Literary Yard

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By: Debadatta Pati

woman's ghost

When my 11-year-old little brother started walking funny, dressed up like a girl, and spoke about grown-up stuff, no one had any qualms about him being possessed and, that’s when my family decided to call a tantric from the neighboring village.

In anticipation, everyone in the village flocked to the ground by the lone banyan tree that witnessed everything: the kangaroo courts by old schemers, the snake charmers, the thread ceremonies and witches that tiptoed like a small animal in socks. Ash smeared all over his body and a sole saffron loincloth around his waist, the tantric had long, coal-black beard and hair, and a red tilak on his wrinkly forehead. When he chanted stuff that was alien to me and waved the broom, my brother started trembling. When the trembling stopped, he started talking. And the bitterly cold knowledge of that the bank manager’s daughter had been dead for 6 months, seeped into us like rain water into shoes.
Her family had gotten the shock of their lives when she eloped with a dalit boy from her university dorm. They had watched them. Waited for them to make a wrong move, and kidnapped them when that happened, and stabbed them with a kitchen knife and burnt them in a brick kiln. While we thought her life was Harvard, dollars, America and all other rosy stuff that her family fed us.

The bank manager broke down and said there was no other way save the family’s honor. Someone walked him home. The crowd dispersed with murmurs. No one was aghast. As usual, there was no talk about filing a police case. At night, she left my brother’s body and never came back.

The very next day, our family elders illuminated us why we must never fall for someone from a different caste.

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