IN his twenties, A.K. Ramanujan said in his unfinished introduction to The Flowering Tree, he began collecting tales from anyone who would tell him one — carpenters, tailors, aunts, mother. The editors of The Weretiger have been listening to a lot of tales as well, probably through moonless, power-less nights — the best for the kind of ghostly tales in this collection. It is the bane of every anthologist's life to be told what she has left out.

The editors forewarn you in their introduction that the book is meant to be a "good read", not a representative collection. Still, its geographical spread demonstrates that delight in the creepy and belief in the supernatural exist from the corners of the northeast to the gullies of Lucknow. These are not literary masterpieces, but tales told by ordinary people, many of whom believe them to be true. The book tries to recover the atmosphere of a time when, with no TV soaps at hand, you would sit through long evenings telling each other stories. There are tales of angry forests, haunted houses and stepwells with restless spirits on the lookout for human company. There is also a civic-minded murdered man's ghost who comes sensibly to the Bombay police to report his own death.

The Weretiger, edited by Shaiontoni Bose et al, Penguin, Rs. 250.


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