In the fall of 2009 I was taken ill. It started with regular fever and got worse over the month. My life got cryogenised in terms of priorities; the fact that I had recently acquired admission in one of the finest Universities in London with a full scholarship did not alter my situation. It was as though a fairy godmother had whisked her magic wand and turned the pumpkin into a golden carriage, however, the clock had struck twelve sooner than it ought.
Lying on that tiny little bed I would stare at the ceiling for hours at a stretch, perhaps hoping a wormhole to suddenly appear in the middle and warp the fabric of time, conveniently, transporting me to the point where I would be on a flight bound for Heathrow. However, nothing of that sort ever happened, the only activity the ceiling above saw was that of a gecko that would flit across at odd intervals to catch a fly or a spider, most of the time even the gecko remained entirely frozen.
Now in the Hindu culture there are different ways and methods to deal with the sick and not all require a College degree, in a manner of speaking. The mysteries of the universe have to be unraveled to determine the course of treatment through various mediums so astrologers, sadhu babas*, nature worshippers and the witch doctors all play an extremely crucial role in the healing process. In fact the doctors alone cannot be relied upon to do the job, such audacity would mean profound disregard of the higher powers. Therefore as the tradition dictated, my family reasonably took the natural course of action.
The saffron brigade declared our house the “champ de bataille” the evil spirit that had taken hold of me had better be warned. As the pundits proceeded with their plan of action, I, unceremoniously became the bearer of their conjure-ments, if there be such a word.
“Do not remove this at all”, my mother would carefully tie the red shiny thread on my stick of an arm. The thread would prickle and scratch against my soft skin but mother insisted that it was for my own good, although that goodness was completely lost on me. I had become the experimental guinea pig, and quickly got adorned with an assortment of embellishments, hence threads and beads, charms and amulets, this and that started covering me left, right and center much to the annoyance of my official caregivers.
The nurses on duty would promptly remove these trappings as soon as they saw one. I was at the center of two opposing sets of healing ideologies and got handled or (mis)handled at their whims and fancies.
One afternoon father came to the hospital looking very excited, with gleaming eyes he held out a tiny little box in front of me, it really was tiny so it could not be the latest iPhone! He opened it with utmost reverence and held out the most magnificent ring ever. It was a garnet on a silver band, it did not sparkle as one would have expected of beautiful rings, the burgundy gleam of garnet was deep, the sparkle was trapped within the stone making it look mysteriously dark and beautiful.
Finally one charm that charmed me, I grasped it with both hands.
“My own, my precious”
Well, it did not come from the fires of Mount Doom hence nothing magical about it. It was just a pretty ring, but the authority who had advised on its purchase made it no less than a miracle stone that would help align the planets in my favor and get it chugging with right amount of spin and everything to get me back on track. I found no reason to complain, not that my complaints would have found any takers.
Guruji had said that the ring was going to absorb all my sickness and give me new life and father had not an iota of doubt about that, I on the other hand reserved my judgment.
Amidst all galore, one day a god man of relatively higher repute made berth in my house. If I had nurtured any hope of a benign view on my psychological state my delusions were quickly crushed with the pundit’s knowledge, it turned out that the garnet was the wrong prognosis, what I needed to get well was an emerald, which was to be worn in the little finger.
Out went the garnet! So on and so forth the charms and amulets changed their colors, compositions, shapes and sizes and likewise did the medicines, procedures, tests and torments.
After much ado one holy man decided that the charms had run its course, now my sickness demanded greater rescue measures hence he suggested it was naught but a sacrifice of a goat that would see me out of my ailing bed.
So a goat it was, a fat black one at that, who laid his life for mine despite all of my efforts to stop it.
After two months in the hospital I was finally fit to go, goat or no goat.
Till date it is the firm belief of my family that it was the black goat that had saved my life that year, however, I am highly disinclined to agree.
*Sadhu baba- Hindu godman