Whoever said retail therapy is the best form of therapy was going through some serious issues and had a crisp credit card at hand to hit the shops.
It worked for her but it sure isn’t working for me.
I have everything I need but I am forced to shop for gifts.
My family is big on excessive fancy gifts exchanged between the two families.
I am also meant to pick out gifts for Ozayr- fancy ostentatious stuff arranged for the world to see.
I don’t even know what he likes.
And what do you give a man who has everything he possibly would event want.
The only shopaholic I know is my sister in law. She will probably know exactly what to buy and from where.
So I give her a call and she answers eagerly.
“Well if he has everything… then don’t give him anything practical. He is a lawyer right? Get him quirky frames, and funny stationery… perhaps a personalised Tshirt saying ‘I am Harvey Spector’s Harvey Spector’… Something quirky.”
“How are you so clued up?”
“You know what… don’t worry about it. I will get everything only and get it arranged and everything… and ship it to you. We can shop more when I come.”
This is exactly what I wanted her to say!
“Thank you so much!”
Now I can focus on other things…
Oh wait… I have nothing else to focus on. The wedding is sorted out. My flights are booked. All my admin is done. Everything I need is purchased.
Cue the dark sad thoughts…
I am fine when I have things to do. When I am working I am fine.
I function. I am stable.
Now that I have free time while I wait around to be married off my head spins more than 200 km/h.
I decide to phone Doc and get a therapy appointment sooner- he doesn’t have anything available.
What can I do with myself? I already went to gym for the day.
My apartment is spotless. There is no way I can concentrate on a book right now.
I think loneliness is a modern day scourge. The more connected we are the more lonely we become.
I think it was Jodi Piccoult who wrote in My Sister’s Keeper that if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.
I think it is true in my case. This world is such a dissappointing place.
Is it just me?
I wonder how Ozayr feels… he is pretty much isolated too.
The old adage is undeniably true… the higher your climb the colder it will get. Or something like that.
I decide to give him a spontaneous mid afternoon call.
“How are you feeling?”
“Okay. Do you ever feel lonely?”
“I have friends… and a mother and people…”
“Is that what you called to ask me? Do you feel lonely?”
“No and yes.”
“Then why did you call me?… and maybe you should invest in some kittens.”
“I just… okay speak to you soon.”
“So you don’t need anything?” he snaps at me.
“But why are you being so rude?”
“I know you not well and depressed and lonely. But right now I have bigger issues in the world.”
I cut the call infuriated! How dare he?!
This is the man I am supposed to committing the rest of my life to. Well technically I am committing a portion of my life to as a divorce is on his cards.
I don’t want to think about it. It is all so messed up.
Now Ozayr calls back. I contemplate missing his call but I wouldn’t want to give him the pleasure of him getting to me.
“I just heard that that woman gave birth.”
“Wow. Did you see the child?”
“The nurse I hired is out of town. The baby was only supposed to be born next week.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. According to the agreement we have… the mother will not be responsible for the child from day 1. The child is in the nursery. I don’t know what to do. I didn’t even think of a name. I don’t know.”
“Wow… so what are your options?”
“I am trying to arrange another nurse. My PA bought the clothes and stuff. But where am I going to take this child? I am so stressed.”
“Calm down. Firstly you need to get to the hospital and see your child. The formative moments are most important. Then you need to get someone to do all the religious stuff like the prayers in the ears etc. Wait. Is it a boy or girl?”
“It is a girl…”
“Alright. Don’t worry about the name yet. You need to ensure she is healthy and fine. Is the mother not willing to help out at all?”
“She legally gave up all rights to the child… so it will be breach of contract.”
“This is terrible. This poor, poor child!”
“You think I don’t know how messed up this situation is. A month ago I was Jo’burg’s most eligible bachelor. Now I have nappies in my boot. It is messed up.”
“It is the consequences of your own action!”
“I know! You don’t have to rub it in!”
Our conversations are so toxic.
“Okay… come pick me up. I will come help you while you organise some hired help,” I suggest.
“This is not what you signed up for… but I would appreciate it. I have no idea what’s happening…”
“Come pick me up we wil figure it out…”
What have I got myself in to?
On a scale from 1 to dysfunctional this is bizarre!
Ozayr comes to pick me up and I see his car is filled with kids stuff.
“Where are you taking all of this to?”
“I asked my PA to organise the Dew street apartment for me. I will take all of this stuff there…”
“How are you feeling?”
“You ask the most ridiculous things! How do you think I am feeling? I don’t want this child! That is the simple truth!
My heart misses a beat. I am shocked. This child does not deserve to be in this situation. There are so many people out there who would do anything for a child. So many people who can’t have kids.
I am silent.
This man is a monster. A real monster.
We arrive at the hospital and Ozayr takes out a packet of baby shopping still in the shopping bag with tags attached.
I follow him to the nursery overhearing the nurse telling him that the mother has been discharged already.
What kind of woman abandons a new born child?
The nurse points to a baby girl in the corner of the nursery.
A beautiful, beautiful baby.
I take a sneak at Ozayr’s reaction with the corner of my eye and see his eyes welled up.
Most of the time new born babies look like rats. This child is beautiful.
She has blonde curly hair and saggy cheeks.
There is a lump in my throat.
To be so young and innocent… just laying there as the world hurries around you.
“Sir, you can carry her if you like,” the nurse offers.
He just stares. His bottom lip trembling.
I don’t know what he is thinking. Is this the burden of a crazy night? Or is he looking at this baby girl with love and affection?
“Do you want me to help you pick her up?”the nurse offers again.
The nurse lifts the child to his chest and he uncomfortably grips the baby blanket.
He hold the baby tight. Too tight perhaps.
And then I see his hands tremble.
Ozayr starts tearing. He cries silently. It is tense in the room.
I start crying too. Unsure why. I am just so emotional.
This child won’t know what its like to be loved unconditiionally by her birth mother.
What will be my role to this child once we get married?
I know he said I won’t have any role in the child’s life but maybe things will change.
The nurse interrupts my thoughts.
“Did you manage to get a wet nurse, Sir?”
At first he doesn’t answer.
He clings on to the baby who is sleeping so peacefully.
“No… We will have to give her formula. I don’t have a home nurse yet. Can we keep her a while longer while I figure it out?”
“Of course… but these formative days are most important to adjust to the baby.”
He keeps silent.
“Do you want to give Azaan in her child Ozayr?”
He just nods and the nurse leaves the room.
Once he is done the child wakes up and lets out a cry.
We both burst out laughing in the moment. A bitter sweet laughter.
“Do you want me to fill out the birth certificate forms etc while you spend some time with your daughter?”
He just nods.
This man was such a monster not long ago. And now he is so soft and fragile.
I fill in the forms then go to the car to make sense of what is in there.
I find a diaper bag, diapers, baby toiletries and a few rompers which I filled in the bag.
I also manage to find some bottles and baby formula.
I take it all back to the nursery.
The nurse is carrying the baby and Ozayr is on the phone in a huff.
“But I need a nurse today. Right now!” he demands.
He cuts the call in a huff.
“Don’t worry Ozayr. Everything will sort itself out.”
“Thank you,” he says looking directly into my eyes.
I look down.
And then I do something crazy.
“I will take her home with me… I will look after her until you have someone.to help out.”
He looks shocked.
“What do you mean why?”
“Why would you agree to such a messed up situation. First you agree to marry me now you offer to look after my child. Why? You either want to take all my money or you are so kind its messed up.”
I don’t say anything.
“If you help me out for tonight I will be indebted to you forever. I am already.”
I nod. Walk over to the nurse and pick up the baby.
Holding a new born baby is like no other.
The emotions you feel from carrying 3 kgs of flesh is something I can’t describe.
“Okay I am going to show you how to change a nappie and make her bottle. Babies are simple. They need to be fed and changed every 2 hours.”
She shows me how to do everything but I think I would have figured it out anyways.
The nurse wraps the baby up and hands her over to me and we leave the hospital.
I sit in the back seat with the baby while Ozayr drives.
As we drive this baby cries uncontrollably. She just shrieks and shrieks. I have no idea why.
We both are”sshh”-ing” but its not working. This child screams and screams…
“Are we going to your apartment?” Ozayr asks.
I nod and continue try pacifying this child.
“Shush baby…” I try with no luck.
And once we pull up at my apartment she quietly slips into a deep sleep.
I take her to my bedroom and lay her on my bed while Ozayr offloads all the baby things in his car.
I watch her sleep as he assembles the cot in the lounge.
I then go and sort through her clothes and arrange all her toiletries on my dresser.
I then prepare her bottle and keep it ready.
Once Ozayr assembles the cot in the room he sets up the baby bath in my spare bathroom.
Afterward we both rest in my lounge in silence.
A baby is as adult as you can get.
I don’t know how teenage mums survive.
“Rahma… mercy…” Ozayr says out loud.
“She is my mercy… my miracle. Her name will be Rahma.”
“That is a lovely name.”
I just look at him.
“I don’t know how I would have managed any of this without you. Its like you were sent in my life. Thank you.”
NOTE: Join Qaanitah Hunter for the launch of DIARY OF A GUJI GIRL on the 15 March 2015 at Newcastle Mediclinic Conference room at 11h00. Brought to you by CANSA. Tickets available for R100 from Bibi Fathima 0725344786/ 29A0D0B6
Hope to see you there.
Samoosas and Satire: Ayesha Kajee Reviews Diary of a Guji Girl by Qaanitah Hunter
Diary of a Guji Girl, Hunter’s blog-turned-novel, has become something of a publishing phenomenon, with the blog having received over two million views and the novel selling 500 copies in its first week. Hunter, a political journalist, began the blog as a light-hearted, somewhat tongue-in-cheek collage of people and events she’d encountered, and was astounded (albeit gratefully so) by its popularity.
Amina, the protagonist, is a sheltered young woman from a small town who arrives in Johannesburg to study teaching, interspersed with cooking lessons to ensure that her culinary skills are acceptable to prospective suitors. Her appetite for fashionable (though modest) clothes shopping is rivalled only by her predilection for juicy gossip. She is clear that her end-goal, in attending university, is to marry a “nice boy”. Thus far, standard Bollywood movie stuff, not excluding her secret crush on handsome and super-rich Moe, who hails from her hometown.
The novel tracks Amina’s emergence from a blinkered, materialistic and somewhat narcissistic girlhood into a woman who values true friendship and questions the shallow ideals that she once unhesitatingly adopted.
It also provides illuminating insights into Muslim communities in South Africa, exposing pervasive stereotypes around race, gender, culture and class, as well as underlining the tendency to conflate cultural practices with religion. Hunter has a gift for comic characterisation and is obviously a great mimic. She inserts the drollest comments into her characters’ mouths, and the colloquialisms that pepper the novel make for side-splitting hilarity at times. Her graphic portrayals of “samoosa runs” (visits by prospective bridegrooms to the homes of marriageable girls) and the challenges of producing rotis that do not resemble maps of Africa are deftly juxtaposed with Amina’s inner fantasies of her Big Houghton Dream – an opulent lifestyle with a desirable and doting spouse.
Judging from comments on the blog, I must admit to a serious concern that much of Guji Girl’s audience appears to have missed Hunter’s satirical intent and have instead wholeheartedly embraced the insular prejudices and conspicuous consumption espoused by the protagonist early on. Nonetheless, it is abundantly clear that, if her debut novel is anything to go by, much can be expected from Hunter’s keenly observant pen in the future.
Follow Ayesha on Twitter @ayeshakajee
Diary of a Guji Girl by Qaanitah Hunter
My tantrum gathers no visible emotion from Ozayr.
He doesn’t say anything.
They say silence can say more than words spoken. Silence can be piercing.
He motions for me to walk to his car.
“May I have your car keys please. David, my mum’s driver, will drop your car off at your apartment.”
I numbly hand it over.
My hands shake. My knees are numb.
I am not okay.
I start sweating. It gets dull around me.
I start crying again.
“Pull yourself out of this, Zahra!” I silently demand of myself.
Ozayr doesn’t say anything but lowers my seat into a reclining position.
He drives. I don’t know where. But I can’t ask were. I want to. But words fail me. Tears come out instead.
My chest is heavy. What is happening?
I don’t realise how much my hands are shaking until Ozayr firmly grips it.
“I need you to calm down. We are almost at the hospital.”
But I am not sick…
What is he going to tell the doctor? I brought her in because she had a crying tantrum in a dress shop.
He pulls up at a day hospital in Morningside, Sandton. I am not familiar with the surroundings.
Everything seems to be a blur. When I exert myself to observe my surroundings my eyes sting.
My hands stop shaking.
A nurse comes with a wheelchair and mounts me in it like a cripple.
I want to protest. I am tempted to. But I have no energy. I just want to curl in the hollow of the earth and cry myself to death.
I have no reason to live. What life is this? What have I done wrong in my life to deserved to be so alone?
I start sobbing again. My entire body trembles.
The nurse is saying something but I can’t hear anything.
She wheels me to what I later come to know is a psych ward.
So now they think I am crazy.
“Ma’am, I need you to drink this tablet and water please,” the nurse says.
I comply hesitantly.
And I pass out and wake up 5 hours later.
I am in a hospital bed. A nice hospital bed. The room doesn’t feel like a proper hospital. I have my own private room. At least there is a decent flat screen TV on the wall.
The same nurse from earlier hovers about.
“Hello Ms. You are in hospital. How are you feeling?”
“That’s great. Doctor Stratanisky will see you shortly.”
But there is nothing wrong with me. I don’t say anything but just stare at the muted tv screen. Some local soapie is playing.
Doctor Stratanisky is a weird looking old doctor who looks like he came out from a history book.
“Hello my dear. You can call me George. Would you sit up for me please?” he asks gently.
I like this doctor already. But I still don’t have an idea why I am in hospital.
“That is great. Now I am just going to ask you a few questions but you can chase me away if I am annoying you!”
“So tell me dear… what happened today?”
A lump forms in my throat.
“I don’t know. I went to buy my wedding dress and I just started crying uncontrollably. I don’t know why.”
“You seem to be feeling the same emotion now… how are you feeling?”
“I don’t know.”
“Try to look for a word or two that best describes how you are feeling… Sad? Angry?”
“Not angry… maybe sad. I feel very very sad. I feel alone.”
I start crying again.
The doctor passes me a glass of water and tissues and sits patiently.
“But you are not alone…”
“You don’t know anything about me doctor! You know nothing! I am alone. I have no one. Everybody leaves me.”
“Ahaa… Who is everybody?”
“Everybody. My mother left me. She died. My father left me. He moved on and forgot about me. My brother left me and moved to Australia. Zayn left me.”
“Alright… when did your mum pass on?”
“Nine years ago. I am not sad about it anymore… I learnt to deal with my grief. So don’t think I am grief stricken!”
“I am not thinking anything dear… but tell me, were you feeling how you are feeling for a while now?”
“I don’t know… I guess.”
“And tell me… Do you prefer to stay at home rather than going out and doing new things?”
“I have no one to go out with so I stay at home a lot. Well that was until Ozayr came along…”
“The gentleman who brought you here?”
“And on a scale from 1 to 10… how to do you rate your zest for life?”
“I don’t know. It fluctuates. Some days it’s a 7 while I am exploring Singapore other days it’s a 2. Maybe a 1 even…”
“Hmm I see. And I have to ask dear… do you have thoughts of ending your life?”
“You mean commit suicide? No. I am not stupid. Although I would much rather lay in a hole and wait to die.”
“Hmm… so we are going to keep you here for a while… 3 days of observation and then we will start therapy. It will be too early to diagnose you but I am sensing some serious depression here and you need some help dear. We are here to help you.”
Depression? But things are fine in my life. I mean I have nothing really to complain about. I am fine.
