CHAPTER 6 (continued)

Posted: May 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

CHAPTER 6 (continued)

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There were several distinct groups of people already huddled together in conversation, and I could hear the occasional laugh coming from some of the groups. I grab a platter from the buffet and approached the group with my Mother-in-law first – better the devil you know than the devils you don’t know – I think. “Try some of the prawns, mummy” I say, offering her the platter of prawn cocktail. My mother in law hates buffet, she prefers to be waited on. She takes one and says “Tiger prawns are bigger, Hasina, you must try those”. I agree politely and then she continues “Hasina did you know Asma here was in Dubai last year, at the same time as daddy and me, and she was also staying at Jumeira beach Hotel.” I shake my head in response and smile at Asma, a well put together woman in her late thirties who lives a few houses down the road.  “I love Jumeirah beach hotel” she explains, “but I prefer the palace since it’s so much closer to Dubai mall” she says proudly. My mother in law, clearly taken by Asma says “the next trip we plan, you definitely must join us. I’d love to have a shopping partner” and glances sharply in my direction. I am well aware of my Mother – in- law’s opinion of me. Not sharing her taste in all things expensive is part of the reason she found it so difficult to accept me into the family at the beginning. I love designer bags as much as the next woman but I made it clear that my tastes are not determined by price tags. Her shopping comment sparks a debate from the other ladies, Ruwaida, Aadila and Mariam – mutual friends of Asma who are also scattered around the neighbourhood. They immediately debate about the best places to shop, and the extravagant items they bought there on their last trip. When asked my opinion I ignorantly said riding the sand dunes on quad bikes were the highlight of my trip, but saved myself by promising , “I will go and find Sameera who knows all the best places in Dubai to shop” and thankfully set off to find her.

Sameera was chatting up a storm with a group of Yummy Mummy’s standing by the pool. There were about ten young ladies each dressed impeccably. They could have been the grown up versions of the popular girls in my high school. I approached them with caution, as I did with the popular girls at high school some 10 years ago.. ok maybe longer.

Shaheeda, Waseem’s wife, was part of the group and so was a lady by the name of Tasneem, who insisted on being called Tess. Tess, who I briefly met when she arrived, is the nosy next door neighbour who stood shoulder to shoulder to me in flats in spite of her killer heels. In the five minutes of introductions at my front door, I was given the neighbourhood update, and also gathered that she had been “keeping an eye” on the builders and artisans at the house before we moved in. “I cant wait to see the wooden deck you put in” she said matter-of-factly, indicating that she probably asked the workmen what they working on. Still armed with my platter of prawn cocktail, I approached them.

“You ladies enjoying yourselves” I asked as I approached the group. I was bombarded by compliments for the house, décor and the food immediately. “I don’t know how you did it?” said one of them. “Bought, renovated, moved in and a party, all in one month”. “Plus, the cakes are to die for! Said another in another in an almost british type accent. “You must tell me who does your catering” she said rhetorically, “..and the house, stunning!”. With her British proclamation sounding approval from the queen herself, all the other ladies nodded enthusiastically in agreement. I was relieved to say the least. The stress of all of it was almost too much and I am just glad it didn’t turn out to be a huge disaster. At last I could breathe easy now, well .. almost. I told Sameera that her shopping skills were needed and she went off, like a surgeon who just got paged to ER. Putting the prawns down, I stood with what should be my new friends. It become apparent that my husband’s innocent idea for a neighbourhood meet and greet party appeared to be the benchmark among the woman as an initiation into their neighbourhood clique. “When Asma moved in, she pulled out all the stops” said Tess, the neighbourhood gossip ,”but she didn’t invite nearly so many people” she added in a more hushed tone. “Your back yard is so spacious” was a comment from another Lady whose name I had forgotten. She said it with a hint of jealousy, looking in the direction of the build-in cast iron Gazebo, that was draped in baby blue sheer fabric. It was Jameelas insistence that her princess party have a baby blue theme. “I moved in five years ago, and many people here we still newly married couples” said Ameera, one of the few ladies here dressed in an abhaya adorned with gemstone flowers. “so we had a formal sit-down dinner” she added. “I have a four year old son now. Its so good to see more children in the neighbourhood” she said approvingly. “We must plan a play date Hasina, as soon as you settled” she said to me as the others continued talking. I nodded at her and scanned the buffet tables to see if anything needed refilling. When I returned to the conversation they were debating child care.  From severe colic to the chicken pox that had just made its way through the neighbourhood. It was clearly being dominated by a few modern mothers, who seemed to be working mothers in high powered jobs. “When my daughter had colic, I tried everything. How I wish I could have stayed home and slept all day, I had to get up and go to work”, was her comment. “eventually” she continued “I researched all the causes and symptoms and then took her to a chiropractor a for cranio sacral massage. After two sessions, she slept through the night.” She finished with gusto. “I couldn’t believe the advise I got initially, a bag of cloves pinned to her clothes or bandaging her naval because that’s where the wind is coming from” she let out a hearty laugh. OK so some old wives tales are ridiculous, but it doesn’t mean that they are all worthless. I looked over to Shaheeda, even her, who probably gets the nanny to bandage the naval, wasn’t impressed. The conversation continued, as I excused myself and got back into hostess mode.

