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Friday, 31 August 2012

THAT NIGHT (Part 26)

Part 26 of Lakshmi Raj Sharmar's acclaimed ghost story based in India.

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                                                                   "That Night" (part 26)

‘Why did you always come in my dreams, Sonali? You were never like Pran who could venture out of dreams and move about freely?’
‘I have been law abiding. He has done something for which he must suffer and burn in flames that seem to emanate from sulphur. He did everything wrong and continues to do so even till now. Do not remind me of him. He has tortured me so 
much.’
'Okay, please continue with your tale.'
'Please don't call it a tale, it is the reality.'
‘Okay. Let me know the reality.’
‘In my birth before this last one I was the daughter of the raja of Sipra in the then township of Jigna. Jigna and Gaipura were neighbouring areas. Then I was Suneeti, a young princess, and I was betrothed to be married to the Rajput prince of Gaipura, the kindly and handsome Kunwar Pratap Singh Chauhan. He was reborn as Manoj as you knew him. However, the son of the pujari of our estate, Gokul, who often accompanied his father to our prayer meetings was very disturbed by my engagement with Pratap. His father was the renowned pandit of this area and in matters of spiritual learning, considered the most accomplished among the priests of seven districts of the United Provinces, the then name of Uttar Pradesh. Gokul’s father was proud of his achievement and Gokul inherited his pride. He thought himself no less than a prince. He had been seeing me from the time of our childhood and began to nurture thoughts for me that were not proper for one of another caste as inter-caste marriages were not socially permissible. He would tell me about his love for me and that he would kill himself rather than see someone else marry me. Kunwar Pratap also visited us frequently with his family. We fell in love and our families decided that we would marry each other. I never responded to Gokul’s gestures of friendship as he was of a lower status though he himself thought that he was much higher. I only advised him to keep away from me. But that advice only made him furious and he created a great deal of tension for me and my family. When Pratap learned about Gokul he met him and told him to be careful lest he got into trouble. But Gokul dared to continue his antics. Their differences grew into hostility and that then changed into enmity.’

Thursday, 30 August 2012

IT'S PARALYMPICS, NOT PARAPLYGICS!

The Olympic games was magnificent, uplifting and everything the organisers said it would be, and nothing like its detractors wanted it to become. It was a wonderful advertisement, not just for the UK, but for every type of sport that was represented and for sportsmanship as well as the spirit of humankind in general. Never mind the politics, this was for the people taking part and for tose who cheered them on.

So how could that be surpassed?

I was a Scout Leader for 15 years and seeing the Scouts bringing the Olympic flame from the four mountain peaks in Davey Lamps was a moment of sheer genius. I then watched the opening ceremony last night and it was every nit as wonderful as the Olympics ceremony nearly a month ago, Apparently the budget was a fraction of the original event, but the enthusiasm and scale of the show was every bit as great, from the start with Stephen Hawking and Ian McKellen to the entrance of the athletes and the final firework display. Sadly, the Queen didn't enter by parachute, but the rest of the royals were there, with the understandable exceptions of the Duke and Harry).

Tonight I'm watching the wheelchair basketball match between GB and Germany and the momentum and agility of the guys makes the 7 feet multi-millionaires look playful in comparison. These guys mean business!
We already have our first gold thanks to Sarah Story in the track cycling and I have a feeling we'll have many, many more before the games end.

And all because a German doctor at Stoke Mandeville in 1948 refused to accept that soldiers with spinal problems were an embarrassment. He believed they had a future and how right he was. If he'd been alive today he would have been so proud ...not of what he'd achieved, but of what his Olympians had achieved because of him.

I'm sure Lord Coe would have been the first to agree that Sir Ludwig Guttman was a hero and the greatest non-athletic Olympian of them all!

Blog on, Dudes!
THAT NIGHT (Part 25)

Part 25 of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's acclaimed ghost story based in rural India.

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                                                                That Night (part 25)

I could find no trace of the man from the hut after that. I looked towards the hut and found that missing too. There was no sign even of the hut. I wonder what you would have felt in such a situation, but I was rather scared.

Manoj’s invitation to visit the haveli in hand, I decided I would still enter the haveli to see what further fear was in store for me. Climbing up the dusty veranda I was confronted by three sets of double doors, which must have been green to begin with but had now become grayish green with age. I tried to peep through a little hole in one of them. It was too dark to be able to see anything. I tried to pull the door open and on applying a little strength one of the rusty hinges on which the door hung broke. Its iron had been totally corroded. The door could now be pulled to one side and my hand could reach the latch that was closed from inside. The doors now opened but as soon as I entered they strangely closed behind me. I was now trapped. It could mean that this was the last day of my life but it clearly was not, or I would not be here to give you this account. One of the doors through which I had entered had slipped a little and made place for some light to filter in. I could therefore get a glimpse of the room from inside. The haveli had several portraits of the royal family. The most brightly painted was the portrait that seemed to resemble Manoj. Then there was one that had resemblance with Sonali. The woman in the painting was wearing earrings that were long and like two little balls hung with chains. When I looked at Sonali’s portrait I had a strange eerie feeling. She seemed to be there somewhere, outside the portrait. Then one of the earrings in the painting fell out of her portrait as though it was a real one as opposed to a painted earring. It fell and made more noise than something of its weight ought to have as it rolled down slowly but surely. Then both of her payals which had resonant little tinklers, fell out of the portrait and made a sound as if she were walking close to me. My blood seemed to freeze with horror. Then the sound stopped and when I looked at the portrait the woman in the picture began to smile at me.

The smile made me feel encouraged me to speak to her. I was not at all comfortable inside and did not know what would happen in the next moment but I decided to speak to her. So I looked at the portrait and began talking to her.

