Published: 23rd January 2020
Maybe I'll believe in ghosts when I see one: Anita Krishnan on her latest book of spooky stories
For Anita Krishnan, ideas usually come during her walks. And there have been many times when she had to cut her walk short and run back to jot down the idea
As someone who has grown up in the foothills of the Himalayas, Shimla if you're a stickler for geography, author Anita Krishnan is full of ghost stories. For the uninitiated, Shimla is as famous for apples as it is for its ghost stories. Mysterious things seem to be happening to everyone in this former summer capital of the British. So, it is natural that Krishnan was fed a healthy diet of ghost stories — most of them spooky incidents that have happened to friends and family. And she has been compiling them, slowly and steadily for a few years now. As a result of which, she recently released the book Ghosts of the Silent Hills.
Those were the days
It was in the year 1977 when Krishnan started living in Shimla and the Shimla of those times was very different, she tells us. Imagine this: Houses scattered sporadically around the city with ample space between them. Fewer street lights, lonely paths and a pressing silence — the right breeding ground for ghost stories, we'd say. "Every resident had a mysterious story to tell," recalls Krishnan. And these were not something that happened to a friend of a friend or a distant relative, these happened to Krishnan's own relatives and friends, "And I am sure they couldn't have been fabricated," she asserts. Ghosts of the Silent Hills, Krishnan's fourth book, is an anthology of ten such stories. Every story falls under what one would call classic ghost stories. The description game is strong and the eerie atmosphere is enough to send shivers down one's spine. "And, of course, the hills are in the midst of it all," the author says.
One for the night
At the risk of losing sleep at night, we ask Krishnan to share one story from the book. So, she tells us about the times when her family was living at Wildflower Hall, which is now an Oberoi property. The site was the summer residence of Lord Kitchener of Khartoum who was given the title 'the greatest Commander-in-Chief that India has ever possessed'. Her uncle, an Engineer with the Public Works Department, was travelling from Juri, a remote area, to their residence. The bus broke down along a lonely path and he had to hitchhike in an army truck and then had to walk as well when some 'spooky business' happened. "After he came back, he was sick for days and running a high fever. This is a story that we keep telling from time to time at family gatherings," she says matter-of-factly.
But the question that arises is, does Krishnan believes in ghosts? Though she does make it clear in the book's foreword that she herself has never experienced anything supernatural. "Unless one experiences it for themselves, one can't be a staunch believer. But I do believe in what other people tell me," says the author, who shares that she writes into the wee hours of the night. After a brief pause, she adds, "Maybe I will believe in ghosts when I see one," she says and laughs.