My couch is cursed.

Hold it, I am not off my rocker, nor am I steeped in superstition. It is the bald truth: a couch in our home is cursed. I trained to be a scientist, and I still believe that science can explain most things, but when it comes to that couch, I have to accept it as fact.

How is it cursed, you ask? Well, you can never sit on it. It is always covered with stuff, clothes, books, papers, files, etc. Sometimes household appliances and even dishes find their way to the couch. Even when I clean it to within an inch of its life, I have to just turn the other way for a second … and it is covered, all over again.

It all started when we moved to our present house in Mysore over two years ago. We decided to put this couch in front of the TV, so that the entire family could watch movies and programs together. A day later, I walked into the TV/computer room with a coffee in hand to watch a show. My older daughter was sitting on the computer table’s swivel chair, and the younger one was sitting on the floor.

I asked the obvious question. “Why aren’t you sitting on the couch?”

“What couch?” The answer puzzled me, until I looked under a huge pile of stuff and found the piece of furniture. Feeling miffed, I cleared out a small piece of real estate and sat down to watch TV.  The next day, I walked by the same place, and saw that the cleared area was gone. It had been reclaimed by the “stuff.”

Since that day, I’ve tried many things, including periodic cleaning binges. Oh yes, the pile goes away when I clean, but it is always back in a day or two. This phenomenon is so consistent that there is actually no history of the whole family sitting together on the couch to watch TV. Sometimes there may be two of us at opposite ends with a mound of stuff in between, or someone perched on the edge with the mound behind providing a back rest. But never have the four of us sat on it at the same time.

Here, I have to mention that this mound of stuff” is also the go-to place for practically everything in the house. “Did you check the couch?” is invariably the answer to any question posed regarding missing property in our domicile. Has anybody lost their school book/ socks/shoes/library book/pencil box/file/dress? It will be in The Mound on The Couch.

I’m privately convinced that if you delve deep enough, you should be able to find Blackbeard’s treasure or the Ark of the Covenant in it. I’ve watched my children dive into it head-first, throw things to the left and to the right, thereby separating it into two mounds, and emerge wild-eyed but triumphant with the missing article in hand. And, oh by the way, now more stuff piles in between the two mounds causing a reversion to the single mound, only this one even bigger.

There is also an interesting anecdote concerning this phenomenon. One evening, I carved out a small niche for myself and sat there watching a movie on TV. My older daughter began calling for me, but as I was engrossed in the show, I neglected to answer her. Later, after the show was over, I came out of the room, and my daughter pounced on me.

“Where had you gone? I’ve been calling you for half an hour.”

“I’ve been watching TV,” I replied.

“But I didn’t see you,” she said suspiciously.

“I was on the couch,” I defended myself.

“Oh, you must have been on the other side of The Mound. That’s why I couldn’t see you.” She was mollified.

Of course, as a mother, I had to ask her a question. “If you thought there was no one in the room, why didn’t you turn off the TV and lights?” For which I received a look. I let it go.
Being a proactive person, I did not spend my time wringing my hands, but instead went looking for an explanation for it. I didn’t have to go far, only as far as Talakad, Karnataka.

Talakad, located 45 km from Mysore, Karnataka, is a small hamlet that is home to many temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. It is located on the banks of the river Cauvery. However, its fame arises from the fact that in that place, there are more than thirty temples buried meters deep in sand. Every 12 years, people clear the sand out of a few temples and hold a festival. Since five of these temples have shivalingas, representing the five faces of Shiva, this festival is called “Panchalinga Darshana.” People come from all over India to attend this festival. However, within a month of clearing the temple and the “Panchalinga Darshana,” the temples fill up with sand again.

This phenomenon is believed to be the result of a curse by a pious woman named Alamelamma. It dates from the early 1600s, when Raja Wodeyar, the king of Mysore, defeated Rangaraya, the Vijayanagar empire’s viceroy in Srirangapatna, another town near Mysore. The victorious king alleged that Rangaraya’s wife, Alamelamma, still had the jewels that rightly belonged to the temple at Srirangapatna. Eventually, when Raja Wodeyar sent soldiers to recover the jewels, Alamelamma fled to Talakad and famously cursed the king and the town before drowning herself in the Cauvery near Malangi, a town on the opposite bank of the river.

She is supposed to have said, “Talakadu maralagi, Malangi maduvagi, Mysooru arasarige makkalagadirali”—May Talakadu be filled with Sand, Malangi be a whirlpool and may the Mysore kings never have offspring. Whether or not the rest of the curses came true is immaterial: Talakad is well and truly filled with sand.

So you see, I have every reason for believing that my couch is laboring under the same category of curses.

As to doing something about the accursed stick of furniture, my husband once suggested that we put it away. I turned a pale shade of grey. “What if the curse moves to another piece of furniture, say the bed? We’ll be in worse trouble then. Look at it this way. Maybe the curse has a positive aspect to it. The unavailability of seating may put off the kids from watching too much TV.” My spouse was so struck by the argument that he left the thing alone.

And so the phenomenon continues. And whenever I visit other people’s houses, I’m always looking to see if any of their furniture is cursed too. Of course, I’m also dreaming. Now, if I were to find Blackbeard’s treasure …

Lakshmi Palecanda moved from Montana to Mysore and is still adjusting. She can be reached at Lakshmi.palecanda@gmail.com

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