A Good Witch Story From The Heartland Of Rajasthan

by | Feb 2, 2019

The 26th January celebration had come to an end. Everyone enjoyed being there either by participating in dance, drama or just as an audience. In between, a little girl almost reached the gate.

Suddenly a woman who appeared to be her mother, rushed towards her and took her away from the school gate of Kukawas. She was not letting her go and the kid was trying to come out of her clutch.  It was something that make you smile and make you remember about your childhood days when your mum prohibited all things that could potentially harm … until the young mother spit on the little girl.

I have not seen this kind of care shown by the mothers of my village Jhed (where i work with the public school system as part of my fellowship); unless you are a toddler. The kids are being reared in the close contact of nature. They roll over the ground, get mud all over their body with runny nose and rashes all over. I have not seen their mother cleaning up their nose or thinking about managing a warmer from somewhere even during the chilliest night. They just tell “go, cover yourself” or “come near the fire”. They do not panic like my mother still does. Rest the kids do it by themselves. They have to.

A six-year old kid working in cleaning up the corn field put more than five kilo grams of waste over his head innumerable times. I cannot express you how heavy it can be till I have not worked in that same field. The waste has roots of corn, the sticks. You need to pull it out from the mud and then collect it in a cloth and dump it at one particular side. And two kids from my school are assigned this work by their mother.

Once I asked Maggu aunty, why she is not sending *Radha to school regularly. She replied to me with helplessness in her eyes, “There are too many goats. Who will take them to the hills to feed them? I have only two kids now to help me at work?!”

So I was dazed when i saw the incident i have opened this article with – contrary to my past few months’ experience. But it shook me when I see the mother spitting over the little girl and was cursing at me while staring, uninterrupted. Her eyes I remember, was not contend with fear but hatred. When I am penning down my experience I am still able to feel the hatred cast on. I was standing at the gate to greet everyone in their language and convey my regards to them. A black bindi on my forehead; I was gleaming with joy. I usually don’t wear ear rings. That day I wore my favorite one with small balls hanging from it, a silver nose ring, white kurta – pajama and green dupatta that resembles to the color of fennel. All decked up, you can understand! I was not feeling well for the previous couple of days. Cough, cold and the feeling of nausea all the time was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm shown by the kids and teachers of Kukawas Governement school (where we did our last learning festival). I danced on a song by Bhupen Hazarika in front of more than two hundred kids and their family members. Rehearsing with the kids in the last moment for drama on parents’ involvement and present it was not so much of fun if the kids not insist me to rehearse.

My kids’ (kids of Jhed) mothers have always been affectionate towards me and never made me feel like an outsider. Some of them are too close to me that they asked me to call themselves as ‘Aai’ (mother). They rebuked me when I get late and at the same time appreciate me for all the hard work and being courageous. When i cut my hair short, I remember most of my older kids suggesting me to go back to long hair because in that I ‘look beautiful’. Listening to this one of their mother told, “Keep it short. You look beautiful even in short hair.” One of the uncles here said, Kya beti? Baal kyu chhota kar diya? Bohut sundar tha”. But not a single person looked at me as an alien, or contempt. It might be because they already know me.

My sunny day turned into a dark gloom when she spat. I have never experienced such behaviour from any women I met here in my field area and hence could not even place it culturally. I remember that this is often done to ward off the un-auspiciousness – Nazar.

Once Arjun, a class eighth kid told me things about women who looks different than the rest. He had told that ‘these kind of women’ kidnapped and buried the children under the river bank. The young mother must have mistaken me with one of them. Or my villagers must have mistaken all the time they pointed out finger against the odd one out. Two of my Jhed kids were standing outside the school gate. They were also present to be a part of the celebration at Kukawas Government Senior Secondary School. I could not stand firm against the staring and I turned back and asked the two of them “Can ever be mistaken for a witch? How does a witch look?” They asked me to know what happened. As I told them the incident of mistrust I witnessed, they told, “She does not know you. And she is not ‘educated’.” 

It makes me think a lot. In this process, I have found what my weakness is. It is the fear of being unloved. And as our master Shifu (Vivek Kumar – co-founder of Kshamtalaya Foundation) tells “community immersion takes you closer to yourself”. I could not agree more as i grow roots deeper into my community here.

*Name changed to protect identity

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