Breaking an Egg
“Let’s break you an egg,” Aziz suggests. She is my father’s old aunt who lives with us. “It will make you feel better once we find the culprit.”
I’m sick in bed, another bad case of tonsillitis. I’m feverish and my throat hurts. Aziz believes it has been the evil eye of a relative that has caused my sickness. She usually finds out whose eye it has been by breaking an egg!
The ritual begins, and I’m so absorbed concentrating on what she does that I forget about my fever and sore throat. First she spreads a square handkerchief open. She then pours some table salt in the middle. Meticulously she places a coin on top of the salt. Then she takes a medium size raw egg between her thumb and index finger. With a small piece of charcoal, she draws tiny lines after each name she utters loudly —the names of the people I have come in contact with before I got sick.
“Khaleh joon,” my mother’s widowed aunt.
“Esmail Agha,” Khaleh joon’s thirty-year-old son.
“Uncle Jafar,” my father’s younger brother.
“Naneh,” our old maid.
“Sadegh Khan,” my father’s cousin. And after a short halt, she decides to add a line for Sadegh’s wife as well.
She even includes my mother and father, two lines for them, but she never mentions herself. Aziz rattles off some more names, and the white egg is marked with short black lines all over.
Very carefully, she puts the marked egg on top of the coin, and gathers the corners of the handkerchief around the egg. Holding the covered egg in the palm of both hands, she then begins repeating each name all over again while giving a gentle squeeze to the egg after each name. At some point the egg which is rubbing against the coin breaks at the mention of a name. Aha, that is the person with the evil eye!
Since I get tonsillitis quite often, Aziz has broken many eggs for me. I love this ritual; like magic it makes me forget about my sickness! Amazingly, each time, a new individual is the cause of the inflammation of my tonsils! Sometimes, she goes on for a long while, repeating all the names before she finds the culprit. Other times, and it seldom happens, the mention of the first name causes the egg to break. In this particular instance, it is Esmail Agha, the son of my mother’s widowed aunt who is the guilty party.
She gives the coin to a beggar in the street, throws away the broken raw egg, and cleans the handkerchief for the next time I get sick. It is comforting to blame my frequent tonsillitis on others! Along with Aziz’s discovery, a nurse comes to the house and gives me injections of Penicillin and Vitamin C.
Finally, at the age of twelve when I have my tonsils out, Aziz stops breaking eggs for me.