“I apologise. This is your child and you should make these decisions. I am sorry, I was a little selfish,” I say and Ozayr looks shocked. He certainly didn’t expect such a calm and collected response.
It is funny actually, how he was so tensed in anticipation for a fight and my reaction totally diffused the situation.
It is a trick you learn in law, never let your opponent get the reaction he is ready for. If he comes prepared for a gun fight, offer a rose. It works every single time. It is an empowering tactic too. I simply refuse to live a life of screaming matches and lame apologies. As suffocating as it may be I will be the better person- it’s the last thing a person prepared for combat expects.
And it totally worked.
“I didn’t mean to be so harsh. It has just been really tough lately.”
“No worries. I understand,” I say smiling as I pack away the groceries.
Focusing on my ‘happy space’ is really what is keeping me going. I honestly cannot be sad and depressed my entire life. I refuse to be that miserable old aunty who makes it her duty to bring other people down to feel better about herself.
I remember my dad’s aunt who would pick on all young girls. At every event she would find an imaginable crease in your dress or criticise that your curls weren’t curly enough or there was a bump in your hair.
I remember one day my mother politly old her that throwing shade wouldn’t stop others from shining. My mother was much cooler than I could ever be.
“What’s going on? You are smiling to your self,” Ozayr says as I realise he has been watching me all along.
I just laugh and finish up.
“Seriously though. You amaze me.”
“You couldn’t care less that I am not playing my part in this situation…”
“I do care. That is why I set a plate for you each night for dinner even though you never come home. It is also why I send you a text message every day saying the same thing; I hope you have a pleasant day- even though I never get a response. It is also why I email you a picture of Rahma every day at bath time- to which I get no response. So yes I do care. I just choose to not let it negatively affect me.”
He just stares at me with no response. Almost as if he is trying to actively register what I just said.
I turn around and heat up dinner, while I make a quick salad.
I am really starting to enjoy lentils in my salad. I just can’t seem to make a nice homemade dressing.
As if on cue, Rahma starts crying as soon as I am done with dinner preparations. She needs a feed and bath.
I pick her up trying to sooth her with garbage baby talk.
It is funny, my “objection, Your Honour” has now become “shushu my nunu pie”.
Rahma is an easy baby, thankfully. Once she is fed she is a pleasure to look after.
“Drink sweety… come now,” I tell her… or myself- she can’t really understand.
Once she is fed and burped I lay out her PJ’s and go run her bath water.
As I return to my room I jump in fright as Ozayr leans on the door frame watching me.
I don’t say anything. I pick up Rahma and take her to the bath- which to her, is play time. This child absolutely loves the water and taking her out is often a nightmare.
And obviously the squeaky duck evokes her excitement. Every child must have that weird squeaky duck although I don’t really understand its function.
As I try to avoid Rahma taking a dive under water, I forget that Ozayr is watching me.
It is only when I mindlessly reach over for my phone to send him a routine picture of Rahma that I realise him standing there.
He just stands there and so I smile at him awkwardly.
Rahma screams as I remove her from the water and try to change her as quickly as possible.
“All good things must come to an end my dear,” I tell her as I furiously squirt baby powder on the screaming child.
Eventually she calms down and falls asleep. I put her in her crib clearly aware of Ozayr staring at me quietly for the last hour or so.
“You are really good at this,” he finally says.
“Well practice does make perfect. Almost at least.”
“Come sit down with me…”
“Sure… I just need to pray. Care to join me?”
He looks uncomfortable… I suspect he doesn’t pray much outside of the Friday prayers at the mosque.
I don’t force it as I get ready to pray the early evening Maghrib Sallah.
He eventually joins me and volunteers to lead.
This was our first prayer together- and had a weird sense of intimacy and closeness between the two of us.
It is difficult to explain really. But it feels like we bonded for the first time since we met. Maybe bonded isn’t really the right word.
We certainly connected more than we ever did. Admittedly the bar wasn’t really high as we didn’t really enjoy the same levels of closeness typically experienced by newly weds.
After Sallah, we sit there in silence until Ozayr motions for me to sit forward close to him.
He puts an arm around me and holds me tightly…
“Do you think there is a difference between religion and spirituality?” he asks with his mind clearly in a far flung place.
“I think perhaps religion is the means to the end- which is spirituality… what about you?”
“I have battled this for a while… it sometimes baffles me how we were thought mostly about punishment… and it concerns me- or the liberal me at least- how we can only live our lives in fear of going to hell.”
