Shraddha Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao in a scene from Stree, which seems to be inspired by the Naale Baa tale
An eerie atmosphere would fill the streets as the colony peeps would get together to decide when to write NaaleBaa on their doors. A folk legend that was the talk of the town in the 90s, people in nammooru would write Naale Baa (come tomorrow) on their doors to deter a witch/an evil spirit from entering their homes. Naale Baa is being talked about again, thanks to the Hindi film Stree, which is reminiscent of the spooky urban legend that sent shivers down the spine of everyone who encountered the tale.
Many of the city’s school-going kids in the 90s remember obsessively talking about the witch. Investment banker Sachin Radhakrishna says, "It all started in a summer holiday period. We’d go to play cricket and notice that someone had scribbled " Naale Baa" in Kannada on doors all across the street. Some said Naale Baa looked like the ghost in the legendary Kashinath movie Shhh and some said it lives in the scary mask that we had in the wardrobe and would illuminate at night. Not wanting to take any chances, we wrote Naale Baa on our door, only to notice that it had mysteriously disappeared the next day. Friends explained that if the ghost chooses to come to your house, and sees the sign, it will send a message to you by wiping it and never come to your house again. We felt happy that we were safe, but years later, we realised it must have been our maid who might’ve just wiped off the chalk or was it really Naale Baa?"
While most believe that Naale Baa was a tale of the 90s, sales strategy consultant Kaustuba Venugopal says, "There are multiple versions of the ghost. The oldest reference I know dates back to the 1920s it’s hardly from the 90s and was prevalent in rural areas outside B’luru. The many versions have one thing in common, the Naale Baa bhoota is actually a village deity. While one version says it’s koogu maari your name is shouted out and if you open the door you’ll find yourself dead in a pool of blood, the other version ties the ghost to the plague attacks. The deity would protect the village from plague, but needed a human sacrifice. So when people would spot a dead rat, they’d vacate their houses, write Naale Baa on the doors and move temporarily to another place. You can find Naale Baa scratched on doors in old Rajkumar film songs set in a village. Every two decades, it comes back into the limelight, Bangaloreans from 70s and 90s both claim it to have originated during their time, but it’s much older than that."
Businesswoman Shilpa Ashwath Gowda recalls that she and her folks were terrified of the ghost. "My grandma made me write Naale Baa on all the doors. I’d keep a photo of Lord Hanuman under my pillow and sleep!" she laughs.
Homemaker Maarisha Nayak recollects a spooky incident from back then and says, "One evening, I went upstairs to play with my landlord’s kids. Suddenly, the power went off and we were in the candlelight, when their main door opened on to a flight of stairs which led to their house. Then we realised the main door at the bottom of the steps was open, and totally freaked out. Suddenly the power came back on, but in that low voltage, we saw this white mist come in. We screamed and ran thinking it was the Naale Baa ghost. Only later did we find out that it was one of their cousin’s blowing cigarette smoke to scare us!"
What Naale Baa tales crossed your mind after reading this piece?