Saturday, July 24, 2010

Five women: #1. Chaya (Sri Lanka)

It was Chaya’s last day today. She seemed happy. We finished early again, at about two. She’ll be back again in December. She’s gone home to Colombo, Sri Lanka, for a while. Joseph didn’t get to say goodbye to her, which he regretted. Chaya was funny. Everyone liked her. I liked her life story. It was amazing. I’ve known her for the past year, and she’d return home every once in a while for a couple of months and then return and have amazing tales to tell. Listening to her made me want to travel for the rest of my life, or never leave home again, I wasn’t sure which.

Last time I saw her, her house in Colombo had been looted and razed to the ground in the middle of the night and she'd fled with her children. Her husband was a communist sympathiser and an anti-communist group raided her house. That was last year.

Just recently: she went back to attend her father’s 80th birthday party. A huge party had been planned with family turning up from all over the world. The day before his birthday, he died. He was poisoned. Chaya was as well, but after two months in an Indian spiritual retreat, she recovered. Her ex-husband had poisoned both of them with black magic. One night, Chaya awoke from her sleep to find her bed teaming with hundreds of maggots, placed there by her ex. There were remains of human ash, a sure sign of a curse. Her fridge had holes in it, and she could smell human ash everywhere. Her ex wants Chaya’s property (she owns a lot in Colombo) and by killing her father and Chaya, he would have been entitled to it. She tells me everything in such a casual, matter of fact way:

‘Yes, me and my father had a curse put on us. A type of voodoo curse. Maggots appeared from nowhere. My father died, I nearly died too. But I went to a spiritual retreat in India and survived. This was last week.’

She’s amazing. I told her I needed some of her spirituality. She told me I needed Jesus (Chaya’s a Catholic – she goes on pilgrimages all over the world with Brigit, who also works here); I wasn’t so sure. Chaya used to edit anti-government magazines with her husband in Colombo.

Chaya always smells of soap. She’s large with short, straight black hair and a soft voice. She sometimes wears glasses and must be in her late-forties. When I went back to work about a month back, Chaya was there and I told her I needed some spiritual guidance. She lent me a book. It was a short book, but it was boring and took me ages to read it. There was strange advice on how to end a sexual relationship: rub eggs on your genitals. Things like that. Baths of beer. Incense. I wasn’t really into it. I wanted Chaya to do something for me. Chaya says she’s a psychic, and yes, she feels negative attacks from me. Like pin pricks.

(2000, London)

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