“For me personally… I think there has to be a balance between hoping for Jannah and dreading hell. When I was on campus there was a frequent debate about how religion enslaves people… I would think about it a lot. Especially when feeling guilty about doing something wrong. I think now I feel like it doesn’t really enslave people- but serves as a moral navigator…”
“It does. I think now when I look at my troubles it really has to do with not following the prescribed practices. It sort of come back to bite me…”
“I guess its never too late until its too late…”
“Hmm,” he merely says as he embraces me while we both sit on the floor.
It is really fascinating how being positive can affect those around you. Had I reacted earlier to him… we would probably be signing divorce papers by now.
It is not a perfect situation. I cannot hide away from that. But perfection is relative. And I have to make this work for me.
In this moment, sitting in his arms I realise why my mother didn’t just pack up her bags and leave. Sometimes you are put in a situation as a test and it is up to you how you fare in that test. In fact, it is up to you whether the test actually becomes a breeze.
“So is it too late for us to have dinner together?” he asks as I smile and get up.
I serve dinner and we talk about random things in lightened mood.
He tells me about how an old Judge in the high court fell asleep on the job and how he made them repeat their heads of argument.
“There was a constitutional law lecturer at UCT who would snort mid way through a sentence. It was hilarious!”
Ozayr laughs and tries to mimic that and I am basically falling over my seat in laughter.
It feels good to laugh hard- you know the stomach hurting, tear inducing laughter? It has been a while…
Choices is a fictional journal written by political journalist Qaanitah Hunter.
No lawyers were harmed in the making of this series.
Follow Qaanitah on Twitter: @QaanitahHunter
I take a deep breath and jump right in it- no life jacket in sight.
“You are right… I was a mess on one day. And you helped me. Had you not forced me to seek help I would have probably been in a really bad space right now. Suicidal perhaps. So I must thank you, you have helped me and I am appreciative. I was in a terrible space when I met you Ozayr. As I have confided in you, I have an irrational fear of being alone. That is what essentially drove me to marrying you. I wish I agreed on normal superficial basis. Your money really does not impress me nor does your flagrant personality. I thought you would be bearable because you experienced tough times and your survived. And I thought that would humanise you. But it clearly didn’t. You walk around like you invincible. Like the world owes you one because you triumphed and made something of your life. It is great that you did, but the world owes you nothing. I realise that now after spending a better part of my twenties moping around like an entitled brat. Sometimes things don’t go the way it ought to be or how we would like it to be, but you have to deal with it. And the choices we make thereafter are our choices and cannot be blamed on anyone or anything. You chose to have an affair with a woman you didn’t know and it is a choice you will have to live with until you die. I chose to marry you despite my rational mind warning against it and it’s a decision that would be with me forever. None of us in this room can pretend that this marriage was made to last… but I hoped you would have at least pretended for a month… a week even. Now we need to decide right now if we are willing to fight for the little bond we have or if we are going to give up we may as well do that now. But if you choose to be in it then we have to meet each other half way. I have nothing to loose from walking away- just so you know. Maybe a few aunties will gossip about me- but that’s where it ends…”
“Then walk aw….” Ozayr snaps quickly and Ayesha steps in.
“I am in charge now. Both of you listen to me. Alright. Oz, go get a book and pen. Zahra go get water for everyone.”
This is an appreciated pause in a tense complex conversation.
We come back and the mood is a lot calmer.
“Alright. You two are adults. You cannot under any circumstances bicker like teenagers. This has to stop. There has to be respect. Mutual respect. Before we carry on, Zahra do you want to get divorced?”
“No. Not without trying.”
“Oz, what about you?”
“Of course not.”
“Then you cannot continue to coexist in such hostility. Now what are the problems?”
“There are no problems. We barely know each other,” I say.
“Alright. That is a good start. So what are you going to do to change that? Oz?”
“We can go on an oversees trip if she wants to…”
“That is not going to solve anything,” I retort.
“Then what do you want from me?”
“Let us keep the tempers under control,” Zubair chirps in.
“I want family dinners. Gym sessions together. Family picnics.”
Ozayr look defiant as he shakes his head. I am not asking for a lot.
“But she knows I have to take clients out to dinner. I can do one dinner a week.”
“That is pathetic bra. There won’t be anything different between you and your father. An absent husband and father is as good as a man who walks out on his family,” Zubair says.
Ozayr does not take kindly to that. He is angry. I see it from his bulging temple vein but he says nothing.
“Guys calm down. Ozayr, you can do Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at home for dinner? Wednesdays you can take clients out. Friday night you guys can go out. Good compromise?”
It seems fine.
“Yeah. That seems reasonable.”
“Good. We are making progress. Now what about the baby?” Ayesha asks.
“She doesn’t need to look after her. I can pay someone.”
