"Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit. "
~ Jawaharlal Nehru

The Weretiger - Tales of the Supernatural

A collection of short stories by Shaiontoni Bose, Arundhuti Dasgupta, Bunny Gupta and Nilanjana Gupta reviewed by Romola Butalia.
Publisher: Penguin India
Price: Rs. 250/-

Without doubt 'ghost stories' have fascinated the imagination and prickled fears that are as old as time, and as early as our first memories of childhood. This is a collection of stories gathered by the editors, Shaiontoni Bose, Arundhuti Dasgupta, Bunny Gupta and Nilanjana Gupta, as much to satisfy their penchant for the paranormal as to tell tales that have haunted many since childhood. This collection gathers together oral histories, folklore and urban legends from every part of the country, and explores the many forms of supernatural spirits: bramhadaityas, dakinis and djinns, reincarnations and possessions, tutelary forest spirits and shape-changing animals. Some of the stories are pure original fiction. Anyway, in the exploration of these areas, the delineation between fact, fiction and fantasy gets somewhat blurred.

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The editors write, "At the beginning, our goal was imprecisely defined: we merely set out to collect some Indian ghost stories." What evntually materialised was a unique collection of stories told simply, as ghost stories always are, with as much that is unsaid and left to the imagination, as is stated. Without doubt this delves into the collective Indian unconscious where ghosts lurk in the shadows of our minds.

The diverse tales of animal and nature spirits, haunted houses and ancient witch-doctors are retold with humour and sensitivity to the macabre. Some of the stories are drawn from centuries of local or family history, some record specific moments in time associated with trauma, oppression, war, a sense of history. Others are contemporary tales, garbed in modern re-telling.

Many ghostly legends and favourite antics and behaviour patterns of 'ghosts' form part of the accepted myths about these little-known apparitions. Some stories have been inherited as part of an oral tradition and are indeed better heard than read, replete with the sounds and aura that are associated with their telling. Naturally, ghost stories are about unsatisfied desires, unfulfilled longings, deep-seated hatred, unconquered anxieties and fears, and these are no exception. Motives of revenge, inherent cruelties of human nature, power and oppression are recurrent themes. The editors have chosen their stories well, told them interestingly and recreated interest in a dead past that science fiction and fantasy had seemingly replaced.

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.