Mani Ram told me today that he had just had a terrifying experience. He was in love with a girl in the settlement, but her parents rejected Mani Ram and arranged a marriage for her with another young man. Mani Ram said that he then began to have dreams every night of a female ghost coming to him and extracting his life source. He began to get thinner and thinner. It seemed to him that he was going to die. He was very troubled.
Mani Ram was ashamed to tell anyone about this but eventually he confided in a friend. His friend listened sympathetically. When he had understood the problem he told Mani Ram not to worry. He knew who could put an end to this life-threatening process. “Go to the old lady who lives up the hill there,” he said. “She will be able to help you.”
It was even more embarrassing for Mani Ram to have to explain his problem to the old lady. She took it in her stride, however. “I’ll tell you how to get rid of that female ghost,” she said confidently. You buy a packet of biscuits and take them with you to the toilet. While you are sitting there doing your job begin eating the biscuits. That female ghost will be so disgusted at you for mixing two functions that should be strictly kept separate that she will leave you and never return.”
Mani Ram did as he was told. His dreams stopped and he began to gain weight again. On hearing his story I thought, “What a fascinating interaction that is between human experience, psychology and culture.”
Columban Fr. Frank Hoare lives and works in Fiji