************Within the Four Walls***********************
A story of an young woman who had to endure a blackish ritual in the name of goddess and goodness....a horrific real tale converted to a readable story of Paru
Paru was in early twenties when she became pregnant with her first child. Like all young women do, she was excited and very much expecting her baby. She used to feel her child, enjoy the small movements of the tiny limbs inside her womb and enjoy watching herself in the mirror with the growing tummy. She was little conscious about her weight or any other things that were bothering her in her marital life. Being in a joint family dominated by men and an authoritative mother in law who was like a ring master in circus, life for Paru was not an easy one. She had to do her daily chores of washing clothes, cleaning the floor and making food along with other ladies in the household and keep serving the men till they are done before she takes her morsel of food silently in to her bed room which was her only place of privacy and solace. However, she never felt the burden of all this and her focus and happiness remained on her baby who is going to bring her immense joy and happiness. Rest of all things became voidable to her otherwise haphazard life.
As she was preparing for the baby shower and bangles ceremony as per Hindu rituals in India, Paru’s mother in law came with another ritual that need to be completed before Paru can leave to her parents place for delivery. Mother-in-law and other ladies of the house were making plans and they decided on a Sunday evening to carry on the ritual that Paru never heard of before. Her sister-in-law counselled her that doing this ritual which is of worshipping Goddess Kateri, 10th form of Maa Kali will invoke the goddess in the house and will chase away evil. They got Paru black saree, black bangles, and started making food from the morning of the planned day to appease the goddess of darkness or blood or evil as you may call her.
Paru was petrified with the preparations but could hardly utter a word back as she was very scared to oppose anything in that household. Her husband also watched at the unfolding events silently without spilling out the fears of his young wife. Paru was a vegetarian and the preparation of all kinds of meat and seafood and along with the pasting of red kumkum all over the doors of the house started to make her tremble in fear. She could not digest the smell of the food including dry fish, meat and sea food. She called her mother and informed but was advised to keep quiet and just follow her mother-in-law instructions as they believed that if she objects to anything and then if anything happens to the child, they will not spare her.
On the Sunday evening, the rituals began around the Rahu Kalam, before the sunset at 6 pm. Paru was dressed in black saree, black bangles and put heavy kumkum on the forehead. She feared to look at herself in the mirror. Mother-in-law instructed the whole family to come near the well in the backyard and she started putting around the copper lamps and cleaned the space on the floor. She kept a brick and arranged decorations of flowers and ash along with turmeric and kumkum – the red paste she applies for everything and anything.
Paru was alone inside the five bedroom house and all the others were behind the house waiting for her. Mother-in-law walked in, closed all the windows, suddenly came to Paru and held her hand and switched off all the lights. Paru was frightened to the core; all she did was just to place her right hand on her womb as a reassurance of comfort to her growing child. Mother-in-law gave her a lamp in her hand and asked her to come out of the house through the front entrance and roam three times around the house before she placed the lamp near the brick that was then considered as Goddess Kateri and placed all things in black, tobacco, water filled with ashes and incense sticks. Paru was sweating like hell; her eyes were full of fear and tears. She did not muster a word of courage to stop the agonizing ritual in the name of Goddess.
Then the real trouble began. Paru and her husband were asked to sit, and mother-in-law placed camphor in front of them and lit them. After which she pulled out a Plantation leave and spread it in front of them. Then she started serving all that was cooked that day- chicken, dry fish, mutton fry, prawn, crab, dry brinjal and rice. Along with something made out of rice powder that looked like a small lamp filled with ghee.
Paru felt like running away. Her husband started to eat as his mother instructed them to begin. Paru’s tears were flowing unnoticed. The darkness of the surroundings did not let anyone else notice. Her blood pressure was running high and she was not able to sit down in that posture with her baby moving with discomfort inside her. She was instructed to eat without leaving anything in the leaf. Her husband helped her by swallowing the maximum possible and leaving rice and vegetables for her to quickly finish. Then mother-in-law continued the prayers and made everyone lie on the ground and offer prayers to the brick goddess invoked as Kateri. Then she took Paru and her husband inside the house and took aarthi to them and then asked Paru to go and rest.
Paru ran to her room and closed the doors. She cried to herself inconsolably with the ritual that made her shiver. Mother-in-law behaved like a tantric who performed evil rituals in burial grounds. Every other member of the family watched it like watching a tele-serial involving ghosts and cremation rituals. It took many days for Paru to get out of this memory.
Even after years of her child’s birth, Paru goes into a deep silence and pain whenever she remembers this ritual or the events of the day.
Kateri is said to be the10th form of Goddess Kali and also called as Katyayani. She helps to bring both good and evil. Nowhere in the Hindu mythology there is mention of this ritual and that too to be performed on a pregnant lady. After several years of going through this unfortunate family ritual living in midst of a metropolitan city, Paru wanted to know why and where this sad ritual came from. She could find references to the same in some tribal cultures of Africa but there was no mention of such a habit in the families of Indians especially happening in cities. Those who suffer from nightmares and ghosts believe that invoking Kateri into the person will heal the person from such pains and traumas. Paru realized that this is an utter disgusting practice depending on the mental ability of the person who wants to continue this ritual in the family.
It is a blind belief that performing such odd rituals will bring in good health and happiness to the family and to the new born. Beating of the person with branches of neem leaves and asking questions to the one on whom they believe that goddess Kateri is invoked and blindly following whatever the lady shaking all though says is all nonsense. NO Goddess will ask a pregnant lady to be put through such a menace and if this mother-in-law believed and made vulnerable Paru do this, it is nothing but unfortunate for Paru and Shame on the Mother-in-law and her family who participated in this nightmare. It is time to stop such blind beliefs and horrid rituals to continue in our society.