It is strict adherence to ritual that keeps your loved ones safe. Rise at 4 am to pray. The Gods are most attentive in the early hours. Morning prayers, an oil lamp lit every evening before the electric lights are flicked on, a ban on Friday travels, these are your lines of defence against evil.
Be watchful, ever vigilant for the intrusion of errant spirits into the family. A crying child in the evening, a sure sign of the Evil Eye.
Gather your arsenal while muttering under your breath about the visiting neighbour-woman, with her too abundant praises, her too ardent admiration of beauty and intelligence in the child. Steel yourself, this is no trifling issue. Shut your ears, your heart to the child’s sobs, she is held and comforted by her mother.
Work quickly, ignoring the arthritis gathering in your joints. Before misfortune falls.
First the dried red chillies, one, two.
Then the black mustard seeds. A small pinch will do.
Gather together with grains of rice,
Circle the child’s head precisely thrice.
Throw the spices with deadly aim
Into the fire of licking flames.
Chanted prayers allay the fears,
And distract the young one, now no longer in tears.
Keep a keen eye for the wisps of smoke rising from the fire-flung spices. These mark the demise of the Evil Eye, the restoration of the world to its rightful order.
Your daughters, and one day your granddaughters too will repeat these actions, and think of you.