Are ghosts real?

Are ghosts real? As an author interested in the paranormal and supernatural, this is the question I get asked a lot. Do I believe in ghosts? Have I experienced any? Do I think ghosts exist around us? I’ve had a few experiences which defy logic. And I’m okay with them, because you cannot find a logical or scientific answer to everything. Continuing the blog series of real life ghost stories, here are four more tales.

 Mystery man in Patna

When she was little, a friend of mine moved to a new home in the outskirts of Patna. It was pretty much undeveloped then and the kitchen window overlooked a farm. Everything was great except her mom noticed a man sitting outside in the farm, when she cooked. He looked like a farmer and stared at her, silently. She called out. No response. She ignored and continued cooking. Every afternoon, he was there, for five odd hours, staring in through the kitchen window as her mother made food. In the beginning, she was freaked, but later on her mother got used to the situation and ignored the man. “He remained there, sitting outside in the overlooking farm, staring, for five hours, for two years,” she said. “We assumed he was a peaceful ghost and let him be.” Two years later, he vanished just as mysteriously as he’d appeared.


Woman in white in Manali 

A long time ago, as a teen, I’d gone to a camp from my school. We camped in a valley near Manali. It was a beautiful clear night, the sky was laden with stars. We’d finished dinner. It was late and we sat on a ledge away from the camps, chatting.

About 30 meters behind the ledge, I saw a figure in white. At first I thought it was girl, but there was something weird about the figure. It was hazy and gliding towards us. Not walking. I blinked and asked others if they saw the same thing as me. The figure shimmered in the starlight almost like she had a torch under the white ensemble. And kept gliding towards us. All of us were now looking at the figure, wondering what it was. We tried to fit a lot of logics, but nothing worked. The figure vanished a few minutes later. Till now I don’t know what it was.

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The fat lady in Haridwar

This story comes to me from my grandmother who recently passed away. By retelling her tale, I hope to immortalize a part of her. She’d heard it from her brother, who’d heard it from the rickshaw driver who experienced this. One day this rickshaw driver gave a ride to a really fat lady who wanted to go to Har-ki-paudi, the popular holy ghat on the banks of Ganga. Surprisingly, though she was really fat, the driver peddled the rickshaw as if it was empty. She felt weightless. They reached the ghat, the lady stepped down and asked him to wait. “I’ll be back in 15 minutes after a quick dip in Ganga.” She gave him a handkerchief tied up into a pouch. The driver waited for the lady. He waited an hour, a few hours and begun to worry. Had she drowned? He went to the ghat and found her clothes, floating in the water, without any woman inside them. He finally remembered the little handkerchief that she had given him and opened it. The kerchief had precious emeralds and rubies and diamonds inside it. He went back to the same road he had picked her up from and inquired about the lady. Finally he found out that she was a rich lady and had died in an ashram with a wish to take a dip in the Ganga on her lips. A year before she’d met the rickshaw driver. He’d been rewarded with money because he’d helped with her last wish.

Backtracking woman on the Lonavala road

“It’s a true story,” stresses my friend from Mumbai, who called up to understand exactly what he’d seen. Early morning, as he was returning with his two friends from Lonavala back to Mumbai, they saw a woman. “We were driving slow as we wanted to enjoy the early morning scenery on that road. The woman from afar looked like a beggar, really tall, thin and lanky.” The weird thing was, she was walking backwards. They were driving slow, at 40km/hour, and passed her and saw her disappear into their rearview mirror. “Maybe she was drugged or a nutcase,” he says, “else why walk backwards?” Though they were tempted to, they didn’t dare turn around and see who the person was upclose.

Read a real-incidents inspired ghost tale based in Manipal

Have any paranormal incidents to share? Put in a comment below. I would love to hear your experiences.


Why tantriks sit on top of a dead body on a new moon night and meditate

I don’t like death. I cringe everyday when I read about it in the newspaper. It happens to a stranger, unexpected, when you’re just eating a burger in a café. It happens after a prolonged, wearisome illness. It shockingly and violently happened to those little innocent children in Peshawar last month. I cringe every time I read about death, in newspapers, on social media. There’s no escaping it.

When I shifted to a new city, away from my family, each time the phone would ring, my first thought would be of something bad that has happened to my family back home, usually death in all its possible scenarios. Always anticipating bad news.

Near my house, I once saw a man lying askew in a corner. He smelt rotten; flies hovered over him. The cops didn’t touch the cadaver, as if the dead can cause death to the living, waiting for the hearse, the corpse pickers, the professionals to come and pick them up. For we all feel like that, that somehow death would catch us unaware, like a really bad cold.

Then I visited the Manikarnikaghat in Banaras, one of the main banks of the River Ganges, where about five to ten dead bodies are burnt every minute, and I was strangely attracted and repulsed by the place. I stood there, tightly hugging myself, looking at people in the business of cremation and how they went about their work – fetching logs, putting them efficiently on to the silk covered body, smashing the spine to break the corpse if it didn’t burn well – all with an ease of writing emails or throwing garbage. And I saw the others, the living, who stood on the sidelines as well, some involved, some bystanders like me, standing there. As if we were watching someone fight, or as if it was an accident on the road. Death both fascinates and repulses the living. It also causes fear and all kinds of superstitions.

