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One evening, Laila was sitting beside Dorri Jun in their central hall facing the main door, cracking betel nuts. Their neighbour’s daughter Erum came visiting with a plate full of seedless dates. “Dokhtare khoshkhel!” exclaimed old Dorri Jun welcoming the beautiful teenager into a warm embrace. “This girl is true to her name. She’s a vision of heaven itself, isn’t she?” Dorri Jun chortled, introducing Erum to Laila. Laila was ten then and instantly enamored by Erum’s flawless beauty. Erum bent over to plant a delicate kiss on little Laila’s forehead. Laila got a whiff of the beautiful scent of Jasmines in her clothes and as she peered into Erum’s eyes she saw that they were as light as the crystal clear waters of the Karun River.
Untill that day Laila had only heard of the neighboring Rashid Uncle’s daughter Erum and her accomplishments as the most graceful belly dancer in Ahwaz. Erum had become quite a legend for she could do what every belly dancer couldn’t. There was something magical about her movements. And she could have her audience imagining a mysterious tale with her flailing arms and shimmying. Erum almost danced like she could read her audience’s mind, sometimes dancing the Egyptian way and sometimes doing the folklore style of dance. Just the way they were longing to see her move! Erum could even merge many styles and one wouldn’t even know. She could smoothly flow into the Morrocan style from the Persian and also break into a flamboyant American fusion belly dance while the audience would only be more spellbound.
Laila was now sure that Dorri Jun had something to do with Erum’s success.
“ Mashallah, Aafreen Erum Aafreen!” my connoisseurs would respond, Erum said. “ But…”
Laila’s mother had entered. She tried to prod Laila to come away with her but Laila was reluctant. There was a look of rebuke and mild anger in her mother’s eyes for Erum which Laila couldn’t understand, for she had taken an instant liking for her. This slight scuffle between the mother and daughter disturbed Dorri Jun who immediately shooed Laila’s mother away. And the conversation between the two was resumed.
There wasn’t a party of the affluent rich where Erum wasn’t invited but there had been a sudden lull over the past few days. As if it was “ …the Nazar!” Erum whispered in Dorri Jun’s ears.
Dorri Jun was instantly locked in deep conversation with Erum and the conversation smoothly shifted from Arabic to Persian. Laila was following it all. Laila was having a great time watching the two share notes in hushed tones. There wasn’t anybody around but they still preferred to speak in hardly audible voices.
Erum had been complaining, “Dorri Jun I know not why I seem to be losing my charm. I am worried that my Raqs Arabi hasn’t been enchanting enough when I last performed at that Persian wedding.”
Dorri Jun had emerged as a local doctor of sorts. Her fame had grown far and wide too. Ladies from in and around their land would arrive, with and sometimes without prior appointment, seeking solace. Their ailments could vary from anything physical, mental and sometimes even psychological. Dorri Jun was sure to come up with an effective solution to their problems and expected nothing in return.
This outreach, which was the compelling reason for her sons and their families to have drifted away, was the only thing that gave meaning to Dorri Jun’s life. Laila and her mother a widow however, had stayed on to see Dorri Jun mature like an aging wine, growing more and more proficient in her practice. Dorri Jun lived in a bubble and no emotional blackmail could pull her off this practice of running this odd clinic.
Something transformed Dorri Jun the instant Erum walked in with her problems. Dorri Jun had entered her other role and wasn’t her normal self anymore. Even Laila couldn’t recognize her grandma, who was now sitting enveloped in this wonderful aura. “Have I inherited this dual nature too?” Laila was wondering and just then Dorri Jun picked up a pen and began scribbling. Erum continued waiting patiently. She seemed to trust that she would be given an appropriate answer to the puzzle she’d placed before the old lady.
Cutting this rapt silence Laila’s mother had reentered the hall with two cups of steaming hot ghaveh on a platter with crystallized sugar placed in a small dish at the side. After all she was Dorri Jun’s daughter and hospitality was second nature to them. “Bokhor!” Laila’s mother had prompted them but her words fell on deaf ears as the trio was too engrossed in arriving at a solution to Erum’s problem.
What Dorri Jun did next was a sight beyond the ordinary!
To be continued...
What does Dorri Jun do next? Is she able to help Erum? What effect does that action have on Laila?
To know this and more do read the story series 'The Grimoire'
The Persian Glossary:
Mashallah: An exclamation when admiring or praising something
Aafreen: Word used when overwhelmed by a beautiful thing
Nazar: Meaning the evil eye
Ghaveh: Persian Coffee
Bokhor: Urging to eat
You can read the previous 2 chapters you may have missed out on HERE
This has been written for the Z-A in 26 Days Challenge at ' I Rhyme Without Reason'