Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Symphut: The Dead Ghost

My Parents has a Tea stall then at Iawmusiang the Main market of the Jowai, and because our Parents were pre-occupied in the Shop, they didn’t really had time to prepare meal for us at home. So every morning, noon and evening we had our morning meal, lunch and Dinner in the shop. This suits me well because for a boy of my age, having the opportunity to go to the market and spend time at our shop is nothing but a wonderful opportunity. More so, Teashop in Jowai till today served as a chat room for those who have interesting topics to discuss especially politics. It came to pass one day, while I was having my meal in the shop, I overheard people saying that a Man had disappeared from his home and the whole town was looking for him. I was a young boy then about 10 years old and Jowai was still a small sleepy hamlet. Curious as any boy of my age, I eve dropped when ever I over heard people congregated and spoke about the sudden and mystery disappearance of the Man. The whole of his locality went searching for him but to no avail. It was only after few days that he was found in the forest in the suburb of the Town. The man was found sitting on the edge of a steep. Eyewitness stated that he was in a state of Trance and had it been that he was in his normal self, he would have fall down.
During our childhood, we were forbid to wear our clothes in side out, we were told by our elders that it is a taboo less we would be carried by the “SYMPHUT” (Suit Tynjang in Khasi). I am not sure whether Symphut was a kind of Ghost or a kind of animal, but one think I was sure was that Symphut if at all it is a ghost, it is a not a bad ghost, it never harm or injured its victims. During our Childhood incidents of some body being carried by the Symphut occurred quite frequently. We were told that Symphut can change itself to a Goat and lured its victim. It was said when somebody is being carried away by the Symphut, one will be in a state of trance, never to feel hungry, pain or even losses one’s sense of fear. Symphut was one of the phenomenon that every child dreads even to think of. It is said that female are more prone to fall victim to Symphut than their male counterpart. Legends have it that when Symphut left somebody after carried (kidnapped!) somebody away; one is always left in an odd or awkward position. For example a girl was found on the top of the tree, or at the fag end of the branch of a tree, a position that she would never have been able to reach has it been that she was in her normal self.
Whenever there was an incident of somebody being carried by Symphut, It becomes a talk of the village, and because Symphut is supposedly a good ghost, he never harm his victim and therefore there is no tragic end to the story, people love talking about the incidents albeit with awe. Symphut is a ‘wonder’ that is peculiar only to the people of Khasi and Jaintia Hills and it was very popular during our childhood. What strikes me is my Children aged 10, 8 and 6 respectively seldom heard about the Symphut phenomena anymore, they even heard the name the first time when I asked them whether they have ever heard about the Symphut. Symphut has gradually slipped from our mind, where has it gone I never know. Whether it has disappeared like the foxes that used to steal chickens from our coop, and dreadfully howl from a hill where the Jowai Circuit house now stand, or did it just disappeared with the advent of Civilization and light? I just don’t know. Whether Symphut is a reality or just myth that I will never know but one thing I know, oh how I hate to remember those spine chilling howls of the foxes on those moon lit night and how we like to talk about the incident when somebody was carried away by the Symphut. Oh! the romance of the good ghost, a ghost that did no harm to its victim. Symphut in our childhood is a reality, but a reality that seems to gradually fade away.

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