The Witch Of Manikpur
The Witch Of Manikpur
It was his first day at school. Mr. Raghuram had recently been transferred to Manikpur, a quaint little village fifty kilometers from the city.
He was awestruck by the beauty and serenity of this village.
Raghu would take charge as the headmaster of Vidya Niketan. He had heard a lot about this little village from his friends and colleagues. He was fed up of life in the city and had been in search of some peace and quiet when he was offered this job at Manikpur.
He had not brought his wife and children along as he wanted to fix up a suitable accommodation and explore the place first.
It was a four-bedroom terraced house with a huge courtyard., which despite its small rooms was neatly furnished. It had a beautiful garden. It appeared to him to be the most palatial house in the village.
As he drove to school in his bright red car, he was looked upon by a few villagers in awe. Seeing a person driving a car was not a normal sight for them. Most of them looked wonderstruck while a few children raced behind the car for as long as their little feet could take them. Raghu was impressed by the lush greenery that surrounded him. As he entered the school premises, he saw an old red-bricked building. He was welcomed with a garland by one of the teachers who took him around the building. There were about seven to eight rooms which were freshly painted. He could see children scurrying around the ground. The staff room had two or three teachers.
Raghu was accompanied by the teacher to his room which was tiny but neatly arranged. A bouquet was placed on his table. He pressed the bell and summoned the peon. “Welcome Sir ’ji' he said with a sheepish grin.
The school bell rang and it was time for the first class. Raghu entered the class assigned to him. He flashed a smile and addressed the children, “Good morning my dear students. As you all are aware today is my first day in this school. I would like to know each one of you. You need not be intimidated by me. Please consider me as a good friend whom you can approach in case of any problems. I promise to help you out under any circumstances”. As their previous headmaster had been a short-tempered tyrant, the children were reassured by Raghu’s words. One by one they introduced themselves. “Today, being my first day I will not start any lesson. We’ll conduct a simple activity. I want you all to tell me your hobbies”, Raghu said with a twinkle in his eyes. He wanted to get friendly with his students. He was glad to see their cheerful faces.
Raghu returned home in the evening with a satisfied feeling of bonding with his students.
There was a young boy named Aarav, fondly called Chotu, who lived close to Raghu’s house. He was an orphan and was taken care by his uncle Hariya who was a potter. Hariya earned just enough to make two ends meet and hence couldn’t afford to send Chotu to school.
Chotu was a very smart and hard-working boy. He did not want to be a burden to his uncle and would often be seen running errands for anyone who would request him. In return, people would offer him some meager allowance. He was a happy go lucky lad who was sad about only one thing-not being able to go to school.
Raghu had met him a few times and over the months he had developed a liking for the little boy. Raghu loved the company of his little friend who also ran errands for him especially in cleaning his garden.
Raghu realized that Chotu had an immense desire to be educated. Since Raghu would be free during evenings, he offered to teach Chotu.
Every evening Chotu would religiously visit Raghu and learn his lessons. He would narrate some interesting stories about the village. Raghu was soon acquainted with the history of the village.
One evening, in between their classes, Raghu noticed that Chotu was a little disturbed. “What’s the matter, beta?, he asked in a concerned tone.
“Masterji, did you hear about the witch who lives in the well nearby”, he whispered. “I heard that she kills anyone who goes near that well. My uncle was telling me about this and he has also warned me not to roam anywhere near that well”, he continued with wide open eyes. Raghu sensed the terror in his voice even as he spoke about it. “They are just stories made up by people. You shouldn’t believe things you haven’t seen” he replied calmly. He knew that Chotu wasn’t convinced.
Stories of the witch continued to spread in the little village like wildfire. People claimed to have seen her. Some described her as an old lady with a shrivelled face and hands with long nails while others swore that she was a beautiful young lady with flowing tresses whose feet were placed backwards.
Fowl and cattle disappeared in the village. Everyday people approached the village headman with some complaint or the other. The witch had arisen terror in the village.
Being an educated man, Raghu did not believe the rumours. Even at school, the teachers discussed about the witch in hushed voices.
One day, the village headman approached Raghu. Now, things were going beyond his understanding. “Masterji , Am sure you are aware of the huge mishap that has befallen on our village. People are panicking and I have no idea how to find a solution to this problem. You are a learned man and also hail from the city. If you could kindly help us in this situation, we would be grateful to you,” he said concerned. Raghu consoled the headman and said that he would soon investigate the matter.
The next couple of days Raghu got busy with academics at school. The winter break would soon begin and Raghu had decided to go to the city and bring his family along with him. Before he left, he wanted to investigate the matter of the witch.
The old well was situated around two kilometers from his home. One day he decided to go there. Raghu was an ardent believer of God. He knew that as long as we were good to others, nothing could harm us. After school, he drove towards the old well. The area around the well led to a dense forest. He parked his car a little farther from the well. With a torch in his hand, he walked towards the well. The well was in broken condition. Around the well, he saw feathers of hens and head of a goat. He went ahead and peeped into the well. It was pitch dark and he couldn’t see anything. He felt something was fishy about the whole situation. After a few minutes, he decided to go back home.
Few days passed by without any trouble from the witch. One night, Raghu was awakened by some hushed noises outside his house. He peeped outside his window and saw some masked figures. They carried something in a handcart. Since it was dark, he couldn’t see what it was. Raghu decided to follow them. There were four masked men who moved towards the old well. Raghu tried to stay well behind them as he didn’t want to be caught.
What he saw next shocked him. One of the men removed his mask. It was the Headman. Raghu hid behind a tree few yards away from them. The Headman took the metal chest from the cart and opened it. Lo and behold, it had gold and precious stones. Raghu heard him tell the others, “We have been fooling the villagers very well. No one has been able to suspect what we have been doing. You have done a good job by dressing up like an old woman and scaring the people away”.
The other masked man replied, “It was indeed very smart of you to request Masterji to investigate into the matter. No one will suspect you now”. ‘Tomorrow lets take the valuables that we have been looting from the nearby villages to the city. We can get a good price for it”, the Headman said with a smile and threw the metal chest into the well. Raghu was shocked to hear this and knew that he had to act soon. He couldn’t let them succeed in their plan. Quietly he went back home. He wanted to make some plan to catch the headman red-handed the next day.
The next morning, Raghu went to meet Chotu and his uncle and explained to them the strange happenings of the previous night. They were flabbergasted. Raghu also asked two teachers from school to come to his place immediately. They were also shocked to hear the story. Raghu had made a plan according to which they dug a trench near the well and covered it with soil and leaves. When the hooligans approached the well, they would fall into it.
Just before midnight, Raghu and his entire team which consisted of Chotu, Hariya and the teachers took their positions behind the banyan tree near the well. They waited anxiously for the hooligans. It was past midnight but no one arrived. Contrary to what they expected, the headman and the other masked men came through the thick forest and reached the well. Two of the masked men slowly climbed down the well to collect the loot. Meanwhile, the headman and his companion stood with a rope to help them climb. Raghu realized that it was the right time to attack them. Raghu along with his team rushed towards the headman with large sticks and hit them. The headman and his companion were shocked and tried to fight back. But they were outnumbered. The two masked men who were inside the well were trapped. Thus, Raghu and his team successfully captured the hooligans. The next day, they were handed over to the police.
The villagers were elated and grateful to Raghu. Chotu became a hero overnight.
The villagers expressed their gratitude and appointed Raghu as their new HEADMAN......