Aina Ghar : The Mirror Room / Mehreen Ahmed

Between a three-hundred-year-old house of the Sufis, and an un-gated front yard, a quiet graveyard sleeps, where the bones of the ancestors rest. The spiritual leadership of this complex changes hands every time the previous sufi dies, and a new one is designated to the cushion called the Gaddi. who is then called the Gaddi Nashin Pir belonging to a seven-hundred years old sufi dynasty tradition? His office is situated in the Aina Ghar or the mirror room. Why is the office room called the Aina Ghar, isunknown? It does not resonate the Versailles’ great hall of mirrors, at all.

Still, this Aina Ghar keeps all the records through those seven-hundred years of history piled up on its dusty, cobweb-filled crusty shelves, and books about the Gaddi Nashins which even the many restorations cannot erode. History, for better or for worse is cast in stone, never eroded, just unchangeable, unmitigated stories of the past. History. Unlike kings or nawabs, the sufis are spiritual leaders, who guide people through the darkest hours of despair, grief, unaccomplished tasks and unfulfilled dreams in the Aina Ghar, where people sit on the clay floor and confide to the sufi within its four walls, who does not judge, only listens and then provides a solution. People, return happy after every counsel.

One day a boy comes to the sufi, looking for a friend. The sufi replies that his friend lies in that grave below. He is under there, not in the higher grounds here simply by pointing his index finger towards the family graveyard in the front. The walking distance is not much. Just outside the arched gate. The boy leaves him. As he comes out of the Aina Gharand waits near the grave’s gate, he remembers a dream from last night, in which the friend appears here, in the Aina Ghar itself. The boy asks,’why are you here?The friend replies, these days, this is where I live, these days.

The dream enlightens him about his friend. He learns about his demise this morning from the sufi  in the mirror room. In the dream, the friend has a clown mask on. His face is painted white; his lips are red and widely stretched, grinning. The boy begins to wail calling his friends name out loud, Usmaan, Usmaan where are you?in a crowded bazaar. So many people, so many souls, but not one says, he is Usmaan. 

That’s how the dream transpires in juxtaposed fragmented realities—first a man, who says he lives here nowadays; then a grinning clown; the boy’s search for Usmaan in a crowded bazaar. The sufi shows him the way where to find his bones, for his body has pulverised by now deep under six feet of heavy weeds and nettles, pushing up the daisies. Growing up in these alleys not far from the Aina Ghar which stands solid as a rock through fluid time which slips, and slops like a river to what end, eludes the sufi. When a body is transported, this short span from the house to the tomb after its life ends, the sufi prays and commemorates the dead soul without a drop of tear. 

Yet, the Aina Ghar continues as a repository of knowledge of all the dead peoples’ tales when they were alive. Here to there, that’s how short the long journey is. In the seven-hundred years of the sufi dynasty, there’s where the bones of the forefathers rest; a young, restless sufi rises to the Gaddi, as a Gaddi Nashin Pir.

Mehreen Ahmed is an award-winning Australian novelist born in Bangladesh. She has also won multiple contests and nominations for short fiction such as botN and Pushcart. 


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