Indian Ghost Stories: 8 Books That Is Sure To Make Your Toes Curl
Horror has been one of the predominant literary genres in Indian writing, and famous authors like Ruskin Bond, Satyajit Ray, Leela Majumdar, Hari Kumar and others have explored it to the hilt. From folk tales steeped in horror, to the more intellectually-refined psychological horror stories, the vast repository of Indian writing has it all covered. Moreover, in anIndian household, if you have lived with either of your grandparents, you most probably have had the opportunity to listen to a whole lot of ghost stories at bedtime. Most of us remember the times when we would feel shaky to go up and hit the loo after a good story-telling session at night. Personally, I would even ask my brother to sleep by me at night when I was too afraid to do so by myself. But that is the thrill of it, isn’t it? Feeling jittery after devouring horror stories is as natural as breathing, and serves a significant purpose in our lives. At the end of a day filled with routine and hard work, we crave for a bit of adventure in our lives. This is more than true at a time when most of us are locked inside our homes, and do not have the luxury to strike up a conversation with our friends as often as we would have loved to.
Even though we have grown too old to have someone narrate to us our favourite stories, we can always pick up books from an amazing repertoire of Indian horror story writers who promise to make our lives a little bit more interesting.
I. Afterlife: Ghost stories from Goa by Jessica Faleiro
Savio Fonseca is throwing a get-together at his house in Goa for his 75th birthday, and the entire family is invited. When the electricity is suddenly cut off the night before the birthday party, everyone settles in to reminisce and swap stories. The stories, then, turn dark and horrific, with every member trying to scare the others. They involve a priest’s first exorcism, a college girl whose dare to spend a night in a haunted library takes a dark turn, ghosts who love children, and an uncle trying to contact the living from his grave. In the middle of this, there is another mystery cooking inside the house that is bound to change everything. Each of these stories is sure to get you frightened at night. Beware of sleeping alone whilst you are reading these stories !
II. A Face in the Dark by Ruskin Bond
Ruskin Bond’s short story collection, A Face in the Dark tells us about a solitary school teacher who has an unpleasant encounter with faceless people, a ghost who stands outside a movie theatre and an author who lives with a ghost. This collection of 28 stories brings together all of his tales of the paranormal, opening with the unforgettable, ‘A Face in the Dark’ and ending with the shockingly macabre, ‘Night of the Millennium’. Featuring thrilling situations and strange beings, a Face in the Dark and Other Hauntings is the perfect collection to have by your bedside when the moon is up.
III. Monihara by Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore’s short story “Monihara”, aka “The Lost Jewels” is a haunting ghost story about duty, greed, guilt, and grief. Tagore’s story is about a married couple, whose conflicting visions of what matters in life bring them both to the brink of destruction. story of Monimalika, who seemed to have had an abnormal obsession with jewels and ornaments. Her caring and somewhat timid husband Phanibhushan showered all his love and attention on her, and yet didn’t seem to be able to win her heart. She was sad because even after 10 years of marriage, she couldn’t bear a child. She also had a piercing suspicion in her mind that all her relatives and in-laws spoke ill of her behind her back. The only thing that made her happy was her ever growing collection of jewels and ornaments, which she guarded with all her life. The story unfolds with shocking twists, with Tagore making use of the trope of a meta-narrative to add further layers of mystery to the plot. It wouldn’t be wise to reveal it all here!
IV. Ghosts of the Silent Hills by Anita Krishnan
Anita Krishnan’s ‘Ghost of the Silent Hills’ (based on true hauntings) is one of the scariest books you will ever read. Published by Fingerprint Publishing, the author begins with a question that nails one’s own doubts about these things, “Do ghosts really exist?” and she continues by explaining the real-life sightings that she has directly heard across her growing up years in Shimla. The setting of these stories are in the hills of Shimla, which are surrounded by dense, menacing forests enveloped in deadly silence. It is bound to make your nights a little scarier.
V. Missing Presumed Dead by Kiran Manral
Set on the outskirts of a town in the hills of North India, this is the story of a dysfunctional marriage where the wife, Aisha, suddenly leaves the household and never comes back. A note found in Aisha’s wallet states that she has killed herself, although strange happenings leave room for doubts. But, if she is not dead, where is Aisha? Did she really commit suicide? has she been abducted or is she hiding? Why does Prithvi not grieve for his deceased wife? And why does Heer vanish without a trace one day, leaving no forwarding address? Examining the dynamic of a dysfunctional marriage, this story confronts the fragility of relationships, the ugly truths about love and death and the horrifying loss of everything we hold dear, including ourselves.
VI. The Other Side by Faraaz Kazi and Vivek Banerjee
An anthology of 13 horror stories, this book dares the reader to embark on a journey they might not want to finish. There is the story of the doctor who, on a fateful night, visits an old couple living in a dilapidated haveli. Then there’s the story of a man, Nirbhay (whose name means ‘no fear’), accepting a challenge to spend a night alone at an abandoned house. There’s a story of a man who stitches parts of different women together to make his perfect woman, whilst there is a deranged loved pining for his first love even after death.
VII. Captain Young’s Ghost: Ghostly Tales from the Indian Hills by Ruskin Bond
This is a collection of a few of Ruskin Bond’s short ghost stories curated by the author himself. In this book, he talks about a few of his ghost encounters on his trips on the mountain ranges of Mussoorie and in the city of Landour. Some stories talk about the solitude of spirits, some about their regrets in life. Other stories talk about the creepy and whispering winds blowing in the hills at night, a bird trying to alert people from the clutches of an evil couple, and more. The reader is informed with the notion that the ghosts are not only just horrendous creatures, but also can be benevolent and concerned creatures. This book definitely belongs to the genre which thrills the young adults. The storylines are so gripping that it is ideal for a curl up on a wintry day. Some of the best stories from this collection include The Black Bird, Captain Young’s Ghost, A Face in the Dark, and The Face beneath the Pillow.
VIII. The Evil Eye and The Charm: Stories of the Indian Lemon-Chili Charm by Neil D’Silva
The lemon-chili charm, or the nimboo-mirchi as it is locally called, is a fascinating part of Indian folklore. This charm is supposed to ward off evil. With that belief, it is commonly hung at the doorposts of homes and offices, in vehicles, and even in local trains and buses. Such is the popularity of the humble nimboo-mirchi! But, like all superstitions, there is a deeper question here as well. Is there any shred of truth behind this almost ritualistic practice? And if not, why are millions of Indians following this practice since generations?The Evil Eye and The Charm is an anthology of three short stories, all of which are themed around the lemon-chili talisman. But more than the common notion of this charm, the stories are an analysis of the credulity of human nature when dealing with things unknown.
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