Jhari (photo) had transformed the area around her cottage into a work place, diligently removing husks from rice and cooking a vegetable stew on an open wood stove. Old age and smoke from the burning embers made it hard for her to see. But the sunlight was strong and this helped her to use a sieve in cooking.
As I walked up to her, Jhari was humming a folk tune in a melodious voice. A sense of peace came over me but it was mixed with melancholy. The song was about Krishna, a deity revered by Hindus, and this eminent lord’s descent into the shallow waters of the abyss after being struck by an arrow, followed by his death.
I wondered why this old lady was singing such a tragic song, associated with trauma and pain. As we sat and talked I began to understand.
Jhari has seen a lot of misery in her life since her husband died early in their marriage and left her alone with her newborn child Reena. Jhari embraced the role of a single parent and set about earning a living without any concern for the social stereotypes stemming from her tribal background. One of the happiest moments occurred when her daughter Reena married Bharat Nayak and gave birth to two children, Jogendra Nayak, 14, and Mousumi Nayak, 8.
Reena was living a happy life when catastrophe struck during the monsoon. Bharat suffered came down with a terrible fever. Reena and Jhari assumed that Bharat’s fever was caused by a virus and took no action, thinking Bharat would be fine in a few days. But his condition worsened. His fever grew worse and he suffered from fatigue, nausea and a loss of appetite. A few days later, he began to have seizures.
Jhari and Reena assumed that an evil spirit had entered Bharat and took him to a sorcerer living on the outskirts of the village. This witch doctor claimed that Bharat had been plagued by an evil force that had to be removed. He took Bharat in for 3 days and performed a series of rituals that were unorthodox, cruel, and terrifying.
The sorcerer boasted loudly that he had removed the evil entity. But by the third day Bharat could no longer tolerate the pain and trauma and passed away in the afternoon. Incredibly, the villagers were still hailing the wonders performed by the sorcerer.
But four people were standing near the body of Bharat whose lives had just been devastated. When they took the body to the medical facility to get the death certificate the doctors stated that the cause of death had been malaria and had nothing to do with witchcraft. Questioned by the distraught family, the doctor explained that malaria is caused by the bite of a tiny mosquito.
However, his death could also be blamed on witchcraft……..
Posted By Rohit Samal
Posted Aug 31st, 2023