11 October, 2013

#BookReview :: The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong by Shweta Taneja

Sometimes you go out looking for ghosts and sometimes the ghosts come looking for you...
When Kartik Godse's mother informs him that they are to move from Mumbai to the small hill station of Kurseong, he thinks his death is near. And the cause will be boredom. That is until he reaches there. On his very first day in this sleepy town, he is accosted by a frightened man and attacked by two strangers. This marks the beginning of his journey down an unexpected vortex of intruders, ghosts, hauntings and rumours. Armed with good instincts, a sharp scientific mind and two unlikely companions - gentle Tashi and the firebrand Opus, Kartik takes on the role of a ghost hunter and private eye to unravel a web of mystery, deceit and supernatural events!
At the centre of it all stands the old and dilapidated mansion called the Iyer Bungalow. What is the mystery of this bungalow? What do its ghosts want and what role does the mysterious DPRS have in all of this?
Join this brave trio as they make their way through the twisted bylanes of Kurseong, hot on the heels of villains both real and ghostly...

Let me get this one fact out of the way at the very beginning. I have spent the best part of my life in Kurseong – the school days. I love Kurseong more than the city I currently reside in and even more than my hometown. So, the moment I got the packing paper out of the way and discovered the title of this book, I started reading it. This book got to skip some 10-12 books on my TBR pile just because of the word ‘Kurseong’ in its title – so I may be a bit biased about it too.

When Kartik’s mother decides to move to the quaint town of Kurseong from the bustling city of Mumbai, he rebels. As any kid, he is worried about leaving behind everything familiar to move to a new place that is pole opposite to what he is used to. His main concern is if there is internet facility in Kurseong and what are the entertainment facilities there. Little does he know that an adventure is awaiting his arrival. Even before they enter the town, they are accosted by a scared man on the road. As they give him a lift to the town, Kartik’s adventure begins to unfold.

Having grown up in Kurseong where internet came in when I cleared my first board exam (and even then it was slow as a snail and as expensive as Rs.60 per hour) and only moving back to my home town after graduating college, I realised the difference between the life that I had led and the lives of my peers in the city.  To tell the truth, I have never even held an xbox in my hand and cable tv was a luxury that I enjoyed during my vacations at home – I was glad that I had led a carefree life of outdoor sports & the beauty of nature for company for recreation instead of being cooped up inside with various gadgets and number of private tutors. So the moment the book starts with  Kartik’s insecurities about what he was leaving behind, I could connect with him.

Kartik, Opus and Tashi takes us on an adventure that will not fail to remind you of the Famous Five.  The open minded and curious kids take on a journey that only they can take because of their curious nature and the clean slate that their mind is without the preconceived notions that the adults have. Nothing they do will make you think that how can a kid do that and their brave stint will have your cheer for them. The setting being the beautiful town that Kurseong is, it will draw you in with the lure that pure natural beauty holds can provide us. The author has managed to capture it quiet well if not completely. Keeping in mind that this book is targeted towards the younger mind, her language is just perfect. However, I had this odd feeling that something was missing and it could be the flow in the story that had a certain off-beat feel.

Overall, it was fun and entertaining and makes for a real good read for the younger generation.

Q & A with the Author

Hachette India: What is The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong all about? 
Shweta Taneja: It’s about three curious children, all around 12 years old, and what they do when they 
are faced with the mystery of an angry ghost and a town full of superstitious adults. It’s a Bollywood 
style mix‐up with hilarious characters and situations, a pinch of the paranormal and crazy things all as 
Indians have seen or faced.  

HI: What inspired you to write the book? 
ST: I consciously sat down to want to write a good old mystery for children, you know the kind that we 
as kids used to curl up in a corner all evening and read? Somehow I hadn’t seen much of that stuff in 
Indian bookstores, though I might be wrong. So I wrote down a synopsis, thinking I wanted to make it 
into a graphic novel (at that time, I still believed I could write a complete novel). But the deal fell 
through and much to my annoyance, brave Kartik, obnoxious Opus and even timid Tashi kept on hitting 
the walls of my head, demanding to be let out! Well, so I sat down every morning for six months, 
switched off my internet and phone and wrote their story. My chief inspirations for this book were the 
Famous Five, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series.  

HI: Why Kurseong?  
ST: I fell in love with drinking tea (and I write this while drinking tea) when I had visited Kurseong for a 
tea trip many years ago during my job as a journalist. Since that time, the town has left a deep 
impression on my heart, so I wanted to go back to the beautiful town in fiction. It’s not so well known to 
travelers who generally miss its charms for its bigger and older sister, Darjeeling, which might be 
another reason why. If you have read the book, you will also notice that Kartik’s mother is a tea taster 
and loves her cup of tea at any time of the day. That is my alternate profession if I ever quit writing 

HI: What is it with you and ghosts? Each of your novel or short stories has something paranormal. 
ST: You are right! I cannot write stories with just humans. It needs to have other species, whether dead 
or alive involved. Through their stories, I think I want to explore the underlying tension, prejudice and 
behavior that a society doles out to ‘others’. I have seen so much of it in our lives be it behavior towards 
a different caste, community, language, skin colour or features. Just in my case the others are not of 
another caste or country, but of another dimension, be it the paranormal or supernatural world. Ghost 
Hunters explores many opinions about ghosts. Only Kartik, who approaches it with an open, curious 
mind, can solve the mystery. My next, The Skull Rosary, which is a graphic novel on Shiva, explores this 
idea of otherness in characters who stand outside the societal logics. My new novel, which is meant for 
adults, has a tantric heroine based in Delhi who solves crime mysteries and is alongside fighting for the 
justice of the supernatural others living in the city (without any rights). Yes, I feel that’s why I am so 
interested in intersecting ‘us’ with the ‘others’.  

Buy this Book

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