked, but accounts by a few brave souls who ventured inside a long time ago, speak of muted sounds of 'ghungrus or traditional leather anklets studded with small bells worn by dancers, coming from its dark recesses. There is another version according to which, this basement led to a tunnel that was built as an escape route in case the residents found themselves threatened by danger. The entrance was locked and the 'ghost story concocted to stop students from getting themselves in trouble trying to explore the secret passage. Another much talked about secret passage was stated to have linked the Lahore Fort with Empress Nur Jehans Tomb. We would often, as children, go looking for the entrance to this tunnel to the unending ire of our parents. Needless to say we were always unsuccessful, for if there was a tunnel, it must have disappeared under the debris of centuries. Talking of basements - there used to be an old house in Sirianwala Bazaar whose basement or 'bhora was reputedly occupied by a huge serpent with long hair. According to the story, the lady of the house frequently visited the place to fetch grain to be ground into flour. She would always stop at the entrance and say in a loud voice that she meant no harm to the creature and expected none from it. She would then go about her business often passing quite close to the reptile, which lay coil upon thick coil just staring at her. One day, the lady found that the snake had left the basement and was lying under a seat in the landing at the head of the stairs. More angry than scared, she chided the serpent, which slithered back into the basement never to be seen again. This old lady happened to be my great grand mother, who narrated the story to her grand daughter - my mother. Our house on Queens Road had been constructed in the early 1900s over land that was a graveyard and it was often that we discovered bones and parts of skeletons while digging holes for trees. The drive leading up to the house was more than a hundred yards long and had a gnarled old 'peelu tree growing halfway down its length. On one occasion, one of our domestic help came stumbling into the room where my mother was sitting and collapsed in stark terror. On being revived, he said that as he was passing the tree, he looked back and saw a huge black dog following him. The man developed high fever and refused to work for the family any more. On another occasion, guests visiting the family were scared out of their wits when they claimed seeing a wild eyed and disheveled old woman standing under the said tree. We often played under that tree till late at night, but never felt any fear or experienced any threatening presence. What we did on occasions feel was a benign pleasant presence that at least on one occasion played the role of the 'guardian. One winter morning in the 50s, we found an unconscious man lying under an out house window. From the half cut wire gauze and the bag of tools lying next to him, it was evident that the individual was a burglar. When the man was revived, he started blabbering and begging to be forgiven. It turned out that as he started preparing the window for entry, he was seized by invisible hands and lifted off the ground. A voice addressed him saying that he was on protected ground and must leave at once. By this time, the unfortunate wretch had fainted with fright. Asif Jahs tomb located between his sister Nur Jehans last resting place and that of his brother in law Emperor Jehangir, is reputed to be haunted as are many other old tombs and buildings in and around Lahore. But whether these stories are true or figments of the mind, they add a flavour and charisma to a city about which it is said that 'he who has not seen Lahore has not been born. The writer is a freelance columnist.