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A Witch in Simhalpur

There was a village known as Simhalpur nestled at the foot of the lower Himalayas. It was indeed very pretty. The village Simhalpur was surrounded by tall trees and had a tiny lake nearby. The water in the lake  was crystal clear. The village took its name after the natural lion sanctuary which had a great number of lions and tigers.

The villagers were ignorant and superstitious, but simple and innocent. There dwelt a lady who was slightly forty years in age but she looked was slightly above forty year age but she looked shriveled and old. The villagers called her a witch because she looked a little wicked also. But the fact was that she was neither wicked nor did she have the skills of witchcraft. On the contrary she  was a very kind lady. She was singled out because of her odd personality and also because she was cleverer than the rest and could, use her common sense more than they could.

There were many shepherds in Simphalpur. They used to take their sheep to graze on th surrounding hills. Among those shepherds was Nasser who loved his sheep dearly.

Every morning, before the smoke-like mist had scarcely lifted off the water surface of the tiny lake Nasser could be seen along the narrow lane leading up the mountain, driving his sheep before him.

Driving the flock of sheep, one day, he reached an open place covered with thick grass and dotted with beautiful wild flowers. He made himself comfortable among the fragrant pine needles and began playing a sweet tune on his flute. His sheep knew that this was a sign for them to stop and grazes. One could realize their happiness to see them frolicking and gamboling.

After the sheep had had their fill, Nasser took them to a nearby brook for water. The sheep kneeled on their front feet and drank thirstily.

Nasser used to count his sheep before driving them back. But sometimes he used to make mistakes in counting. That day too he had made a mistake. In face one lamb was missing and had strayed somewhere.

Nasser reached home and counted them again. Now he realized. He recounted and the result was the same. He went and talked to his comrades about the missing lamb. Some of the village boys offered to help him find it. They went back to the same place, and spread out in different directions.

Ultimately after a long search the lamb was spotted by one of his comrades high up on a rocky slope. ‘he yelled with happiness-

“Hey boys, come here; I have found the lamb.”

All the boys came running and were delighted to have found the little one after all. Nasser became very emotional and yelled with joy-

“Hey, you naughty chap! At last we have found you. Now please come down and let us go home.”

But the lamb was busy eating yellow flowers that sheep love so much. It was unmindful of their shouting and calling. The boys tried everything to bring it down, but nothing worked. The lamb   continued plucking at the flowers, as if nothing else mattered in the world.

Tears welled up in the eyes of Nasser. He loved all the members of his flock dearly and was extremely pained to think that in case the sweet little lamb was not rescued before nightfall, it would either be devoured by some wild animal or it might die of cold up there.

Seeing him so worried, one of his comrades suggested to him to go to the witch and ask for help. He said, “Look Nasser, I am sure you are not going to leave the lamb to its fate. You have to do something to rescue it. And all of us feel that now the old witch is our only hope. She can use her magic power to bring it back.”

The other comrade said, “Yes he is right. The other day, I myself saw her with these two eyes, making a frog fly in the sky. The frog went high in the sky, caught a hawk by its neck and brought it to the old witch. She , in turn, boiled the hawk in a big cauldron together with the same frog and prepared a potion from their soup.”

Nasser was terribly frightened to hear this; but somehow his affection for the lamb did not allow him to deter. He thought to himself-

“After all, the poor little lamb cannot be left to its fate. It has got to be rescued. No matter what it comes to;  even if I am to risk my life, I wouldn’t mind.”

Seeing Nasser prepared to go to the witch, all his comrades began creeping away one by one; and at last Nasser was left alone.

It was demand of time that things had to be done as fast as possible.

So, Nasser ran as quickly as his legs could take him and knocked at the door of the witch’s hut. When the old witch opened the door, Nasser was panting. It took him some time to become normal he was frightened to see her.

He said, “Mother witch, mother witch, please help me. I am in great trouble.”

At first she became angry with the boy for having called her a witch. But when she realized how terribly frightened and sad that boy was, she smiled and said, “What’s the problem, my son?”

Nasser, without wasting time, narrated everything to her, and begged of her to use her supernatural powers to rescue the lamb for him.

