Issue 18 Nonfiction

Whispers from Another World
by Shiv Dutta

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.

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