The following story about the Ramazan abu cried jinn is based on true events. Here is part one of this four-part series by Abu’s Jinns, exclusive on MangoBaaz.
I belong to a family where dramas are frowned upon, showing emotions is a sign of weakness, and weeping has to be done in a closed room where no one can see you but in case anyone does, you will never hear the end of it. We do still function like a family – we’re closely knit, in terms of who wears the best clothes paired with the finest jewelry, whose son scores the best, whose daughter cooks the best, and whose house gives away the most rashan in Ramadan.
Salam, my name is Farwa Shoaib and I come from a Rajput lineage who most in the city know of, for running the top jewel shops in androon Lahore.
What I look like, or what interests me, should not be a question, as this story is about abu and the month of blessings, which turned our life upside down.
But if you must know, I have always had a complex relationship with my height and ama wonders if that will hinder my ability to find a perfect match.
I have a habit of spiraling off topics, which is why I was never on Convent’s debate team, but I blame that on Mrs. Khan, who scared me to the point where I started to stammer, but that too, is a tale for another time. I will start the story from right before it happened, and so if you find me talking about anything else, skip three lines and you will be back on track.
The iftar table was set and I was circling around it waiting for the elders to come and feast so that I could load up my plate and head to my room, to continue watching that Jackie Chan movie dubbed in Punjabi. I wasn’t fasting, but that didn’t mean that I could miss my share of cheese balls and Chaman’s finest samosas.
Time went by fast that day – the usual wait of minutes turned into seconds and suddenly everyone appeared in the room. Even Muhammad, phupho’s son, who is always the last to join, for reasons known to Allah, came hopping that day. It was all adding up, the devil was at the door. In our house, the ritual was to eat khajoor to break open the fast, we had all kinds, dipped, coated, and dates filled with things, and then after devouring the dates, slowly everyone would leave the room without removing the covers from the dishes, to pray and once done, would return to eat.
Once that happened, I started filling up my plate – sliding the pakoras aside to make room for the runny chutney – I could see my reflection in it, and for a moment, just a brief one, I thought that I saw someone staring at me from behind but I turned around only to see the wall. It was my anxiety acting up, or so I had thought.
The plate almost slipped from my hand. Dadi was standing by the door – struggling to, with the help of her wooden stick. Her legs didn’t work properly and yet she was the first one to return.
‘Do you not have any patience?’ she questioned. ‘Keep everything back and sit at the table like the graceful Rajput woman!’
‘No buts, or else you will not get anything.’
I waited for her to leave, but she stood there, bending on that poor stick, her eyes glaring at my plate. I slowly rolled back the edibles into their pots, and placed myself on the farthest chair, eyeing the chutney. Had she been near, she would have made me pour that back as well.
At that point, I do not know if it was dado’s doing for she was always seen mumbling something under her breath, or the fact that I was getting dizzy with hunger, that I saw a shadow linger up the stairs.
The staircase could be seen clearly from the dining room and since it was being renovated before Ramadan, no one went upstairs because of the mess and the excessive ladders blocking the passage.
Chachy wanted pink walls and velvet curtains and since chacha had sold to a rich Dubai merchant that week, she could get it. My thoughts were disrupted by all the elders making their way into the room again and sitting on the chairs. As soon as chachy and dada removed the lids, I hurriedly filled my plate but this time, dado instructed me to sit on the table and not scamper off to my room.
‘Eat with all of us. This is the place to eat, not your bedroom.’
Dado was always like this – picky about meaningless things, and not just with me but with all of my cousins and their mothers, but that day, dado’s irksome behavior was pricking me – my stomach was churning and I felt as if several mosquitos were sucking my blood. I wondered if anyone else felt the tension in the atmosphere that day prior to what happened.
‘Shuru karein,’ instructed dado and we all attacked our plates. At that moment, it was much like what I had heard about the Day of Judgment – no one recognized anyone and everyone was concerned about themselves.
Anyway, we, or I at least, was partially done, when my chair began to move.
At first, I thought that chachy’s sinister seven-year-old was banging himself against the chair again, but the table was moving as well, and so were the plates; the meatballs were running around the dish.
‘Zalzala!’ cried dada. ‘Out we go!’
Some of us stood up, including me – who intended to run out with the plate, but others remained seated. In a moment, we all realized that it was only the table, the food, and the seats that were shaking, everything else was stationary and the massi bringing in the refilled Rooh-Afza, claimed that nothing was felt outside. In fact, she said that it was evident that one of the children was doing creating chaos – the only concern was that we had paper-thin bodies with legs as thick as dado’s stick, and none of us could do that.
Before any of us could conclude as to what was happening, the excessive shaking came to a halt, and abu came running in the room, pushing aside massi, with the drink dropping to the floor, and the glass shattering into pieces.
‘Kaha bhi tha steal kay jug main laya karo,’ said dadi under her breath. Abu was out of breath and the pool of sticky sherbet on his bare feet did not seem to impact him.
‘Khatam ho gaya sab!’ abu yelled, ‘Sab khatam!’
Chacha grabbed him and tried to calm him down and ama moved him away from the glass, but abu’s shrieks grew louder and louder by the second. It was very unlike abu to talk in a blaring manner let alone be spitting words that made no sense. When he could not talk anymore, he started to signal towards the stairs, and all of us, including dado, followed him there.
Someone switched on the tube-light – the only remaining one in the house since chachy believed that they were old-fashioned and we were getting the new circle lights that shone more than the moon – anyway, the elders gasped in fright, terror and all other emotions there are, that make an adult’s legs wobble and face turn the color of expired barfi.
I was pulled aside by ama but I saw a glimpse of it from behind her arm, or more if I try to recall clearly and not suppress the sight of that day. From the unused wires hanging from the ceiling, hung tayya jaan – his bloodshot eyes wide open, looking straight into mine, his face swollen and blue, and I thought – that if I pushed him, would he fall, or swing from left to right?
To be continued.
Cover image via Alishba Waheed (@alishba_waheed/Instagram)