Ghost stories

It was a dark and stormy night. A special blend of insomnia and boredom led to my randomly flipping channels and landing on Zee TV. Yes, the cable company provides it now, so I can get my daily soapy fix of large-hearted daughters-in-law and their even larger joint families, if I should so desire. However the powers up there were feeling particularly kind towards me, so the D-I-Ls and M-I-Ls in the world had reconciled and decided to go shopping or do something equally pointless, so I was mercifully spared the finer nuances of interpersonal family relationships. Instead there I was, happily parked on the couch, looking at the finer nuances of the eye-candy of Mumbai.

Bollywood Tonight — the standard look-see into the happenings in Hindi filmdom, sneak previews of upcoming movies, interviews with starlets .. you know, the usual blah. So this particular edition had a preview of Vaastu Shastra. Scenes from the movie, interjected with comments from Ramu, followed by interviews with Chakravarthy and Sushmita Sen and so on.

On that note, isn’t it interesting how horror was a joke of a genre in Hindi films until not too long ago and acting in a horror film was akin to hammering a nail into your career’s coffin? (yes, the pun was very much intended) But now thanks to RGV, its actually become cool and hatke to star in them? Horror today no longer instantly brings images of Ramsay Brothers spookfests like Purani Haveli, Aakhri Cheekh, Sannata, Shaitaani Ilaaka .. well you get the picture. All real movie names by the way, didn’t make any of them up. Starred Deepak Parashar as the hero too, no less. All those who actually recognized the name of this chap and grimaced at the image it conjured in their head may please accept my sympathies.

Now that I think about it, this chappie had quite the career graph — debuting in Aap To Aise Na The (1980) known primarily for the tu is tarah se meri zindagi mein shaamil hai number, dancing the disco in Armaan (1981) of Bappi Lahiri’s ramba ho samba ho fame, loser husband of Salma Agha in Nikaah (1982) and finally being a standard fixture in Ramsay Brothers’ ventures. Made his mama proud, this boy.

And so we finally get to the real purpose of this blogpost. You didn’t think there was one, did you? Hah! Fooled ya! So the interviewer asked Sushmita if she believed in ghosts and Madame Sush replied — Yes, I do. So the interviewer, naturally curious, asks — is this just a publicity stunt, are you just saying this ‘cos you’re starring in a scary movie? So S came back with an interesting response — I believe in ghosts just like I believe in God.

Got me thinking .. if one can believe in God without the need for scientific proof that he/she exists, simply based on faith/hope/belief, why then do we look for proof to believe in the paranormal? Divine powers are as supernatural and unexplainable by physical and material laws as the occult is. So does the faith then simply come from the premise that God is good and all of the occult is dark and scary? What if there was a friendly ghost? (Remember Casper?) Would one be more inclined to believe then?

Why do ghost-believers often get mocked, but God-believers respected? Is it because the faith in God gives us the assurance that someone up there is looking out for us, giving us hope, whereas the belief in spooks doesn’t enhance our life in any way? Isn’t belief then, just a matter of convenience, at least to an extent?

27 thoughts on “Ghost stories

  1. Anirudh Garg

    This was a double treat ! An entertaining and thought provoking post. Loved the puns (soapy and the coffin) and the bit where the DILS and MILS go shopping.

    I distinctly remember asking the same question to a “preacher” type uncle(in India we call all of your fathers friends “uncle” btw) of mine when I was pretty chothu,still in shorts types. He was suitably impressed that I had so much “depth” of thinking at that age.Alas! it has remained there only. Ever saw the movie Big ?
    Religion is a complex topic.Tomes have been written on it and I could probably manage a few hundred pages myself :p.
    I do believe that a lot of religion is a convenience for either the individual or for the society as a whole
    to explain the world around them and to create some sort of “system” which makes the society function as a whole.

  2. gvenum

    I remember Deepak Parashar more as the no-good 2-timing husband on DD’s TV series “Swabhimaan” than the Ramsay movies. I loved those movies and those scary DD serials of 80′s which I grew along with. Nice memories those!

    Very funny yet compelling blog and a very interesting statement that “if u believe in God then one should logically belive in Ghosts too”. Its interesting to know that the very stories about God also included ghosts too but as Megha pointed, people still need proof to believe in ghosts and not for God. I guess its self-denial on part of those non-believers or just a matter of convenience as mentioned.
    Somehow I can’t help the feeling that people believe more in existence of ghosts than God but fail to accept it for the fear of dealing with the very thought of ghosts(and miss out on knowing cute little ghosts like casper). Its more in the sense that people like to believe they don’t exist.As usual my pointless 2 cents:)

    I liked the all the funs,puns in the blog which made my evening eventful(also got my 2cents out for the day).Thankooo!!

