Tag Archives: ruskin bond

BOOK REVIEW: RUSKIN BOND: Captain Young’s Ghost–Ghostly Tales from the Indian Hills

Copyright@shravancharitymission

Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    Neither can book lovers, step out of their homes, nor can they, order books online, due to the lockdown. So in this period of utter dilemma let me take you through an interesting book titled ‘Captain Young’s Ghost’ –Ghostly Tales from the Indian Hills by none other than Ruskin Bond. Friends, he is one author who has a universal appeal. He is read both by children and adults. Surely … there’s something about him.

    Ruskin Bond has created many unforgettable characters in his novels among them are ghosts and spirits that haunt the hills and foothills of the Himalayas. These ghosts are not always horrific. They are mysterious and often benevolent, or lonely creatures looking for company among humans. The collection in this book are new stories. The publisher is Speaking Tiger. Year of publication is 1918. It is available in all online stores.

    The book in all has, over twenty stories. Superb for light reading and also as bedtime stories. It’ll not be possible for me to relate to, all the stories in this short clip. But yes let me give you a glimmer of the title story that is, Captain Young’s Ghost.

    ‘Captain Young’s Ghost,’ is a story, set up, in the hills of Mussoorie, Barlowganj and Landour. It’s written in first person. Where, the narrator is sitting in a bar enjoying his Martini. It’s a cold day in February, and it’s been raining all along, when a person a visitor who looks familiar to the narrator walks up to him and requests if he can join him as the bar-cum-restaurant is practically empty. The narrator doesn’t say no.

    Thereafter, the visitor orders whiskey. The barman gives him a choice ‘Indian or Scotch.’ But the man orders Irish whiskey. The barman declines. He says, ‘No Irish, sir. Only Scotch is available.’ Finally with a certain amount of distaste the person settles for a Scotch.

    Thereafter the person settles in his chair, scans across the room, which is largely empty except for a pianist in the far corner, tinkling away to glory. He asks, ‘Why do they call it, Captain Young’s Bar? That’s an Irish name. Does he own this place?’ The narrator says no.

    Thereafter, the visitor, and the narrator, get into an interesting conversation. They discuss Captain Young at length. The narrator describes the military lives of one General Gillespie and Captain Young both in British Army, when there is a sudden commotion outside.

    It so happens that there is one Mr Foster whom the hotel has hired for a unique rendition. He often comes on a horse dressed as Captain Young’s Ghost, to entertain guests since it is perceived that Captain Young’s ghost is harmless. But since Mr Foster on that very day stumbles off his horse which is actually a pony the secret is unintentionally let out that Foster indeed is the protagonist dressed as Captain Young’s Ghost.

    In the meanwhile the Assistant Manager of the hotel asks the narrator if liked Mr Foster’s show. Narrator says he didn’t. But by the time he returns to his table in the bar he finds to his surprise that the person or the visitor who had joined him for a drink has vanished and he was heard saying, ‘he had  seen enough nonsense for one evening.’

    Finally, the narrator too, leaves the bar and while walking up the hill he comes across an old acquaintance Bahadur the chowkidar who recognises him as Captain Young’s Ghost and knows that he is harmless. But he comments, ‘sir how come you are not in uniform today and without your horse.’

    The story closes with the narrator walking up the steep hill. The mist gradually lifts and the moon comes out where he finds his white horse waiting for him as a homeless ghost, just like his master. He realises he shouldn’t have gone away to England, for this was the town he had created, and he should have breathed his last years here. Unfortunately that did not happen, so he keeps returning to his beloved town.

    The book overall is extremely interesting especially if you like short stories. I like them hell of a lot. I would give the book seven out of ten.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

MIRAGE

(Published in February 2020. The book is a collection of eight short stories. It is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Notion Press)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: A GARLAND OF MEMORIES by Ruskin Bond

Copyright@shravancharitymission

Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    It is one of the cutest books I’ve ever read. It reminds me of a book titled ‘Glimpses of Bengal’ by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore that I had read some time ago. Glimpses of Bengal is the English translation of Gurudev’s letters that he had written in Bengali, and they indeed were rich with scenic description and personal thoughts when he was a youth.

    It appears to me Ruskin Bond has taken the cue from Gurudev in converting his essays and short stories into a publication titled ‘A Garland of Memories.’

    The book is a Natraj Publishers publication and is available in Amazon for Rs 173.

    It’s a flavoursome narration of essays and short stories by the author. On a day when you have nothing much to do, pick up, this book and you’re sure to have a good time. It’s a slim spine just about 146 pages.

    The author narrates the most interesting tales, from his chance encounter with Rudyard Kipling’s ghost, to his adventures with his eccentric Uncle Ken; being witness to a bitter battle between a brave snake and a brave mongoose and two foolhardy birds. It is about the hungry pet python who ate up everyone’s lunch and the mythical snow-woman who almost exists.

    The narration is in Bond’s unique, lucid, simple prose and is based on his real life experiences. I’m amazed at Ruskin Bond’s ground knowledge, of forests, animals, flora and fauna, and the jungles of Mussorie, Dehradun and one can say the entire Uttarakhand. In that he very aptly mixes the experiences of his three year stay in Europe. And, oh boy, with that, the cocktail becomes ecstatic. I expect this collection to make smile laugh and even cry.

    There are in all thirty-four chapters—comprising essays and short-stories. They were originally written for various Indian publications—The statesman, Times of India, Hindustan Times, Deccan Herald, among others—and several were published in the children’s magazines and some even in foreign magazines.

    Friends, if you are interested in nature, don’t miss books, such as, ‘Glimpses of Bengal’ and ‘A Garland of Memories’ that describe the nature of yester-years so very well. Mind you with the degradation of environment and the cutting of forests and trees, such books are becoming more and more precious or you could say priceless. The book also glimpses past a ghost story.

    A line that I particularly liked in the book goes as follows:

    Live long, my friend, be wise and strong,

    But do not take from any man his song.