‘Are you Sonali?’
‘Sonali? Yes I was Sonali in one of my births, the birth when you and I were together in the University,’ a voice seemed to say from somewhere behind me.
‘Why did you come in my dreams so often?’
‘I need your help.’
‘I will do anything for you, Sonali.’
‘I am not Sonali anymore. Spirits must forget what they were. The spirit that cannot forget has to undergo a lot of pain. My circumstances have been unfortunate because of which I still have to remember my past.’
‘How terrible! I am indeed sorry for you Sonali. What kind of feelings did you have for me?’
‘I do not remember too well. But I think I did not dislike you. But that is beside the point because you were not like the person you knew as Manoj. My soul has been wedded to the spirit that was once named Manoj. All other spirits are no more than names for me.’
‘Why did you always come in my dreams? You were never like Pran who could venture out of dreams and move about freely?’
‘I have been law abiding. He has done something for which he must suffer and burn in flames that seem to emanate from sulphur. He did everything wrong and continues to do so even till now. Do not remind me of him. He has tortured me so much.’
'Okay, please continue with your tale.'
'Please don't call it a tale, it is the reality.'

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

THAT NIGHT (Part 24).

Part 24 of the acclaimed ghost story by professor Lakshmi Raj Sharma set in India.

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                                                                                              THAT NIGHT (part 24)


I found Manoj looking handsome and stately. His regality was an intrinsic part of his character and had been absorbed by his soul. Perhaps Pran did not like him for this reason as well. Pran seemed ordinary in comparison in spite of his slightly superior intellect. Manoj did not say a word to me, but as he stood there I could feel that he was showing me some kind of gratitude
 for coming to Gaipura, the region of which he had been the raja in the birth before he was born as Manoj Singh Rathore. I was able to gather this in a second, through intuition, as he stood in front of me and gave me a royal smile. The haveli belonged to him and he seemed to be asking me to visit it in the daytime.

I woke up from my reverie and had a better feeling than I usually had after my encounters with spirits. Manoj was clearly a nobler spirit as he was a nobler human being. On an impulse I left for the haveli. In the day there were no obstacles on the way to the haveli. I felt as though spirits preferred to rest and remain unseen during the day. At last I reached the place from where the haveli could be seen. I was struck by the grandeur of the building. It must have looked really majestic when it was occupied by the living. As I came nearer the building I began to get more and more apprehensive about what was to follow there. But I knew that I was going there on Manoj’s invitation during the day and was therefore in a rather safe position. On reaching the place I looked around and discovered a hut that was made of old bricks but with big patches of mud. I thought someone was inside and through one of the gaps between the door and the wall I could see that someone was asleep inside. This was a big relief. There was another human being living so close to the haveli, virtually inside it. I knocked at the near broken door of the hut. The man sleeping inside turned towards me, got up and looked in surprise. He open the door and looked at me very astonished.

‘How did you come here? Who are you?’
‘I wanted to see this haveli,’ I said in the absence of another reply.

The rather tall man looked at me from head to foot in amazement. And then gave me a smile. He did not want to speak much to me. He only wanted to see how such a gutsy person had gathered the courage to reach this point.

‘So you want to see the haveli?’
‘Yes.’
‘Why?’
‘Because I want to.’
‘O. Really?’
‘Yes. Please help me to enter.’
‘Don’t you feel scared?’
‘No’, I managed to say. ‘Why should I feel scared, if you don’t?’
‘I feel scared,’ he said and vanished.
I could find no trace of him after that. I looked towards the hut and found that missing too. There was no trace even of the hut. I wonder what you would have felt in such a situation. I was rather scared.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

THAT NIGHT (Part 23)

Part 23 of Professor Lakshmi Raj Sharma's acclaimed ghost story based in rural India.

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                                                                     THAT NIGHT (part 23)

Just then there was some sound. Something came there and Pran disappeared and I too almost ran back towards where the people of the village lived. It was quite a narrow escape, I thought.

Why was Pran behaving in such a hostile manner? After thinking for some time I came to the conclusion that all actions of spirits cannot be explained away by our limited intellect. As a soul continues its journey from one birth to another it keeps collecting traits of the various births and absorbing them, allowing them to surface in its actions even after the particular births are over. Thus someone who has done hard work in one field in a particular birth can reap the benefit of it in another birth. An accomplished musician in one birth can start singing in a masterly manner even as a child in the next because the soul has absorbed the art of music earlier and will show quick results in that art’s acquisition now. 

Pran’s spiteful behavior seemed to have resulted not only from his disappointment in his last birth but from earlier disappointments that had gone into shaping his nature. He could not help being wicked. He could not respond to goodness as readily as Manoj, for instance, could.

With the next morning began the Gaipura Mela, the festival of six days. It was believed that every year in these six days the powerful goddess, Vindhvasini, left her temple in Vindhyachal, which is only a few kilometers from here, and came to reside in her Gaipura temple. As a result this village sprang to life at this time with thousands of people coming to worship her here. There were interesting stalls of goods that arrived from various parts of the country. There was music and fun, filled in the atmosphere of the place during the six days. I had heard of this mela but never experienced it before. The temple had been erected by the raja of Gaipura and the mela was also the result of what he had begun.

Manoj’s asking me to come to Gaipura at the time of the mela seemed to contain some answer to the mystery of the spirits I have been telling you about. I was keen on meeting Manoj though I had no clue of how I could do that. I went and sat under a tree at a distance from the mela ground to write a chapter of my novel. It was daytime and I could never have imagined that my concentration focusing on Manoj could draw him towards me even at this bright hour. It was as if I was having a dream, or rather a reverie. He came there and stood wearing a beautiful state costume. He looked like a real raj kumar. His smile was gentle and yet the overall effect of his arrival near me was disturbing. A spirit was after all a spirit, no matter how hard it tried to become a living being. I wanted to keep looking at him even though I was constantly gripped by the fear that the next moment could be the moment of my death. I found him looking handsome and stately. His regality was an intrinsic part of his character and had been absorbed by his soul. Perhaps Pran did not like him for this reason as well. Pran seemed ordinary in comparison in spite of his slightly superior intellect. Manoj did not say a word to me, but as he stood there I could feel that he was showing me some kind of gratitude for coming to Gaipura, the region of which he had been the raja in the birth before he was born as Manoj Singh Rathore. I was able to gather this in a second, through intuition, as he stood in front of me and gave me a royal smile. The haveli belonged to him and he seemed to be asking me to visit it in the daytime.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

THAT NIGHT (Part 22)

Part 22 of THAT NIGHT, the acclaimed ghost story set in India by Lakshmi Raj Sharma.