  3. Rajesh J Advani

    Hmmm. Good question.

    Hmmm.

    But what if I don’t exactly believe in God? Then is it okay that I don’t believe in ghosts? Or does the corollary then become true? That if I don’t believe in God, I’m not allowed to believe in ghosts either?

    About that Deepak Parashar thing. I always thought Rambha ho sambha ho song was from Disco Dancer. Hmmmm.
    Coming to which, remember that chap in Disco Dancer who is Mithun’s competition in the movie? Was that Deepak Parashar too by any chance?

    By the way. I don’t know if I mentioned – Nice post ;)

  4. Free Spirit

    I am so glad you posted on my blog that led me to discover yours.

    Your post was very interesting and I guess, before, I was one of those that believed in God but not in ghosts. Reason being, I was always taught as a child that God exists, that He is good and so on.

    When I asked my dad about ghosts, he told me that if they were real, then there would not be people doing bad things for fear of being haunted. I believed his logic.

    Years later, I experienced some things that all logic cannot, for the life of me, explain. I still have my doubts, but this time, not just about their existence, but also about my non-belief.

  5. Mustang

    hey btw u forgot deepak parashar’s only other hit ‘insaaf ka tarazu’ :p…horror movies were such fun during the ramsey days. now with tech, foreign inspirations, they ‘ve lost their ‘spooky’ chram, no more jagdeep or rajendranath providing comic relief in those haunted houses…

    neways, creation of evil spirits, and ghosts is man’s way of keeping faith in God alive. most people worship God when in trouble or scared. If this world was all happy, no problem place….it wouldn’t have demanded for God/devil etc… and mind you i’m not talking about existence/propagation/need/evolution for religion. i’ve totally different theory for that.

    enjoy ur moments of boredom/insomnia with ZEE !!!

  6. . : A : .

    Nice post. A very interesting thought:

    “Why do ghost-believers often get mocked, but God-believers respected? Is it because the faith in God gives us the assurance that someone up there is looking out for us, giving us hope, whereas the belief in spooks doesn’t enhance our life in any way? Isn’t belief then, just a matter of convenience, at least to an extent?”

    Gets you thinking! Thanks for this.

  7. Hifzur

    That’s a very good question. Frankly I havent given it much thought, even though, I believe in God, but not in ghosts.

    My belief stems from the fact that, there is for sure, a Power up there, that knows all things, and creates all things, and here, my faith in the existence of this Entity, is rock solid.

    But, I just dont believe in ghosts. And convenient it is.

    Which brings me to my next point. I, have, as Anirudh, pointed out, wondered the same, a lot of times – that religion is maybe a convenient, and powerful tool, to keep society in line with moral values. Muslim fundamentalists would bay for my blood, but heck, its my thought process, cant help it.

    So, if I came across a miracle, I would immediately try to look for a logical explanation for it, and so would be the case, if I saw something ‘ghostly’.

    Having said that, God, I believe, cant or wont create miracles out of thin air. There will always be a ‘physical’ connection to the event. A rain cloud wouldnt appear miraculously in a drought hit place. If researched enough, it was on its way there from somewhere. Maybe, that’s God’s way of sowing doubts in the minds of non-believers, to separate the chaff from the wheat? So, could that be the case with ‘ghostly’ incidents as well?

    Wouldnt really know. Sometimes, confusion is nice. But then again, isnt that what faith is all about? Believing, even though there is evidence to prove you are wrong? – the ultimate test of Faith :)

    I am one confused dude, and the best thing to do, is turn a blind eye to it. Follow what’s being said – its a lot easier on my feeble brain.

  8. Priyanka

    actually, i guess that whether you believe in ghosts (specifically) is related more to your view of death and after life rather than the larger question of “is there a God?” .As for other “paranormal” phenomena, again i generally think it depends on the kind of religious faith you have..but as you said, there’s a “respectability” in believing in God, as compared to ghouls..well said :))

  9. Paddy

    I take it from your blogpost that it can be said ” All beliefs are equal, but some beliefs are more equal than others”.

    Its a good post and in fact prompted me to think in the general direction and the product was my disorganized new post.

    -Paddy

    (I was thinking the answer was something on the lines of ‘My Preference, Your Bias, Their Prejudice’ which is the most convenient it can get for me..)

  10. oxy_moron

    Lovely lovely post:)
    so i guess the new way to greet you is, “aur zee, ki haal hain?”

