Visiting Manjula’s Village

Summers are hot in India. As hot as hot gets. We left England to go to India right in the middle of Indian summer. One afternoon, Manjula invited us to meet her family that included a buffalo and a calf. The entire village turned up seeing our car parked outside Manjula’s house. There were many children, young men and women, some elders and a shaman. The shaman was squatted on the floor holding a bouquet of peacock feathers. He spoke little, but enticingly. I have never believed in shamanism, astrology or black magic, but he convinced us that we must have our stars looked at (he said forehead, as in India they believe that future is “printed” on your forehead)

So, I gave in… I was given a chair while he continued to be seated (squatting) on the ground. He recited (mumbled) some mantras. At one point, I burst out laughing but I sensed his annoyance at my ignorance (read frivolity). So I shut my mouth and observed. Even started to enjoy as he started touching and tapping the peacock feathers all over me and I felt tickled and relaxed. I didn’t want him to stop. Five minutes later, he stopped and said, “it’s fine now.” He was so reserved as a person that I didn’t want to question him (due to fear of annoying him, a shaman, in case he gets angry and I’m subjected to his wrath (curse)), “what was fine? Was it not fine before?” I left those questions for my mind to deal with. I simply thanked him and moved aside.

Then he turned towards Deepak and told him that he needed a mantra “treatment” too as something was “picked up” that needed warding off. Deepak, superstitiously, sat down for the cleansing ritual immediately, partly not wanting to take any chances, and partly out of respect for the old medicine man who might have been doing this to make some money, but the village folk were convinced the old “doctor” had supreme powers. Perhaps he did. Perhaps he did ward some evil influences off us. After the same feather-touching ritual, tickly and giggly massage, Deepak paid the guy for the two of us. The old guy looked very pleased and blessed us all. I believe his blessings really helped.

As if every visitor had to go through the cleansing custom before being allowed into the village, we were taken through the alley that led to Manjula’s house. We were shown every single room, kitchen, cattle and their tabelas, and also the street dogs that had conveniently made the place their permanent home.

Chandni, the fully-grown female buffalo came running towards Manjula. “She’s thirsty,” said Manjula, to explain Chandni’s slapdash. Chandni was given a bucket-full of water. She played with the petite Manjula and continued to dance – this time she was entertaining the guests with her performance.

After the theatrics, she posed for my camera like a true star.

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