Abu’s Jinns returns to narrate the thrilling tale of when ‘Chutki’ sat for Itekaaf in Ramazan the first time, changing forevermore.
I was old enough to slit the khajoors from the middle, make the gutli surrender, and fill the sticky hollowness with cream. I was also old enough to keep fasts without sehri on days ama refused to wake me up. I wasn’t as old as baji, bhai, or bhabhi – but I was old enough to know better.
This story dates back to the Ramazan of 2008, when it wasn’t scorching hot.
September welcomed us with open arms, and heavy rain – the kind that never stopped. It poured so much that water seeped inside our house’s old walls. Whenever the pitter-patter was heard, ama yelled from downstairs and both baji and I ran room to room, closing windows and keeping buckets under the spots that let the salty water in.
I hated it – not the running or the rain, but the fact that the muddy puddle-filled streets kept the massi from coming. No massi meant two hours of frying and chopping fruits in the kitchen for a joint family of twelve. It also meant smelling of seekh kebab and sweat for the remainder of the day.
Ramazan in my family was different. It was made sure that we slept at 9, for after that, according to dada abu, it was sheytan’s time.
The prayers had to be offered together with everyone present in the room. It didn’t matter if baji or bhabhi had their period – they had to stand on the jaynemaaz and make dua for as long as dada abu made it. Ama, who had been fond of making sculptures, and had played with my play-dough more than I ever did, had restored her skills to piling colorful tasbeehs and white sheets for the morning bayaan.
Dada, who was 59 and wilting, possessed the power of a 20-year-old and went to the construction site every day. He worked hard, and each of us, even little ole’ me, chutki as I was called, got fifteen thousand rupees as pocket money.
Ama kept all of it, but baji got me lots of crisps from her share. I do not know how much abba, ama, bhai or bhabhi got, but baji told me that bhabhi got much more than we did. ‘She has so many five thousand notes,’ baji said. ‘I think she takes bhai’s too, but even then, her’s are so much more.’
It was one of those days when massi hadn’t come, and the sky was full of menacing sparks of light, and the power had just gone out. Iftar was in a couple of hours, and baji and I were imagining a glass of cold, scanjween, with less salt and more sugar, and lots and lots of ice. Hers was in a steel mug, and mine was in a fancy glass that came with a red straw. We didn’t get the schanjween but Allah felt sorry for us, and ama informed us that she had made arrangements for a din raat ki massi. This was better than any scanjween in the entire world.
The massi was more like an apa, and she arrived shortly after. She was unlike any other massi we’d ever had.
She could sweep the kitchen clean, make three salan on a stove of two, and even oiled all our hair before iftar. She was indeed a dream come true. That day, baji and I had the widest smile on her face. Bhabhi didn’t seem too excited, but she was like that – least bothered, with tiny pea-sized eyes that only opened wide when dada distributed money.
Since I no longer had any duties to perform, abba enrolled me in an Islamic camp. He said that it was the best thing I could do with my gap year. I loved it.
There were lots of girls my age, and none of them were snobby like the ones in my school, and we got free lunch. I started learning about the Prophets, what the Holy Book said, and I memorized a lot of duain.
There was even a dua for entering the washroom, for we were told that it was the place of jinns, and that the dua created a shield between us and them.
The teacher told us that her sister’s friend’s daughter, someone named Mahnoor, who had the dua memorized but was so full of herself to offer it, got slapped by a jinn whilst she was bathing. She flew from the shower area to the sink and broke a bone. The bone healed, but her cheek – where she was slapped, still burns. She constantly has to dab it with water.
The thing that interested me the most, was the practice of i’tikaf.
The teacher believed that we are so distracted by worldly happenings, that we no longer could dedicate ourselves solely to God and that going in i’tikaf helped. All you had to do was ibadah, and not leave the room, and even the food was to be served to you inside. Plus, when you’d be done, you’d be closer to Allah and all dada and nanas and abbas were to applaud you. The thought made me happy – pleasing Allah and dada.
‘Maybe then’, I thought, ‘I’d get as much money as bhabhi.’
A few days later, I started announcing how much I wanted to sit in itekaaf. Contrary to what I had thought – blooming faces of the elders and strong hugs to appreciation – I was not taken seriously. But I refused to give up, and because the new massi was handling everything, I was no longer of use in the house. I started offering all the prayers, even tahajjud, and started quoting Ahadis. And when I spotted bhabhi drinking water whilst standing up, I politely asked her to sit down, and proudly told her how drinking water whilst sitting was sunnah.