    Having canvassed so much about the book let me also narrate a synopsis of an episode out of it, that’ll give you an umbrella flavour of the content. It is about flattery. Narration is in first person.

    When I was a boy in Dehradun, there was a mango-grove just opposite my bungalow. It belonged to Seth Govind Ram (May his soul rest in peace). During the mango season, it was fiercely guarded by a giant chowkidar called Phambiri. All my efforts to get into the mango-grove were normally repulsed by him. On one occasion I even received a mild lathi-blow on my backside.

    ‘I just want to climb the tree,’ I pleaded.

    ‘Come back when the mango season is over,’ said Phambiri with a vicious smile copied from a filmi-villain.

    I then discovered he was an ex-wrestler. A champion in his youth, who had the distinction of over-throwing the great King Kong (I did not know at the time that King Kong, in his bad years, was constantly being thrown out of the ring). Whenever I passed the grove and saw Phambari, I would comment on his great strength, his superb physique, his muscles like cricket balls, and his bull like neck and shoulders. Gradually he warmed up to me, and began to tell me of his exploits. I acclaimed them. Then he showed me his feats of strength, like picking up rocks and hurling them across the road. I applauded and applauded. And before long, he invited me into the mango grove, and by the end of the week I was having all the mangoes I wanted to. To be frank the guardian of the grove actually pressed them upon me.

    Flattery will get you everywhere.

    One of the first lessons learnt in school is that, the majority of teachers are susceptible to the most blatant forms of flattery. Hard work helps a little, but the child at the top of the class is often held in high esteem by the teachers. This paragon of virtue, wears an, adoring smile, and always waits, till the teacher is out of hearing, before slandering her. ‘They do but flatter with their lips, and dissemble their real feelings in their double heart.’

    There is that cynical old ploy of telling a woman she looks ten years younger than her actual age. This doesn’t always work. I once told a woman (who looked fifty) that she looked attractive forty, and she hit me, over the ear, with her handbag. It turned out she was thirty. Be careful when you flatter. The results can sometimes be unexpected. Ruskin Bond wrote this piece some 40 years ago.

    I would give this book seven out of ten.

Posted by Kamlesh Tripathi

*

https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: THE OVERCOAT by Ruskin Bond

Copyright@shravancharitymission

Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    Ruskin Bond is one of India’s best known authors. He was born in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh in 1934. He wrote his first novel, The Room on the Roof, at the age of 17. Some years later, it won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957.

    Bond spent his growing years in Jamnagar, Dehradun, Delhi and Shimla, all of which occupy a central place in his writing. After a four year stint in London and Channel Islands in the early 1950s, Bond returned to India and made Landour, Mussoorie, his home.

    A prolific writer, Bond has written several books, short stories, poems and essays. He won the Sahitya Academy Award in 1993 and was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1999.

    The story Overcoat is set up in a hill station. It’s about a merry encounter with a ghost. And here it goes.

    The weather was clear and frosty. But as the noon came up over the Himalayan peaks, I could see patches of snow still lay on the roads of the hill station. I would have been quite happy in bed, with a book and a hot-water bottle by my side, but I’d promised the Kapadias that I’d go to their party, and I felt it would be churlish of me to stay away at the last moment. So I padded up myself before setting out for Kapadias on the moonlit road.

    It was a walk of just over a mile to the Kapadias’ house. I had covered about half the distance, when I saw a girl standing in the middle of the road.

    She must have been sixteen or seventeen. But she looked rather old-fashioned, with long hair hanging up to her waist, and a flouncy sequined dress, pink and lavender in colour that reminded me of the photos, in my grandmother’s family album. When I went closer, I noticed she had lovely eyes and a winning smile.

    ‘Good evening,’ I said. ‘It’s a cold night to be out.’

    ‘Are you going to the party?’ she asked.

    ‘That’s right. And I can see from your lovely dress that you too are going. Come along, we’re nearly there.’

    She fell into steps beside me as she commenced walking. We soon saw lights from the Kapadias’ house shining brightly through the deodars. The girl told me her name was Julie. I hadn’t seen her before, but then, I’d only been in the hill station for a few months.

    There was quite a crowd at the party, but no one seemed to know Julie. Everyone thought she was a friend of mine. I did not deny it either. Obviously, she was someone who was feeling lonely and wanted to be friendly with people. And she was certainly enjoying herself. I did not see her do much of eating or drinking, but she flitted from one group to another, talking, listening laughing and enjoying. When the music began, she started dancing and continued alone, or with partners, for it didn’t matter to her, as she was completely wrapped up in music.

    It was almost midnight when I got up to go. I had drank a fair amount of punch, and was ready for bed. As I was saying goodnight to my hosts and wishing everyone a merry Christmas, Julie slipped her arm into mine and said she too would be going home.

    When we were outside, I asked, ‘Where do you live Julie?’

    ‘At Wolfsburn,’ she said. ‘Right at the top of the hill.’

    ‘There’s a cold wind,’ I said. ‘And although your dress is beautiful, it doesn’t look very warm. Here, you’d better wear my overcoat. I’ve plenty of protection.’

    She did not protest, and allowed me to slip my overcoat over her shoulders. Then we started walking back home. But I did not have to escort her all the way. At about the spot where we had met, she said, ‘There’s a shortcut from here. I’ll just scramble up the hillside.’

    ‘Do you know it well?’ I asked. ‘It’s a very narrow path.’

    ‘Oh, I know every stone on the path. I use it all the time. And besides, it’s really a bright night.’

    ‘Well, keep the coat on,’ I said. ‘I can collect it tomorrow.’

    She hesitated for a moment, then smiled and nodded. She then disappeared up the hill, and I went home alone.

    The next day, I walked up to Wolfsburn. I crossed a little brook, from which the house had probably got its name, and entered, an open iron gate. But little had remained of the house. Just a roofless ruin, a pile of stones, a shattered chimney, a few Doric pillars where a veranda had once stood.

    Had Julie played a joke on me? Or had I found the wrong house?

