It was during school exams in mid December 1994. One morning I lay in bed. I saw them pass by the glass-fitted window but didn’t expect them to enter my room. That tall mother came in with her daughter who stood at my foot with her books in hand. This mother wanted me to explain few things to the girl before she attended school. It was something to do with properties of a triangle. Luckily, the girl called Shamveela told me later, similar sums appeared in the test paper and she got pass marks.
Next day at sundown I turned up by the shore close to the playground down the western coast after watching a football match. I came across Muin and sat down with him. It was Friday. I asked him why he stayed home always. He gave that long-faced grin. I repeated.
He replied, “I don’t work,” and that simple.
It was not enough for an explanation so I asked why.
He said, “They don’t allow me.”
That was even worse. I noticed a long bruise on his left shoulder. He sat with no shirt. “What happened there?”
He put a hand and said, “A cut.”
I asked, “How?”
He uttered, “A knife.”
“I got stabbed in a fight.” He showed me other wounds in his legs and on his stomach.
“You got stabbed in many places?”
“In different fights, when I was very young,” he grinned.
“Who were fighting with you?”
“Ehélanun,” he said them in Suvadivan tongue.
“There must be some reason for them to fight!” I could hardly speak that Divehi but understood a bit.
He gave me that grin and showed, “This one in my hand is a cut from a hook trying to hold a line with a jackfish on the bite. I didn’t know the other end got a fishing hook attached. It took my flesh when I let go the line too strong for me to hold.”
“Sorry, but why did the people fight with you?”
“Do you know who stabbed your shoulder?”
He nodded abruptly.
“Who was it?” I expected him to reply this one.
Muin said, “Come, let’s go in! I’ll make you tea. Don’t be a stranger. You know, people in this island will not call visitors. All you got to do is just walk in.”
“That’s kind advice. I visited this island before.” He knew that.
I never had gone deep inside that place called ‘Kaneer’. We passed the foreground of the whitewashed house and there stood a tall boundary that divided yet another plot of land. We passed through a tall gate and there I found a row of cottages with thatched roofs. It was a small village without a direct access to the road. Beautiful trees planted in the walkways full of colourful flowers. It was obvious that somebody maintained the garden.
“Who lives here?” I asked curiously. This little village got no electricity and no lights except one bulb over the gate. It was half past six and falling dark.
“My sister lives in that house. Other houses are empty.”
“Does this place belong to your late father?” He raised the tall wall around the huts possibly and chased the villagers out.
He nodded grinning.
Muin took me to an empty house built of coral but the walls were not plastered. The roof was high. The beams were of aged wooden framework and the ground filled with grainy white sand. “Sit down,” he offered me the grand swing and he went in to make tea. A couple of yards before me there stood a table and a kerosene oil lamp hanging from the crude wall. It created an orange glow and the only light inside the first chamber. I could still see the deepening sky outside as I sat on the swing not too far from the entrance. Stars appeared to twinkle in the sky. The holy book on the table was very old, left open, two feet long and thick. I did have a glance at it as I entered. It was the Koran and the writing was in large script. I heard tinkles of a spoon rattling as he prepared tea. I felt comfortable to be on the swing with bolsters.
Just then, as I glanced at an inner door, I saw a girl standing there, half hidden and watching me with a naked eye. I gave a smirk and she put her face behind the old woodcraft door completely. She was very pretty.
Time elapsed. It was so quiet inside. I could not hear the waves washing the shores around the island – otherwise an endless clamour in the ears. I glanced at the girl. She was then standing firmly by the door with her arms folded. Muin hadn’t come out and I did not try to frighten her away.
I thought I saw a brief movement. She crossed to the small table right in front of me and sat down on the chair. She looked straight into my eyes and I stared at her because she was awfully beautiful. She got fair skin with silken black hair and brown eyes that I could tell even in the faint light. She wore a white frock with no footwear but a black armband on her left biceps that contained an amulet. I wanted to say something but I stopped there in second thoughts. Frankly, I could not speak a word to witness that beauty. I tried to capture a glimpse of the stars from a fraction of a blackening sky I could observe through the door.
