Abu’s Jinns narrates the tale of the young author visiting the “churailon wala darakht” at her all-girls school in Lahore.
At home, when I was thirteen – in my sweet, dark preteen years, I felt that my abu did not have enough time for me. He’d be with Jameel uncle till noon, and both the men would only come home for ami’s aloo parhattas. Then, abu would go back to his study and start writing research papers, accompanied by Jameel uncle, of course.
At Convent, I was the tall girl with huge spectacles, whom no one wanted to sit next to, because Mehr from seventh grade had told everyone that I talked to thin air and sometimes ran out of corridors because I’d see something following me, and that, to become friends with me, one would have to be friends with the jinns that sat upon my head.
I know that she was inspired by Courage the Cowardly dog’s episode of Muriel carrying a cloud of demons with her, because I had seen the episode too, but of course, I remained quiet.
Abu had told me to. During that mid-year, two things happened. I got tiny pimples all over my face and I finally made a friend – Maham. She wasn’t tall, but more corpulent, and she didn’t have pimples, but these huge retainer type braces that she couldn’t take off. No one talked to her either. You know how when you’re thirteen, friendships work differently – so after a week, Maham and I were each other’s best friends.
We made friendship bracelets from the bead set that nano had gotten for me from abroad, and she wrote ‘Ayesha Rox’ on my red backpack in the same design that Mehr Yawar and her gang had on their backpacks. Honestly, I was the happiest girl alive.
I no longer had to sit alone during break time. Maham would take me to the huge tree behind the basketball court where no one dared go. I would proudly be seen walking out of there when recess ended because I no longer felt like the timid girl who couldn’t speak. Behind the basketball court of my school was a gigantic tree, just like normal trees, of course.
But the seniors had told us that ‘wahan say shaam ko churalain latakteen hain,’ and so it had become famous as the churalioun wala darakht.
If the ball went there, no peon dared go there, and we would end up getting a new ball from the storeroom. I had also heard that to be in Mehr Yawar’s it gang, you had to take seven rounds of that tree. Maham told me that it was a lie, and none of my classmates had ever dared cross the tree. Those three weeks were the most exciting weeks of my junior section life. I had a friend, colorful bracelets up my sleeve, a girl to discuss X-Men’s episodes with, and the whole junior section thought that I was very brave.
I had started answering the teachers during lectures, and Mrs. Rebecca even gave me a gold star in Biology. Abu got me a new Bratz pencil case because of that, which came with a bag, but I kept using the one that Maham had scribbled ‘kewl’ things on. One day, before our final exams in May, I got called to the Sister’s office. In the Convent of Jesus and Mary, we have Sisters, if you must know.
Upon my arrival, I realized that Abu had been called for a meeting. I asked him what was wrong, when he came out of the room and just smiled. I figured instantly that I had failed maths. Mathematics is an awful subject that I still believe is torturous, and abu was like that when I was young – he wouldn’t bat an eye even if I got an F because he knew that I lead two lives. Khair, that wasn’t the case. I hadn’t failed math. Surprisingly, abu took me to McDonald’s after the meeting. That branch of McDonald’s near Convent is now closed and Abu would take me there often when he’d pick me up. He didn’t talk until I had finished my meal.
‘Who is Maham, beta?’ he asked.
‘Apke pass meray liye time hou tou main btaoun na,’ I replied. ‘She’s my best friend.’
‘Oh,’ Abu replied, ‘Is she in your class?’
No one in junior school ever ordered a Happy Meal, but Maham had made me feel like myself again, so I ordered it and as abu scooped his sundae, I played with my Hello Kitty toy.
‘Beta,’ Abu said, ‘Where did you first meet Maham?’
‘At school, of course, abu,’ I said. And then for a moment, I thought that in case I had messed up, Abu would, of course, support me and Maham would be given the blame.
‘But,’ I suddenly added, ‘Whatever I got in trouble for, Abu, it’s not Maham’s fault.’
Abu remained silent on the ride back home.
Before I went to school the next day, he handed me a purple necklace. It was a rather ugly necklace for a 2009 teenager, but since Abu had glued a broken Barbie button with it, I decided to wear it.
I had been breaking so many norms already. At school, the first few periods were drastically tedious because Maham wasn’t there. During break, after buying lunch, I went to our spot because I had nowhere to go. Unexpectedly, from behind the bushes, appeared Maham. She wasn’t dressed in the white and red shalwar kameez uniform.
I ran to hug her, but she pushed me away. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked, startled, ‘Where were you in the first half?’
She answered me with silence.
‘What’s with everyone being quiet?!’ I yelled, ‘Can’t you just tell me what happened back at the Sister’s office?’
No reply. I picked up my half-eaten kebab and headed out of the basketball court, tears streaming down my acne-prone face. With watery eyes and poor eyesight, I barely made it to the aerobics room.
‘Poor girl,’ a familiar voice said. I looked behind to find Mehr Yawar and the girls standing near the entrance.
‘Did Satan cast you away from hell?’ she joked, and one by one all the girls laughed.
