The Twitchy Witch
Once upon a time, in the middle of a forest, there was a grey house that looked rather frightening. It seemed as if no one lived there for the windows were full of spider webs and the glass was so filthy that it was impossible to peer through it and see inside the house. But the fact was that someone did live there—a witch known all over the world as ‘the twitchy witch’.
The twitchy witch had big black eyes, grey–white hair and a wart right on the tip of her big nose. She was ugly and scary to look at. But she was flighty as a butterfly. She couldn’t be still for a second. Astride her broom, she would fly inside her house chasing the bats all through the day and even at night. On gray mornings one could see her bustling in the backyard gathering slimy green weeds.
The twitchy witch had always lived in the forest and on certain days of the year she would go into the village a few kilometers away from the forest. Villagers dreaded those days as they had heard terrible rumours about the twitchy witch. Some said that she would kidnap little boys and girls and turn them into her slaves; others feared that she would cast a spell on them that would make them itch all day long. Village elders swore that they had seen the long curvy nails of the witch that could easily lance through a sturdy horse. Villagers feared her so much that even saying her name out loud was a taboo.
One day the twitchy witch went into the village riding on her broomstick. Like all witches she too used her broom to travel from one place to another. She was dressed in black and had her usual pointy black hat.
It was already dark when the twitchy witch reached the village. When some of the villagers, out on the streets, saw the silhouette of the twitchy witch flying atop her broom, they went running to their houses as fast as their legs would carry them.
The twitchy witch cackled at the sight of villagers running amok in the street. But suddenly she heard a voice coming from the street. It said, ‘Are you the twitchy witch?’ the twitchy witch squinted into the darkness and saw a little boy who couldn’t have been more than six years old.
The witch stopped midair and stared at the boy. She wondered why he hadn’t run away like the rest of them. So she answered, ‘Yes, I’m the twitchy witch!’
Then the boy asked, ‘Why do you come to our village and frighten people?’
The witch was puzzled. After thinking about it for a while she answered, ‘I’m going to tell you a secret, little boy. You can see for yourself that we witches are ugly (and she pointed at the wart plunked right on the tip of her nose) and the only thing we do when we come to the village is buy food. But when people see us they get scared and run as if we would eat them alive!’
‘So you’re not wicked? And you don’t want to harm children and their mums and dads?’ asked the little boy.
‘Of course not! We just want to buy our food and go back to the forest. I’d love to be able to walk down the street without anyone running away but well I fear that scared people may start throwing stones at me.’ The witch looked rather sad.
So the little boy decided to tell the whole village the true story and went from house to house telling people that witches were actually good and wouldn’t hurt a fly. First they didn’t believe him and so they shooed him away but he did not give up until finally all the village elders were ready to listen to him. They heard his story and asked him to invite the witch to the village festival.
The little boy ventured into the forest and found the twitchy witch busy in her garden. He called out to her. The witch looked up and beamed at him.
‘What is a fine fellow like yourself doing here?’
The little boy explained why he had come. At first, the twitchy witch twitched so much that the boy felt nervous. But he did not give in. He encouraged the twitchy witch to come to the village festival.
Finally, on the day of the festival, the twitchy witch twitchily got on her broom and soared towards the village. As her silhouette appeared in the sky, villagers looked nervous but they were asked by the elders to stay put.
The twitchy witch saw the entire village staring at her. She started regretting her decision to come to the village and was about to climb onto her broom and leave when the little boy ran towards her and hugged her. In that moment everyone gasped but they saw that the boy was not harmed at all (as they had all imagined). Instead the twitchy witch and the little boy were merrily chatting away. This gave them courage and they all welcomed the witch into the festival with warm smiles. The twitchy witch felt happy and in her euphoria she produced the best magical fireworks the village had ever seen.
And that was how it came about that the witches began to live alongside the villagers without scaring them, and the villagers learned that even though the witches may have looked ugly they had hearts of gold. And they mounted a wooden plaque on a huge banyan tree near the village gate which read: ‘Looks Can Be Deceiving, It’s Only A Way Of Perceiving.’
- Is there anything about yourself that you do not like?
- Do you like people who don’t look pretty? Why?
- Imagine that the twitchy witch has come to your home as a guest. How would you treat her?
- Sketch a scene from the story.
- Imagine that you are the twitchy witch. Tell us the story from your perspective.
Wisdom of Mullah Nasruddin— The Kindness of Man
Four little boys saw Mullah Nasruddin go riding on his donkey. They decided to play a trick on the Mullah. One of the boys pulled out his slingshot and aimed at the donkey. The stone hit the poor beast and he shot off in the direction of the market.
The Mullah held on to the reigns for dear life. By the time the donkey slowed down, Nasruddin’s turban had come undone and was nearly on the ground and he knew he would lose the turban if he didn’t try to catch it before it slipped of his head completely. So Nasruddin cautiously took one hand off the reign and, as he was trying to grab the end of his turban, he lost his balance and slipped off the donkey’s back and fell right into a market stand of walnuts with a loud crash, scattering the nuts all around him.
The boys had followed Nasruddin and seeing his plight they started laughing.
‘Why do you laugh?’ Nasruddin snarled. ‘In Allah’s name tell me what’s so funny?’
As Nasruddin slowly picked himself off the ground, he almost lost his footing as he slipped on the walnuts scattered about him, which caused the kids to laugh till their sides hurt. They laughed as Nasruddin stood up. They continued laughing while Nasruddin rubbed his rear. ‘That’s quite enough!’ he roared, silencing the peals of laughter. ‘Don’t get carried away with the idea now!’
Nasruddin composed himself as he tried to regain his dignity, saying, ‘Clearly you never considered that I might have had a perfectly good reason to fall.’ The doubtful children could hardly contain their sniggering as Nasruddin dusted himself off, straightened his coat and rewrapped his turban. Suleiman, the walnut seller, who had been at the other end of the market and had heard the commotion, came running towards his stand.
‘Besides,’ Nasruddin said to the kids as he quickly started gathering walnuts that had scattered everywhere, ‘I was going to get off anyway, sooner or later.’
Suleiman was furious but when the children described Nasruddin’s fall, Suleiman laughed along, and everyone helped Nasruddin collect the nuts and put the stand in order. Nasruddin even bought a bag of walnuts to placate Suleiman and he shared it with the children.
‘Children, I will give you all the walnuts in this bag. But tell me first—how do you want me to divide them—God’s way, or mortal’s way?’
‘God’s way,’ the four boys chimed together as one.
Mullah opened the bag and gave two handfuls of walnuts to the first boy, one handful to the next boy, just two walnuts to the third boy and none at all to the last!
The children were baffled but the fourth boy pouted and complained, ‘What sort of distribution is this?’
‘This is God’s way of distributing gifts among his children. Some will get lots; some will get a fair amount and others will get nothing. Now, had you asked me to divide the nuts in the usual mortal way, I would have handed out an equal amount to everybody.’
- Ask the children to describe at least one funny incident that they may have witnessed or that may have happened to them.
- You could play the ‘Shylock’s Speech’ game. Ask the children to imagine that you, the facilitator, are Suleiman and they are Mullah. Ask each one to narrate how they would placate your anger.
- What is God’s Way according to you? Is God’s Way better than Man’s Way? Why or why not?