While researching on my tantric fantasy, Cult of Chaos, I came across a dreadful tantrik ritual related to death, which was both awful and intriguing. Called Shava Sadhana, it is whispered about in conversations as if the very act of talking about it might bring in bad luck (and fatality) to the person. It’s practiced in a graveyard, on a new moon night. The sadhaka (the one meditating) is supposed to go through rigid rituals and then sit on top of a corpse all night, meditating all alone. Not any corpse, it has to be a fresh, complete, and unharmed one.

There’s a reason here for doing something that is obviously shocking. Tantrism believes that you have to set yourself free from the shackles of society, and its morality and religion. Started in medieval times in protest to the puritanical Brahminical religion which was ridden with racism, casteism and dogma, the tantrik activity accepted anyone into their folds as a student and encouraged them to unlearn everything they had learnt growing up in a society and become like an infant again. Like a baby who can eat her own shit or human meat without any judgment, drink her own pee and doesn’t think of nakedness as anything but there.

Shava Sadhana is in many ways the culmination of the tantric philosophy. It’s about touching and exploring that one thing you so fear – death – and the one thing you feel is impure – a dead body. All night, sitting on top of a corpse, realising you’re alone in your death, that dying is the supreme truth. That all of us have to go through it. Alone. And in that way, try and purge your fear of death.

I recreated the ritual in a scene in my tantrik fantasy, Cult of Chaos. Even though I took a lot of liberties in terms of rituals, there was one feeling that I got from it, which I think was true to the ritual. When Anantya Tantrist, the tantrik detective in the book, sat with a corpse touching her naked body, she (and I with her) felt alive. We touched the clammy, cold flesh of the dead and we could feel the blood pounding in our veins and hearts, could feel the way our lungs filled with oxygen, could feel life coursing its way through us. Being with a corpse also made her (and me with her) realise the ultimate truth – that she’s mortal and she’s going to pop off soon enough. As will I.

As will all of those I know. For all humans go that way. Experiencing the ritual, the scene, with my character was so powerful that it still remains with me. It is one of the most brutally truthful scenes I’ve written. My fears of death are still very much alive, especially death of my loved ones, but I can see it not as a disease that can somehow, somewhere be avoided, but as the truth, that will come to us all one day. No matter how much we fear it.

Cult of Chaos, Harper Collins; Rs 350.

First published in

Death and the desire for immortality

I so don’t like Death. I cringe everyday when I read about it in the newspaper. It happens to a stranger, unexpected when she’s just eating her food. It happens when someone is happy and shopping. It happens after a prolonged, wearisome illness. Every time I read it, I imagine scenes of violent (and can I add rather imaginative) deaths in which I imagine the people I love (not me, for that’s one thing I am not scared of, weirdly). I am not masochistic, I can’t help seeing these images. And they leave my heart palpitating with fear. Makes me cringe. Every time.

I don’t like to talk to Death. I ignore it when it is walking around my house. I wash my hands, again and again and I mutter mantras to protect myself from it. I pray that it would not happen to me or the ones I love. I don’t talk about it to anyone. If there’s a death in someone’s house, I don’t even go there. What if I or someone I love catches that disease? For Death for me (and if you let yourself accept it, for you too) is a disease. It’s a disease that cWilliam_Blake_Satan_in_Gloryatches all of us humans in the end. It’s there, hiding behind in the ends and beginnings of every story, every myth, every philosophy discussion that has happened and will happen. We live to question or solve the idea of death. Death is at all our doors, all the time. And it doesn’t need an invitation to come inside. (My fingers are crossed so that I can ward off Death as I write this blog, for some primal me fears that it will come because I am talking about it).

Death is the reason that immortality is such a fascinating idea to me. Escaping the clutches of Death! Living on forever, without the fear of dying! The very idea to live forever! As a brain in a box of metal, or a Russian avatar, or as a spiritual immortal canoodling with hot naked bodies in a fancy heaven, immortality is a soma which I want to drink from, given a chance. Do you desire it? How much would you want to sacrifice, to give away in your desire of it?



A few days ago, I created a character who is an immortal in the new book I have been working on. I won’t tell you who he is, but let me tell you one thing I realised as I was working on him. In all his dialogues, in the way he carried himself, the way he spoke, the way he just didn’t laugh anymore, but stared, the way he didn’t gobble up his drink, but just took a sip, as if he had all the time in the world—he just seemed so weary. That was one emotion that I could smell from him. He felt so tired. So weary of living. So exhausted with the idea of continuing to live, on and on, without refreshing himself, ever.

I was surprised at this. After all, he had a boon to live forever! Why wasn’t he enjoying it? Why did it sound more like a curse to me? I hadnt planned on making him to tired, but that’s what I could smell while writing about him.

My immortal character has made me thankful that I would die sometime in the future (small cringe). I don’t want to live through a lot of things—like world wars, famines, deaths all around me. I don’t want to live as the world completely changes around me—adapting again and again to these changes and continuing to learn, adapt, make new friends, see old ones die and wither away. I don’t want to live carrying all experiences —failures, hopes, dreams, successes, sorrow, happiness—as a burden on my bent back.

Nopes, I don’t want to do that.

So bye, bye immortality. I would rather start afresh. Feel differently? Tell me about it!