    I walked around the hill, to the mission house where the Taylors live and asked old Mrs Taylor if she knew a girl named Julie.

    ‘No I don’t think so,’ she said. ‘Where does she live?’

    ‘At Wolfsburn, I was told. But the house is just a ruin.’

    ‘Nobody has lived at Wolfsburn for over forty years, the Mackinnons once lived there. One of the old families who settled here. But when their girl died …’ She stopped with that and gave me a queer look. ‘I think her name was Julie … Anyway, when she died, they sold the house and went away. No one ever lived in it again, and it fell into decay. But it couldn’t be the same Julie you’re looking for. She died of consumption (Tuberculosis)—there wasn’t much you could do about it in those days. Her grave is in the cemetery, just down the road.’

    I thanked Mrs Taylor and walked slowly down the road, to the cemetery. Not really wanting to know any more, but propelled forward almost against my will.

    It was a small cemetery under the deodars. You could see the eternal snows of the Himalayas standing out against the pristine blue sky. Here lay the bones of forgotten empire-builders—soldiers, merchants, adventurers, their wives and children. It did not take me long to find Julie’s grave. It had a simple headstone with her name clearly outlined on it:

Julie Mackinnon

1923-39

‘With us one moment,

Taken the next,

Gone to her Maker,

Gone to her rest.’

    Although, many monsoons had swept across the cemetery, wearing down the stones, but they had not touched this little tombstone.

    I was turning to leave, when I got a glimpse of something familiar behind the headstone. I walked around to where it lay.

    Neatly folded on the grass was my overcoat.

    There was no thank-you note. But something soft and invisible brushed against my cheek, and I knew someone was trying to thank me. And that was no one else but Julie … Julie’s soul.

    It is an interesting story and I would give this story seven out of ten.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

*

https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

*

Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

 

 

 

   

BOOK REVIEW: TOPAZ BY RUSKIN BOND

Copyright@shravancharitymission

Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    Ruskin Bond as we all know, is an Indian author of British descent. He has made exemplary contribution in the field of children’s books and even ghost stories. Topaz is one such story that I’ve picked up for you. The story is set up in the backdrop of Himalayas. It is written in first person. Where, at a point the narrator or the protagonist confirms he is a writer, and that, in a way also confirms that it is the author himself narrating the story.

    The story opens in the pine-clad slopes of the Himalayas. The protagonist, is, in his room, listening to some music that reminds him of the strains of “The Blue Danube” and concurrently the wonderful sight of Pine-clad slopes of Himalayas. He has a new record player with old records that he has picked up from the junk-shop behind the Mall.

    Below the pines there are oaks. Surprisingly, one oak-tree in particular catches his eye. It is the biggest of the lot and stands by itself on a little hillock below his cottage. There is breeze but not strong enough to sway its heavy branches. There is also something moving, swinging gently from the tree, keeping pace with the music of the waltz, dancing ….

    It appears as if someone is hanging from the tree.

    A rope oscillates in the breeze, when a dead body turns slowly, turns this way and that way, is when he sees the face of a girl, her hair hanging loose, her eyes sightless, hands and feet limp; just turning, turning, while the waltz plays on.

    He turns off the player and runs downstairs.

    Down the path through the trees, and on to the grassy hillock where the big oak stood.

    A long-tailed magpie takes fright and flies out from the branches, swooping low across the ravine. In the tree there is no one. A great branch extends half-way across the hillock, and it is possible for him to reach up and touch it. But a girl could not have reached it without climbing the tree. He thinks.

    As he stands there, gazing at the branches, someone speaks to him from behind.

    ‘What are you looking at?’

    He swings around. Only to see a girl standing around in the clearing, facing him. A girl of seventeen or eighteen; alive, healthy, with bright eyes and a tantalizing smile. She is indeed lovely to look at. He hadn’t seen such a pretty girl in years.

    ‘You startled me,’ he says. ‘You came up so unexpectedly.’ he added.

    ‘Did you see anything—in the tree?’ she asked.

    ‘I thought I saw someone from my window. That’s why I came down. Did you see anything?’ said the writer.

    ‘Oh no!’ She exclaimed and shook her head, the smile escaping her face for a moment. ‘I don’t see anything. But other people do—sometimes.’

    ‘What do they see?’ asked the writer.   

    ‘My sister?’ she replied.

    ‘Your sister?’ rebounded the writer.

    ‘Yes she hanged herself from this tree. It was many years ago. So, sometimes you can see her hanging there.’ She answered in a mechanical fashion.

    She spoke matter-of-factly: whatever had happened seemed very remote to her.

    After which they moved some distance away from the tree. Above the hillock, on a disused private tennis-court (a relic from the hill station’s colonial past) was a small stone bench. She sat on it: and, after a moment’s hesitation, the writer too sat down beside her.

    ‘Do you live close by?’ he asked.

    ‘Further up the hill. My father has a small bakery.’

    She then discloses her name as Hameeda. She also says she has two younger brothers.

    ‘You must have been quite small when your sister died.’ says the writer.

    ‘Yes. But I remember her. She was pretty.’

    ‘Like you.’ interjects the writer.

     She laughs in disbelief. ‘Oh, I am nothing to her. You should have seen my sister.’

    ‘Why did she kill herself?’

    ‘Because she did not want to live. She was to have been married but she loved someone else, someone who was not of our own community. It’s an old story and the end is always sad, isn’t it?’

    ‘Not always. But what happened to the boy—the one she loved? Did he kill himself too?’ asked the writer.

    ‘No, he took up a job in some other place. Jobs are not easy to get, are they?’

    ‘I don’t know. I’ve never tried for one.’

    ‘Then what do you do?’

    ‘I write stories.’ said the writer.

    ‘Do people buy stories?’

    ‘Why not? If your father can sell bread, I can sell stories.’

    ‘People have to have bread. But they can live without stories.’

    ‘No, Hameeda, you’re wrong. People can’t live without stories.’

        By now infatuation had made way in the writer’s heart for Hameeda. He couldn’t help loving her. Although, no fierce desire or passion had taken hold of him. He was happy by just looking at her, watch her while she sat on the grass outside his cottage, her lips stained with the juice of wild bilberries. She chatted away—about her friends, her clothes, her favourite things.

    ‘Won’t your parents mind if you come here every day?’ the writer asked.

    ‘I have told them you are teaching me.’

    ‘Teaching you what?’ he asked.

    ‘They did not ask. So, you can tell me stories.’

    As a result the writer told her some stories.

    It was midsummer.

    The sun glinted on the ring she wore on her third finger: a translucent golden topaz, set in silver.

    ‘That’s a pretty ring,’ remarked the writer.

    ‘You wear it,’ she said, impulsively removing it from her hand. ‘It will give you good thoughts. It will help you to write better stories.’

    She slipped it on to the writer’s little finger.

    ‘I’ll wear it for a few days,’ he said. ‘Then you must let me give it back to you.’ he added.

    On a day that promised rain the writer took the path down to the stream at the bottom of the hill. There he found Hameeda gathering ferns from the shady places along the rocky ledges above the water.

    ‘What will you do with them?’ he asked.

    ‘This is a special kind of fern. You can cook it as a vegetable.’

    ‘Is it tasty?’ he asked.

    ‘No, but it is good for rheumatism.’

    ‘Do you suffer from rheumatism?’

    ‘Of course not. They are for my grandmother, she is very old.’ she said.

    ‘There are more ferns further upstream,’ he said. ‘But we’ll have to get into the water.’

    They remove their shoes and start paddling, up stream. The ravine becomes shadier and narrower, until the sun is completely shut out. The ferns have grown right down up to the water’s edge. They bend to pick them up but instead find themselves in each other’s arms; and sink slowly, as if in a dream, into the soft bed of ferns, while overhearing a whistling thrush burst out in dark sweet song.

    ‘It isn’t time that’s passing by,’ it seemed to say. ‘It is you and I. It is you and I …’

    Post that the writer waits for her the following day, but she doesn’t come.

    Several days pass without, he being able to see her.

    Is she sick? Has she been kept at home? Has she been sent away? He doesn’t even know where she lives, so he cannot ask. And, if at all, he is able to ask, what would he ask?

     Then one day he sees a boy delivering bread and pastries at the little tea-shop about a mile down the road. From the upward slant of his eyes, there is a slight resemblance with Hameeda. As he leaves the shop, the writer follows him up the hill. And, when he comes abreast of him, he asks: ‘Do you have your own bakery?’

    He nods cheerfully, ‘Yes. Do you want anything—bread, biscuits, cakes? I can bring them all to your house.’

    ‘Oh of course. But don’t you have a sister? A girl called Hameeda?’

    His expression changes suddenly. He is no longer friendly. He looks puzzled and slightly apprehensive.

    ‘Why do you want to know?’

    ‘Because, I haven’t seen her for some time now?’ replies the writer

    ‘We have not seen her either.’

    ‘Do you mean she has gone away?’

    ‘Didn’t you know? You must have been away a long time. It is many years since she died. She killed herself. You did not hear about it?’ said the boy.

    ‘But wasn’t that her sister—your other sister?’ asked the writer.

    ‘I had only one sister—Hameeda—and she died, when I was very young. It’s an old story, ask someone else about it.’

    With that he turned away and quickened his pace, and the writer was left standing in the middle of the road, with his head full of questions that couldn’t be answered.

    That night there was a thunderstorm. Writer’s bedroom window kept banging in the wind. He got up to close it and, as he looked out, there was a flash of lightning and he saw that frail body again, swinging from the oak tree.

    He tried a make out the features, but the head hung down and the hair was blowing in the wind.

    Was it all a dream? He thought.

    It was impossible to say. But the topaz ring on him glowed softly in the darkness. And a whisper from the forest seemed to say, ‘It isn’t time that’s passing by, my friend. It is you and I … ‘

    So that’s all for today. It’s a neat little story with a tinge of enigma for you to discover. I would give the story seven out of ten.

Posted by Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

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Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: FRITZ by Satyajit Ray

