KARACHI: It was a diary of a six-year-old long waiting to be written and shared with others. Experiences and impressions of the past spent in a village named Moledino Larik, part of district Naushahro Feroze, were revisited by Attiya Dawood, a writer and rights activist on Wednesday.
Held at the Oxford University Press bookshop on Khalid Bin Waleed Road, Ms Attiya spoke about her book, Ainay Kay Saamnay, which is a Khudnavisht (an autobiography).
She wrote the book in 2000, during her three-month visit to Delhi, India.
The book is all about the people and places of her childhood and dotted with many personal experiences. One of those experiences, which she chose to read out from the book during her talk, was the presence of three ‘Jinnis,’ (a term used in Sindhi for female supernatural being), who could only be seen and heard by her father, Dawood Larik, who was a poet as well as a Hafiz.
Roohi, Rahat and Soonhi, the three jinnis, were always around him, which the father told the family, were also their protectors.
It was Mr Larik’s third wife, Arbab Khatoon, who gave birth to Ms Attiya. Soon after, he died at the age of 60.
The story then unfolds with 6-year-old Attiya observing the people and their conversations about supernatural beings while growing up in a village surrounded by interfering relatives and neighbours.
“Not much has changed even today,” she said during her talk.
Her father being a Hafiz was well-known in their village. Once during a visit to her village, a woman asked Ms Attiya to put her hand over a buffalo’s head so that it could be cured, as the woman believed that the daughter of a Hafiz would be a ‘gifted one’ as well.
“I knew that it wasn’t right, but I did it, as I didn’t want to break her trust. However, strangely, the buffalo also got better,” she said laughingly.
Mentioning a ‘jinnati baba’ who resided in Thatta, she said that his job was to get rid of ‘jinns’ that ‘possessed’ people in that area.
Also, she mentioned the shrines gradually becoming one of the busiest places after hospitals, where people visited to look for a cure to various life-threatening illnesses or their problems. “I have seen all sorts of people in these shrines. Women, who are otherwise kept inside homes, dance without dupattas inside the open-air shrines. I found it to be a way forward, their way of going against the system,” she said. The bad part, however, was seeing cancer patients waiting in line to be cured by an ‘aamil’ (faith healer).
She also pointed out some stagnant issues. With women getting educated and more aware of their rights and choices, she said they still did not enjoy the decision- making powers within their families.
While speaking about the superstitions held by people, she said: “I haven’t tried to rationalise or analyse my experiences while writing this book. Haven’t tried to debate whether something was right or wrong, but focused on jotting down all the memories that came while writing the book.”
The bit about ‘jinnati baba’ was not over yet. Once Ms Attiya did a story about people and their myths and mentioned him in it as well. This gesture did not amuse him, as he told one of Attiya’s friends, Hassan Mujtaba, that he was sending over a ‘jinn’ towards her so that she starts believing in them once and for all.
“I asked him to tell him that I already live with Abro (her husband), so I don’t need to see another.”
Speaking about her book once again, she said that this book belonged to a 6-year-old
who witnessed all sorts of hurdles and experiences way before she even read the holy book. “This is not only a diary, it is much more than that,” she added in the end.