As I paid no attention to her, she felt relaxed and turned her face to the book. She didn’t touch it but she was reading the lines or just gazing at them silently. Sometimes I felt she was dumb and she just could not read.
Muin returned with a cup of tea and a towel on his shoulder. He saw the girl and uttered, “What are you doing here?” And I had asked this very question in the twinning story ‘The Cameo’ which I wrote about a girl I fell in for quite coincidently. He passed me the cup of tea gently in saucer and turned to face the girl grasping the towel. He whacked a sharp blow on the surface of the table with that piece of cloth and the girl vanished…
“Who’s that?” I asked flabbergasted shattering the cup in saucer.
“Where has she gone?” I was frightened.
“She’s gone…disappeared. She won’t come here again. She’s a handi.”
“Are you saying she’s a phantom?”
“Yes. She wanders around. She’s no nuisance to people.”
“Oh! Muin! Don’t keep grinning at me like that! She was sitting there quietly a second ago! How can she just vanish? She was reading the book!”
“She can’t,” Muin sat down on the swing next to me still grinning, “My eyes are not good so I read from that book with big letters.”
“Where’s she gone?”
“Into the garden...she’s warned not to touch the book.”
“Muin! Is that a real ghost?”
“Sure. I use to see her around very often. Ask my uncle if you don’t believe me. You know, she doesn’t have a shadow.”
I was confused. She was such a cute, innocent and an extremely beautiful girl – a harmless creature. Did I care about her shadow? Now that I knew she was not human but a spirit. I put the cup to my lips and got scorched at once. “Ouch!”
“It’s hot. Be careful…”
Too late, “Tell me about the girl.” I then asked.
“We call her Fariké Handi…”
It shook me with the platters shuddering in my hands spilling tea. I put it down roughly and tried to get some air. I felt boiling inside. I knew this whole story. I knew with my case of ‘White Orchids’ that happened in 1989 to a girl called Raniya but I had not seen the real thing and prayed not to see the real thing.
“How many ghosts are called Fariké Handi?” I asked to make sure.
“I know of one.”
That wasn’t helpful so I asked, “Does she have a name?”
“My father told me her name is Anzala.”
“Look! I don’t feel comfortable here. Don’t you have a bulb?” It wasn’t that dark though.
Muin grinned, “There’s nothing to worry. She’s immune.”
“Oh no, she’s not but I don’t want to know she exists. Sometimes they turn evil and spell you!”
His grin disappeared and turned serious, “She’s not. Did you notice a stone by the gate? She would not go beyond that stone. It’s a hex.”
“Do you know she comes from the Northern Region?”
“Have you been there?”
He shook his head negatively and I decided not to articulate my experience.
“So, you’re not scared to live here alone?”
His grin broadened with a nod again.
I saw that stone laid on grass in a small plot of garden amidst a row of low plants each with a big red flower by the gate. It was decorated of craftwork and an inscription. It reminded me of a tombstone but then he called it a hex. I got interested and knelt down beside it in his presence to observe the white rock in the gleam of light falling from the bulb over the gate.
That night I could not sleep checking the door lock and window hooks. They put out the electricity by midnight so I had to rely on the oil-burning filament of a kerosene lamp provided to my little bedroom and the landlady lit it up every night. It always arrested me to watch this woman in a see-through white wrap and too often tucking the folds under the silver on her hips. It didn’t work that night and I bothered not to glance at her. I must say I never tried to peek at morning girls by the early dawns after that night.
Slowly it came revealing. I asked my landlady if she’d seen a ghost. I told her that I saw one at Muin’s place called Kaneer. She knew the handi by the name locals used to call and not by her real name of Anzala Fahsha.
Shafiya said, “Several people claim to see Fariké Handi inside those four walls. She put a curse on him in wedlock. He won’t marry anyone. Some say he’s married to the handi. When we were young, I remember him as a notorious man going after the girls, sleeping with wives, climbing the decks of ashi. Some angered people have beaten him...” That explained his injuries.
