This is a macabre presentation of a sad story. Those who have a dislike for black magic/witchcraft and who wish to have only positive feelings are requested to skip this story
“Suchi, what are you praying for with your eyes closed and palms held together? It is past 10.30 pm. Go to your room and sleep.,” said Rajan to his daughter of 10 years.
“The serial would be over now in the TV. Amma would be here anytime. I will go after she comes,” replied the girl.
“You have not answered my question. Are you afraid of something or what? You normally do not come here around this time and much less pray,” prodded Rajan.
She kept silent looking at the door of the living room for her mom. When Rajan nudged her with his fist, she started speaking. “You must have seen my best friend Kalyani.She had come for my birthday parties a couple of times. She told me three days back in confidence that her grandma is a victim of witchcraft and is under a spell behaving in weird manner and always with panic in her eyes. She has told me not to tell anyone and that the witch can sense it if I did. I could not sleep for the last two days and afraid to sleep alone. Would you allow me to sleep on the floor here?”
He pulled her close to him and put his arm around her and said, “What crap that foolish friend of yours is telling you. There are no witches or witchcraft. There is nothing to be afraid of. You sleep from today for as long as you wish between your mom and me on this bed. Don’t talk to that silly girl.”
“Appa, you had yourself told me long time back, may be last year, that your aunt, your dad’s sister, was a victim of witchcraft, lived a miserable life and died a nervous wreck. How do you say now there is no witchcraft?” countered the girl.
“I do not remember exactly. Whatever it is that must have been several decades back in a small town. People were not educated and believed in all hocus pocus. She must have been unwell and not treated kindly at her in-law’s place as she had no child. All hearsay and exaggerated versions when it goes around. I do not believe in all that. Sleep well assured that we are on your both sides,” Rajan told her in assuaging tone. Meanwhile his wife Roopa entered and raised her eyebrows questioningly at Rajan seeing Suchi lying in the middle of the bed. He signaled her to remain silent and lie down by Suchi’s side. The timid girl in the comfort of her mom’s hands on her soon lapsed into a deep sleep.
It was only next day during siesta after lunch when Suchi was out playing with her friends in the play area of the building complex, Roopa came and sat by his side looking at him intently.
“Why are you staring at me? What is bothering you?” he asked her.
“Nothing much, it is only the witch who harassed your aunt and about whom you had never told me but felt free to talk to the young child,” she asked tauntingly.
“Haven’t I told you about my aunt Vaidehi, dad’s sister? It is a long but sad story that happened long ago several decades back. She was the only daughter among the seven siblings. She was elder to my dad and his younger brother who was the last. It seems she was very beautiful lively girl and learnt to play violin very well. She stopped going to school after coming of age as was the custom then. Very talented in several arts, she was the envy of the neighbourhood. My grandfather was a clerk to a lawyer doing all his work but was paid small pittance besides several bags of rice after harvest. He had himself some tiny land for growing vegetables to supplement the income. My dad and his siblings studied in municipal school. Except my dad and his younger brother, all brothers did not attend college but took up jobs after class 11
Based on some distant relative’s suggestion, my grandpa married her off even while she was very young, selling the land and taking a loan from the lawyer, to the only son in a large family living in a small town on Cauvery bank. No enquiries were made about the family. They were supposed to be well to do which later turned out to be false. The young man Raman worked as a clerk in municipal office and the family lived mainly on his income. He was handsome and mild mannered unlike his sisters who were plain looking like their mother Ponnamma. They were jealous of Vaidehi and disliked her from the day they set their eyes on her. Ponnamma was initially tolerant to the young girl as she brought with her some dowry, her mother’s jewelry, silver and brass vessels, silk saris and other things.
