Earlier this month — but last year in internet circles — my friend PP was inspired by my offhand burst of brilliance to set up a Facebook page called Spaces Have Tales. Thanks chiefly to the enthusiasm of his buddies, this page saw a lot of recent activity. Personal, communal, sepia, vibrant, mundane and glorious narratives flowed into each other in the harmony of the diverse.
Nothing, however, beats the one he posted this morning, on behalf of a friend who wished to remain anonymous. The desire for anonymity sounds a bit suspect — surely, even in our deeply political city, with its bloody streets and daylight-violence, tales of spaces are innocuous enough.
Upon reading the anecdote, however, one realises why veiling one’s identity might be desirable, even necessary. Our lives — and reputations, and institutions, and social relations — are predicated on a certain set of beliefs. Admitting to an experience beyond them — or even acknowledging the possibility of such — frequently indexes a irrationality and/or a gullible stupidity to ones peers. It’s practically a beginning-bowl for scorn and derision (even from people who might secretly believe the stories), and in extreme instances discomfort and social alienation. And people don’t usually jump at the prospect of being thought an ignorant, hysterical fool.
Names, in this story, has consequently been changed. So don’t grill the ex-pat Rashmis you might meet about their supernatural experience in India. They might think you quite mad. And how ironic would that be?
Happened about 8 yrs ago when my daughter was just 5.. we were visiting Mysore and of course we planned a trip to the Maharajah’s Palace.. My daughter, Sarah , somehow was reluctant to go in… whined a lot and tugged at my sleeve which is very unlike her..anyway, we ended up inside ..(there were 5 of us, my husband, I and three friends)As soon as we stepped in, Sarah turned into another personality altogether.. she became extremely animated and in her element, so to speak…She stood opposite a huge portrait of Jaychamarajendra Wodeyar and looked at me with very solemn expression and said “Rashmi, that is my father.. he died long ago”.. That actually sent a shiver up my spine.. she proceeded to call us by our first names throughout the tour… said that was her house.. went to the main living room and announced that that was her family room and her dad used to sit on a particular seat , her mom on another and pointed them out…She wanted to go upstairs and show us her bedroom , and begged with the guards to let her go upstairs which is cordoned off…She told me she had lot of servants(A concept which is totally alien to her, since she was brought up in the US) and also pointed out to a pic in the far vicinity and said”Those are my aunts”.I went closer to look at the description and it read”sisters of Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar”…
Lots of other stuff she pointed out as if it was very familiar to her, and as if she were giving a tour of her own home…She also stood in front of a portrait of Goddess Saraswati and said “this was my dads favorite goddess” Lo and behold , I later found out Maharajah J did worship Saraswati….
The crowning incident was when she walked in to the darbar hall and pointed to a place where the king would have been seated and said “this is where my dad used to sit.. I used to sit rt up there” and pointed to the place above where it was latticed off and where the ladies used to sit… even i did not know that…Anyway when she did come out, she was pretty drained.. asked me never to take her there again and slept for a straight 18 hrs…I did find out later that the kings older daughter had died at child birth..
Also when Sarah was about 3 or 4 she used to sit in her car seat at the back and tell me that she was going to have a daughter called Ina and would like me to carry the baby for her in the tummy.. i would find that strange coming from such a young girl.. but it all made sense later.