When I was a kid, my mom used to apply the most hideous makeup possible on my face. First, she’d apply two or three layers of talcum powder on my face. Then she’d apply kajal on my eyes, not to make me look pretty but to look positively ugly. The kajal would be applied in the most haphazard of ways possible by a human being. At last, came the pièce de résistance; She’d use the kajal to draw a huge circle on my cheek. It looked like a humungous bee sitting permanently on my cheek, and I looked like a doll from a cheap horror movie.
Only when my makeup was complete, my mom allowed me to go out and play with my friends. All the boys used to make fun of me and I used to go back to my home crying. My mom would hear me out, let me finish crying, and then give me a hug followed by either a sweet or a piece of chocolate. The next day, she’d be waiting with the talc and kajal.
I used to ask her why she was so intent on humiliating me. All she said was to ward off our neighbour aunty’s buri nazar. Her answers didn’t satisfy me, so one day when I got out of the house, I went to the street tap and washed my face before running off to play. The next day, I woke up with a very high fever and a nasty stomach ache. Doctor uncle said that I had contracted jaundice and would have to stay inside and follow a strict diet for fourteen days.
My mom went outside and started cursing the neighbour aunty for her buri nazar. I didn’t understand completely because of being delirious due to the jaundice, but I caught the words ‘jealousy,’ ‘barren womb,’ ‘evil eye’ etc. What they meant, I didn’t know. By the time I was cured, neighbour aunty had vacated her house and moved away. I didn’t object when mom started applying talc on my face.
I closed my old diary and started laughing. We Indians are quite the superstitious lot. I was about to sit for dinner when Meetu, my daughter, came in limping. There was a deep gash on her leg that was bleeding profusely.
‘Papa!’ Meetu cried, ‘I was playing near the fence and my leg got caught in the barbed wire. It’s paining a lot.’
‘Rani!’ I called out to my wife. ‘Meetu is hurt pretty bad. I’m taking her to the doctor.’
As we came out of our flat, the door to the opposite flat opened.
‘Manoj bhayya, what happened? Is Meetu hurt?’ It was our neighbour, Shanti. I muttered something about going to the doctor and shuffled away.
Stupid Rani and Meetu! Always hanging out with that witch Shanti. Can’t Rani see the way Shanti looks at Meetu? She’s had three miscarriages, that woman. Guess she has an evil soul to go along with her evil eye. I resolved to get a taweez from the dargah on the way back. I should also ask Rani to rotate some red chillies and rock salt around Meetu before entering the flat.
These evil eyes are bloody real.
Note: The legend or curse of ‘Evil Eye’ is prevalent across many cultures in the world. It is often considered to be someone’s malevolent glare that would bring ill-luck or injury to someone else.
To break the curse of the ‘evil eye,’ a number of talismans or charms that differs from country to country.
Cyprus, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Brazil, Lebanon, Malta, Egypt, Albania, Lebanon, India, Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Spain, Morocco are some of the countries which have their own legends about and talismans against ‘evil eye.’
Kajal – eye liner
Buri Nazar – evil eye
Bhayya – brother
Taweez – an amulet or locket, usually containing verses from the Qur’an.
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1. Tales With A Twist – A collection of my short stories.
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