Except for three daughters in that family, the remaining two were unmarried. Raman’s father was rendered immobile after a stroke and was confined to bed. Ponnamma was harsh-tempered and overbearing. She pestered the young Vaidehi for bringing more money from her parents’ house. Knowing her father’s poor financial condition, she refused. Angered by this defiance, she was tortured, starved and made to slog all day in the kitchen while the others lazed around and relished finding fault with the girl. She was not allowed to go out or talk to girls of her age in the adjacent houses. Her sisters-in-law carried false tales about Vaidehi to their mother that soured the relationship further. To add to her woes, the girl was ridiculed for not conceiving even after two years.
One day when one of the daughters dropped a ceramic jar with pickles, she falsely accused Vaidehi of breaking. The angered mother-in-law scalded both her forearms with red hot ladle. Her screams brought the neighbours rushing to the house. She was threatened to stay inside and warned to tell Raman that she had burnt her arms accidentally while lifting pot from oven.
Raman could not believe that she could burn both her arms and suspected she was concealing something. After much prodding, she confided to him urging him not to mention about it to his mother. When he saw her the next day at the kitchen cooking in pain with bandaged arms and his sisters and mother laughing and talking in the hall, he unusually exploded in anger at their cruelty. Grievous mistake it turned out to be. Baffled at his immense anger towards them and sympathy for Vaidehi, they kept quiet then offering some lame excuses but determined in their minds she would pay heavily for it.”
“Did not your grandfather or any of the brothers contact Vaidehi aunty any time after her marriage?” asked Roopa.
“In fact my grandfather accompanied by my dad went to their place to invite them for a marriage in our house and to send Vaidehi along with them in advance. They were not allowed inside the house, nor Vaidehi allowed to see them. They were badly insulted and asked to leave the house. To add to insult, Ponnamma shut the door on their faces with a bang,” Rajan said.
“Did they come away without making enquiries?” Roopa asked.
“No, it appears my grandfather and my dad went to the adjacent houses to know about the wellbeing of Vaidehi aunt. They were not forthcoming initially afraid of Ponnamma, but one elderly lady gave an indication that Vaidehi was badly ill-treated and they were heartless people. She added that she had heard screams from the young girl in the afternoon when her husband was away and they too were not allowed to meet or talk to the young girl,” said Rajan
“Your grandfather could have with the help of police got the girl back with him. How insensitive to leave the young thing in that hell?” exploded Roopa in anger.
“Do not be in haste to criticize my grandpa. In fact, when one of the neighbours suggested such a step, the elderly lady warned that the cruel family would only be too ready to throw her out and marry that spineless Raman to another girl for fresh dowry. In those conservative days, women suffered all indignities and physical pain to save their marriage and lot of restraint was shown in breaking marriages. My grandfather decided to find a solution after the marriage in the family was over.”
“What happened then?” nudged Roopa.
“It is the sad part of story and it is better you do not hear,” warned Rajan but continued when Roopa nodded her head sideways. “After they came to know about my grandfather’s enquiries with neighbours and the likelihood of his returning to rescue her from their clutches, possibly with police help, Ponnamma decided to engage a witch known to her maternal family from Kerala border. We came to know all these only much later when it was very late.
A deal was soon agreed upon for some unknown amount between them that by the effort of the witch, Vaidehi’s health would be seriously affected, she will become dull and depressed, will not eat due to lack of appetite and get weak, and with bouts of anger eventually leading her to commit a suicide or die. The witch in the guise of a relative was accommodated in the rear room adjacent to kitchen. That wily woman by name Ammini feigned to be very fond of her caressing her head with her palm and praising for her beauty and good disposition. She assured her that with her influence, she would make Vaidehi dear to all. Vaidehi having witnessed nothing but bitterness readily fell for her.
Meanwhile Ammini obtained through Ponnamma a bit of cloth from Vaidehi’s sari, a clump of her hair, a broken piece of her bangle. She covered a cotton girl doll with her cloth and pasted her hair on its head and tied over the waist a black thread after some incantation. It appears pins were pricked on doll’s head and stomach, red kumkum smeared on its body and black kajol on the face. This was hidden unseen in a corner in Vaidehi’s room.
