CHAPTER 5 (continued)

Posted: May 10, 2014 in Uncategorized
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transformation definition

When I get ready to talk to people, I spend two thirds of the time thinking what they want to hear and one third thinking about what I want to say. – Abraham Lincoln

It was a rush but I made it just in time to get the house ready before the client arrived. It was a newlywed couple and the house was a simple starter home suited for their needs. The show was easy enough, their naivety at this sort of business was apparent, but for all my knowledge and experience I had to be envious of their fresh marriage and the obvious happiness they had in each others company. They held hands all through the show and even when the young husband wanted to investigate something he first shifted his hold of his bride to his other hand. It appeared, as it does with most newlyweds, they had a need to remain in contact, fueling the electricity between them as if a break in the link could cause a short circuit.

Although it was an easy show, it was a long one. They lingered in the house absentmindedly walking around for longer than usual before they found me on my usual spot outside the front door. They were no doubt romantising the house and imagining what it must be like to fill it with a family – children to breathe life into it. No doubt that would be what I would be thinking. When they finally left and I locked up securely and headed home.

In the car I saw the time showed it was just after 4pm. With plenty of time before supper I headed to the grocery store for supplies. I thought I would cook something traditional and Indian tonight for a change.

My menu of chicken Korma got me excited and as I began I was entranced by the aromatic smell of the cumin, garlic and chilies in the air. I put up some basmati rice and got out the vegetables for the kachoomber (chopped and spiced salad). If I was going Indian I was going to do it right all the way, I thought to myself.

Over the years I have learnt to fill the void in the home with the aroma of food. My culinary skills, inherited from my mother- watching her as a girl- and guided by my daddi, are above average at least. With the lack of children in my home, food has taken its place. My yearning for children was ignited again today during Taalim with the Tafseer of Surah Maryam. I allow myself to think about it again. I recall Sister Faatima recite various verses from the Quraan, telling the story of the immaculate conception and another story in particular that especially touched my heart. It was the story of Ebrahim (Abraham) and his wife Sarah. They longed for children but Sarah could not bare children and only in their old age did Allah send down a revelation that Sarah and Ebrahim will have a son. The story from the Quraan – as Faatima told it – citing verse by verse and then relating hadeeth, had me hooked. At that point the over flashy Dubai abhayas did not bother me. The fingers decorated with gold, and colorful gemstones did not grab my attention. I ignored the group in the corner snickering together and wearing secret smiles. I had looked over at Husna, who sat with the beautiful lady she was talking to from the time we had arrived. She had been listening too, nodding at times. I pondered the story of Ebrahim and Sarah. They had faith in Allah no matter what difficulty. Allah had tested them and then rewarded them. Alhamdulillah.

Sister Faatima ended the Taalim with a long dua. Most of it was said in Arabic as we are used to, but like she did with her greeting, she followed it with an English dua. Hearing this English prayer, understanding it, was powerful. She asked Allah for forgiveness, not only for us but for those before us and for those who come after us. She prayed for the usual things and had said  “only Allah – all knowing and All seeing – knows each ones personal struggle and that Allah should grant us what is good for us” – she then instructed everyone to make their own prayer. This was followed by silence. During that silence each person spoke to our creator, in our heads and in our hearts. It was a supreme feeling of peace and I felt compelled to communicate my deepest hearts desire in conversation with my creator. At that point the only need I had, the only desire and request I had, was to be blessed with a child like Sarah and Ebrahim. I was still under the influence of this powerful experience when Safiyya – the over cheery hostess announced “Tea is served upstairs”.

Within seconds the room was emptied and the rowdy mob of women rushed to the stairs to the right. I looked at my watch,Taalim, or the actual Islamic learning, lasted for one hour. Now that that was over, that’s when I realized that in fact it was actually just the beginning. The women did not get all dressed up just for inspiration, nope, the socializing after the fact is really the main event.

I lingered behind in the main room, wandering where Husna was. I saw her pushing her way through the women towards me.

“Naazi come, im going up stairs for tea”, she said hurriedly.

The upstairs landing was spectacular. It was scattered with armchairs and café tables and a massive spread of baking and light finger snacks that would feel at home in Buckingham Palace. It all looked too beautiful to eat, and I was still reeling from the atmostphere of the dua. I just poured a glass of juice when I was pulled with Husna to a buzzing corner surrounded by about eight women who were all clearly friends. The beautiful lady that Husna was sitting next to seemed to be part of it. Her name was Faheema. This was part of Husnas plan. She was to scan the room for a suitable clique of women – she was going wholesale – “One-on-one is not going to work for you”, she said to me back at my office, “We need to get you a whole group of friends, fast”.

It seemed she had found them, I am not sure what they were talking about but I overheard something about Ramadaan – the fasting month. She walked up to them and greeted two of the women we hadn’t met earlier. This time she didn’t bother to introduce me but flashed me ‘big eyes’ so I introduced myself.