He was surprised to see that the old witch immediately agreed to help him.

In fact he had imagined that her hut would be full of four smell of rotten flesh, and he would see a lady with her canine teeth protruding like fangs; and that she will be having two big pointed horns on her head. He might even see her eating raw frogs and rats.

But things turned out to be entirely different. The lady was no doubt very ugly, but a kind heart throbbed behind her ribs. Nasser saw that she not at all aggressive; she was rather cool and collected. She had a sweet voice.

The lady asked Nasser to lead the way. She had taken a thin rope and three pieces of cloth with her.

It took them nearly half an hour to reach the foot of the huge rock. She examined the place carefully and said, “There is no chance that this naughty lamb could climb up the rock from here. It must be some other place. Let us look for it first.”

Nasser and the lady began looking around.

They had to walk a long way before they came upon a narrow path, which though dangerous, seemed to be the only one by means of which the lamb could have scaled the height. They could see the lamb from there. It had stopped eating and looked worried. It was bleating with fear and nervousness.

“Don’t worry little one. We have come ; you will rescued safely, “ said the lady with motherly affection.

She gave Nasser the thin rope and the three pieces of cloth and said gently, “My son , do as I say, and remember, you will have to muster up enough courage to perform the formidable task. Don’t look down when you have climbed up and don’t get nervous; and above all you should have confidence that you can do it,” She paused for a moment and then said, “When you have reached the top, lie on your stomach, and gently ease yourself forward, till you are confident that you can slip the noose of the rope over the head of the lamb.”

“This much I have understood. Now tell me what shall I have to do next, “ asked Nasser impatiently.

“Have patience my son,” said the lady. “Keep your eyes fixed at the lamb and start pulling it. The lamb will protest, but it will come. Once it has reached near you, you will have to tie one piece of cloth over its eyes, and with the other two pieces you will have to tie its legs. Now use the rope to fasten it to your back and start descending slowly. But keep it in your mind that you will have to be very cautious   while descending and take only one step at a time and also keep your mind fixed at each and every step.”

Having completed her instructions, she said with gentle pat on his back, “now proceed. God bless you my son.”

Nasser followed her instructions strictly and returned safely with lamb. But now could her know that the lady had been praying for his safety all along?

“Well done! My boy,” said she. “You are indeed a very brave boy. Now that you have come down safely and it is getting  dark, I think I should see you safely to your village and then go home.” Saying this she accompanied him.

Nasser was full of gratitude for her kind act and wanted to apologize for having called her a witch in the beginning.

“Aunt I am indeed very sorry for having called you a witch when I first saw you,” said Nasser apologetically.

“Never mind about that. Everyone calls me a witch in the village. They have imaginary stories  about me. So, it’s really not your mistake. You are just  a young boy. You will learn only what your elders teach you.”

The villagers were deep asleep when Nasser reached home; and the lady returned seeing Nasser off. Nasser’s mother opened the door and hugged him with tears in her eyes.

“Oh Nasser, the village boys came and told us that you have gone to the wicked witch to take her help. We had given up hopes of seeing you alive. I am happy that you have returned unscathed. How did you save yourself from her? Have you killed her?” said Nasser’s mother.

“Mother, don’t call her a witch, “ said Nasser. “ You don’t know how nice a lady she is. She is very kind – hearted and soft- spoken. She is very because she doesn’t have her eyes, nose, ears and lips in proportion and she doesn’t fit in our definition of beauty, but if all of you look at her from my eyes, you will find that she is a beautiful person. The stories that have spread around about her are all imaginary and nasty stories;  they have no basis.”

The news of safe return of Nasser spread like wildfire in the village in the morning. Everyone in the village was feeling sorry for having kept such a nice and kind- hearted lady away from the village. All the villagers went to the hut of the kind lady to apologize for their ill treatment to her. Also they had decided to request her to come and live with them in the village. But everyone was shocked to see the lady lying dead outside her hut. She had been bitten by some poisonous snake while returning to her hut in the dark night.

Even today if you go to Simhalpur you will find a clay tablet on which is written – “Here lived a  kind- hearted lady who left the world because the world could not understand her.”

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