In a week Vaidehi started having splitting headache that was unbearable. Raman applied Amrutanjan, pressed her head for long hours till she dozed off. She was chastised and beaten if she were late in kitchen for cooking. She lost her appetite and mere look of food was repulsive. She ate very little and the onerous work left her very weak. In three weeks she became thin and disoriented. She started forgetting and the sisters-in-law added to her misery by secretly adding extra salt or mirchi in the cooked food.
Vaidehi found to her horror one day that among the clothes left for drying on the clothesline only hers burning inside their hall. When she told Ammini about it, she comforted saying it is all hallucination and that she was not well.
Ammini and Ponnamma were happy at the outcome of their efforts. Raman took her to a doctor overruling his mother’s objection. He could not diagnose the problem and prescribed some tranquilizers. Her condition grew worse day by day.
Ammini on the pretext of giving a medicinal potion gave her something that worsened her condition. Ammini assured Ponnamma that in a fortnight the matter would could come to a head to latter’s satisfaction. Both of them went to Vaidehi’s room and took out the cloth doll from the hidden place. It was found swollen with disheveled look.
“How scary even to hear such happenings? How did you come to know of all these” remarked Roopa.
“All their cruelties came out at the end when they confessed. Listen to this. It was then my dad’s younger brother was found missing and all efforts to trace him proved futile. It later turned he was at Vaidehi’s place to make contact with her. He knew he would be thrown out and so stealthily entered the back yard and hid himself behind a tree. It was early evening. He saw Ammini dragging a crying Vaidehi by her hair much against her will to the last room. He made a noise of a bird that Vaidehi was used to. She turned her head to see her brother from the corner of her eye. Enthused by the sight of her brother, she pushed Ammini to get away from her grip. But weak as she was, Ammini dragged her in and closed the door.
He heard his sister’s long plaintive wail and was in a mind to break open the door. Afraid of drawing others attention, he waited for the door to open. After nearly 45 minutes, the door opened, Ammini came out followed by a weak black cat. Ammini went inside the house while the cat came running towards him and snuggled at his feet purring all the time. The boy dashed into the room to bring out his sister. To his shock she was not there and that was impossible as he kept continuous watch on the only door. He saw the cat hiding behind the tree and looking at him intently.
A sudden thought occurred to him and he slowly said to the black cat, “If you are Vaidehi, run around the tree thrice.” To his utter shock, the cat did so promptly and came running to him. He immdly took it in his hands and sought the help of neighbours narrating to them what had transpired as he saw.
They banged the door hard till Ponnamma opened after long delay. They forcibly entered the house, asked her about Vaidehi and started looking for her. When they drew blank, they asked for Ammini.Raman who had just returned from office forcibly shook his mother and asked, “Where is Vaidehi?? Where is that old woman you had brought? Tell me now or I will call the police.”
Meanwhile one of the neighbours shouted from the bath room that Ammini was lying inert with blood oozing from her head. Someone examined her and pronounced that she was dead. All eyes turned accusingly at Ponnamma and her daughters.
The neighbours threatened Ponnamma and her daughters of physical harm if they did not come clean. It was only then all their nefarious actions were known
My dad’s younger brother came back with the black cat to their place not knowing what to do. The cat jumped on grandpa and snuggled on his lap meowing all the time. With tears trickling my grandpa called the cat, and asked, “Are you really Vaideshi? Show me the place where you slept when you were here.”
The cat jumped from his lap and ran to one of the middle rooms in the house and sat at the place where she slept along with her mother. She ran to the puja room and stood before her mother’s photo.
“What happened thereafter?” asked Roopa.
“I have heard my dad telling of all attempts made by grandpa with tantriks/sorcerers in Kerala could not succeed in bringing her back to her original form. Grandpa died heartbroken within a few months with the cat following suit in a few days refusing to eat anything,” concluded Rajan.
“Just one last question. Any idea about what happened to Raman after the sad incident?” asked Roopa.
“i am not sure but only a hearsay that he had committed suicide leaving the family in financial doldrums."
” Served them right,” Roopa exclaimed.