Copyright@shravancharitymission

Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    This short story was published in The Penguin Book of ‘Indian GHOST stories, edited by Ruskin Bond, is about a Swiss doll named Fritz. The price of this book is Rs 250.
We all know Satyajit Ray, an Indian filmmaker, screenwriter, music composer, graphic artist, lyricist and author, widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th Century. Ray was born in Calcutta into a Bengali family which was prominent in the field of arts and literature.
    In this short story there are two main protagonists. One is Jayant, who works in the editorial section of a newspaper and the other is his friend Shankar, the narrator, who is a school teacher. They are great friends and have finally managed sometime to go on a holiday together. They decide to go to Bundi a small town in Rajasthan around two hundred km from Jaipur. Incidentally Jayant had been to this town in his childhood along with his parents. Jayant’s father was in the Archaeological Survey of India and that gave him the opportunity to visit many tourist locations.
    They plan to stay at the Circuit House where Jayant had stayed before, when he had come along with his father many years ago on an official visit. When they reach Bundi, Shankar notices Jayant is not his usual self. He is in a pensive mood and thinking about something. Shankar tries to query Jayant about his mood. Jayant says it’s nothing but old memories inundating his mind. Shankar thinks that Jayant being the over-emotional type. Is now getting nostalgic, so he doesn’t say anything further in the matter.
They go for a stroll in the beautiful compound of the Circuit House when Jayant suddenly remembers that there was a tall Deodar tree there. He searches for it by looking around and finds it at the end of the compound. He looks at the trunk searchingly and says, it was out here he had met a European in the form of a doll, but doesn’t quite remember who it was or how they had met.
    They return to the Circuit House where Jayant remembers Dilawar, the cook, who had prepared their dinner when he had come with his father. His reminiscences don’t stop there. They continue full flow and then he is inundated with the memories of Fritz. He tells Shankar, the tale of Fritz, the European doll, which Shankar hears amusedly. It was a one-foot tall Swiss doll brought from Switzerland by his uncle for him. He says he was very attached to the doll and was devastated when two stray dogs had mutilated it. He had buried the doll’s remnants under the very same deodar tree.
Shankar is quite tired so he goes to bed but wakes up abruptly in the middle of the night and finds Jayant sitting on his bed, looking perplexed. Upon asking the reason, Jayant says that something had walked over his chest when he was asleep. Shankar assures that it could have been a dream but Jayant shows him his pillow. Where, there were faint marks pointing to the fact that an animal had walked over it. Shankar does a thorough search of the place but doesn’t find any small animal like mice or rats. Shankar feels that his friend is just exaggerating his pent up emotions, nevertheless, he offers him some soothing words. After which they both go off to sleep.
    The following day, they visit ‘Bundi Fort.’ About which Shankar is happy, as he remembers the famous poem of Tagore ‘The Fort of Bundi.’ During the visit to the fort on the hills, Jayant remains lost in his thoughts. After returning, Shankar queries about his state of mind persistently. Jayant says, that Fritz, the doll, had come back alive, and it was the doll last night who had walked over his chest leaving his footprints. Shankar, now annoyed with Jayant’s irrational fears, suggests to dig up the doll’s grave and see for himself that the doll isn’t back.
    Jayant agrees. Together, they have the gardener dig the place where Fritz was buried. To their horror, they find a pure white, 12-inch, human skeleton, lying there exactly, of the same size as Fritz. They both are confused and horrified when they see it. Eerie thoughts and weird assumptions come to their mind. The story ends there, on a cliff-hanger, with various connotations to suit the reader.
    The story is narrated in first person from Shankar’s perspective and that provides a realistic depth into Jayant’s emotions, unclouded by Jayant’s irrational fears and beliefs.
The story is built on short conversations between the two protagonists. The author within the limited space has also described the scenic surroundings quite well. Even Jayant’s childhood memories are well captured. The story unwinds on flashbacks. Where, the sequencing of flashbacks is quite perfect.
    The characters are well-portrayed. Where, Jayant is projected as a serious person and even emotional. Whereas, Shankar is a smart, rational man who believes only in what he sees. Hence, he is annoyed at Jayant’s assumption that Fritz is back. And it’ll only be right to say that Shankar is quite a determined person, because even when Jayant was reluctant to dig the grave, he was sure about what he wanted to do and how to get it done.
    The story is set in Bundi, Rajasthan. The author has used plain English, easy to understand. It is a good read. I would give the story seven out of ten.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

 

 

 

ANATH BABU’S TERROR by Satyajit Ray

Copyright@shravancharitymission

ANATH BABU’S TERROR

Satyajit Ray

Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about

 

    Who doesn’t know Satyajit Ray. The famous ‘Oscar’ fame film director from Tollygange and even Bollywood. Some may not know he was also a great writer. This short story of his ‘Anath Babu’s Terror’ was published earlier in one of his story collections of a dozen stories originally written in Bengali as ‘Ek Dojon Goppo.’ 

     The story was subsequently published in English under a Penguin title edited by Ruskin Bond as ‘The Penguin Book of Indian Ghost Stories’ in the year 1993.

SYNOPSIS

        ‘Anath babu’s terror’ is tale of a ghost hunter’s dare into a haunted house. The narrator, while going on a holiday to write in peace to Raghunathpur, meets Anath Babu in the train. The person appears eccentric and strange and is quite oddly and traditionally dressed. The narrator meets him again in Raghunathpur and discovers he is interested in strange and esoteric things and has travelled from one end of India to the other in search of authentic ghosts. He has spent all his life gathering information about life after death, spirits, vampires, draculas, werevolves, black magic, voodoo and the works. He has spent twenty-five years living in haunted houses, dak bungalows, and indigo cottages. Soon he comes to know about a haunted house, where the body of a Haldar who had been found lying dead on the floor, stone cold, with eyes open and staring at the ceiling.
He tells the narrator that he has decided to spend a night in the west room, the most haunted room of the house. But before that he and the narrator go to investigate the house, where Anath Babu can smell a spirit lurking in the house. The next day the narrator is unable to concentrate on his work and so he goes to meet Anath Babu, to investigate about his ghostly experience. When, the writer asks him about last night. He doesn’t answer, and on the contrary he asks the narrator to go to the west room, to get his answer. The narrator does so and when his eyes fell on the floor, a sudden creep, a wave of horror swept over him. He found Anath Babu lying on the floor, stiff and stone cold, staring at the ceiling with a look of horror in his eyes! When, he tried to run. He found Anath Babu in the passage outside laughing raucously, and his voice was drowning him in it, and also paralysing his senses! Later the narrator finds himself in his house, and his friend telling him about Anath Babu’s dead body in the mansion.

    FULL STORY

    The story is spine chilling and will grip you all over. Sitesh Babu, sick and tired of a long drift at work thinks of taking a break. He works for one of the dailies in Calcutta. Writing indeed was his hobby. He had a couple of short stories that needed further focus. For which he needed a peaceful surrounding to iron out his thoughts. So he applies for ten days leave to visit a quiet place where he could complete his stories. And, decides to head for Raghunathpur.

  But then there was a reason for his choosing Raghunathpur. Where, an old college mate of his, Biren Biswas, had his ancestral home. And while they were chatting in the coffee house one evening, talking of possible places where one could spend one’s holiday. Sitesh told Biren that he had applied for leave. To, complete his book. For which he was looking for a quiet place so that he could concentrate. Biren was spontaneous in offering him free accommodation at his home in Raghunathpur. He even said, ‘I would have gone with you, but you know how tied up I am at the moment. But you won’t have any problems as Bharadwaj will look after you. ‘He’s worked for our family for fifty years.’ Thus Sitesh decided to visit Raghunathpur. Where, on his way in the train he met Anath Babu. Sitesh just had a suitcase and that too was filled with a packet of writing paper.

