TODAY -

Superstition and its side-effects

Samarjit Kambam *



There's a lady who says
All that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to Heaven
– Led Zeppelin

I have come across a lady. She's good hearted, compassionate and hard working. She's got a decent government job. Everything about her is ideal. The only flaw about her is that she lives in cadence with blind faith and her world is cloistered in superstition. Ironically, this lady turns out to be my aunt-in-law.

The story goes on like this… Firstly, she was quite opulent when she got married to my uncle-in-law. She wasn't sort of any material possession be it money, jewelry, furniture, household appliances and the likes. Her once smooth sailing life became shaky when she could not give birth to a child even after years of marriage as she entered marital life a wee late. However, she never gave up.

She and her husband went to AIIMS, New Delhi and after spending a mammoth amount of money she was impregnated in the family way and fortunately gave birth to a lovely baby boy. As the couple got their child which is their first as well as last, their world totally revolves around their child. Having gifted with a son after so much hardship, her attention to the apple of her eye was unparalleled.

Gradually, she became too obsessed with her son that she gets too over protective of him. With an overdose of attention and filial love given, the kid turned out to be a spoilt and flagrant one. In fact, her son gets so spoilt that she has to follow him everywhere he goes with a spoon and a plate of food to feed him.

Her obsession with her son was so immense that whenever her son happens to fall ill, she began to develop a mindset that God has been punishing her. Then instead of going to a doctor, she would go to a local maibi (traditional priestess). The maibi then would then perform a prayer for her son, sprinkle water considered as holy by a branch of leaves considered sacred and then take fees convincing her that it is mandatory to give the fees as a way of donation to God for the betterment of her son.

But I really doubt that God needs donation of any kind for whatever that we receive on this earth from Thy bounty are the property of the Almighty. So, would God actually require money? If it were so, then for what purpose?

Gradually, her fascination for offering to the Gods by visiting local priestesses has become a part and parcel of her life. Even if her son stumbles while playing with his friends, she'd visit a priestess for a ritual of some sort so that her son doesn't stumble while playing with his friends in future.

If she happens to have a ballistic quarrel with her hubby, she'd hurry to a priestess for seeking a solution so that her husband would become sober and compassionate without finding out the reason why her husband was furious and without finding out the reason why the quarrel took at the first place.

If she happens to fall ill, instead of consulting a doctor, she would go to a priestess. If she woke up with a half migraine or a stomach pain, she would rush to a priestess. If she or her husband gets involved in an altercation with their immediate neighbour, she would go to a priestess. If somebody gave her a hard stare, she would go to a priestess. Then, as per advice of the priestess, she'd stick half a dozen small mirrors upon the door and walls of her house which looks pretty out of place making herself look benighted in front of others.

As per my opinion, she might have consulted more than two dozen priestesses residing in different areas of the state. If somebody tells her that a youngblood priestess has come up who can predict the future of somebody accurately, then she would immediately pay her a visit. She has gone to the extent of visiting a priestess whom she considers reliable no matter how far the priestess resides and get too enthused to meet the same whether she resides 200 kms away or on the other side of the planet or if possible to another planet.

Such is her obsession with priestesses. Realising the vulnerability of her mindset, the priestesses would play upon her, easily taking her for a ride. She'd be advised to do this, to do that, to buy fruits such as one or two bunches of banana (odd numbered banana bunches), apples, oranges, small earthen pots, small knives and many other items such as green or red chillies, white linen or cotton cloth which is highly starched, turmeric, a male pigeon not white in colour, dried umbilical chord of his son which is usually stored since the time of birth, dried body of a leech found sucking on her body on the day of Saturday and even goes upto the extent of including dried gall bladder of a python, tiger's claw, fur of a black cat or a patch of dried skin of a particular snake. The list is endless.

After conducting sort of a ritual, the priestess would be given a wholesome amount of fee as cash for the ritual as she believes the priestess as a messenger or medium between God and humans. She'd be advised or more appropriately coerced to wear a 'jantra' for protection of herself, her hubby and her son from all evil forces and the price of that would be hard to imagine, some reaching INR 15,000 to 50,000/- which she would happily oblige.

She'd be told by the priestess to revisit her to see the outcome. If the result is not satisfactory, then the priestess would levy her like some kind of taxes for a better jantra, this time costing more, for more protection, for more effectiveness for better luck to her family and the price of the jantra would go upto a whopping Rs. 1,50,000/- which she would eagerly pay with great keenness, without giving a second thought about her hard earned money.

Over and above that she would be persuaded to wear different kinds of rings on almost all her fingers of both left and right hands made of brass, copper and gold embedded with precious stones and gems such as ruby, sapphire, emerald and the likes thus making a big hole in her purse.

With more and more money exhausted, she got drowned in debt and started on a wild spree of borrowing money from whomsoever she meets for more superstitious rites to be performed by the local priestesses. Her obsession in this regard became so grave and intense that she got addicted to superstition landing her in a state of extreme misery and penury.

One fine morning I saw her praying in the corner of a room of her house praying as if in a trance with lots of burning incenses, lighted candles, fruits, notes of money and murmuring to herself as if having a sacred conversation with God. Her husband being an atheist, stampeded with his feet on the candles, incense sticks, fruits and whatever items that lied there and kicked them away. The incident that followed after that was like a Third World War, a cataclysm of sort, the memory of which still gives me the creeps – hurling of words filled with expletives of the highest degree, smashing of household items by my uncle-in-law with appliances such as TV lying torn apart on the floor with circuits and wires protruding haywire, chairs without legs, almirahs with broken glasses and of course a good beating comprising of side kicks, round kicks, punches poured on my aunt-in-law.

I really had a hard time trying to overcome the nightmarish situation and consoling them. During the conundrum, I received a stray punch from my uncle-in-law on my face as a souvenir which was actually meant for my aunt-in-law but landed on the wrong face giving me a memorable black spot on my face for weeks, an unwanted gift. Thanks to my aunt-in-law's obsession with superstition.

The bottomline or the message I want to convey is that, many, particularly innocent women are taken for a ride and fall victim to such self-styled priestesses by extracting huge amounts of money from them. It's like broad daylight extortion.

The irony is that there is no law in the judicial system to curb this menace. If you were a married woman, just imagine how shocked you would be when one of the priestesses tells you that your husband will die soon either by accident or not waking up from sleep within a short span of days. As nobody can tell the future, any poor lady who hears it will be filled with apprehension.

Gradually, she'll be lured for all the pujahs and rites to be performed by the priestess in the name of saving her husband. That's the game they play and many innocent women are falling prey to such procrastinations by such priestesses thereby ending up as victims of heavy debt and it's a practice in our society which I really really abhor for I am someone who goes by facts and evidences, not blind faith and superstition is a kind of blind faith, a kind of mental darkness.


* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer may be reached at kambamsamarjit0(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on May 13, 2017.


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