CHAPTER 1 (continued)

Posted: April 30, 2014 in Uncategorized
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CHAPTER ONE (continued)

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“Assalamu Alaikum”  I greet both of them at once and smile sweetly at the children. The little girl returns my smile, with a look of curiosity, and turns to her mother , “Mummy is this the Aunty whose gonna give us the house ?” I can’t help but smile at her innocence. When I look up , Mrs. Vally’s reaction to her daughter’s  question is unmistakable. “shhh Jameela “ she snaps , and squeezes her daughter’s shoulder to emphasize.

“I’d like you to show you the house , and you can decide if you want to live here” I say sweetly , directly to Jameela , who beams at being acknowledged. “I’m Farnaz , so nice to meet you all” I say now addressing the adults.

”Yusuf “ he says , and putting his hand on his wife’s shoulder he introduces her “My wife Hasina “ he pauses , then looking at the children “and our children “ He doesn’t bother telling me his sons name. “Thank you for seeing us earlier today , sorry for any inconvenience” he apologizes. Im intrigued. Its not very often an Indain man apologises , especially not to a woman. “It was no trouble , at all” i respond.

“Shall we get started “ I encourage them into the house with a gesture of my hand . We move through the house as I introduce each room and give a run down of square meterage, recent improvements  and possiblilities for future extension. I begin downstairs , the foyer , spacious lounge and the dining room . I try to read their comments but Mr. Vally is in business mode. He asks general questions about the houses foundation and structural integrity, furnishing that will be included and plugs and electricity stability. All his questions , good and anticipated are answered perfectly , with the routine answers. “The foundation has been re-inforced with iron and the concrete has been the highest quality used” . “My policy is to have all the electrical surveyed by an independent engineer before I show the house.  Everything is in good working order”.

Hasina smiles but says nothing at all. I smile back to her but wonder why it is that the smile seems so forced. We continue upstairs , and I lead the small group along the passage. As we make our way through Hasina stays constantly one step behind, minding the children. I absentmindedly wonder if she has any say at all about the house , and notice what looks like disinterest. I cant help but wonder  if she really wants to be here today. I’m sure she would feel more at ease half naked covered in a chocolate wrap at some exclusive Day Spa.

“The bathroom has just been renovated “ , I say as we enter the spacious bathroom. It is tiled floor to ceiling in porcelain tiles with accents of chrome mosaics. A beautiful bathroom , with furnishings and accessories to make you think that you’ve stepped into the bathroom in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel. For the first time Hasina speaks ,”Oh, look Yusuf they have the twin basins , just like Sameera’s Bathroom” . He smiles  at her warmly, a truly dashing smile, and nods at his wife. “yes Darling “ is his affectionate reply and I am momentarily thrown by his clear devotion towards his wife. She examines the room and I see this as my chance to get Mrs. Vallys opinion and I dive in. “so do you like the bathroom” , I ask her directly turning to face her completely. She seems to have been caught off guard but she  responds quickly. “Yusuf’s  sister Sameera just bought a new house in Houghton”,with raised eyebrows and raised pitch she says “And she redid her bathroom with twin basins. It’s the new thing” she says emphatically.

I thought it shrewd that she did not directly answer my question , but perhaps she only knows what she likes if someone told her it was nice. I mentally shake the mean thought out of my head. So it’s the new thing , I thought . I was pretty sure it was not a NEW thing , but I knew exactly what she meant. Twin basins have been finding their way into bathrooms for a long time now, but its just been a new trend for  muslim Indians , who view the bathroom as a place for a specific purpose. I am vaguely amused as I wonder what my daddi will think about having company in the bathroom , and the need for two basins.

There were four bedrooms upstairs, the master en suite, a guest en-suite and the childrens rooms. After showing the two bigger ensuite rooms and discussing possibilities , we made our way to the children’s rooms. As expected the children’s bedrooms were received with awe by the two children who, after being virtually silent , screamed with excitement when they saw the rooms. “This is a princess’ room mummy” said the little girl , who was clearly impressed by all the trimmings. In the boys room the young boy seemed intrigued by the basket holding balls of all colours and shape. He pulled out the most decorated one small enough to fit in his little hands. . “Seems they already feel at home” I said reassuringly , noticing the anxiety on their mother’s face. Mr Vally seemed to notice too and moved closer to her and curls his hand around her waist , naturally and confidently in a way that makes me feel like a third wheel tagging along behind a teenage couple. “We would just like to see the kitchen and the backyard “ said Mr.Vally but he looks at his wife and not me , and I feel like they communicating telepathically.

We headed back down the stairs to the kitchen that I had purposefully saved for last. Humanising a home , as I do , the beating heart at the centre of it all is the kitchen. As many Indian women would  tell you in the kitchen , the woman is the queen.  I remember fondly my mother moving swiftly between fridge and stove , as if one with a symphony. I would be propped up on a chair closest to her , eagerly awaiting any bits of dough to roll in my fingers or any spices to mix together in my own little pots.  Definitely the living home needs a heart and  the kitchen would be that heart. Judging from the size, this heart was Mother Theresa material.

