Badi ma

Kids call her Badi maa; she is in her nineties. She had long white hair like a snow-covered mountain. She has been active, all senses in control. On top of this, she would cook daal roti for herself and consume it twice. Sometimes one of the son’s wife would get her some milk. Badi maa liked her independence, so she divided all her wealth, house to her kids and lived all by herself.

People who did not like her would call her Dayan budhiya. Mukesh, the sweeper boy, says Badi ma is a blood-sucking witch. My head hurts over six years old’s imagination. Many others in the village blamed her for many misdeeds and ill luck.

The granddaughter, Radha, says she is unmarried because of Badi maa, who will do her sewa once he is gone to her husband’s place.

Badi maa is big on bidi and paan. Her price possession, silver case finds a place in her sari’s pallu. It has some bidi, paan, chuna, and katha. My mother told me I should avoid eating anything Badi maa had to offer. Another evening she gave me a laung to chew; I kept it in my pocket till I was there and then threw it in nala.

Muniya, the cook’s daughter, says she made many boys mute just with a little gaze at them. At one wedding entire baraat ended up on a puking trail and got sick. People say it happened because Badi Ma was uninvited.

The village oldies join at piple tree during summers and play cards, sip chai. Their version says Badi ma killed her husband to learn witchcraft. And others, she is so old and active because she is a witch. She feasts on blood and what other nonsense. Other stories like Badi ma travels on a tree to many other countries. She needs no bus, train, or airplane.

I asked my mom this time about Badi Ma, and she went silent. On further inquiry, she whispered: Badi ma gayab ho gaye. Nobody knows where she went.

Is she alive, turned ghost, or became the witchcraft leader? I could not imagine while trying to catch up over my sleep.