Shafiya’s mother, the granny, said, “Muin won’t go to sleep without a hook...”
“We grew in this neighbourhood. Those days a lot of sailors climb the island from the fishing vessels in outer waters and go after girls. Muin and his boys often scuffle with them…maranné…” Shafiya explained killing them in her dialect. “One girl from this neighbourhood dating him was Nada Ishaq. We were young but matured enough to listen to the kind of gossips. One day Sadna, her younger sister, surprised all of us by telling she got screwed. We could hardly believe her because she was a quiet person. Sadna said she peeped on Sister Nada and Muin, ever since she wanted to have it badly. She ended up with a sailor on the beach. Sadna Ishaq got pregnant and gave birth to Shamveela, an illegitimate daughter, at the age of sixteen.”
“The girl I teach! Is she a sailor’s daughter?”
“No,” both responded concurrently and shook their heads grimacing ironically. It confused me.
In my bedroom that Saturday afternoon, I lay in bed and my landlady sat on the bed by my foot with her little infant. The granny sat on a deckchair. I asked, “So whose child is she?”
The granny answered, “Muin fell under a spell. There was a rumour about Sadna Ishaq falling pregnant to Muin’s father.”
“Gosh! You mean Ibrahim Yusuf?"
“Wasn’t he a dignified man? Unbelievable!”
“Sadna was in a serious trauma…some kind of madness, nobody understood her. She wandered around absolutely naked in this neighbourhood while pregnant, standing in our backyard with all that flow. She was a tall girl even at that age but not fully matured.” It was horrible and confusing what granny said.
“There was a fight inside Kaneer and Muin got stabbed by his mother,” the granny added.
I reached for my notes because I got to work this out. “How old were you then?” I asked Shafiya.
“Thirteen,” the landlady replied.
“So, Sadna Ishaq must be two years older than you. Shamveela is thirteen. It must be 1981, a good year that she gave birth. I was going to school at that time.” I scribbled on every bit but I remembered, ‘more you sing, more she comes’, and I put down my pencil not letting them hint I got fear inside me. It was indeed a mistake because by not doing so, I actually was holding this case and what got into me five years ago deep in my soul and in my brains. This time I got an image of a pretty ghost – Fariké Handi. On the 18th December, in the full moon, ‘The Cameo’ approached me.
A week later it was rainy. I was seeking for a vessel to leave the island of Villingili in the Suvadives. Taking Muin’s advice, I called at Sadna Ishaq’s place on the same road. I never knew this family but obviously a lot of parents brought me presents of cigarettes and toiletries. They felt the children got good results in this final exam because of me who conducted a tuition class.
Sadna wanted me to have a cup of tea as to our local custom. So I sat down with her family under the mango tree and listened to this story and that of Muin’s which I should have known before the eighteenth of the month. Sadna asked me about my interest in that girl I wrote in ‘The Cameo’ – there’s no place to hide a little secret on an island full of gossipers but all broken virgins on the moonlight beaches get washed by the waves.
I grinned. I could see a television screen inside a bedroom – a song from a Hindi film and a girl singing ‘Rosha ma deh’ feeling the oleanders hanging over her face. It didn’t occur to me the meaning of ‘Kaneer’ until she told me her story.
Muin Ibrahim was a mischievous son from a good family. He was a smart man in the late seventies, playing football and dating girls, going on picnics with folks and making barbeques on the beaches, dining on lobsters and the boys treated him like king. Muin was toned and tanned in skin and muscles, tall and lean. For the girls he was hot – he got the holiest grab. He spent not one night without a freewheeling girl and climbed some deck of ashi where girls slept in rows. Sometimes when he climbed under the mosquito net in the half-light of an oil-burning lamp in his hunt for the daughter ended up with a mother. And that was not enough for him who climbed the rope beds of the fishermen’s wives left empty by dawns still warm in the early rise. There were times when he left with the football team to Malé or other islands and those men of pretty wives would relax but not much because the wives always demanded cosmetics and costumes before fulfilling desire – beauty is virtue. Yet the island folks renewed their wives every other year as if a passport expired – beauty verses the beast. Every time they wedded a younger girl and called replenishing the threshold in the ‘islands of women’. By the time a man reached the age of thirty, records show, seven marriages to date.
Those days all big girls talked about Muin – an awesome somebody. Sadna Ishaq peeked on her elder sister going wild with him. One night she got caught by her mother who followed her to the back window. Her mother returned with a brush of palm leaf strands and lashed her, “Watch out! You are turning into a shy little coquette of an erotic iblis with no manners peeping on adults! Dare not watch again!” she continued lashing, “I’ll turn you dry before you get wet.” Sadna was blown of her little secret to that man and Sister Nada. So she cried in bed with reddish marks on her loins from the lashings but she did something brave. In her period, she wrote a note to him. She found no words what to say so she painted with blood “marry me” and sent the letter to him through kid-messenger.
Sadna had sex when she was fourteen. She had that silver beach experience of the first cut is the deepest and the precise place in her memory with her first-time mate who happened to be a red-sealed sailor who knew fishing hooks by vocation.
At the age of fifteen she was posing lean and tall. Muin was sorry for the poor girl for who she was – the innocent. Muin was not a type keen on kids and he knew he could not be faithful or even find satisfaction from her. Sadna Ishaq knew about all his mischief and regrettably tried to forget him and days passed without his reply. Her friends didn’t like him either. And many girls who said they didn’t like him ended up with him.
It was 20th October 1980, following Eid and they were in festive mood, feasting and dancing. A stage was set up in the playground for evening shows of music and drama. By tradition, on the day following Eid people left their own islands on boats packed of men, women and children to visit families and associates in islands around. Hence there were a lot of visitors who arrived that day from various islands. All the feasts and homes, games and shows, concerts and dances were arranged to welcome outsiders. Locals even got well-dressed for this special occasion. Children wore eyebrow markings to the reach of the ears. And girls wore cosmetics with an eye-shadow darkening eyelashes and lower eyelids, wet their skin and hair with coconut oil, more powder on their faces – basically produced by scraping a piece of chalk on the comb by those who could not afford a packet of talc.
One big challenge for the girls was to cut down an extremely guarded cōdi that was raised to the tallest palm by the boys after a ceremonial display of a ‘Bodu Māli’ procession which took place on Eid Day. Children watched ‘Bodu Māli’ with lot interest but they would not know all the mischief behind it.
Girls were playing bashi in the court in front of the community school. Sadna’s mother and Sister Nada were in the crowd watching them. Muin appeared by the court occupied with concert preparations.
Games were over by sunset and some big girls reached the beach. Some got sweat and sand from head to heels. Some got into the waters. They’d go home soon to take shower and get ready for evening show.
It was falling dark. He came alone by the school side and the road was deserted. Oleanders planted in a row behind the school wall got blades of thick leaves and full of pink blossoms. Muin observed one particular bunch that appeared naturally attractive and glanced at it twice. He passed by and in an instant his grin faded by a peculiar instinct. He returned with second thoughts and tried to reach the bunch. He never was a romantic dupe to pluck flowers. He wondered to whom he should give the bunch and bizarrely remembered Sadna Ishaq. That instant, he heard laughter and a shiver ran down his spine – a sudden brush of warm air. It certainly was a girl who laughed. He glanced up and down but there was no one in sight. His thought about Sadna probably shook him off balance. He jumped to reach the bunch again. Muin realised the bough holding the bunch was within reach by the school wall. He grabbed it and quite shockingly, felt the shiver pass his nerves. He thought it was a symptom for fever. He lowered the branch slowly. He plucked the bunch neatly to hold with a long stem. He smelt them. Suddenly, Muin felt drubbed again by a sudden whisk of hot air. His ears deafened rapidly and blindness took over his eyesight. In a brief moment, he returned to normal. He was holding the pretty bunch of oleanders. He wondered if he was imagining something. His natural glance towards north caught sight of a girl – Sadna stood watching several yards away. He knew she was expecting him. His grin gradually reappeared for he got a reason to hear that laughter. He walked away.
Muin saw Nada Ishaq and some girls down on the beach. He joined them for a chat. Nada said, “Wow! What a lovely bunch of flowers! Muin, will you give them to me?”
He said, “No. I’ve already thought about a girl.”
“Oh! Come on, Nada! Who do you think I am?” He dropped the bunch on the sand under his elbow and lay down by the girls.
“I suppose you be the lady’s man this time to cut down the cōdi…” One of the girls suggested.
“Who? Me? Have you gone nuts? Disgusting! I’m the one who put it up there. I’m no chicken,” he uttered.
“You point a finger at any girl on the island. We will arrange her to sleep with you if you do that for us,” Nada promised.
“What if I point at Sadna?” Muin glanced at the bunch of oleanders that appeared suddenly blemished in deeper red and hardly heard what Nada Ishaq said in positive retort to suggest her sister.
A girl slapped him, “Are you settling for her?”
His eyes returned to normal and the flowers were no longer red. They looked pink again and quite awesome. “Hell no…I am not willing to be your man to cut down the cōdi. You’ve got to find somebody. One of the visiting blokes will do you a favour. You simply turn them in but remember if we caught him up or find out, he is not going to leave this island in better shape. So be prepared! We’ll bind him, gag him and walk him stark naked on the island with pissed bags and fish-cut waste, paint him black and beat him up.” Apparently, women could reach him, treat him, wash him, clean him, bathe him, rub oil, wear perfume, dress him up, feed him and deliver that promise to lie down with a girl of his choice once only after the men folk got done enough with him and threw him into the waters.
“We’ll cut it down before dawn,” vowed Nada.
“Impossible,” he returned grinning and getting up to leave with the bunch of oleanders.
“I vow you, we cut it down and decorate it with oleanders,” Nada Ishaq delivered as he moved away. In native tongue Nada said ‘kaneer’ for oleanders and that was the name of Muin’s house too.
Muin reached the blue gate which stood facing the inland road. He kissed the flowers before entering. They looked so lovely. He found a beautiful clear glass bottle, put some water and placed them on the table in his bedroom. He still got fervour to take a shower and attend that evening show. He was an organiser and took part in bodu-beru singing chorus. He removed his dress and wrapped a towel. That moment he felt fatigue and a slight shiver overtook him. He went out to find a tablet before he got some fever. He obtained an aspirin from mother’s quarter, swallowed down with a glass of water. He returned to his room to find the oleanders lying on the bed. He certainly left them in the bottle. He picked the bunch and replaced them. Once again Muin kissed the flowers in deep admiration.
He reached a backdoor that let to the open-air shower garden. Hung the towel on the line and stepped on the bath floor stone. He dipped the dani and poured the first pint of water down his body and felt shocking cold that gave him a shudder. After a pause he took a deep breathe on his guts and poured another pint of ice cold water. Few dips and he felt alright. He reached for the piece of soap and out of nowhere in the darkness he heard that laughter terrifying him horrifically. He heard it loud and clear right from the rear and obviously one that he heard before under the oleanders that belonged to a female. He turned around briskly. He could see no movement, nobody there in the darken backgrounds. A second quarter moon had climbed over the treetops. He stood in the light of a 25W electric bulb. Some girl who dares watched him hastily take bathe with fleeting looks observing blackened corners beyond the trees.
He returned to the room, paused at the bunch of oleanders, they still looked gorgeous. He smelt them and sat down on the bed still gazing at them, drying his hair. Surprisingly, he felt he got no mood to go out. He leaned back resting on an elbow wondering whether he should take those pretty flowers to Sadna and say yes to her blood request.
Someone thumped on the door, “Muin Ibrahim! Open up! Muin!”
He opened the door to find Umar in sweat and sand, “What’s it?”
“They found the cōdi cut down and decorated of oleanders…” he told him exasperated.
Muin wasn’t surprised, “I know that’s Nada. She said she’d cut it down and decorate with oleanders.”
“Did you do it?”
“Oh! Come on! Can’t you trust me? Who was keeping watch?”
“Adam Koì but he didn’t see anybody climb the palm.”
“It must be him! I feel we are beaten this time. Something tells me we won’t be able to find that lady’s man.”
“We trust Adam Koì like we trust you.”
“Where is it now?”
“They are bringing it here,” said Umar.
“No! Don’t!” Muin hurriedly stepped out still in towel wrap. They reached the crowd carrying the cōdi covered of oleanders by the playground. They counted ninety-six bunches of pink oleanders and that amazed everyone. Adam Koì assured it was up there at sunset. Nobody could fall it and attach ninety-six bunches of flowers. Muin asked hearing firecrackers, “What time is it?”
Umar replied, “Eight-thirty.”
“Really!” Muin realised he lay in bed for a long while. The show would start in half an hour. They left it on the playground to rot. A cōdi got made of grass and leaves in a brolly shape attached with palm leaf origami and hoisted on a bamboo stick.
Muin returned home and entered the room to find the oleanders lying on his bed. He was certain this time he did not do it but in such hurry he left the door unlocked. Muin called his mother and asked if anyone entered his bedroom but she got no idea. He picked the flowers, kissed them and replaced them.
That night it rained slightly. The show went on. Muin did not show up at the site. Some already heard a rumour, “Muin cut the cōdi for a request from Nada who promised him bed decorated of oleanders with Sadna…” Nada Ishaq felt shocked to hear it and see it – precisely like she uttered.
His mother called, “Son! Are you sick tonight? Why are you not going there? I got dinner ready.”
“Mother, I don’t feel like going out. I don’t feel hungry either,” he felt pretty happy and comfortable to sit alone in his room lit of a 5W blue light. Those days they did run their generator and supplied electricity to many houses in the neighbourhood. His father relied on Muin to maintain the generator and the stock of diesel drums, wiring houses, reading the meters of household consumption, billing and collection. Muin Ibrahim was twenty-four.
Umar came around ten-thirty, “Muin! What has gone wrong with you? Why aren’t you showing up there? They talk about you cutting down the cōdi. Come, let’s go!”
Muin joined him quite reluctantly. This time he locked the door. Obviously, nobody would do anything to him without evidence. In most Eid occasions, the cōdi remained up on the palm and decomposed. Sometimes nobody could fell it. If it did, a rumour got created and often a perpetrator never was known in due course. On a rare occasion a perpetrator got revealed and a process of damo-hingun took place lashing the chap away from the eyes of children. Right now all the guys watched for that secret caller of this syndrome promised for a juicy reward.
When Muin arrived at the playground he heard firecrackers going around. His first sight was startlingly a skinny girl up on the stage with plenty more dancers. Her joints and bones split in various angles, her fingers scratched the sky and her toes tapped the platform. Her tiny white face throwing a long chin and her eyes wide open. She was taller than anyone up there. His heart fell for the tall girl in a mauve light libas and a mauve light skirt. She was Sadna. He decided right there to take the oleanders tonight and ask her for marriage.
Muin returned home shortly before the show was over and in a better mood. He unlocked the door once again to find the oleanders lying on the bed. Muin lost his mood. He was sure there was something really wrong with the bunch of flowers. Nobody got a double key to enter his room. He picked the flowers to throw them out of the window. He found them attractive again and replaced them in the bottle. He paused to gaze at the flowers in full admiration. Finally, he kissed them though very reluctantly. Muin totally forgot about Sadna Ishaq and never came out that night or the next day.
