Battling shaitan

Right In The Middle

In what could be a record of some sort, my maid, Sushila, has been working for me loyally for the past 25 years. She is religious-minded, but is unfortunately very superstitious too. She believes implicitly in the power and tricks of what she calls ‘the shaitan’. I have tried hard to dispossess her (pun intended) of her crippling notions, but have met with little success.

The other day, she described a recent visitation. First came the sound of clanging chains. Then the spirit appeared, all in white. Ignoring everyone around, it climbed the five-storeyed building right to the top. That was where it lived. It was the spirit of a young woman who had hanged herself. Rather dismissively, I told her that her imagination had been over-active. She retorted that not only had three others around her seen it, but that her 18-year-old daughter was so terrified that she wet herself.

When I went to bed that night, her words somehow rose to mind and on that thought I fell asleep. A little after mid-night I was woken up by scraping noises. A creature of some sort was creeping, rustling and scrabbling around. Was it a cat or a rat? But the room provided absolutely no access! The door was shut and the windows secured with mosquito netting. Willy-nilly the words of Sushila came to mind. Nonsense, I chided myself, and getting out of bed switched on the lights. Somewhat fuzzy-headed, I searched for the intruder. Nothing to be seen — however the moment I stretched myself out on the bed, the noises began again. All sleep was lost by now and I was determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. I got out and began searching again. This time I spotted the mischief-maker — it was a flying cockroach. After a few tries, I brought it down with a swatter and consigned the remains into a bin.

The next morning, I told Sushila about the strange noises. With a triumphant glint in her eye, she exclaimed, “What did I tell you? The shaitan caught you!” I led her to the bin and, pointing to the inert creature, said, “There is your shaitan. It was only a cockroach.” “You are wrong. It is the shaitan. It just took the form of a cockroach,” she persisted.

“Well then,” I told her, “If it was the shaitan, it is dead, dead and gone.” “Pshaw,” came the reply, “you people are educated, but you know nothing! The shaitan is not dead. It has many lives and will live again. Mark my words!” With that she picked up the bin and walked away.

I stood looking at her retreating figure pensively. The battle had been lost. However the war had not been won either. Time enough, I told myself, for tomorrow was another day!

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