I recall that at that point, the warm tears had turned into hysterical sobs. Whilst no other girl tilted her head sideways to see Maham make her way through them, I could see from the corner of my eye, that she stood right next to Mehr Yawar and in a split second, went through her.
‘No!’ I yelled, not knowing what just happened.
All the girls looked at me and then at Mehr, who fell down on her knees and started to shake vigorously. I wiped the mixture of mucus and tears off my face with the back of my sweaty arm. A crowd had gathered around us. Most of her gang parted ways and I stood there, right in front of Mehr, watching her mouth get filled with white foam and her eyes flicker with shutter speed.
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Memories: 2005 At Stan Winston Studio creating my demonic possessed character for movie "CONSTANTINE" with “Keanu Reeves”, “Jhoanna Trias” as "Possessed Girl" Check out video on YouTube: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-gQ8D2-8s_M&index=4&list=PLPqgqsNlG0xdqiurVUALtxNZ_Q0gFMApQ&t=0s 2005 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Possessed Girl Photo by: aaronsimscompany #keanureeves #jhoannatrias #constantine #constantinemovie #constantinecomicbook #comicbook #comicbookcharacter #johnconstantine #possessedgirl #scaryfaces #actress #filipinoactress #acting #actor #warnerbrothers #stanwinston #specialeffectsmakeup #makeup #scarymakeup #hollywood #movies #scifi #hollywoodmovies #movieset #funtimes #memoriesonamovieset #actorlife
I don’t recall who was on break duty that day but accompanied by our games instructor, the teachers came running to the spot. At this point, Mehr’s arms had twisted backward. I knew that she was in pain and with a misplaced jaw, she couldn’t utter a single word.
‘Please stop, Maham,’ I whispered to myself with salty tears entering my mouth, ‘I don’t want you to hurt Mehr, please stop. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’
After the teachers had called the ambulance, they asked what had happened. The crowd was quiet but one of Mehr’s chamchis pointed towards me and said, ‘The witch did it!’
When I returned home, Abu wasn’t there. My legs felt weak and I threw up.
I couldn’t get Mehr’s state out of my mind. I hoped that she was okay. I wanted to make sure that she was okay. My thirteen-year-old brain couldn’t figure out why no one had blamed Maham, and why she had tried to protect me by ruthlessly attacking Mehr, but I put my thoughts to sleep and dozed off into a deep slumber.
I woke up in Abu’s arms. After dinner, we sat together in his study. He never thought that I was too big for his lap and I had hardly been in his study. It was full of papers – yellow ones, red ones, shredded ones.
‘I knew what happened at school today,’ he said.
‘It wasn’t my fault,’ I replied, scared that I would get scolded, ‘Please don’t scold me. Maham did it but they blamed it on me.’
Abu brushed away my greasy hair from my forehead, ‘Do you know why they didn’t blame Maham?’ I shook my head. ‘Because they can’t see Maham, sweetheart.’
I got to know, that all this time, I had made friends with a sila – a type of jinn. Because of my ability to see beyond the sight gifted by nature, I had made friends with a sila from under the tree at school. I learned two things that day. One, that I had to develop the ability to differentiate between jinns and humans, because it was only when something fairly demonic would be near that I would feel sick and silas aren’t demonic, and two, that my void of feeling empty and depressed had opened a portal for a jinn to communicate with me in a human form that only my eyes saw.
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The Door Down the Hall. dir. Christian Vetrone (2020) The newest project I have the pleasure of editing. Stay tunes for more! . . . . #horror #horrorshort #shortfilm #toronto #filmmakers #indie #indiehorror #whiteeye #demon #possessedgirl #girl #scary #comingsoon #torontofilm #metalmonsterproductions
That day, Sister had told Abu that not only did I talk to myself, but I also had an imaginary friend named Maham, whom I spoke to the teachers about when she’d be ‘late to class’.
The pendant that abu had given was to protect me from seeing things that I wasn’t ready to see and that is why I had only seen Maham under the tree that day. Even though I was twenty when I had my first supernatural experience with the Farooqui Couple, abu reminded me that it had indeed been my second because he had made me forget about Maham.
Mehr did come back to school with a headscarf that she’d take off before getting out of the car and she never bothered me again. I occasionally did see Maham, but only in shadows, and in the form of a wandering cat at school. I still wear that necklace even though I’ve made it to be much better looking and have replaced the Barbie button with an emerald stone.
In Abu’s digital diary, I found the following entry:
You came and sat in my lap,
Fiddling to see if I found you overgrown.
I didn’t, my sun,
I adored you evermore.
When you came and took off your pendant,
I wish you hadn’t –
Because darling, when you were in my study,
Beneath the papers, across from us she sat,
The friend you had made,
She knew where I was getting at.
She listened with her pointed ears and cunning smile when I told you her inhuman nature,
But a sila she was – harmless unless attached –
So I cast her away, your Maham, your bud,
For I will teach you the way
To differentiate between my lap and hers,
So that when you come in the study,
Your eyes don’t lead you astray.
– Adnan Malik
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Cover image via perfectcapturebyaleena/Instagram