BEWARE THE PEEPAL TREE: A TRUE STORY OF AN OTHERWORLDLY ENCOUNTER
I remember once my grandpa teasing my grandma about being possessed. Being the kind of couple they are, she usually reacted by laughing and waving off all the taunts he passed her way. But I remember that one time when a look of absolute fright suddenly appeared on her face, and she just stared blankly as she walked away. Grandpa seemed to understand what was going on and silently retreated back to his room. Something wasn’t right, and I decided to question grandma about the odd behavior.
The next day, when she and I were alone, I simply asked, “Grandma, do you believe in spirits?” Without hesitation, she emphatically replied, “YES.”
“How do you know they exist?”
“Well, when you experience something unusual in life, you start believing a lot of things.”
I kept pushing until I could get at the root of my grandma’s obvious fear. Eventually, she gave in and recounted the harrowing tale of the experience that permanently scarred her… one that left me shocked and speechless as well.
A DANGEROUS PATH
My grandma is from the 1960s, a time in India when marriages at an early age were very common. Girls were typically married by the age of 12 or 13 years. In some cases (as was the case with my grandma), they weren’t sent to live with the groom’s family until puberty. My grandma was only 12 and my grandpa 15 when they got married.
A naïve little girl, all she knew was playing with her friends and spending time strolling across the village. One fine day she was heading to a family friend’s place along with her sister-in-law. They passed another way, which my grandma knew was the shortcut. She was about to turn when she was warned to not go through that way ever. On reaching their destination, they learned that someone in the village had died. Grandma was asked to go back home, while her sister-in-law went to the deceased person’s home.
Three hours later, everyone was back home and it was getting dark. That’s when people realized that my grandma was still not home. Everyone started searching around, but no one knew her whereabouts. After hesitating for a while, her sister-in-law told everyone that they should try looking on the short cut road.
There, they found Grandma lying unconscious beside the Peepal tree. It is believed that the Peepal tree acts like a home to all kind of ghosts and spirits, as well as the gods and goddesses. The good as well as evil are said to live in there. Thus, everyone is warned to maintain a distance from a Peepal tree, which is why my grandma was warned not to take the short cut. However, it seemed as if fate intervened and led her down the forbidden path.
My grandma’s elder brother picked her up in his arms and brought her home. Her body had gotten cold. Water was sprinkled on her face and she was revived, blinking endlessly as if seeing the little light coming from the lantern for the first time. She was never the same after that.
SOMETHING’S NOT RIGHT
For the next two months the family remembers my grandma spitting food on her family members and laughing viciously. She used to vomit and laugh. No matter what happened around her, she would just laugh most of the time — the kind of laugh that gave people chills. She would wake up in the middle of the night and get dressed, only to return to bed for a few more hours sleep. She mouthed bad words to her eldest sibling, the kind of words no one had ever used in their family. She was slapped after that, but that only resulted in her spitting on him and then running off to her room — laughing all the way — and locking the doors.
On some mornings she was completely normal, and on other days she was someone that no one knew.
The series of incidences led to a number of doctors coming to the home to assess my grandmother, but no one seemed to understand what was happening. The family was concerned as she was already someone’s wife. What if she had turned mentally ill? Although she physically appeared to be that same naive little girl, her eyes were always blank as if she had lost the affection towards her friends and family members. Before taking any major step, the family decided to approach a priest and seek his advice.
After two days a priest arrived at home and the first thing he said was, “Did she go near that Peepal tree?”
No one had given the priest any prior details, but he seemed to immediately know what was going on. He proceeded to tie a black colored thread on her hand. After a session that included my grandma yelling in pain and the priest chanting many holy verses, she fainted again. He said that she was never to go back to that road. If she did, he warned, no one would be able to ward off the spirit that will always wait to get back in her body.
Ever since then, my grandma never dared to go back to that road. She was always accompanied by family members. She remembers acting as a completely different person and feeling as if her body was being monitored. But the rest of the details were conveyed to her by her family. It’s been more than 60 years, but everyone from her family still gets scared recalling that period of her life.