As the benign matriarch begins to age gracefully in a densely populated joint family, routine chores like cooking, cleaning and washing would be progressively removed from her portfolio much to her chagrin. Having reached the exalted status of a super senior citizen, she would only be called upon occasionally to function as an arbitrator in disputes like the modus operandi of a specialised ritual. Her ruling would be incontestably final.
However, a special task she would take upon herself would be that of dispelling the effects of evil eye cast on family members who had hogged the limelight. It may be the case of her perky great granddaughter who had excelled in a fancy dress competition in her school where she had sung and strutted merrily as a gypsy girl, with a tin dangling from her shoulder. Or a talented daughter-in-law who had become the cynosure of neighbours’ eyes with her massive rangoli-spread on the street front. Or even the 12-year-old rebel who brought from the market lady’s finger all tender, a feat even the elderly males pickled in marketing would not achieve. It might even be the entire family if a visitor had declared charitably that nowhere he/she had seen such a well-knit one.
On such occasions, at her bidding, all should troop into the hall and squat facing her, observing silence. A surreal look would creep into her dusky face. Gathered in her closed right fist will be salt, chillies and one or two esoteric items. Ticking off a giggling kid with an icy stare, she would wave her right hand briskly over the heads of the assembly thrice clock-wise and then anti-clock wise, her lips mumbling inaudible mumbo-jumbo. This done, she would signal to the assemblage to break and disperse without looking back, and throw the admixture into a live charcoal oven in the kitchen. The popping noise from the embers would provide audible proof that the ill-effects of evil eye had been effectively warded off.
Not that such a remedial measure was the prerogative of only human beings. As a curative measure, it might be even extended to Lakshmi the cow that has been kicking the milkman, the coffee filter that didn’t speedily collect decoction in the lower chamber or the vessel in the kitchen that failed to cook fluffy, jasmine soft idlis.
Such a woman would be deemed vital as a remover of the effects of evil eye on family members. What about her who is a part of the family? Does she have an insulation of immunity? Won’t a person with darkness in the heart and greed in the eye do damage to her prowess? Provision would be there for such a premise. Her visiting nonagenarian sister, still active and agile, would make her sit and do the honours, lips telegraphing enriched mumbo-jumbo.