The Witch Hunt


Between February 1692 and May 1693, more than two hundred people in colonial-era Salem, Massachusettes were falsely accused of practicing witchcraft, and 19 of them were executed. More than three centuries later, the Salem witch trials remain one of the most disconcerting and harrowing events in American history and an example of a society was controlled by a perplexingly, enigmatic nature of evil.

Why did Salem’s citizens turn on their own neighbours, and fantasize that they had become minions of Satan and committed crimes that never occurred? Why was Salem’s populace so willing to believe the worst, and why did people not say a word against the colonial officials’ use of breathtakingly cruel methods of torture to extract confessions from the accused?

Fear and religious fervour undoubtedly played a role in the colonists’ fanaticism. As Elisabeth Reis, author of Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in New England explains, the New England Puritans had a “very real dread of the devil,” which they saw as continually waiting to enmesh them and lead them to eternal damnation. Other theories hold that the witch trials were a reaction to stresses that the colonial society was experiencing. In 1689, English rulers William and Mary started a war with France in the American colonies. Known as ‘King William’s War’ to colonists, it ravaged regions of upstate New York, Nova Scotia and Quebec, sending refugees into the county of Essex and, specifically, Salem Village in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. (Salem Village is present-day Danvers, Massachusetts; colonial Salem Town became what’s now Salem.) The displaced people created a strain on Salem’s resources. This aggravated the existing rivalry between families with ties to the wealth of the port of Salem and those who still depended on agriculture. Controversy also brewed over Reverend Samuel Parris, who became Salem Village’s first ordained minister in 1689, and was disliked because of his rigid ways and greedy nature. The Puritan villagers believed all the quarreling was the work of the Devil. But regardless of the cause, the Salem Witch trials provide unsettling historical proof that it doesn’t necessarily require a Hitler, Osama bin Laden or Charles Manson to perpetrate horrifying evil. To the contrary, they suggest that unexceptional, seemingly rational and moral people are capable of committing or supporting cruel injustices as well.

In January of 1692, Reverend Parris’ daughter Elizabeth, age 9, and niece Abigail Williams, age 11, started having “fits” and the local doctor blamed the supernatural. Another girl, Ann Putnam, age 11, experienced similar episodes. On February 29, under pressure from magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, the girls blamed three women for afflicting them: Tituba, the Parris’ Caribbean slave; Sarah Good, a homeless beggar; and Sarah Osborne, an elderly impoverished woman. Two of them claimed innocence while the other one confessed of being a witch. All three women were put in jail. With the seed of paranoia planted, a stream of accusations followed for the next few months. Dozens of people from Salem and Massachusetts were brought in for questioning. Eventually, William Phipps, the Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, created a special court to hear witchcraft cases. Its five judges—three of whom were friends of Mather—used methods that today would seem bizarre, such as compelling a defendant to touch one of the supposed victims, to see whether it stopped the demonic symptoms. They also accepted as evidence gossip, rumours and tall tales—such as one man’s claim that he had witnessed a suspect transform herself into a cat. The trials were so clearly rigged and based upon concocted evidence that even Mather felt compelled to complain. “It were better that ten suspected witches should escape than one innocent person be condemned,” he wrote in a letter to the governor. Eventually, after Phipps’ own wife was accused of witchcraft, he apparently conceded the farcical nature of the proceedings, and in May 1693, he pardoned all those who had been imprisoned on witchcraft charges. But the damage had been done: 19 were hanged on Gallows Hill, a 71-year-old man was pressed to death with heavy stones, several people died in jail and nearly 200 people had been accused of practicing “the Devil’s magic.”

In the 20th century, artists and scientists continued to be fascinated by the Salem witch trials. Arthur Miller resurrected the tale with his 1953 play “The Crucible” using the trials as an allegory for McCarthyism paranoia in the 1950s. Numerous theories have been devised to explain or understand the strange behaviour that occurred in Salem. One of the most concrete studies, published in Science in 1976 by psychologist Linda Caporal, blamed the abnormal habits of the accused on the fungus ergot, which can be found in rye, wheat and other cereal grasses. Toxicologists say that eating ergot-contaminated foods can lead to muscle spasms, vomiting, delusions and hallucinations. Also, the fungus thrives in warm and damp climates—not too unlike the swampy meadows in Salem Village, where rye was the staple grain during the spring and summer months.

