The faqir and the dibbi

A family story from Gautam Idnani and Shalini Ganju, with details filled in by the latter's mother, Damayanti Gidwani.

One day, some time in the 1930s, there was a theft in the house of Gopaldas Gurbhomal Malkani. It was not an ordinary theft. Both Gopaldas and his father Gurbhomal were Sessions Judges of Sindh. They had served, at different times, in this position in Sukkur, Larkana and Hyderabad. Both were members of the elite Masonic Lodge in Hyderabad. The family house was in Malkani Ghitti and it was a large building with four separate apartments for Judge Gopaldas and his three brothers. (One of these was the well-known Dr Chandiram Malkani, who had received his medical training in London.)
It was a breezy summer night and my younger sister Shakuntala and I used to sleep on the terrace with our grandmother, Amma, and fall asleep listening to her stories about the days gone by, quite similar to the way in which my children have grown up listening to my mother’s stories repeated so many times that they remember them better than any lesson they studied in their history books.
Before sleeping, Amma used to tie the latch of the terrace door to the door frame with a handkerchief and keep a lantern by the side which served as a night light. Amma had a habit of waking a couple of times during the night to visit the kakoos for which she needed to go down the stairs from the terrace leading into the house.
On this eventful night she woke at around 3am, and, fully alert, immediately felt something was amiss. Going towards the door she realised that the lantern had been moved aside, and the handkerchief untied and the door left ajar. Alarmed, she immediately went towards my father’s bedroom and woke him. On the surface nothing seemed disturbed, but later on inspection they found a lot of her and my mother’s jewellery and other valuables missing.
The next morning a police complaint was filed, inspectors came around to the house, questioned the domestic staff and snooped around, but were unable to come up with anything. Many weeks passed and no progress was made regarding the theft and we gradually gave up hope of recovering any of the stolen goods.
One day a few months later, a pir faqir dropped by claiming to be able to reveal where the stolen booty could be found. My father being an educated Amil gave no credence to his tall claims but my grandmother being an old lady who still had her intuitive values in place, prevailed upon her son to give the faqir a chance as we had nothing to lose. Reluctantly, my father gave in to his mother’s wishes and allowed the faqir inside.
The faqir produced a small dibbi which looked like a small jewellery box, it was empty and nothing could be made out of it. He claimed that only a nyaani, a pure girl, freshly bathed, would be able to look into it and say where the stolen jewellery could be found.
My cousin Parpati who was around thirteen years old at that time fitted the bill and was asked to bathe and come down to where the whole family had gathered, eager and curious to see what would happen next.
The dibbi was handed over to Parpati. She opened it and at first there was complete silence, all eagerly waiting to hear what she had to say. Miraculously, she started reading from it what no one else had been able to see:
Three days later, at six in the evening, a wedding baraat will pass by. Headed by the Band Baaja troupe, the man in the centre of the third row will be seen to be the main robber and the entire stolen booty can be recovered from him.
My grandfather and his brother of course laughed it off as silly hogwash coming from an uneducated man who just wanted to earn a few rupees but were willing to wait and see if a baraat would indeed pass by three days later.
The police in turn had their team ready, waiting at the side of the main road and sure enough around 6.15 on the appointed day they heard the sounds of a band approaching. As the procession drew closer, they identified the centre man in the third row and nabbed him as soon as they could. Under questioning and a few threats, the man gave in and revealed all. Unbelievably, as per his directions they found almost all the stolen jewels. My mother and Amma were overjoyed and my father left astounded and speechless!
On many occasions later, my cousin Parpati and I tried to look into the dibbi again in the hope of reading some magical predictions but alas it seemed the dibbi had lost its powers. My sister Shakuntala still has the dibbi with her in the hope that one day a faqir will pass by and empower it again.

Excerpted from The Amils of Sindh by Saaz Aggarwal

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