Time to relive lovely ‘horror’ of granny’s tales in Kashmir

    By Sheikh Qayoom, IANS,

    Srinagar : As heavy snowfall clads Kashmir after many years, memories of grandmother’s horror tales told to put children to sleep during the long winter nights have suddenly come alive.

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    Those tales had frightening characters like the abominable snowman, the mythical ‘Yach’, ‘Ranthus’ , ‘Ram Ram Chock’ and substituted conventional lullabies to discipline children and put them to sleep.

    While the rest of the world still debates whether the abominable snowman, called the Yeti, ever existed, some locals in not very far off villages of the Valley swear to god they have seen one with their eyes.

    “Yes, it is short, covered with hair all over and walks upright. Its arms are even shorter and the face is also covered with thick hair. I saw one in the forest when it was snowing very heavily and I was rushing home many years ago. It crossed my path, but did not harm me”, said Mir Muhammad, 70, a resident of Anderwan village in Ganderbal district.

    Mothers till some years back used to tell the stories of the ‘Ranthus’ to ensure children did not venture out of their homes during the winter nights.

    “Ranthus is something all of us have heard about, but never seen. It is believed to be a female demon that comes down from the mountains in search of food and to lift children during the winter months,” said Fatima, 69, the matriarch of an extended family in one of the local villages.

    “Elders said it could imitate the human voice and that is why we were told not to answer a knock on the door or heed a call to come out of the home during the winter nights even if the caller sounded like an aunt or uncle,” she added.

    The most interesting of all these often heard but least seen mythical characters is the ‘Yach’.

    “It is believed to be an animal of the size of a fox or a large cat that visits homes during heavy snowfall and utters a peculiar cry. We were told by elders that the ‘Yach’ has a removable cap-like structure with magical powers. Anybody who succeeded in taking away the cap from the Yach’s head would have all his Worldly wishes fulfilled in a minute”, said Ghulam Muhammad Rather, 48, a farmer in Haripora village of Ganderbal district.

    The scariest of these grandmother horror stories is about the ‘Ram Ram Chock’.

    “Ram Ram Chock is a djin or an evil spirit that uses a light similar to that of a lantern or an oil lamp during pitch dark winter nights to lead wayward travellers to its cave. There are people who swear of having seen those moving lights during dark nights in the villages especially around the local graveyards.

    “When I grew up, I learnt it is phosphorescence emitted by some elements found in nature,” said 60-something Bashir War, a retired veterinarian.

    Whether it is the abominable snowman, the ‘Ranthus’, the ‘Yach’ or the ‘Ram Ram Chock’, the older generation of Kashmiris still adore these characters of their grandmother stories.

    “Believe it or not, I now realize how handy must the ‘Ram Ram Chock’, the ‘Ranthus’ and the ‘Yach’ have come to our parents and grandparents when there was no television, no cinema and no internet or when not many could even afford a radio set to entertain their children”, said businessman Muhammad Shafi Bhat, 52.

    (Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])