Previous Episode: ..Rest In Peace
The villagers were highly skilled people and punctual in their daily schedules, especially the women. They would work in the fields as well as the men and would take care of their homes too. In the evenings, they would come home early from the fields, and keep their courtyards clean and neat. They would create beautiful patterns called Rangoli on daily basis. Occasionally, such as during festivals, they would fill these patterns with colors and flowers in addition. We would look at these decorative designs with great admiration while we walked on our way to school. The men, on the other hand, would return home as soon as sun set. They would relax on their portable bed or get together with other neighbors at the village podium for a light conversation. Many of them would smoke rolled tobacco leaves. The odor of the smoke was so intense, especially when they talked, it smelled as if we were surrounded by the garden of tobacco. Usually, the village would be quiet and in deep sleep by 9 o’clock.
The villagers would rush to their fields before the sunrise except when there were festive celebrations. On these occasions they would prefer little entertainments within the village such as burrakatha, stage plays and colorful folk dance shows. Often in the evenings there were movies played during the festive occasions on the main street of the village where people gathered to sit on both sides of the screen. The raised bamboo poles would hold the screen to make an open theater. The children and women would sit in the front rows while the men would stay in the back as if the safeguards of the event. Otherwise, the villagers were always early to bed and early to rise. They never used an alarm clock to wake up but they had a substitute. Annoying roosters would do the same job with their crowing sound effects. As a child I would cover myself up in a rolled blanket so as not to fall out of my sleep from these living & walking alarms in the early morning. I always had a difficulty in waking up early to study; so did my friends. The village would already be far ahead of us by the time we woke up.
There were not enough connecting street lamps in our village. The moment we left the main street and took a different lane we would end up in dark. We, children, always stuck to each other when we had to go out at night. We would happily walk on the main street from one end to another but would never dare to go into the lanes. Apart from the darkness, the street dogs would scare us especially in some areas. They were ferocious and would mercilessly chase people who didn’t live in that locality. We would stay home to avoid all this trouble as soon as evening fell.
On top of that there was a rumor of an unknown woman, who would take away one person from a house that she would visit. The story spread in the village. The details of the lady made us more worried. She would wear a white saree, hold a lamp in her hand and walk around to each house where she would take possession of her captive and disappear instantly the moment she found him or her. The person she picked up may never come back alive. Some said it was a ghost, but the majority believed it was a powerful witch. The details had various versions and all made us equally horrified. Of course, there was a solution identified as a remedy to survive this situation. All that we had to do was to write down in our native language ,“Oh Lady, Visit Tomorrow”, in big letters on the door or wall. In this way, each time she visited the house she would read the message and leaves quietly. Many people used paint to inscribe the message to keep it permanently. No one questioned, however, if the lady understood our native language or what would occur if she changed her mind after reading the message. It appeared, people were more happy with the remedy than to question the solution.
The whole story got us more worried. One of our classmates almost cried when the ruthless act of someone washed the message away from their main entrance wall. He regretted that he just used a piece of chalk instead of a paint. This topic remained top of the list to discuss during leisure breaks. Creative minds worked to circulate many interesting stories with the backdrop of this unknown lady and her chronicles. We would describe the demon characters from the tales that we read and co-relate to this newly discovered wicked woman and her powers. The subsequent weeks we felt that nights were darker than black, and so quiet that people could almost hear other people’s dreams. My friends and I would advise each other about our survival plans and the precautions to be taken from being a victim, such as sleeping indoors and no outings during the evenings. We halted our weekend trips to the canal banks and gardens in case she would take us away in the daytime too.
The year passed and people got themselves ready for a new year by painting their houses as one of the annual tasks to celebrate the harvest festival. But they didn’t forget to keep the message written, often in bold letters to make it more clear than it’s previous version. May be time must have made them feel more comfortable with the fact of no evidence was found of her activity around our community except the stories we heard. However, everyday, we would come back from our school and verify if the message remained on the wall to ensure that night would be safe for us.
In later years, the villagers continued with their daily schedules as usual and eventually people forgot this story. The impact of fear, however, left a strong impression on us and the lady remained as a most haunted character of the decade.
Next Episode: My First Bean Plant Project