“A baby is not something you can throw money at and it will go away. This baby is a full time commitment. Zahra, until when will you be at home?”
“I am home for a month and then after that I will work half a day.”
“Fine. What compromises will you make for the child Oz? How much time can you commit?”
“I was just offered shares! There is no way that I can cut back from work.”
“How about commitment to a full weekend? Friday night until Sunday evening?”
“Why… okay fine.”
“Zahra, are you fine with that?”
“I don’t mind.”
“Okay. Now when will you tell your mother about this situation?”
“We agreed to tell her in three months,” Ozayr says.
“Honestly, that is going to cause more heart break. I think you should sit down with her as soon as possible. Get over the elephant in the room…”
Ozayr takes a deep breath and exhales loudly.
“It is going to be a mess. I will handle it this weekend…”
“We are making progress here,” Ayesha says as she jots down the commitments we made.
Everyone is quiet for a moment until Ozayr bursts out laughing.
I don’t think I have ever seen him laugh as much.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“I am a 34 year old successful lawyer. I have made prudent investment choices. But I am still so scared of my mother. She is going to kill me when she finds this. I am actually scared,” he says with a laugh.
We all chuckle.
“You are going to be sent to the naughty corner,” Zubair jokes.
This helps ease the environment and we are a lot more comfortable. I has been an emotionally draining night.
“Guys, we are not done. Let us iron out a few things and then we can chill,” Ayesha says and the guys groan.
“Alright, therapy. Both of you need separate and combined therapy. Ozayr how much time can you allocate for this in your week?”
“You want me to do dinners and therapy. No ways.”
“How about every Saturday morning you go- one week seperately and one week combined?”
“That is a lot!” I protest.
“At least for the next 6 months. Trust me, you will not regret it,” she says.
“3 months,” Ozayr negotiates.
“Okay, deal. Now how are you going to separate chores and finances? Zahra, are you sure you are willing to take care of the baby?”
“Yes, I don’t mind.”
“Alright… now Ozayr, I am not going to define your chores when it comes to your child but you need to pitch in. You remember you teased Zub for becoming a sissy and changing nappies? Well, I hate to break it you brother- you make a baby, you change nappies. That’s the way the world works.”
We all laugh and Ozayr seems annoyed.
We chat for a little while longer before Ayesha and Zubair leave. It was great meeting them and after the intense conversation we had- it seems like I know Ayesha forever. She is a lovely person and I think we could really get on well. Also she has twins, so she has experience with kids.
It will be okay… it will all be okay…
For the first few days after we had the ‘intervention’ by Ayesha and Zubair, things are okay at home. Rahma was back home and I am running around looking after her. She is a lot more responsive now and she smiled this morning. It was such a heartwarming experience seeing her smile at me.
It is difficult to explain love for a child. It is an all-encompassing love that makes you want to dedicate the rest of your life to this tiny, tiny being.
I look at Rahma when she’s asleep next to me and I try to imagine what kind of adult she will be. Independent and hot headed or timid? I wonder if she will be a girly girl or a tomboy.
Do you think she will choose to become a lawyer like her parents?
Things seem okay between Ozayr and I until Sunday afternoon when he goes to tell his mother about Rahma. I decide not to go along with him because it is clearly a matter between him and his mother.
He comes home red faced and visibly upset.
“How did it go?” I ask.
“Not well… let us not talk about it.”
And so we didn’t.
On Monday is his first official day back at work so I guess it is time to work out a routine.
I wake up early, to pray and to make Ozayr a good breakfast, only to realise that he has already left for gym. His work bag isn’t at home so I assume that he would go straight to work.
For 9 years of my life I would start my day with gym. I guess that can’t be an option now that Rahma is in the picture. Perhaps I can myself a treadmill so I can run at home while Rahma is asleep.
Today seems quite a challenge. I can’t stop wondering what happened between Ozayr and his mother.
I decide to draw up a full menu for the week ahead and cook early. I am so used to cooking the same thing every day for myself: grilled chicken fillet and veggies.
I guess now that I am a stay at home mum I have no reason not to experiment in the kitchen.
The words ‘stay at home mum’ used to freak me out before but I have come to appreciate how important it is to be there for a child. Also, it isn’t as boring as I thought it would be- at least for now it isn’t.
I decide to cook steak and mushrooms for dinner after which I set the dinner table in anticipation of Ozayr’s return home by around 5.30 or so.
By 5, I bath Rahma, feed her and put her to bed. My helper leaves. Everything is quiet. I sit and wait for Ozayr to come home.
He doesn’t come home for another 4 hours. By 9 I decide to eat and retire to bed.
What a fail!
I am asleep when he comes home and asleep when he leaves the next morning.
I try hard not to give up hope. It is too soon. I need to keep trying. Perhaps tonight I must wait up for him, regardless of what time he comes home.
I wait up and eventually he arrives home just before 10, surprised that I am up waiting for him.
He greets me softly.
“Go for it… I know you upset,” he says.
He expects me to shout at him because he knows that he hasn’t kept his side of the bargain.
I don’t give him the satisfaction of being right.
“Would you like me to warm the food for you?”
“No. I ate already.”
Again he looks around waiting for me to lash out at him but I don’t.
I simply go to the kitchen and pack the food away. I have taken a decision; I cannot be filled with rage or anger. No matter what Ozayr does to make me upset, I will not allow him to make me loose my cool.
The Doc says that I should create a happy place in my head in the wake of sadness and anger. My happy place is Rahma’s beautiful face. Everything else seems secondary.
As I finish up in my kitchen, I walk to the lounge to find Ozayr sitting with Rahma sleeping on his chest.
His legs are reclined and he is watching soccer highlights on mute.
I haven’t seen him like this before and it is hard to find a suitable reaction. Instead I quietly sit across him.
“How was your day?” he asks.
“Great. Rahma has learnt how to smile. It is the cutest thing ever. How was your day?”
“Could be better.”
I don’t say anything.
“We were finalising things with my shares. They are offering me 4% shareholding which is more of an incentive to get bigger clients. I am off from court for this week- we go to trial in the Gilson matter next Thursday.”
“I read about it today. It was postponed right? Do you think the state has a water tight case?”
“Not really. We will go after them on administrative errors. Get the case thrown out of court.”
“How are you doing though?”
Ozayr tenses instantly.
“What do you mean how I am? I am sitting here. I am fine.”
“Don’t fight. Alright I am glad you are okay…”
He just stares at me for a few moments.
“I told my mother… She was devastated. Hardly because of the baby… more so of me apparently ruining your life.”
“You are not ruining my life…”
“Try telling her that… She has really taken it hard. She won’t speak to me.”
“I am sorry…”
I can imagine how tough it must have been for him- considering how much his mother means to him.
For the rest of the week I hardly see Ozayr- he leaves before I wake up and returns while I am asleep. I get a glimpse of him when I wake up to feed Zahra in the middle of the night but besides that there is no communication. Not a text message even.
I really can’t loose hope. I was in a really bad space and I can’t go back there.
Today as I rearrange my closet, the thought of going to see Ozayr’s mother sprung in my mind.
He won’t approve but I think it worth the shot.
So I get done, dress Rahma and get ready to go. I ask my helper to come along with me- to take care of the baby while I drive.
I also need to go shopping.
When I arrive at Ozayr’s house- I am nervous but surprisingly his mother opens the door and welcomes me in warmly.
“How you ma?”
“Alhamdulilah… I am well. And you?”
“I was worried about you my child. Ozayr told me what he put you through… I am so heartbroken…”
“He didn’t put me through anything. Sometimes we have to look at the good.”
“You are such a lovely girl my beti. You will see how much of goodness will come from your life.”
“InshAllah. I just came to tell you that sometimes things we don’t like happen… but there is always good in it. I want you to be a part of this baby’s life. Do you want to hold her Ma?”
“It is hard… after all I sacrificed for this child for him to do this. I taught him what is right and wrong… my heart is broken.”
“I understand… but he is trying,” I say.
I don’t know why I am defending Ozayr- especially after how he has treated me this week.
Ozayr’s mother makes tea while I make small talk with her. Eventually she softens and she takes a peak at Rahma while I feed her.
Her eyes well with tears.
“For you to do this… you are such a selfless person,” she tells me as she takes Rahma from me and holds her tight.
I can’t help but smile. Again, it is amazing how a child can soften even the hardest of people.
“It is so nice that you came way to visit me… I get so lonely in this big big house.”
I can imagine. I get lonely in my small apartment even with Rahma and the helper there.
“Would you like us to move in here Ma?”
“I would like that but you know my Ozayr. He is so stubborn. Also, you must have your privacy too.”
I leave her house feeling a lot better. It can’t be easy living alone in a mansion.
Maybe it won’t be such a bad thing to move in with her. Also, the house is designed such that we would have our own quarters. Also, she would be able to help me with the baby if I need to go anywhere- also when I go back to work.
To my surprise, Ozayr is home when I get back from shopping, around 5pm.
“Is your phone on silent?” he asks.
“I think so… you tried calling me?”
“Yes. I was wondering where you were.”
“I just went to get a few things for the house. Also, I couldn’t help but get some pretty dresses for Rahma.”
“That’s thoughtful of you.”
