Destinations Magazine

An Indian Story For Halloween

By Colleen Brynn @ColleenBrynn





Nothing but the shadows of cows. Lights leaking from the Hindu temple in the middle of town.

The shrill singing of a group of women penetrating the darkness.

It’s quieter here. Quieter than the other places – Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Varanasi for sure.


I’m not sure what the name says to me, what feelings the sounds elicit from me. It’s not Varanasi with a rolling, punctuated name speaking of holy waters and crackling fires. It’s not the short, sweet, pretty Jaipur, conjuring up images of pink walls. It’s not the powerful throb of a place like Mumbai, whose very name Mumbai – Bombay – Mumbai – Bombay – beats in our ears like a drum, just like the surge of life it contains.


I don’t know much, but I do know this.

It’s a place that has secrets.


I spent two nights here. Carvings of elephants decorated the walls of my hotel, and a man playing a flute greeted the guests with his haphazard and peculiar music each time they came through the front doors. A short walk away was a river, coursing quietly through the city. People bathed and played. Trucks trundled by on the bridge overhead, trucks stacked too high with blankets and sheets of various building materials, and people too of course. Everything here was, from what I could see, more or less normal. More or less.

After visiting the old palace that overlooks the city, I walked back to my hotel. The eyes of the palace followed me, as did the monkeys that sat on its walls and showed their teeth.



I knew the way: I only had to take one road back. Near the river, the road turned. When I arrived at the river, I stopped briefly. I watched some boys swimming. I watched a man in a long lilac-coloured skirt with a long white beard praying, meditating. A cow sat in the grass nearby.

The sun began to disappear. The sky was suddenly spiked with blood, orange blood.

The monument by my hotel tilted its head at me like a curious puppy and begged me to explore its grounds. The cenotaphs reached up to the sky and pricked it, urging it to bleed more. The alluring shadows drew me in, and I knew I couldn’t stay away. My legs carried me there of their own volition. At my feet were two stray dogs. They circled me and panted, and I daresay, they guided me, they protected me. Their open mouths and frothing tongues were those of giggling jesters, half lunatic.




I observed the contours of the structures, the perfectly shaped slope of the roofs, the trademark multi-arched windows, the columns and the stonework, the incredible stone birds adorning the decorative domes. I stared and stared until my eyes ached. The birds were spectacularly accurate and lifelike. Pinning my camera lens on one such figure, I zoomed in as much as possible to capture more of the details and confirm the type of bird. Strange, I thought, upon examining the image on my camera’s display screen. I never thought of the vulture as being a symbolic bird in India. Perhaps it is just a motif used in monuments like these, cenotaphs, built for the dead. Without understanding why this was the chosen bird, it made perfect sense. Morbid, but perfect.

I pointed my camera at the bird once more and observed it for a moment, my lens acting as binoculars. The bird twitched its head, stone come to life. Sucking in my breath, I looked closer. I tested my patience as I waited for the bird to come to life once more. The dogs at my feet played together and circled my personal space.

This time, the vulture turned its head entirely. Without a doubt, the stone figure was alive.

I looked around and saw more such vultures dotting the cenotaphs. Once I saw one, I saw them all. Innumerable hooked-beak carrion eaters claimed this monument as their home, their resting ground. Thought I know they exist, I didn’t see a single other vulture in India apart from these. This place of the dead, for the dead, was where I saw too many to count. They flocked, they soared from one peak to the next, they twitched, they ruffled feathers, they waited. That’s what birds do, isn’t it? Wait?




This was the stuff of my nightmares… but also of my dreams.

I trod lightly. My feet aware of the navigating dogs and the delicate grounds upon which I wandered.

I was alone apart from a couple of men ambling among the pathways. I was alone apart from a couple of men.

As the sky continued to bleed, I turned around, before my imagination got the better of me. Before someone, something, got the better of me. I was returning to the land of the living this night. I would not be a vulture’s prisoner. Not this night.


I wish you all a wonderfully spooky and delightfully frightening Halloween, dear friends. Be safe, please.

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