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May 8, 1997


Manjula Padmanabhan

Of door knobs, computers and pranic healing

Dominic Xavier's illustration The other day, a friend was talking about pranic healing. About the energy or prana that pulses through all living things. About the knots it can get into and the blockages which can occur. "We can help a person release the energy," she said, "but she or he can always generate some more! Some people get used to their bad energy and hold on to it. We can't do much for them. But we just keep cleaning it out in the hope that they'll let go some day."

Not much later, walking through the house, I had that experience, so annoyingly common, of being jerked to a standstill because the sleeve of my kurta had got caught in a door-handle. But, in this case, the annoyance caused a thought to appear in my head. It's going to sound a little mad, but I'm going to share it anyway: supposing there is a prana lurking unreleased in all inanimate things as well? Supposing the door-handle was just an agent of such prana? Supposing it was trying to tell me something, drawing attention to itself, begging to be released?

The Rosicrucians (or was it the Trobriand islanders?), I am told, believed this overtly. But even amongst non-Rosicrucians, the notion that the things which surround us have a kind of life is quite familiar. I feel sure that even the most rational and commonsensical amongst us has had occasion to address inanimate objects, especially mechanical gadgets or machines, as if they were capable of responding to speech.

Cars are a clear case. When I was a child the family car was treated with at least as much affection as a family member (often more, depending on the member). We would give it a name, greet it in the morning and compliment it on its shining hub-caps or commiserate with its sorry state at the end of a muddy journey. When the time came to sell it to get a newer model, we would all be in tears.

Or take the telephone: who has not, at some time or the other, held an offending hand-set in the fist and railed at it for mulishly withholding its dial-tone, refusing to connect us to our friends' numbers, insisting on being engaged when we frantically dial airport numbers to confirm flight departure timings?

As for the computer, it quite frankly presents itself as a sentient being, what with all its beeps and squeaks. Different computers have distinctly different personalities. My current one is relatively bad-tempered. It knows quite well that I am nervous of upsetting its equilibrium and will fuss if the diskettes fed to it are the low-density variety that it is trained to recognise but refuses to when the mood takes it. On cold days, it even gives me a mild static shock when I wipe its screen. And it is frequently rude to the printer, a sweet-natured machine by contrast, which cannot always understand the language in which it is addressed by the computer's more advanced software. The reason I am daring to criticise it like this is that I am working on my sister's machine! Otherwise I could be sure of hysterics by the time I got around to printing this article out.

However, the prana of doors and bed-posts is a little different from that of mechanical or electronic gadgets. Unlike machines, such items do not have moving parts and are not expected to react or perform while in use. Nevertheless, they frequently do. I am constantly being waylaid by the corners of tables or tripped up by the protruding feet of chairs and sofas. There is one particular bed which is quite vicious. It has an awkwardly placed middle member which it positions just so that anyone attempting to straighten its covers will get their toes nipped. Then there are the drawers that will never open politely and the locks that will clamp their jaws permanently on poor unsuspecting keys.

One room in the house practically swarming with this type of inanimate prana is the bathroom. What characters one can find imprisoned within taps and water-closets! Mostly vile ones, unfortunately, the spirits of misers, masochists and frank maniacs. One hot-water shower faucet I knew refused to be turned off in the normal way. One could stand dripping and naked, strangling it with a wrench while it obstinately continued streaming scalding water. Only a specific twisting, joggling motion would suppress it completely.

Then there are those flushes with the souls of lusty ladies. The one in my bathroom in Bombay, with an overhead tank and a chain, was a typical example. It would only perform if cranked repeatedly, with rhythmic precision, building slowly to an orgasmic cataclysm of whoosh! gurgle! burp! Great prana, by golly! One exited feeling quite cleansed and refreshed.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier

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