    The coach was packed. Anathbandhu Mitra happened to be sitting right next to Sitesh. About fifty years of age. Not, very tall. Hair parted in the middle with a sharp look in his eyes and an amused smile playing on his lips. He appeared to have dressed for a part in a play set some fifty years ago. For no one these days wore a jacket like that, nor such collars, or glasses, or boots.

    They began to chat. It turned out that Anath Babu, too, was going to Raghunathpur. ‘Are you also going on a holiday?’ Sitesh asked him. But he did not answer and seemed to grow a little pensive. Or it may be he had failed to hear Sitesh’s question in the racket the train was making.

    The sight of Biren’s house pleased Sitesh very much. It was a nice house. With a strip of land in front that had both vegetables and flowers growing in it. There were no other houses nearby. So the possibility of being disturbed by the neighbours was non-existent.

    Despite, protests from Bharadwaj. Sitesh chose the room in the attic for himself. It was an airy little room, comfortable and totally private. He moved his things upstairs and began to unpack. It was then that he realised he had left his razor blades behind. ‘Never mind,’ said Bhardwaj, ‘Kundu Babu’s shop is only five minute walk from here. You’ll get your “bilades” there.’

    He left for the shop, soon after tea, at around 4 p.m. It appeared that the place was used more or less like a club. About seven middle-aged men were seated inside on wooden benches, chatting away to glory. One of them was saying rather agitatedly, ‘Well, it’s not something I have only heard about. I saw the whole thing with my own eyes. All right, so it happened thirty years ago. But that kind of thing cannot get wiped out from one’s memory, can it? I shall never forget what happened, especially since Haladhar Datta was a close friend of mine. In fact, even now I can’t help feeling partly responsible for his death.’

    Sitesh bought a packet of 7 O’clock blades. Then he began to loiter, looking at things he didn’t really need. The gentlemen continued, ‘Just imagine, my own friend laid a bet with me for just ten rupees and went to spend a night in that west room. I waited for a long time the next morning for him to turn up; but when he didn’t, I went with Jiten Bakshi, Haricharan Saha and a few others to look for him in the Haldar mansion. And we found him in the same room—lying dead on the floor, stone cold, eyes open and staring at the ceiling. The naked fear I saw in those eyes could only mean one thing, I tell you: ghosts. There was no injury on his person, no sign of snake-bite or anything like that. So what else could have killed him but a ghost? You tell me?’

    Another five minutes in the shop gave Sitesh a rough idea of what they were talking about. There was, apparently, a two-hundred-year-old mansion in the southern corner of Raghunathpur, which had once been owned by the Haldars, the local zamindars. It had lain abandoned for years now. A particular room in this mansion that faced the west was supposed to be haunted.

    Although in the last thirty years no one had dared to spend a night in it after the death of Haladhar Datta. The residents of Raghunathpur still felt a certain thrill thinking of the unhappy spirit that haunted the room. The reason behind this belief was both the mysterious death of Haladhar Datta, and many other instances of murders and suicides in the history of the Haldar family.

    Intrigued by this conversation, Sitesh came out of the shop only to find Anathbandhu Mitra, the gentlemen he had met in the train, standing outside, with a smile on his lips.

    ‘Did you hear what they were saying?’ he asked.

    ‘Yes I couldn’t help it.’

    ‘Do you believe in it?’

    ‘In what? Ghosts?

    ‘Yes.”

    ‘Well, you see, I have heard of haunted houses often enough. But never have I met anyone who has actually stayed in one and seen anything. So I don’t quite …’

    Anath Babu’s smile deepened.

    Would you like to see it? He said.

    ‘What?’

    ‘That house.’

    ‘See? How do you mean?’

    ‘Only from the outside. It’s not very far from here. A mile, at the most. If you go straight down this road, past the twin temples and then turn right, it’s only a quarter of a mile from there.’

    The man seemed interesting. Besides, there was no need to get back home quite so soon. So, Sitesh left with him.

*

    The Haldar mansion was not easily visible. Most of it was covered by a thick growth of wild plants and creepers. It was only the top of the gate that towered above everything else and could be seen a good ten minutes before one reached the house. The gate was really huge. The mahabatkhana over it was in shambles. A long drive led to the front veranda. A couple of statues and the remains of a fountain told us that there used to be a garden in the space between the house and the gate. The house was strangely structured. There was absolutely nothing in it that could have met even the lowest of aesthetic standards. The whole thing seemed only a shapeless heap. The last rays of the setting sun fell on its mossy walls.

    Anath Babu stared at it for a minute. Then he said, ‘As far as I know, ghosts and spirits don’t come out in daylight. Why don’t we,’ he added, winking, ‘go and take a look at that room?’

    ‘That west room? The one …?’

    ‘Yes. The one in which Haladhar Datta died.”

    The man’s interest in the matter seemed a bit exaggerated.

    Anath Babu read Sitesh’s mind.

    ‘I can see you surprised. Well, I don’t mind telling you the truth. The only reason behind my arrival in Raghunathpur is this house.’

    ‘Really?’

     ‘Yes, I had learnt in Calcutta that the house was haunted. I came all the way to see if I could catch a glimpse of the ghost. You asked me on the train why I was coming here. I didn’t reply, which must have appeared rude. But I had decided to wait until I got to know you a little better before telling you.’

    ‘But why did you have to come all the way from Calcutta to chase a ghost?’

    ‘I’ll explain that in a minute. I haven’t yet told you about my profession. Have I? The fact is that I am an authority on ghosts and all things supernatural. I have spent the last twenty five years doing research in this area. I have read everything that’s ever been published on life after death, spirits that haunt the earth, vampires, werewolves, black magic, voodoo—the lot. I had to learn seven different languages to do this. There is a Professor Norton in London who has similar interest. I have been in correspondence with him over the last three years. My articles have been published in well known magazines in Britain. I don’t wish to sound boastful, but I think it would be fair to say that no one in this country has as much knowledge about these things as I do.’

