‘Darkness There But Something More’: Up, Close and Personal With the Two Editors Dr. Santosh Bakaya and Lopa Banerjee

In conversation with the two prolific authors and editors of the ghost story anthology ‘Darkness There But Something More’, Dr. Santosh Bakaya and Lopamudra Banerjee (yours truly). The book has recently been published by The Blue Pencil and is available in Amazon and Flipkart.
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Sharing some excerpts from the interview:

As for me, I always seemed to have a keen interest in the esoteric and the unknown, the mysterious, and my background in literature and also avid interest in films portraying the other world have only fueled this interest. The enigma of the world beneath the mundane flesh-and-blood world has intrigued me to no ends. Be it the dark, murky world of the three witches, Banquo’s ghost in Shakespeare’s Macbeth or the sombre, haunting spirit world of the Mughal times and the captivating, mysterious woman in Tagore’s Ksudhito Pashan (The Hungry Stone), the exploration of the other-worldly has filled me with an insatiable awe and wonder that has been hard to resist since my college days.
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Be it in the Veda or in the scriptures of our ancient culture, it has always been propagated that we are not only flesh and bones and our ‘Atma’, the greater consciousness, that never perishes, is a vital driving force of nature. So as a conscious exercise, I always ask myself what happens to us after we exit the physical world. Though I have known there are quite a few schools of thoughts regarding out of the body experiences, the paranormal and the supernatural, one contradicting the other, the thought that there is a realm engulfed in mystery and speculation and will remain like that for many, many years, gives me goosebumps.

It is this ongoing quest in my mind that resonated with the infectious vigour of Dr. Santosh Bakaya in narrating her own ghost story The Boulder and in curating mind-blowing stories infested with other-worldly beings, and thus, gradually, organically, our book ‘Darkness There But Something More’ took shape. While trudging the road, I also happened to pen my own story in the collection, which came to me rather unexpectedly, as it is actually my first short story written about the spirit world.

Do read the full interview here, friends:

https://learningandcreativity.com/santosh-bakaya-lopa-banerjee-interview-darkness-there-ghost-anthology/

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Darkness There But Something More: An Anthology of Haunting Ghost Stories

Back after a long time to the WordPress blogosphere, with a fresh new update for you all. Do you believe all ghost stories essentially need to have blood-dripping venomous vampires, blood-curdling ghostly shrieks and the deadliest of ghostly fangs? Do you also believe that some ghost stories can be emotionally gripping as well, to keep us at the edge of our seats while reading them? With this mission, me, along with my co-editor Dr. Santosh Bakaya, a prolific author and poet from India have come up with ‘Darkness There But Something More’, an anthology of 30 haunting, emotionally dense tales comprising of other-worldly beings, written by some very talented, seasoned as well as young authors dispersed all over the globe.

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The blurb of the book in Amazon touches upon the essence of the stories in a succinct way.

“Who has not been intrigued and enthralled by the spirit world, ghosts, other-worldly beings, or in other words, the paranormal? Ambiguous presences around us, whether in the form of orally narrated stories by our grandparents, or in the form of haunting, riveting supernatural stories in books and movies have held us in their spell, engaging, alluring us even to this date.

In fact, the prominence of paranormal investigators, ghostbusters and others documenting the other-worldly in today’s age overpowered by science and technology only points to the fact that we crave to push our boundaries as rational beings and delve into the phenomena which we cannot define or explain tangibly.

This anthology of 30 selected ghost stories by authors dispersed all over the globe celebrates the spine-chilling thrills and sense of awe and bewilderment of this very inexplicable world inhabited by the other-worldly beings. Come, experience the cataclysmic, weird, and at times, benevolent spirit world and you will never have a dull moment in this roller-coaster ride!”

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In the editor’s note, Dr. Santosh Bakaya writes:

“Some of us are wary of ghost stories, some are skeptical, scoffing at the very idea, and some prefer to ignore the topic with a supposedly wise shake of the head. Whether ghosts exist or don‘t, whether these spectral illusions are the result of an overworked imagination, whether they reflect our subconscious, the fact is, everyone likes a ghost story. It has never failed to enchant us with its eerie gothic ambience, of hooting owls, of bats hanging from cobwebbed ceilings, of terrifying screams, goose bumps, poltergeist activities, and also vulpine jackals howling, with their snouts raised to the moon! My mind is brimming with those horror stories of childhood, which have left an indelible impression.”

