Earthquakes and Exorcisms

Part I: Earthquakes

Ryan was startled awake two weeks ago in the middle of the night, convinced that there had been an earthquake, which I told him he had only dreamed.  The next day, everyone he asked denied having felt it.  Even Aama, who we had heard get up and check the front door after Ryan awoke, did not seem to respond to his inquiry about the event.  The process of inquiring, however, was priceless.

Two nights ago, a mere hour or so after going to bed, we both awoke to the ground shaking, complete with the gripping fear of realizing that we live in a shoddily-constructed, concrete house.  The next morning, the late-night quake was all the talk at the hospital, with everyone sharing their fears of being crushed alive in their mud, stone, or concrete homes.  Ryan was informed by a local man that he had too had felt the quake two weeks prior, and he shared his interesting theory that the current seismic event had been “the wave coming back” from across the valley, a recurrence of the recent geological activity.  When we came home that night, armed with the Nepali word for “earthquake,” Aama confirmed that she had indeed felt both quakes, and Ryan had a moment of celebratory smugness, having been right all along.

Directly next to our bed, mostly obscured by the mosquito net, is a crack that runs the length of the wall.  It was likely there when we moved in; has probably been there for years.  We never noticed it until the other day though.


Part II: Exorcisms

The first exorcism we witnessed within our home was on a sunny afternoon.  We were on our way back from having lunch in Sanfe Bagar with friends, and were just stopping home to pick up warmer jackets for the evening.  From down the path, we could hear shouting coming from a locked room downstairs.  After a few minutes of eavesdropping (which was hard not to do, even from a great distance), our friend Bhinnata informed us that the shouting was directed at a demon, which appeared to be located in someone’s head.  We knew that one of the girls in our house was having “mental problem,” and we assumed, correctly, that she was harboring the demon in question.

We were also informed that it is common practice for a thorough whacking with a broom to accompany the banishing of mental demons.  Thankfully the brooms here do not have handles, but are rather made of craftily-sewn grass bundles.

After a short discussion with the family, and a request that the girl be brought to the hospital, we hoped for the best.  The following day, we saw, or rather heard her wailing in the Emergency Room (ER).  There is little recognition of depression, mental illness, or any sort of psychological malady in this region.  Hence, it is often difficult to convince people that medical attention is an option for ailments of invisible origin.  Numerous staff members have attended trainings on mental health topics, but it is often challenging to engage patients in mental health counseling nonetheless.  After much attempted discussion in the ER, a failed attempt at IV placement, and more wailing, the girl was taken back home, having refused any sort of treatment.

Two days later, she was gone.  We neither saw nor heard about her for weeks.  Now she is back in the household (people come and go constantly), seemingly “good as new.”

Last week, a whole group of people showed up on our front porch, clearly undertaking another exorcism event.  This one was complete with readings from a book, flowers, chanting, incense, wailing, etc.  We’re not sure whether there is a high frequency of paranormal activity within our household, or whether this is the next best thing to reality television, in an area where there’s not much else to watch.  Either way, it’s a little wild.