Husna eased into conversation better than I did, “I will really miss tea and cake after the Taalim in Ramadaan, especially Faheema’s mousse cake” she held up her plate so her beautiful friend could see she had eaten half of hers already.

“Ya, Allah”, said a lady who I remember as Rahima (one of the more simpler dressed)  “don’t even talk about Ramadaan, i haven’t even started to think about what savouries I am making”.

A lady from the group I hadn’t been introduced to earlier responded, she was wrapped top to toe in swarofski crystals like a 70’s disco glitter ball. “I just send my order to aunty Hawa, I buy from her very year. Who’s got time to make all those fancy things?” she asked with an air of annoyance.

“We have to have samoosas every year” said another “the children are so spoilt, my mother has to send 10 dozen before Ramadaan. They won’t eat anything else”, she said proudly.

“We like the the simple ones, samoosas, pies, and bhajias, my muhammed doesn’t like the fancy stuff.” This came from Shakira – the oldest – it appeared – from the group.

“Last year I tried out jalepeno samoosas, and it was such a hit, I am definitely going to do it this year. You must try it Shakira. Muhammed will eat his fingers”, said a younger lady on her right. “The men need a little bit of variety now and then”, she finished with a wink.

This brought a laugh from some of the ladies. I laughed politely as well. I could hear the hostess with another group of ladies, talking loudly and excitedly but I couldn’t make out too much more of the conversation.

When I turn my attention back to this group, Husna is telling them about her famous Kaapse Meatballs with dried fruit. One look at their faces and its clear that they are loving it. Husna has an animated style of talking and paired with the Cape Town accent and bubbly personality, it’s difficult not to like her. Her meatball recipe ends with a joke at my brother-in-laws expense, but it is so well executed I can’t help but laugh myself. Her humour is her magic trick for socialization, I haven’t found my magic yet.

I add appropriately to the conversation about Ramadaan savouries. I don’t find the topic especially rivoting but it is keeping the momentum. I rattle off my recipe of sweet corn fritters, when I am asked, and Faheema is astonished when it’s exactly like hers, and eyes me curiously. I am sure there can’t many too many different ways to make it. Its dead simple, I think to myself.

“We really all need to go for coffee one of the days, before Ramadaan” someones says. Then they start making plans. It appears that many of their kids go to the same school so they plan to communicate further there. Husna is going back to Cape Town in a few days, but she mentions that they must remember her when she comes back in the next holidays. They all chatter almost at once .The subject is nearly laid to rest, when Sameera, I think, out of the blue addresses me. “You must join us too. I haven’t seen you at school? Are your kids in public school?” she asks with a touch of superiority in her voice.

“I don’t have any children”, I respond, and as I expected – the penny has dropped. The group turn all their attention to me. It’s the last thing I wanted because what comes next is the pitiful looks and sympathetic words I know all too well.

“You are still young” – the comments come hard and fast “insha Allah it will happen”, “just keep trying” was one of the more stupid comments, then when someone asked,  “Is it you or him?” I really couldn’t take it anymore. I tried hard to stay indifferent but that was the last straw. “We just plan to wait till we are more ready”, I said, trying hard to keep the calm in my voice.

“Well if you need a taweez, my cousin knows a Moulana in Hekpoort that specializes in infertility”, Shakira said. She looked older than the rest of the ladies so I guess she had her children late in life. I wondered what her story was.

I raise my eyebrows at the comment but say nothing.

Mumtaz interjects, “she doesn’t need a Moulana Shakera” she says to Shakira, and I am grateful until she turns her attention to me. “Dr. Lucic at Rand Garden Clinic is a good fertility specialist, my sister used her and she has triplets now”.

I smiled in response, trying to hide my horror, and was saved by Safiyya the hostess waving a piece of paper in her hand. She came over to join our group with an announcement. “So…Rookshana has brought her Tupperware to show today”, she begins excitedly in a posh accent a little different to her earlier one. “She has set up a demonstration down at the pool, and there’s another table with snacks there if you want to join us”, she reveals handing over the Tupperware ‘specials’ pamphlets.

Oh My Gosh ,this is just too much, Talim, Tea, and now Tupperware, I think to myself in horror.

As everyone excitedly moved towards the pool, I thanked the hostess and made my goodbyes to the ladies I had met. I was thankful that I needed to be back at the office. A Tupperware party does not rate high on my list of fun-things-to-do-after-Taalim. Under strict instruction from Husna, Mumtaz scribbled down her cell number on the corner of her pamphlet and tore off the piece for me. I promised to call her about the coffee date. Walking away from the group I frantically tried to recall if Safiyya’s air hostess introduction earlier included pointing out the emergency exits, because that is exactly what I needed right now.

Sitting her in my kitchen thinking about it, I am glad I was not persuaded to stay. Interesting as a Tupperware party is for many women, I am happy just to look at the pamphlet.

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