This post is the result of a conversation I had with a friend last night. Over the course of two and nearly half hours we spoke, one of the topics was ghosts. She is mortally terrified of them. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think they exist.
My maternal grandfather however thought otherwise. In his life, he spend a lot of time dealing with ghosts. No, he wasn’t a hack or a quack. He had a perfectly respectable day job – a district judge – and a perfectly unusual hobby – chasing ghosts. He loved to call ghosts (or spirits?) to this plane and chat with them. My willing grandmother was the medium. Some times when he was not actively chasing ghosts, ghosts were chasing him. My mother’s generation of aunts and uncles have told me some of these stories. Stories about benevolent ghosts, irritating ghosts, and even shy ghosts. It made them seem so human that I am no longer scared of them. In fact, I have never been. I would love to meet a ghost/spirit and ask them questions. We have nothing to fear from them. We should be afraid of people rather than ghosts.
Ghosts seem to occupy much metaphysical space rather than physical. Such is our preoccupation with ghosts that even as I write a friend of mine in the city is making a movie essentially about ghosts. The script is rather a Satyajit Ray-ish one. Ray has a whole body of work which will tell you much about the Bengali preoccupation with the supranatural. It is not surprising that each family has a stock of personal ghost stories that are passed on from generation to generation. In my case, my grandparents’ rich experiences. I have never met my grandfather but he is such a legend in my eyes. In our Calcutta home, there hangs a sepia photograph of him on the back wall of the living room. He presides over all our conversations – a studious man with soft features and round black-rimmed glasses. ( I presume Gandhi had much effect on the fashions of the day as well.) It is difficult to imagine that this calm man once chased and was chased by ghosts. His adventures would make for a great children’s book.
I am yet to meet my first ghost and so don’t believe in them. But the legacy they have created by their presence/absence is a rich storehouse of stories for every generation that walks the earth.