    Anath Babu spoke very sincerely. The thought that he might be telling lies or exaggerating things did not cross Sitesh Babu’s mind at all. On the contrary, Sitesh found it quite easy to believe what Anath Babu told him and his respect for the man only grew.

    After a few moments of silence, Anath said, ‘I have stayed in at least three hundred haunted houses all over the country.’

    ‘Goodness!’

    ‘Yes. In places like Jabalpur, Cherrapunji, Kanthi, Katoa, Jodhpur, Azimganj, Hazaribagh, Shiuri, Barasat … and so many others. I’ve stayed in fifty-six dak-bungalows, and at least thirty neel kuthis. Besides these, there are about fifty haunted houses in Calcutta and its suburbs where I’ve spent my nights. But …,’

    Anath Babu stopped. Then he shook his head and said. ‘The ghosts have eluded me. Perhaps they like to visit only those who don’t want to have anything to do with them. I have been disappointed time and again. Only once did I feel the presence of something strange in an old building in Tiruchirapalli near Madras. It used to be a club during British times. Do you know what happened? The room was dark and there was no breeze at all. Yet, each time I tried to light a candle, someone—or something—kept snuffing it out. I had to waste twelve matchsticks. However, with the thirteenth I did manage to light the candle; but, as soon as it was lit, the spirit vanished. Once in a house in Calcutta, too, I had a rather interesting experience. I was sitting in a dark room as usual, waiting for something to happen, when I suddenly felt a mosquito bite my scalp! Quite taken aback, I felt my head and discovered that every single strand of my hair had disappeared. I was totally bald! Was it really my own head? Or had I felt someone else’s? But no, the mosquito bite was real enough. I switched on my torch quickly and peered into the mirror. All my hair was intact. There was no sign of baldness.

    ‘These were the only two slightly queer experiences I’ve had in all these years. I had given up all hope of finding anything anywhere. But, recently, I happened to read in an old magazine about this house in Raghunathpur. So I thought I’d come and try my luck for the last time.’

    They had reached the front door by now. Anath Babu looked at his watch and said, ‘This sun sets today at 5.31 p.m. It’s now 5.15. Let’s go and take a quick look before it gets dark.’

    Perhaps Anath Babu’s interest in the supernatural was infectious. Basis which Sitesh Babu readily accepted his proposal. And like Anath even Sitesh was eager to see the inside of the house and that room in particular.

    They walked in through the front door. There was a huge courtyard and that looked like a stage. It must have been used for pujas and other festivals. There was no sign now of the joy and the laughter it once must have witnessed.

    There were verandas, around the courtyard. To their right, lay a broken palanquin, and beyond it was a staircase going up.

    It was so dark on the staircase that Anath Babu had to take a torch out of his pocket and switch it on. They had to demolish an invisible wall of cobwebs to make their way. When, they finally reached the first floor. Sitesh thought to himself, ‘if it wouldn’t be surprising at all if this house did turn out to be haunted.’

    They stood in the passage and made some rough calculations. The room on their left must have been the famous west room, they decided. Anath Babu said, ‘Let’s not waste any time. Come with me.’

    There was only one thing in the passage: a grandfather clock. Its glass was broken, one of its hands was missing and the pendulum lay to one side.

    The door to the west room was closed. Anath Babu pushed it gently with his forefinger. A nameless fear gave Sitesh goose-pimples. The door swung open.

    But the room revealed nothing unusual. It may have been a living-room once. There was a big table in the middle with a missing top. Only the four legs stood upright. An easy chair stood near the window, although sitting in it now would not be very easy as it had lost one of its arms and a portion of its seat.

    Sitesh glanced up and saw that bits and pieces of an old-fashioned, hand-pulled fan still hung from the ceiling. It didn’t have a rope, the wooden bar was broken and its main body torn.

    Apart from these objects, the room had a shelf that must once have held rifles, a pipeless hookah, and two ordinary chairs, also with broken arms.

    Anath Babu appeared to be deep in thought. After a while, he said, ‘Can you smell something?’

    ‘Smell what?’

    ‘Incense, oil and burning flesh … all mixed together …’ Sitesh inhaled deeply, but could smell nothing beyond the usual musty smell that came from a room that had been kept shut for a long time.

    So he said, ‘Why, no, I don’t think I can …’

    Anath Babu did not say anything. Then, suddenly, he struck his left hand with his right and exclaimed, ‘God! I know this smell well! There is bound to be a spirit lurking about in this house, though whether or not he’ll make an appearance remains to be seen. Let’s go!’

     Anath Babu decided to spend the following night in Haldhar mansion. On our way back, he said, ‘I won’t go tonight because tomorrow is a moonless night, the best possible time for ghosts and spirits to come out. Besides, I need a few things which I haven’t got with me today. I’ll bring those tomorrow. Today I came only to make a survey.’

    Before they parted company near Biren’s house, Anath lowered his voice and said, ‘Please don’t tell anyone else about my plan. From what I heard today, people here are so superstitious and easily frightened that they might actually try to stop me from going in if they came to know of my intention. And, ‘he added, ‘please don’t mind that I didn’t ask you to join me. One has to be alone, you see, for something like this …’

    Sitesh sat down the next day to write, but could not concentrate. His mind kept going back to the west room in that mansion. God knows what kind of experience awaited Anath Babu. He could not help feeling a little restless and anxious.

    He accompanied Anath Babu in the evening, right up to the gate of the Halder mansion. He was wearing a black high-necked jacket today. From his shoulder hung a flask and, in his hand, he carried the same torch he had used the day before. He took out a couple of small bottles from his pocket before going into the house. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘this one has a special oil, made with my own formula. It is an excellent mosquito repellent. And this one here has carbolic acid in it. If I spread it in and around the room, I’ll be safe from snakes.’

    He put the bottles back in his pocket, raised the torch and touched his head with it. Then he waved Sitesh a final salute and walked in, his heavy boots clicking on the gravel.

