Uneasy silence of that little universe of ours

Colin Blakely @ F-Stop Magazine

Shiv Dutta remembers a summer of strange occurrences in his youth in India @ Front Porches. In the early 60s, when I was a young boy growing up in Darbhanga, a small town in northern India, my sisters and some of their cohorts would often congregate around a table behind closed doors and get down to the business of communicating with the netherworld. With the lambent flame of a solitary candle in one corner adding a sliver of transparency in the darkened room, they would place their index fingers on a small, circular plastic piece at one edge of a square chart filled with the alphabet and numbers, close their eyes, and, in full concentration and total silence, invoke the spirit of the dead person they had decided upon earlier. Soon, the spirit would arrive, and the participants would begin to ask questions—not necessarily audibly, if the questions were of a personal nature and they did not want others to know—and the plastic piece would start to move on the chart to construct the answers.As a boy who'd just become a teen, I was fascinated by the whole scene. We called this practice "planchette." Much later in my life, I discovered it was very similar to séance. One of my cousins, whom we called Omi, tall like a skyscraper and sturdy like a rock, who had been to Italy and fought in World War II, teased my sisters by calling this practice "Plain Cheat." The sisters, offended at his ribbing, once invited him to join them at one of these sessions and see for himself whether this was real or fake. He did. As the session progressed, contrary to the tenet of silence and reverence, he snickered and made fun of the proceedings.read more