On Thursday evening, I was on the way to my room. While crossing the roadside book shops in Triplicane, my eyes fell over an old book, and immediately I was pleasantly shocked. I ran to the vendor and bought the book (it was just ten rupees). It was an old one, from chapters taken from Kumudam and bounded together. While turning the pages, I was bombarded by a series of old memories, and I was not able to control the big smile on my face, all the way while walking to my room.
The book is திறக்கக் கூடாத கதவு (Thirakka Koodatha Kadhavu). It was by Krishna Kumar. I’m sure people from the eighties and nineties will remember this name. He was one of the undisputed ghost story writers in Tamil. He and Kaladhar have given me a lot of sleepless nights by writing some great stories in Kumudam and Savi in the nineties. I have finished reading the book, and decided to write about my stint with the stories of the eighties and nineties.
I can clearly remember the year. 1987. I was in to my fourth standard. Those days, we were a joint family and my uncle (mom’s elder bro) used to buy Kumudam, Kalki and Vigadan every week. I used to just turn the pages and keep them away. My interests were primarily comics, those days. Once, I happened to read a few pages in Kalki, and I was instantly pulled in to the world of Tamil fiction. Those pages were from the mega hit novel ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ by Kalki. It was the chapter which describes Vandiya Devan’s adventures inside the dark tunnel near Nandhini’s palace. Nandhini had hidden him inside a dark palace since Periya pazhuvettarayar is coming to meet her, and Vandiya Devan decides to explore the inner rooms of the palace. While walking, he comes across a few steps and they take him right to the treasure of the Chozha dynasty, accumulated from the past three hundred years. He also accidentally encounters Kandamaaran, his dearest friend, and while saving him from a murderer sent by Periya pazhuvettarayar, gets suspected by kandamaaran that Vandiya Devan is the murderer.
Imagine a 9 year old kid’s imaginations when he reads such a terrific chapter for the first time! I was blown away, to be frank. From that day, I started to read Ponniyin Selvan every week, till it was completed. Even while reading the current chapters, I used to refer all the previous chapters from the collection my third maternal uncle had (His name is Ravikumar and he, after my father, is the sole reason that I have read all the important words featured in Kalki, Kumudam and Vigadan in the late eighties till the late nineties).
After starting to read Ponniyin Selvan, my attention naturally shifted towards the other works published in the three magazines, and I started to read them also. One of them was ‘Thirakka Koodatha Kadhavu’, which was also featuring on a weekly basis in Kumudam at that time. I read it from the middle, and it was the first EVER ghost story I read. Really speaking, till this day, I used to remember it whenever I think about ghosts.
I’ll try to give the gist in a nutshell. The story is narrated to us from the point of view of the protagonist, a 45+ man Thyagu. His friend Ramamirdam dies from a heart attack and while he goes to attend the funeral, he hears Ramamirdam’s voice clearly which asks him not to let ‘her’ to open the door. A confused Thyagu thinks it’s his imagination, and forgets it. He then encounters some strange happenings which lead him towards Ramamirdam’s daughter Anu who practices as a Nurse in the government hospital. One day Anu rushes home and starts crying, and she tells her mom she won’t go to the hospital again. She declines to tell the reason. Thyagu, who is guided by Ramamirdam’s ghost, goes to a doctor who ordered Anu to go to the mortuary on that day. While searching for an empty cabin in the mortuary, Anu opens a cabin and gets slapped harshly by ‘something’. It was a ghost of the dead body in the cabin, who died suddenly before avenging the doctor who was responsible for the killing of his son. His ghost stays inside Anu’s body and through Anu, tries to kill the Doctor. Thyagu finally steals the body and with the guidance of a Malayalam tantric ‘Sangunni’, drives the ghost away by allowing the dead body to decompose. He also gets arrested by the police for stealing the body, but Thyagu says in the final paragraph that in all the things he did so far in his life, this was the most satisfying one.
I was hooked to the story while I read it 21 years ago. Every chapter will have some gripping incidents and I will remember them till the next week. I experienced similar feelings when I read it yesterday. It was amazing!
Krishna Kumar has also published weekly stories entitled ‘Ghost’ in Kumudam in the early eighties. I have read them also, through my uncle who had all the copies of the story he collected from Kumudam.
The other one, Kaladhar, has written many stories in Savi in the same period. I can never forget one of his works called ‘Oliyatra Osai’. It was the scariest and the most interesting story I have ever read till date. My uncle, as usual, had all the copies except the final two chapters! Still now, I’m in search for that book, which I never found anywhere. I read it almost 18 years ago, and even now I can remember the complete story. It was about a young girl visiting her father’s home after his death, and while she is there, a powerful yet anonymous power threatens her to move away. She refuses, and the events which happen after this form the crux. Every week the villain will do something terrifying to kill the girl, and she will fight him back. The villain’s identity is revealed only in the last chapter, which I never read! I ‘m sure the book was published, as during my higher secondary, I witnessed one guy reading it in the bus, but I didn’t ask him about it that time.
I can remember a dead-body eating Sadhu (an Aghori – portrayed 20 years ago!) in the story. Also a very old Sadhu who helps the girl. It’s a great one too.
Those were some of the fantastic days in my life. The books were great too, and they opened a wide world of imagination to me. If the readers could find a copy of Oliyatra Osai, I will be really happy.