    Sitesh could not sleep well that night.

*

    As the dawn broke, Sitesh told Bharadwaj to fill a thermos flask with enough tea for two. When the flask arrived, he left once more for Halder mansion.

    No one was about. Should I call out to Anath Babu, or should I go straight up to the west room? He stood debating, when a voice  said ‘Here—this way!’

    Anath Babu was coming out of the little jingle of wild plants from the eastern side of the house, with a neem twig in his hand. He certainly did not look like a man who might have had an unnatural or horrific experience the night before.

    He grinned broadly as he came closer.

    ‘I had to search for about half an hour before I could find a neem tree. I prefer this to a toothbrush, you see.’ Said Anath.

    Sitesh felt hesitant to ask him about the previous night.

    ‘I brought some tea,’ Sitesh said instead and added, ‘would you like some here, or would you rather go home?’

    ‘Oh, come along. Let’s sit by that fountain.’ He replied.

    Anath Babu took a long sip of his tea and said, ‘Aaah!’ with great relish. Then he turned to Sitesh and said with a twinkle in his eye, ‘You’re dying to know what happened, aren’t you?’

    ‘Yes I mean … yes, a little …’

    ‘All right. I promise to tell all. But let me tell you one thing right away—the whole expedition was highly successful!’

    Anath poured himself a second mug of tea and began his tale:

    ‘It was 5 p.m. when you left me here. I looked around for a bit before going into the house. One has to be careful, you know. There are times when animals and other living beings can cause more harm than ghosts. But I didn’t find anything dangerous.

    Then I went in and looked into the rooms in the ground floor that were open. None had any furniture left. All I could find was some old rubbish in one and a few bats hanging from the ceiling in another. They didn’t budge as I went in, so I came out again without disturbing them.

    I went upstairs at around 6.30 p.m. and began making preparations for the night. I had taken a duster with me. The first thing I did was to dust that easy chair. Heaven knows how long it had lain there.

    The room felt stuffy, so I opened the window. The door to the passage was also left open, just in case Mr Ghost wished to make his entry through it. Then I placed the flask and the torch on the floor and lay down on the easy chair. It was quite uncomfortable but, having spent many a night before under far more weird circumstances, I did not mind.

    The sun had set at 5.30. It grew dark quite soon. And that smell grew stronger. I don’t usually get worked up, but I must admit last might I felt a strange excitement.

    Gradually, the jackals in the distance stopped their chorus, and the crickets fell silent. I cannot tell when I fell asleep.

    I was awoken by a noise. It was the noise of a clock striking midnight. A deep, yet melodious chime came from the passage.

    Now, fully awake, I noticed two other things—first, I was lying quite comfortably in the easy chair. The torn portion wasn’t torn anymore, and someone had tucked in a cushion behind my back. Secondly, a brand new fan hung over my head; a long rope from it went out to the passage and an unseen hand was pulling it gently.

    I was staring at these things and enjoying them thoroughly, is when I realised from somewhere in the moonless night that a full moon had appeared. The room was flooded with bright moonlight. Then the aroma of something totally unexpected hit my nostrils. I turned and found a hookah by my side, the rich smell of the best quality tobacco filling the room.’

    Anath Babu stopped. Then he smiled and said, ‘Quite a pleasant situation, wouldn’t you agree?’

    Sitesh said, ‘Yes, indeed. So you spent the rest of the night pretty comfortably, did you?’

    At this, Anath Babu suddenly grew grave and sunk into a deep silence. Sitesh waited for him to resume speaking, but when he didn’t he turned impatient. ‘Do you mean to say, ‘he asked, ‘that you really didn’t have any reason to feel frightened? You didn’t see a ghost, after all?’

    Anath Babu looked at Sitesh. But there was not even the slightest trace of a smile on his lips. His voice sounded hoarse as he asked, ‘When you went into the room the day before yesterday, did you happen to look carefully at the ceiling?’

    ‘No I don’t think I did. Why?’

    ‘There is something rather special about it. I cannot tell you the rest of my story without showing it to you. Come, let’s go in.’

    They began climbing the dark staircase again. On their way to the first floor, Anath babu said only one thing: ‘I will not have to chase ghosts again, Sitesh Babu. Never. I have finished with them.’

    Sitesh looked at the grandfather clock in the passage. It stood just as it had done two days ago.

    They stopped in front of the west room. ‘Go in,’ said Anath Babu. The door was closed. Sitesh pushed it open and went in. Then his eyes fell on the floor, and a wave of horror swept over him.

    Who was lying on the floor, heavy boots on his feet? And whose laughter was that, loud and raucous, coming from the passage outside, echoing through every corner of the Haldar mansion?

    Drowning Sitesh in it, paralysing his senses his mind …? could it be …?

    He could think no more.

*

    When Sitesh opened his eyes, he found Bharadwaj standing at the foot of his bed, and Bhabatosh Majumdar fanning him furiously. ‘Oh, thank goodness you’ve come round! ‘if Sidhucharan hadn’t seen you go into that house, heaven knows what might have happened. Why on earth did you go there anyway?’

    Sitesh could only mutter faintly, ‘Last night, Anath Babu …’

    Bhabatosh Babu cut him short, ‘Anath Babu! It’s too late now to do anything about him. Obviously, he didn’t believe a word of what I said the other day. Thank God you didn’t go with him to spend the night in that room. You saw what happened to him, didn’t you? Exactly the same thing happened to Haladhar Datta all those years ago. Lying on the floor, cold and stiff, the same look of horror in his eyes, staring at the ceiling.’

    Sitesh thought quietly to myself, ‘No, he’s not lying there cold and stiff. I know what’s become of Anath Babu after his death. I might find him, even tomorrow morning, perhaps, if I bothered to go back. There he would be—wearing a black jacket and heavy boots, coming out of the jungle in the Haldhar mansion, neem twig in his hand grinning from ear to ear.’

Posted by Kamlesh Tripathi

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