MangoBaaz x Abu’s Jinns presents, the second chapter in our horror story collaboration: Rabia Apa’s Exorcism – Chapter 2: The Convent.
You can read Chapter 1 here.
Apa was brought home by Farooq Chacha, within three hours of her leaving the house. Ammi cried hysterically for hours and Baba went till androon Lahore looking for her. During that time, thinking that apa had run away to Azeem, I ended up telling amma baba about all that Bia apa had spoken of. Nano and nana abu sent men from mamoo’s CNG station to beat Azeem up. The poor creature was behind bars and his clueless and pregnant wife was begging ammi to set her husband free.
Khair, he was eventually granted freedom because no alibi suggested that he had been in contact with apa whatsoever. I saw him, and his face looked like a twenty-day old half-cut peach – bruised and gulabi from all sides.
“Pagal hai apki beti! Aik dam pagal! Meray ghar main sab ko dikhti hai raat ko!”
I wish he hadn’t said that because that just resulted in nana abu smacking him with the back of his wrinkled, khajoor-like hand. I wasn’t astonished by what he had said because apa had described Azeem’s house to me. She had spoken about the muddy, half-baked walls, the fact that she had made Azeem’s wife have multiple miscarriages. She’d describe ripping the child apart from her by entering her hand inside the mother.
“I can do that,” apa had said. “I can take unborn bache away from their mothers. I can smell the pregnancy on them.”
Apa had described how Azeem had grown a beard and how he slept on his stomach. So yes, I knew that apa had been to Azeem’s house many times during the night. I was too young to question why and how it had happened.
I did not know about the others but looking for apa had made me terribly hungry, so we went back home to have last night’s aloo gobi, and amma burst out crying again. It was then – three hours later that there was a knock on the main door. Baba went rushing to open it, almost as if he knew that his daughter had returned. Smeared with both dirt and sweat, standing next to chacha Farooq, was apa.
She had a blank expression on her face and a foul stench surrounded her.
Baba and Farooq chacha went with nana in the dining room to have a man-to-man chat and amma and I followed apa upstairs to bathe her.
“Kuto isay pakar kar,” nano exclaimed, with her face going beetroot red. “She has spent the night outside, sunti ho!”
Surprisingly, amma ignored nano’s remark and took apa to her room. Apa was quieter than she had ever been. I wanted to ask her about everything- about whether she had dressed as a bride and whom she had gotten married to because Azeem didn’t really like apa. But, amma said that apa had to rest and that I should go to bed too. Likun I’ve always been the taez child, you know? Slowly, I stumbled down the stairs and sat behind the dining room’s newly polished door to eavesdrop.
“She doesn’t remember.” I heard Farooq chacha saying. “When I found her, she was weeping and trying to button her shirt. She said that she smelled like cakes and that I should take her home.”
“Yes, cakes. I didn’t say anything. I thought I’d call you but then, theek nahin rehna tha usay akele chorna shop kay bahir.”
I quietly went to bed thinking that apa was a good actor for she had never been the type that couldn’t remember, apa tou knew everything. She knew when maasi Kalsoom and her husband did it, and she knew that I stole most of nano’s money from the bag.
But, what Farooq chacha had said was true. The next morning when I talked to Bia apa, she seemed like an unplucked rose flower – too innocent to even decipher my questions. She really did not recall anything.
In the evening, amma told me that a man will come to ask me questions and that I should answer them with all honesty. The man she spoke about was Dr. Farhan – baba kay cousin ka beta. He asked me about apa and about my relationship with her. I said that of course, I wasn’t in a ‘relationship relationship’ with apa. I’m not a man. Khair, doctor Farhan’s visits became frequent and we all got to know that apa was sick. She didn’t look sick, though.
It was doctor Farhan who decided that apa should resume school and not only that, he said that she should be put in a girl’s only school for her betterment. I started despising the doctor uncle since that day. I mean, apa and I always used to go to school together and that’s what I wanted. I thought that my persistence and helping ammi in making keema tikkis for the guests would help, but it backfired. Baba decided that both of us; apa and I, would be put into a convent.
Our blue sashes turned into red satin ones and according to the manhoos doctor whose sisters studied there, we would be taught the virtues of life.
Life went from being ghee parhattas to a dry roti. Apa stopped talking, and the only highlight was new uniforms and new books and a naya Bratz pencil case. I wasn’t so concerned about switching schools jitna I was upset about apa changing. I even showed her photos of Azeem and told her that his biwi was very average-looking. But nahin, apa would stare at the wall all day and smile peacefully when talked to.
On our first day at Convent of Jesus and Mary, the weather was windy. As the rough breeze blew through the strands of my wavy hair, I got goosebumps and there was a sinking feeling in my stomach. Our new school was beautiful; the red brick building looked inviting, like something out of an old English movie – perhaps it was the same place where David Copperfield went – at least that is what I believed us waqt. I felt content, but my body told me otherwise.
I looked back at apa who was still sitting in the car. I went back a few steps and saw baba coming out. Apa was refusing to move.
I didn’t want apa to create a scene on our first day, wesay bhi everyone was lining up for assembly outside the hall. And with my puberty-stricken mouchain, I already stuck out. My thoughts were disrupted by the sound of the church bells ringing and hearing those, apa completely froze, and glued herself to the back seat of the vehicle.
“Yeh kya bachpana hai Rabia. Niklo gaari say!”
Apa shook her head and a devilish grin appeared on her face.
“Nikaal kay dekha mujhe budhe.”
TO BE CONTINUED.
Cover image via 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment