Author Sangeeta Mahapatra on weaving tales of horror and suspense

Sangeeta MahapatraMany authors, when asked the inevitable question, “How did you write this book?” (when “Why” would probably have been a better question), answer things like, “Oh, it just came into being!”- much like a zit on the nose on the eve of a romantic date or the runs on a Jamai-shashti afternoon.

Let me assure you, dear readers, this book of horror, suspense, thrills, and all that, did not just happen – it was written with a lot of labour and hard work (at least, for my dear mother who had tea and sandwiches on standby – for there cannot be a horror story without sufficient nutrition).

While we (you, my dear reader, and I) are sufficiently delicate and decorous to avoid the question, “Why this book was written?” as some vacuous critics have asked (they exist – oh, let me tell you, they do!) – but how it got written is a different question altogether.

As a quick introduction, I am an editor of a business magazine with a Ph.D on the subject of International Terrorism – which, I guess, makes me eminently suitable for writing horror stories. It may sound laughable, but truly, at page 487 of the footnotes of a Ph.D thesis on Al Qaeda and Boko Haram, a nice juicy murder or a ghoul in the basement seem like a welcome diversion.

Wreath and Other Stories, of course, has no ghouls banging away in the basement (unlike some of your houses) but there are tales, which will probably disturb you, scare you, just a little, and – I sincerely hope and pray – entertain you. It’s a collection of ten stories of dark suspense and psychological horror. In Malevolent, based not too far away in the future, where in the country’s fastest growing smart city, a strange obsession of an artist leads to fatal consequences.  Move away from the glitzy city lights to the tranquil hills in Wreath, where a brother’s gift of a holiday to his sister takes a strange turn. Or in a dusty village in Red Moon, where supernatural forces come to play and a young woman pays a heavy price for betraying a childhood promise.

If all this seems a little too distant, take Captive. Here a soldier faces his scariest enemy at home as he gets trapped in a nightmare of his own making. I also recommend The Wait where a man chronicles his last moments as he tries to wait out the monster intent on killing him.

There are many other stories – but the central point is about how ubiquitous evil is – how intrinsic is horror to our lives and how the addition of onion pakoras makes the reading a book of horror and suspense that much pleasurable. I would like to dwell on the final point a bit more but my own stock of these goodies is fast getting depleted and as any industrious author would tell you, there is a time to hold forth on the excellent qualities of one’s creation and there is a time to act nippy and get the onion pakoras while they are hot.

I leave you, dear readers, with this book. Munch away at it. Hope they are crisp, well done, and utterly delicious. Much like the stuff I have in my hands.

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