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                                                                     THAT NIGHT (part 22)

The birds sitting on the trees were very suspicious of me and would screech out a disturbed shriek and then settle down silently as I moved ahead. Then there would be the howl of a hyena followed by the howls of dogs. The howling dogs would suddenly yelp and squeal as though someone was hitting them for howling so loudly and pathetically. The sounds of the dogs were so terrib
le that I felt like returning rather than proceeding. Every minute it seemed as though someone would catch hold of me. I could not bear the tension much longer and decided that I’d go back that evening, and start my journey much earlier the next evening so that I could cover much of the distance in daylight. Just when I was turning back . . . .

Just when I was turning back I felt as though something had held on to my right leg, just under the knee. When I looked down I discovered that a human skeleton that must have been lying on the ground had turned and caught hold of my lower limb. I tried to free myself but it was too determined not to leave. My heart began to thump loudly and I tried to run as fast as my old limbs could carry me. The skeleton dragged on with me and seemed to laugh at my horrification.

‘Stop, I command you!’ it said in a nasal accent.

I stopped and discovered that, seen from another angle, the skeleton looked exceedingly like Pran. Finally, it became Pran. And he was having a great laugh at me. He first laughed and then became very serious.

‘Why did you come here? And who told you about where we could be found?’

The best option for me was to pretend to faint. I leaned against a tree and gradually slipped down to the ground. I did that within a minute or less. Pran was upset to see me faint. He was at a loss to know what to do he came back to me in a minute with a glass of water. This act of his reassured me that Pran was not all bad. He sprinkled some water on my face and gave me the rest to drink. I partook of his help.

‘Quick, now tell me how you got to know about us.’

I had by now started getting used to the spirit and I had the presence of mind to even become inventive and tell a lie.

‘A class fellow of mine lives here and I am his guest. I like to walk in solitude. So here I was walking, ignorant of the fact that my one time friend would try to kill me.’
‘Friend? Okay . . . But I never tried to kill you. And never call me your friend. You were a rival and I can even call you an enemy. You liked Manoj and you always favoured him.’
‘Can’t one ever like two people together?’
‘No. I believe that you can be true only to one if their interests clash. If you like two rivals, and befriend both, it is like getting married to two women. Can you be true to two wives at the same time?’
‘Why not? Raja Dhasrath was true to three.’
‘Did you ever live with him to see how true he was to each? And listen, Sanjeev, I don’t like too much argumentation. It can make a ghost lose its ghastliness.’

Just then there was some sound. Something came there and Pran disappeared and I too almost ran back towards where the people of the village lived. It was quite a narrow escape, I thought.
"WHEN DO UPSTARTS BECOME ICONS?"

With the death last night of Neil Armstrong, the news headlines were full of the passing of one of the world's icons. And they were right.

Armstrong was one of the quietest, most humble, self-effacing men you could meet. He treated his trip to the Moon as another day at the office, and the fact he was first man on the Moon could well have been alphabetical rather than because he was leader of the Apollo flight. Until the day he died he gave very few interviews, never argued with the conspiracy theorists (after all he KNEW he'd been there!), became a professor at a university in order to teach, rather than be praised and only criticised the US government slightly when they scrapped manned space missions. His take on the latter was that one day they'd start again and our little bit of lifetime is minute in comparison to the time Man has in order to achieve true space flight.

He was a gentleman all his life and respected and loved wherever he went. He was truly an icon and it would be fitting if they buried him on the Moon.

So what makes an icon?

I can think of plenty of iconic "celebrities" who led far from blameless lives, who acted like idiots and imposed themselves on other people. They all had one fairly obvious thing in common:-
 - Keith Moon (drummer with The Who)
 - James Dean (the actor)
 - Most of the people mentioned in Madonna's song "Vogue".
 - Alfred Hitchcock (from what we hear now was a predator)
 - Henry V
 - Henry Ford (not a nice guy at all, and a racist with strong Nazi tendencies)
 - Paul Revere (his historic ride was not the success we believe, nor was his military career. He was however a good silversmith and the first man to work out how to roll copper sheets in order to clad ships' hulls)
 - The Great Grimaldi (A clown and one of the highest paid entertainers in the early 1800's. In fact he was a  depressive, due much to the tragedies that dogged his life and when he visited a psychiatrist who didn't know who he was he was advised to go and see The Great Grimaldi who was guaranteed to make anyone laugh!)
 - Sir Francis Drake (a semi-legal pirate who thought nothing of taking credit for other people's deeds

So what do they all have in common? Fairly obviously....they're all dead.
Each was famous during their lifetimes, but none become an icon until they died, at which time most of their less tasteful activities were forgotten. They had something during their lives they meant they weren't forgotten, and must have been charisma. Even Hitler had charisma and to some even he is an iconic figure in spite of his misdeeds.

There are few celebrities alive today who, like Neil Arnstrong, can be classed as icons even during their lives. Among them though are:-
 - Sir Steve Redgrave
 - Sir Paul McCartney
 - Margaret Thatcher (you don't have to agree with her, but she's still an icon!)
 - Sir Bobby Charlton
 - Sir Tom Finney
 - Pele
 - The Queen
 - Sir David Attenborough
It's amazing how many are retired footballers and to be honest I can't imagine any (except Lionel Messi) ever being icons, except for the wrong reasons to the wrong people.

It's a shame that as one Armstrong is revered for what he achieved and how he behaved, another Armstrong (Lance) was stripped of his successes and accused of being a drugs cheat (though not proven to be one). If they do bury Neil on the Moon that would be a fitting memorial for eternity to a man who always was and always will be an icon in every way.

Blog on, Dudes!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

GROUPS I WISH I'D SEEN.

In the late 60s and 70s I was in my teens and the UK was in a period if Free Love. Pop groups came and went, became number one in the hit parade and were on the dole a few weeks late. Just a few (not many) made it into a second year and the odd one even got into the next century. Some even kept part of their hard-eared money, but many signed contracts that gave all their royalties to unscrupulous managers to fleeced their charges for every penny they could. I heard that Justin Haywood of the Moody Blues signed away all his royalties for some years in exchange for a few thousand pounds up front to Lonny Donnegan, so that Knights in White Satin earned him nothing for years. It's true that most of the groups that are still around are making far more money now than they ever did in their heyday....and good luck to them!

Just recently I've been to a few rock concerts and seen some of the groups that I thought were fantastic back in my youth. I was right for the most part. Mind you they've had time to practice since then! Among them were:
 - The Shadows
 - The Shadows with Cliff Richard
 - The Moody Blues (twice)
 - Paul McCartney
 - Roger Waters of Pink Floyd (three times)
 - The Who
 - Queen
 - Art Garfunkle
 - The Aussie Floyd (a tribute band, but the only one I know that can pack the Royal Albert Hall on two nights, plus the O2)

Those are just the ones I can remember and at my age that's something!

Who would I like to see still?
 - Leonard Cohen
 - David Gilmour
 - Crosby Stills and Nash
 - Rolling Stones
 - Bjork
 - Blue Man Group
 - 10cc

Ones I wish I'd seen and never will now:
 - The Beatles
 - Led Zeppelin
 - Incredible String Band
 - The Hollies
 - Dire Straits
 - Paul Simon
 - Stone the Crows
And many, many others.

Time to turn on my iPod and listen to some nostalgia.
'night, 'night!

Blog on, Dudes!



THAT NIGHT (Part 21)

Part 21 of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's acclaimed ghost story based in India.

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                                                              THAT NIGHT (part 21)

The people of Gaipura were simple and kind. They were hospitable to me because a much respected class fellow of mine from this village had become a country farmer there and had offered me a room in his house. I did not tell anyone here about the real purpose of my visit. I just said that I was writing a novel and needed absolute peace and solitude to write it in. The people cooperated and I would walk out of the house every evening and walk to where the spirits were. I walked there daily at the risk of never returning, being killed by Pran or any one of the other two. I knew that without risk nothing could be achieved and with a little risk I could become the author of a best seller novel.

I had gone to Gaipura on Manoj’s invitation, not Pran’s. What on earth could I have done to help spirits? Why was I needed in the world of the dead even before my time was over here? I thought a lot about this question and realized that the answer to this question would be very valuable for my novel. I would be telling the world something about the other world which was new and revealing. Of course I could have been killed in the process. But there wasn’t much point staying on in Allahabad and being traumatized by the spirits there.

The first evening in Gaipura was very distressing. 

I asked the people of this place where a broken down, lone, isolated, and now almost unused road led to. They told me that it went straight into ruins of the haveli of the erstwhile raja of Gaipura. The place was said to be haunted and no one dared to go there after sunset. I wanted to know about the raja and no one seemed to know much about it as no one had inhabited the building since about a century. There were contradictory and strange stories told about this place by the people of the region. But most of the facts were covered with layers of dust and rumour. I thought this was a wonderful place for me to visit as this could give me something interesting for my novel. I took the road to the haveli and walked with all my ears and eyes open. I needed many more than just a pair of each. I was probably the only one who had ventured that side in the evening for years, and that against the advice of the local people. I had hoped that Manoj would notice me there and would come to me and then inform me why it was so necessary for me to enter the world of the dead before my own death.

The birds sitting on the trees were very suspicious of me and would screech out a disturbed shriek and then settle down silently as I moved ahead. Then there would be the howl of a hyena followed by the howls of dogs. The howling dogs would suddenly yelp and squeal as though someone was hitting them for howling so loudly and pathetically. The sounds of the dogs were so terrible that I felt like returning rather than proceeding. Every minute it seemed as though someone would catch hold of me. I could not bear the tension much longer and decided that I’d go back that evening, and start my journey much earlier the next evening so that I could cover much of the distance in daylight. Just when I was turning back . . . .

Friday, 24 August 2012

THAT NIGHT (Part 20)

Part 20 of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's acclaimed ghost story set in India.

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                                                                    That Night (part 20)

The moment Pran left the atmosphere normalized and I felt like a real fool. I sprinkled water on Umang’s face and he gradually opened his eyes. I wiped off the perspiration from his face and then found that my own face needed the same treatment.

When Sonali repeated the same act in my dream several times, I had no option but to find out what her problem was. I confided in the sweetshop man and he was relieved to hear that I wanted to get rid of my problem somehow. He too had been pestered by the spirits to the point that he was considering leaving that place and going elsewhere. I made a suggestion. We could pool in money to have the place dug up to see what condition the well underneath was in. That could provide some clue. The deal was struck and the project begun. It took about fifteen days for the diggers to reach the point where the water level must have been some time back. Everyday some strange incident would occur with the diggers and we had to continuously keep changing the men who were digging the place. Then one day one of the diggers screamed when he saw the remains of a skeleton, the other diggers then began to dig further and discovered parts of two more skeletons. Then some rings and earrings were found. The earrings were the same that Sonali was wearing in the black and white photograph kept on my study table. The rings were probably those that Pran or Manoj wore. There was much excitement on Bailey Road but for me it was not a happy scene. The district authorities were informed. The home addresses of the three were traced out from the university records. Inquiries were made but with no result. Surprisingly no one responded to my letters at these addresses and then as per the advice of the tantric we performed some last rite ceremonies and prayers for the three. Umang left me and returned to his place after he found it difficult to adjust with the spirits. This was my battle and I had to fight it alone.

On the night Umang left, Manoj came in my dream. He stood smiling. His spirit was more rested than the other two. But even his arrival almost gave me a heart attack. He left behind an address on my table. In the note Manoj said, we rarely come to Allahabad now, it has become too populated and noisy. We have chosen a quiet and deserted place of residence where we want you to come and stay. If you don’t come we will be compelled to visit you here and keep taking away your peace. It was the address of a quiet stretch of land deep into a secluded setting of rural Gaipura. I had no option but to go there for now I had resolved to unravel the mystery. This would after all provide me with the second half of my novel. 

The people of Gaipura were simple and kind. They were hospitable to me because a much respected class fellow of mine from this village had become a country farmer there and had offered me a room in his house. I did not tell anyone here about the real purpose of my visit. I just said that I was writing a novel and needed absolute peace and solitude to write it in. The people cooperated and I would walk out of the house every evening and walk to where the spirits were. I walked there daily at the risk of never returning, being killed by Pran or any one of the other two. I knew that without risk nothing could be achieved and with a little risk I could become the author of a best seller novel.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

That Night (Part 19)

Part 19 of THAT NIGHT, the acclaimed ghost story set in rural India by Lakshmi Raj Sharma.