‘Do you really want to sit and read the Quran all day?’ dada asked, sipping his after iftar overly sweetened chai. ‘If you can’t do it, I can’t allow you to disrespect God.’
I chuckled in delight and shortly after, adjusted my scarf and covered my mouth. ‘Jee! Jee, dada jaan,’ I replied, eyeing the floating piece of gurr in his tea.
It was settled, I was to sit for i’tikaf.
Dada even told abba to order daeg for chand raat, as a celebration of his pious and righteous granddaughter. I was on cloud nine – texting my Islamic camp group about the adventures that awaited. There were ooh’s and aah’s and I genuinely felt like the luckiest chutki on the planet.
The evening I had to go inside, a strange thing happened. I went downstairs to grab plastic bottles to keep on the side table when I saw that massi, who at that time usually completed her chores and slept, was frying an omelet. After 9, the lights went off, so I was surprised that no one noticed her there.
But that’s not the odd part – as I stood and observed, she placed her hand on the bubbling batter and flipped the omelet with her bare hands. If that wasn’t already a lot to digest, the omelet disappeared before my eyes, from the pan, and massi started preparing another one. Scared, I decided to leave but before I could step back, she turned around and spotted me.
‘I-I just came,’ I said. ‘H-How are you?’
Massi smiled. ‘Do not be afraid,’ she said. ‘I know that you were watching me. I have an eye on the back of my head.’
‘I am going to go,’ I replied, feeling little drops of warm urine making their way between my legs. ‘I won’t tell anyone.’
Massi’s smile widened. ‘Even if you do, they won’t believe you. You’re seeing me because I allowed myself to be seen. Right where you stand, stands my child. I am feeding my children.’
‘Close your eyes, my child.’
‘I don’t want to.’ I didn’t want to, but at that moment, my eyes closed shut. It didn’t hurt, but I couldn’t open them.
‘P-please don’t hurt me,’ I muttered. A minute later, my eyes opened and I saw four little children, running around massi, nibbling on the omelet. One was fair, one was dark, one was pale and the other had a brownish skin tone like mine. They seemed to be full of light – their plumped cheeks like those of porcelain boxed dolls.
‘I am stuck in this body, serving humans for I suffer a curse from our tribe,’ she stated. ‘My children need to be around their own. And you can help me.’
‘Today when you go inside, you will recite Surah Jinn, and some specific ayats, for the remaining days and you’ll not be afraid of the things you’ll see, and you’ll set me free,’ she continued.
I wanted to call out to dada jaan – shout on the top of my voice, but I stood there listening to her. She recited words I did not understand and had never heard before, and I recited them after her.
Shortly after, she vanished and I found myself lying upstairs in bed, in a very dizzy state, with plastic bottles by my side. I slept at once and dreamt of a giant omelet.
The next day, before fajar, I lay in bed, telling myself that I ought to stay away from all that I had been told. I was half asleep, and felt like I did not have the energy to offer the prayer. The moment I decided that I didn’t, I felt a little tickle on my toes. When the sensation didn’t brush off with me rubbing my feet together, I woke up. Startled, I saw one of massi’s boys standing by the bedside. He smiled and pointed towards the untouched sehri. The love that I fell for that child at that moment, was more than what I had ever felt for any human baby.
I prayed and unwrapped the Quran from its case, after which without giving it a second thought, I started reading Surah Jinn.
Nothing happened. I felt a little less stressed and went back to bed. The routine continued for a couple of days, until one night, I felt the room massively shake during my recitation. Then, I also saw shadows of angry huge men, fighting on the wall. At one point, someone tried to snatch the Quran from me as well. As horrified as I felt at that time, I didn’t let my mouth stop. Whatever happened, lasted only a few seconds.
It was thrilling.
On the last day, I no longer anticipated a warm welcome from my family members, but an answer from the massi. I felt stronger – changed, and robbed of my innocence. The week that followed was also the first time I had an astagfirullah dream which was when I realized that what I had done was not God’s deed but maybe – I had known that from the very beginning.
The daegi food was distributed, and baji and ama gifted me a pair of gold bangles, and for the first time dada hugged me, but none of it mattered anymore. I ran outside to meet massi – and catch a glimpse of her children but I was told that just a night before she had left for her village and had decided to not come back. I felt sad. Sad but pleased.
‘What does my beti want to eat?’ ama asked, tucking me into bed. ‘I will bring it to you in bed.’
‘An omelet,’ I replied. ‘An omelet would be good, ami.’
Cover image via Flickr/Groovnick