A face in the dark and other hauntings – An anthology of ghost stories by Ruskin Bond

‘I see dead people’ – lines from Hollywood movie ‘Sixth Sense’

Did you ever experience paranormal visions of seeing departed people? Have you witnessed seeing your long lost loved ones in your dreams? Dreams are route to connect with departed people. Whether ghosts, spirits or apparitions really exist is a matter of debate. Ruskin Bond’s anthology of short story on ghosts in this book is not just scary, but also has a nostalgic and romantic touch to it.

‘That night there was a thunderstorm. My bedroom window kept banging in the wind. I got up to close it and as I looked out, there was a flash of lightning and I saw that frail body again, swinging from the oak tree’ – excerpt from short story Topaz from this anthology

The ghosts in Ruskin Bond’s stories are frightening, but not disturbing. The stories are memorable, hilarious and sometimes heart breaking. Especially the short story – A face in the dark is the first chapter in this anthology recounts the story of an English teacher witnessing paranormal encounter with a faceless ghost. This story has been beautifully crafted with a touch of humour that will make you read these stories again and again. Some stories in Ruskin Bond’s collections are really spooky – especially the stories ‘The Monkeys’ and ‘The Topaz’. Ruskin Bond has written one ghost story in this collection which is dedicated to his father.

‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy’
– lines from Shakespeare’s Hamlet

A rare photograph of Ruskin Bond with his mother during his childhood

In this nostalgic chapter, Ruskin Bond recounts the supernatural event of seeing his dead father coming back to meet him. The ghostly form of his dead father not only guides him, but also protects him at several instances. Ruskin Bond has included this nostalgic episode in several of his short story collection. The 1998 Hollywood movie – Jack Frost is also based on such a premise where a dead father returns as a snowman to reunite with his little son and fulfill the wishes of his child and wife. The role of the ghost father was played by Michael Keaton in this family movie. Even the 90’s movie – The Ghost had a similar plot where a dead man returns as a ghost to establish contact with his soulmate and make her aware of upcoming dangers. The Kevin Costner Starrer movie – Dragon Fly was more gripping on topic of afterlife and how a deceased wife tries to contact with her husband through paranormal signals.

Dreams are also a way to connect with your long lost loved ones. In my dreams, I had nostalgic experience of seeing my long lost maternal uncle who is no more with me. Whenever I was sad or depressed, I always saw my uncle in my dream, assuring that everything will be all right. The bond that I shared with my uncle in my childhood days is really memorable, especially accompanying him to buy comic books. I miss his presence really in these difficult times. Ruskin Bond also has also written a short story, describing his experience, meeting a long lost friend who is happened to be dead years back.

All the 28 ghost stories in this anthology are unique. Whether it is connecting with ghost of Rudyard Kipling or meeting the mysterious Madam Sussanna who has killed all her seven husbands under mysterious circumstances, the stories gives you a glimpse at the supernatural elements in a very entertaining way. The most entertaining chapter in this anthology was the surprise entry of Detective Sherlock Holmes in the story ‘The Daffodil Case’. In this story, Sherlock Holmes teams up with Ruskin Bond to solve a case involving stealing of Daffodil flowers. The short story ‘Something in the water’ and ‘Night in the millennium’ are really creepy.

The ghostly settings in these stories send scary goosebumps, giving a feel of ghostly presence around you. The recently released Bollywood movie – Phillauri draws inspiration from a spooky story ‘The Topaz’ in this anthology. Science may have denied the supernatural existence, but paranormal activities do keep happening in some corners of the world. If you love reading ghost stories, this anthology by Ruskin Bond is definitely a treat.

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The night train at deoli and other stories – A nostalgic collection of short stories by Ruskin Bond

Book Title – The night train at deoli and other stories
Author – Ruskin Bond
Genre – Fiction/Children’s stories
Year of Publication – 1989

night-train-deoli

Life is not just achieving sales targets, shouldering family’s responsibilities and facing heart-breaking disappointments at every instance. It’s much more. But we are so much involved in the complexities of life that we forget have got only one life to live which we haven’t lived to the fullest. The night train at deoli and other stories is a beautiful collection of short stories by Ruskin Bond which is based in hilly areas of Dehra, Kasauli and Deoli. What really fascinated me about the book is the front cover image of a moving train. Though it is moving on the tracks, its speed is not hurrying, but slow and calm. Far from the madding crowd of the world, this night train at deoli takes you on a nostalgic journey of love.