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                                                                     THAT NIGHT (part 19)

The night did come, and instantly appeared Sonali. Her presence made me feel rather anxious, even though I should have got used to her by now. The presence of a spirit, I have begun to realize, deadens the air around it. Anyone in close proximity to the spirit experiences a strange kind of lifelessness surrounding him. It is as though death is in the air and nothing is left anywhere near life. It leaves you sapped of your vitality and nothing seems to be right. Again Sonali repeated the ritual of taking me to the Bailey Road and there she jumped into the same well without uttering a word to me. I woke up and found myself perspiring, my pillow absolutely wet. It was very disturbing for me to be deprived of some part of my strength every time she came to me in my dream. She was there next to me as I slept and in my dream I was conscious that even as I was dreaming there was a parallel living (for the lack of a better word) presence there, quite close to me. I felt that if I opened my eyes I would be surrounded by a ghastly whitish light, very unlike anything one experiences in real life.

The tantrik suggested, and I agreed with him, that Sonali wanted some kind of help from me which I was failing to understand. My nephew, Umang, who I had telephoned a couple of days back and asked to come from Shahjahanpur to stay with me, suddenly arrived. He, like a real foolhardy, got excited at the idea of seeing a spirit but his excitement only irritated me. He just wouldn’t believe that Sonali came only in my dream and I could not make him a part of it. He was optimistic that he would somehow jump into the scene and see her. He was just twenty, a typical boy, who was yet far from wisdom. I was relieved no doubt that now I had someone with me and I was not alone. But the fear of his coming to some harm began to disturb me.

After having our evening meal we sat in my study. Umang tried to persuade me to go to sleep so that something could begin to happen. But then there was a rattling of the doors, which greatly scared Umang, and there she stood before us in a visible form and in his presence she began to speak for the first time. He sprang up from his chair and came running towards me. There was that whitish ghastly light that I had been imagining about. She stood close to us and spoke to Umang.

‘Umang, you wanted to see a spirit, did you not? Look here I am ready to show you myself.’

Umang was very upset at the sight and clung hard to me as my study table began to start shaking and making a noise with the floor. Then one of its legs began to rise higher and higher tilting the table oddly. Everything on it including my laptop began to slide and fall off. The scene became further horrifying when Sonali came up to Umang and held his hand as he yelled out in fear.
‘Come close to me my boy and let me give you a kiss,’ she said as Umang began to faint and I tried to rescue him.

Umang was soon unconscious and when he fell on the ground, the spirit changed its form. It became Pran and laughed loudly at me.

‘See I fooled you again! How stupid you are Sanjeev. You never learn from your mistakes. Old fools are the real fools. Sonali can only come in your dream. She is a less evolved spirit than me. Understand that, you blockhead! I’m off.’

The moment he left the atmosphere normalized and I felt like a real fool. I sprinkled water on Umang’s face and he gradually opened his eyes. I wiped off the perspiration from his face and then found that my own face needed the same treatment.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

THAT NIGHT (Part 18)

Part 18 of THAT NIGHT, Lakshmi Raj Sharma acclaimed ghost story based in rural India.

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                                                                   THAT NIGHT

The dream girl had become a nightmare girl and I was trying to detach myself from the feelings that I had entertained for her. Swami Tulsi Das has said, of course in a different context, that without fear there is no love, but in this case I felt the opposite – with fear there is no love. Her terrorizing entry was taking away all traces of love that I had entertained in my he
art for her some decades back.

In the morning when I woke up the first thought that came to me was that I should go to Bailey Road to see the site of the well. On reaching there I found that a sweet shop had been built on what was once a well. The construction was of a temporary kind and the shop, a make-shift one. The owner wondered what I was scrutinizing and asked me what the matter was. When I told him about the well he said that someone had mentioned such a thing once. But more importantly he said that he often heard voices when he was about to close shop in the night and the voices puzzled him. He had heard these voices in certain times of the year, not always. He had heard them at the time of Pitrapaksha, the time when our dead ancestors looked down upon us in remembrance, and in those times when there was a mal-maas (an extra month according to the Hindu calendar). These voices always had put the fear of God in the shopkeeper and he felt horrified when this happened. What was more, he was surprised to discover that in those phases the sweets in his shop would suddenly disappear even when no customer had entered at the time. Once, when he was calling someone to help him investigate as to how the sweets were disappearing, someone had slapped him hard saying, ‘Just shut up and make some more sweets. The empty look in the shop is very irritating.’ He had felt that the place was surely haunted. He did not tell people that he had received the slap as that would only make him the butt of ridicule.

From what I heard, I was reasonably convinced that Sonali and Pran were still somewhere there after so many years, or perhaps still returned to this place at times. On asking the tantric I was told that there are times in the year when spirits get more freedom to loiter about. Periods in which auspicious things are avoided, as they are during mal-maas, the dead become more active.
The next thought that came to me was that Sonali and Pran were visiting him in one of such periods. Which meant that he had to do his investigations before the mal-maas was over, and that was a mere nine days. It was too short a period but that is what it was.

Time moved fast in the day and slowly in the night. The day passed off and evening approached and with it my fears rose again. God knew what was to happen on this evening. I used to experience a very strange kind of emptiness in the atmosphere when some spirit was approaching me. Today as I waited for a spirit to arrive I had a vague recollection of something that I have forgotten to narrate to you. On the arrival of a spirit there was a sudden whiff of a perfume of loads of flowers which alternated with strange smells of bodies rotting. I had forgotten to ask the tantric about what the smells meant. Waiting for something to happen I was reminded of a song I used to hear in the 1960s, ‘Phir wahi raat hai, phir wahi hai darr.’

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

WHEN HUMOUR WAS FUNNY!

I'm just watching a repeat (well, it has to be) of one of the Steptoe & son episodes/ It must be 40 to 50 years old, but it's a classic. There's no nastiness, no toilet humour, no swearing, just a good storyline and very cleverly written scripts acted by seasoned comedians.

