Whisked away from the comforts of Pearl Continental, I found myself in a small, but decent house in North Nazimabad belonging to Uncle Yusuf and Aunty Zulekha, my ancient relatives, both in their early eighties. They had insisted that I must stay with them at least a couple of days before going back to Chicago, and I couldn’t disappoint them, for they were two of the very few relatives who had always cared for me and my family and showered selfless love when we were in Karachi, prior to settling down in America.
Having got their seven daughters married off, they now lived alone in their
house, and in spite of their age managed to get all the household chores done or even enjoy an occasional romantic, candle-lit dinner, the fact which Uncle Yusuf confided in me. After a mouth-watering dinner prepared by Aunty Zulekha, expert in the art, I was taken to a room which was supposed to be my bedroom for two nights. It was small, but cozy and I hoped to have a good night’s sleep. Just as I dropped down on the bed, everything turned dark. The power broke down. I opened the window to get some cool air, but instead of air an army of buzzing mosquitoes invaded the room, and in turn started feasting on my blood. I picked up an old newspaper lying on a table and tried to beat them away, but it was a futile effort. Covering myself completely with a bed sheet, I tossed and turned around, and somehow passed the night.
“Looks as if you slept well,” remarked Aunty, at the breakfast. I said I did,
not wanting to tell her about how really I had passed the night. Her love and
care outweighed the discomfort I suffered. I didn’t go out anywhere that day,
for I wanted to pass as much time as I possibly could with them.
Something happened in the evening. I was watching Aalim Online, when I heard a deep, heavy voice saying Allah at the door. I thought Sabri Qawwal had paid a visit, but Uncle Yusuf, before opening the door, briefed me that Bawa Sai has arrived and that I must kiss his hand in respect, because he was an enlightened soul, helping people in distress, and it was he who was going to dispel a big jinn who had made Uncle’s house his abode.
I was stunned, and couldn’t believe my ears that Uncle could even think of such supernatural invasions. He opened the door, and a tall, well-built, dark
complexioned man of about forty entered. He was wearing a saffron Qurta and a gold embroidered skull-cap on his head which had a massive growth of hair, flowing at the back. A rosary in his hand, he walked in like a monarch on a mission to bless people.
He was offered an easy chair, and I stepped forward to kiss his extended left hand which had stone-studded rings on all the fingers. Was it marijuana that I smelled? Well, I could be mistaken. After chanting Allah a couple of times, he clapped his hands and submerged in silence, vigorously shaking his head. Then he started murmuring some ‘mantra’ and went towards a wall. He scratched it for a while, then closed his fists and threw out an imaginary object through the door. Her clapped again, breathed heavily and collapsed on a chair. Bawa Sai was offered a plate of rice pudding, a specialty of Aunty Zulekha, which he consumed rapidly and asked for more. I was sure he would finish the whole dish, leaving nothing for me. He burped aloud and turned his gaze on me. Suddenly he began to laugh. “He likes you,” said the aunt. “ Naturally, now you will be blessed.”
Bawa Sai now spread his hands, palm upwards. Aunty got the cue, went to her bedroom and came out with an envelope, full of currency notes. This she placed in his right hand. He pocketed it and patted her on the shoulder.
I was witnessing a scene, all too familiar in the sub-continent. Tens of
thousands of innocent, gullible people fall victims to such fake ‘pirs’ and get
themselves robbed. I didn’t want my old relatives to be continuously cheated. Something ought to be done, I felt. I thought for a while and said, “Bawa Sai, I have a problem. My business has taken a downturn and am afraid I might go bankrupt. Could you do something for me?”
“Where do you do your business?” he asked.
He raised his eyebrows.
“America,” I clarified.
“Ah, Amrika! He said. “Amrika. Full of jinns. Every third person is carrying a
jinn inside him.”
He asked me to describe the location of my place, which I did.
Bawa Sai heaved a long, sonorous sigh and said, “Bachha, I can clearly see two male jinns residing together in your store, making a mess of things and
devouring all the profits.”
“Two male jinns, living together? I asked. “Are they gay?
He again raised his eyebrows.
“Never mind,” I said. “Forget it. Tell me how to get rid of these jinns.”
“Ah!” he said. “Let me think. Yes, you will have to get me a visa, return air
tickets and provide me with boarding and lodging for forty days in Amrika. I’ll
pray in your store. You will also have to sacrifice black goats on alternate
“God!” I gasped. He was asking for a cool five thousand Dollars!
“Is there another option?” I asked.
He closed his eyes, swirled his hair from left to right. “I’ll have to go to a
mountain resort in Mangho Pir, and do a chilla for forty days. I’ll myself
sacrifice black goats to be purchased by you every alternate day and feed the
meat to the crocodiles.”
Twenty black goats! I wondered.
“And during this period,” he continued, “you will have to be locked in a mosque with your head shaved. You will pray silently like a hermit all the time.”
“I’ll do as you say. Would the jinns leave my place?”
“Definitely! They will come flying here.”
“Will I have to provide them with air tickets?”
He clapped his hands and was lost in a reverie, probably congratulating himself on getting one more victim who would make him richer by a couple of lacs.
I went to my room, took out a couple of one million Turkish Lira bills – I had
brought with me a number of such bills when I visited Istanbul eight years ago. At that time one million Turkish Liras were equivalent to 80 US Cents. Then I scribbled a note in Urdu, which read: If you are ever seen again in this
neighborhood, or if you bother my relatives, not only the local police, but the
Anti-Terrorist Squad and the CIA will be alerted to look for you. You will not
only be arrested, but may be sent to Guantanamo. The foreign currency notes enclosed can be cashed at any currency exchanged. That should suffice you.
I put the note and the bills in an envelope and put it in his extended right
hand. “Allah,” he uttered loudly and before departing asked me to see him the next day at his place.
Next day, I went back to the hotel. A couple of weeks later, before leaving for Chicago, I visited my ancient relatives. I was informed that Bawa Sai never again came to their place. They looked concerned, so I said, “Don’t worry. I met him recently and he said his job at your place is finished, and that you should now live happily.”
“Did he do away with the jinn?”
“Of course! Didn’t you see him scratching the wall and throwing something out of the door? The jinn was hiding in the wall. He took him out and now he is Bawa Sai’s prisoner.”
Rafiq Ebrahim is a freelance writer and novelist. He has written three novels: Glowing Embers, Advertising, and The Other Side. The latest – Beyond the Crumbling Heights (Colors in the life of a Pakistani slum boy) — was published in USA in 2009 and is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and google.com/books. He has written for Potluck before.