Located in the haphazardly planned surrounding of Bohri mohalla in Mohammad Ali Road is a small two-storied house, the look of which tells you it has seen better days. The rusty staircase, paint peeling off the wall in too many places, it didn’t look like an inviting house at all. In it lived a usual girl with an unusual name, Allahkatti. Break the words into two, Allah meaning, well, Allah and Katti meaning upset. The mother of this girl, Anjum had just delivered her fourth daughter in a household where the mother-in-law wanted her out. As she looked at the midwife, Anjum said to her, ‘’Allah is upset with me Khala. He is upset with me.’’ Years passed by and opportunity never found the time to get Anjum evicted from the house. Her husband was too busy in Saudi, working as a carpenter and providing for his family and the bitter mother-in-law passed away only a year after Allahkatti’s birth.
Those were the good days, remembers Allahkatti. Ammi was a doting and caring mother and the five women lived a happy life with the meager amount of money sent from Saudi. Her Abba visited once every two years till she turned six and then he stopped visiting completely. The women weren’t complaining. They took up jobs and Bombay has plenty to offer, thereby managing to run their household comfortably. Slowly, as years passed by, her elder sisters got married and left to settle down in their respective households. She had taken up a job as a seamstress in a garment factory and with what she made, it was enough to fend for herself and her aging mother. She was only forty-one but Anjum could easily pass off for a sixty-something. But all in all, the mother-daughter duo lived a happy life. Although it had always haunted her and had become a subject of harmless banter wherever she went, she never once asked her mother the reason or meaning behind her unusual name. Anjum, on her part, was too embarrassed to talk about it. The name stayed and it would have been a regular affair till Allahkatti met Bilal, the kebab seller, one pleasant evening.
Bilal was a kebab seller; his father had been a kebab seller and his grandfather had also been a kebab seller. The skewering sense of passing on occupation from generation to generation was soon to stop with Bilal. He hated making them, he hated selling them, he hated counting peanuts at the end of every day. He believed he was meant for bigger things. How? He didn’t know yet, but he loved money and wanted to live a good life. He wanted to buy the kebabs, not make them. Well, one evening, as Allahkatti stood in line to buy a plate of kebabs, he noticed her for the first time. It was love at first sight. She was back for another plate the next evening and by the end of the month, Allahkatti found herself in bed with Bilal. He shared his dreams with her, and she believed in his fantasies. She loved the feeling of vanishing into his make-belief world for some time at least. One evening, they were strolling in Haji Ali dargah when a pir baba called out to them asking for food. Allahkatti had a bag of peanuts with her and readily handed it over to the hungry old man. He beckoned her to sit beside him. As he chomped on the peanuts hungrily, he asked her name and no sooner had she said it, he looked at her and said, ‘’Why did they name you this?’’ She didn’t know the answer to his question. He said, ‘’ Your mother must have seen something in you. Do you know that the word Katti is used to define a person of great mystical power? What more? You have Allah in your name. You will do great things, my child. Allah bless you.’’ She had never heard such a profound rendition to her name and while she basked in the old man’s words, Bilal began thinking. He sat down next to the old man and asked, ‘’Where did you hear this? The word Katti and it's meaning?’’ ‘’I have been a hakim my boy and I learned my art under the tutelage of a revered man who dealt with mysticism. I am telling you. This girl will do wonders.’’ Bilal looked at the old man and asked again,’’ Why are you here all by yourself?’’ ‘’I was mean to my parents and didn’t care for them. My children are doing the same to me.’’ Bilal and Allahkatti got up and took his leave. ‘’Remember my words Allahkatti,’’ he shouted after them. She turned back and smiled at him and made her way towards the Haji Ali juice centre.
Bilal couldn’t concentrate on anything for the next few days. The words of the old man kept ringing in his ears. Soon enough, his customers began complaining about the quality of the kebabs. The word reached his aged father who gave him an earful till Bilal couldn’t take it anymore and the kebab centre of three generations was shut for good. His parents were upset but he couldn’t do much about it. He would not sell kebabs any longer! Spending his days loitering in the streets, meeting up with Allahkatti after work, spending restless nights in bed, this went on for quite some time till the idea hit him. Allahkatti is a god woman. Islam had no place for women being the representatives of God and she would be the first to do so. She would heal matters of the household by laying her hands on the disputing parties. The cases would be many for no family was bereft of disputes. He just needed to spread the word. For the first time in many nights, Bilal slept soundly.
The next day, he was waiting outside her house as she made her way to the factory. She was astonished to see him. He caught her by the hand and told her about his plan excitedly. Pulling her hand away, she looked here and there to see if anyone had noticed her holding hands with a stranger. She laughed and then asked him to leave the mohalla or it would bring ill-repute on her. He caught her by the hand again and walked into her house. An ailing Anjum was seated on her bed, reading the Quran. He paid his respects and sat down on a stool before her and asked,’’ Why did you name her Allahkatti?’’ Removing her spectacles, she looked at the stranger as she tried to make sense of his strange question. ‘’Tell me Khala, why?’’ he pestered. Anjum looked at Allahkatti standing at the doorway and said, ‘’ I thought Allah was upset with me,’’ lowering her head, embarrassed. ‘’You are mistaken Khala. Allah has given you a boon and you don’t recognize it. My teacher is a scholar in the science of mysticism. He was at my stall when Allahkatti came over to buy kebabs. He looked at her and asked her name. No sooner had he heard it than he smiled and said, she is the one the world at large has been waiting for.’’ Allahkatti could not contain her laughter. His bullshit was only getting better. ‘’He says the name itself is a sign or else which mother in her sane mind would have named her daughter, Allahkatti? Anjum could make no sense of what he was saying and looked at her daughter, worried. Holding Anjum’s hand, Bilal said,’’ Allah has spoken through you Khala. You thought the word Katti meant upset when in the world of mysticism, it means someone with great mystical power. You have a healer in your daughter, and she must use this to serve the community.’’ Overwhelmed with all that he had said, Anjum asked for some water and Allahkatti readily handed her a glass. ‘’So, what do you want me to do?’’ asked Anjum. ‘’You have done your bit Khala. You gave birth to her and named her.’’ ‘’I must rest now. I am feeling a bit tired.’’ Bilal got up and walked out of the room with Allahkatti. ‘’What is this nonsense? Have you lost your mind?’’ she chided him. ‘’We are going to be rich jaan. Just you wait and see.’’ ‘’I have no healing powers but.’’ So what? Do you think all the saffron-clad thugs are representatives of Gods? What more, some of them even have criminal records. If they can get people into believing in them, why can’t we have a piece of the pie? ‘’I hope you know what you’re doing Bilal.’’ He looked at her, cupped her face in his hands and replied, ‘’For the first time I do.’’
For the next few months, life went on as usual for Allahkatti. When her mother mentioned Bilal, she said she had no idea where he is. One night after dinner, Anjum was oiling Allahkatti’s hair when she said, ‘’I have been thinking. There must be some merit to what the boy had said. Although I named you in anger, I remember a halo surrounding you when you were born. I had forgotten it over the years but come to think of it now, it was a distinct halo surrounding your head like a protective shield. ‘’ Allahkatti smiled. Her mother would be the first to bite into Bilal’s bait. Bilal spent the next few months organizing a retinue of waywards to befriend the servants of rich households and gather inside information. From money disputes to warring brothers, he needed to know them all. Another few months passed by until he was ready with his first set of people. There would be a cut from top to bottom, everyone involved would get their share. He made sure to gather his informers from far off places. Some came in from nearby districts and villages. Such was his intricacy in detailing the plan. Only Hindus mind you. He told them as much as they needed to be told. Allahkatti’s name was never mentioned. Considering the repeated disputes at home, the concerned servant would finally find a moment with the lady of the house and mention to her that he had heard from one of his relatives about a certain someone who could solve disputes through the word of Allah. That was it. A month after the exercise had started, he received a call from Mrs. Suleiman Sheikh.
Their house in Bohri mohalla fetched a decent price and the mother-daughter duo shifted into a decent apartment in Nalasopara, an area about fifty kilometers or more from her ancestral home. Thus, began their new and frugal life. Their new house was consciously devoid of any luxuries. Allahkatti never loitered outside to avoid making her face known. Slowly Bilal spread the story about her superpowers and when people mentioned they’d like to visit her, he said it would happen when Allah willed it. Their locality was filled with lower-middle-class income groups and Bilal did not have time to waste but to make things seem normal, he did enquire about a household or two and got them to meet Allahkatti which served as practice before her first big customer made it to her. Allahkatti now spent most of her time reading the Quran. She was brushing up her skills if anyone referred to a certain sura. It was the 21st of April, a hot Bombay afternoon when her first big customer paid her a visit. Allahkatti was seated on a bed in the living room, the burqa covering her from head to toe. She had the details of the woman. A wayward husband, an illegitimate child now wanting a share in the property. Mrs. Suleiman paid her respects and waited for Allahkatti to show her face. In position for Act One, Scene One, Allahkatti said, ‘’I do not look at the face of the bereaved. I am talking to God through you, to convey your dilemma and find a solution. Please extend your right hand.’’ The lady did as she was asked and after a five-minute gap, Allahkatti said,’’ Your husband has sinned against you. His child is bothering you.’’ Tears rolled down her cheeks as Mrs. Suleiman looked up and thanked Allah for bringing her to Allahkatti. ‘’You must not resent your husband anymore. Let his child with the other woman have a share in the property too. You will not carry this on Judgement Day but will be remembered for your bigheartedness. It may be difficult to part with one’s property while on earth, but the other world has no place for worldly riches. Let him have a small piece of the property and make peace with your husband. If you do not do this, a great calamity will befall your children. ‘’ With that Allahkatti withdrew her hand and heaved a sigh of relief. She had been able to remember all that had been written down by Bilal. Once Mrs. Suleiman was out, Anjum walked into the room and asked her daughter as to how she had known about the lady’s problems. ‘’Allah talks to me Ammi. He talks to me in mysterious ways.’’ ‘’Maybe you can help your sisters with their problems too?’’ asked her mother. ‘’I cannot help family Ammi. That would be selfish, and I cannot meet them here either. I have dedicated myself to the service of Allah.’’
As if a wind of change had blown over the lady, Mrs. Suleiman was a changed woman now. She cried and begged Allah’s mercy. She had been foolish in wanting to have everything for herself. ‘’ How could she know all this? I am stunned,’’ said Mrs. Suleiman as she wiped her eyes. ‘’Such is the powers of mysticism,’’ replied Bilal. ‘’What can I do to contribute to this great cause?’’ ‘’She feeds the poor in this and neighboring cities. It would be a noble gesture to contribute,’’ said Bilal. Mrs. Suleiman immediately wrote out a cheque of one lakh rupees. ‘’Allahkatti has no bank account. She does not believe in the modern ways of money.’’ Mrs. Suleiman promised to send the cash in a day or two. That night, the owner of six cotton mills was surprised to see the change in his wife. He too realized he had made a mistake and the couple decided to forgive one another and start afresh. A packet containing crisp hundred-rupee notes amounting to a lakh of rupees was delivered by Mrs. Suleiman’s driver the next day.
Word spread about the mystic healer and within two years, Bilal and Allahkatti were the proud owners of an apartment in Dubai and another one in Delhi. Their bank balance increased by the month and with it the conning got better. Anjum passed away a couple of years after Allahkatti’s calling, a satisfied woman who had been able to produce a child for the service of Allah’s children. Allahkatti and Bilal continued to reside in their humble apartment in Nalasopara, taking yearly trips to Dubai and Delhi. Once out of her vicinity, she wore the latest clothes and make-up and enjoyed every waking moment of her freedom. Bilal used their earnings to start a chain of restaurants in Mumbai and Delhi.
Finally, in the wee hours of one morning when the world was still asleep, a flurry of pigeons created a ruckus. Neighbours woke up to their chirping. Bilal had uncaged at least three hundred pigeons on the terrace. It was no time for them to be flying around, said one and all. Once he knew the crowd had gathered, he hurried down the staircase and ran into his apartment and let out a loud wail. Neighbours rushed towards his house. ‘’Allahkatti is gone, she is gone,’’ he wailed. ‘’Where has she gone?’’ asked a concerned neighbor. ‘’To help people in another part of the world.’’ Allahkatti was at the airport boarding her flight to Dubai. She had had enough of the nonsense and wanted to enjoy her life. Bilal spent the next few days staying put in Nalasopara, being fed by concerned neighbours. He decided to sell the house and move away to a different place. On his last day, he mentioned, in passing, to the neighbours that Allahkatti had sent him a message. She had made Lucknow her new abode. He would go there to help her. The neighbours were sorry to see him go. Bilal made it to Dubai safely.
The 1993 earthquake struck India at 3:56 am local time on 30th September. The main area affected was Maharashtra. The neighbours were convinced it was a sign Allahkatti had finally left the building. ‘’May Allah protect us now,’’ sighed all.
Author : Sufi House
Under this pseudonym, Sufi House is an avid reader, a bonafide story-teller, an eternal lover and a believer in Karma. She seeks new stories through everyday lives around her and believes in creating her own heaven while on earth instead of dreaming of one beyond the world.