“I went to see your mother today…”
Ozayr goes cold.
“It was really lovely spending time with her… she is very lonely.”
“Did you take Rahma with?”
“Yes… she warmed up to her eventually.”
“Why would you jump the gun like that?”
“This is my child and I would have introduced her to my mother when I was ready to do so!”
Thank you to the wonderful ladies who attended yesterday. If you still want to make it, I will be back at the H4U Book Bytes event this afternoon in Johannesburg South.
As an introvert, I generally abstained from socials in my career. I would rarely go out for drinks with colleagues or attend end of the year functions.
I think I only ever attended 2 work functions and that was because it was to celebrate my own promotion.
Also, I don’t socialise with clients or attend their events.
I always maintained a strong boundary between work and play. And arguably, it worked well for me.
Ozayr on the other hand doesn’t have that boundary it seems.
He justifies it that socialising with people out of work hours allows for a deeper relationship.
He says clients earn your trust outside of the workplace.
He makes the same argument why he spends an awful amount of time with his colleagues after work.
Getting ready for our ‘meet the friends’ function post the wedding is quite a mission.
Ozayr is very much involved in the process which I find quite strange.
It shouldn’t be your business what clutch your wife wears to a work event.
But to him it was his chance to “show you off to the world”.
I don’t know if I am comfortable enough being “showed off” but I am willing to cooperate with him. For one night. After this I am back to my introvert life.
Ozayr insists that I go for an entire spa day in preparation for the “big night”.
He books me at The Spa@Melrose where I did a facial and pedi. He did one thing right for a change. The spa premises is on point and the service is quite good.
I particularly enjoy the fact that it so serene even though it is in the middle of the city.
As I get my feet ‘done’, I end up spilling the beans to the therapist how my husband forced me to buy a dress I don’t like and the next thing I start confiding in a woman I don’t know.
She is sweet enough to nod and offer sympathy as she buffs my nails.
I feel quite relaxed as I drive out of Melrose and onward to my hair and makeup appointment.
I decide to go for quite dramatic makeup- nothing I would usually wear- only because I know Ozayr wants me to make a statement.
When I get back to my flat, I get a nod of approval from him when I show him the “final product”.
“You will steal the show,” he says gleaming.
“Whatever… I just want it to be over…”
We leave for the fancy schmanzy restaurant at one of Africa’s most expensive hotels.The type where a Merc feels like a second grade car.
I have come to learn that Ozayr and his associates are all about the splurge- glitz and glam.
I grew up in affluence but there was never an excuse to spend so fruitlessly- it makes no sense to me.
My first impressions of the venue is disbelief. Perhaps this is not our event?
A hostess in a little black dress, bursting at its seams, welcomes us in offering us champagne and sushi.
She doesn’t spare the moment trying to charm my husband!
Ozayr quickly mentions who he is and soon they offer us juice instead.
There is a pianist playing in the foyer as people mingle with each other.
Beautiful women with perfect features in arm with equally good looking men with expensive suits.
Short dresses and high, high heels are everywhere together with shiny cufflinks and neat bow-ties.
Everyone sipping on what is described as “fine wine”.
Once we enter, groups of people flock towards us to congratulate the “happy couple”.
Ozayr takes time to introduce me to every. Single. Person.
I can’t keep up. Between senior partners at this firm, to CEO’s of that company.
My standard answer: “it is a pleasure meeting you”.
It really isn’t a pleasure. I am uncomfortable. I don’t make small talk. Its not what I do.
Finally, the excruciating period of socialising comes to an end and we are ushered into the dinning area.
But soon to my horror i realise that it is long dinning tables and not individual tables.
Meaning, we have to maintain the small talk through out the night.
Once we sit down some platinum blonde woman urges Ozayr to give a toast.
I want to die.
Call me a prude but I cannot handle people loosing their inhibitions.
Ozayrs gives in.
“If you insist, I would like to propose a toast. Firstly to my loving wife, Zahra. A woman who took my breath away the moment I saw her. She has been an inspiration to me and an anchor to me. Many of you here would know me for my foot loose tendencies but since this fine lady has come into my life she has given me purpose, reinvigorated my spirit and softened me. To a lifetime of happiness and love. And to all of you who have come here to share in our happiness. To love…”
Everyone clink their glasses and laugh.
The mood is festive. But I stare coldly at the bottle of whiskey in the middle of the table.
This is my event yet no one present respected by beliefs and values of not drinking.
You know why? Ozayr has become okay with the presence of alcohol that no one present deems it to be offensive to me.
His ‘toast’ was a cheesy exercise. It is a bit dissappointing really.
