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Friday, 3 August 2012

AN INDIAN GHOST STORY!


Last week I posted a series of excerpts from Lakshmi Raj Sharma's book "Bonding". Lakshmi is professor of English and European Languages at Allahabad University, and has very kindly allowed me to post the start of his new book "That Night", a ghost story set in an Indian of bygone days.
Please feel free to comment and I'll pass all comments on to Lakshmi.
Professor Sharma has his own new website on www.thetailorsneedle.com.


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                                                                          That Night

Those were the days when India had a much smaller population. The edges of towns were dark, quiet and unfrequented. It was rarely that a loner was seen and when he was, the one spying him looked out to decide whether it was a man or something that could no longer be described by that name. It is not that India has no ghosts left now. Only, its growing population has forced the poor creatures to leave the towns, where they had once inhabited in their human form comfortably, and to loiter towards haunts where there are fewer suspecting minds and pointing fingers. Of course all ghosts cannot be described by a single definition. There are ghosts and ghosts. There are the peace loving ghosts and the noisy ones; there are the inquisitive ghosts and the disinterested ones; there are the pretty ghosts and the ugly ones. So let us enter this world of the years gone by when the odd ghost walked into a town to see what was going on in the lives of the not so dead people.

Though ghosts do not have names I am naming one of them Pran for the sake of convenience. I am here to investigate from some spirits certain facts for my novel. Human beings of that time are now all dead and gone, long back. It is only these ghosts that had left Allahabad in the 1960s, to settle in darker, more remote, places that could help me with information. Ghosts cannot be interviewed like living souls, and there’s no one more conscious of this than myself. Ever since I have come to this very rural setting of Gaipura, I have felt the near uninterrupted presence of Pran in this region. 

He is not exactly an ugly ghost. He actually has fairly good features. But there is a perpetual disgruntled look, a kind of peeved expression. This expression is made more evident by his sliced off nose. He probably does not shave. I don’t think ghosts can shave and surely they don’t need to. But he does not have a beard or moustache. It is an unshaven look that his face wears, making him sufficiently rough. I have never seen him smile unless it is to point out some shortcoming in me. He and I have developed a relationship of sorts, a relationship in which the chief emotion is that of bitterness against each other. If you ask me why he entertains my questions the answer as I have understood it is this, he has some expectation from me, an expectation of which I am yet ignorant. It is as though after not getting on with practically every ghost around, Pran has decided that he will allow me to remain near him. He does not mind my company, though he creates problems for me whenever he can. He wants to use me for his recreation and then put hurdles in my way. And yes, he cannot tolerate my attempts to access other spirits who live in this region. He is a jealous ghost who will never fail to tell me that I am kinder to others than him. Forgive me for using the word, ‘him’ for a ghost rather than ‘it’. I have felt that he has some features that make him so much like some living people that I have started looking upon him as someone with flesh and blood. But then, suddenly, he gives me a a vacant look that sends a chill down my spine and makes me shiver in the heat of June and July.

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