“I can’t stay here for long.”
“Of course… a week at most. And then weekly therapy sessions.”
“I am fine. Seriously. I am fine. I just had a moment. But I am fine.”
“I know you are but when you leave here you will be more than fine,” doc says with a smile.
As he leaves the room Ozayr enters. His face is blank.
“How you feeling?”
“Like iv’e cried out my pupils.”
He laughs. “I can assure you they are still in tact!”
“I don’t know what brought this on me. I am fine. I will be fine.”
“No one is doubting that.”
He doesn’t mention anything about the wedding.
And just sits in the visitors chair in the room silently.
I look around for my phone but can’t find it.
“They don’t allow phones in here,” he says.
“Okay,” I say numbly.
He stares at the Tv screen and doesn’t say anything.
“You can go! I know you want to,” I blurt out.
At first he doesn’t respond. And then soon after that he picks his stuff up and leaves.
I start crying again. I don’t know why. It makes no sense. A month ago I was a respected corporate lawyer, walking her way up the corporate ladder. I was always fit, I dressed well and I enjoyed my quiet life. Well not enjoyed it but I was satisfied by it.
Now I am a wreck of nerves being diagnosed with depression.
The next day Doc led me to the hospital court yard where we sit in the sun and chat. I am a lot more at ease with him. And he makes me talk about my childhood which is quiet dull. I had a normal privileged childhood.
I tell him about UCT and about Zayn. The poor boy whom I loved so dearly. And walked away with no explanation.
And then how my mother suddenly dies. Not suddenly, I knew it was going to happen. I explain to him how at first I was in denial, and then I mourned her and then I was just filled with rage.
I go on to explain how finding out that my mother was in a loveless marriage just because of her kids made me sick. I hated her. I hated her for not being happy. And being okay with not being happy.
“Do you want to be happy?” Doc asks.
“What kind of question is that. Everyone wants to be happy.”
“But do you?”
“I just want to be okay. Normal. Happiness is a bonus.”
“Well it is a bonus you can choose for yourself…”
“I don’t believe that garbage, Doc. Sometimes life doesn’t give you the choice of happiness.”
“Are you saying you don’t have the choice to be happy?”
“I don’t know… I don’t know what I am saying…”
“Okay… we will leave it there for today,” Doc says abruptly.
By the third day I feel marginally better. Not great but better. Doc says he doesn’t believe I need to be put on anti-depressants but if I don’t show improvements after six weeks of therapy then he would be forced to prescribe it.
I am not even 30 yet and i may already be on anti-D’s.
Life can only get better…
Before I can think about how I would get home, Ozar rocks up casually.
“You ready to go?” he asks without greeting.
I follow him to the car.
I get in the back seat and he doesn’t question anything.
“Would you like to come to my mum’s for a bit?”
“No. Please take me home.”
He doesn’t object and casually drives me home.
I get to my apartment and Ozayr walks me up.
He still doesn’t say anything.
Once I get into my apartment I make my way for the fridge. I need something cold and sweet to overcome the dry sensation in my throat.
There is nothing quite edible in my fridge and I take out a packet of ginger biscuits to munch on.
“Do you want some?” I ask, thinking Ozayr would say no.
He nods and I give him a few at one time.
I walk around my flat in silence pottering about trying to kill the awkwardness.
“You know I was diagnosed with depression too…”
“At aged 24. I was just about clean from drugs. It was bad. And I also felt like I had no one…”
I look down.
“This may not be the best situation. And I admit I am the scum of the earth. And I were you I would not want to marry me. But I need to know for certain if the wedding is going ahead… or else…”
“Or else I need to make another plan.”
“Oh, I forgot. I am an arrangement to you. Cool. Well the wedding is going ahead. Only because I am not a quitter.”
You know things are not okay when you want to attack the few people you love.
My brother and sister in law have been so kind to me in my life and I don’y know why I just lashed out on them so badly.
I guess I can’t help it.
Or maybe I can.
But the truth is, its easier to hide behind helplessness.
I am doing that. Subconsciously I know that I can chose out of this situation which is bound to fail, but its easier to play the victim. I admit that.
As I spend the next 5 days in doors in Australia my mind keeps drifting between helplessness and blame.
I have no energy to go out doors and do any sight seeing- obviously soliciting the frown of both my brother and sister in law.
I just blame it on a bad travel bug but a deep, dark funk has set in me and its just easier not to get myself out of it.
What are my chances of happiness? It is very slim. There is no one who would know this situation I am in who would doubt that.
If I am not happy, at least I can make my family happy. People enter loveless marriages all the time. How do the conservative Muslim girls do it? They get married the arranged way and they are happy. Or at least pretend to be.
I don’t tell my father anything until Ozayr calls him to “formally propose”.
He calls me probably the moment he ends the call with Ozayr, excited.
The old man wasn’t convinced I would ever get married.
“He sounds really good. Are you sure about it? He seems fine. I am happy if you are happy,” my dad says.
I think once he heard the name Ozayr Mohammed he didn’t even consider anything else that a father would usually ask his daughter’s suitor.
It is all about the wealth and prestige…
Finally I touch down in Johannesburg eager to get this marriage out the way so I can get back to work and take on impossible cases and win.
The law is unpredictable but safe. It empowers me.
Life on the other hand…
Once I get back, I log on to my emails only to be met with a flurry of mail from Ozayr and his PA.
There are even addendum attached to some of the mails varying from possible wedding venues to a prenuptial agreement.
Ozayr clearly doesn’t want me to milk him dry in the case of a divorce and is protecting himself.
Basically he is telling me up front that a divorce would in inevitable.
Regardless, he stipulates that I only get half of his movable assets.
Which, to my disgust, is worth more than R19 million. I don’t want to even know what his net worth is.
So I send a kind mail back saying the prenuptial should only include a “to each his own” clause. I don’t want a share of his money. I don’t need it.
“That settles it then,” was the response I get.
Yes it does.
I may not want his money but I do want a wedding.
Something elaborate and fancy. Something to have the Indian aunties tongues wagging.
Also, my father’s guilt money can come to good use.
I stalk my cousins from durban on Instagram and the weddings they attend are really tacky. I am going to make sure that everyone that attends is going to Instagram it for days. Yes, I just used the “for days” phrase. Once “BAE” gets into my vocabulary then I should hibernate.
So my wedding is planned for 2 weeks time. It is quite soon but I do huge corporate takeovers, so planning a wedding should be a walk in the park.
It is not like we are going to light a huge fire in the back yard and mount degs of biryani to feed the masses with one aunty furiously stirring and another having a mental breakdown.
In fact, all my family members need to do is attend and as things stand… they are remarkably curious about what type of wedding I will actually have.
My cousins have all types of notions about me and its mainly because I never get too close. They can call me a snob if they like, it really doesn’t concern me.
I ask my dad and aunty to give me two family guest lists which amount to some 600 people. I add random school friends- two in particular-, a few old neighbours and some of my mother’s old friends.
Then I tell Ozayr he is allowed to bring 150 people for the wedding, which is a generous figure by most accounts.
I heard of weddings where the groom was only allowed to bring 10 people.
So planning a wedding is quite straight forward. The most important thing is the venue. Then is the catering, the décor, the dress. Other stuff are easy to sort out.
I start googling venues and all my preferences are booked out a year in advance.
Something on a nature reserve would be ideal.
But, because of my father’s connections in Durban he is able to secure the NMJ hall in Morningside- a huge hall built by a portion of the Muslim community.
It is not charming and doesn’t have any character.
But it is neat and accessible.
Once the venue is secured I start calling around for caterers. My menu is specific. I want plated quiches with cream cheese and asparagus for starters. Then prawn tempura in sweet chillie sauce and mini wraps. That must be followed by a typically indian sojee dish- only it must be modified to include turkish delight and pistachios and served individually in a baklava basket… stay with me I am not done yet.
The mains must be roast leg of lamb and potato wedges, cheesy steak and a medley of veggies and chicken tikka and chips.
