BY CHANDRIKA KONWAR
Ebony iridescence flirting with her obscure silhouette titillates the delusional new moon. One glance at her umber face with warm undertones spawns desires of a distant dream. She has an aura about her, enigmatic and dauntless, and that explains her curt demeanour. Her deep brown eyes tainted with mosaic sclera instilled cryptic fears in the debilitated but an unwavering attitude and healing prowess saw her through different colours of life. She is the live narration of a saga that speaks not of love, heartache or exploit, but there is a story to tell, the story of her life.
She spats on the cold hard floor of my house as she recalls that unfortunate night when they rechristened her dayni (witch) in a flash. She sublimed from the revered local apothecary “ojha” into an evil sorceress and everything she had built around her in all the bygone years of life tumbled and crashed within seconds. Her eyes still grieve in disbelief of that moment but her pallour didn’t give way to any emotions. She vehemently contained herself and proceeded to narrate her story. ‘It all started when the man of the house beside mine harboured a deep wound while working in the woods. The callous man didn’t tend to his wound and continued working tirelessly day after day.
Soon after the wound caught a deathly infection and the poor fellow took to his bed. His family tried a lot of things but there were no signs of recovery. His vitals were dropping very fast and when every tactic failed them one of his brothers came to me for help. I am the unofficial bej of the village. Local apothecary runs in my family and I brought my share of knowledge about the local herbs and medicines when I was married into this village. I have cured many ailments till date but that man was already on his death bed when they asked for my help. I warned them about the same but they forced me to give him some medicine. After a few days it became evident that the poor fellow is dying. One day in the middle of the night, his notorious brothers created a commotion and gathered the entire neighbourhood outside my house. First, they started blaming me for my inefficiency as an ojha and then they recounted my reluctance to treat their ailing brother. According to them I was feeding on his blood for my evil sorcery and everything that had happened to him was a due part of my black magic. I had jinxed their house with my aphotic shadow.
As the crowd started abusing me, someone proclaimed that this wretch should be thrown out of the village; she is a dayni. In the very next moment, almost the entire village was ramming my small world with the chants of Dayni! Dayni! Dayni! I wanted to go out and defend myself but my daughter begged me not to open the door. I saw the fear of death in her eyes and I realized now is not the right time. Rumours and stories spread faster than fire and eventually everyone I had ever known deserted me. No one even bothered to listen to my version of the story let alone believe me. It has been more than a year now and the right time hasn’t come. All this while I have prayed for death more than they have.’
Long buried emotions welled up in her eyes but she wept with profound dignity. She choked on her words as she proceeded to speak further. After a brief pause she continued again, ‘There have been numerous attempts on my life since that night. My husband rescued me twice but one other time they put a dagger on my neck compelling me to accept that I am a dayni. I gave in but my daughter never gave up; she fought for my life in front of the entire village, the headman and the police. She has left no stone unturned to ensure my safety. If I still walk this earth, it is only because of her grit, determination and faith. May the almighty bless every parent with such a daughter!’ She beamed with pride as she wrapped up her story, a true case of witch hunting.
Witch hunting has been trending on our newsfeed for some time now. We all know that lack of education and illogical superstitious beliefs are at play but what are we doing about it? A life saved is a life well lived. Can we transcend our education into concrete actions? Awareness is the best weapon to fight the evils intricately woven into the beliefs of people. Educating and empowering our domestic help, their families and neighbourhood is a good start against this social menace. In this way, the perils of witch hunting shall perish before it finds ground.