Sunday morning, 8:17am. I have been asleep for approximately 5 hours. There is a knock at my door. I ignore it, what sort of cretin knocks on the door this early on a Sunday? The door bell goes again. I continue to ignore.
It can’t be the maid because she has come to learn that no recognizably human life can be found before 10am, so it can’t be her coming to clean.
It rings again. I turn over and cover my head with my blanket. People need to learn that the person who lives in this house doesn’t rise till midday. However something gets lost in the translation as they decide to really try and get my attention. The bell rings and rings and rings.
OK, fine, I admit defeat. I crawl out of bed, check my modesty, open the door a few inches and attempt to focus on the person on the other side.
It’s my landlords. And they’ve come with backup.
Apparently they have become convinced that I am sharing my apartment with others, which was news to me because I’m sure I’d have noticed something like that in a small two bedroom apartment.
But no, they are absolutely determined to evict these lodgers and the backup comes in the form of an elderly priest, here to help remove evil spirits that have been getting a free ride at my expense.
Yes. You read right. I apparently had evil spirits in my apartment.
I tried to explain to them that I really didn’t mind these extra lodgers as if they were here, that they have been quiet, didn’t steal my food from the fridge and generally kept the house tidy, what more could you possibly ask for? But no, it was time for them to move on.
The Hindu ceremony that was conducted in my front room is called a Pooja, and I guess you could say it’s similar to an exorcism in Catholicism, except the spirits are being evicted from a building rather than a person.
It involves a lot of prayer and chanting from the priest to bless the house and politely, but firmly, tell the evil spirits to move on. Oh, it also involves making a fire in your house and ensuring that by the end of the ceremony your eyes are streaming and absolutely everything smells of smoke and ash. Frankly I don’t blame the evil spirits for wanting to leave after the Pooja!
After about an hour of chanting and once the significant fire hazard had been put out, I was left with a great deal of mess in my living room and an apartment that smelt like a bonfire, however, the landlords were sufficiently satisfied that any evil spirits had packed their bags and moved out. I did try to explain that they could probably have had the same affect by allowing a couple of students to move in for a few weeks and not had to run the risk of burning down the house, but I don’t think they understood.
So this being India, who had to clean up all the mess that was left on the floor? The landlord? The priest? Me? No, none of the above of course. The maid was summoned by a phone call at 9:30am on a Sunday to come immediately and clean everything up.
To give the Pooja ceremony some context on why it’s conducted, it’s usually done when you have a streak of bad luck, it is said that evil spirits are not allowing good things to happen. This is actually very welcome news to me and I feel vindicated because it means that it’s not my own stupidity for constantly losing mobile phones and wallets or breaking numerous gadgets and gizmos; infact, I’m blameless in the matter because my house has been occupied by evil spirits and they were causing this to happen.
This is a really awesome piece of Indian culture to know about, it means that while in India, I no longer have to take responsibility when I next do something ridiculously stupid!
Note: The Pooja ceremony forms a very important part of South Indian culture and is practiced even by those who don’t follow the Hindu faith. This version of events which happened to me is in no way meant to belittle or mock the ceremony which I’m sure would have been very interesting to observe. If held in the afternoon. In someone else’s house. This entry is simply my take on what happened to me on this particular Sunday morning.