How different

Let’s have a round of applause for the joys of tradition and folk medicine and spirituality.

Ramani had been bringing Sona up alone since her husband died from an unknown illness. Every day at 6am Ramani left home for her job as a labourer (painting the factories in an industrial area in the eastern Indian state of Jharkand), returning home 12 hours later. One night in January, Ramani and Sona were fast asleep when two neighbours broke down their rickety front door and dragged Ramani out of bed. As Sona fled to a neighbour’s hut, she saw one of the men’s hands cover her mother’s mouth and another close round her throat. Next morning, no one stopped Sona from seeing the pools of blood that had darkened on her doorstep. On the railway line 100m away, Ramani’s mutilated body had been dumped on the tracks. Her severed limbs pointed in opposite directions.

Ah, the good life. So much better than the empty consumerism that plagues the West, wouldn’t you say?

Police in Jharkand receive around five reports a month of women denounced as witches, but nationally the figure is believed to run to thousands. These incidents usually occur when a community faces misfortune such as disease, a child’s death or failing crops, and a woman is suddenly scapegoated. Those whose lives are spared face humiliation, torture and banishment from their village: some are forcibly stripped and paraded in public; some have their mouths crammed with human excreta or their eyes gouged out. The belief is that shaming a woman weakens her evil powers…Ramani was killed because she had been deemed a malignant force, wreaking death and misfortune on the hamlet. When a child fell ill in the slum, diagnosis and solutions were sought, as usual, from the resident medicine man or ojha…In this case, the ojha told the father of the sick child that Ramani was to blame, says Sona, and claimed that taking her life would lift the curse.

So complementary, so alternative. It’s presumably mere sweeping absolutism and deeply rooted prejudice that keeps benighted Westerners from trying it.

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