BY TINAT ATIFA MASOOD
Sunday was a treat for me as a kid growing up in Shillong! Ma used to love reading and I would accompany her to the State Central Library. It had become a ritual. Early lunch and then we would take a local bus to the library. Ma would cosy herself in a corner near the shelves of recipe books and I would wander into the childrens’ section. After going through a couple of them and borrowing two to read over the fortnight, I was always tempted to flip through the huge hard-bound encyclopaedia on “GHOSTS”.
Engrossed in the fables and facts in the pages, my mind conjured stories of its own. The library, soaked in a sombre ambience, almost made us feel the sound of silence. Except for a couple of whispers and someone clearing a sore throat, we had little reason to look up from the pages into which we had merged. So, invariably, when the huge clock, with a fading dial struck 6 pm with a loud clanging noise, both Mom (by this time she too joins me in flipping the pages and reading the scary tidbits!) and I would almost jump out of our skins, as if we were the protagonists of a horror story! Goosebumpy all over, we would hurry back home, not daring to look back over our shoulders, as the condescending clouds slowly crept in across the quickly darkening sky!
So, last 18th of February, on a trip to Shillong, I decided to take Tirus to the library and narrated what I used to do every Sunday with Ma! Tirus was over the moon seeing the stacks of books. He has been reading the Wimpy Kid series for the past two years and had only recently switched to The Adventures of Famous Five by Enid Blyton. He has completed just one Hardy Boys story from his collection and has plans to read some more during the holidays. However, with a vehement and strong NO WAY, AMMA, when I suggested GHOST STORIES for him, he picked up A HISTORY OF ROCK! I was somewhat smugly pleased that he carried a streak of my (rockstar) genes!
So, for the next 45 minutes or so, he was too engrossed to realise that I was actually walking around the shelves of books, thousands of them, on the first floor of the library, hunting for that favourite coffee table book on GHOSTS! Though I couldn’t find it, I loved the smell of books all around the shelves as I walked between the aisles. It was inebriating! What Tirus still doesn’t know is that that apart, I was also trying to feel if there is a presence, a certain ‘something’ that would glide in and out from the bookshelves; a shadow or maybe a book on the reading table, with the pages turning on its own or maybe the spirit of a dead librarian or someone like me who wished to read all the books in the library! Eerie? Well, almost since there was not a single person on the first floor but not for someone like me who loves to weave ghost stories at the bat of an eye!