I passed two more groups of ladies, offering drinks and idle conversation. All my guests seem to be enjoying themselves, and relief flows over me once more. Checking the time on my watch, it was nearly time for the main event – birthday cake. I make my way to the house to see if my father in law has arrived with it. He kindly offered to pick it up after the caterer phoned about having car trouble. On my way I pass the group of men. There was just one really big group, having several different conversations. I wondered why they didn’t break up into smaller groups like the women do. Perhaps there was no need to talk about another man behind his back. I looked over at Yusuf who seemed to be deep in conversation. He had probably found some common ground with each one of these new men here on my back lawns, and had conversations that they no doubt would remember days from now. I wonder if Yusuf ever thought about going into sales, I giggle to myself. He probably would be a natural. Nearing the kitchen I hear the joyful shouts from the children by the jungle gym. Turning to face the sound, I decide to check on the children first.

At the bottom of the garden dotted with a couple of shady trees, was the play area. And well placed, in a large eucalyptus tree, was a little tree house. I remember watching Jameela and Bilal’s eyes light up with delight the first time I allowed them to play there. I was adamant that the jungle gym and tree house be serviced first, much to their disappointment. As I make my way down the short walk to the play area, I wonder if my children have had any luck making new friends. Still some ways away, hidden by a shrub, I decide to spy on their social achievements. I don’t see them at first among all the other children. There must be about 30 young children, climbing, swinging and having fun. There are four prams parked under the shade of the tree, baby brothers and sisters, who shouldn’t miss out on the fun. I am thankful for Elizabeth and Anna, Shaheeda’s nanny, who seem to be keeping the children under control. Then, I spot Bilal first, in the treehouse, and smile at the scene. He seems to have made a sword from tree branches and leaves for him and his two cousins and they are no doubt fighting off the dragons from their castle. Then, in the sandpit, I see my birthday girl, Jameela, easy to spot with her now lopsided princess’ crown on her head. She is surrounded by several other girls her age. They appear to be having fun, playing in the sand box, at the bottom of the jungle gym. I watch Jameela curiously as she plays. Her new friends surrounding her are listening intently, and laughing when it seems she said something funny. She seems to be making a mound of sand, and then they all begin sticking flowers and leaves into it, upon her instruction. I am so focused on Jameela, its only when I see one of my female guests reach over and push in a flower, I realize she has been sitting there all along. She sits in profile, feet in the sand, holding a baby. I can’t really see who it is. I wonder who it could be and think back to all the ladies who arrived with babies. I look back towards the pool and they are all still there chatting at the poolside – no doubt enjoying the free babysitting. I take a harder look squinting my eyes, and as she turns to scoop up some sand in her spade I see her clearly. Is that….? I take a closer look. Yes, I think to myself, that is definitely Farnaz!

Farnaz and her husband were one of the last guests to arrive, I recall now, but they didn’t arrive with any children. I continue watching. The girls seem to love her, including Jameela. They are laughing together. She seems much more relaxed than all the times I had seen her. Of course, then she was in seller mode. Jameela and her friends are having fun and seem to be enjoying her company. Farnaz picks up the baby she is holding and lifts the frilly pink bundle into the air. Oh, That’s Nasreen she’s holding, I realize . Seems Farnaz is even giving Anna some much deserved time off. Nasreen seems to love it, and from the look on Farnaz’s face, so does she.

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