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.

Phillauri – A ghost bride in waiting

‘I see dead people’ is one of the cheesiest lines written by Hollywood writers for M.Night.Shyamalan’s 1998 movie – The Sixth sense. Do ghosts really exist? I won’t go further deep in theory about supernatural elements. Here Shashi Phillauri has decided to become my ghostly muse to free me from my writer’s block. She wanted to see her story featured in my upcoming article. Here I am now writing my exclusive article on Phillauri. After all, I can’t mess with a ghost, especially when the ghost is a hardcore Punjabi Kudi. Here you go baby!!

Kanan, a Canada based Punjabi Munda (played by Suraj Sharma the boy from Life of Pi) returns to his hometown to get hitched to his longtime girlfriend Anu. It is a fairy tale wedding going to happen for the couple. But Kanan can’t marry his sweet heart as he is ‘Manglik’ (according to horoscope a Manglik’s marriage is never prosperous). The only remedy for this astrological hurdle is to get the groom married to a tree. After much insistence, Kanan performs the ritual of getting married to a tree. The real trouble begins for Kanan when he realizes that unknowingly he is married off to a ghost who had made the tree her abode. The ghostly encounter of Kanan with the apparition makes him go crazy.

According to rituals, the tree is chopped off once the Manglik’s marriage is done with the tree. Since the tree is chopped off, the ghost loses her abode and now chases Kanan. The bride ghost ‘Shashi’ starts narrating her story to Kanan and the story moves to pre-independent era in 1919. The movie swings between two timelines – 1919 and 2017. Shashi, a lovely poet from a village called ‘Phillaur’ in Punjab publishes her poem under a pen name which is famous among the readers. (Shashi is Jane Austen of Punjab in this movie) 

Coincidentally, Rooplal a street singer with a heart of Casanova sings the lyrics and poems penned by Shashi little realizing that she is the same girl he has fallen in love with. When he discovers her identity, he promises to return back on Baisakhi festival when he has enough money to get married to her. But destiny has different plans for Shashi. Rooplal never returns. In a fit of depression, Shashi commits suicide by hanging from a tree. Her untimely death turns her into a ghostly bride in waiting (This bride has nothing to do with Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride). Now Shashi can’t get freed from the mortal world. Her quest for long lost love is unfulfilled. Will Shashi find her long lost love? Will Kanan help Shashi to find her long lost love? All these queries will be answered in the 2017 movie – Phillauri. Shashi had strictly ordered me to not write any spoilers about her story.

What fascinated me to watch ‘Phillauri’ was Anushka Sharma. Secondly the premise of story is set in Punjab. My fondness for Punjabi culture, food and beautiful gals was second reason why I wanted to watch it. In terms of storytelling, ‘Phillauri’ is a refreshing change from stereotyped Bollywood rom-coms. The story takes time to grow. It is a novel plot brought on screen. For those who love masala rom-coms won’t sit through the movie. The movie has a poetic feel and is slow paced. The slow-paced narration is the beauty of this story and here the viewer bonds with the tender love story of Shashi and Rooplal.

The look and feel of this movie is timeless. The visual presentation of the 1919 Punjab is breath taking. If you love your roots, you will connect with the story line. The story of this movie is connected with an actual historical incident happened in 1919 on eve of Baisakhi. The infamous incident changes the lives of both Shashi and Rooplal. After so much warning given by my ghostly muse Shashi, I am giving spoilers for this story. (She will literally kill me after reading this review). ‘Phillauri’ has drawn inspirations from several movies (Lovely Bones, If I stay, Invisible, Corpse Bride etc and even a Ruskin Bond short story). Actress Anushka Sharma has donned the hat of producer for her second production venture and hasn’t left any stone unturned to make Phillauri a delightful watch. Apart from Anushka Sharma, Suraj Sharma and Diljit Singh Dosanjh make their presence felt in their sincere performances. After Udta Punjab, Diljit is the new emerging talent in Bollywood. What attracted me in this movie was Mehreen Pirzada, the new fresh talent who shines in her first movie. She plays Anu, the love interest of Suraj Sharma.

Phillauri is a delightful and visually appealing rom-com that is winning the hearts of audience worldwide. This movie is far more entertaining than Paheli and Bhootnath.

If you love watching entertaining ghost movies, then watch the 1992 movie – Chamatkar and 1995 Hollywood movie – Casper. Apart from this recommendations, do watch Demi Moore’s movie – The Ghost which was a cult movie in 90’s.

I want to sincerely thank my ghostly muse Shashi for becoming my inspiration and guide to pen down this story. Inspiration comes in all forms even if it is ghostly. For now, I am freed from my writer’s block. I guess it is time for Shashi to return back to heaven. Hope I have justified her story and I strongly request her to share this review among her ghostly circles. I guess Mark Zuckerberg must have developed a social networking site for ghosts. No wonder it may be called ‘GhostBook’.

