Thursday, January 21, 2010

Arzhung: Pictures Of A Pakistani Village(III)

The Exorcists

The smoke of the cigarettes had filled the entire room to the point of suffocation. The room was tightly packed with various people; men, women, and kids. Some were the relatives of the mad-looking woman, about whom it was being said she was possessed by a jinn. Most kids though were hanging about out of sheer curiosity. Some were sitting on the few chairs in the room, a few perched up on the table, and the rest of them peeping from the slightly ajar door, watching the ‘exorcist’, the guy who was supposedly fighting the evil jinn. “Who are you?” he said in a very angry voice to the woman. The hangers-on whispered amongst themselves excitedly, awe-struck that he was talking to the jinn.

The woman must be in her mid thirties. A certain sort of madness in her gaze, foam was spewing out of her lips; suddenly she fell to the floor. Now she was laying flat on her back, moving her legs and head forwards as though she was riding a bicycle. Some kids were horrified; others were fascinated. “You must have a look” all the kids insisted. But the smoke of cigarettes drove me away faster than a whole host of jinns could have. “We have been watching him since morning. The two kids sitting with her are some relatives of her, they too have jinns in them” the kids eagerly informed me, a bit amused. “Looks to me like the entire family is possessed” was all I could say.

“Don’t you keep standing there, any of you. When the jinn leaves a person’s body, he leaves behind a sign” my friend warned all of us. “What type of a sign?” we asked. “I don’t know. It could be anything, but usually something very bad” said she and then she went on to explain how the jinn threw down a woman’s child from the rooftop when he left. “Why’d he do that?” we wondered. But then, why would a jinn want to reside in a human’s body? But, not wanting to take a risk, most of the kids dispersed. Most probably gone off to tell their mother’s what the incredible thing they had seen.

It is very remarkable how of all the countries in the world, the jinns seem to prefer Pakistan. And in Pakistan too, the rural areas, seem to be struck by this unseen enemy of the mankind. Well, at least that’s how they are perceived by most of the people. All the jinns in the world seem bent on mischief all the time. Haunting people’s houses, stealing their precious goods, waiting upon them in deserted places to scare them out of their wits, and inhabiting people’s bodies appears their full time occupation. And women, whether young or old are their favourite targets.

In Holy Quran, the jinns have been mentioned, this proves their existence to the believers. A close look however would reveal that many of those who claim to be possessed by jinns are in most cases suffering from hallucination, depression, or psychological diseases. The cases where the hand of an actual jinn is involved are few and far between in my personal opinion.

The village folks however are convinced, when anything untoward happens, that the jinns are up to their old tricks again. Then they seek the help of those who claim to have mastered all sorts of evil spirits and jinns. Many of them are self-confessed masters of dark arts. Most often than not, they are frauds of course. And many of them have no qualms about robbing the poor fellows of their hardly earned money. Money, which they could have spent on actually getting the patient treated, if only they had sense enough. Money that could have been spent on buying ordinary household goods.

If a child throws temper tantrums they would consult some pir. The pir would give them some amulet to wear. Your cattle are sick, the pir is sure to find some remedy for that too. Your business is doing poorly, and the pir is convinced it is the effect of evil eye. Then large sums are extorted from the already poor family. The persons are assured that they have some hidden enemy, someone who doesn’t like them to prosper, and has had a powerful spell cast on them.

These superstitions are rooted deeply into their lives. Some even seem to draw consolations from them. The lengths they would go to fulfill the orders of the pir are incredible. There was this young man who ran ways, leaving his grievous wife and four small kids. His family instantly managed to find a person who claimed to be very highly qualified in dark arts and black magic.

And if it is not for the plight the poor family is suffering from, the things they did on advice of the pir are way too funny. He gave them a piece of cloth, and told them to iron it at the intervals of every ten minutes. They faithfully followed his advice till the load shedding in their area prevented them. But, the family was determined to fulfill his orders to the last letter. After a great deal of trouble, like attaching their electricity cables to some other transformer (Which had power) they managed to keep on ironing the piece of cloth. Still no signs of the runaway son!

Next they were told to take a balloon that had been filled by helium gas. He gave them some amulet to tie to it. His words were, “the farther the balloon travels, the nearer your son would come.” Now there were no helium-filled balloons available in their area. On another occasion he advised them to ride on a bicycle backwards for a certain number of days. The family kept on performing the amazing feats with unwavering faith in the pir. The son of course hasn’t turned up to this day. Because he had large debts to pay off, and having no means or money to pay them, he just ran away; leaving his family to fill the pockets of the fraudulent pir.

In some cases, though it appears the young persons are just pretending to be affected by the jinns just to blackmail their family. For instance, a fourth-grader in my cousin’s class remarkably falls unconscious each time she wants to take a day off from school; later on claiming the jinns took hold of her.

“So what sign did the jinn leave behind” I inquired the next day from the young kids who had been sitting right inside the room. A group of them was sitting together, cramming their books and doing their homework. “Ask Ahsan, he saw the jinn!” the kids clearly looked greatly impressed by Ahsan.; a young boy of about eight, who always read aloud his lessons in a very unpleasant manner. “Well, Ahsan what did you see?” we asked him. All kids had stopped doing their work and sat looking expectantly at Ahsan. “The exorcist made me close my eyes and then I saw the jinn.” Ahsan beamed at us. “Then he (the exorcist) took a sword and slew it. Cut him into many pieces and totally finished it off. It was very fearsome, with fiery eyes, but I wasn’t in the least afraid of it” he grinned now. “Well, well get back to your lesson now,” said my friend in a severe tone, “and you stop distracting them” she looked very displeased. So there it ended, perhaps I can have another sitting with Ahsan and ask him what exactly the jinn looked like!


Saadat said...

My Ammi ji once told me about a kid of a friend who was being taken along for Umrah, and he was told that the wish that coincides with the very first look at the Ka'abah is granted. So his wish was: O Allah! Make me a jinn! I guess that kid hadn't seen any jinn being slain by a pir.

(By the way, your post is a little jumbled up and repeats some of its paragraphs. Look at the line "exactly the jinn looked like!qualms about robbing the poor fellows of" in the 8th paragraph.)

Arimas said...

Hahaha...what an unusal wish. Or perhaps not all that unusual after all. When we were young we used to have weird fantasies too, we used to fantasize about becoming fairy like creatures, to own elves and dwarfs.(This wish was inspired by an English series on PTV, in which the kids constantly and successfully hide 3 elvin creatures from their parents.)

Thank you for pointing out the mistakes, I have fixed them.

AS for Ahsan claiming to have seen the jinn, obviously he must have been pretending it all in order to appear special and important in front of all the other kids. After all there is no way of verifying such claims, which explains how these so called exorcists get away with their frauds.

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