Though I haven’t visited Mussoorie, Shimla, Dehradun, Kasauli or Deoli, but this book gave me scenic view of the places described in the short stories. The stories have been written with such a sheer sincerity and simplicity that you are ought to connect with it. Often in our life, we bond with people so much that this bonding lasts for a lifetime. This story is about bonding, unrequited love, affection, happiness and the nostalgic childhood moments we lived in the affectionate presence of our grandparents and friends. As I read these stories, it took me behind the timeline – my childhood. The childhood moments that I spent with my grandparents, uncle, school friends and my first school crush. I remember the moments I spent with my closed ones. Though my grandparents & uncle are no longer in this world, but the moments keep appearing like nostalgic visuals in my mind like a rerun of an old movie on TV. Though every short story has touch of simplicity, each story is sure to give you a nostalgic goose bump. Especially the short story ‘Night train at Deoli’ in this anthology will remind you of long lost love.

A sketch of author Ruskin Bond

A sketch of author Ruskin Bond

This anthology is about everyone – beggars, flower selling girl, an aging wrestler, writer, labour and every ordinary person. The simplicity in writing of Ruskin Bond is haunting, nostalgic and magical. This book is a relief for those readers who are stressed up by day to day struggles, heart breaking disappointments and financial worries. Just start reading the pages to discover the magic and escape into a different world where you will smell the aroma of hill side tea, travel in old age trains, visit the valley girls, ride a bicycle and encounter ghosts. When it comes to reading short stories, R.K.Narayan and Ruskin Bond have always been my favorite authors. If Malgudi days was about rural life in South India, ‘The night train at Deoli’ captured the beauty of hill side life. Once you start reading this book, you will definitely be eager to catch the first train to Deoli.

The Blue Umbrella – A Short Story By Ruskin Bond

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“Some books are so familiar, reading them is like being home again” – Louisa May Alcott

Very few books have that charisma that appeal to both kids and grownups and Ruskin Bond’s short story – The Blue Umbrella is one of them. The above quote holds a special place in my heart because we like to read books where we love to relate ourselves. This short story – The Blue Umbrella belongs to that category, a memorable story whose magic will keep on enchanting the readers for generations. Published in 1980, this short story is written by Ruskin Bond whose stories are more connected to hilly areas like Himachal Pradesh. The premise of this story is set in a small village of Himachal Pradesh where a poor little girl named Binya is smitten to a beautiful blue umbrella owned by a rich family. She trades off her leopard claw necklace for the captivating blue umbrella. From that moment, the blue umbrella becomes Binya’s rich possession.

Still from the comic book The Blue Umbrella

Still from the comic book The Blue Umbrella

Slowly the umbrella becomes a center of attention among the people living in the village. Everyone in the village craves to own that umbrella. Especially Ram Bharose, a shopkeeper has his eyes set on the blue umbrella. He even requests Binya to sell her blue umbrella to him for a fair amount. But Binya refuses to part away with her prized valuable. Realizing that his master Ram Bharose won’t be able to gain the umbrella, his servant Rajaram plans to steal the umbrella for his master. But while stealing the umbrella, Rajaram is caught red-handed by Binya’s brother. When everyone in the village comes to know about Ram Bharose’s greedy intention of owning Binya’s umbrella, Ram Bharose is neglected by everyone in village. Later Binya realizes that she shouldn’t flaunt her umbrella to make Ram Bharose sad. Finally Binya happily parts away with her blue umbrella by giving it to Ram Bharose. Now everyone in the village borrows the blue umbrella from Ram Bharose for time being. Though Binya is sad for parting with her umbrella, she is glad that she has brought a smile of happiness on someone’s face.This short story was made into a motion picture in 2005 and was adapted as a comic story in Amar Chitra Katha.

Author Ruskin Bond

Author Ruskin Bond

I recently read this short story of Ruskin Bond and was so mesmerized by its simplicity that I couldn’t wait to share this story on my blog. This story is about joy of giving and sharing happiness even in sad moments. Though my writings can’t match the magic of Ruskin Bond’s words, I have made a small attempt to spread this story to all my readers, young and old. I hope that once you have read this post, you will definitely buy the original copy of “Blue Umbrella” written by Ruskin Bond.

Happy Reading
Prashant Badiger