IMPRINTS OF PAST The Nahargarh Fort in Jaipur | Photo Credit: Bloomberg
Crisp in style and language, Deepta Roy’s Chakraverti’s “Cursed at Kedarnath and Other Stories” brings to fore haunting cases of reincarnation between the covers
Truth is stranger than fiction. So are the incidents recorded in Deepta Roy Chakraverti’s latest book “Cursed at Kedarnath and Other Stories”. Dealing with issues of haunting havelis, reincarnation, spirit communication and possession, the range is wide. One is about a woman deeply disturbed by a nightmare of being pushed from a mountain another is on the contact between a radio enthusiast school student and spirit of a man who committed suicide. Other stories deal with what Deepta saw and felt in different places. Like during her visit to the Temple of the 64 Yoginis at Hirapur, Odisha, the past events of women performing rituals there and the killing of a head priestess by a Roman trader play out. Likewise, at Nahargarh, she becomes privy to how a young court dancer, favourite of King Jagat Singh was murdered because of her influence over the besotted ruler.
Passionately involved in supernatural, Deepta, a psychic researcher and lawyer, says, “I am curious in delving into other worlds; in what lies just beyond the veil. And it is this journey which led to this collection.” She makes it clear that the book is not tantalise or sensationalise but communicate with those who have a thirst for adventure and want to know more about the world which is beyond the tangible. “I write as reality happens around me. And perhaps reality is more about a quest, or about seeking answers, rather than about sensationalising scenarios. I believe that stories of the supernatural will always have depth and an x-factor which just cannot be labelled.” She goes on to quip, “What is sensational or over the top, is nowadays reserved for our Hindi television screens which I feel try to manipulate the truth about other worlds to suit their TRPs.” While believers in paranormal will find the stories giving credence to their belief for the sceptics it will give points to ponder upon.
Lack of study
Deepta deeply laments the lack of study of paranormal and supernatural in India. “I believe we are the most unscientific people in the world when it comes to supernatural. We are afraid to look at the world of spirit with logic – because it is that – science, and reason, which proves there is something beyond. Would we scoff at Thomas Edison for his Spirit Machine, to communicate with other worlds or discard studies being carried out at major universities in the UK, Berlin and the US, which show that consciousness survives physical death? That the spirit can detach from the body and return at will?” Stating that anything which cannot be tangibly held and quantified is called hocus pocus here, she says, “This very attitude which is at the root of so much superstition in our country which is utilised to the hilt by various lobbies with vested interests who prefer that masses are prey to superstition and remain under their control.”
True to her word about scientific explanation, at the end of all stories there is a Diary section. Explaining its rationale, she says, “I write about reality of the unexplained which is around us in our day to day lives. And that is what led to the Diary section. For how can one delve into the unexplained without knowledge and understanding? There must be a reason for us to believe – or disbelieve in the reality of ghosts, and other dimensions.” Seeking out factual data to support her hypotheses or findings, she has checked scientific journals, historical references and studies being carried. “Every experience which I have documented, was in a way, a journey whose end I did not know. Would it be real? Was it all fake? It is in the process of validating, or discarding the possibilities that I ran through all the research.”
Through this section a reader gets a comprehensive explanation of the issues dealt with. For example in “Cursed at Kedarnath” dealing with reincarnation, Deepta cites the scientific work done Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. Jim Tucker of University of Virginia while providing historical background of Bhairav Jhamp from where people in past committed suicide. Correspondingly in “The Call of the Yoginis” drawing temple imagery vividly, she describes the cult of yoginis and how they protected people and land citing studies done by William M. Reddy of Duke University, North Carolina and Vidya Dahejia noted scholar of Columbia University among others. “Yoginis would heal and help those who dwelt in their protection. Old records also seem to tie them in with the Khandroma, and the Dakini – forms of the Witch Goddess.”
Interestingly in “Darkness in Nahargarh”, she claims that she communicated with a dancer’s spirit from centuries ago through a mirror. “From time immemorial, mirrors have been used as a tool in psychical communication. They serve as portals or windows through which the other world can gaze in, sometimes even step through. In modern times, research into mirrors has been done by Dr. Raymond Moody, forensic psychiatrist and doctor, who built a Psychomanteum in Alabama.”
The stories, “Weeping Child” and “Voices” set in Kolkata are very touching. The first is about a child who died in a blaze in a heritage building on Park Street while trying to locate her father there. Says Deepta, “Years ago no one listened to her cries for help and today too no one heeds to the pain and anguish. It is that suffering which keeps alive the haunting.” In “Voices” a distraught man who suffered a ghastly death at Kolkata’s Rabindra Sarobar Metro station connects with a young boy through radio. “It was startling how something as simple as a radio could connect with someone in the other dimension,” says Deepta. “In psychical research though, this is something which has been part of experimental study for many years now with likes Nikola Tesla, Hans Otto Koeing and Thomas Edison among other working on it.”
Hoping that in coming times there will more literature on supernatural and psychical but also research complimenting it, Deepta feels this will truly unveil the mystery and the subsequent superstition associated with them paving way for new thought and scientific discovery.