Superstitious beliefs continue to be a part of our social identity
The news of the arrest of conman Jubair Ahmed should not have made such headlines, but the photo of the 27-year-old, flanked by police, was carried by all papers. After all, he was no common fraudster. Known as the “Badsha of Djinns,” Jubair went on to accumulate a massive amount of money by hoodwinking people.
Interestingly, in a country where the belief of humans possessing inexplicable supernatural powers is deeply ingrained in the minds of most, charlatans like Jubair will never run out of victims. Irrespective of our education and scientific outlooks, in our minds there is a corner which firmly believes that there are people out there endowed with mystical powers.
Of course, there is always a common problem that these people seek to solve: Controlling the mind of your rebellious lover or the complete subjugation of the one you love.
I do not use the word “subjugation” lightly, of course.
I am sure human rights activists will be outraged by what it actually offers to achieve: Complete control (taming) of a person’s mind so she/he will be under a spell. Voodoo, South Asian style, includes a wide variety of methods. In the Caribbean region, the spell is put through a doll but in Bangladesh, there is a tantalizing variety of methods and here’s a rundown, along with a real-life anecdote.
The spell on the mirror
So, if you have a desire to control a person, take a mirror to a mystical healer and then have it enchanted with a spell. Make sure that the mirror is put within reach of the person who you want to control. Once s/he uses the mirror, the spell will take hold.
Yes, you may even see that person come for you in the middle of the night saying “I cannot think of anyone but you, my darling” -- at least that is what the healer promises.
In the same manner, magical spells can be put on clothes, making the wearer of that attire your obedient servant. Interestingly, many healers ask for a strand of hair of the person one would want to subjugate. This is certainly tricky.
Do not fret, there’s an alternative. Instead of snooping around with mini scissors, just take that person’s comb, which will possibly have some hair and voila, the spell is put on the comb. Place it back when no one is around, and when it’s used, you will be the master of that person.
What are the success rates? Well, no one has ever done a survey on this, but since the trade of casting a spell to dominate someone exists, there may be some result, though by happenstance I am certain, and not due to any spiritual force.
The fraud involving buried treasure
The promises do not remain limited to the subjugation of others, of course. The most fascinating work involves finding buried treasure through information reportedly gathered with the help of djinns.
The idea is that during a session of uninterrupted meditation, usually performed in a graveyard to add to the mystique of the whole process, djinns will be invoked.
Obviously, you won’t be impressed if someone is meditating in the drawing room. But if the setting is an abandoned crematorium or an old temple, the “credibility” increases.
Add in a few hundred incense sticks, candles, and menacing looking disciples who will give out some blood-curdling chants from time to time. I hear, many of these acolytes stay alert and vigorous all through the night, by consuming copious amounts of energy drinks.
Don’t be surprised if you find a few cans of Red Bull near the graveyard the next day.
Anyway, the location of the treasure is given to you, but not before you have made a monetary transaction. You see, modern-day money transfer is useful to all mystical healers. They are more reliable than djinns to collect the dough.
So you have the location for the treasure. Equipped with shovels, you head for the spot, but there’s a problem. It seems the “X” is in the middle of a river, or right within the territory of a cantonment.
I once had the chance to meet a person who was known as a spiritual guru. Intrigued, I decided to talk to him. “I lock up the evil forces hovering over a person and once these forces are chained, prosperity will follow,” he told me while making a marijuana stick. The trick involves buying 20 to 40 locks from the market with keys.
A special mantra is put on the locks and then, with a chain, all of them are tied and sealed with a key. Eventually, this rather curious looking contraption is thrown into the river, with the keys buried for good -- bad luck sealed forever.
Later, of course, when no one is watching, someone will dive, recover the locks, and re-sell them while the unsuspecting victim will go about feeling lucky to the hilt.
They call this tala pora in Bengali.
And if you want to know the latest craze within the world of occult, then it’s the special sweet semolina which is supposed to enhance your libido. This rarely worked in the past but now it does since I am told grounded Viagra is added while making the dish.
That explains a lot.
Towheed Feroze is News Editor for Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka.