The mystic and the poisoned puja

Until a few years ago, Rambally Deonanan was a truck driver, gardener and goat-herder. Today, he spends his days slaying demons, looking into the future and the past, helping people mend marriages, get rich, find spouses for their children.
Read the rest of the story at the Trinidad Express.

Deonanan, 61, considers himself to be a mystic, a seer in contact with the otherworld.
Before lunch on any given day, he would have invited the spirits to enter his body, spoken with angels, and chased off demons harassing good people.
And to appease the bad things, Deonanan would have prayed over the beheading sacrifices of goats, hogs or roosters.
His speciality is the Kali puja, a Hindu prayer service practised by few and feared and reviled by most in the religion.
Deonanan considers himself a punjari (pundit’s assistant). But he does not solicit work. And he has no fee. The believer leaves what they can afford.
Most of his pujas are performed at his home at the end of a gravel road at Tulsa Trace, San Francique.
He was the man who officiated at the Kali puja held at the home of a farmer in Penal last Wednesday. The puja ended with one man dead and two sickened. The three men had helped in the sacrifice of two goats and two roosters.
When Hamid Mohammed, 31, died at the home, villagers were sure that demons invited to the prayers had taken Mohammed as a sacrifice.
Police said that Mohammed died when he shared a poisoned soft drink with his friends who survived, Mahadeo Rampaul, and Ricky Gangadar, for whom the Kali Puja was meant to help.
Police are investigating reports that the poisoned Sprite, which came chilled from a refrigerator, was a deliberate act.
But who did it, is as mysterious as the rituals of the Kali puja.
Deonanan explained what happened that day.
“Ricky had come to me and said the (his) old man was sick and had to go to the hospital plenty times. Ricky said he too had fallen sick, and nothing could cure them. I told them what they needed to get. One of the things was two goats without any cuts or missing feet to tails”.
Deonanan listed the ingredients for the Kali puja-camphor balls, sindoor powder, gogool, nutmeg and soparie seeds, incense, essence, a dozen deyas, wicker, a bottle of coconut oil, neem leaves, pan leaves, and mixed flowers.
He said the prayer service was not much different from orthodox prayer service done at Hindu homes by pundits, where the different deities are invited to the home and symbolically fed and appeased.
The difference, he said, was the offer of the animals to Mother Kali, one of many Hindu incarnations of God.
He said a tikka was placed on the foreheads of the goats and roosters and prayers said during the beheadings.
The prayer, he said, was for Mother Kali to accept the offerings.
The roosters, he said, are considered the watchmen of a home, and sacrificed to safeguard the owner’s property. He said white rum was poured into the mouths of the dead animals.
Part of the ritual, Deonanan said, involved holding the forelegs of the goats, and touching it to his forehead in a gesture of supplication.
Deonanan said after the sacrifices were completed, the animals were left for ten minutes for Mother Kali to “partake in the sacrifice”.
Last Wednesday, the animals were being butchered at the back of the home in Penal, when the men collapsed.
Deonanan said when he learnt of the bizarre happenings “I prayed for the men. I asked Kali to free them of their sickness. Two of them did feel better. But despite this the puja was a success”.
Deonanan said bad things could happen if any part of the ritual was improperly done.
“When I saw this happen, I asked. Did they do anything wrong? I can see a little bit into the future. I did not see anything. Nothing evil was bothering them. And I know if anything was not performed well, I would be the one to fall sick before anyone else”.
Deonanan said when he officiated at the prayers, his body was visited by the spirits.
“So if I do anything wrong, the Angel will tell me before punishing me”.
Deonanan knows that the animal sacrifices offend many mainstream Hindus, who fast from meat for weeks before a prayer service, and who do not eat pork.
But he said the rituals were handed down through the generations and originated in India, and the qualified pundits were the ones who sent people to him for help.
“My grandmother and my father both did these prayers. I got the power when my father died. When the power is in me, I am different. Otherwise, I am just an ordinary man”.
Deonanan said he does about 15 “hog pujas” a month, and has a great success rate.
“Doctors and businessmen seek my service. People from all over Trinidad find me here. People in New York and England telephone me for help. They said they have better family lives, job going good, tractor working better”.
He said “I have helped plenty men get wife. Women who can’t get man. Couple who could not have children. Children who did better in exams. What I will not do is help people do bad. I am not in any demon business. This is no evil thing. I just want to help.”
Deonanan said even if he wanted, he could never stop doing the animal sacrifices. He said the prayers made him a wealthy man.
His home is a mansion. He owns 30-plus acres of land, heavy equipment and several cars.
Of the sacrifices, he said “Like any living thing, we must continue to feed it. If I stop, me and my family will fall into the gutter and I will die”.