Print Edition - 2015-03-28  |  On Saturday

Kichkandi

  • I see now that the Kichkandi was a cautionary tale for men. The tale warned men against women
- Smriti Jaiswal Ravindra
Kichkandi

Mar 27, 2015-

I grew up with the Kichkandi—the graceful, magnificent, blood-sucking, man-grabbing witch.  The Kichkandi could take any shape, shrink and grow to any size.  Often she was just a coin-sized black dot on the ground.  At other times she was a spider who wove a thick and dense web and lay closely stuck on boundary walls of new houses.  If you happened to be male and if you hopped on to the wall while chatting with friends, you returned home with a blue-black bruise on your leg.  This bruise is where the Kichkandi sucked your blood from.  She did not like new houses unless she was invited to live in it.  She was always waiting for an invitation and because invitations came her way very rarely, she often took on the form of an irresistible woman and wandered the streets.  In her woman form she was beautiful.  She wore diaphanous chiffon sarees and had long, soft hair.  Her eyes were large and helpless.  Her skin glowed in the moonlight.  She targeted men on motorcycles because she liked to wrap herself around them the way creepers mould themselves around trunks of trees. During that short motorcycle ride, she drew the man in and he fell in love with her.  On her good day he invited her into his house.  However, if the man resisted her charm, her elegance, if he did not extend the invitation she awaited, she leaned in and gently sucked his blood, preferably from the back of his neck.  Imagine yourself here. Her lips were like silk on your skin and the more she took from you, the more you loved her. She sent you quietly towards your death.  Death with the Kichkandi was slow and languishing. It was a dream death.  Death with the Kichkandi was so exquisite, it made life look vulgar and garish.  When the Kichkandi wrapped herself around you, you wanted to die.  In fact, you wanted to watch yourself die because the more you died the more the Kichkandi glowed under the moonlight and at this point of your death, all you wanted was beauty.

I see now that the Kichkandi was a cautionary tale for men.  The tale warned men against love, lovers, and prostitutes.  It warned them against women.  Beware the pretty girl, it said, the charming woman, the helpless female.  In all her forms, she want to trap you, either into love, into marriage, or into betrayal.  Any girl who has such power over you that you want to live and die for her is a blood-sucking witch.  Any girl who demands you make a place for her in your home just because you have spent some evenings with her, given her rides on your motorcycle, kissed her passionately, or declared your heart to, is a witch.  A real girl would not allow such indecencies.  Besides, you would not fall in love with a real girl.  Real girls stay at home and do not instigate the passions of young men.  What you think of as love is really a death sentence.

I recognise now that the Kichkandi could have been the sex-worker out on the streets waiting for customers.  Certain streets, certain areas were said to be more populated with Kichkandies than others.  The Rani Pokhari area was especially notorious.  So were Thamel and Chabahil.  Men were very strongly admonished against being in these localities after dark.  Temptation was high, especially under a madness-inducing moonlight.

The tales also warned men against the lonely, helpless, hapless girl they might see in the dark streets.  Do not stop your motorcycle if she waves at you.  Remember, if she was a real girl, she would not be out on the dark streets alone because real girls never step out of the house after dark, and they are never alone.  Don’t stop the motorcycle even if she seems in trouble.  Remember, a witch can take any size and any form it chooses to.  That is just a form.  Ignore it.  Keep riding the motorcycle.  Get as far away from it as possible, because remember, that is not a real girl.  Real girls don’t walk the streets and can therefore never be in trouble on the streets.  The anguished, frightened girl you see calling out for you is an illusion.  And what is worse, she is a bad, fatal illusion.

It is interesting that the mode of transportation in these tales was so often the motorcycle—the dream vehicle of so many young males.  My own brothers, who were also fed these stories, were forever enthralled by the bad, bold motorcycle. They did not want cars.  They wanted motorcycles that seemed to purr and roar under them. So the Kichkandi tales marked the adrenaline-pumped male youth who might zoom out on his bike, stay out late with friends, meet new people, explore new ways of living, and ultimately want a life-partner not chosen for him by his family and relatives.  In addition to many other things, the Kichkandi tale was a high sign against making personal choices.  It alerted you against choice. Remember, good boys make choices that are validated and sanctioned by their families.  Good boys and real girls don’t make independent choices.  If you are making a choice that clashes with the interests of your family, you are a bad boy and the girl is…well, she is not a girl.  

But of course, the vehicle was not always the motorcycle.  Men in cars were just as vulnerable to witch attacks as were boys exposed upon bikes.  The lone girl-witch luring men to their destruction was and continues to be the plot of so many books and movies.  One movie from yonder years that comes immediately to mind is the black and white Bollywood blockbuster Wo Kaun Thi.  In Wo Kaun Thi, the chiffon clad, long-haired, helpless girl stands mournfully on the road and ensnares a male doctor driving a car.  Eventually, the movie proves to the audience that the cardinal mistake the man made was giving the girl a lift in his car in the first place.  He should have left her where she was—in the stormy rain.  He should not have believed her pitiful story. Look where the attempt at helping her led him.  In an ironic and not-so-ironic twist, it turns out that the girl was a gold-digger, an evil femme fatale who plays at being a witch to frighten the poor, gullible man.  

Men are gullible.  They are simple creatures who often can’t decipher what is right for them, and so they should at least be taught what is wrong for them.  Here is a vital lesson: women are nothing but danger and risk personified.  They are not to be trusted.  No language they use is to be trusted.  Their words and their bodies are lies.  Don’t get duped by what they say.  Don’t act upon the show they put up.

All of this is frightening at so many levels, but what frightens me most is that everyday circumstances leave hundreds of girls alone and helpless on the streets.  After all, no matter how hard every girl tries to never live a moment of life after dark—unless assisted by several male family members—circumstances will place her at some moment in her life in need of desperate help.  At some moment she will cry out and because girls scarcely step out on the roads after sunset, she will be forced to ask for male help.  I imagine myself here.  I imagine myself waving at the men zooming past.  The men continue to zoom away, too afraid to get involved.  But perhaps someone will stop.  Then he will rough me up because I am out on the streets and therefore not a real girl.  I am a witch who needs to be taught a lesson.  I am a man-hater and ought to be put in place.  I am a slut and asking for a little action.  Unlike the stories of the Kichkandi, this situation is not a fiction.  The newspapers and televisions are full of reports to what happen to girls who find themselves in the world after dark.  Or who find themselves in the world alone.  Rapes and murders are abundant.  Acid attacks.  Honour killings.  These are not fiction.  These are realities that keep girls locked away at homes, afraid of needing help, afraid of falling in love, afraid of attracting attention, afraid of streets, of careers that demand late hours, afraid of having daughters as children, afraid of being girls, afraid of living.

Is it not time to change our stories?

Published: 28-03-2015 08:57

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