Book Review: ‘Sera Bhoy’ By Abhigyan Roychoudhuri

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Sera Bhoy by Abhigyan Roychoudhury is a compilation of ghost stories, though not necessarily horror. Most of the stories in the collection can be labelled as supernatural. It is a comparatively new book and this fact is reflected not only in the supporting prompts, language and mention of years, but also in the content of stories. The first and foremost feature that will capture your attention is Roychoudhury’s highly developed and refined power of imagination which has a foundation of mathematical and (other) scientific facts. There is a story where the protagonist was a scientist studying the correlation between a person’s facial features and criminal tendency. He would see fine details (patterns) in everything he saw around him e.g., the brush strokes on a painted wall. These patterns (he used to call them maps) would take form and life, and appear before him all the time.

Some stories are neither ghost stories, nor horror, nor supernatural. They can be categorised as science fiction. To put it differently, the writer introduces a scientific concept and then prompts you to unleash your imagination and let it fly on its own. One story tells us about a retired space scientist who has the opinion that far many interesting things on our planet are still waiting to be explored. He encourages his readers to focus on these hidden treasures rather than exploring other planets, particularly Mars. He conducts experiment with fishes with the hypothesis that social interaction and communication among humans was the primary driving force behind the progress of human civilization. It seems that the experiment was a success with an unexpected and unfortunate outcome. Different species of fishes shared their knowledge and peculiar characteristics with other species resulting in all fishes getting super-intelligent, violent and dangerous. Given that the population of fishes world over is several times that of humans, the aforementioned development was a signal of the domination and subjugation of Earth and other planets by fishes.

Another story while narrating the adventure of three friends among a tribe in Garhwal introduces Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13). While introducing this sequence, the writer tells us that the mathematician had arrived at this sequence while studying and predicting the population of rabbits. I am not sure how far is it correct — but the author tells us that the number of petals of any flower of any type or variety is always an element of this sequence. With that I mean, the number of petals of any flower could be 3, 5 or 8, but not 4 or 9. The tribe visited by the protagonists maintained its population according to Fibonacci sequence!

Then there are stories which are not completely science fiction, yet there is a foundation or some element of science in them. I have noticed this style being used by several Bengali writers particularly of children and young readers’ stories. Some interesting scientific concepts are ‘stealthily’ inserted in an otherwise fictional tale. Consider for example the story in which the city witnesses a complete shutdown due to power failure owing to a solar flare event. Couple of sentences are spent telling the reader about the scientific background of the event and occurrence of previous events of this nature. The story advances and tells how a young man takes advantage of this situation to plan the murder of his old uncle by choking him to death using a chemical gas. Fortunately, the man was rescued by an old servant; however the nephew himself got killed by the effect of the same chemical.

But then, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, not all stories are outstanding in the aforementioned manner. There are other stories which are ordinary and belong to the family of predicable ghost stories. For example, take the story where the narrator meets an old friend — a doctor — in a wretched state at a tea stall. The friend introduces him to two occasions of apparitions; and in the end it turns out that the friend himself was a ghost. In another story, a character used to play chess with pieces having human faces. Towards the end, he goes on to convert the narrator into another piece on the chess board.

All said, I would suggest you to give this book a try for all the interesting instances of imagination it offers. You may not like ‘all’ the stories in the collection, yet there are some which would stay in your memory. Furthermore, nearly all the stories have the power to unleash your imagination.

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