Ruskin Bond, whose supernatural stories have been made into a web series, says that he always feels that ghosts are not out to scare or harm people and one gets frightened by them because they are not like us. The 84-year-old writer says that he is not someone who dabbles in the supernatural a great deal but has grown up reading books on ghosts. Works of the early writers of ghost stories such as MR James and Algernon Blackwood have always interested him.
Bond’s stories have been adapted for films but for the first time his works are being made into a web series. The first episode of “Parchayee: Ghost Stories by Ruskin Bond” premiered on ZEE5 on January 15 and the subsequent stories will unfold till June.
In our folklore, there are various types of ghosts. There’s the ‘pret’, the ‘bhoot’ and the ‘pishach’. And they very often live in Peepul and other kinds of trees. Some years back, an old lady from a village near Agra would tell me stories about ‘pret’ and village ghosts. These stories would have elements of reincarnation. Religious beliefs too would make it into these stories. The ghosts that we otherwise read about in literature, Western ghosts or British ghosts, who the British brought to India and left behind in our hill stations and dark bungalows, they are what you’d call revenants. Someone from the dead reappearing physically, but not quite physically, Bond said.
I have always felt that the ghosts are not out to scare us or harm us. They are revisiting old haunts or places that were connected with them. Maybe, for some particular reasons or maybe simply because they are wandering around, they can pass through walls. They don’t depend on transport like we do. They are supernatural beings, so we the living feel a bit uneasy about them. But people do get frightened by them because they are not like us, Bond told PTI.
Bond also says that it is not entirely a conscious choice on his part not to make ghosts very scary. Occasionally, I have a frightening ghost because the readers demand them too. People sometimes read ghost stories to get scared. Don’t they? It’s a safe fear, in a way. At the back of your head, you know it’s not really happening. You want to be scared but you don’t want it to lead to anything disastrous. That’s why, kids like ghost stories. They like the idea of being scared but at the back of their mind it’s just a story. They don’t believe in it completely, he added.
Asked whether his place of residence provides the perfect setting for supernatural stories, he says, you could say that. Hill stations were more or less British creations. After some of them – usually the more interesting members of the community – had died or had done something, dramatic legends and stories would be heard about them reappearing. This is very much the British type of ghost. But if you go out into the villages in the hills or remote areas, the local people also have very strong supernatural beliefs, beliefs in spirits. They believe certain places are haunted. Even rocks are considered haunted. There is a belief that a certain type of individual can turn into a leopard. That again is more Indian. Whereas the obvious sort of ghost that you get in the West is again the sort you would find a colonial connection with.
Though Bond never thinks particularly about writing for the screen as nobody ever asked him, but the idea is there at the back of the mind.
I always felt that some of the stories that I had written would adapt well to the screen. I had never thought of my ghost stories being done as a series. I thought maybe the odd one might get filmed but hadn’t realised that they could make a complete series. A Kolkata-based company called Allcap Communications approached me with the idea. They discussed with me and developed 12 stories for the screen and took them to the producers of the show, Banijay Asia and Opus Communications. That’s how this series happened, he says.
Bond was born in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, and grew up in Jamnagar, Dehradun, New Delhi and Shimla. As a young man, he spent four years in the Channel Islands and London.He returned to India in 1955. He now lives in Landour, Mussoorie, with his adopted family.