The witch in the time machine

diary

Last week, I opened an old diary and flipped through its pages. As I read out aloud the vaguely familiar words, my mother stared at me. “What on earth went on in your little mind? How did you retain your sanity?” I never spoke much as a child. Even now, I am terrible at making conversations. Writing was the only way I emptied my head. The poetry was terrible, but it was never meant to be read by any one else. So my mother never knew I wrote.

Reading all those words written as a young adolescent so many years ago, I felt like I had entered a time machine. Oddly though, almost everything in those pages dealt with the frustration of subtle social sexism and blatant natural destruction.

I was particularly amused by one of the poems, which, in a sense, is the most revealing. To me at least, it reveals the struggle against established stereotypes, moulding racist and sexist mindsets. And between the old Grimm tales and the newly unveiled magic of J.K. Rowling, it reveals the struggle of an adolescent caught between two different worlds!

Written on 31st January 2004 at 5:30 pm*, enjoy!


Once there lived a grumpy ol’ witch
Her hair a mess,
And her clothes of bad stitch.
She hated spring times
When the birds and the bees would sing in rhymes.
One day she went out to collect poison ivy.
But near the bush lay a blue eyed baby.
May be some other witch would have eaten it with delight.
But this witch just screamed with fright.
For she had always lived in the forest
And never came across an infant.
She scrambled back to her cottage
Hidden ever so cleverly amongst the foliage.
She looked at a picture
Hanging on the wall.
Her picture — when she was so small.
She had lived her entire life all alone
In the cottage made of stone.
She had longed for company.
And it seemed as if God had gifted her a baby — for company
Although she was a witch — a grumpy old witch
She had a heart
As sweet as tart
And so she went back to the bush of poison ivy
And saw the blue-eyed baby.
The baby smiled so sweetly
And the witch picked it up carefully.
And ever since then
She was never the same again.


*My grandfather (mother’s father) once told me to always jot down the date and time I wrote anything. I don’t remember if I questioned him, but I followed it religiously, and am thankful for that wonderful piece of advice.

The photograph featured in this post is the original poem written in a diary which was gifted to me by my aunt.

Photo edited in BeFunky

PS. I can’t help reading the story it in the tone of a narrator of a children’s movie 😛

A Flower’s Life


You put in all your efforts,
I smile ’cause I’m impressed.
That is what you think.

To you, I am always pretty.
But it’s not because of you,
That is my ill fate.

You wait for me to blossom,
And at just the right time,
Cut me off my stem.

You give me sparkles,
A little water to drink,
To show me off to your mate.

I may cry before your very eyes,
But you choose to ignore.
For you, that’s my smile.

I wait patiently to get my own way.
That is not what you want,
And I must stay.

Soon the day will be here,
And I will become free.
That is the day you will throw me away.

Guest Post : Jal Satyagrah


As the world reflects on the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests, residents of a small village in India protest against the government for their basic human rights…

The government of Madhya Pradesh decided to raise the water level of the Omkareshwar dam, without providing rehabilitation for the residents of the villages, which would be submerged. Residents of the submerged villages protested – by standing their ground.

From the perspective of a volunteer who saw the struggle first-hand, penned by my good friend, Sneha Chandna:

Kanshi Lal Bhai* sat in water for 17 days along with 50 other people in Ghoghalgaon, to protest against the illegal raising of the water level in Omkareshwar dam. Ghoghalgaon is one of the 30 villages that will submerge, when the Omkareshwar dam reservoir is filled up to its full capacity.

That Kanshi Lal Bhai is beyond 55 years of age, and is completely blind, complicates the situation a bit, but doesn’t stop him from supporting other protesters.

The Government made an official announcement to raise the water level in Omkareshwar dam (from 189 to 193 metres), in the month of May, and started raising the water level in August, 2012. This was an open and blatant violation of the Supreme Court and High Court order, that says that the government can submerge a region only after 6 months of the Resettlement and Rehabilitation of its people.

It seems the distance between a blind, displaced, illiterate, yet determined Kanshi Lal ji, and the machinery for the Delivery of Justice, (which includes the National Hydroelectric Development Corporation, Madhya Pradesh Government, High Court of MP and the Supreme Court), is more than the distance between the Earth and the Sun. It is this distance that makes the victory of the protesters at Omkareshwar Dam, all the more special.

Being a participant in the whole process, one is deeply humbled. In fact, as the protest progressed before my eyes, with each passing day I found it difficult to believe that a small set of people with their truly limited resources could manage to keep the state machinery on its toes and the print and electronic media on their side. As I expressed my disbelief to a senior NBA activist Sh. Ramesh Billorey, he said that in spite of the differences between the resources and power, it’s the truth that helps one sail through, “Satya Hamesha Jhoot par Bhaari Padta hai”.

During the time of the protest, Print and Electronic media played a very crucial role in highlighting the issue all over the country and put pressure on all decision-making institutions to agree to people’s demands. Media persons had, in fact, become a part of the support system for the movement. Also, as the protest ended, realization dawned that the movement had made history, by awakening the conscience of a nation, that is otherwise too busy to notice anything that the tribal or rural folks have to say. Also, it led to similar protests in other parts of the country, where development-led displacement has happened, or is about to happen, such as the issue of Koodankulam nuclear plant.

The victory of those displaced by the Omkareshwar dam, was followed by strong police action in the Harda District of Indira Sagar Dam, where the MP government refused to agree to people’s demands, and removed them forcefully from the Satyagraha site. A lot of media persons asked NBA activists why would the government agree to demands in the case of one dam, and not agree to similar demands by those affected by another dam?

Had the government agreed to the demands of those affected by the Indira Sagar dam, they would have had to allot more than double the amount of land they will now allot to those displaced by Omkareshwar dam.

As a lay person, often times I’ve been forced to wonder, what if someday some of my own rights are violated. It will take so much of time, money and effort to figure out a way to access the legal machinery, that it might as well become the single-most important pursuit of my life.

If it could be this way for an educated young person of the country, imagine what the situation would be for the tribal communities of a village, which has not known any vocation other than farming, which grows most of what it consumes, or which has little money, if at all. All the arguments of the government seem skewed in the scheme of things.

Some 30 villages will submerge because of the Omkareshwar dam, and 268 villages will submerge due to the Indira Sagar Dam. These dams will produce electricity.

Interestingly a short stay in one of the villages that will submerge, will make one notice that electricity in these very villages is available only for 8-10 hours. Yes, it’s true that Foreign Direct Investment might attract investors, but let’s first try to impress them with roads and electricity in every village of the country.

* * *

* Name changed

About the writer: Sneha has just returned from Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, where she was actively involved with the Jal Satyagrah. She is currently working with ‘Koshish’.

Narmada Bachao Andolan was established in 1989 by Ms Medha Patkar, protesting against construction of dams across the River Narmada. While Ms Patkar works more at the national level now, the Jal Satyagrah was coordinated in Khandwa, by Alok and Silvy. Silvy sat in the water for 17 days, and that is how people sat along with her, and Alok coordinated fully with the media.

For more information on the Narmade Bachao Andolan, and the Jal Satyagrah, please visit their blog, right here on wordpress : Tales Of Narmada