After hearing a lot of admiration about The Disappearance of Tejas Sharma and Other Hauntings by Manish Mahajan, I finally got a chance to read this book. The book is a collection of 12 short stories having an element of supernatural in each of these. The plot of each story is different and there is no monotonous tone. The plots of these stories take the readers from a haunted railway station to a peculiar house to a ghostly well to an eerie peepal tree (Ficus religiosa) to a future amusement park to a couple of strange photographs to the soul of the deceased to a valley of the death. However, none of the stories are frightening enough to give you a bad dream. On the other hand, a number of these stories throw light on the tragic side of human life.
Writing shot stories is not an easier task and this task becomes more difficult when the author is trying his hand in the genre of horror. However, whatever Mahajan has done in this book can be placed in the category of commendable. As a short story writer, Manish’s forte is his versatility and range. The stories in the book under review exhibit an astonishing variety of theme and setting. These stories are diverse both geographically and culturally. Set in different parts of India, the stories of this book demonstrate different moods and tones. This shows that the author knows Indian cities as well as he understands the villages. Ha can tell a racy tale and probe into psychology of human beings. While the stories of this book are not creepy, I have to say that most of the stories are well-executed and end in a satisfactorily manner. However, at the same time, there are a few that could have been better and seem like missed opportunities. This is especially true for stories like ‘Valley of the Dead’ and ‘Lost’. It seems that the author had a well-defined theory of the short story to which he tried to conform in his own work. In some of the stories, such as in ‘Raag Bhimpalasi’, the author allows the readers to know the supernatural, to hear his thoughts and experience his feelings. This is one of my favorite stories in the book. Another story that left a long-lasting impression on me is “Her Unkempt Promise”. The ending of this story leaves you in a state of shock.
The author has a unique style of writing. The language used in the book has both depth and lucidity. In fact, the supernatural stories of this book, in a way, remind you the writings of Henry James. Ghost stories by Henry James are gems in the field of horror fiction. I would definitely recommend you to read Henry James if you have not read him so far.
I finished the entire book in one sitting as the book has only 85 pages and the author is a master story teller. You feel some more stories could have been included in the book. The short length of the book leaves you in a feeling of longing more. I found it difficult to give a rating to this book. I kept oscillating between ‘3 stars’ and ‘4 stars’ for a long time and finally gave this book a decent and strong ‘3 star rating’. The reason for this rating can be related to both the lack of creepiness in the stories and abrupt ending of one of the stories. However, I guarantee you that you will find a modest bunch of the supernatural stories satisfactorily commendable to strike a chord within your heart in this book. Go for it!