‘You can’t run, you can’t hide.
It knows where you reside.
It knows your smell, your breath.
It wants to see you through your eyes, and speak
Through your throat
Sucking you bit by bit, it stays till your existence ceases.’
These lines from It Follows You by Keran Pantth Joshi are good enough for a faint heart to freeze. However, as you flip through the pages of her story book you will realise that the book is not just about horror stories but has something more to it. The stories written by Keran not only reflect the mindset of Indian society residing in different regions but also bring out the hidden fear factor residing in them.
As a child looking for thrill and excitement many a time I would order for Alfred Hitchcock and return the book even without finishing it. After ages, I picked up another book from the horror genre written by Keran Pantth Joshi, thinking that having grown up I will have the heart to not take the horror stories so seriously and sail through the book. However, I was wrong… To read this book you need to have a brave heart, a strong and fearless one.
It Follows You, by Keran Pantth Joshi is a collection of twelve short stories written in the horror genre, published by Story Mirror. One can think of all the frightful things that can happen in a horror book, but what is the beauty of this book is that the author has conscientiously made an effort to make the lifestyle and culture of India come alive through her stories. Integrated in her book are many stories from the different parts of the country that can petrify the readers.
Keran with her dexterous use of simple and plain words manages to create an eerie and sinister environment. Her stories take you from the abandoned cottages in the jungle to the overcrowded cities like Bombay. She has a tale coming from a household celebrating a marriage ceremony to a painter's dilemma. Reading the stories, one might dread chatting with unknown people on social media and restrain buying second-hand stuff. She brings out the horror elements out of anything that can be found anywhere in the society.
It is absolutely amazing to read how the tittle-tattles about ghosts and spirits talked under the hushed tones come into life. The stories are heavily loaded with paranormal events but that is what horror stories are about! Stories in It Follows You transport the readers to the land of mystery and enigma where anything and everything is possible. Neil D’Silva has aptly said about the book that it is a treat for the horror lovers that deserves to be on the screen soon.
The language of the book is simple and lucid. Peppered with local dialects, readers can easily relate to the region and era the stories are set up. The stories are fast-paced, set in a different environment. Each protagonist is unique from the other. Each story has a different element of horror and fright hanging along with it. The paranormal creatures have been referred to as 'chal,' 'baak,' 'nishi' as the locals would call it in the region.
The author begins each story with a header which not only lends a poetic touch but also gives a synopsis of what the story contains. Preparing the reader to hold their breath as they go further.
‘It will follow you…
And then slither into your dreams…
The dream! Where you are trapped…
You can’t run… you can’t scream…’
The cover of the book is very captivating too. There is a beautiful Bengali bride, holding betel leaves in the foreground of a mansion standing aloof under the silver moonlight. But her hands are not normal. It’s the devil hidden behind this beautiful face that is there to deceive the protagonist and the readers.
The stories are in the horror genre but interspersed with different emotions. Very beautifully Keran has expressed the sentiments of different characters. We have a mother who is concerned about her son who is about to get married. There are dreams of a poor girl longing to own her mother’s wedding saree, the only saree her mother has who wears it on all special occasions. A grandmother, worried for her only grandson’s safety after having lost her son in a road accident and many more.
Reading the book, one may feel that the author is giving air to superstitions and fallacies. Some stories are gory and gruesome but nevertheless, they are not to be taken very seriously. They defiantly provide a thrill factor and many a time readers may find themselves chewing their nails reading with bated breath. Though all the stories from It Follows You live up to its genre, I particularly liked Don’t Turn Back and The Payback.
Keran is an astounding storyteller. As a writer of the horror genre she has successfully managed to create fright in the minds of the readers. Reading her book, one can easily see characters walking and talking. If you are looking for things that are dark and unearthly, then It Follows You is definitely waiting to titillate your senses.
Review by Associate Editor: Shristee Singh
Keran Pantth Joshi was born and brought up in Delhi and has a degree in Physiotherapy and is an MBA. She moved to Melbourne after marriage, in 2012 and has worked for various global companies in HR and workforce planning. In 2017 she turned entrepreneur and relocated with her family to Launceston in Tasmania where she owns and runs a hotel with her husband. Her debut novel, Beyond Forever in love was published in 2014. She has two more books to her credit entitled 'Check-in, Check-Out' and the most recent one 'It Follows You'.