As the chit chat continues, a couple walks in late. The man comes in a casual t-shirt and jeans and the woman wears an oversized abaya.
“Sorry! The kids refused to sleep!” the lady says.
Her name is Ayesha- she’s married to Ozayr’s campus buddy Zubair- and she couldn’t care less how under dressed she is for the event.
She pulls a seat next to me and instantly strikes up conversation.
“There are two things in life one needs to survive. Oxygen and a good nanny!”
The chit chat continues as we eat varieties of fish. Ozayr mostly speaks business while I just smile and nod.
As the dinner comes to an end, one of the board members of Ozayr’s firm comes to congratulate us and then lays a bombshell.
“I was waiting to break the news to you and I think now would be the best time… I want to offer you shares in the company… Congratulations.”
Ozayr is blown away. It seems like this was one of his life dreams come true.
He clenches my hand.
I smile at him.
Zubair and Ayesha come and join us at the door.
“Ozzy, how many times do I have to tell you that we are not okay with phuza. It is your event bro. Don’t bring this nonsense,” Zubair tells him frankly.
“Even your wife agrees,” Ayesha chips in.
“Since your kids are asleep… why don’t you guys come home for tea? Because if I go out with Victor and them I know you will have a lot to say,” Ozayr tells Zubair.
“You need to stop your shit. You are a married man now. You mess around and I will break your legs myself. Ja, we will come to you. By your ma?” Zubair responds.
It seems like Ozayr is very close to Zubair and listens to him which is good.
“Not by my ma… I have something to tell you… Come to my vrou’s house,” Ozayr says.
He forgets his polished lawyer accent and sounds like an ordinary Lenz boy.
We drive to my flat, Baby Rahma is with the nurse for the night. From tomorrow she will be full time with us.
Once we get to my flat, I see Ayesha is puzzled by something.
“You have a very beautiful flat but why is he staying with you when he has a dozen properties?” she asks.
If there is a hashtag to describe the mood it would be awkward.
“Why don’t you guys sit down and I will explain everything?”
I leave the lounge to escape the awkwardness and go and remove my heels and dress and put something more comfortable on.
When I rejoin them in the room the mood is dead serious.
“I learnt an important lesson… that baby changed me. It’s hectic being a father.”
“Exactly. That’s why you gotta know what you are doing. You can’t mess around with a child’s life bra.”
When I sit down the conversation stops. It is quiet for a few seconds.
“Let me tell you something bra, you are lucky this woman agreed to marry you after knowing what a freelancer you are. You bloody need to worship her feet that she agreed to look after your child!”
I just sit there.
Ayesha steps in.
“Having kids was a huge sacrifice for us. We talked about it for 5 years before we actually had the twins. I sacrificed everything. I love my kids. And Zubair is there. Dude, you got to be grateful that Zahra is in your life.”
“Its not like she’s not benefitting from this arrangement too,” Ozayr suddenly snaps.
The. Monster. Is. Back.
“I don’t want to intervene in your marriage but show some respect brother!”
“Bra, I get it. I messed up. But I am making things right. Why do you think I got hitched? You think I didn’t enjoy being single?! I am sorting out my stuff. And yes, I must be grateful that this girl married me but it was mutual agreement. She is benefitting as much as I am. She didn’t tell you how she was a nervous wreck and I helped her. She lost her marbles and I got her help. So this is not on my only…”
He says that like I am not sitting there.
I instantly start tearing as I get up to leave.
“No. Don’t go! Have your say.”
For more on the Spa@Melrose visit: http://www.melrosespa.co.za/
People treat you differently when you have a wedding band on your finger. It is weird but true.
Like people trust you more. Some women shoot jelous glances. Older couples smile in earnest silently wishing you don’t end up where they are; unhappy but comfortable.
As I make my way across King Shaka Airport I have a smile planted on my face. Not the fake all-teeth-showing kind I had plastered on my face yesterday.
Today I am happy. It is funny. That deep hole that plagued me for years seems have been filled.
It is true. Marriage does complete you somehow. Humans are not meant to be alone.
There are so many times when I would fly up from Durban and sit at a coffee shop at the airport and wished I was traveling with someone. I would sit and order a skinny latte every time and watch people around me. There would be old couples bickering about where to keep the tickets and young couples smitten in love. I would stare in envy. And my heart would tear everytime I would see a couple distraught at their seperation. Perhaps the man was travelling for work or the woman travelling to visit her family. But the look of grief on either of their faces would make me question how much do they love each other that it is so difficult to be momentarily seperated.
But today I am not worried about all of that. I don’t even look at the people sitting at the table across from us. For the first time, I don’t have that deep needy feeling of wanting to find love sitting next to me on my flight.
