Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India


Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

  Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India

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July-September 2002 Issue

Fusion of multi tiny specks of Pranav which pervades the Universe in the shape of OM. A drawing by Late Radha Krishen Kaul (Kotha), retired Asstt. Engineer of Bal Garden, Srinagar (Originally of Rainawari). Shri Kotha passed away in September 1994 at Delhi

Table of Contents

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

  Story for the Children
Charu & the Witch - Part 3
... Uncle M.K. Raina
Part 1 | Part 2

M. K. RainaCharu moved forward cautiously, taking stock of the surroundings after every ten or fifteen steps, and keeping the smoke-emitting chimney constantly in sight. By and by, he came close to the cave, which he could see very clearly now. His heart was beating at a faster pace. The cave was carved out of a big white rock. Its entrance was as big as the witch herself. At the mouth of the cave, was a big stone, which was probably kept there to serve as a door. At the top of cave, there was a stone chimney, emitting gray smoke. The courtyard was planted with shallow trees all around, but there were no bodies. There was a channel of water, two or three steps wide, all around the courtyard. Water was splashing and radiating different colours, and its reflection on the trees in the courtyard, provided a magical effect. The trees looked like ghosts, each tree having a different colour at different time. Two stuffed skeletons, probably of human beings, were kept across the channel to serve as a bridge. Charu felt as if he had no legs. He was exhausted now and the absence of bodies in the courtyard, as villagers believed, was a rude shock to him. Where could have the bodies gone? Had the witch eaten up everybody? Tara was calm. He was not qualified enough to draw any plans. He watched Charu helplessly. Charu positioned himself within the wild bushes and so did Tara. Both kept vigil on the cave, which looked like a ghost’s open mouth in the moonlight.

 Some time passed. There was some movement of the stone at the entrance. With a hissing sound, the stone moved to a side, and out came the witch adorning white robes. She pushed the stone back to its original position and came into the courtyard. She raised her head and looked around as if counting the trees and then raised her hand high in the air. There was a howl from behind the chimney and an owl came flying and perched on her hand. This was perhaps a signal that everything outside was all right. Wicked witch smiled, took a step forward and released the owl, who flew back to his resting place. Witch took long steps, but this time, she did not go towards Vismainag. She took another route and in a few minutes, she was out of sight. Charu keenly watched the cave, the courtyard, the trees and the channel. There were no signs of life and there were no dead bodies outside the cave. “May be she has kept everything inside the cave”, Charu thought. “What to do next and how to go in”, he could not decide. He noticed, there was a small gap between the stone and the cave opening at the bottom, wherefrom, he thought, he could easily go in. He had already signalled Tara not to make any sound, because, he was sure, the owl was keeping watch of the area in absence of the witch. Charu knew that owls do sleep in the daytime only, but by that time, the witch would be back. So there was no chance to go inside. “Shall we have to wait endlessly?” Charu thought.

 They did not have to wait for a long. Wind started blowing hard, signaling return of the witch. In a moment, she was back with her frightening face and two long horns. She was holding an old woman by her hair. The woman was wailing and crying. Before entering the courtyard, the witch tied the old woman to a tree near by. There was a spring near this tree, with crystal clear water, where the witch had a dip first. The moment she stepped into the water, it turned emerald green and Charu heard musical sounds emanating from the spring. After some time, the witch came out of water, which turned crystal clear again. There were no musical sounds now. The witch untied the woman, caught her again by the hair and dragged her towards her courtyard. Charu was motionless, watching the scene curiously from his hideout. And what was it? Charu noticed, the old woman fell down as soon as she stepped on the skeletons. She was dead now. The witch lifted her into her hands, passed the courtyard and pushed the entrance stone to a side. Charu saw her vanishing into the cave and the stone slipped to its original place.

 Charu thought and thought again. “The witch did not have a dip in the spring when she left. Then why did she have it on her return”. He could not solve the puzzle. He did not know when she would leave again for another prey. And if she left during daytime, would the owl really be asleep. He thought he would have to wait for a long. But no, it was not to be. The witch came out immediately, raised her head and looked around at the trees. She then raised her hand high in the air. For a moment, there was no howling. Her face turned most frightful. She turned towards the chimney and clapped forcefully. There was a strange sound in the air and a howl, and the owl came flying from behind the chimney, onto the witch’s hand. For a while, the owl fanned his wings as if praying to be forgiven for the lapse. The witch smiled, presumably condoning his lapse, took a step forward and released the owl again, who flew back to his resting place. The witch left, this time towards Vismainag. Charu was disturbed. He did not consider the lapse on part of the owl incidental. He was sure, the owl had some inkling of his presence in the vicinity, but may be, he was not sure enough to convey it to his mistress. Charu was sure, owl had no permission to leave the spot where he was placed except flying onto his master’s raised hand when she left. Otherwise, he would have definitely searched them out. Charu had also heard that the soul of all witches was always secured in the heart of a bird. And to kill a witch, it was necessary to kill the bird. “So, was the owl also holding witch’s soul inside him?”, Charu could not decide. This time he was highly disturbed because he had seen the witch going towards Vismainag and was sure, someone from his village would fall prey to her tonight. 

 The wind blew again. Charu knew, the witch was coming back, and so she did. But this time she did not hold anybody. She was alone. May be there was nobody, not even an animal on this side of the Hapatara. Charu was relieved. Then, whatever happened, was the most important event for him. The witch, before going into her cave, had a dip in the spring again. And Charu thought, he had got the password to enter witch’s domain. He was relaxed. He got his food and fruits out of the sack and had a good meal along with Tara.

 Next morning, as the sun rose, Charu awoke. He had to be more cautious this time, because it was daytime and everything was so clear and visible from a long distance. He thought of the owl and looked at the chimney. There was no owl there. He must be asleep by now. Charu was waiting for the witch to go out. He had to wait for a long. At about noon, the witch left again. And Charu was glad, because he had thought right. There was no howl and no owl this time. She stopped on the skeletons across channel and looked into the magical waters. Water stopped splashing and there were no magical colours now. She observed something in the water and waved her head. Then she left for her unknown destination. Water started splashing again with magical colours. Charu thought, this could be the witch’s alternative way of ascertaining the situation outside, in absence of the owl.

 Charu gathered his wits. He was fully prepared now. There was no owl to watch him. He went to the spring and hesitatingly stepped into its waters. Anything could happen but Charu was ready to face all. And it was a surprise. The colour of water changed and there were musical sounds. Charu had a dip and so had Tara. Before Charu could decide the strategy to pass the water channel, Tara made a fast dive right into the courtyard, and he was all alive. Nothing happened to him. Charu was joyful. He followed Tara and both of them reached the entrance of the cave. Charu did not have to move the stone. Instead he peeped first through the opening at the bottom of the entrance. He could not see anything, because it was completely dark inside. He pushed himself in and also dragged in his sack. He asked Tara to be there on vigil. Tara understood. He had to keep guard and inform his master as soon as the wind started blowing. 

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