Childhood Chronicles: Daadi, Magic and Sleep


I haven’t slept for years, say 3 or so. Or not slept properly, if its appropriate to sound precise. Many times I lie to myself by shutting the eyes. Back in my yester years, Ammi would always tell us this SIMPLE way of sleeping ‘shut your eyes TIGHT’. We always did. With the growing age, rage and force, the same shutting results more in an ache and less in a sleep. Never mind.

I have tried many ways out. Many. Shutting my eyes tight was just one.

‘Shut your eyes TIGHT’ also reminds me of Daadi who would tell us a bedtime story. Adhrroo, a half limbed chap, was the hero. Adhrroo had lost his limbs to win much higher wits. He would mock everyone who came in his way. Children loved him and many a princesses fought over him. I always pictured Adhrroo as a half-peeled potato.

However, this was just one story. Daadi with gold nose-pins beaming on both sides had a plethora. Many times she would be more excited than even Adhrroo himself when he won a basket of sweet-meat. Daadi would chuckle, her eyes would gleam brighter than ever and her voice higher than a whisper. And with our hearts glistening with happiness for Adhrroo, we would silently swim to dreams.

Known as A’laan, Daadi’s real name was Alam Khatoon- the world of a woman. I have all this liberty to claim that Alam Khatoon was much stronger than what the woman of today is or imagines to be. Married to the strongest Awan of her clan, she could truly be termed as the FIRST LADY of Cho’ah. Haha… an understatement though.

She had talked to spirits, killed pythons, granted and protected many robbers who asked for help from this concrete package, settled most of the matters of her tribe, refused to surrender to any illness or be a burden, raised many orphans as her own children and what not! Alam Khatoon was indeed a universe of her own.

She wore loose floral kurtas with magic pockets on both sides. The pockets were heavy. They drooped below her slits. The magic pockets were always full of money. Lots of money, even the red 100 rupee notes. Our one and a half day weekly visit to Jauharabad revolved more around the magic and less around staying home.

The magic would get us anything we wanted. Thin story books, chicks, roasted peanuts, coke, toffees, gota  for the dolls’ frock, Bandar ka tamasha, hand-driven rides and… HAPPINESS.  Yes, the magic was buying happiness.

Daadi died thirteen years ago. She didn’t die, in fact. She hid herself from us some thirteen years ago. I still remember her last breath. More peaceful than the most peaceful sleep.

She hid herself and the magic pockets. MEAN!

Life went on. I thought it never would. But it did. At least, apparently. We kept growing, changing cities, moving from city to city, learning and unlearning.

But she hid herself and the magic pockets. The magic that bought happiness. Daadi hid it.

Today is my third and a half anniversary of insomnia. I haven’t had a sound sleep in all these years. Even when I fake sleeping, my mind keeps chuckling and listening to Adhhrroo’s stories. I keep opening my –tight-shut-eyes after every two hours to see if the world is still moving on. Turning sides has its own dynamics but not sleep. Maybe I have to do some night wonders by the time I turn 57. Maybe. But right now its just plain insomnia.

Sleep is beautiful. I still remember the days when it was never a minute less than 14 hours. I still remember how happily I would fly from one wonderland to another. I still remember how proudly I would take the crown of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ from many of my close ones. Like being in love, sleep is beautiful too. Maybe more.

If you ask my greatest wish on this auspicious occasion, it might be having a sound sleep thereby ending my insomniac life. But I only have a few thousands left from my last salary that can get me pills promising a four hour uninterrupted sleep. Neither much days of life nor money to get enough pills.

So on this anniversary, I miss Daadi and her magic pockets. The pockets that bought happiness and the happiness that promised SLEEP.

By Saadia Ahmed | Read from her here


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