CHAPTER 6 (continued)

Posted: May 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

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CHAPTER 6 (continued)

I hesitate initially and half-turn back towards the kitchen. Going over to the playground would mean initiating conversation with Farnaz. My inner chachima wants nothing to do with that. As a business woman, who owns her own estate agency, we have as much in common as a samoosa and a bagel. And besides I don’t really want to hear about how difficult it is to work and how these working women all wish they could stay home and sleep all day. I think about the yummy mummy conversation earlier and cringe. Against my better judgement i continue to walk in the direction of the playground, and head straight towards the sand box. Jameela looks up just as I am approaching. “Mummy, mummy come see” She says and jumps over the sand to escort me to the sand box. I approach from behind Farnaz and Jameela pulls me over till I am seated opposite her. I give her a smile. She returns it quickly and then turns her attention to Nasreen on her lap. “We are making a garden for you”, Jameela continues “Do you like it?”.  I look over at the mound of sand and see now that the leaves and flowers are meant to be planted. “oh my! Jameela, That’s lovely” I exaggerate my reaction and Jameela and her cronies seem pleased. “did all your new friends help you?” I ask, now turning my attention to the little girls around us. “Yes mummy, and Aunty Nazi also” she said referring to Farnaz. I am a bit taken aback. This is the only the second time Jameela has seen Farnaz. Seeing my reaction at her familiarity to Farnaz , Jameela explains “she said I can call her Aunty Nazi cos she’s my friend now”. I turn to Farnaz and she nods a confirmation then turns and smiles warmly at Jameela. “Lets find more flowers” Jameela commands her minions, and in a split second they gone and its just me and Farnaz.

Initially it seems that Farnaz wants to savour the partial silence at the sandbox. A few more minutes pass and then I think she is ignoring me. Its just typical of these working women, I think, too educated to speak to the housewives. They always think they are better than pots and pans, and carpooling and diapers.  We sit in silence for a few more minutes watching the children play. She fixes the frills on Nasreen’s dress, Then looks at me and smiles. We made eye contact now so I will have to talk to her, I think. “That’s my niece, Nasreen” I start as the silence begins to turn awkward “My brothers daughter” I continued as I silently hope that that was not the lamest icebreaker ever. “Really?” She asked with clear shock in her voice. “I met your brother briefly with a…” She hesitates “..a young lady” she finally says. “I didn’t know they had a child”. She probably met Suhail and Ilhaam I think. Gosh no wonder she seemed shocked. I let out a small chuckle. “I have two brothers…..” I explain about Waseem and my unmarried brother. It seems to have been a pretty good ice breaker as we both end up laughing at the misunderstanding. Talking to her isn’t as painful as I thought it would be. “Have you been here with the children long?” I ask as I recall that I hadn’t seen her with the other guests earlier. ”I came down here to look at the house from this angle just a while ago. I think this is where you get the best view” she said lifting her hand up to frame the main glass wall. “When you look at it at just the right angle, the walls and the wooden box panels that frame the second floor glass wall, it all comes together into a perfectly calculated montage”. I couldn’t agree more with her. I had over the pass week sat in that very spot watching the façade of the house and how it changes throughout the day, the flowing lines are interrupted by sharp design and then softened by the dawn and the dusk. Her words were like an echo from the thoughts in my head and it surprises me. She continued almost as if she was talking to herself, “I also love the monochromatic effect of the painted walls, too many colours would have taken away from the clean and the striking lines, but the contracting shades of the same colour emphasizes the dramatic design” she took a moment just to look at the view again, and then as if realizing I was still there turned to me and said,  “and when the baby started crying I picked her up and well then, the girls wanted me to play with them” she hurriedly finished. This was not what I was expecting and my inner chachima waves off my surprise.

It was as though I had caught a glimpse of her inner thoughts. She came across as a matter-of-fact person full of hard cold facts, but her opinion of the house was almost emotional. Her description of the house caught me off guard – when she had shown us the house , her descriptions were more clinical, but now it was as though she allowed herself to think about what she really liked and not just that it was what the clients wants to hear. Hoping to continue the conversation I continues, “Im sorry you got stuck here with the children, Jameela can be very bossy” I said apologetically. “No it’s fine, I quite  enjoyed it” said Farnaz earnestly. The conversation was interrupted by the sound of my sister in law, Sameera, calling my name. Her shouting explained that the birthday cake had arrived.

Jameela and Bilal stood on the chairs behind an enormous doll house cake complete with all the furniture and trimmings. Yusuf stood behind them and lifted Bilal up and Jameela had to lean over on tippy toes so they could blow out the seven candles that stood in the chimney of the doll house cake. Eye in the lens of the camera I took a photo just as she began to blow them out. Then putting the camera down, I watched and took a mental picture of the moment. Yusufs parents were right next to Jameela still singing the birthday song. My brothers sat on the other side of her, they both had their camera phones in hand, clicking away. The other guests were dotted along the long table, made up of four tables put together and long enough to seat about 30 at a time. Some ladies were still huddled together by the pool, and a group of men who looked like they were on to an idea to make millions, lingered next to the table. On two chairs that looked like it had been pulled away from the table at the end, sat Farnaz and her husband. They faced the party, but were clearly not part of it. Farnaz was still holding Nasreen on her lap, while her husband blue raspberries making then all laugh. They seemed like the perfect couple.

The spread on the table was lavish. Assortments of savouries, from the simple samoosa to the exquisite chicken phyllo baskets, were available. My catering for the sweet tooth consisted of scones, red velvets, croissants, fancy pasties and my mothers promise of strawberry cup cakes that are now a tradition at every birthday party. My thoughts drift to my mother. She was the master of the tea party, but I don’t think I did too badly here on my own. She would have been so proud. I am comforted by that thought and begin cutting the birthday cake.

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the strawberry cupcakes

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