While my friends and colleagues share their beautiful experiences of village life, I have a very different tale to share, about a facet of rural life that is rarely talked about. Nevertheless, the story of my colleague in BAIF Dhruva, is worth recounting.
I visited a remote village once with my colleague from Dhruva and was struck by the silence. I stopped one of the villagers and asked him questions about the village. Our light-hearted conversation came to an abrupt halt, when the villager and my colleague saw a woman in her mid-40’s coming toward us. They moved aside suddenly and I was puzzled by their behaviour. My colleague’s sudden silence puzzled me and made me wonder about the reason.
I questioned my colleague about it as soon as we were out of the village. My questions were all about the woman whom we had encountered there. My colleague’s replies were incoherent, but the gist of it was a shocking piece of information about the villagers’ belief in things like black magic. The entire village held on to this belief and considered one family in the village, as Dacan (a witch) family, having knowledge of black magic, which is passed on from one generation to the next. According to the villagers, the Dacan woman doesn’t like to see anybody being progressive or enjoying life. If she witnesses these, she casts a spell and something bad happens the next day. This belief is very strong in the village and can be sensed immediately by the silence in the village as soon as one enters it.
The next day, when I reached the office, I was given the news that my colleague had met with an accident, which not only kept him bed-ridden for almost 2 months but he also suffered a permanent disability in his leg. When I went to see him in his house in the village and asked him about the incident, he did not open up initially. After some probing he said that the Dacan lady, whom we had seen the previous day, had her eyes on him; she was not happy about him having a new bike and a progressive job. It appeared as if she had cursed him, which resulted in the accident. I was shocked to see this blind faith that he and his family had in such theories. Not only that, they had called the traditional village healer to their home and he also informed them that this was all because of the Dacan’s black magic.
The story does not end here. I came to know that the villagers believed that the Dacan lives a normal life in the day-time, but after midnight she performs black magic, turns into a cat, a fire ball and rides on a dog but if anybody sees her riding on the dog, that person dies of serious health problems within a few days. The Dacan can also be heard crying at night, which is audible to the villagers. She also teaches black magic to others with a caveat, a prior contract, whereby she would claim a life from somebody in their family. If anyone breached the contract, that person would become mentally ill. Due to such beliefs, the people from that village tie a thread around their neck, arms, ankles, etc. to protect themselves from the ill effects of the Dacan.
The ‘power’ that the Dacan wields over the lives of the people in that village seemed absolute, as they went about their activities in mortal fear of her. Education alone did not seem to provide an answer, as seen in my colleague’s case. The only option that the villagers felt they had, was to leave the village and search for a better future elsewhere, far away from the ‘evil eye’ of the Dacan.
– SBI Youth for India, Parveen Sattar Shaik. Her project was on ‘Child Nutrition, Health & Legal Awareness amongst Rural Women’