What is very frightening about the Salem witch trials is how it highlighted the dark side of human nature which has depicted itself in history again and again like in the form of the anti-communist witch hunt in 1950. They also show how seemingly rational, moral people can be induced to support wrongs or even perform them, if they fail to contemplate the nature of their deeds–a notion that philosopher Hanna Arendt called “the banality of evil.”

This suggests that no matter how much we have advanced, there’s always a chance that the horror of the Salem witch trials may repeat itself.

Sania Kanchan
AS Level, VIBGYOR High, Goregaon

There Is Always a First Time


I got up in the morning with an unexpected flutter in my tummy. The first day of AS Level, the new chapter in my life after the gargantuan ICSE board examinations. Oddly, my mind was a tabula rasa. I wondered who my classmates would be. I felt apprehensive; a little clueless. I changed my T-shirt at least four times, confused. My thoughts were all jumbled up and though I disliked admitting it, I felt nervous – a feeling that was completely new to me.

I walked into the school building. Familiar turf, comforting. It was now beginning to feel like just any other school day, till I dipped into the Spartan corridors of the 12th floor. Earlier, I simply traipsed here for VMUN, Greaders Club, EUMIND meetings and orientations and yes, for an occasional peep into my younger brother’s judo pummelling.

So anyway, I had a few minutes to myself before the others filtered in. Despite the presence of fifteen odd people in the space, the quiet, clean confines reminded me of a sanatorium. The strong whiff of a lemonish floor cleaner, the silently positioned ancillary staff added to the pallor. Where were the rush and the din and the chaos and the screaming that rather lustily laced the corridors of the 8th floor? This was a different world, serious, grim, business-like, bereft of warmth, seemingly a place where there would be no time for conversations, zero old familiarity, no backslapping… Instead there were new teachers, crisp books, ironed manes, and finely tuned timetables. I was already slipping into auto pilot mode.

The flutter in my tummy grew into a monster by the time lunch hour arrived. My mother had packed my favourite foods in boxes. Chicken sandwiches, peaches, and biscuits……..nothing worked. Suddenly, the food lost its lustre. There was more fun in snatching and bartering. Barter rights worked till the 10th grade: if you had a chocolate, it fetched a premium, you could trade it for anything ranging from half a chicken sandwich to schezwan rice with an extra dollop of sriracha sauce thrown in.

The classroom was full of mostly new faces, trying to drum up an acquaintance rather awkwardly, and I did not feel like responding to anyone. Something was not right, my heart was missing. I felt…lonely, amidst a class of twenty eight students. I was used to roaming in the hallways and gossiping with my friends during recess. Suddenly, it was too civilised, too formal, too starchy, and it annoyed me at some level.

The day was over, I had never been so glad to hear the bell ring. I wafted through a range of emotions that evening till my head hit the pillow. The next morning, I awoke fresh, my thoughts sorted. I strode confidently into my classroom, as if nothing had happened, slipped into a new daily routine, set up my locker, poured myself into work, articulated interesting conversations, made friends…..

Perhaps this is what they call growing up.

Anoushka Madan
AS Level, VIBGYOR High, Goregaon

Just Another Story


In the background, there was an awful commotion, men’s raised voices and women screaming. There was a deafening sound, a gunshot. I was used to all this from my days in the military. I turned in time to see a figure dart towards a balcony of a theatre. On the ground, there was blood but I paid no attention. I took off after the fleeing stranger.

I am Jacob Coulter, an army general and the first thought that crossed my mind was to give chase. I followed him up to the balcony. On reaching the balcony, I saw the killer vault over the balcony and onto the alley below. I jumped after him but unlike him, landed on my hands and feet. Without giving myself time to recover, I was up and on the murderer’s trail.

I saw his shadow turn a corner. As soon as I turned the corner, he was clear in my sight. I had come so far, I could not afford to lose him now. He turned two corners; I did the same, hot on his trail. Finally he reached an old and dilapidated house. He ran in and barred the door shut. I grew certain that this was his hideout.

Standing beside the house, I took a breather and called the police force for back up. They immediately sent two police cruisers to my location. After that I searched for a way to enter. I found a broken window on the second floor of the building and also a climbable ledge. I started my ascent. Soon I was at the window. I entered and got a small cut on my leg. I stealthily moved from room to room, always wary of possible ambush.

As I reached the downstairs room, I heard a battle cry and I spun around to see a man wielding a butcher’s knife running in my direction. My reflexes took hold and I dodged the immediate swipe. He was reeling back for another strike when I backed up against an old cupboard. He struck again and this time, he nicked my bicep. Searing pain shot through my body but I ignored it. I knew if I fell unconscious now, I was dead meat. I was at the cupboard when I saw a pole lying by a window, presumably used to hang curtains once but had since fallen due to disrepair. In the meantime, he was ready for another strike, but this time I was ready too. I dived for the pole. Giving an enraged roar, he followed tail and in a split second I got hold of the rod and thrust it in his direction. It hit him on the head and he fell.

The police had arrived in the meantime and had broken in. I spent the next few hours getting patched up in the hospital. The doctors told me that my arm would never heal completely and thus I would have a permanent scar as a memento of this dangerous self-proclaimed mission.

The next day I was awarded yet another medal for tirelessly working towards keeping my country safe. I was extremely happy and received the award with great pride.

Devdut Dutta
Student, VIBGYOR High, Horamavu

Television – Boon or Bane


Television is an ocean of entertainment, knowledge and information, but many people think that it is an idiot box and that watching T.V. is simply wastage of time. I think if properly used it has more advantages than disadvantages.

Television is one of the best sources of entertainment. It provides us variety of entertainment such as daily soaps, reality shows etc. Television viewing adds information and knowledge to our lives. It is the best way of getting rapid news which can be transmitted in a moment. There are many news channels which provide news about current affairs, sports, and movies. There are channels like Discovery, Nat Geo and History T.V. 18 which enhance our knowledge regarding science, technology and wild life. Channels like Fashion T.V. inspire people and influence their lifestyle. Many programmes improve our skills like cooking, speaking, acting and dancing. In a nut shell, it impacts our overall personality. It is also a means to showcase the talent of common people.

On the other hand, many people call it an idiot box because it hampers our ability to think and argue. It is also blamed of reducing our creativity and some people say that it compromises reading and writing abilities also. However these side effects are associated with excessive T.V. watching. Many programmes spread violence and hatred among people. It is also killing family values. It makes people idle and is also turning them into couch potatoes. Many health issues like headache, sleeplessness, eye sight problems and obesity are caused by excessive watching of T.V. It also affects behaviour of youngsters in a negative way making them aggressive and less tolerant.

To conclude, I would like to say that television is one of the best useful inventions of all time. It is up to us how we can extract the best out of it. Many of the ill effects are associated with excessive T.V. watching. Negative behavioural changes can be stopped by selecting appropriate programmes and through the supervision of parents.


Aarush Mishra

Grade – 5

VIBGYOR High, Lucknow

How Much a Dollar Cost


In Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 Grammy award winning album, ‘To Pimp a Butterfly,’ there is a track, ‘How Much a Dollar Cost’ which provides a commentary on our society and morality.

