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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 August 2005, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Earning a living as the ghost man
By PM Tiwari in West Bengal

Gopal Haldar
Gopal Haldar can transform into a ghost in 10 minutes
Few people know his real name, in many of the villages of South 24 Parganas district in India's West Bengal state he is simply known as "Ghost".

Gopal Haldar, who is reaching the age of retirement, does not mind. He is the professional ghost for a local folk theatre.

"I never had enough food when I was a child, going to a doctor was out of the question because we did not have money for anything," says Gopal.

Badly malnourished as a result, Gopal has fought back against his affliction and has made a livelihood out of it by accepting offers to take part in plays in his very specialised role.

'Giddy and weak'

Weighing only 24 kg, Gopal earns about 50 US cents a show, along with a meal, for "scaring women and children".

Gopal Haldar
I have been playing a ghost for so long that sometimes I wonder if I am a man or a real ghost
Gopal Haldar

"I have always lived like a normal person, got married and have two sons. They work in the fields," says Gopal, who has never visited a doctor in his life.

"I feel giddy and weak but I never went to a doctor."

Local doctor, Abdul Hasan, says that Gopal probably suffers a hormonal imbalance as well as malnourishment.

"We will only know when a full medical examination is carried out," says Dr Hasan.

Gopal is called on to play a ghost only in the festive season.

When not busy frightening people he plays chess and takes it easy.

"I have been playing a ghost for so long that sometimes I wonder if I am a man or a real ghost," says Gopal, who always carries his make-up kit with him.

It therefore takes him only 10 minutes to turn into a ghost - so he can play the role at the shortest possible notice.

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