It was more than half a century back; I was about seven or eight when my mother took us along to visit her mother my Nani. It was always a pleasure to go to meet grandma. She was a great woman-blue eyed, tall, healthy and full of life. She used to greet us with open arms as if on seeing us she had been blessed with some treasure. Love poured out of her being like rain from heaven.
We’d stay with her for a few days and I remember seeing her running around doing chores and making something special for us. On this visit by chance, one of my cousins was also there. She was much older than I and well versed in village life as my aunt (her mother) was married in a landowning family in a nearby village. However, in my heart of hearts I was resenting her presence, especially when I noticed grandma showing equal affection to her as well. I didn’t like grandma dividing her attention. In my innocence I thought that grandma was wholly and solely mine. I couldn’t hide my feelings and asked my cousin, “Is she your grandma too?” Her amusing look implied that I’d asked a stupid question. Soon, however, I got reconciled to her presence and became friendly with her.
One of these days I accompanied her to the farmhouse which was about half a kilometer away, where my grandpa had kept milch cattle and two pairs of oxen. A young looking farmhand looked after and fed the cattle and yoked the oxen to plough the fields for sowing crops. On that day my cousin was entrusted to carry out a specific task of milking the buffalo and bringing the milk, the job which grandma used to do.
To reach the place we had to cross a small, low, wooden bridge, built over a narrow water body. But as we came near the bridge what did I see floating in the water? - A bright red thick cloth filled with something and tied with a red thread. I noticed it instantly and pointed to my cousin. Without waiting I took hold of a stick, approached the bank and started pulling it towards me. I got hold of it and unknotted it. I don’t recall exactly what it contained but it had strange objects like red chillies, a tiny black ugly doll and small portions of other substances. It didn’t interest me much and at the insistence of my cousin it was pushed into the water again. I was too young and ignorant to know what it was and why it was there. I was simply attracted to it as a curious child does to something new. And like a child’s short attention span forgot about it there and then.
We reached the farmhouse soon after and my cousin got busy. She took some water and washed the teats of the buffalo one by one and then placing the pail in between her knees, started squeezing the teats with the fingers and thumbs turned inside of both her hands and lo, streaks of milk started falling into the pail. She took a pair of teats alternately till there was no milk left. I watched her though the smell of cow dung repulsed me and then off I went to explore the place. I stepped into a large room where mountains of chaff were stacked for the cattle. Outside birds were tweeting in a maddening frenzy on the dense ring of trees as if settling territorial hegemony at the end of the day. The atmosphere was eerie as the sun had set and the fiery afterglow created a mystifying aura around the trees. Till my cousin called me I remained absorbed in the novelty of the surroundings.
Finally we came back with the pail of milk. After dinner I went to sleep as usual. But in the morning when I got up, I felt awfully sick and was running temperature. Grandma got worried. She made enquiries. At this my cousin blurted the previous day’s incident out. Alarm bells rang immediately in the household as I had touched something dangerous, something which was the act of sorcery meant to harm whosoever looked at it first or touched it. Grandma was furious at my cousin for not preventing me from doing what I did, as she had known the implication of the acts of black magic so rampant in villages those days.
Grandma right away went to fetch the village priest who passed off as an herbalist as well as a trouble shooter for the village folks. In no time he came with grandma. There was an air of concern and uneasiness. I could make out that some kind of ritual was to be performed. Preparations followed. The priest- tall and straight, clad in a loose ankle length white shirt and donning a white turban took off his shoes and entered the room. He made me sit on a mat on the floor. My mom sat by me with my baby brother in her lap. He squatted in front of me on a sheet spread for him. I was asked to narrate the previous evening’s misadventure. Then he instructed me to close my eyes and to concentrate on the thumb of my right hand which was slightly extended in front and report whatever I’d see with my shut eyes. I was overawed and felt worse than before but did what I was told. The priest started chanting mantras and I think even made peculiar gestures. It was all weird. After a considerable passage of time he stopped chanting and made me open my eyes and describe what I had seen.
To speak the truth I did see an image clearly- a family sitting around a sick child’s bed in the courtyard. A few more questions and it became clear to grandma and the priest as to who had done that evil magic with malevolent intention of transferring the sickness onto somebody else. Grandma conferred with him in whispers and he seemed to be reassuring her. Thereafter he went away. The upside was that I felt okay by the evening and we came back the next day.
The imprint of that incident has dwelt in the recesses of my subconscious as a fossil all these years. Many times I’ve pondered over that happening in retrospect. I can’t comment on the rationality or otherwise of my conclusion. But since I was directly involved in the event I do find a clear correspondence between my falling ill due to the evil spell and subsequently my getting well without taking any medicine- to the disabling of the evil power by the priest with his mantras. I can vouch for the images which I saw and described.
Dear friends, please give your impressions of the incident in comments section.image courtesy Google.