Night of the Millennium by Ruskin Bond is a short story that is slightly spooky and has horror elements. As usual it is set in Mussoorie, in Nag Tibba, a sort of hill side. If you have read other popular stories of Ruskin Bond, you might be familiar with this Nag Tibba.
The story is staged against the night of 31 December 1999. Soon a new millennium will be celebrated by the world. The new century will not be like previous one, it will open various vistas for growth and development especially for skilled, hardworking, and intellectual persons.
Since it’s a New Year night that many do not sleep, Pasand, a young man, who is highly successful in his efforts, is taking a stroll past midnight. He is thinking about others performance in life by seeing their large houses while walking.
But success has made him arrogant. He takes others for granted. He is also lustful and tonight wants to sleep with any woman to exert his dominance. The road he is walking has an old cemetery beside it. There are tomb graves of many officers, Mem Sahibs, innocent children, and even of royal personalities. This cemetery reminds that nothing is permanent in life and no matter how prideful one is ultimately bites the dust.
Pasand's phone rings but its display is plain, showing nothing. From his list of servants, he heard that a poor widow woman in late thirties lives in a domed tomb in this cemetery. Rumours have that this lady is magnanimous to those who give her money, as she has to take care of her kids. Pasand is seeking her to satisfy his lust.
As the moon shines above the Deodar trees, she smiles at him. He goes in the cemetery. He tries to have her but things go awkward. Pasand hadn't time to realize that he was accosted by the ghost of that woman. He was bitten by that woman and her children on one of the tombs. Only his bones will be left for the howling jackals that come from the forests of the hills.
It’s a very small short story but Ruskin brilliantly built all the elements to place it perfectly. One reason is that he is so much familiar with his favourite backdrop: Himalayan landscapes. Also the message in the book is that pride always go to drain. Pasand was successful, but he was not humble, and his arrogance costs him his life. Cemetery, howling jackals, and rumours of a poor woman – perfectly mixes up the story plot. So, in a nutshell, the night of the millennium was not all about celebration and good luck.