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A Neighing Man And His Son: ‘The Puffin Book of Spooky Ghost Stories’ — An Excerpt

Get ready for 13 ghostly, ghastly tales for bravehearts. Be prepared for eerie hauntings, dreadful happenings and creatures that go bump in the night. In this spine-chilling collection you will encounter a creepy spirit that occupies a deserted bungalow, the reincarnation of a goddess who wants the sacrifice of blood, an ominous swing that makes one fly far away into a dark, deathly world, and the sheer wrath of the dead. Read about a haunted school, a spooky wind-chime, a possessed doll and other supernatural elements that will take you on a nightmarish expedition into fear. Written by the best contemporary authors including Ruskin Bond, Jerry Pinto, Paro Anand, Subhadra Sen Gupta, among others.
Here’s a small excerpt from‘The Puffin Book of Spooky Ghost Stories’ for your child that is sure to fascinate them and make them want to read more!


Like Father Like Son — Paro Anand
Mr Anderson had stayed with us for three months. I’d got on very well with him. I think that was because both of us were slightly offbeat. He actually discussed stuff with me the way no other adult did. Although he worked in the Norwegian company where my dad worked too, Mr Anderson was also interested in the supernatural and other weird stuff. Not like most company executives who can be so stuffy.
In fact, that’s why he had come to India. He wanted to study Tantra and the exotic, mystical things that India is famous for. He also got very involved in yoga. There was an ashram in Bangalore that he visited once. He came back so excited about it that he put in an application for a year’s leave, and then called his wife and son in Oslo to ask them to join him.
He said he would take about a fortnight to settle down at the ashram and make arrangements for them to join him. ‘It’s wonderful there, Bhavani,’ he said to me one day. ‘You would love it. So peaceful. So spiritual. Like heaven on earth. If I were to die there, I would die a happy man.’
‘Oh, don’t say things like that,’ I protested.
‘Don’t you worry,’ he assured me. ‘Even if I go to the next world, be sure that I will contact you somehow or the other to tell you all about it!’ And he laughed that peculiar laugh of his. Almost as if he was neighing.
‘I must have been a horse in my last avatar,’ he joked to me once. He loved horses passionately. And then he would pull the right lobe of his ear, which was another one of his peculiar mannerisms.
Soon Mr Anderson left for the ashram, having bid us goodbye, promising to be in touch. But he never did; he just disappeared. Literally vanished off the face of this earth. Or so it seemed.
His wife called from Oslo about two and half weeks later to find out why he hadn’t called. We didn’t know, presuming all this while that he was safely at the ashram, settling in. But inquiries revealed that he had never shown up. The police department was duly informed, and a couple of months passed without anything significant being found. Dad’s company hired a private detective from an agency, but all they came up with was what we already knew: he had never reached the ashram. Somewhere between boarding the train and arriving in Bangalore, he had mysteriously disappeared.
Following this, Mrs Anderson called to say that she and her son were planning to come to India to try and carry out some search themselves. Naturally, they were wild with worry. And who could blame them? Dad and Ma asked them to come and stay with us.
So now I stood at the window of my newly clean room, awaiting Mrs Anderson and her son. I must admit that I had mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I felt that it was quite an invasion of my privacy to have some strange boy in my room. I had to move to a couch in my parents’ room, while Mrs Anderson would sleep in the guest room. On the other hand, the idea of a possible mystery-laden adventure was thrilling. And on the third hand, if there is such a thing as a third hand, the idea of a thirteen-year-old Norwegian boy was exciting. With a little bit of luck, he might turn out to be, you know, something out of Baywatch. I knew that his name was Jan, pronounced Yarn, but I didn’t know much else. Somehow, Mr Anderson had been closed about his son, dismissing him with a ‘Oh! He has his problems’ type of remark.
The car drove up at last, and I went out to meet our guests. Mrs Anderson came out first; it was obvious that she was trying to be brave. Then I glanced inside the car to get my first look at Jan. My father was leaning in and supporting someone who seemed to be having trouble getting out.
Oh, he was blond and blue-eyed alright, but in such a faded sort of way that it was like some cloth that has been left out in the sun too long. Yeah, cloth-like was what he was. Limp, lightening-white skin, pain washed eyes and an almost boneless, muscleless body. Baywatch type he certainly was not. My heart sank as Dad put a supporting arm around him and brought him slowly out.
‘Jan, this is our daughter, Bhavani,’ Dad introduced me. Awkwardly, I held my hand out which only served to make things worse, for Jan’s arms continued to hang uselessly by his side.
‘Hello,’ he said, ‘I’m sorry, I cannot…’
‘Oh!’
Later, while helping Ma get the tea, I hissed, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ almost as if it were her fault.
‘He had an accident as a young boy,’ answered Ma, and went on to lecture me about how I should be good to him. ‘Be kind to dumb animals…’ I muttered meanly. His mother helped him eat, although he could manage a bite once he’d been propped up properly in a chair. I felt embarrassed just to look at him, let alone talk to him as Dad said I should, muttering under his breath in Hindi. Then an already embarrassing situation became worse when Mrs Anderson started to cry.
Things gradually did get better. At least the guy could talk. Ma and Mrs Anderson would go out frequently in search of clues which could help them trace Mr Anderson. And since we had our vacation, I stayed home with Jan. He talked quite a bit about his school, friends, music and stuff like that, but actually very little about his father.
Then one day the truth was out: the reason behind why the father and son hardly talked about each other.
It turned out that Jan had been born perfectly normal, the pride and joy of his parents. His father had always loved to ride, and wanted his son to be a champion horseman. But to his disappointment, his one and only son had no talent with horses. Let alone talent, he was actually terrified of them. The father couldn’t accept this. He continued to force him. Hard. Way too hard, against the boy’s wishes. Until . . . one day the boy fell from his horse while taking a jump. The accident left him damaged, half human, half vegetable.
The guilt and remorse on the one hand, and the resentment and frustration on the other, led to the father-son relationship being fragmented. Jan said that they hardly talked to each other, and I knew that they hardly talked about each other. ‘But when he disappeared,’ said Jan quietly, tired with the effort of having relived those painful moments, ‘I suddenly realized that both of us were being stupid. What was done was done. We should try to rebuild our relationship, forget the past. But now. . . now I don’t know if we’ll ever have the chance….’ Pain, regret and loss swam in his pale eyes as they filled with tears. But he didn’t let them fall.
‘I’m sorry… ’ said Jan.
‘Yeah, I’m sorry too,’ I said.
And then he did it. He pulled the lobe of his right ear, just as his father always did. I didn’t make a big deal out of it. At least not right away. After all, lots of kids pick up odd habits from their parents. It took me a moment to remember. Remember that he couldn’t lift his arms. He hadn’t been able to shake my hand when he arrived. Yet, his right hand had tugged casually at his ear, just as his father used to do. I looked carefully at him, but he didn’t seem to find anything strange in what he had done.
That night the weirdest thing happened. I dreamt of Mr Anderson. He didn’t actually say anything to me, but smiled and waved, as if saying goodbye. And then, as I watched, he looked at me and pulled the lobe of his right ear, and threw back his head and laughed his horsy laugh. And then he turned into a horse and galloped past me! I tried to grab hold of his mane, shouting, ‘Wait…wait! You don’t understand…!’
I woke up in a sweat, not able to make much sense of it. Next morning, I laughed at myself for worrying over such a ridiculous thing, and put it out of y mind.
When Jan and I were alone, he suddenly said, ‘I dreamt of my father last night.’ I had my back to him and fairly leapt around to face him. And I found him doing that wretched ear lobe thing again. ‘Did he turn into a horse?’ I blurted out.
‘Pardon?’ he said, looking shocked and hurt, and I felt stupid. ‘Er…nothing…’ I mumbled.
‘A horse? Did who turn into a horse?’ he persisted.
‘I’m sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking…’ was the best I could manage. He gave me a strange look after this, and his hand went up to his ear. I held my breath, but he didn’t pull the lobe.
Naturally, with him so much on my mind, Mr Anderson appeared in my dream again. This time he spoke to me and said the strangest thing, ‘I told you that I’d come back. That I’d contact you somehow, didn’t I?’
‘Are you dead?’ I asked, but he laughed, or rather neighed and galloped past me as a horse again. I ran after him, trying to catch hold of the horse’s flying tail. But he was gone.
Spooky, isn’t it? We’re sure you and your child want to find out more about what happens to the disappeared Mr Anderson and his distraught son. So hurry up and grab a copy of the book now!


The Puffin Book of Spooky Ghost Stories will have horror-story addicts craving for more. Deliciously horrifying, these sinister stories will unnerve the mind and chill the heart.

The Interesting Story of the Pandavas’ Forefather: ‘The Serpent’s Revenge’ — An Excerpt

The great war of Kurukshetra is synonymous with the epic ‘Mahabharata’, a war fought between brothers and sons — stories that have lived on through generations. But have you ever wondered about where it all began for the Pandavas?
Sudha Murty’s ‘The Serpent’s Revenge: Unusual Tales From the Mahabharata’ brings to life hidden gems from the pages of the ‘Mahabharata’ that are sure to leave your little one enthralled and asking for more.
Here’s a snippet from the book.
The Man Who Became a Woman
According to the Mahabharata, the lunar dynasty (also called Chandravansha or Somavansha) is one of the most prominent warrior houses in India. As the name suggests, it is believed that this dynasty descended from the moon.
A long time ago, there lived a man named Vaivasvata Manu, considered to be the first man on Earth, and his wife, Shraddha. The couple didn’t have a child for many years, so they decided to perform a yagna in the hope of pleasing the gods. However, Shraddha secretly hoped for a daughter, while Manu wanted a son. In time, their prayers were answered and a son was born to them, whom they named Sudyumna.
Years passed and Sudyumna grew up to be a fine young man. One day, he went hunting with his friends to the beautiful forest of Sharavana (the forest of reeds). No sooner had the all-male troupe entered an enchanted portion of the forest than they were magically transformed into young women. None of them had any idea how it had happened or what they were to do.
As the troupe began wandering deeper into the forest as women, Sudyumna decided to reinvent himself according to the body he now had, and called himself Ila. When Ila and her friends became desperate to leave their beautiful surroundings and return to their homes, Goddess Parvati appeared in front of them. ‘You and your friends have entered my garden,’ she said. ‘Look around you—this is no ordinary place. In fact, no men are allowed to come here. If they do, they turn into women immediately and permanently.’
Seeing Ila’s dismayed face, Parvati smiled. ‘I know you came here by accident,’ she said gently. ‘So I will bless you, child. May you lead a happy life irrespective of your gender. From this day on, you will be able to choose what you want to be—male or female—whenever you want.’
To everyone’s surprise, beautiful Ila chose to remain a girl, and embraced her new identity with her heart and soul. Meanwhile, Budha, the god of the planet Mercury and the son of the moon-god, Chandra, noticed Ila’s exquisite beauty and fell hopelessly in love with her. Ila reciprocated his feelings and the two were wed. In due course, Ila gave birth to a son called Pururava.
Time passed and Ila chose to revert to her male form, Sudyumna. He returned to his kingdom and ruled it wisely. As was expected of a king, Sudyumna got married and had many children of his own. He continued taking care of his subjects until he was old, after which he handed over the kingdom to his first son, Pururava, and retired to the forest to live out the remainder of his days.
Pururava, the grandson of Chandra, thus introduced the lunar dynasty. He ruled from his kingdom’s capital, Pratishthana (today’s Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh).
The great Pandavas of the Mahabharata are a part of this dynasty. King Yayati, one of the ancestors of the Pandavas, was succeeded by his youngest son, Puru. His dynasty came to be known as the Puru dynasty.
Another one of Puru’s descendants was Emperor Bharata, the son of King Dushyanta and Shakuntala. Bharata was such a great king that our country was named after him and called Bharat or Bharatvarsha.
King Kuru was born after twenty-five generations of the Puru dynasty, and gave rise to the Kuru dynasty. After fifteen more generations, the Pandavas and the Kauravas were born. In theory, both the Pandavas and the Kauravas are descendants of King Kuru, but the Pandavas, who were the sons of Pandu, chose to carry their father’s name and not the identity of the clan.
How fascinating is this story! Get a copy of this charming book for your little one and dive right into those corners of ‘Mahabharata’ you missed out on before!
And oh, while you’re at it, don’t forget to pre-order your copy of ‘The Man from the Egg: Unusual Tales about the Trinity’ by Sudha Murty. The second in this series of a Pandora’s box of stories is just about to open up!
 