I may have not found love just yet. But being around someone makes live easier to bear.
Early this morning Ozayr and I went to greet my father before we leave for Jo’burg. I had to make peace and apologise for my outburst last night.
He, like he always does, just swept it under the carpet. Pretended all was okay.
Thankfully we didn’t have a huge after wedding function the next day.
Although I am quite surprised at home many people bought us gifts.
My brother and sister in law packed it all in two huge boxes to take along back home.
“I didn’t think that many people liked me,” I tell Ozayr as we sip on some strong Arabica coffee.
“Well a gift is the least they could do after the wonderful wedding you organised for them,” he says.
It seems like ages ago since we got married and it was barely 24 hours ago.
“It feels like a lifetime has passed since the wedding…” I tell him.
He doesn’t respond and merely clenches at my hand.
It feels incredible. It is not how imagined being happily married to be. It is much better.
The tought of spending the rest of our lives together is a chilling thought.
Sometime things don’t start the way it should but it works out just fine.
On the plane Ozayr was the sweetest person to me. It is difficult not to feel butterflies around him.
“Would you bring a bottle of water for my lovely wife?” he would ask the air hostess on the top of his voice.
I jab him in the ribs and “sshh” him. He laughs heartily.
“Do you know what I think?”
“I think we need a proper honeymoon slash babymoon before I get back to work. We have until Wednesday. We could go away for 2 and a half days?”
“The thought of it is great… but I really think we must get into a routine and adjust to baby Rahma. Also… we have a lot of admin to do… maybe once shes older than a month?”
“Barely married a day and you already bullying me?” he asks with a laugh.
We get to my flat and I see all of baby Rahma’s things have taken up my spare room while a lot of Ozayr’s stuff are in my other room.
The house feels warm.
“I think we should unpack and get comfortable before we go fetch the baby…”
Ozayr opens the boxes of presents and we separate it in to things we like, things we may use and things we will give away.
“You are a fussy person to give a gift to,” he teases.
“Just give me all the cards so I can send Thank You messages to everyone.”
Once we are unpacked and refreshed we go to fetch baby Rahma.
“Are you ready?” he asks me with a smile.
I smile back.
We go to Ozayr’s flat where Aunty Lulu is waiting for us. Rahma is asleep and looks like a doll.
“How was the wedding? She wasn’t feeling well but she is much better now. Soon you will have to take her for the 4 week check up. Thankfully she is not collici. She is a good baby.”
Ozayr thanks the nurse and I fetch Rahma and we leave.
Once we get home I put Rahma to sleep and Ozayr and I chill in the longe.
“I need to sort out you and Rahma’s medical aid… We need to get married in court. I need to update my will. Open a trust fund for the little one?”
“Can we just chill for a bit before we get back to real life?”
“You are the one who shot down a babymoon.”
“But we might as well sort all of this out… I need to mail work and let them know I will be taking an extended break.”
“I just got a mail from my PA. All is set for Wednesday evening. I hope you don’t mind… there will be an open bar… you know lawyers and booze. You can’t separate the two.”
“Will it be formal?”
“She put “bow tie and heels” as the dress code.”
“What should I wear?”
“We can go shopping tomorrow morning. Our first shopping trip as a married couple.”
That night we don’t sleep. Rahma kept us all night waking up in 45 minute intervals.
We don’t even know what we are doing but we just keep feeding and purping the baby and singing her to sleep. Sometimes we are lucky sometimes we are not quite.
The next morning, I am probably for asleep for just over two hours, my helper rings the bell.
I told her to come in today and she is surprised to see a man in the house and even more surprised to see a baby.
She doesn’t ask.
“Thandi darling. I want you to come full time now.Monday to Friday. I will need more help now. Also I may need help with the baby… Do you know anyone that can help?”
“Why get someone else? I help. But you pay me.”
I laugh. She is a good businesswoman.
“So will you stay in? I will increase your salary to R4000 a month.”
“Hai Zahraa. That is too much. Make it R3000. Otherwise the people will think I am making money from being a street woman.”
Ozayr walks in the conversation and he laughs.
“So let them think that… At least you can buy nice clothes,” I say.
She mutters something in Zulu and goes to check on the baby.
“What can I make you for breakfast?” I ask him.
“We are going out for breakfast… We’ll go to HydePark corner. I messaged aunty lulu and told her to come by… Go get done we have a lot to sort out.”
As soon as aunty lulu arrives we leave. I am absolutely tired.
One of the baby magazines I read on the plane describe the first 8 weeks of parenthood as a tired blur.
“Gosh I thought she would never finally sleep,” Ozayr tells me as we drive along Rivonia Road.
