The witch looked like somebody I knew. That’s why she didn’t scare me though I should have been scared since she resembled the woman whose hobby was messing up people’s lives. No, the witch wasn’t wearing a sober-coloured sari like this woman I knew. Nor was her hair silver grey. In fact, her hair was red. And her teeth were green unlike the pearly white teeth of the woman she reminded me of. She wore a ragged gown which smelt of cremation grounds. In fact, there was nothing about her that matched this woman I knew. But she resembled her. It was her smile. Yes, that smile was deadly. You knew the smile was meant to kill. Whenever this woman I knew smiled, somebody’s end was sure. End does not mean physical death. This woman was the boss of the institution where I worked for some time. Whenever she smiled, somebody lost his or her job. And this woman made sure to fabricate some charge against the employee so that the latter wouldn’t dare to fight back. He or she wouldn’t even get another job with that sort of a history in the curriculum vitae. That is worse than death. Like that guy in T. S. Eliot’s poem, the employee would be glad of another death.
I was blessed; the woman had never smiled at me.
“Fair is foul and foul is fair,” wheezed the witch through her green teeth.
“Is this a formulaic utterance of witches” I asked remembering Shakespeare’s witches in Macbeth.
“Isn’t every witch a formula?” she asked.
“How did you become a witch?” I was curious.
She laughed and her green teeth glistened in the gentle light of the setting sun.
“I am Jenny Greenteeth,” she said. “Heard of her?”
“Hmm,” I said. Jenny Greenteeth was a lonely old water witch who was supposed to carry away bad children. Mothers used her name to scare children into behaving well. Jenny lived in the waters. The water moss made her green. They made her teeth green. Thus went the story. We are the stuff that stories are made of.
“We are stories,” said Jenny as if she had read my thought.
Stories can be rewritten, I suggested to her. “We rewrite even histories. Want to try?”
She looked amused. She grinned at me. Greenteeth.
“You can change the colour of your teeth, for example, if you want.”
“Oh, just anything can be changed. We have the technology.” I explained to her about beauty parlours and plastic surgery and cosmetic products.
“We have Ayurvedic toothpastes manufactured by a godman who produces a lot of other miraculous things like Male-offspring-seeds.”
She was not interested in male offspring. But she was not entirely averse to experimenting with the toothpaste.
“Oh!” she screamed at herself after the toothpaste had turned her teeth pearly white. She stared at herself in the mirror. “Who will recognise me as Jenny Greenteeth anymore?”
“Why not be Jenny Whiteteeth now?”
“How callous you are?” She stared at me. “You have taken away my identity.”
In that case thousands of people are losing their identity everyday in beauty parlours and other cosmetic centres, I wanted to tell her. But I did not wish to be callous. I only meant well. Like the Jihadists, for example, I was trying to better the world by converting a witch into a proper woman.
“But how will mothers tame their children anymore?” Jenny worried.
“Oh, they will invent a new witch,” I consoled her.
I suggested her to dye her hair silver grey and don a sober-coloured sari. She obeyed like a child.
“Now you are ready to be a boss,” I said. I sent her to the woman whom Jenny had reminded me of. “Keep up your smile,” I reminded her.
I wondered how I could be so callous as to send an innocent witch to that woman. I’m still wondering.