So what happened?

First of all we had Fawlty Towers, the ultimate in SitComs with John Cleese.. Only 12 episodes were made and even though they're shown repeatedly on BBC2 and Dave they remain incredible funny and timeless. All the characters are superbly realistic and entirely 3D with all the jokes being against the hapless Basil Fawlty and to a lesser extent Manuel the waiter.

We also had Morecombe and Wise, where normally very serious celebrities queued to be join in the fun and to be ridiculed to some extent. The Two Ronnies with Corbett and Barker did much the same and both TV shows had half the nation watching them with the Christmas specials being almost compulsory. Even Ronnie Barker's SitComs, Open All Hours and Porridge were good clean humour with millions following them. It's amazing to thin the last one was first shown 35 years ago.

After that we moved on to The Young Ones which had the odd redeeming feature and then to Bottom, which speaks for itself. After that it was up to America to provide comedy we felt comfortable with in the shape of Cheers, Friends and Frazier, though I have to admit I never really thought them that funny. When you see the list of ten to twenty script writers involved with each programme who agonised over every gag fr days on end it makes you realise how clever people like Galton & Simpson really were.

Humour now seems to depend on someone being the focus of nastiness based on sex (usually their inadequacy), lack of limbs, an accent which for some reason is funny, or their colour. Stand-up comedians especially go out of their way to shock audiences and people often laugh out of embarrassment rather than enjoyment. What's more they pay to have themselves and their intelligence insulted.

Think back then, and I'm probably speaking to the older generation and Dave watchers here, to those TV and radio comedy shows that we harken back to with nostalgia because the humour was clean, clever and we all liked the characters. Let's list them:-

 - The Navy Lark
 - Hancock's Half Hour (Amazingly people say that after Sid James left, Hancock wasn't the same and yet his most famous episodes were "The Bllod Donor" and "The Radio Ham" to name but two."
 - The Goon Show
 - Round the Horne and Beyond Our Ken
 - Dad's Army
 - It Ain't Half Hot Mum.
 - Yes Minister
 - Hi Di Hi
 - You Rang My Lord
 - Are You Being Served
 - The Brittas Empire.
 - Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Then there's quiz shows-
 - Have I got News For You
 - Just a Minute
 - The News Quiz
 - I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue
 - QI

I still laugh, but then I'm listening to all the Goons and Hancock CDs, while watching the last bit of Syeptoe & Son. Thank God for Dave or there'd be nothing to laugh at!

What makes you laugh?

Blog on, Dudes!


Monday, 20 August 2012

"THAT NIGHT" part 17.

The seventeenth part of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's  acclaimed ghost story set in rural India.

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                                                                     THAT NIGHT (Part 17)

My novel would turn into a horror novel, and I into a writer of horror fiction. I had remained quite an ordinary novelist till now and it seemed that this was the novel that would launch me into fame. I would be telling people about what happens after death very authentically if I survived my rendezvous with the world of the dead. It was this optimistic feeling that made me see light at the end of the tunnel, the silver lining in the shady other world. However, in spite of the Promised Land towards which I began to advance, there was something terribly frightening for me to pass through on a daily basis. 

As a result of my slightly changed perspective towards spirits I went again to the tantric in Bairana and asked him the reason for the sudden appearance of Pran, in a visible form, and the reason for the silence of these spirits for so many decades. What the tantric replied was probably no more than his speculation on the subject. But he seemed to speak in a voice of conviction.
‘It is something like this: When spirits are about to take rebirth, they need to wind up and settle their accounts before beginning their accounts anew in the new birth. Any memories of the previous birth, unfulfilled desires, stresses and anxieties of the past life still weigh upon the soul. These need to be lightened and taken care of. They sometimes return for that reason. It is very likely that one of these souls is about to take rebirth and is therefore coming back to you as you were related with it in its last birth.’

‘But why are two spirits getting active at the same time?’
‘This I do not know. It may be a coincidence that two of them are about to take rebirth together.’

The tantric was merely guessing, it seemed, and my guess could have been as good as or even better than his, I thought. I returned home wondering what the coming night would hold for me. 

I sat at my table writing the next part of the novel, writing and striking out the lines, not certain how to manage the supernatural parts. This was not like the earlier part of the novel that I had written in a register and preserved for over forty years. The paper of the register having turned yellow and brittle was beginning to pose problems. Now it was a different ball game. Writing horror fiction is so different to writing ordinary fiction, you always have the fear of sounding fake. I decided I would rewrite the earlier part as now my style had become mature and now I would do a better job. I made this decision, and then started working out the parts that I would fictionalize to make more interesting. I was totally engrossed and don’t know how I fell asleep in my chair. The sleep led to an immediate dream. I saw Sonali looking disturbed and now, having grown somewhat used to her, I asked her to sit. She seemed not to hear what I said. She pointed to the same direction that she had done earlier. She signaled that she wanted me to follow her. I did not feel like doing that. God knew where she would take me. Again my hair began to rise and I experienced a shivering sensation. It is difficult to describe the experience one has when near a spirit. It was like standing in a vacuum, on the edge of Time, though never crossing over to the other side. Then, suddenly, I felt as though I had crossed the Time barrier and was going along (moving without making any effort) with Sonali towards a place that seemed to be like Bailey Road as it had been when Sonali lived there. Close to where she had resided was a well, which is now nonexistent. It must have dried up and therefore filled up and used as a piece of land. Sonali had not said a word; she merely led me on to the well and then jumped into it. I woke up with a start and found myself still in my room. I was sweating and holding the arm-rests of my chair very tightly for a minute or so even after waking up. That whole night became very difficult to pass as I constantly apprehended that she would return. The dream girl had become a nightmare girl and I was trying to detach myself from the feelings that I had entertained for her. Swami Tulsi Das has said, of course in a different context, that without fear there is no love, but in this case I felt the opposite – with fear there is no love. Her terrorizing entry was taking away all traces of love that I had entertained in my heart for her some decades back.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

THAT NIGHT (part 16)

Part 16 of Lakshmi Sharma's acclaimed ghost story set in India.