Do watch ‘Phillauri’ at theatres near you. You will fall in love with Shashi, the lovely ghost.

Far from the heartless city

‘Home is where the heart is’ – Quote

‘Koi lauta de mere beetey hue din’ is one of the most memorable songs sung by versatile singer Kishore Kumar. There is so much depth in the lyrics as well as pain in the song. A person yearns for his old happy days requesting someone to bring back his old times. Nowadays this is the plight of every person living in city including me. Be it New York, Sydney, Mumbai, Bangalore or any city in this world, the city is bustling with cynics. In my past 10 years in this corporate world, I have minutely faced the cynicism of the heartless city people. Is the city too fast forward or I am too slow to adapt to its swiftness? I will never know the answer. The dreams which I had aspired to make it big in the corporate world came tumbling down when I realized that world is not as I had thought for. We see the world according to our perceptions, emotions and feelings and expect the same response from others. This is where disappointment begins. The hands that extended towards me for friendship were most opportunists, manipulative and cunning. The wisdom dawned on my mind very late. I pity on those people who recharge their mobile with high talk time options. But do they have that intention and time enough for their friends? I too extended my friendly hand towards people only to realize that no one was ready to shake hands. The city has become very cynical to a great extent. Corporate firms boast of great job opportunities, lucrative perks and encouraging work environment.
What you see later is the opposite picture of what has been shown? Horrible bosses, nagging team leads, cold & insensitive colleagues and above all a negative work environment. There is no place for genuine feelings. Everything is calculative, mechanical and opportunistic. Is this what I had aspired for? Is this what I dreamt for? I am desperately missing the old days which I still cherish it in my heart – the old school friend, my loving relatives, a forgotten crush and the paper boat which has drown somewhere deep in abyss.

‘Udaas hai mohalle ka paani aaj kal. Lagta hai kaagaz ki naav bananey wale bachchey bade ho gaye’ – Hindi quote

There is lot of depth in this Hindi quote which implies that nowadays no one is interested in making paper boats. All kids are now grown up. Life has become robotic and people are behaving like machines. A simple heart has no place in this city. Today the strength of love is measured by lavish treats, luxurious shopping, heavy bank balance and an imported, posh car with air condition. This is what today’s 21st century girl aspires for. Isn’t she right? Nowadays girls choose a rich boy with a poor heart than choosing a poor boy with a rich heart. Even love has become calculative.

‘Seeney mein jalan, aankhon mein toofan sa kyon hai, iss sheher mein har shaks pareshaan sa kyon hai’ – lyrics from movie ‘Gaman’

Through his short stories and full length novels, Ruskin Bond has captured the happiness of small towns, hill stations and villages. Despite being such a celebrated author, Ruskin still lives in a small town of Mussoorie. He still prefers writing letters and posting it in postboxes. When I read ‘Night train at Deoli and other short stories’ penned by Ruskin, I too feel to leave this city and retire to a simple life in a small town which can give some place to me in its big heart. Ironically the city is big, but there is no place for emotions, truthfulness and kindness. I guess it is time for me to pack my bags and disappear somewhere in a small hill station or a town where I can live my life as per my comfort. It is time to say good bye to the heartless city. I conclude my feelings with this beautiful song sung by Kishore Kumar.

‘Gaadi bula rahi hai, seeti baja rahi hai, chalna hi Zindagi hai, chalti hi jaa rahi hai’

The road to the bazaar – A nostalgic collection of childhood stories by Ruskin Bond

There is an old world charm in writings of Ruskin Bond. For those people who love hill side locations, tea plantations, trees filled with ripe fruits, the whistle of old age train and the colourful bazaar full of chaat stalls , then Ruskin Bond’s books will take you to this world. A world untouched by neck breaking competition, cynical city people, technology, hatred and pollution, Ruskin Bond’s books take you on a vacation where you take a trip down the memory lane. ‘The road to the bazaar’ is an anthology of 16 stories that is centred on Dehra, the hometown and backdrop of Ruskin Bond’s stories. Have you played a rookie from school and taken a train journey to an unknown destination? Have you formed a cricket club and showed your batsman skills against your opposite team? ‘The road to the bazaar is about re-discovering childhood innocence and rewind back to the times of happiness.

road-to-the-bazaar

The short stories and the playful moments are seen through eyes of Koki, Suraj, Ranji, Amir, Teju and Mukesh – the kids of Dehra. Every short story in this collection unveils the simplicity of hill side life. There is such a magic in Bond’s writing that you will be compelled to leave city life and settle down in hill stations. Such is the impact of Ruskin Bond’s books. In today’s mobile-driven world, we are so engrossed to the screen of our smartphones that we have forgotten to connect with compassion, humanity and affection. It is high time that we keep aside our gadgets and bond with life’s simplicity. ‘The road to bazaar’ is one of the best anthologies by author Ruskin Bond which will remind you of your school days. Once you enjoy reading this book, do read ‘The night train at Deoli and other stories’ penned by Ruskin Bond.

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