Small World

Haunted in a Shopping Mall

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When a writer is spooked by the publisher

When a writer is spooked by the publisher

An odd incident occurred last week. A book on so-called haunted places in India was withdrawn by its publisher three days before its launch because a Kolkata mall, which was featured in the book, took objection to it. Deepta Roy Chakraverti, the daughter of a self-proclaimed witch and Wiccan priestess Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, was due to release her book Bhangarh to Bedlam: Haunted Encounters on 10 April 2015 after a year of research and travel across the country. The book is an antho logy of historical and first-person encounters of the author at some of the most ‘haunted’ places in the country.

On the book’s list was South City Mall, a shopping complex in Kolkata. On 7 April, Alchemy Publishers, the publisher of the book, received an email from the mall taking objection to its reference in the book. It urged Alchemy to delete its name and all references before the release, failing which ‘appropriate action’ would be taken. The publisher —which didn’t respond to Open’s attempts to contact it— decided to give in. ‘We as publishers would never like to court any controversy, although the step is going to cause us substantial loss,’ was Alchemy’s reply to the mall.

A corporate lawyer by profession, Deepta says that her story was drawn heavily from a string of news reports about accidents and suicides that spelt a toll of over four deaths in the mall. Her research, she claims, revealed that there was a line of cemeteries dating back to Tipu Sultan’s times that the mall had come up on. Even as she stands by her findings, the inclusion of this information might have backfired, she feels.

Man Mohan Bagree, vice- president of South City Mall, admits to having objected to the book’s allegation. While none of the mall’s executives has read the contentious chapter, Bagree is clear on his stand. “In eight years of existence, if three accidents happen,” he says, “we can’t call it haunted.”