CHAPTER 2 (continued)

Posted: April 30, 2014 in Uncategorized
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CHAPTER 2 (continued)

transformation definition

“OK, if you change your mind, whatsapp me. I don’t know how long this meeting will take, but I will keep checking my phone” , I nod a response , afraid that any attempt to speak will reopen the floodgates. I watch him leave and then after a minute to compose myself go upstairs to see how Elizabeth and the kids are getting on.

 

Once the children were ready I drove them to school. I love my kids to bits but I was glad especially today to get some time on my own. My inner Chachima  wanted to do some shopping as she sat in a black panjabi (Indian dress) and gold pointed shoes. She is my more Indian self that sometimes gets her way, but have an ever struggling relationship with her. Although shopping was a good way to distract my mind and emotions, that is not what I wanted top do today. Back home Elizabeth got busy with the cleaning and I quickly got lunch ready. Leaving Elizabeth to check on the food and finish downstairs I headed for the sanctuary of my bedroom. I checked my phone and saw a Whatsapp message from Yusuf.

Yusuf : Slms. Thinking about you since I left. May Allah swt give her Jannah. Insha Allah. You know, Hasina, you just like her. I think you should take comfort in that. I love you. See you later.

He sent the message at 8.45am . He must have just gotten to work. I look at my watch and its already half past nine.

I read the message again, with tears stinging my eyes again. I couldn’t bring myself to write any reply, and instead resolved to get showered and dressed.

When I am dressed I put my phone on silent and I get out my musalla (prayer mat) and begin to read Quraan and make dua (supplication) for my late mother. After all that is the only thing she ever asked of anyone.

Thirty minutes later, I decide to change out of my prayer clothes. I walk into my cupboard and I was comforted knowing that my mother would have loved my large walk-in cupboard full of the latest fashions. She always had an eye for fashion. Although we never had much money for designer clothes back then, she was always admired for her fashion sense. My dad worked hard till the day he died and he earned a halaal rozi , she always said, and that was the important thing. Although my mother was 35 years old with three young children, when she was widowed, she never remarried. When my dad died she was left with the burden of raising me and my two brothers all on her own. I was just 5 years old at the time, my brother Suhail was two years my senior and Waseem the eldest was ten. My elder brother took on the role of man of the house whether we liked it or not. Only when I was a teenager did I realize that losing their father affected my brothers much deeper than it did me. That was probably because it was my mother who had always been my everything.

I remember going shopping with her as a child. She could browse for hours at each store looking at every item. For my tenth birthday she bought me a balloon dress that was in high fashion at the time. I knew it must have been expensive, and on my mothers limited budget – she had began taking baking orders , even more so. It was emerald green, and it made her very happy to see me wear it , she said it made my eyes look like gems.

My mother worked herself to the bone and she never complained. She would be up late at night baking and then up early in the morning, bringing simple cakes and cupcakes to life with her talented hands. It was mostly due to her vast artistic talent that she grew her business catering for the la – di –dah rich ladies that held tea parties and extravagant kiddies parties. I would remember the looks on their faces when they would come to pick up an order. They clearly felt socially superior to her, but there was no mistaking that hint of jealousy when they saw what she could do with frosting, cake and pastries.

The worst thing about having someone close to you pass away suddenly, is not being able to say goodbye. You never think when you leave someone’s house, or put the telephone down after a phone call, that this may be the last time you see or speak to them.

I remember speaking to her on the phone that morning one year ago. She was catering a fancy brunch for a book club in the north. She called for the third time that morning, this time she wanted to know if I wanted to join her. The client was an arty older white lady from Rosebank and “Since you an artists yourself” she said, “Maybe you can come meet her” she coaxed. Thinking about that conversation now, I can almost hear her voice in my ears again. “I’m not an artist , mummy , I do some sketches now and then and I haven’t even got any formal training,  I said. She was always asking to look at my sketches and would keep asking why I wasn’t working on anything . “Well I’m going to tell her about you, your sketches are all lovely” she said, “…Especially the one of the park -that’s my favourite”, , she said proudly. I was glad my mother loved my sketches but it was just a hobby and with two active children, I did not have the time or the urge to sketch anymore.  “Let me know how it goes” I said. With a rush in her voice she had said,  “Ok I want to come pass later, I have some strawberry cupcakes for Jameela to taste, I know how she loves them, I want to bake them for her birthday next month. Ok I have to go now. Assalamu Alaikum.” and with that she hung up.

Had I known that was the last time I would speak to her, I would have changed my mind and gone with her that day, or at least paid more attention to the call and conversation instead of checking my BBM messages while talking to her. I would have told her what an inspiration she was to me, and how proud I was that she was my mother. I would have told her that I loved her and appreciated everything she did for me and my brothers. But most of all I would have told her how much I still needed her around to help me be to my children, the mother she was to me.

The next call I got that day, was from my brother Waseem saying  “Its about Mummy, Hasina, there’s been a terrible accident”. And just like that, the wheel that was turning in my head with everything on my mind, carpooling the kids, supper on the stove, the shopping list I was writing, letters that needed mailing, came to an abrupt halt. I didn’t hear the details, I didn’t care that she was hit by a delivery truck. I didn’t care that the car was dragged under the truck. I didn’t care that the truck driver hadn’t stopped at the traffic light. I didn’t care that it had happened so quickly that when the ambulance came, there was nothing they could do. I just wanted my mother back so she could bake strawberry cupcakes for my daughters birthday the next week, like she said she would.

