It won’t be incorrect to say that I have never met a booklover in my life who dislikes Ruskin Bond. The John Llewellyn Rhys Prize-winner has produced such an extensive body of work in over six decades of a writing life, that at least some section of it has managed to impress nearly everyone.
His stories about the young boy Rusty and his growing up years in an idyllic pre-independent town in the foothills of the Himalayas can become any young person’s perfect literary companion. Lone Fox Dancing, his autobiography, is one of the most poignant, enchanting memoirs one can read about a writer’s life and times. But what I always return to, whether on sultry summer afternoons or chilly December nights, are his uncanny yet lyrical ghost stories.
Equal parts charming and eerie, most of the stories in the anthology titled A Season of Ghosts are delightfully entertaining. In these pieces, one can virtually feel the misty mountain air, experience the stillness inside a cottage at the edge of a forest, or spot a mysterious face in the crowd as one keeps turning the pages. The stories are deceitfully simple – there’s even a mythical tale on rakshasas – but even at their playful best they manage to inform us about the human condition.
Imagine sitting around a campfire with your friends, or on your terrace surrounded by your favourite cousins on a night when the power has gone out. What do all of them have in common?
Even those who identify as scaredy-cats won’t refuse to listen to a memorable ghost story at that hour. And once you run out of those you’ve heard or experienced, there’s this book. There are these handful of haunting tales. Even if they don’t make any of you jump in your seats, one thing is guaranteed. The whistling dead boy, the ancient Lovecraftian monster from the deep, the mischievous witch and her black cat, they’ll all make a place in the deepest recesses of your heart and come back to you when you’re least expecting them. Long after the light has come back, or morning has broken.
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