|image courtesy http://www.sxc.hu/|
There was an old hardbound album that Laila’s mother kept in her cupboard. Each black sheet had a thin sheet of butter paper as a divider before you could get a glimpse of the next sheet. To Laila these creamy half transparent- half opaque sheets resembled Dorri Jun’s veil.
The photographer seemed to have been very enthralled by Dorri Jun’s personality for each snap after the next in the album was an exquisite capture of her beauty and elegance. There weren’t any photographs from Dorri Jun’s childhood. They were all from her youthful days besides the very few found in the end of the album that were taken of the aged Dorri Jun, just before she died.
" Dorri Jun never smiles in any of the pictures but there is something endearing about her, something very nice about her." Laila observed. The cream, long, silken Hijab tightly wrapped around her head framed Dorri Jun’s slender, fair complexioned face. The sharp features with the milky smooth skin made her look almost like a beautiful statue carved in marble. However there was nothing stone-like about her. "....The liveliest pair of almond shaped eyes" Laila thought. The thin, shapely brows were like the borders of a peaceful temple land. The long slender, slightly hooked nose directed the observer's eyes down to the luscious pair of pink lips. " One can easily imagine how they must keep the listener bound when they quivered in speech." Laila continued her soliloquy. She'd been told by her mother that she had inherited all the looks from her grandma Dorri Jun. And that made her more possessive about this album. She was happy that her mother treasured this album like all their other valuables.
This album was what helped Laila refresh her memories of Dorri Jun.
In their two storied ancestral home at Khūzestān on the bubbling banks of the Karun River, Laila had spent many hours in old Dorri Jun’s company since she was just an eight year old. She could remember her little palms sinking into the soft wrinkled cushions of Dorri Jun’s palms. Led by this soft but firm clasp, Laila would follow Dorri Jun all around the house. There weren’t many chores to do for the old lady. So after a stroll in the garden in the early, dewy morn’ they would walk right up into the attic of the house.
Though this attic had a low roof and was cramped and cluttered with what-nots from times gone-by. It was here, in the darkest part of the house that Dorri Jun was her most relaxed self as if this was the only place she could let all her guards down and be her true self. She had made her own, very personalized space within her own home, in the extreme corner at the back of the attic. A small window that opened out to the sky let enough light and air in to keep them from feeling claustrophobic.
Laila remembered that none of the other kids in the family were allowed here but she was. With a glint in her intelligent eyes Dorri Jun would say "Inja biya beshin." beckoning Laila to come and sit down beside her on the plush Kaalin. Laila's eyes twinkled too at the thought of being the special one. "Its just us Dadi Jun!" she exclaimed and the two giggled like little girls in between an innocent conspiracy.
Only Laila had the knowledge and was shown the one precious thing in Dorri Jun’s possession. The only one of its kind, the precious thing was kept securely wrapped in blood red colored velvet, safely locked within a small cubical casket. This casket was the most intricately designed piece with Persian Khatam inlay work on it. It was so exquisite in its beauty that Laila found nothing quiaint about it but Dorri Jun treated it with great reverence and guarded it with all her capacities. The key to the casket was ensconced in the folds of Dorri Jun’s hijab.
As if Laila was born with the knowledge of the ways of this precious thing, she never uttered a single extra word when in the attic. And swore to silence about the casket when outside the attic. She would be patiently seated beside her grandma on the kaalin, until Dorri Jun opened her eyes from deep meditation. Laila’s heart would thump like a thousand hammers for she knew that it was now time for the precious thing to be brought out of its casket. Then it would be a magical experience each time, every time like it had been the very first time.
This was the one other thing that was as precious to her as the looks inherited from Dorri Jun!
The Secret Grimoire of Tuwrel, the book in a bronze gilded cover with coffee coloured aging pages would be brought out ceremoniously from the little casket. And thus Dorri Jun had begun to teach Laila an art, taught only through this book, which no other soul would learn from her except Laila.
To be continued.....
What was that art that Dorri Jun taught her? How well did Laila learn it and how did she use it? Or was it misused? To know this and more Look out for the short story series ‘ The Grimoire.’
Facts in the fiction: