Sunday, May 26

Tale of a Tiny Girl / Nabeela Ahmed

Nabeela Ahmed

Photo & Artwork Fozia Abbas

How many species do we share earth with?

Humans, jinn and angels is what the Quran tells us. This tiny story is from my family and of sharing space with the jinn.

Around fifty years ago, one Eid my aunty came over to stay with my grandparents as she did each Eid with her children. My cousin sister was wearing red glass bangles matching her pretty red shalwar kameez with gold gota around the edges. She wasn’t five yet.

She played all day in the garden and behind our house in the trees next to the pond.  It was from there that she came screaming home and wouldn’t stop crying. No amount of comforting would settle her and then my aunty noticed her missing bangles!

Now we are only two houses on top of a hill, a treck away from any village and  surrounded by streams. There is no one around to steal or interfere in our lives. But we are acutely aware that we are never alone. 

My cousin burnt up with fever and eventually fell asleep. My granddad set off for the next village where Mian Saab resided. Each area was blessed to have one Mian Saab, a man who had learnt not just the Quran in a time when most couldn’t read, but knowledge which allowed to him to see other worlds and prescribe holy versus to be worn, wrapped in material like a necklace around your neck for protection, for healing. These men had to be pious for them to survive the access to other worlds and their interactions and their life depended on their purity. We were lucky that ours was also a gentle, kind soul.

He listened to my granddad, asked him the usual questions about names etc. And consulted his book. Granddad said he then smiled and said,  ‘Don’t worry. They were little too and liked her shiny bangles. They will return them. She’s got a fright. Place this around her neck and all will be well.’ They did and she was fine.

In the morning when my grandma went to feed the animals, she found the bangles on top of the soaked animal feed.

Where I come from respect didn’t just extend to animals, birds and nature, but to others who shared the same space with us. They often set up homes under a shaded tree and in the days before toilets inside homes, as a rule, you never urinated under a shaded tree. The price wasn’t worth it!

They too stayed away from our homes and only interfered if we unwittingly insulted them or they fell in love with a human.  It was best to avoid going out at midday all dolled up. You may return with more than you bargained for!


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