Like all Muslim funerals, it was held quickly. I don’t remember how I got to my childhood home – the place where the funeral was held – but I remember sitting on the floor in the corner of the room listening to the low hum of the Yaaseen Khatam, by ladies that were already there. There was soft sobbing and zikr and a barrage of women in black abhayas hugging me.

“Madam! Madam! Phone call!” I hear Elizabeth calling from downstairs, bringing me back to reality. “I’m Coming “ I shout back at her , aware that my voice is strained from the all the crying that I hadn’t realized I had been doing.

Once I got downstairs I clear my throat and take a long breath.

“Assalamu Alaikum” I say , realizing I hadn’t asked Elizabeth who it was.

“Hasina, are you OK, I’ve been trying to call your cell and you were not answering”, Its Yusufs voice on the other end of the line, and he is trying hard to mask the panic in his voice.

“Sorry, I was reading Quraan and lost track of time, I got your message, I should have responded, sorry Yusuf”.

“How are you doing, Darling ? I know today must be difficult for you. My meeting is over so I am leaving and coming back home. Are you still OK with going to see the house?”

“Yes let’s go see the house”, I say trying to fake confidence.

“Ok I’ll phone Farnaz and see if we can get an earlier appointment”, Don’t worry about the kids today ill pick them up on my way home.”

“Ok, Thanks”, I respond.

“See you later, Salaam.” says Yusuf.

“Salaam”, I reply …. Then suddenly I shout “Wait !” not hearing a click on the other side I call my husbands name softly checking if he is still on the other end.

“Yeessss” comes his reply, and I can hear the wonder charged in his voice.

“I just wanted to say  …er, thank you for calling to check up on me and I appreciate it, and .. er, u know I love you right “ I awkwardly say to the phone receiver.

There’s a few seconds of silence on the other end, I clearly caught him off guard. But I learnt my lesson once, and well, I said it now.

“Yes darling” he responds, I can hear the smile in his voice, “But not nearly as much as I love you. Now go put on something nice, ill see you in an hour.” He doesn’t wait for my response and ends the call.

With a smile on my face, and my mood lifted on again. I readily oblige back to by bedroom cupboard.

Back downstairs all dressed up in an outfit my mother would approve of, I take a look in the full length mirror in the hallway. My inner chachima approvingly wobbled her head like it was attached with a spring to her neck. “Celebrate her life’ I say to myself thinking that is what my mother would have wanted. I put on my brave face again hoping it will get my through the next few hours.

****

Farnaz, the Real Estate agent meets us at the door of the beautiful house on show. Yusuf has been in contact with her for a month since we confirmed that we definitely wanted to move. Most of the houses and pictures she emailed Yusuf were not worth going to see, but when we saw this one, we knew that it was a definite possibility.

Farnaz , dressed in a feminine pants suit , with her clipboard in hand, greeted us at the door. She looked all business like and formal, like those power hungry women from Lipstick Jungle who eat men up for break fast with their latte and muffin. I feel sympathy for women like that who have to choose between work and real life.

We are given the tour of the house and I am relieved that Jameela and Bilal have decided to heed the lecture in the car, about being on their best behaviour. It’s a beautiful house and I am mesmerized by how each room flows into each other and the harmony of the architechture. I didn’t want to say much, for fear of sounding stupid to Farnaz, who judging from her responses to Yusuf’s questions, really knows what she’s talking about.

I almost completely forget about my earlier melancholy, until we are shown the bedrooms upstairs. My mother’s living on her own had always worried me, and Yusuf promised that she could live with us when we managed to move to a bigger house. Farnaz showed us an en suite guest bedroom, that made me remember his promise that now will never be fulfilled. I could feel my despair raising up to my throat chocking me threateningly, and had to walk a couple of steps behind everyone , pretending to see to the children, in order to compose myself.

Seeing the kitchen, was what clenched the deal for me. My mother was always proud of her kitchen and that is something I inherited. I remember fondly how she once sold my dads tools and fishing gear to buy a thermo fan oven. It was only many months later that he realized what she had done (He never noticed the oven was different, and she made sure it was installed while he was at work). By then she had already proven what a great baker she was, so he didn’t dare to complain. My mother would have been in awe of this kitchen I thought. That thought hurt me so deeply, I found myself looking for faults, to prove to myself that she would not have been happy here. Even after making some lame comments about it, I knew that I was being ridiculous. I walked towards the patio, trying desperately to fight the tears burning my eyes. The children went ahead into the garden, and I watched them running carefree on the grass. I stood there for a minute until I felt Yusuf’s hand on my back, and he whispered in my ear “She would have loved this place”, I put my head on his shoulder and let the tears fall.

reading quraan quraan

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Comments
  1. Fatmawaty says:

    Is it your real story , Sis? May Allah rewards your Mom with His Jannah. Life must go on. I’m sure you’re a good muslimah. I’m 35 m and my son is 5. Same with your Mom on that time. Your Mom is an amazing mother. ❤

    • shabeeha says:

      السلام ءليكم . Thank you. ءامين . Its fiction.
      my mother did pass away and that is what motivated me to write this story.
      I think there is so much that so many people can relate to. Myself included. I’m glad you are enjoying the story.
      جزاك الله for your comment.

  2. My gosh this truly left me in tears. I love your writing, and seeing the perspective of the other person at the same event once again reminds me not to be so quick to judge

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