April-June 2002 issue
& the Witch - Part 2
Uncle M.K. Raina
needed help, but there was nobody who would and he did not have the flying
horse either. Charu kept his calm. He did not reveal his dream to anyone.
Of now his only mission was to rescue Gulu. He collected as much information
as possible about Vismainag, from people in the village. ďWhat if
I donít have the horse", thought Charu, "I still have Tara, whom I can
rely onĒ. He carried his pet white dog, Tara to the banks of Hapatara,
where they always played. He related the episode of Guluís vanishing, to
him. He repeated it several times, presuming that some day, Tara would
understand and help him. On each occasion Tara would bark for a while,
and then sit at Charuís feet and lick them, as if consoling him.
Charuís parents were very much worried about their sonís mental
state. He would not eat or dress properly. Every time, he enquired
about Vismainag, they would pray him not to think about that place. But
they were sure, he was determined to go to find Gulu.
One sunny afternoon Charu and Tara were sitting at the bank of Hapatara. Tara, as usual, was licking Charuís feet. All of a sudden Tara
stood up, looked at the pond across and dived into the waters of Hapatara.
He swam across, and ran towards the pond. He smelt its water, and raised
his head high and barking loudly, disappeared into the bushes. Charu was
shocked. Tara, his only hope, was also lost. He wept bitterly.
Charu was fast asleep when he felt someone pulling his leg. He
was overjoyed to see Tara at his feet with an amulet in his mouth. This
was Guluís amulet. He took it into his hands and kissed it. Tara
was staring at Charuís face. Charu patted him. Tara turned towards Vismainag
and barked, as if telling his master that he had found the amulet there.
Charuís joy knew no bounds, for, Tara had returned alive and that too with
Guluís amulet. Charu thought, time had come to sneak into the witchís domain.
Next day, Charu met his friend Ketak and told him about his secret
plans of rescuing Gulu. Ketak thought, it was suicidal to even think of
going to Vismainag. But he promised not to divulge Charuís plans to anyone.
Charu decided to set out for the mission on the Poornima day, just 3 days
away, for two reasons. One, he would get ample time to make necessary arrangements
for the journey, and secondly, if he were late in reaching witchís fort,
moonlight would help him trace the path.
Charu collected all he thought was necessary for the mission,
in an animal-skin sack and hid it in the bushes in his backyard.
He kept awake for the whole night, lest he may miss the opportune time
of departure. Tara stood to accompany him.
It was early dawn. Charu saw the first rays of sunlight, faintly
illuminating the periphery of a big cloud, in the eastern horizon. He stood
up and looked at his parents, who were fast asleep. ďThey would never know
of me and my plans, if I do not returnĒ, thought Charu. In the heart of
hearts, he felt sorry for them, prayed for their welfare and left
silently. He collected his bag from the bushes and started towards his
destination. Tara followed him. It was dawn when they crossed the Hapatara.
They moved quickly so as to reach Vismainag as early as possible. Tara
led the way.
Much before noon, they reached the deep ravine at the foot of
Vismainag. Width at its banks was not much but, yet, one could not jump
across. Going deep down the ravine and climbing up the other bank,
would take them most part of the day, as the slopes were very steep and
they had no time. Charu looked around in dismay and to his surprise, there
were two huge trees on either side of the ravine. He had carried a rope
along but how would he tie it to the tree across? Charu looked at Tara.
Tara barked softly, as if telling his master that he was ready to perform
any feat. Charu tied one end of the rope to the tree on this side
and threw its other end across. He did not succeed at the first attempt
and repeated the exercise again and again till he succeeded. As he looked
down the ravine he saw Tara running fast, on his way down and then up to
the bank, near the tree. Tara wound the rope around the tree as firmly
as he could do.
Charu tied the bag around his back, held the rope with his hands
and began moving across the ravine, while Tara kept a vigil. Slowly and
steadily, Charu moved along the rope and finally reached to the bank across.
His palms were bruised, causing him a lot of pain, but he was glad to have
passed the first test.
After having rested for a while, he looked around. He could not
see beyond a few trees. Charu had heard that the witches were capable of
transforming living beings into any other form. In order to avoid confusion
he tore a piece of cloth from his shirt and tied it to Taraís limb. Tara
then moved ahead, sniffing around, followed by Charu. Going
up the hill was tough and the worry of being traced by the witch made it
all the more tedious.
By noon, Charu was half way to the top. He decided to rest and
so climbed on to a tall tree to avoid wild animals. Tara as usual kept
guard. After taking some rest, Charu decided to continue his journey ahead.
He was about to climb down when he heard Tara barking gently, looking up
the tree. Charu heard some noises. He tried to listen very carefully but
nothing was clearly audible. He kept his breath low and signalled Tara
to hide himself in the bushes near by. In a moment, there was a strong
wind blowing. All the trees started swaying. The wind was so strong that
Charu felt he would be thrown off the brach any moment. He held the
branch as firmly as he could. A passing cloud covered the sun. It was dark,
yet Charu could see through the tall trees. He looked in the direction
of the sound and there, at some distance behind the trees, he saw a white
cloth swaying.The very next moment, he could see a long arm rising from
behind the bushes, and then emerged a tall figure with apparently two horns
over her head. In one of her hand, she held a white dog by his ear and
walked away towards the top of mountain. Charu was baffled. Was it Tara?
This very thought drained out all his energy. He was startled when he heard
mild bark below. He looked down and was glad to see Tara coming out of
the bushes with the piece of cloth still tied to his leg. Dark cloud passed
and it was bright again. He climbed down and embraced Tara. Tara
tugged at Charuís outer robe as if telling him that there was no time to
Both Charu and Tara walked up the hill quickly. Charu did not
stop on the way to eat or to rest. He was determined to reach the top before
nightfall. He finally reached there by evening. On the other side of the
mountain was a mild descent leading to a vast lush-green plain. But there
were no birds around. Perhaps the wicked witch had eaten them all.
There was no trace of the witch, but Charu could see smoke emanating
from a chimney at the farthest end. He looked carefully. He saw a cave
like structure, surrounded by trees. Charu was sure, this was the abode
of the witch. He ate some fruits after giving Tara his share, and then
set again towards the cave.
Charu did not take the straight path but chose a steep descent
onto a stream below, which he was sure, was Hapatara. He quenched his thirst
first and so did Tara. Then Charu rested on a boulder while planning his
next move. Tara was having fun meanwhile. Charu cautioned him, for, he
feared the witch may locate them. In the moonlight, they started moving
in the direction of the cave along the row of bushy trees, which had grown
all along the right bank of Hapatara.