Folks started talking about Muin’s remoteness. That smart man never came out of his house. He kept showing that bunch of oleanders to his friends calling. Muin Ibrahim kept refusing to come out with an excuse of sickness – another syndrome. Three days since, his worried mother asked, “Son, I think you should marry a girl.”
“Mother, I cannot think of a girl. Why don’t you suggest one!” he asked.
His mother replied, “Sadna…” No matter if she was nine years younger, mother knew best.
He nodded, “I do it for mother.”
At nightfall, Muin entered the gifili and felt that cold shower again. Back in his bedroom, he picked the blood note and read those two words which seemed to have an awful meaning. He got dressed and picked the bunch that still looked fresh like the very first day he plucked them. He touched his lips for one last kiss.
Somehow he knocked the bottle with an elbow. It fell to the floor and smashed. It was the only room in this house with a paved floor and plastered walls. Muin thought he won’t need it anymore. He made one final decision that night to marry her.
At eight-thirty he went to Sadna’s place. Muin found them seated in the sitting room. Nobody uttered a word when he appeared at the door. Nada and others watched him. He reached Sadna and picked her by an arm. He took her outside and gave her the bouquet, “I’ve decided to give up my past and marry you on mother’s request.”
“Thank you,” Sadna said cheerfully, “Thank you for these cute flowers. So much thanks for choosing me. I agree. I know my sister will go mad at you.”
“Don’t worry. She’d be okay.” They sat down on a swing outside for a chat. Clearly, that was their first moment together – already preparing for a wedding.
Muin Ibrahim left Sadna’s place not genuinely feeling joyous about the incident. He turned to the main road with distant tube lights on the posts. Muin passed the magistrate’s house when somebody clapped hands from behind and called out his name in a female voice. He turned around.
“Muin! Muin! Come here! I want to talk to you.” He could hardly see anybody. He walked back until he heard the voice, “Stop there!”
“Who’s this?” he asked, “Why are you hiding?” he searched over a low wall of somebody’s backyard in the dark.
“I’m your loyal wife, loving wife. You threw me out tonight,” the voice returned.
“Don’t be ridiculous! Come out and show up yourself.” he demanded. It was close to the magistrate’s house who sat out in a joli perch smoking. He heard him talk aloud and began to observe curiously.
“I spend all day and night with you. I cared you dearly ever since you captured me like a bird. I watched you in shower and put you in bed singing lullabies. You loved me, kissed me, touched me, smelt me, admired my beauty and I adore you. Now you want to drive me out because you wish to marry Ishaq’s daughter.”
“Who are you? Show up if you say you love me so much,” he raised his voice.
“Promise me that you will not marry her!”
“I cannot make promises!”
“I will hurt you then. I will not show up.”
“Perhaps, you show up and give me a chance to see what you’ve got that she did not!”
Meanwhile, the magistrate eagerly gave his big ear to this blunt man talking to nobody but standing by a low wall boundary on an empty road. He expected as much as Muin did for the girl to appear but no one did.
Only Muin heard that voice and after a pause she said, “Fine, I will show up but only once. Make your decision, either me or Sadna.”
Muin uttered angrily, “Look! I don’t know who you are and what you are talking about. I do not make promises to anybody without seeing the person in blood and flesh…” He could hardly continue. A girl appeared under the light and she was incredibly beautiful with silky long black hair, fair skin and light brown eyes. She was topless like a native islander wearing kandeki and her tits hidden in droops of hair. She wore the elegant golden necklace and the sensational silver girdle on her hips. He stood stunned. “Where on earth do you come from?”
“I’m supposed to live happily with you?”
“Do you have a name?”
“Fahsha, some people call me Fariké Handi.”
“A handi? Are you the one who laugh at me?”
“I do. I watch you in the gifili and I do things to satisfy you.”
That beauty arrested him. “I don’t know. You’re beautiful but I never promised anything to you. Spirits and humans do not interact. How can we live together?” Muin tried to speak common sense but Shohail knew he was under an influence.
“We did in the past,” she also spoke truth.
“Muin!” the magistrate called and suddenly the girl vanished.
