She had been pulled reluctantly into a circle. The circle consisted of
closed knit family members sitting on the floor and staring intently in the middle. An old lady sat on one side, her face covered with the end of her saree. She seemed old and frail. All eyes alternated between her face and the ground in the middle of the circle.
Tanu felt very uncomfortable. She just wanted to leave the place. She was about to stand up when her mother in law looked at her with eyes full of disapproval.
“Once in here, no one can leave.”
The old lady said softly.
She then turned her veiled face towards the mother in law.
” Who is she?”. She asked.
” My daughter in law. The bride of my second son. She does not believe in such things as these. What do you make out of her?” She said.
There was a sudden silence.
The veiled lady turned slowly towards Tanu. Tanu baulked as the lady studied her minutely, her face still hidden.
Some moments of tensed silence ensued.
The lady seemed to break into a smile..
” She is just afraid of all this. She is good.” She said, with a sudden fondness in her voice.
The tension seemed to give away a bit.
” Close your eyes…all of you. I am calling him.” The veiled lady said with a sudden finality in her voice.
All did so at once.
Tanu watched everyone intently. The fear was now replaced with inquisitiveness. They had said that something would just surface in the middle of the circle.She watched carefully from her slit like eyes..
The circle was big. She watched the hands of all. They were all open with their palms stretched out. All windows and doors were closed. She checked out the ventilators. They were securely locked.
The room light was dim. Faint light of the setting sun shone on the ventilator glass.
She concentrated again in the middle.
” Give me…I say. Give me eight number of TAVEEJ. They need your protection.” The lady said.
” Uff…uff…too difficult. Its painful..manage with four…manage with four..” She muttered again.
” No way..I want eight numbers..one for each of my family member.” Mother in law insisted.
“Ok..Ok..I am trying. Give me..give me..uff..uff..give ..I said..give.” The lady cried and moaned.
Tanu was excited by then. She stared at the lady. Probably she will quietly put some in the middle.
” They are coming..yes they are coming.” The lady said joyfully.
Tanu looked at the ventilator glass. Probably it will shatter and they will fall in, she thought. She again shot a quick look at the lady’s hidden hands and then that of others. They all sat with eyes closed in anticipation with their palms stretched out. She looked at the ground in the middle and then her heart almost stopped beating! A handful of Taveej just sprang in there from nowhere! She looked behind her. THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO ONE.
There was a sudden jubilation all around. The lady seemed exhausted. Mother in law was holding all of them as if they were a handful of diamonds. Tanu remained fascinated and excited..suspicious and fearful..
What was all this?
She had spent all her hitherto life in a city. Her scientific mind dissected the scene again and again minutely. Had she missed something?
A very important clue perhaps. But then they had suddenly sprang up right in front of her studying eyes…
She suddenly wanted to leave. Mother in law had more questions.
Someone had harmed them..had cast a black spell..
Tanu sprang up with a shot. She could not bear it any more. She opened the door and ran out. The others kept yelling asking her to stop.
She did not look back and rushed up the stairs to her infant daughter.
” What’s wrong Didi? You look upset.” The maid said alarmed, when she saw her.
” Oh..it’s nothing. Do make a strong cup of tea for me with ginger.” She told her.
She wanted to be alone. Her child smiled warmly, cycling her little feet rapidly in the air. Caressing her in her arms, she soon forgot the strange occurings below.
It was after two hours that her Mother in law came in to the Shiva temple on their floor. The time of evening Puja has since long past. She was excited and brimming with information.
” You ran away from there. What not emerged from below the foundation of our four story building!” She said,excitedly, on seeing her.
Tanu stared in disbelief.
” How did they dig below the building?” She asked.
” So silly you are! She just asked
the spirits and they emerged in that circle. A part of my saree which I wore thirty years ago with my hair..and what not..” She added.
” What does it mean?”Tanu looked askance at her.
” It simply means that wicked people..our enemies have been trying to hurt us from so long. They stole these materials of mine to cast a dark spell. How trying times I had had all through my life! Today I have uprooted it completely. Of course, I have paid quiet a hefty sum to bring that lady here.” She said triumphantly.
Tanu knew not what to think. It all still seemed fake…
But she had seen it with her own eyes.
Was it real or was she hallucinating?
“You wear this Taveej and
tie this one around your
daughter’s right arm.” Mother in law’s voice brought her back to the present.
“I don’t need this.” Tanu protested.
” You will have to do as I say.” She said sternly.
Tanu remained adamant.
” This is for your own good. This is to keep your daughter safe. You know not what great harm will come on her otherwise. You have no idea about all this.” She said.
Her husband joined the rhetoric too. Sometimes Tanu wondered whether he really had his senses intact. Quietly, she slid the Taveej around her arm and that of her child.
It seemed like a weird thing sticking on her.
Oh God! Keep us all safe! What awful things goes on in this strange forested land. She thought of her hometown Nagpur. A sudden sigh escaped off her.
A week passed off awkwardly.
She felt as if she was being watched constantly… by whom she could not tell. She asked the others. All were wearing them and were at ease.
The nagging feeling continued in her. She brushed it aside as a figment of her imagination.
It was early evening that day. The orange sun had left mild traces of it’s colour in the far horizon and had slipped into slumber. The rest of the sky was bluish grey and dark. The temple bells were ringing. Chonch shells were being blown in the neighbourhood houses. Tanu who was watching all this from the terrace
rushed downstairs to her floor. It was time for evening puja. The rooms were still dark. Her daughter was sleeping peacefully. Little light filtered from the corridor tubelight. She bent over to wake up her daughter.
It was then when someone bent on her… Strong arms encircled her from behind towering over her…gripping her tightly…
Terror stricken, she tried to shout..but could not…her feet seemed frozen…Oh Shiva…Oh Shiva…please help….she said repeatedly within her.
He suddenly let her go…the grip loosened. The next moment, she clasped her child in her arms and rushed off outside…into the lighted corridor. She jerked both the Taveej out of their arms and threw them on to the floor.
Her daughter clung to her in panic as Tanu watched the two Taveej dancing with great energy on the floor in utter disbelief.
When they stopped, her heart was still beating wildly.
When she emerged out of the adjoining Shiva temple, her mother in law seemed furious as she stood near the fallen Taveez.
” You cannot even..”She started saying.
Tanu interrupted her.
” Why have you built a Shiva temple in your house when you have no faith in him? If you have faith then, why do you call in dark forces to watch over us?” Tanu interjected.
Both fell silent at this sudden recognition.
PROTECTION BY DARK UNSEEN FORCES!
Tanu handed her child to her and then took the two Taveej and threw them far off, into a distant pool of water. The splash seemed to calm her down.
She had learnt a hard lesson. She would need it to survive in this strange land.