    Ramsay bros have indeed brought about much delight and amusement to all their fans…dint really manage to scare many and were spine chilllarrrs at best, but were indeed pretty high on the fun quotient..though as a child i wasnt all that amused when i used to catch glimpses of scenes from their movies..but then, i guess people have different endurance levels and for someone who shivers at the mere mention of a shahruckk movie in town, a ramsay flick wud def provide some darr..but no denying tht the ramsays were unique-there warent any, there wudnt be any, quite like them…’naa bhooto, naa bhavishyati’..
    the new genre of RGV movies concentrate more on the scaring and startling rather than making the usual green face one tooth monster waala horror movie…so what you get are movies like vaastushashtra which would have some sidey story woven around a few good ‘scary’ scenes that would give you enough scope to take your friend out for it, once you have already seen the movie once and know all ‘the’ scenes, and then scream in his/her ears at those precise moments:D

    And about matters of faith etc…since all the people have already said so much here, i shall stay put…Smart ignorance demands tactful silence..let the ghosts of naivete haunt us till eternity! Otherwise once its demystified, somebody wud break into the song…ghost ghost naa raha..
    -Moron
    ps: Please bear with the longish post, one is at his attacking best when petrified:)

  11. Devdutt

    A sudden and bitter cold wave’s sweeping New England today, just in time for the chilling topic of your post :). I feel a big factor contributing to the difference with which we view God and the paranormal, is the innate human fear of death.

    Ghost Axiom # 1: Death +Unhappy/Unnatural = Spirits/Ghosts

    Whence we derive that ghosts are essentially unhappy, grouchy, blood-thirsty and generally not very pleasant company to have.

    Very few of us like to die and so ghosts creep us out. God on the other hand stands for all that is good in the world.

    I do enjoy a lil’ chill in my reading. Matter of fact, Stephen King is one of my favorite bathroom-reads. The obvious reason being….he scares me s***less. I know I know. Extremely juvenile and unfunny, but in my defense, I couldn’t post that on that pretentious rag I call my blog :).

    BTW I admire your resilience; you actually came back to my blog. Bringing with you, not an insignificant rise in my hit-rate, might I add.

    Wrt my “serious geek-writing”, you know how it is in geek-ville; appearances have to be kept up. You can run amok with your creative comments; the moderator shall look on with grandfatherly indulgence. : P

  12. zaph

    belief is not a matter of convenience, it is a matter of survival. we find it difficult to survive without some belief to anchor us; we need to believe that the future will be better, that our efforts of today will not be in vain. religion is a subset of belief; structured and made easily digestible for the masses. therefore, it is incorrect to compare ghosts and gods, since religion by definition is restrictive, and we are all tainted by it.

  13. Jay

    Aha! I knew someone out there would eventually question the Divine intervention that most of us seem to want to have at least once in our mortal lives. Since I think we’re kinda sorta on the same page here, I would ask you to read a couple of my blogs (the recent ones @ chilledsteam.blog …) that had God-related thoughts of mine. It is thought provoking how we, as human beings, question the existence or the truth of almost everything that happens around us, but we’re obstinate in observing the faith that we grew up with and almost never want to question it. So yeah, you’re right in saying that our acceptance of what is true and what is not is tailored to how perceptive we are about it. And honest to God (pun intended of course), I think it is a choice that we subconsciously make or are forced to make subject to the conditions that we’re raised in.

  14. Megha

    Thank you all for the comments! Althought the length of this post would have you believe otherwise, i’ve tried to keep my responses short.

    [Anirudh] Glad you liked the post. Yes I agree .. Religion is often used to explain the tougher whys of the world.

    [gvenum] Thank you! I have no clue about Swabhimaan, so lucky me. Yes people like/choose a belief system that works for them. That’s kind of what I meant by it being a convenience.

    [Rajesh] Good question. I think our reasons for our belief are what determine the answer to that. If I believe in God simply ‘cos I like the assurance of there being some greater good that will always offer me hope when there is none, then perhaps that reason is not enough to believe in something predominantly evil.

    Rambha ho sambha ho is definitely from Armaan (1981). The chap who plays Mithun’s competitor in Disco Dancer (1982) is Karan Razdan, DD being HIS debut movie. This is the same guy who went on to act in a couple of TV serials in the 80s, most notably Rajni in which he played Priya Tendulkar’s husband. Now of course he’s graduated to writing scripts — Qayamat (2004) and directing — Hawas (2004), Girlfriend (2004). Going by the quality of these, methinks he should have stuck to disco dancing.

    [Free Spirit] Glad you visited! Interesting point you mention. Kinda the difference between ‘I’m not sure if ghosts exist‘ and ‘I know ghosts don’t exist‘? I guess, this very difference when applied to the existence of God is what defines the agnost versus the atheist.

    [Mustang] Couldn’t agree more! There’s a special joy in the blood-curdling screeches, the dripping tomato ketchup, the extra long nails, the old mansions with strategically placed cobwebs and the scariest of them all – comedy routines from Jagdeep and Rajendranath.