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                                                                 THAT NIGHT (Part 16)

The feminine laughter soon melted into a male’s sardonic laughter. I was almost dead with fear when I felt the presence of the spirit very distinctly in my room. Before long I could see that this was not Sonali’s spirit, it was Pran’s.

‘And you thought I was Sonali? Hee hee hee! I know she’s more worthy of your attention. But you should sometimes think of me as wel
l.’

I now remembered that Sonali was to come in my dream. But this Pran had come even in my wakefulness and pretended to be Sonali. He had grown into a wicked ghost. I had to surrender to my fate and wait to see what was to happen next. I was shit scared. When Pran was alive I had felt bullied by him; now I felt scared of him. My blood pressure was shooting up and my face must have given out that I was dying of fear because at that moment Pran said something that revealed that he was not all bad.

‘What’s wrong with you? I haven’t come here to eat you up! You’ll get heart-trouble if you are so panic-stricken. I haven’t really hurt you, have I? Good God he is fainting. I think I’ll have to leave him today.’

Saying that he left and when I woke up it was morning. I had been lying unconscious on the floor. I found that all traces of his presence in my room had vanished. I realized that I had got into an awful mess. Who would believe me if I told people about what I was going through? They would think I needed to be admitted into a mental asylum.

Let me return to the fact that Sonali was coming in my dreams. She came only in my dreams and she never said anything at all to me except asking me to follow her. This pointed to two things: First, that she was my dream girl. I had been seeing her in my dreams both when she was alive and now after so many decades. Second, something was troubling her and she wanted to share that with me. It began to dawn upon me that there was something which she wanted from me and which also concerned Pran because of which both the spirits had decided to enter my this-worldly existence from the other side of Life.

Maybe they wanted to tell me something. But if that were so they ought to have told me that clearly and left me in peace. There was something really mysterious about their returning to me after so many years. I was thoroughly doubt-ridden in addition to being terror-stricken. I began to believe that things do not get any better after death. There is no, ‘He died and then lived happily ever after as a spirit.’ Even in the world of the dead there seemed to be politics and the struggle for power and acquisition. I was not far from death myself and the anxiety that I was heading for even more trouble than people who experience just death began to preoccupy me. The question, ‘What happens after death?’ also began to bother me to a great extent. I began to think of “death” and “the dead” a great deal of my time. Of course I thought of these in the time when I wasn’t troubled by the fear of when I was to meet one of the spirits. Then the tension and trauma of the approaching encounter made me forget everything else and the suspense of what would happen next began.

After the nerve shattering experience of the night in which I had the benefit of Pran’s company, I had become a somewhat more experienced man. I had seen two spirits, one in my dreams and one in waking reality. Though the idea of seeing them again was none too inviting, I did begin to think of completing the novel I had commenced more than forty years back. My novel would turn into a horror novel, and I into a writer of horror fiction. I had remained quite an ordinary novelist till now and it seemed that this was the novel that would launch me into fame. I would be telling people about what happens after death very authentically if I survived my rendezvous with the world of the dead. It was this optimistic feeling that made me see light at the end of the tunnel, the silver lining in the shady other world. However, in spite of the Promised Land towards which I began to advance, there was something terribly frightening for me to pass through on a daily basis
TO PHRASE A COIN...AS THE FORGER SAID.

The English language (and I'm sure loads of others) are full of possibilities. Malapropisms and spoonerisms were named after a character in a play and an Oxford reverend respectively. Especially in the case of the very reverend Spooner many of his spoonerisms have grown out of urban myth, but are excellent never the less. Whether he actually said on one student that he'd "hissed all his mystery lessons and left Oxford by the town drain", or actually called the queen "a queer dean", is possible and desirable, but not necessary. They are still spoonerisms, each and every one, and add richness to the English language.

Some of my favourite language tricks are totally intentional and revolve around adverbs like this:-
 - "I want a curved lintel above the door," she said archly.
 - "I want to be buried over there," he said gravely.

Not clever I know, but I do like them. Let's have some more.

 - "Who switched the lights out?" he said darkly
 - "I want to take your photograph," he said snappily.
 - "I hate cats," he said doggedly.
 - "I've invented the electric bulb apparently," Eddison said lightly.
 - "So what if I'm only five feet nothing!" he said shortly.
 - "My name's Lucifer," he said devilishly.
 - "I'm Turkish," she said delightfully.
 - "I'll toss the coin," he said flippantly
 - "I'll toss it she," said evenly.
 - "I've got an eBook reader," he said kindly
 - "What's my next line?" he asked promptly
 - "I love Irish green," she said overtly (think about it)

That's enough. Now it's your turn!

Blog on, Dudes!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

"THAT NIGHT" Part 15 

Paret 15 of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's acclaimed ghost story set in rural India.

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                                                                        THAT NIGHT (Part 15)

I was left alone and without the courage to go back into my own house. Suddenly the place felt uninhabitable. I don’t know where my strength had disappeared. My legs began to feel as if they were made of rubber and would not bear my weight. The same Sonali that I had always craved to meet had made me virtually wet my pants.
I didn’t want the day to pass. But it had to and evening was drawing near. Soon it was dark again. Darkness was becoming like a living presence, the only presence to keep me company. It was not as dark as that fateful night when everything in my life changed. But it was dark enough. Who likes the company of a bachelor who was in his seventies? Most of my friends had kicked their buckets more timely than I was to. I could not find even one person to persuade to sleep in my room that night. I decided not to sleep. For not to sleep was not to dream and if I did not dream she wouldn’t come. I bolted the doors and windows tightly as if Sonali could be blocked out by doing that. I wanted complete silence because I feared that she could hide behind some noise and enter into my consciousness. I kept my weak, old, eyes open. I went to the kitchen to make some coffee for myself. That could have kept me awake. When I lighted the stove and put the water to boil on it, I thought I heard someone say in a whisper, ‘I too like coffee. Make some for me too.’ I looked around in panic. I heard her giggle, just a second and then there was silence. I left the kitchen, with the pan on the stove, and came into my study. I forgot that I had put the water to boil. In the study I felt that the black and white picture of Sonali was moving slowly on the table. Again there was a giggle and before long the photograph had stood up erect, and she was giggling more and more loudly. Each giggle made my stomach seem hollow. I found my mouth drying up and my heart thumping against my ribs.

