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  • Writer's picturePatricia Bernard

The Murder Of The Granny On The Train

I was travelling around India with friend Sally while researching my book ‘WITH THE KAMASUTRA UNDER MY ARM’ a romantic, mysterious, humorous Indian travel book about never travelling with your best friend. We were visiting the holy city of Varanasi where Hindus burn their dead and then throw the ashes into the holy Ganges River. People clean their teeth and wash in this river. The main tourist thing to do is to be rowed at dawn past the many holy Ghats where the burning funerals are taking place. Then, if the widow or family can’t afford enough wood to burn the entire body, what is left is tossed into the river to be rowed around. Might I add Hindus do not eat fish. While we were being rowed about by a grandfather and his look-alike grandson, all I could think of was if our little rowboat capsized flinging us into the Ganges and I touched a body part that my heart would stop and I would die of shock

Varanasi was wonderful. We went to a famous storyteller’s concert – no we don’t speak Hindi but it was marvelous. He was treated by his thousands and thousands of fans like a pop star. We visited markets where men juggle yogurt in clay pots, entered temples where our fortunes were told and then set afloat in paper boats. Finally we caught the train back to Delhi.

The Reluctant Daughter-in-law did exist. The story happened as I wrote it except that I did get up from my crowded bunk to go to the toilet after Granny and I saw what her daughter-in-law did. But there were people sleeping in between the old women and me and it was dark as none of the train lights worked. The train was rocking wildly as it was running late and there are no late trains in India. They are always punctual. So perhaps I imagined it. But Granny wasn’t on the train when I woke up.

India is a mysterious magical place. It has beautiful, sexy female ghosts who live in wells and try to convince handsome young men to lean over so that they can be pulled into the well to drown. I put this in ‘The Cement Fairy Story’.

I saw a ghost in Agra, India. It was the wife of Shah Jahan the Maharaja who built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Begum Mahal. What a great place for a ghost. I was walking alone in the dark halls of a mosque of the Taj Mahal when I smelt perfume and heard the jingle of ankle bells. Suddenly there she was with the face of an angel and the willowy body of a dancer. I knew it was her because Begum Mahal always wore blue. It was a very weird encounter because I knew she wasn’t real and yet we had a perfectly delightful conversation about the power of love and then she faded away. I rushed out to tell Sally, who had just been arrested for walking over the grass to photograph the bullocks pulling the lawn-mower. Begum Mahal was my 3rd ghost (see the second anthology Murder Mystery and Magic ‘Price of Fame’).

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