I would much prefer a sushi menu but I can’t see Indian aunties downing that with a smile.
I want individual bottled salads- I saw it on Pinterest and really like the concept of making a colourful layered salad per person. Also, it eliminates the schlep of passing a huge bowl of salad around 10 people.
Drinks would be fresh exotic juice and still water. At least us Muslims don’t have to worry about a booze bill.
I am two minded about the dessert menu and whether or not I should have a tea table at all.
Sometimes it gets too messy and crowded.
On second thought, after chatting with the caterer, I decide on having a tea lounge adjacent to the hall.
She proposed the idea of ‘stations’ but I will decide on that closer to the time.
Basically, to create a stall type atmosphere, with dedicated donuts, ice cream or cheese cake stations.
Now for the décor…
Florally or minimalistic?
For me this event is not personal. And I am not obsessed about making it suit my personality. It is just something that needs to be done.
I decide on a ‘burst of flowers’ for my theme and my instruction to the décor company is simple: I want lots and lots of flowers, tastefully presented.
Also, I want the décor to be unique and personalised. From the menus to the napkins.
Yes, it may be a little excessive but if we doing it we might as well do it right. So if I must add a chandelier or 12 then so be it.
Also, my father’s guilt money must go to good use.
I decide to email Ozayr to update him on my plans for the wedding.
He calls back instantly apparently satisfied with the plans.
“So do you wan’t a second function in Jo’burg too?”
“God no! I can’t bear the thought of thick hair spray in my hair for two full days”.
He chuckles more than he ought to. It isn’t that funny.
“I am so glad you are really enthusiastic about the wedding. We will have to have an event for my colleagues and clients. Perhaps yours as well. We could do a hotel in Sandton perhaps.”
“Yeah… I don’t mind. As long as it doesn’t entail hair spray.”
“I will make sure of it. Did you decide on which property you would want to live in?”
“I think I am fine in my apartment. I am comfortable here.”
Ozayr’s voice hardens.
“Well I will ask my PA to mail you details about the Sandton event. Also, are you free for ring fittings tomorrow morning.”
“I scheduled dress fittings for 9am so how about 11? Send me the coordinates and I will meet you there.”
The list is getting shorter and shorter.
I want a vintage lacey wedding dress… nothing dramatic but it must be breath taking.
I would have worn my mother’s dress but my father’s wife got rid of it soon after she moved in.
My heart still aches at the thought of it.
How I miss my mother…
I go to bed with an ache in my heart.
Her last wish was to see me happily married. I don’t know what she would have made of this situation.
She would have definitely admonished me for the extravagance and would wanted an intimate affair.
My mother was about quality over quantity.
I know she would be heart broken to hear that this marriage is starting on shaky ground.
She wanted the happiness for me which she didn’t have in her marriage .
I don’t think Ozayr’s wealth or status would have impressed her in the least.
She would always tell me affectionately: “If someone doesn’t treat you well, they don’t deserve to be in your life”.
Rich coming from a person who stayed in a marriage for 30 years with a man who wouldn’t care for her at all.
I am conflicted at the memory of my mother.
Sometimes a bout of anger at her flares up. Other times I just miss her. Time hasn’t made it easy.
The next day I start by calling around for a hair and make up trial before the wedding. I plan to go down to Durban a week before the wedding.
Then I make my way to the bridal boutique nestled in a corner in Sandton.
I walk in and I am overwhelmed.
There is just so much of white and shinny my head spins.
“Maam, what are you looking for?” the eager shop assistant asks.
“Something vintage and lacy…”
“Okay sure. Come this side and have a look.”
She pulls out the first lace gown and I know it is the one. My throat actually gets parched as I examine the intricacies of the dress.
A white gown. This wedding is real.
And suddenly I am filled with emotion.
“Mmm… may I try it on?” I stutter.
“Of course. The changing rooms are right this way.”
I try on the dress and turn around to face myself in the mirror.
And that is when the enormity of it all hit me.
I collapse in a fit of tears- unable to think rationally.
Why did my mother have to die? Why couldn’t it have been my father?
Why must I be all alone in this world?
I have no one…
And why must I marry a man who has such a sketchy past?
It just feels wrong.
I cry until the shop assistant barges in in a panic.
“Dear are you okay.”
I can’t respond.
“Is there anyone I can call?”
My body is lame. I my hands are shaking.
I sob unsure of what I am crying about.
“Dear, I am going to look in your bag and get your phone and phone someone to assist.”
I nod. My heart hurts. There is no one. I have no one.
I question my purpose in life. I am not proud of the hollow of a person I am. I am nothing but a hole of emptiness.
My career means nothing. I am nothing.
My surroundings fade and I just shake uncontrollably.
I wish I knew what is the problem.
I need to leave this store.
I need to get my act together.
I can’t be crying in changing rooms like a prima dona.
Life must carry on. No matter how bleak it is…
I have to soldier on. I have to. There is nothing else for me to do.
I don’t know if I can go ahead with this wedding.
I don’t know.
But the thought of being alone for the rest of my life.
Again I break into tears. My eyes sting. My throat hurts.
And then I hear a man clear his throat.
“Zahra. Are you fine?”
I know the voice.
The store assistant called the last person on my call log.
Then I suddenly get the strength to get up, change out of the wedding dress, pull out wet wipes and clean myself up.
“Yes I am fine,” I say firmly as I reapply foundation and a swap of lipstick.
I take a deep breathe and emerge out of the changing room with the dress in my hand.
I don’t make eye contact as I hand the dress over to the store assistant.
“Will you take it dear?”
“No… I am calling the wedding off.”
It takes a lot for me to be outraged.
Once an intern screwed up weeks of preparations for a case but I could barely raise my voice at him.
I get a random bout of road rage but then too I will sigh at most.
I was probably the most angry when I found out my step mother was my father’s mistress for years.
But despite how angry I was, I couldn’t express it.
This past few weeks was many firsts for me. Its funny how I have been reduced to a nail-bitting adolescent from a calm boring adult in a matter of days. I don’t know if its good or bad funny. But it is what its.
A rich, handsome and notorious lawyer wants to marry me.
Don’t cue the violins just yet.
He only wants to do that because he has to cover up a child out of wedlock.
You got to give it to him for being so honest.
Ozayr could have easily hid it, convinced me to marry him and then let me uncover it when I sneakily take a peek at his phone, see a picture, have a nervous breakdown and demand a divorce but don’t want it.
On a stage from 1 to disillusioned where do you think I stand?!
Sometime life is so disappointing that all one can do is sigh and shake your head.
At least I get to do that from a plush couch in an airconditioned lounge.
I am turning 29 soon and I am not inspired by life anymore.
I met my ideal guy at a very young age and that was a royal mess.
And then my mother died.
Then I just robotically continued with life. One day at a time. In a lonely world.
I pretty much gave up on happiness.
The odds of a happily ever after are not stacked in my favour.
Sometimes admitting that you will be unhappy and accepting is the best way to go.
After all, that is what my mother did. She was in a relationship with a cheater but she chose to be okay with it. She learnt how to forget her unhappiness in mundane things like obsessing over me.
It was a choice she made. A sober choice. She could have walked out of a marriage with two kids and no money of her own or skill, or she could have learnt dealing mechanisms.
It’s a choice between death or paralysis. But it is still a choice.
That is why when shrinks harp on about “you must choose to be happy”, I call rubbish.
What if you not meant to be happy?
What if a marriage of coverup is the closest I will get to happiness?
I am okay with that.
But I don’t give Ozayr an answer. I change my flight schedule, and fly via Singapore.
The lovely thing about travelling to interesting countries is that there is so much to take in and digest that everything else just seems mundane.
Although travelling alone can be very lonely. Especially when over enthusiastic waiters ask you “when is the Mr arriving”.
I feel like retorting: It is none of your damn business!
But I rope in my teenager self and just shake my head instead.
In my four days in Singapore I make sure I have such a packed tour schedule that I just pass out each night.
