Growing up there have been ghost stories that I have often ended up listening to with unrivalled heed. Some so impalpable that one would grow an instant disconnect towards, whilst some too riveting to shake off. Even after all these years when I think about it, it puts me in a transfixed gaze at the dry air ahead. As I try to visualize every tiny aspect of my grandmother’s aura, when she expounded about the notorious water ghost.
Pandubba, or the water ghost, as she called it is a famous folklore that finds its roots lodged deep in Bihar. Ask around and everybody has heard about it. The superstition has been thriving through mere talks so far, as it is passed down from generation to generation in a formidable timbre. A concept like that could be a result of a fanciful ingenuity, but the thrill in listening to the tale is outright unmatched.
Granny Ghost Stories on Pandubba
So as kids we would beg her to tell us a ghost story, and she would concur with her toothless smile, picking one of our favorites from the top of her list of true ghost stories. I distinctly remember how she would start off telling us about what Pandubba is all about.
“What is a Pandubba Granny?”
She would make us believe through the make-believe image of a quintessential rural farmer who would have drowned in the river and have met the ill-fate. He would be often found sitting on the edge of a rock at night looking at his abode. If you are bold enough to venture out near the water, he would mystically appear next to you, sit beside you and ask,
“Do you have tobacco? Please can you give me some tobacco?”
And he will keep at it until you plan on giving him some. That’s when he would hold your hand and pull you under water away from the shallows. If you happen to find one asking you things, simply ignore him. That’s how you can come back alive, she would advise.
Her Personal Encounter
My grandmother would justify her story with a personal encounter as well. She told her once when she was swimming (yes, she was a great swimmer back in her days) in a nearby river that skimmed her village, that she had accidentally stepped on one of the water ghosts. She recalled its body to be slimy and that when she put her leg on it accidentally, it moved. That’s when she came back gasping for her breath to the riverbank.
The latter part of the story seems very unlikely to be related with a Pandubba as she never saw a face, a torso or anything. It could easily have been a fish, a snake, or a turtle for that to matter. But when she used to imitate a Panduba in her tales asking for tobacco, her eyes would gleam up, and it would seem to stark perceptive listeners as if the real water ghost has showed up beseeching for tobacco. She literally breathed life into her grotesque fanciful creation.
“Please! Do you have any tobacco?”
It is hard to shake that demeanour of hers off – my grandma urging us to give her some tobacco like a real Pandubba would. To this date, I can’t forget the shimmer in her eyes. The horror with which she explained it, holding my hand, as if that would exactly be the way my hand would be held if I go near the ghastly elusive creature. Using realistic ways to tell her accounts, she would make sure her ghost stories were as dreadful as they could be. It made me realize I was living one as well.
Some people further append the plot by saying that a Panduba would take you deep down where the riverbed is, and fill you up with sand. So you have sand for eyes, nose and ears. It fills your mouth as well to ensure you do not go afloat. Something huh? I would love that if somebody illustrates that with a video or a picture.
The sad bit is that all her ghost stories have just become mere memories now. She is no longer here. My Granny passed away some years ago, a quick painless death. I am left with a lot of memories of her doing trivial stuff across the house. She became forgetful of a lot of things in her later years. But a ghost story like that of Panduba would always breathe alive on her narratives. That’s when she would be truly enjoying the lost too.
I have researched it a bit, and found a similar water ghost named Shui Gui, in Chinese folklore too. Guess we all are smitten by the concept of scary ghost stories, aren’t we?