The open plan kitchen and dining room also opens up into an extended patio area with foldable glass doors. This I took the liberty of opening them up before the client arrived in order to create the full dramatic effect, and it was working. I could see the look in their eyes, they were impressed. Who wouldn’t be , white quartz countertops and stainless steel appliances. Oven ,  fridge , washing machine , tumble dryer, Coffee machine all mirror front and co-ordinated. Gas and electric hobs in the middle of the kitchen  as a butchers block , surrounded by a L-shaped breakfast bar. I wonder for a moment if Sue ever cooked in here.

I expected Mrs. Vally to start the questions, and turned towards her. She asked if the appliances were being sold with the house and when I replied that it was , she did not seem pleased. “we will need a bigger fridge “ she said to her husband , “we so used to a water dispenser “ . She seemed to be gaining confidence now, but  she faced and spoke to her husband and not me directly.  She continued to browse around the kitchen  for a bit then walked slowly out towards the open glass doors and sat down looking out towards the beautifully manicured garden  outside. I couldn’t help feeling her uneasiness , I brushed it off thinking this show today probably made her miss a facial or chemical peel appointment.

I was still watching her when I heard Mr. Vally  say  “This Is a lovely home” . I turned to face him . “It’s a great home for a family to grow into” I replied. Taking the hint I told them to browse around, as there was still 30 min until  my next appointment. He nodded and went to join the rest of the family on the patio , I watched him walk up to his family and put his hand on her back. Without turning around she leaned her head against his shoulder. I turned around and left the kitchen .

I was confident in my sale , they looked like the right people for the home. I have to admit it was a lovely home, it had all the creature comforts anyone could ask for , certainly what the typical family would want. The appliances with the right name on it, the huge wall mounted LCD Tv, a garage big enough for four cars, and a kitchen your guests would never stop talking about.  The nagging question on my mind was , was this really all you need to strive for? I couldn’t help thinking that there was more to life than having the biggest home or flashiest car.

The Vallys  were just the type of people who made me feel like an outsider. The people who are nice enough to be around for a little while , but like sugar filled softdrinks , too much of it can make you sick. Conversations with the typical Indian Women  flows around, shopping , Dubai holidays, their mothers-in law , their children and their extracurricular activities and of course  cheap gossip. Mention anything above the IQ of a teenager and it’s a sure conversation killer.

I had a taste of that first hand once when I was invited to a house warming of one of my clients. ‘The global economical meltdown , and its effect on local stock markets ‘  was the topic I wanted to introduce after hours of listening to how they drive all day from , school to soccer practice and swimming and karate and had a wax appointment in between. Having no children myself I couldn’t participate in that conversation, iven if I did lose my mind and decide to.  It was reasonable to assume that since many of the woman present that day had husbands in business and were very wealthy , they surely had to have local and off shore investments. If there was any topic worth debating, it was weather a financial injection into the economy was going to save it or simply delay the inevitable. “The economy is just fine,”  she began “You know my Moosa he just bought two more trucks for his delivery business , and like, the banks were only too happy to give him a loan” said a tall stogy lady , with too much make –up. “Ruwaidah is right “ came a voice from next to me , the host of the party “Muhammed’s Company (her husband was an executive in a telecommunications company) sent him to America last year for training , and he couldn’t stop talking about how advanced it is and how much better people live there” .All eyes turned back to me . I felt like an undertaker at a christening. I had so little credibility with the rest of these ladies, who probably thought I made it all up, I smiled sweetly and said I will send her the article I was reading.  I mentally hit my palm to my forehead. Yes real conversation is hard to come by in these parts and I can just imagine Mr’s Vally talking endlessly about her shoes that she had bought n Italy when they visited, hand made especially for her… or some other stupid mundane story with the same formula.

I was absorbing the early spring sunshine, sitting comfortably on the bench just outside the front door of the house, when I saw the little girl run pass me, followed quickly by her mother. Just as I got up, Yusuf stood in front of me authoritatively , most unnecessary I thought, and slowly and purposefully said, “Look,  we like the house , but there are few things I need to do , before I can commit” . I thought he was a little nervous when he said that , but I ignored it. “I completely understand, Give me a call when you are ready to discuss further.” I said making sure that I look for his wife and make eye contact.  Hasina gathered up their children into their silver BMW X5 that’s probably never seen a dirty road, never mind a dirt road. She took a few minutes extra to strap in her children in the immaculate racing car carseats. This surprised me a little  since its more common see children loosely packed in the back of their flashy cars bobbing around like little paper dolls, then strapped up in carseats. The smallest children get to usually sit their mothers lap in the passenger seat, like possible projectiles getting ready to be fired out the windscreen. When she was done fastening the belts, she walked around the car and got into passenger side. I smiled at her encouragingly, searching for some clue to what lay beneath her actions. I was rewarded was a smile that clearly defied the sadness in her eyes. For a moment I wondered if some deep seeded sadness is what was responsible for the attitude this afternoon. I waved to the children in the back as the car drove away leaving me on the pavement, with a strange feeling in my gut I could not work out.

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