When I met the 'girl who cries blood'
Tantrics, astrologers and assorted holy men were called in. But Twinkle's problems were far from supernatural
A weird story goes around the world, in dozens of languages and hundreds of versions: a 14-year-old Indian girl cries blood. It oozes from her eyes, hairline, palms and the soles of her feet without any wound, cut or scratch whatsoever. She gets paler and weaker by the day and neither medics nor preachers from various religions can help her. Never mind that according to basic medical knowledge it's just impossible to bleed spontaneously with your skin intact. These kind of stories never die before the dramatis personae are diagnosed with psychological problems or exposed as frauds – or the miraculous phenomenon stops just as it started, out of the blue.
Sitting in front of me on a plush sofa in the Live India studio, Twinkle did not look pale at all. She appeared a healthy young girl, intelligent, confident, quite serious, some times a little stubborn and – yes – certainly with some inherent dramatic talent. During the programme, her mother Nandini mainly did the talking, but Twinkle was open to chatting with me during breaks, allowing me to gain some insight into her secrets.
To cut a six-hour programme short: Nobody had ever directly witnessed the "bleeding" – except Twinkle's mother, her accomplice. Of course, the girl must have applied the blood herself; but from where did she take it? I got a clue: the pattern seemed to match her menstrual cycle. Careful enquiry stirred up a hornets nest. It was not that this was too embarrassing a subject to broach, but that Nandini vehemently disputed the dates. Her attempts to misguide served to confirm my suspicions.
Once separated from her mother, Twinkle told us that school had been tough for her. While her three elder sisters learned with ease, she suffered from a writing disorder. When her family moved, she couldn't cope with the change of school and her parents kept her at home. Lonely, frustrated and angry, she soon started "bleeding" and suddenly got all the sympathy and attention she longed for. It's a classic case, of a type quite familiar to me. In recent years, I have investigated the claims of three girls of her age: one produced stones from her eyes, the other even ants, and the third one had needles coming out of her skin. All these children were skilfully producing these strange phenomena themselves in order to get attention.
Nandini saw through her daughter's game and promoted it, obviously hoping to reap the benefits. When Twinkle understood that her mother had exploited her story, slowly seizing control of it from her, she "called in" five guardian ghosts. Watching over her all the time, they shared the secret of her "bleeding", breaking her mother's monopoly.
Asked casually about her ghosts, Twinkle answered with pleasure. Of course they were present in the studio. No, they were not naked, but wearing Jeans and kurta! The brand? Levis! Their names? Ishan, Arshid, Imam and Altaf! Their size? A little smaller than her, up to her nose. Strikingly, her fantastic protectors (who seemed linked to former school pals with the same names) were not only all boys, but Muslims at that – a high provocation in a Hindu Brahmin house!
The ghosts eventually inspired Twinkle to write mysterious words that were doubted to be Arabic and became a matter of great speculation when shown to some Muslim scholars. Not bad for a girl with a writing disorder! (Though it turned out to be just a play on her own name written in Urdu, such as she could have picked up from any Muslim kid.)
I would have preferred to discuss these matters in the privacy of a counselling room rather than on a TV programme. Unfortunately there was no such option. Once a psychodrama gets labelled a "miracle", it gains its own momentum. The media presented her to Hindu and Muslim "holy men" and even with a bishop, contemplating about stigmata. And in the TV studio, we had an array of tantrics and astrologers sitting seriously with haematologists, paediatricians and psychiatrists and weighing in with their bizarre interpretations and "solutions" to the case.
The chances are that Twinkle understands what was tactfully revealed about her case, stops the "bleeding" now starts untying the knot – with professional help, as she has been advised, or even on her own. First sign of a new start: she has decided to go to school again. Good luck, Twinkle!