‘Sanjeeeeevjeeeeee!’ she said and her voice seemed to come from somewhere outside the room in which I sat. The chair on which I sat began to shake and wobble and I shot out from it and ran towards my bed. She probably pushed me with force on the bed, though I did not see her. I fell on the bed and hurt my back. My bed also shook and wobbled as if an elephant had got under it and was now trying to lift me on its back. I fell this side and then rolled to the other side but I could not get up from the bed. I thought I was heading for a heart attack. But then I heard her say, ‘Sanjeeeeevjeeeeee!’ again. Then the sound of a woman laughing was heard. The feminine laughter soon melted into a male’s sardonic laughter. I was almost dead with fear when I felt the presence of the spirit very distinctly in my room. Before long I could see that this was not Sonali’s spirit, it was Pran’s.

‘And you thought I was Sonali? Hee hee hee! I know she’s more worthy of your attention. But you should sometimes think of me as well.’

I now remembered that Sonali was to come in my dream. But this Pran had come even in my wakefulness and pretended to be Sonali. He had grown into a wicked ghost. I had to surrender to my fate and wait to see what was to happen next.

Friday, 17 August 2012

"THAT NIGHT" (part 14)

Part 14 of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's acclaimed ghost story  based in rural India.

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                                                                                               THAT NIGHT (Part 14)

I was very confused by what the tantric had said. He seemed to be a loony. How could a dream and the reality be one and the same thing? I had probably wasted my time by visiting him. I went back thinking about the fraud I had gone and met and chuckled at his cheek to try and pull such a fast one on a man as old as me. If he had to tell me about spirits he ought to have told m
e about them rather than telling me about life itself; I had read enough of that in philosophy.

When I reached my place I was stunned to see that there was a photograph of Sonali, the beautiful and young Sonali, kept on my table. It was a black and white picture that I had taken in the Philosophy Department, on a day when she had come to ask me to give her some time and help her with some problems in understanding Axiological Intuitionism. I was seeing this photograph after so many decades. Where had it been all these days? And, how did it come to my table? The next thing that happened was even more disturbing. There was a note from Sonali, written on my pad that had been lying on the same table. On seeing the note, I trembled with fear.

‘I need your help. Follow the tantrik’s advice. Walk out of your dream and step into my world. I need you.
Sonali’

I could feel my hair stand on end and my blood felt as though it were freezing. What was happening to me? All of a sudden I had no guts left in my stomach. I ran out of my house into the sunlight. Suddenly I developed a phobia of solitude. I had loved being alone but now I felt an inexplicable need for company. Even a child or an old woman would have been like a police force to protect me at that time.

My newspaper man was standing outside when I opened the door. He asked me why I was looking so terror-stricken; I failed to say very much to him. The only words that could come out of my mouth were: ‘Please don’t go away. Stay with me.’ He had come to give me the monthly bill and to take the payment. I promised to pay him five times the bill if he agreed to stay that day and night with me.

‘Stay with you? I have lots of work at home. I’m sorry,’ he said, looking at me suspiciously.

I was left alone and without the courage to go back into my own house. Suddenly the place felt uninhabitable. I don’t know where my strength had disappeared. My legs began to feel as if they were made of rubber and would not bear my weight. The same Sonali that I had always craved to meet had made me virtually wet my pants.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

"THAT NIGHT" (part 13) 

The thirteenth part of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's acclaimed ghost story set in rural India.
If you missed any of the previous parts, they are still available on my blog.

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                                                                  THAT NIGHT (Part 13)

She was Sonali no doubt but she was very different. The human body does make a difference. It provides the livingness to an empty soul.

Sonali had come to me after more than forty years and that too in a dream. I had been through the thick and thin of life, a chronic bachelor, and become an author of some kind. I was managing to get published but was still a minor novelist. The novel of my innermost being was still only half written and I felt all these years that if I could write the novel that contained Sonali’s story, it would be my masterpiece because it would help me to unfold my crumpled up soul. Time had stopped moving normally for me after that fateful night and my unfinished novel would capture this aspect of my deeply felt experience. It was, after all, closest to my heart. The mystery, however, was still unsolved. The dream could have been a prelude to my re-association with Sonali. But there was a problem; I had grown old, having crossed seventy, and the Sonali, who visited me in my dream was still as young as she had been at the time of her disappearance. If we were to meet now, it would be a rather incompatible relationship, as odd a relationship as could be imagined. The same dream again, and then again several times disturbed me. I saw her come repeatedly and invite me to follow her in a particular direction. She never said a word in any of my dreams but her silence was so deafening. I got totally unhinged. After some inquiry I was told by someone that in Bairana, a locality in Allahabad, there lived someone who was writing a book on spirits and could explain this recurring dream. I went to him and what this tantric told me opened my eyes to what was going on.

‘This spirit, it seems, is ripe for rebirth. But it is still stuck in some fold of time. It cannot extricate itself from this fold and is seeking your help to escape from there.’
‘What is a fold of time?’ I asked.
‘It is the moment of a premature death, a death that has occurred without fulfillment.’ 
‘But how can I help such a spirit?’
‘I am still not certain of that. Perhaps the spirit will lead you on to that.’
‘But the spirit comes in my dream. How can it expect me to help it in a dream?’
‘Ha, ha, ha, ha! You think it is a dream but actually it is not. Just go along with it to wherever it takes you. Why are you looking so shocked?’
‘You are saying something shocking. How can I go somewhere with a spirit? And how can I believe a dream to be reality?’
‘Ha, ha, ha, ha . . . nothing is the reality and nothing is a dream. They are all mixed up. It is the mind, the intellect that insists on separating the two into neat, distinct, parts. When she invites you this time, just get up and go with her.’

I was very confused by what the tantric had said. He seemed to be a loony. How could a dream and the reality be one and the same thing? I had probably wasted my time by visiting him. I went back thinking about the fraud I had gone and met and chuckled at his cheek to try and pull such a long one on a man as old as me. If he had to tell me about spirits he ought to have told me about them rather than telling me about life itself; I had read enough of that in philosophy.