A tiny, unkempt lane leads to her home. I walk in with the tripod and camera. And behind me is Khaitul. I am wondering what is going on through her mind. She must have never even given birthing a thought and here she is by my side ready to explore the deep intimate secretes of childbirth. I give her a nervous smile and enter the sacred space of this old Dai. Mukti Vani walks into the living with the aid of a stick. She is so frail and yet so stunning, he aura fills up the room. The moment our eyes lock we recognize the other. We swiftly move towards the other, the old Dai fill’s me in her embrace. I stay there for what feels like eternity. She takes me by her hand and leads me to the other end of the room where there is a chair kept for her to sit. I sit by her feet; it seems like the most appropriate place for me. The cameras are set up and lights adjusted. I start with the first question and Mukti dai answers animatedly, not intimated by the camera or me an alien.
She tells us how she was initiated into this work. A Pir baba (Shaman) had given this work to her; she was blessed with the task of bringing new souls to this earth. The Pir had also asked her to be dressed appropriately as all times as there would be people knocking at her door at any hour. And she has been doing that since she was 30. She did receive some sort of training for the district doctor, but her practice was based on what she knew intuitively. To thank the souls that were protecting her and her work she would make an offering at the Dargah and also fed the poor.
This work had brought her a lot of respect in her village and villages covering a radius of 10-15 kms. She had made enough money to sustain and educate her 5 kids and marry them off and till this date Mukti Dai is living off on her own earnings.
As the hour passes by the conversations stir off to more intimate topics and the men are shooed off from the scene. Mukti starts talking about the births and difficulties that would arise, she spoke about potions that would help stop bleeding and bring strength to the mother. These herbal teas were brewed at home and given to the postpartum mothers. The purpose was simple to restore strength, reduce bleeding and replenish her body with warmth. These teas were served in earthen pots for its medicinal properties. And then after 7-10 days the mother was also bathed in this herbal brew.
All this time she held on to my hand, and spoke to my soul. Language did not seem to bother either of us. I and Mukti had connected in a different realm our souls were communicating through our eyes and hands. There was love and reverence for the others work.
As time passed she invited me to the more intimate corners of her life, she wanted me to share a kash of the hookah with her. Her daughter in law got the embers burning and prepared the hookah for this ancient lady. The glowing embers were placed in the sacred tobacco. And Mukti starts with one Kush of this glorious hookah. The smoke of the tobacco carries the prayers to the spirits and divine souls. I have seen this ritual before, in a circle of Native Americans. Mukti Dai passes the hookah to me and a take a deep kash. I have to learn the art yet. I choke on it and dismiss it saying that I have never tried it before. I my heart I know that I am still to be initiated into this tradition and when the time comes I will be able to blow rings of tobacco and communicate with the ancient spirits who will carry my prayers to the source.
Mukti Vani showers her blessing on me and inquires as of when will I be back. She walks to the courtyard to bid me safe journeys. She fills my hands with a handful of those drying almonds and kisses my forehead. This 90 year soul yet has so much to give. I leave her courtyard with a sense of abundance and honor, for her and for every soul that came forth through her generous hands.