The Witch Dressed in White

Photo by Harshi Rateria on

I was just another 10-yr old boy playing in the nearby park with my friends. Just then an old lady, dressed in an all white saree (Indian traditional wear), with a stick in hand, old wrinkled face with glasses, called out to me. I walked over hesitantly, a little scared, a little apprehensive but respectful still.

She didn’t say much as she extended one hand, with the stick in the other pointed towards the deserted walkway of our housing complex. It was around dawn, so while there was light, it was getting dark fast. The walkway was a 3 meter wide path built along the boundary of our apartment complex, and was covered with amber leaves of the fall.

Was she asking me to help her get through an evening stroll? Or was she the white old witch who was going to kidnap me and take me to unknown, scary lands? As a kid, I’d been taught to not trust a stranger. But could she mean any harm? She was probably as old as my own grandmother, if not a decade or two older.

I didn’t have the mental capacity or the time then to think about all the eventualities, and as scared as I was, I instinctively took her hand and started walking with her. Was it the right decision? Should I scream and call for help? My mind waded through a myriad of thoughts – some scary, some horrifying, none good!

She spoke no words. Just walked, at a painfully slow pace – the fastest her old knees could probably manage. That one round around our society was probably a mile at best and took a whole of 30 mins, but it felt like a lifetime. There were stretches that were so quiet and dark that if she’d dumped me somewhere, no one would have heard me scream or struggle.

When it ended, I hadn’t been devoured by a witch, nor was I kidnapped and locked in a dungeon somewhere. Of course, as the memory of that day is still vivid in my mind today, it seems childish silliness to even have had all those fears.

She was just an old lady, with no one in her own household to go to. To help hold her hand and walk her around for a bit so she could breathe in some fresh air and escape the lonely sorrow of her old age. In those 30 mins, I had had the pleasure of being her grandson, her support at every step.

She’d probably silently showered me with blessings that still hold me in good stead. She wasn’t a white scary witch – she was just a mother, who was now too old and forgotten by her own children. And in those moments, she’d given me the privilege of being her son, her grandson.

And in that silence throughout that stroll, I’d learnt that demons don’t exist, they’re just created and cultivated in our own minds.