Readings in May

Last year, I made a list of 13 books that I thought were ideal Halloween reading. One of the books mentioned was Ruskin Bond’s A Face in the Dark and Other Hauntings. After doing that post, I felt like reading the book once again and so when I saw it on the library shelf, I had to pick it up.

Ruskin Bond is an Indian writer of British descent who maintains that one doesn’t have to believe in ghosts in order to enjoy a ghost story. The collection has 28 stories ranging from the terrifying A Face in the Dark (which I first read in high-school and can never forget) to the playful A Haunted Bungalow to the macabre Night of the Millennium. There is also the story of a female Bluebeard Sussanah’s Seven Husbands which has been made into a Hindi movie.

First Line: You don’t have to believe in ghosts in order to enjoy a ghost story.
Publication Details: ND: Penguin, 2009
First Published: 2004
Pages: 197
Source: DPL [B – 447984]



Gregorio Martinez Sierra is a renowned Spanish poet and playwright. His 1911 play Canción de Cuna is considered his masterpiece. Consisting of only two scenes that have a gap of 18 years between them and connected together by an interlude, the play still manages to hold interest. Set in a convent, we have in the first scene a group of young teenage novices ‘celebrating’ the birthday of the prioress. At the end of that scene, somebody abandons a baby girl at their doorstep and though motherhood is also denied to these women, they find a way to adopt her. The next scene, has this young girl – Teresa – all grown-up and about to get married. She has filled a lacuna in their lives and now all the nuns feel the terrible loss they are about to endure.

Though the play is so much about the denial of things (which can provide its own kind of solace), there is also plenty of humour in the dialogues. Here is the Vicaress, Sister Crucifixion, she is called, commenting on a some particular style of the wedding dress:

I neither understand nor wish to understand these things – pomp and vanity, artifices of the Devil, who, they tell me, is very well acquainted with the dressmakers of Paris… 601

First Line: A room opening upon the cloister of a Convent of Enclosed Dominican Nuns.
Original Title: Canción de Cuna

Original Language: Spanish
Translator: John Garrett Underhill
Publication Details: (From the Anthology: Sixteen Famous European Plays)
NY: Random House, 1943
First Published: 1911
Pages: 569-618
Source: CL [822 C32S]


Chandrashekhar Azad is a legendary figure in the annals of Indian history. At the time of his death, the commander-in-chief of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army, he first came into prominence as a fifteen year old who took part in the first Non-Co-operation movement launched by Gandhi. Arrested by the police and brought before a magistrate, he remarked that his father’s name was Independent, his address was Jail. As for his own name, the young (and at that time) Chandrashekar Tiwari, replied that it was Azad (Free). This sobriquet became the defining feature of his life. He could never be arrested by the British police and when at last he was surrounded by a police-force, he single-handedly fought as long as he could and then running out of bullets, used the last one to shoot himself dead. He was not even 25 at that time.

This biography of his (first published in three volumes in the 1960s) by one of his most trusted lieutenants, Vishwanath Vaishampayan, details the life of the revolutionary. His birth in a poverty-stricken but extremely self-respecting family, his desire for freedom from the British, his initiation into the revolutionary movement, his care and concern for his fellow-revolutionaries, his self-sacrificing nature…

The last part of the book deals with the question as to who betrayed Azad to the police. This makes for some very depressing read because we find such people jumping into the revolutionary movement who because of their self-seeking nature destroyed the party from within. Even more repulsive is the fact that while the martyr’s parents continued to live in poverty, those who betrayed Azad were bestowed awards by the government of independent India. What do they say about a country that does not honour its heroes….?

First Line: Azad ka adarsh charitr tha, isliye ve safal neta they.
Publication Details: ND: Rajkamal, 2007
First Published: 1965-1967
Pages: 339
Source: Bought @WBF 2008

13 thoughts on “Readings in May

  1. Oh, these are interesting, Neeru! And I think it's true: you don't have to believe in ghosts at all to enjoy a good ghost story.


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