Thursday, August 09, 2007

raji chitti is

a character from one of my stories I no longer need... not for now anyway

Rajeshwari had turned mad in her late teens. No one could explain why. She had come home from school one day crying and red cheeked, refusing to tell anyone what had happened. Soon after that she began acting strangely. She developed an appetite that put the heartiest of men to shame. She was found outside the local wine shop, jostling with lorry and rickshaw drivers demanding to be served. She answered back, would be morose and then all of a sudden as though a light had been switched off she was back to her old mild mannered self.
Unable to cope with her affliction (or find a prospective groom who hadn’t heard of it) in the small town they lived in, Sita’s grandparents and her Chitti moved to the city and boarded with Sita’s family. Sita’s parents had been told that the young girl was depressed, that she was bored of small town life. But when Rajeshwari Chitti started talking in strange voices – as a young child, a drunkard, sometimes an old crone who spoke only in riddles – they realised there was more to her problem than a mild depression. Sita had been six or seven when her mother’s family had arrived. In the six months they lived with them she would often be woken up in the middle of the night by her family’s frantic shouts as they searched for Rajeshwari who disappeared in the middle of the night. The house (and the entire street) would be roused as they went in search of her, finding her curled around the thick trunk of the mango tree that grew in the Xavier’s courtyard fast asleep or sitting on the water tank shouting at the moon. The neighbourhood delighted in this of course, the last excitement they had had was when Chandru had failed his board exams. The Mamis would all congregate at Sita’s house the morning after such incidents, headed by Janaki Mami to counsel and console.
“Don’t worry, once she gets married, everything will be alright” Janaki Mami would opine, before slipping away with Indra’s mother to discuss all they had seen, heard and said.
And so, following the common wisdom that marriage was the panacea Rajeshwari needed, she was married to the first young, unsuspecting bank clerk they could find. But a year later and she was not cured. In fact she had become worse, adding to her repertoire of voices and disappearing acts a sudden aversion to sleeping and bathing. Her husband who had soon realised his wife’s problems were more serious than the fact she had had a sheltered upbringing (as the family insisted after she tore his silk shirt and scratched him on their wedding night) complained to the family that they had to stop her nocturnal, noxious wanderings. A priest was called and consulted and after scrunching his eyes shut and flaring his nostrils he determined that 4 spirits were residing in Sita’s aunt’s body. An exorcism was arranged and a small donation of Rs.30, 000 was made to the temple trust. The exorcism took place at Sita’s house. She had spent most of the time hiding her face in the fragrant pleats of her grandmother’ sari, too afraid to see what visuals accompanied the piercing screeches that echoed throughout the house. The exorcism had not helped and Rajeshwari Chitti had died not long after it after losing her balance and falling from the water tank. The Priest acquired a new moped.
“But she died a married woman’ the ladies of the neighbourhood had stated ‘What more
could a woman ask for?”


Mumbaiwallah said...

What a sad story.

Beautifully written, as usual. I hope you find a home for Raji in one of your stories.

Munimma said...

This brought something to mind. Got to hear his side too.

Sunil said...

that really was a bit too sad for me.

It points out very well though how people with any kind of mental ailments are treated in india. Instead of good medical treatment, they get a priest and voodoo magic. It is just sad. At least here there were no chains, beatings and dark rooms.

Falstaff said...

Water tanks are really getting a sinister reputation nowadays, aren't they?

Charu said...

this is such a moving story, Shoefi. one of your most evocative. you know, this reminded me of something you had written a long time ago - "past her shelf life"

I can never understand this belief in "kalyanam aana ellam seriya poyidum"

sometime, also write the story of thr woman who has been married to a an like this - she / her family not having been told of this - happens ALL the time...

Jay said...

I wonder when this mentality will cease to exist.

ahiri said...

Superb piece of writing.

mumbaigirl said...

what more indeed? This was close to the bone-I know a story like this in real life.

Aarthi said...

Oh! I loved it! What an ending!
u pulled no punches on that one...

Madras Only said...

:-)). nalla irukku!

Deepa said...

Sumangaliya poi saendha bagyavathi!

Vidya said...

Excellent! I could picturize Raji chithi in my head. Lovely :-)

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

MW - Thank you... hope to find her a home till then she's staying here.

Munimma - :) Always good to hear the other side of the story

Sunil - It always surprises me how many educated people seem to think that marriage and exorcism are the way to cure mental illnesses.

Falstaff - Indeed

Charu - thanks. it's true, i can think of atleast 2 cases I know of where women have been kept in the dark about their future husband's health problems.

jay - doesn;t look like it's going anywhere soon

ahiri - thanks!

mg - did it have a happier ending?

deepa aargh! that statement pisses me off so much!

aarathi, madras only,vidya- nanri!