Written by Shah ibn Sheen
The lines on my palms never showed any signs of good fortune. Still I kept going to him to have my palm read on the first Friday of every year. I knew that he had got tired of encouraging me, but he couldn’t say so.
His name was Shay Swali. Shay was a palmist. I don’t know who he learned this craft from, but he used to say that he’d been a palmist as long as he could remember. I recall that the first time I visited him, I went with Mullah Mahatun, and we brought dried jujube fruit and lassi to give him. When I stretched out my hand to him the first time, it was Mullah Mahatun who held it. Shay Swali said it was the first time that the hand he was studying was held by someone else.
I don’t know what he saw while perusing the lines that made him sigh so deeply but say nothing. My reason for coming to him every year was to find out when I would be married. He never told me anything about that either.
My name is Dorbani. I belong to a Baloch nomad family. We’ve been herders for generations. God knows how many regions and villages our ancestors moved between before my deceased father finally reached this region. He had pastured his herd here for five years.
I was a two-year-old child when my father left us forever. Mother told me later it was the season of rains, and the storm winds had been blowing continuously for six days. She said my father was an expert on the seasons. He had said: “Whenever the wind used to blow like this, it would never last for more than two days, and it would always be followed by heavy rains. But this year, may God have mercy upon us, there are clouds, and the storm winds have been blowing continuously for six days.”
That very day, in the afternoon, the storm died down, and a heavy rain began, which was to last for eight days on end. All the rivers and streams flooded heavily. My mother told me that our two Bela goats had got lost. She made a divination. They were both fine. Then father had said: “Something has blocked their way. I will go and get them back.”
Mother told me: “It was late Sunday afternoon. Two bright stars were high in the western sky. I waited for your father the entire night and made a big fire because he might have lost his way and the light could guide him in the right direction. But at dawn he had still not returned. That morning, the storm began again. It was blowing forcefully. Your father wasn’t back with the goats at noon. Later our fellow nomads brought us his body. Your father had slipped into a ravine and died.”
In the second year after my father’s death, my mother was bitten and killed by a scorpion. I was brought up by Mullah Mahatun. She was also a nomad.
Mullah tells me that I had a twin and that Mullah was my mother’s midwife. “Your twin was brighter than you, but her days ran out. She was only seven days old when she breathed her last tiny breath. Your mother cried a lot. Your mother got pregnant three more times, but she had miscarriages.”
Sometimes when Mullah had prayed the midnight prayer, she folded her prayer mat, took her lantern and went out. I always thought she might be going for a short toilet visit, so I followed her, but she stopped me. She said that if anyone came to the door and asked for her, I should say she had gone to the old man’s sheepfold. But no one ever came while she was away. I often asked her where the old man’s sheepfold was. But she never answered.
One night when she was offering her prayer, someone called her name, “Auntie! Are you offering prayers? We have cooked some date sweets. Come and pray over them.”
It was a deep voice. Mullah returned the greeting saying: “May God preserve your honour.” She took the lantern and left again. I followed her halfway and then I returned. Now I knew where she was going. I never asked her again.
One night she took the lantern and before leaving she asked: “My daughter, do you know where I go now?”
I said: “Yes.”
“You are now mature enough to understand that helping these creatures is virtuous.”
I said: “May God protect you.”
Mullah had become very feeble over the last few months. I was worried. I couldn’t handle the goats and sheep because Mullah was ill, and there was no male member of the family to help either.
It was the first Friday of the year and Mullah was a bit better. We couldn’t visit Shay Swali that Friday, but the next day Mullah said: “When you go to Shay Swali this time, give him my regards and tell him that I am weak now and ask him to remember my request.”
I took someone along and went to him the next day. “I waited for you yesterday,” Shay said as soon as he saw me.
“Mullah is weak and aged. She sends her regards and asks you not to forget her message.”
He told me to return the greeting and immediately began examining my fortune lines. This was the first time that my hand was held by a man. He studied my palm for a long time and then folded a piece of turquoise in white cloth and asked me to give it to Mullah.
It was the first time he didn’t encourage me at all, or even tell me anything about the lines on my palm.
Two days later, he came to visit Mullah dressed in white. He was accompanied by another man as well. Mullah covered me with a red shawl, put the turquoise in my hand, softly caressed my hand and said: “May your wishes come true.”
Shay Swali married me that day. Mullah died a few months later.
Days and months passed. There was rain that year. The pastures were green. The herd was well fed, and I was pregnant.
Shay went to his place for palmistry every Saturday. One day, a storm wind was blowing. It was late Saturday afternoon, two bright stars were high in the western sky and Shay had gone to his place. Rain began pouring down at dusk. All night long clouds were thundering and heavy rain was pouring. I waited for Shay, but he didn’t return.
The next morning a fellow nomad of ours covered me with a black shawl. “We have got the news that Shay’s workplace has collapsed, and he has died beneath it.”
I lost my senses. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. I recalled the first time Shay had held my hand and examined my fortune lines. I wanted to look at my palm, but I couldn’t.
A hand caressed my head. I looked up. It was the man who had married us.
“Shay was your palmist, and he didn’t want to hurt you with the truth of your fate, but blessed Mullah …” He didn’t finish his sentence, yet it was as if something pierced my chest. I looked around and caught sight of blessed Mullah’s prayer beads, and I cried a lot.
Published: Sach Magazine, 2019
Courtesy: Unheard Voices