Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More Ghost Stories of Shimla Hills by Minakshi Chaudhry - A Review

This book, I believe, is a sequel to an earlier book with a similar theme. Not restricted to hills alone, most places in India have myths, legends and stories surrounding their existence. People inhabiting such places occasionally refute, but mostly subscribe to popular beliefs, even when they allude to something unthinkable - as in supernatural. A story surrounding ghosts and spirits is a listeners delight! However, it could be a nightmare for the one who lives through it. India is a land which believes - in Gods and spirits. Unravelling this very facet of Indian hills - Shimla to be specific - Minakshi Chaudhry has come out with a collection of tales about ghosts and apparitions, collected by meeting people and hearing their stories.

Shimla, formerly Simla, the Summer Capital of the British, and now the Capital of Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, is a top tourist destination in India. Home to many colleges, research institutions and temples, Shimla is also one of the top entrepreneurial destinations in India. Beyond what is known to the outside world about this scenic hill station, there are many facets of this place known only to the locals, and perhaps, also understood only by the locals. Shimla is home to many ghosts and spirits, who have entrenched themselves in the local lore. These ghosts do not have a mythological origin; mostly they are an expression of unfulfilled objectives of life of persons belonging to the British or post-British era. Ghosts depicted in this anthology of short narratives are not a negative force - there are many who are caring and benevolent. Spirits are sometimes whimsical and other times they manifest only when disturbed or disrespected. It is easy to talk with conviction about their existence once you have immersed yourself in the fantasy world created around you by this book.

The narration of the book is light, and in parts capable of transporting you to the pleasant climate of Shimla. The stories, though interesting, I would admit, are not captivating. Despite being a small book, I took time to finish it, because, despite dealing with something as intriguing as ghosts and supernatural, it could not form a relation with my imaginative mind. This book is more suited for a younger audience. As an adult, I would have revelled in more literature about a legend, more knotted tales. Most of the apparitions talked about in this book are flat characters, with no shades to them. The narrative mostly is informative and descriptive, lacking an element of mystery and thrill. Very few stories, if any at all, would remain with you, as anecdotes to pass on to other people. An okay read, I would award this book 2 stars on 5. Somehow, Ruskin Bond completely captures your imagination when it comes to tales about hills, especially ghost stories. A comparison with him is inevitable if a similar genre is picked up by any author, and to live up to that comparison is an arduous challenge indeed. Good effort, with some lost potential, I would say.

PS - I am confused, do you call such a book, drawing on local legends, fiction or non fiction?

(Reviewed on request from Rupa Publications)

Book details-
Title - More Ghost Stories of Shimla Hills
Author - Minakshi Chaudhry
Publisher - Rupa
Price - ₹ 150
Pages - 147


  1. scary book hahah loe the way you analyse the book..:)

    1. Well, it was hardly scary. An average read if you ask me honestly.