Millennium Post

Ghost protocol

No sooner you open the book, you are transported to a world touched by the eerie and the inexplicable. There is no science or reason by your side as you sail through the eight stories which talk about unthought of things and take you through strange experiences. You are all alone (the feeling of how solitary is the exercise of reading is perhaps best experienced while reading this book) in the world of the paranormal. The plots and people of the book walk a fine line between the ordinary and the paranormal.

To keep you company in this ‘solitary’ process is the Chattopadhyay family. The family’s paranormal connection runs across generations and you meet the same members in all the eight stories of the book with only the change of the protagonist. The common thread that defines the protagonists of the book is an odd enchantment that they carry.

The stories are set around 1930s in the picturesque town of Monghyr in Bihar. Family bonds form the backdrop to all the stories and old-world values and the laid back lifestyle of a bygone era lend them a unique charm.

Reading Lamplight is an experience of a different kind altogether. You turn the pages dead scared of what you might discover on the next page.

Some lines simply make you shiver in fear and look around to ensure that what you are doing is – just reading a book. This experience matches up to listening to ghost stories from friends on a drunk night of an ordinary vacation. The liquor keeps you in high spirits and you know you are only in a story telling session, but the moment you have to get up to answer nature’s call in the washroom constructed a few feet away from the room where your friends have all broken into laughter since the story has been told, you start chanting to ward of evils you are very sure do not exist.

But even as the stories send a chill down your spine, the gentleness of the characters touches your heart ensuring that the overall effect of the reading experience is warm and positive. Just like the free nature of spirits, the book’s characters have a mind of their own. They are not predictable. They amuse and surprise as they act and behave like ordinary people in the most extraordinary and unnatural situations.

Kankana Basu manages to get a slight tinge of humour too to the narrative which lightens the overall tenor of the book. But the light-hearted statements also add to the shock that certain situations bring in once the jokes are over. When Shontu, for example, talks about how desperately he wants to ride the bicycle gifted to his younger brother Montu on his birthday by the family’s elders and describes all the plans he makes to somehow get an opportunity to save himself from the ever vigilant eyes of Ramu Kaka, guarding the cycle, little is known what problems Shontu will ride into when he gets his much-sought for ride.
The book forms an easy and quick read not only because of the smooth flow of language but also because of the suspense the stories hold. The human tendency to look under beds and behind closed doors to check for unwanted creatures on the slightest hint of fear can be experienced even while reading Lamplight. You would want to jump from one page to the other with the speed of a missile to know what happens next and what is causing the inexplicable series of events.

The book also tells the story of those ‘living in the other world’ such as the gluttonous, desperate-to-be-married Tigmanshu. The account of a ‘ghost’ wanting to fulfill his heart’s desire to be married once before attaining freedom from the life of a ‘distressed soul’ wandering in search of peace is ‘cute’ to say the least and the story of how he manages to fulfill it is one of the not so scary stories.
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