India Today, 6Dc99
A SEASON OF GHOSTS: Bond's Gems
Mystery stories in the best traditions of old Ruskin
By Urmi A Goswami
A SEASON OF GHOSTS - BY RUSKIN BOND, VIKING. PRICE: Rs 295 PAGES: 210
Sir, do you believe in ghosts?" Ruskin Bond begins A Season of Ghosts with this age-old question. He tells us that we need not believe in ghosts to see them. But this book is not just a collection of ghost stories. Some of the stories are reminiscent of childhood tales replete with fairies and rakshasas. While some have more of what we traditionally expect in a ghost story, a couple even have a twist in the tail. And finally, a detective story.
Written in the first person, Bond draws his readers into sharing his emotions. In "Wilson's Bridge", when Mrs Ray kills herself thereby re-enacting a century-old tragedy, we, like the author, wonder whose ghost we would see on the bridge -- Gulabi's or Mrs Ray's? In "Reunion at the Regal" we feel the author's sense of loss and experience his bewilderment.
The author writes of some "sensible and practical people" who have experienced the presence of ghosts. Iterating that seeing ghosts has nothing to do with the state of one's mind, Bond writes of the emotional attachment ghosts have to certain places -- like old houses -- perhaps?
"Who killed the Rani?" is probably the most memorable story in this collection. It is here that we get a glimpse of the Bond we know from The Room on the Roof. He writes about ordinary people in not so ordinary situations in extraordinary ways. The detective, Inspector Keemat Lal, is no Poirot or Holmes. He is heavily built, rather ponderous and inclined to be lazy. He's intelligent but a failure. Unimpressive as he is, at the end of the novella we look at him with respect and compassion. Keemat Lal emerges the quiet hero. One would have to disagree with Bond's description of the novella as a light-hearted attempt at writing a detective story. The collection is no less than what one would expect from him.
Back to the top
Return to a Ruskin Bond page
Webber Philip McEldowney