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Ghost Stories

Nale Ba Is the 'Consensual Witch' of South India

She stalked the streets of old Bangalore, until the city outgrew her horrors.
illustrated by Gumilang DB
Nale Ba
Illustration by Gumilang DB

She will call out to you in the voice of a loved one and then probably kill you, but she also respects consent and is literate.

Back in the ’90s, if you would take a walk down the lanes of Bangalore—today a thriving metropolis in the south of India—you were bound to come across doors or facades of houses painted with the words: Nale Ba (or "come tomorrow" in Kannada). These words were meant to be read by the wicked witch of the south—a presence that was said to come knock on your door, call out in the voice of a loved one to get you to peel outside, and then, well, kill you. If not, the person would still mystically die regardless, usually within 24 hours.

Today, these doors have been painted over, and the houses replaced with buildings so tall that our witch would need to get in an elevator to make it to your door. Street lights that shine all night might hamper her movements as well, but it’s important to remember that this is probably one of the few otherworldly creatures who can actually read. No wonder, considering the south of India has higher literacy levels than the rest of the country. It’s also interesting that way before consent and its nuances became global talking points, our witch was an early proponent, and had the good sense to leave whenever someone told her to. She has now been immortalized in a recent Bollywood film Stree, which sees men being wary of women, in a strange role reversal compared to what you see on the Indian streets today.

The folks of Bangalore (now Bengaluru—we wonder if the witch has been informed of its name change too) celebrate April 1 as Nale Ba Day. Who are we fooling?