    Interesting thought that. So the existence of one depends on the other? If evil didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be a need for good either. Hmm..

    [. : A : .] Thank you! And thank you for visiting too! :)

    [Hifzur] You mention — “believing, even though there is evidence to prove you are wrong — the ultimate test of Faith”. Is that any tougher than believing when there is no evidence? Just thinking aloud..

    [Priyanka] Ah yes, very good point. Belief in life after death certainly contributes to the belief in ghosts. But if we were to broaden the scope from ghosts to general forces of evil, forces that attempt to upset the balance of good and evil in the world, (for lack of a better way to put it), then, would one need the ‘life after death’ belief for that? Oh, and thanks for coming by and commenting! :)

    [Paddy] Glad it made you think, since that’s really all I was hoping to achieve. Interesting post, yours!

    [oxy_moron] Absolutely loved the puns in that comment of yours! Indeed there was nobody quite like the Ramsays when it came to horror. Do I hear a collective sigh of relief from the audience for that? :)

    [Devdutt] Yes indeed, my blog is always the place to dump painful PJs on the unsuspecting reader. Be it me or the other readers. :)

    But on a more serious note, yes, I think the ghost = evil, god = good dichotomy makes a big difference in affecting our willingness to believe in either.

    [zaph] Ah, very well said — “religion is a subset of belief”. But what of those who believe in some of the tenets of a religion, but not all. Is belief then (at least religious) simply a subset of the religion in those cases?

    [Padmanabhan] Ah, so gods and ghosts apart, RGV is a god when it comes to movie-making eh? :)

    [Jay] Hm, very true. The environs we’re raised in, the ‘truths’ that we take for granted as we grow up especially in matters of faith, do go a long way in shaping our beliefs today. Will definitely check out your blog and read what you have to say!

  15. Twin-Gemini

    A very insightful post. I kind of lied the structure of this post. Started off with a nice channel flip to a bit of jokes and then to the key point of belief in ghosts. You a writer/journo by any chance?

    I very much believe in ghosts. Have had a personal encounter too :-) Talking about the paranormal, I very much miss the “Honi Unhoni” show. They were damn good. At that time, my hindi wasnt as good as it is now, but still understood most of what was happenning. And I have searched the net so much for these shows and no one seems to have it. If anyone knows about a site that sells these or offers for free please do let me know ;-)

  16. Megha

    [Anand] Thank you for your generous praise! I am just a geek who loves to write, but am flattered that you found my writing worthy enough to ask that question. Many thanks!

    A personal encounter hm? This is a story waiting to be told am sure, so do share :) And good old Doordarshan shows .. *sigh* .. cheesy and badly made at times, but still such an integral part of one’s childhood memories. I’ll be sure to let you if I ever find some kind soul sharing/selling them. Will be so worth revisiting!

  17. Twin-Gemini

    A Geek with a flair for writing…hmmm! You have to blame your Sun sign for that characteristics. Most of the geminis have a good writing skill.

    Actually, these shows werent that bad at all, when compared with the other shows that DD typically makes. And so far, I have not seen anything close to this show (there are Discovery shows about ghosts, but nothing close enough to beat these). About the personal encounter: Even though I remember it in vivid detail, will need to think about it all over again so as to pen it and also my side of the facts verified (from close relatives) before I can publish them. It wont be too long before I put it up in my blog :-)

  18. Braveheart

    Assuming that you are taking ghost to be an evil God, rather Satan, this is what I’d say –

    You have rightly pointed out that there is no reason God should be more respected than Ghost. But we the weak human beings protect us always through defence mechanisms. God is our biggest spoof, out strongest protector. We take refuge in his arms all the time. But Satan should be worshipped just as much. I am saying this because if you dont worship him, you fight with him. And fighting with him is fighting with urself. It weakens you. It wouldn’t ever let you discover yourself.

    So the key lies not in surrendering yourself, but absorbing him into urself, and hence, growing bigger than him. You should not reject what you are afraid of, you should submit, absorb and grow through it.

    Akshaya

  19. Megha

    [Anand] Yeah, isn’t it convenient how we use our zodiac sign to explain our many quirks? :) Not that the ability to write is a quirk, but I am speaking in a more general sense. Of course I tend to use the ‘Its a manufacturing defect, deal with it‘ logic just as often.

    Looking forward to your spook-tale on your blog! :)

    [Braveheart] Hmmm.. Very interesting way of looking at things. More in response to your comment in a blog post coming soon (to a theatre near you). Thanks for coming by!

  20. Pingback: A walk in the clouds.. » The ugly, the bad and the good

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