The Universal Studios is quite something and the city at night is really enchanting.
Although it isn’t as cheap as perhaps Thailand to shop.
But its not like I need anything… I bought a few gifts for my brother and sister in law and a few magnets for my fridge.
My double door fridge is filled with magnets of places I have visited. By looking at it every morning I try to remain grateful of the great opportunities I have been afforded.
I am at a random café in a random market in Singapore when a random girl came up to me and joined me for a cup of coffee.
She is an MBA student from Taiwan who is quite fascinated by my heritage.
It is very common to have a “oh you from Africa but you not black” response abroad but Azia is a lot more intelligent.
We speak about the poison that is big multi-national corporations and I am a little ashamed to admit that I am mostly a corporate slave.
And other people have excuses like bills to pay… I am just comfortable there and its easier to work my way up than to start a fresh.
It’s a refreshing talk… out of my comfort zone.
Finally I leave for Australia, nervous to spend so much of time with my brother.
Its been a while since we spent a long time together… And Ive grown up since my campus days when I stayed with him and his wife Nuha in Cape Town.
When I arrive, I see the two of them waiting for me excited at the airport.
Its been a while since someone welcomed me at the airport.
The worst feeling is arriving home after a long haul flight only to have to hustle home.
Also, when I travel without a tour operator to a foreign country, getting a cab to the right location can be a hassle and a half.
My brother, who I affectionately call Momo, seems to have aged a lot. My sister in law Nuha is still as charming as ever. And I don’t mean that in a good way.
I am literally counting down the seconds before she asks the casual “so you still haven’t met anyone yet”.
This time she broke a record. She asked me 45 seconds after greeting me. Usually she would wait a minute or two.
I just grin and shrug. It says something but nothing really. A grin and shrug would not be an admissible affirmation if the matter was to be taken to court. It doesn’t confirm or deny anything.
But have I met someone? It is so much more complicated than that.
Once we arrive at Momo’s place, I am taken on a tour of the house. They did some major renovations to the house since I was last there.
Its probably my father’s ‘guilt money’.
He feels guilty for being an absent father so he compensates in cash. I make a point not to take a cent from him but every other month he makes an injection into my savings account.
I guess its his way of saying sorry. But money means nothing to me.
He really has a “throw money at the problem” approach to life. Had it not been for my mother I would have been a whiney privileged snob with a huge sense of entitlement.
After the rather laborious tour, I go to the nursery to see my one and only niece who probably doesn’t know my name.
Iman is 3 years old and I have only seen her three times before this. She is adorable… looks so much like my mother…
I need to schedule regular Skype time with her. That’s the least I can do… besides spoiling her rotten while I am here.
“So you didn’t tell me if you met anyone? What’s going on?” my sister in law asks again all too enthusiastically.
I just laugh. A dry edgy laugh.
“I can’t believe it… You in Jo’burg and you still haven’t found someone. I bagged your brother in 2nd year of campus and we were married 2 years later…”
That’s because you are a gold digger… I think.
“But seriously. What is wrong with you? There must be something wrong. Why can’t you get a guy?!”
Now she pushed the line.
“I actually found someone…”
“What?!” she asks exasperated.
“Yes. His name is Ozayr. He is a lawyer. You probably know of him. Ozayr Mohammed. The crim…”
“The criminal lawyer??! THE Ozayr Mohammed. Wow. So what’s happening?!”
“Well… he proposed just before I left.”
“WHAT? Oh my word! That is wonderful. Is that why you came here? Mohammed, did you hear? Your sister is proposed!”
Well not exactly…
“That is great. Congratulations sis. When do we meet the lucky groom? We should Skype him!”
This is not going down well…
The horse has bolted. It is now too late.
There is no way I can explain to my family that I was propositioned in a cover up marriage.
So I send a dreadful text.
Me: I am down under. A misunderstanding has led to my family believing I am proposed. So I guess it’s a yes.
Ozayr: The world works in weird ways. Thank you. I will break the news to my mother. We leave Saudi Arabia tomorrow for Dubai.
Around five hours later my phone beeps.
Ozayr: Can I call you?
“I was worried about you,” says Ozayr the moment I answer his call.
“I was travelling.”
“Where did you go before Down Under?”
“I went to Singapore… I had to clear my mind. Put things in perspective.”
“Oh… I see. This trip to the Holy Lands was quite refreshing and my mother is quite appreciative. So in terms of our arrangement… Thank you. When you went awol for two weeks, I gathered you were appalled. I am very grateful.”
“Sure,” I say dismissively.
“So… we have to get married soon if you don’t mind. Perhaps we can cut short our trips abroad and arrange the ceremony while we are still on leave. You can decide if you only want a religious ceremony and no function… but if you want a full wedding I am more than willing to comply. I will pay entirely for it. It is only fair. So you have a choice between an intimate affair or something more elaborate. As soon as we touch down in Johannesburg we can meet to work out the logistics. I will like to call your dad formally asking for your hand in the interim. When we get back we could fly to Durban to formalise everything. I will ask my trusted PA to email you on the contents of our prenuptial agreement. Also, while my house has ample space for you, considering our issue, I think I will convince my mother that we would have to stay at an apartment while we are still newly wed. I have various properties in the Sandton CBD so I will send you specs and you can chose where you would like to stay. We will work out the more personal arrangements once we touch base in Johannesburg. Am I missing out on anything?”
We drive to my flat without anyone saying a word.
“Can I come up?”
Before that… he goes to his boot, takes out his laptop and a packet of junk food.
He follows me up to my apartment.
I let him in while I hurriedly go and pray- leaving him to winder around my apartment freely.
When I get back to the lounge… I see the curtains drawn and he connected his PC to my plasma.
He also rearranged my couches to the most comfortable way to watch a movie.
And I don’t know from where he found a little blanket which he drapped over the edge of the couch with junk food arranged on either side.
“I don’t care that you are on a diet. Today we are cheating.”
I don’t say anything.
“What is wrong?”
“Who was that girl who greeted you in the resturant?”
“Why? Is that what’s bothering you?”
“Who is she?”
“She is an ex-girlfriend. I dated her for 3 months. And when she said I didn’t call her the other day she really meant over a year ago.”
“So I dated blonde chicks long ago… You going to judge me?”
“Then why does it seem like you holding something back?”
“Why are you not dating one now?”
“Why do you date girls that look like Playbog bunnies?”
“Because indian girls I come across are needy gold diggers.”
“Oh… and the blonde girls are oh so generous?”
“I was in no place to commit to anyone so I had some fun…”
“Why were you in no place to commit? You have everything you can possibily want! Just tell me the truth.”
Ozayr just keeps silent. And then all hell breaks lose.
“You not ready for the truth. But do you want to know the truth? You really want to know? I am warning you that you are not ready for this. But lets be honest here. You are nice decent Muslim girl. You are the perfect marriage material. Any guy would kill to marry you but they are intimidated by your success. I messed around. And I live to regret it every single day of my life. A year ago I decided to end all of that. Only to find out three months later that a girl I barely know is pregnant with my child! That’s the truth.”
“I told you, you were not ready for the truth!”
I have no words. “Are you not going to say anything?! You can kick me out if you want.”
“Have you confirmed paternity?” I manage to squeak out.
“I have. That was the first thing I did. I wasn’t even a relationship with Laura. She’s the girl… Just a random friend of one of our associates I met. Its all messed up. She’s due in two weeks.”
“Two weeks?! Wow. Wow. So how you going to make this work?”
“Laura doesn’t want the child. She made it clear from the beginning. She wanted to abort it and I had to convince her otherwise…”
“I can’t believe this. I should but I can’t…”
I pace up and down. I feel like I am free falling without a parachut.
“Like I told you before, you are naïve and protected about the real world. It’s great. But bad stuff happen. People mess up. I messed up.”
“So does your mother know?”
“Wow. You having a child out of wedlock. Wow.”
“Why do you have to judge?!”
“No judgment. It is just so hard to stomach. And what? You going to be like your father and run away from commitment?”
I don’t think before I make those utterances.
Ozayr violently clenches his jaw and his temple vein swells.
He does not say anything as he grabs his car keys and leaves in a rush.
I just collapse on the couch. This is all too much for me. Barely a month ago my life was so boring and dreary. I would never in a million years even think of it. Things are really just black or white for me.
I am so looking forward to my trip to Down Under.
Maybe I will extend it with a trip to Thailand too. Travelling is the easiest way to get away from reality.
For the last seven years I never felt the need to escape reality.
I log on Quantas Airlines and see if I can find an earlier flight to visit my brother.
I need to be jet lagged and tired. I can’t sit here idle- I will loose my mind.
But as life would have it, there are no tickets and I am facing insomnia stark in the face.
Who can I bake for?
I am sure the doorman in my building would appreciate a three-tier ombre cake with turkish delight and rose flavoured frosting.
I start baking and soon a three-tier cake becomes two three-tier cakes.
Baking is therapy.
Seriously, when I attack a blob of fondant everything else filters out.
As I put the final glitter to my creations- I realise that it is almost 3am.
These cakes are probably the most beautiful ombre ones I have ever created.
I need to find a second person to give the other one to- but for now I need to get some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a long day of over thinking and crazy thoughts.
And so my dreams to get solid sleep was up in smoke before 7am.
“Are you awake?”
“Barely. What’s up?”
“Open the door!”
“What? Has the sun risen yet?”
Urg… a marathon baking session was not a good idea.
But seriously, why is Ozayr at my house before 7am?! ESPECIALLY after what happened last night.
He must just leave me alone.
Actually after he leaves I am going to book a short trip to Thailand before my trip to Australia.
Eventually, I slip on a gown and make myself presentable.
He knocks incessantly.
“I am coming,” I say as I open the door, apprehensively.
“Sorry… I know its early. But I couldn’t sleep.”
“Me too. I baked a ton…”
“Cake? I want some.”
It was more a statement than a question so I follow him sheepishly to the kitchen.
I pull out a saucer and switch on the kettle waiting for him to talk.
“So I have a proposal for you. Just listen. If you say no, that is fair enough. But listen to my arguments, weigh your options and then make a calculated response. Don’t just react for the sake of a reaction. We have to be level headed about all of this.”
“Please don’t be insulted at all. And you can reject me up front. But hear me out.”
Again I nod.
“I am into my thirties and you almost there. You a lovely formidable woman and my mother loves you. I am in a situation and I need to get married for my mother’s sake. Wait… just hear me out… Seriously. It will be a good arrangement. You will have the choice whether you want to continue your career or not. There is nothing I won’t be able to give you. And its on your terms. We get along fine… it won’t be bad. And my baby dramas… well for the first 6 months I paid a nurse to look after the child. Then if we get married now, 6 months later we can just tell people we adopted a baby. Obviously, I don’t expect you to raise this child. I will do everything and have a full time nanny. My mother will be delighted. I can’t break her heart… She will be devastated if she knew the truth.”
“Don’t react… think about it first…”
I spend the rest of the day sorting out my flat and doing last minute errands.
Then at night I collapse in front of my TV with a bowl of popcorn and a cup of tea.
I wonder what Ozayr is doing this evening. He didn’t mention any plans…
Hmm… he probably has a more glamorous life.
He didn’t tell me what he does for fun on weekends. I am sure he doesn’t sit at home all day and night…
On Sunday morning I sit in bed reading the newspapers when my phone rings.
It is my father wanting to tell me that an ‘emergency business trip’ has come up and he won’t be there when I go down.
But he says I must “come anyways.”
I should go there and do what? His wife would never allow me in her house unsupervised and I am not going to Durban if its not to see him. It is just too humid!
So I pull out my laptop and cancel my ticket.
I had to share my annoyance with someone.
So I unwittingly dial Ozayr.
“Hey how are you?”
“I am okay and you?”
“What are you up to?”
“I just got back from the gym. And you?”
“I jus got off the phone with my father… apparently he has to go on some emergency business trip and so I am not going to Durban anymore. He could have told me sooner.”
“So will you fly to Australia early?”
“No… I will just spend the next four days here. Although I am likely to loose my mind.”
“Okay, for the sake of your sanity… and mine. Can I plan for us some cool things to do in this time. Things we haven’t tried before…”
“How do you know what I haven’t done before.”
“I know you are not adventurous and you stick to routine. That says a lot,” he says.
“So what did you do last night…?”
“I just went out with some lawyers I know… anyways… I am going to start planning for today until Wednesday.”
“And what if I don’t like your ideas…”
“Too bad,” he says before hanging up.
Ozayr calls me two hours later and I pick um almost immediately.
“Did you check your mail?”
“No it’s Sunday.”
“Open it on your iPad so we can discuss the contents.”
“So I made an Excel spread sheet of our iItinerary for the next four days. Today we will go shopping in Sandton City, have a late lunch in Nelson Mandela square and tonight we are going for a movie.”
“Okay… then tomorrow I am coming to you for breakfast, we will go go-karting in the East Rand and then have an afternoon picnic at a park here in Sandton. On Tuesday we going paint-balling and quad biking the entire day and we will have a fancy dinner at a place of your choice. And on Wednesday we are going for a game drive and lunch with the Lions.”
“Wow. That seems a lot.”
“You will get your chance to plan outings for us… so get done. We got some shopping to do. I will pick you up in 20 minutes.”
“20 minutes? I would never be done in that time.”
“Just go get done.”
I hurriedly get done, suddenly excited about our plans.
I also liked how he referred to us as ‘us’.
His call ignited an adolescent-sense of eagerness in me.
Ozayr pitches up an hour or so after he had called me and we leave for the mall.
“What do you need to get?” I ask him.
“My mother sent me with a list of stuff she needs for our trip and I just need a few odds and ends.”
I look at his mother’s list and laugh. She needs stuff like Vicks and Zambuk and dry fruit.
“You know there are things aunties can’t do without…”
We start off with his mother’s list which, as a result of my in put, doesn’t take very long to get done. Then I needed to get some groceries considering we are going to go for a picnic this week and he is coming over for breakfast.
It is surprising that regardless of how wealthy Ozayr is, he is still very frugal.
It is a good trait.
There are a lot of people who ‘make it’ over night but their wealthy never sustains them.
When we are done with essentials, we take the parcels to his car and then stat with round two.
I could do with a few dresses for work and a cardigan or two.
Also, I need a travel pillow and a little blanket which I wouldn’t mind it getting lost or dirty.
We shop like an old couple as he holds my packets while I try on things and vice versa.
Also, we freely comment on each others choices as continue shopping.
I can’t help but notice that he didn’t offer to get me anything in all the time we were here.
Not that I need him to get me anything…
Once we are done shopping, Ozayr tells me he reserved for us a table in a fancy restaurant.
“Do you ever eat just flame grilled chicken from a franchise?” I ask him.
“Not really. My mother can make that for me. I prefer fine dinning.”
“Like I said earlier… you are a snob.”
“You the one that doesn’t buy clothes from retail outlets and you call me the snob.”
“I can’t help the fact that I like a well fitted dress.”
I am so comfortable in his company its shocks me that this is just the fourth time we spent together.
Ozayr leads the way to the restaurant and I follow close behind.
As we are about to be seated a beautiful,voluptuous blonde comes to our table.
“Ozzy! How are you babe,” she squeals.
“Fine thanks Roxy. How are you?”
“I am well. You never called after that other night… I wondered what happened to you. Anyways, good seeing you. Tata.”
The other night?
Ozayr continues liked nothing happened.
He doesn’t bother to explain how he knows that girl or anything.
This is when my mood starts changing.
“What are you having?”
“Just a glass of water and a greek salad please.”
“Is that all?”
“Well it can’t be… Get me the Kingklip please and get her salmon with salad and California rolls for starters.”
“I am not going to eat that.”
