The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘N’. Explanations and translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 67-year-old Punjabi father, raised primarily in Gujarat.
I: When it comes to bad luck, we hear a lot about bad luck in terms of nazar (the evil eye) and rituals for that, but are there any other rituals, that are maybe more specific and less widely known?
N: In the olden times, when people used to go through a series of bad luck or bad events, they used to think it was because of their… a bad spirit has possessed them. We say, “Maata aai hai,” (mother has come) or “Maata chadhi hai.” (essentially, the person has been affected by the mother) So, to get rid of the spirit, they used to do some rituals, pooja (prayer) rituals, and then with that, they get a watermelon, a big leaf, and a little bit of raw rice and a little bit of-of grains. Put it at a crossroads… and leave it there, and that will assume the spirit, the spirit has gone into the watermelon and the rice, and whoever kicks that in the future, some unknown person, poor bastard, that guy will take it out—that guy will get the bad spirit.
The idea of the crossroads has always been intertwined with demonic lore, with the eponymous ‘crossroads demon’ stories, but this watermelon-fix is entirely new to me. However, what isn’t new is the idea of prayer and a natural resource as a demon-repellent — usually, it’s associated with salt, with drawing pentagrams and what-have-you, but those drawings are primarily more Western beliefs. What really intrigues me about this, is the idea that the demon is not banished to an ether-realm, a hell, or something of the sort: Hindu mythology hinges itself on reincarnation (one has to through other living beings, plants, animals, insects, etc., until they can have another human life, all depending upon their karma, their good and bad deeds), the circular nature of time and life, and therefore, it would make sense that there is no proverbial hell to send this demon to, getting trapped, instead, inside of another living thing. Therefore, although it may initially seem like any random person who comes upon and happens to kick the watermelon is cursed without real rhyme or reason, it’s deeper than that. If looked at through the lens of Hindu belief, it’s implicit, but it’s possible that it all comes down, once again, to karma: if the person has committed many bad deeds, and as karma states, has to live with similar energy in their own life, they will happen to bring this bad luck, or demon, upon themselves. If not, they will be saved from kicking the watermelon by their own karma, almost divine intervention. However, this is an implicit inference made by me, and nothing is set in stone.