To which, I add, in my turn:

“The paranormal, ghostly, eerie world of spirits, witches, demons and other corporeal beings have been endearing, timeless entities in literature, films and other mediums of human communication ever since one can remember. As for myself, my early memories of encountering ghostly beings have been in the tales of the Arabian Nights, as I clearly remember the jinns and monsters, the impervious souls being invoked, or even coming out of bottles, casting magic spells, granting wishes, while even the seemingly benign narratives would be shaken and stirred by the thunderous gust of their sheer presence. The wondrous supernatural phenomena in Sinbad‘s tales that I read in school still lure me as magical memories with their gripping images; his fantastical adventures of encountering the monsters and other supernatural beings had me under their spell for quite a long time, when an indescribable chill ran down my spine, reading of the giants, monsters and the stories of entrapment during his vicarious voyages.
In my college years, my tryst with Victorian literature was embedded with the first memories of the spine-chilling image of Catherine‘s unquenched spirit roaming within the precincts of Wuthering Heights, the paranormal figure with icy hands that haunted her sadist lover Heathcliff. In fact, Heathcliff was steeped in her ghostly essence, and said: ―I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad.”

The cumulative passion of Dr. Santosh Bakaya to attempt to unravel this ambiguous terrain of the human experience has resulted in this anthology of fiction.

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Do check it in Amazon Kindle:

Amazon India (paperback):

https://www.amazon.in/Darkness-There-Something-Stories-Anthology/dp/1635359503/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1506311534&sr=8-2&keywords=darkness+there+but+something+more

Amazon India (Kindle):

Book Review: Knitted Tales by Rubina Ramesh

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The cover of ‘Knitted Tales: A collection of emotions’

When I first browsed through the pages of Rubina Ramesh’s maiden short story collection ‘Knitted Tales: A Collection of Emotions’, the blurb of the book gave me the impression that the stories would unfold the dark, grim and intriguing side of the human mind and the harsh truths that spill out as the inevitable consequences. But as page after page unfolded the subtle nuances of every story in the collection, I realized that the book was much, much more than a collection of dark, intriguing tales and the twists and turns and emotions that define each one of them. It was, in reality, a journey, a revelation of the quintessential human saga which spoke of the fragility, the vulnerability of the human soul, on one hand, and on the other, the strong, feisty, spirited flow of human life as well. Keeping this in mind, I would say that all the stories are defined by the sheer fiber of pathos and the captivating secrets evoked by the storyteller in Rubina, be it the unfolding of an eerie past rearing its head out of the closet in ‘A Secret in Their Closet’, the unfolding of the raw emotions of anguish, betrayal and thwarted trust in ‘Lolita’, or the unleashing of the stark, heart-wrenching tragedy in ‘Suvarnarekha’.

Keeping in mind the colossal trend of theme-based anthologies in today’s times, categorized in easy, water-tight genres of romance, thriller, supernatural, horror, feminist stories or children’s literature, here is an anthology that captivates even more because the myriad themes it represents makes it a massive, yet delectable canvas. For me, as I read it, each story filled in the gap of the earlier story, though they were not technically interconnected stories. However, the undercurrent of loneliness, deceit, agony and the fragility of being a human shines so strong in most of the stories that often times, while reading, I felt one story feeding into the emotions of the other. The narration, sometimes pacy, dramatic and sharp, sometimes lyrical and full of cadence, compels the readers to get at the heart of the emotions of the protagonist of every story. So be it the immigrant mother and her daughter who confront racism in ‘Chicklet’, the fiercely introvert filmmaker Abhijit who wronged his wife and the lady-love of his growing up years in ‘Forgive Me, For I Have Sinned’, the tremendously intriguing wife Raima with a clandestine online friend in ‘No Regrets’, or the vulnerable Jyothi in ‘The Other Woman’, somewhere the storyteller makes them all splinters and shards of our own unacknowledged selves, and we cannot help but get drawn into their fractured walls.

The element of the dark and supernatural is yet another strand which makes this assortment of stories of elemental human emotions so delectable and engrossing. Right in the first story of the collection, ‘The Secrets in Their Closets’, I had been startled with the stark revelation of long-buried crimes and the way the narrator revealed it in astonishing, shocking spurts. In ‘Betrayal’, the ghost of a dead husband presents a riveting, shocking tale of a conjugal life gone awry, a tale of domestic violence where the festering stench of morbidity seeps through the senses of a sensitive reader. In both ‘The Missing Staircase’, and ‘Cliff Notes’, the last story of the collection, though the themes are diverse, the narrators in both the tales take the element of the supernatural in its most elemental form and build it up to a crescendo where the readers are transported to a world, sinister yet irresistible, a world which we are compelled to explore, tearing apart our comfort zones. In the final analysis, I would say it is an extremely courageous and compelling book by Rubina where she has shown that the true power of a storyteller lies not only in writing intelligently crafted tales, but churning a world of tantalizing, memorable emotions out of the tales. ‘Knitted Tales’ is mostly successful in accomplishing that, where the last page makes the readers yearn for more.

Definitely a recommended read for lovers of short fiction.

Know more about the book and read all the reviews here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32446826-knitted-tales?from_search=true

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Author: Rubina Ramesh