We just sit in silence while he is busy on his phone.
“What’s the weather like in Australia at the moment?” he asks clearly trying to break the silence.
“It is average weather. Early twenties. And in Saudi? Hot?”
“It is always hot.”
Again silence. Just the clanking sound of our cutlery against the porcelain dishes.
This is a complete anticlimax from the fun shopping spree we had just moments earlier.
“Must I book our movie tickets online?”
“I am not in a mood to watch a movie.”
We finish up and Ozayr quickly pays the bill in silence once more.
“You ready to go?”
And we walk side by side to his car.
Once I am strapped up in the passenger seat, Ozayr turns and looks at me.
“You either hated your food or you are annoyed at something.”
“I am fine. Seriously, I am fine.”
Join Al Huda Books on Central Rd in Fordsburg on Saturday 21 Feb 2015 for a booksigning and meet the author of “Diary of a Guji Girl”, journalist and blogger Qaanitah Hunter. Anytime between 11am and 1pm. All welcome.
This weekend I was invited by Timbuktu Books in Cape Town to have a discussion on Diary of a Guji Girl.
Tucked in a corner of Rondebosch, Timbuktu Books is a muslim book store with a wide variety of Islamic literature.
It was a great Saturday afternoon engaging with people and discussing the book.
I would like to thank everyone who attended and bought the book!
Then on Sunday, the lovely Nancy of SAfm Literature invited me for an interview to chat about Diary of a Guji Girl.
It is always interesting to chat to professional book critics and to get their impressions of the book.
You can listen to the podcast here:http://iono.fm/e/140798
If you are in Johannesburg this Saturday, I will be at Al Huda Bookstore in Mayfair for a reading and book signing.
I am looking forward to meeting everyone between 11 and 1pm.
See you there!
“Like I said it has been many years since and I have moved on. I guess it was the brokeness I felt then that pushed me and pushed me in my career. I believe success always comes from a broken place.”
“That is true. Or true success anyways.Is that incident the reason you decided not to marry?”
“I didn’t decide not to get married! I didn’t wake up one day and decide I would be a spinster all my life. I never met anyone after that. Not a single person… And the aunties think I am too modern for them to introduce me to anyone…”
“No one has ever showed interest in you?”
“No… why are you so surprised?”
“I am surprised because you are so… so beautiful. I would understand if you decided not to date anyone but I cannot believe no one would have ever showed interest in you.”
“Can we change the subject please?”
“What subject? The one where I say you are beautiful and where you can’t accept that?”
“What do you want from me Ozayr?”
“Seriously what do you want from me? You are probably the most famous eligible bachelor in Jo’burg’s Muslim community. You have fame, success, tons and tons of money. You have a thriving career, a mother that loves you. You have everything you could ever want. You could have any woman you ever want. Why are you sitting here?”
“Because you make good waffles.”
I just pick up my plate and cup and furiously place it in the dishwasher.
I don’t know why I am actually angry.
I think Ozayr got the drift and decided to leave.
Sooner or later he would have waltzed out my life rather he go now than when I am attached to him.
I would not burn my fingers twice.
As I let him out, Ozayr smiles at me and thanks me for the waffles.
I just don’t get this guy.
I go straight to bed, angry at the world.
It is the first time I felt such a strong emotion since the few years after my mother’s death.
After that it was like I was robotic feeling only exhaustion or stress.
I fell asleep not expecting to hear from Ozayr ever again.
But early on Saturday morning I am busy doing laundry when my phone rings. An unfamiliar number.
“Salaam Zahra. How are you? Listen, for the first time in many years we are not having Saturday lunch because my mother has to go for some fundraiser or the other. I will come pick you up in an hour and you can join us for Saturday brunch. Its untraditional… but you will still enjoy it.”
“Didn’t you agree to come have lunch at my house? So we not having lunch together so my mother is preparing brunch. I already told her you coming. So I’ll pick you up in an hour.”
This is so weird.
I have only met this guy twice in my life and now he wants me to meet his mother.
I don’t know what’s going on!
I don’t even know what to wear.
And honestly, what did he tell his mother? I met this girl twice and now I invited her home.
Let me not think and just go with the flow.
My shrink did tell me to ‘live out of the box’… so here is me going to a complete strangers home and meeting his mother.
I shower and wear a flowing white linen pants and cute floral top with matching pumps and a white neck scarf.
It is something I would wear to visit my family. Trendy, casual but decent.
I leave my hair loose for a change and apply minimal makeup.
Just when I am done, Ozayr calls to say he is downstairs.
“You look lovely and rested.”
“Thank you. You could have just sent me your location and I would have driven myself.”
“And my mother would have shouted me for being an unmannered child. You well?”
“Yes, I am fine… my laundry is done, my bags for Durban and Australia are almost packed. I must just take out the extra stuff I have in my fridge and give it to some beggars…”
“You seem more excited to go than you were last night… that’s good.”
“Your car is lovely…”
“Thank you… it is my pride and joy aside from my 3D TV.”
“I wonder if those paralegals you boss around know what a kid you are at heart.”
He just laughs and drives on.
“So who am I to you? What did you tell your mom?”
“I said a friend of mine was joining us…”
“And she’s used to having your friends over?”
“No… you are the first friend she would meet since I was in primary school. In high school I didn’t have that many friends and when I went to campus I was friends with the who’s who and was too embarrassed to show them that we lived in a one bedroom town house. And then after that friends just became superficial.”
“But are we friends?”
“It doesn’t matter. I like spending time with you.”
And that was the end of that discussion.
We pull up to his amazing house which as modern as it can get.
“Wow… it is so stunning.”
“Ag… it is just material things,” he says as he parks his car and leads the way through the triple garage.
“Mummy… I am here,” he shouts.
“Did you buy the cream I asked you to buy?”
“Ay Ozzy! I ask you to buy one small thing!”
“Do we really need the cream,” he shouts as we walk through the huge foyer toward the kitchen.
“What you asking me whether we need cream or not. If I tell you we need cream, we need cream. You must stop being so laz… oh… Assalamualaikum… How you ma?”
I let out a small chuckle as I greet his mother.
“Mommy, this is Zahra. Zahra this is Aunty Fatimah,” he says smiling.
“Do you need any help?” I ask kindly.
“No ma. Don’t worry. I am almost done. Ozzy, go make her feel at home outside while I just fry the last eggs. Ay and now we have to have the pancakes with ice cream because this monkey forgot to buy the cream.”
I chuckle again and follow Ozayr outside to a perfectly manicured garden, crisp pool and mind-blowing deck.
“Even at 33 I can’t get away from her shouting,” he says with a smile.
“That’s because you are 33 and you still act like you 12!”
“What? You supposed to be on my side!”
We both laugh as we take a seat on opposite sides of the table.
“When did you buy this house? It is stunning.”
“When I made partner five years ago… before that we were staying in a flat in Parktown and before that in our Lenz house.”
“Did you buy it like this or did you build it?”
“I was lucky the property was going at a steal. The guy who lived here before was a gambler or something… so the house was on auction and I got it for at least R2 million less than its market value. Although the house itself was in a state… so slowly for two years we renovated it just how my mother likes it. And she insisted that there is two wings to the house so that I have living space if I do ever get married.”
“That was wise of her…”
“Yeah… And because she is so afraid of debt she made me pay it off in the first three years we stayed here. Every extra penny would go towards the bond. And thankfully it is paid off.”
“What you gossiping about me?” his mother chips in as she brings the eggs to the table.
It is an impressive spread of fruit, pancakes, eggs and sausages.
“I was just telling Zahra how you forced me not to enjoy my money.”
“What enjoy your money? Now you have a massive investment to leave for your children. And now I can sleep at night not worried that the bank will chuck us out.”
Despite her son’s success, Ozayr’s mother still has a very simple mindset, which is lovely.
I am just dreading her asking how we know each other.
The conversation was very calming and heartwarming as its been a long time where I just sat in an indian aunty’s company.
They have this forceful kindness about them that’s actually comforting.
