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May 15, 2013

Quick Notes on 'Ghost Stories of Shimla Hills'

Author : Minakshi Chaudhry
Publisher : Rupa co.

Rating : 2.5 / 5 

Minakshi Chaudhry, a former journalist and writer of multiple books based in Shimla provides yet another book of Ghost stories of Shimla Hills. A total of 16 short stories are based on the other side, deals with supernatural and spirits which refuse to die down. The author's earlier book, 'Ghost Stories of the Shimla Hills', published in 2005 also by Rupa and Co, became a bestseller and is in constant reprint.

In these 16 stories,  the readers will encounter bhoots (ghosts) and churails (witches) who wander in the Shimla hills. These stories also tell us about the cultural and religious life of hill people. Generations of Shimlaites grew up hearing stories about bhoots and churails. These tales based on facts and experiences shared by people, have been narrated in a fictionalised way. Dark moonless nights, lonely stretches, mist enveloping hills and valleys, something howling in the faraway jungle - everything in the Shimla hills gives an appearance of these unearthly beings.

The book includes tales about the spirit of an English nurse who wanders in the wards of Lady Reading (now known as Kamla Nehru hospital in Shimla), taking care of the children in need; a theatre manager - an Englishman who died before India's Independence who was so much in love with Shimla that he did not leave even after he died and his spirit haunts the (Gaiety) theatre and roams there on dark nights.

In these stories we meet people who can talk to the spirits and who live between the two worlds - living and the dead! We also travel to the strange world of fairies, who land and take off at the lawns of Pari Mehal (a locality in Shimla) and meet members of a unique family that claims to have met ghosts just as we meet each other.

There is a touching tale of a Muslim ghost who came to Shimla hills (in Nankhari village, some 100 km from Shimla) after partition and stayed back. It plays pranks on people but as it grew old, it lost interest in teasing people and longed to go back to Lahore but could not do so.

But apart from this, all other stories are mostly bland and have a read-that-before feeling to it. They do not invoke much emotions and hardly provides a surprise in its narrative. Over all, a mixed bag of book which provide some interesting stories but does not show enough courage to take it to the next level by introducing some new concepts in the horror genre.

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