Muin heard her say, “I’ll hurt her,” the laughter followed before he fainted.
Shohail, the magistrate, called for help and they took him home. After listening to Shohail’s account, his father said, “He must be seeing a thing. I’m afraid it is Friday eve, not a good time. I should work on a charm tomorrow afternoon.” Ibrahim Yusuf, forty-nine, was a prominent sorcerer in the Suvadives. His words received like prophecies by the islanders.
Muin Ibrahim managed a fast recovery but he turned out a different man. His great ego relinquished, withdrawn from work, girls and friends. His father tried several cures but got no knowledge about the Magic of Orchids. Muin Ibrahim came to his father’s rescue in a fight between his parents when his mother found out of her husband’s wrongdoing. She picked a long fish-knife to kill Ibrahim Yusuf. Muin stepped in her way and got stabbed in the shoulder by her mother.
His parents died in the following two years. He blocked the gate that stood open to the inland road. He was always followed by an invisible girl or laughter. He even saw her in flesh in his room. Muin never left this island of Villingili ever since that day. Some islanders claimed to see a girl inside that house called Kaneer.
“That’s an appalling story,” I told Sadna Ishaq. “How come his father got in your way?”
“That night Muin Ibrahim left me in about forty minutes. I told my mother that I will marry him and she passed some ironical remark to Sister Nada like ‘I’m a crow who steals from other’s nest’. Sister Nada tried to breach those flowers.” She laughed and continued, “I went to my room with the oleanders and placed them in a vase with water. Those flowers never died for one and half months until my mother threw them after knowing I was pregnant. We heard about Muin, got fainted on the road. Mother, sister and I went to Kaneer at midnight. It was a moonlit night. A full moon, I guess. I felt like a different person on the way to his place. I even saw my father who died one year before that. I felt like asking him why he’s not showing up at home. I wanted him to be nice with me and to come home. He’s a good man. It didn’t occur to me he was dead. I felt happy that night, also knowing I would marry the man I desired.”
“Are you saying you were under the influence of Anzala Fahsha?” I asked shockingly.
“Totally, I don’t remember speaking a word to my mother or sister on the way. All I can tell, it was a moonlit night. Things turned bad when we entered the house of Kaneer. His father being a sorcerer wanted to do a charm on me. It’s our custom we believe in. Mother agreed. So I was ushered into a room with him. He put me in bed, took my kandeki up and climbed between my legs. He wrote in my groins and forehead with blue ink he kept dipping from a bottle. I never realised, I did not even feel him or his touch. I could see his legs up to the thighs though not much. It went on for a week. Mother took me there. I had sex before but one day I went there in a morning hour and he asked me to wear the charm, that day I felt slimy in my legs while I walked home. I didn’t tell mother about it but I asked to stop taking me there.”
“Did she agree?”
“Yes. We stopped but it was late and I missed a period and started to throw out…and my mother knew I was pregnant. Everybody talked about me and there was that fight between Muin’s parents inside Kaneer. Mother threw the flowers because some guy said they were evil. I still got no feelings so I didn’t know I got a dress on or not. I did not feel sleepy mostly in the moonlight until I gave birth to Shamveela.”
“Quite amazing, you know, they talk about one of the rituals Muin’s father carried on him where they believe he brought the apparition and wore an armband on her left biceps with a talisman to drive her off. Only Muin could feel or see Fariké Handi and touch her flesh to wear it. Nobody would believe this but I prefer to tell you, I appeared at his place on that very night and he put the armband on my biceps which I could not find in the morning. Nobody else there could see me or feel my presence.”
“Does it still happen to you?”
“I became quite normal after giving birth. Muin is still with it, the oleander syndrome.”
“I saw that girl with my own eyes at his place.” Sadna Ishaq smiled at me. I told her about ‘The Cameo’ which I refrained to tell before passing the matter over with a grin like that of Muin’s. I did not mention ‘White Orchids’ to anybody in Villingili. I returned to my house and removed a talisman I wore on my waist.