“So where you from? Durban? Who’s your parents?”
I explain to her and obviously she had to draw some link. That is what Indian aunties do. They find some link even if there isn’t.
“And you also work for a lawyer like Ozzy here.”
We both laugh out loudly. In her simplistic mind she believed her son, who is probably one of the most successful lawyers in the country, is merely working for a lawyer.
“Jee I do similar work…”
She rattles something off about how proud she is of her son and quickly excuses herself when someone pulls up to pick her up.
“I have to go… there is a fundraiser in Mayfair so my old friend Rukhsana is taking me.”
She greets me and leaves.
“Your mum is so cute…”
“Well it was rather embarrassing having you hear her shout me…”
“Ag, it is okay. At least she keeps your ego in check.”
“It is a pitty I don’t get to spend much time with her. During the week I am too busy to eat dinner with her. And so Saturday lunch is our bonding time. On Sunday’s I usually sleep in and she usually goes back to Lenz to visit her old neighbors. They became like a family…”
“I forgot what’s it like to be around some kind of family.”
We clean up the table and pack the extra food in the fridge.
Then Ozayr and I go outside, sit on the reckliners and take in the sun.
We sit in silence for a good hour and eventually I dose off.
When I wake up, I sit up instantly- embarrased. Do I have drool on my face?
“How long did I sleep for?”
“It is 3 o clock,” Ozayr says with a grin.
“Wow. How rude of me?!”
“It is fine. At least you are now well rested for the night.”
“Well I have no plans,”I say nonchalantly as I secretly hoped he would offer to do something.
I gather my stuff and he drops me off at home with no promises of when I would see him next…
“Uh… do you always make random colleagues meet your mother?”
“Who is a random colleague?”
I just look down.
“No seriously… no pressure or anything but I am just saying she would like you.”
“She doesn’t need to like me… we are just colleagues.”
He just keeps silent for a bit.
Then when he does speak I am lost for words.
“You the first girl I have met in a long time who has a calming effect on me. Its like I don’t find the need to do extraordinary things to impress you and I also don’t have to worry that you are in it for my money.”
But we are just colleagues?
“I have never taken any girl home before. Mainly because I was never in a serious relationship but also… I didn’t think they were worthy of meeting my mother.”
“Why you telling me this?”
“I don’t know… I can imagine me, you and my mum sitting around the kitchen table drinking tea and enjoying ourselves.”
It is so weird to see such a successful, good looking guy tell me this.
I don’t even know what it meant.
I barely chatted to a guy for seven years. I don’t know if this is how things worked these days.
“Why don’t you come for Saturday lunch to my mum’s tomorrow?”
“Don’t you think… I don’t know…”
“You have to eat… and you off anyways.”
I just nod.
This all was too much.
This is complicated. And I don’t do complicated.
I do go to work, come home and sleep. That is what I do.
As I am lost in my thoughts Ozayr is on to something completely different.
“Do you know Judge Marabudi? At South Gauteng High Court? That old man has it in for me. He doesn’t like me at all. So you know what I do… On purpose I cite a ‘conflict of interest’ for the court record and ask him to excuse himself from my trials. And the prosecutors die to know what conflict exists.”
I just laugh.
“I suppose you guys get the moody judges who are prickly about the law. There is no bad guy in a lot of corporate cases. Because everybody is dirty in corporate… do you want some ice cream? Or better still, we can ask them to put it in a cooler box for us and I can go make you carb-less waffles? With almond flour?”
What does he mean?
“No man… you can’t make me waffles.”
“I really want waffles and ice cream. So you can either direct the way to your house and we can have waffles there or you can come to my house.”
Ozayr has this imposing personality that you can’t say no to.
“Okay follow me home… it is the least I can do for you buying me dinner.”
Ozayr gets the bill as they pack two huge tubs of ice cream ‘to go’. It seems like he has done this before and they pack it very well.
I get in my car and drive down Grayston Drive towards my apartment.
This is the first time someone other than my brother, father and maid has entered my home.
I flash Ozayr to park in the visitors parking while I drive to my allocated bay.
The doorman was quick to come out and ask if I needed help with the parcels and I quickly said no.
That is the perks of a R4 million apartment.
I awkwardly lead the way up to top floor and open up the doors.
“A very nice flat you got here.”
“Thanks… my father insisted he buy it for me. I think he felt guilty that his wife didn’t want me staying with them.”
“But you have done it up beautifully. It is very homely.”
“Thank you. Decorating is the only piece of sanity I have.”
“Well if law doesn’t work out for you… you can always become an interior designer. I would hire you.”
I just smiled and made my way to the kitchen to make his carb free waffles.
“Do you know how to make the waffle mixture with almond flour?”
“I am not as incompetent as you think…”
Ozayr just laughs and looks around my flat.
It was so different to have someone in the house with me. Nice different.
I whip up the waffles, serve him two with a generous offering of the Lebanese ice cream and extra garnishing.
“Wow… it s a good thing you made the waffles. Mine doesn’t come out half as nice.”
“Do you cook and bake at all?”
“Well… with a doting mother it is impossible. But I make waffles and pancakes and sandwiches and I baked biscuits once. Also, I make a mean breakfast on mothers day.”
I laugh. At least he tries.
People with his kind of money would have a long time ago hired a cook.
“Your house says a lot about you Zahra…”
“What do you mean.”
“You are beautiful yet simple. Adventurous yet modest.”
Again, I am at a loss for words.
“Would you like some tea?”
“Only if you have lemon and ginger rooibos. I am a tea snob.”
“That makes two of us. Half of my pantry consists of fancy tea. Come pick something.”
We have a random conversation as we sit at my kitchen table and sip on tea.
The waffles and ice cream combination goes down wonderfully.
“The best tea I ever had was in Turkey,” he says.
“Do you like to Turkish tea? I am not much a fan… I enjoyed the English high teas in London restaurants. Although I would visit Turkey instead of London…”
“Why? Do you prefer culture over shopping?”
“Yes! Goodness you should see how I can’t deal with Dubai. It kills me. Seriously kills me.”
“You are the first woman who has ever told me that… It is refreshing.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy shopping but goodness there is more to life than huge super imposing malls with dancing fountains.”
“When I take my mum for Umrah we always stop there for a few days so she can do some shopping. I leave her with a very capable driver and I go to the dessert and do extreme sport. I barely enter a mall when I am there. My poor mother takes my measurements and gets suits made for me.”
“I hope you don’t expect your wife to do the same for you.”
Ozayr looks at me shyly and shakes his head.
“I am not a spoilt brat. My mother actually enjoys the shopping. She gets to get something for her old neighbours in Lenz and a present for every other aunty. I told her enough times to come with me on business trips to other countries but she hates it. Her biannual umrah and Dubai trips are enough for her. And three times a year she goes to one of my cousins in Durban for two weeks at a time so that is more than enough for her.”
“My mother was the same… She would never go with my dad on business trips. Just Dubai and Umrah was enough for her. I guess that is why my dad inevitably cheated on her. He used to travel so much but she stayed behind to look after me.”
“I guess our parents were much more forgiving than we would ever be. Despite the cheating your mother stayed in the marriage because they were schooled with that mentality that ‘a man is a man’ which is utter nonsense. My dad walked out on us when I was five years old and up until today she never ever asked her family for a single cent. Even when things were at its toughest.”
“It may have been terrible at the time but it groomed you to be the person you are. I grew up in luxury so I don’t really know how it was for you. But I do know that bad things happen and when you get pass it you realise that it only made you stronger. I was engaged to a guy who broke off the relationship weeks before my mother died. I didn’t know how I would ever live pass it but I did…”
Ozayr was suddenly so serious.
“That must have been… wow. I am so sorry.”
Reminder: The Cape Town launch of Diary of a Guji Girl is taking place this Saturday- 3pm- at Timbuktu books- Shop 4 19 Golfcourse rd. Sybrandt Park, Cape Town, South Africa. Your presence would be warmly appreciated.