A Peek into the Eerie World of Ramendra Kumar’s Stories
(Shriek and other Spooky Tales)
Indian writers over the last few years have explored various genres in children’s literature. From pure fantasy to social and current issues, to psychological and emotional problems, there have been books on various conventional and unconventional subjects.
Yet, few Indian writers have dared to venture into the unexplored territory of horror when it comes to writing for children’s literature.
Horror stories evoke fear, and yet have tremendous fascination for people of all ages – including youngsters. Therefore it is not surprising that noted award winning author Ramendra Kumar has struck a chord with his audience – the young readers with the latest addition to his library of forty diverse titles.
‘Shriek and other Spooky Tales’ is one of the recently published books with an intriguing collection of eleven short stories that keep the reader engrossed, curious and hungry to read more, satiating the appetite for the strange and unknown world of horror and terror. From ghosts inhabiting the human world to spooky cats to haunted houses and vampires, the stories by Ramendra Kumar, combine perfectly measured ingredients to come up with exciting and innovative recipes that tickle the horror loving taste buds of the young readers.
The seeds of the book were sown when Ramendra Kumar’s own children – Ankita and Aniket were growing up.
Ramendra Kumar explains, “It was my pleasurable ‘duty’ to tell them a story every night. While I told them all kinds of stories, each and every one a product of my imagination, what they liked best were ghost stories”.
Adding his own audio-visual effects, Ramendra Kumar made the stories a thrilling roller coaster ride for the kids. “By the time the vampire started gobbling up its hapless victim or the ghoul finished dancing on a nameless grave, Aniket would be sitting on my lap, looking up at me and holding me tight!” he reveals. While it was a satisfying experience, it was also challenging “since I had to cook up new kinds of paranormal fiends of every variety to satisfy the palate of my own darling little ‘monsters’.”
Ramendra Kumar’s incredibly fulfilling encounter at a residential school in Kodaikanal where he narrated one of his most macabre stories ‘The Morgue’ to a bunch of seventy students atop a hill in the middle of the night further strengthened his resolve to experiment with the genre of horror stories.
Needless to say, there was resistance from a few publishers who found the stories too spooky. But that did not deter Ramendra Kumar. While he concedes that such a comment may have been relevant a couple of decades ago, it certainly was not valid today. “Now with Harry Potter, the Twilight series plus the stuff the kids are exposed to on OTT platforms the scenario is completely different. Horror in all its grisly, ghostly and gory manifestations is out there hammering at our eye balls,” Ramendra Kumar asserts.
The stories in the book transport the young reader to various locations across the length and breadth of the country – from Rourkela to Jharkhand to Uttarakhand to Coorg and Landour, and beautifully capture the varied landscapes that make this country so exquisite and unique.
While setting is important to any genre, Ramendra Kumar feels that in horror stories, it is as important as the protagonist. “It can make or break a story. In many of my stories in ‘Shriek…..’ I have worked very hard in creating the right kind of ambience to make the story more impacting.”
Another interesting facet about the book is the recurring themes of revenge and karma, wherein one crime begets another, with the motivation for crime often being jealousy or greed.
“I have always been fascinated by retribution as a theme. I would hate to see a sin go unpunished, nemesis not catching up with the criminal,” says Ramendra Kumar. He adds, “I believe in simple, almost idealistic storytelling where, in the battle of good versus evil, even if the evil wins the battle, it always loses the war.”
The book also includes stories about children who are marginalized and ostracized from society simply because they are ‘different’ from the others. Ramendra Kumar traces these characters to his own childhood experiences, where he was constantly bullied and was an object of ridicule.
Ramendra Kumar elaborates, “I know how it feels to face exclusion. Through these characters I have tried to portray what such kids go through, for no fault of their own. How it feels to be treated forever like an outsider – an object of derision or at best, pity.”
The characters in his Ramendra Kumar’s book also include cats, who are often seen as symbols of evil.
“I have always had a kind of fear of cats, especially black ones. I find their eyes fascinating as if they are watching and judging every movement of yours”, explains Ramendra Kumar. While he adores dogs, and has even written a book on his pet Aryan, cats, he says, make him terribly uncomfortable.
The amazing response to the book is encouraging. It was number one on the Amazon bestseller list in three categories within days of its launch. The book has received rave reviews from critics and readers alike, and there is already a demand for more spooky books.
While this may be Ramendra Kumar’s first book of horror stories, it certainly will not be the last – and we readers (both children and adults) look forward to being ‘horrified’ again and again!
About the Author
Dr. Monica Khanna (Ph.D., M.Phil., M.A.) works as Associate Professor at Indira Institute of Business Management, and Consultant at Indian School of Management and Entrepreneurship. She has around twenty-five years of experience in the field of academics as well as in journalism and business. She has published ten books, including scholarly books on gender studies, books on grammar and composition, books of short stories and picture books for children. She also writes a weekly column for a Navi Mumbai based newspaper, Newsband. She lives in Navi Mumbai with her family. She may be reached at: [email protected]