 

Prince Amritsena Saves the Day!: ‘The Bird With Golden Wings’ — An Excerpt

Master storyteller, Sudha Murty, weaves magical tales of princesses and little girls, talking animals and an enchanting world of the good and the evil for children in her book, ‘The Bird With Golden Wings: Stories of Wit and Magic’.
In the short story, ‘Skills for a Prince’, Amritsena, a young and intelligent prince finds a unique way to test the honesty and integrity of a few of his subjects. How? Let’s find out!
Skills for a Prince
Amritsena, a young prince, was very popular with his subjects. Everyone praised his sense of fairness. He also loved to play pranks and made the courtiers laugh. He often disguised himself and roamed the streets of the capital city, listening to what the people were saying and learnt about the problems of the common man in this way.
During one such tour, he came across three young men in the outskirts of the city. From their attire they appeared to be strangers. They were huddled together, talking to each other.
Amritsena walked up to them and said, ‘You look new to this city. Can I help you?’
One of the men replied, ‘We are students of the sage Kashyapa and have recently finished our studies. We are looking for work, where we can put our special skills to use.’
At once, Amritsena’s ears pricked up. ‘And what are these special skills? I work in the king’s court and I may be able to help you find a job there.’
One young man said, ‘Just by tapping my feet, I can make out what is below the ground.’
The second one said, ‘I can always tell in which direction one may find hidden treasure.’
The third said, ‘Once I have seen a person, I can recognize him anywhere, even if he is in disguise.’
Amritsena heard them out, thought for a minute and said, ‘I am also a man with a special quality.’
‘What is that?’ they asked.
‘If anyone is in difficulty, I can always find a solution and rescue the person.’
‘From where did you get this gift? Who taught you?’
‘I have always had this gift, since I was a child,’ replied Amritsena with a smile. Then he said, ‘Why don’t you show me a sample of your special skills as we walk to the city? I can then tell the king about you.’
The four men began walking. After some time, one stopped and said, ‘Below us lies a tunnel.’
They started digging and, sure enough, they found a tunnel. They began to walk through the tunnel, which led them into the palace.
Now the second man stopped suddenly and said, ‘Just around the corner there is a secret treasury.’
Amritsena, who knew this to be true, was amazed. He smiled secretly to himself and said,
‘You three wait here. If the guards see you they will mistake you for thieves. Let me go and check.’ Then he walked quickly ahead, turned a corner where he stripped off his disguise, and presented himself before the guards.
‘There are three men in the tunnel plotting to loot the treasury,’ he told them. ‘Go and arrest them immediately. They should be produced in court first thing tomorrow morning.’ Saying this he walked away to his room and went to bed.
‘There are three men in the tunnel plotting to loot the treasury,’ he told them. ‘Go and arrest them immediately. They should be produced in court first thing tomorrow morning.’ Saying this he walked away to his room and went to bed.
The next morning, the three men were presented in the king’s court. Seeing Amritsena on the throne, the third man realized he was the same man who had got them arrested. He whispered this to his friends. Now they were scared that the prince would punish them for having entered the royal treasury just to show off.
‘How did you find the way into the secret tunnel?’ thundered the king, Amritsena’s father.
‘We…we j-just…’ stammered the men, shaking in fear.
Amritsena watched them, trying not to laugh. Then he stepped in and whispered in his father’s ear, ‘They are not thieves. I met them last night just outside the city. They are learned men with wonderful gifts. I only wanted to test them to see if they were telling the truth or not. We should keep them in our kingdom as their talents will help us in many ways.’
The king nodded, and said, ‘On the request of the prince I release you. You will work for me from now on, and use your gifts for the betterment of this kingdom.’
The three men sighed in relief. Amritsena had rescued them—just as he had said he could!
Dive into the world of fascinating tales in Sudha Murty’s ‘The Bird With Golden Wings: Stories of Wit and Magic’ and get to know some amazing stories of wit, humour and love!