The track begins with Kendrick rapping about a beggar who approached him, while he was filling up the tank of his luxury car. The beggar asked Kendrick for a dollar, but Kendrick refused knowing that the man would use it to obtain illegal substances. The beggar says to him, “My son, temptation is one thing that I’ve defeated, listen to me, I want a single bill from you.” The beggar attempts to convince Kendrick that he only wants the money to appease his empty stomach, but again, Kendrick refuses. Kendrick himself having gone from rags to riches knows just how difficult it is to earn wealth. The beggar says to Kendrick, “Have you ever opened up Exodus 14? A humble man is all that we ever need.” Exodus 14 tells the story of Moses parting the Red Sea, guiding the scared Israelites to safety. This line is a metaphor, describing the power one man can have to lead his people. Kendrick is overcome with guilt. One part of him wants to give the dollar to the old man and emulate the God-like characteristics, but the other part feels that by giving the man a dollar, he is feeding the man’s temptations and is giving up his hard-earned money. He refuses to give the dollar to the man, and in response the man says, “Know the truth, it’ll set you free, you’re looking at the Messiah, the son of Jehovah, the higher power, and I’ll tell you just how much a dollar cost, the price of having a spot in Heaven, embrace your loss, I am God.” The man reveals himself to be God, and that Kendrick’s greed denied him heaven. That’s how much a dollar costs.

Think carefully the next time a child knocks on your car window, begging for ten rupees. Will you refuse to give the money or will you show compassion? Will you deny yourself a spot in heaven or will you feed the temptations of their parents? The Dilemma of the Privileged.


Akshita Mohite
VIBGYOR High, Balewadi, Pune

Economic Progress or Sustainable Prosperity?


Economic growth refers to a rise in the GDP of the country, such as due to a rise in production of goods and services in the economy or maybe due to an increase in employment in the country. Sustainable prosperity would mean operating in such a way that lives of future generations are not put on the line and that measures to conserve the environment are taken.

One of the fastest growing economies, a market for the future, and an example of economic progress are some of the phrases India is addressed by. However, what is not mentioned is that we are amongst the bottom 10 in the country sustainability rankings. The large scale industrialisation and the boost in tourism might, on one hand, take the GDP of charts but what already lingers there is the constantly devolving pollution level. Is this negative externality justified in the name of economic progress?

On one hand we must make the best use of resources that are available to us and in doing so the damage to the environment is not the primary concern. The primary concern is giving everybody everything they demand while making profit. Few have other corporate objectives other than this and most argue that why should they have the propensity to act sustainable as it reduces their profits. They raise a valid point when they say that the scarcity of resources and competitiveness of the market has forced them to use the cheapest ways of producing and this has in turn engendered the problem we face today.

Such attitude has fostered the Asian brown clouds forming over countries particularly India and Pakistan. This is due to high airborne pollutants created due to combustion and biomass burning. It has caused changes in the time of the monsoon rains and a great decline in the growth of harvest during the year.

Delhi being the most popular example, where pollution levels are around 10 times what they should be. So bad is the air that living in Delhi is said to be equal to smoking twenty plus cigarettes every single day.

This also extends to the global scale. The United States of America withdrew from the Paris agreement of 2016 which, when comes into action in 2020, limits greenhouse emissions of a country. It is a step the global community is taking towards a cleaner, greener, safer future but with the absence of one of the biggest culprits. Mr Trump stated that the change from the accords will be insignificant and that the United States has already spent billions of dollars and was already “way ahead” while other countries have not and would not spend a dime. However the president made a valid point saying that it will cause power shortages and blackouts in countries dependant on fossil fuels for power. Another powerful point put forth was that millions of industrial jobs will be lost as production will now be capped by emission.

However, considering that the impact of the rise in pollution is not individual and affects the world as a whole which must be fathomed by some countries. Collative measure must be taken such as the Paris agreement and constant checks need to be made to ensure everybody is on target. Individually, countries could invest in the generation of renewable energy. Solar energy is becoming readily available and cheaper and also other methods of obtaining clean energy such as but not limited to geothermal, tidal and wind could be used after considering the geographical and financial ability of each individual nation. We cannot elude the problem, only reduce its impacts and we must, because otherwise, in the long run… we are all dead.

Aryan D Mehta
Student of A Level
VIBGYOR Goregaon, Mumbai