“Hopefully we will get into routine soon.”
Once we get in the mall, Ozayr indicates that we will first get a dress for the event on Wednesday evening.
Personally I wouldn’t shop for evening wear at Hyde Park.
But it seems like Ozayr had a specific thing he wanted me to wear.
He walks straight into one of the many luxurious designer stores and goes straight for a Prafutie dress.
Desmond Prafutie is a high end french fashion designer and had a successful show at the recent Paris Fashion Week. Apparently Kim Kadarshian was photographed in one of his dresses. Not like I care. But it seemed like the shop assistant and Ozayr cared.
The dress he picked out was… hot. It said “mistress” more than “newly weded wife”.
“Erm… the neckline is too low… Lets look around,” I offer.
I try on a few dresses all of which get a firm head shake from Ozayr.
Finally a grey and iceblue dress with swarovsky detail gets a nod from him.
It is really out of my comfort zone but it is a beautiful dress.
With a R26 000 price tag!
I would never pay so much for a dress. But Ozayr seems determined for me to look good for his colleagues. Which is weird.
“We need to get you a pair of shoes. What’s your favourite?”
“To tell you the truth I wear plain heels from Woolies… and I have so many unworn pairs. I don’t need shoes…”
“Well you have no choice,” Ozayr responds firmly.
A penny… scratch that… I would give a hundred dollars for his thoughts.
He goes into another fancy botique shop and picks our a ridiculously high fancy heel. I would never ever buy that for myself let alone wear it.
But I just nod to make him happy.
It is really clear that he has a certain image of the type of wife he wants by his side.
It is disturbing really.
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This is the first time I confronted my father about his philandering.
“I don’t think this is the time for this…”
“You are right… See you papa…” I say and get into the car.
He looks shocked. Ozayr hugs and greets him and gets in the driver seat.
He is quiet at first.
“Are you okay?”
He just keeps quiet.
“When we get back I am going to ask Doc George to prescribe you something,” he says in passing.
“Already can’t deal. Oh why am I not surprised?!”
“You are not making this easy for me Zahra.”
“You know my whole life I envisaged how my wedding would be… my mother would be wearing a heavily beaded dress with a matching headscarf. She would have been making sure everyone was enjoying the wedding. She would come on stage and fix my hair because she was a perfectionist. She would have warned my husband that if you ever mistreated me he would have to deal with her. She would have advised me to be patient and be a good wife. And then she would have teased us. I imagined to be so in love with my spouse that I would be impatient to leave the wedding so we can spend the rest of our lives together… and I always imagined it to be nonconventional. I imagined my husband I would be spontaneous and fun like have an illegal bon fire on the beach and lay under the starlight and talk for hours. And eat weird combinations of food… not a conventional romantic evening but one that I will remember forever…”
“That is the problem with you girls… You believe the crap you watch in movies. That stuff of laughter and unicorns is not real.”
“It can be. But guys like you are too selfish to love someone that way. You are selfish. That is why you will never be able to love anyone.”
“How am I selfish. I will give you whatever you want?!”
“That is the problem!” I hit back.
“You think romcoms can be real. That is what’s your problem.”
“No. You think buying a girl things is how to make her happy. That is utter nonsense. You are selfish with your affection. You will be a lonely old man!”
The argument is tense and ends abruptly as Ozayr pulls up at an upmarket hotel in Umhlanga.
“You want a fun, spontaneous adventure? I will give you one. I just can’t argue anymore. It is not cool.”
“No. I don’t want anything now.”
“What do you want? Huh?”
“Nothing. We can fly back to Jo’burg tomorrow and go back to our separate lives.”
“I don’t know if you forgot… but there is a baby waiting for us when we get back. There is no way we can go our separate ways.”
I momentarily forgot about Baby Rahma.
“So are we going to be those people? Who bicker all the time until our neighbours and friends silently wish we divorce soon?” I ask.
“I really wish we are not like that Zahra… I really wish this works out regardless of the situation…”
I calm down when I hear him say that…
“I am going to send the bags up with the valet and then we will go for a walk on the beach. I want us to be as honest as we can with each other. This needs to work so we have to put in an effort.”
I just nod and unstrap my heels in the car.
I walk barefoot across to the beach and take in the crisp waves crash against the shore.
We stand there side by side watching the water in silence until we are tired of standing.
“Do you want to sit a bit?” he asks and I nod.
“You know earlier when I expressed concern about getting too attached to Rahma… I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I just know what it feels like to have parents who are in a toxic relationship and for one parent to eventually leave. I think it would be worst than not having a mother figure at all. Also, I really don’t want to bring my child up in a toxic environment where we fight all the time. I think it is unfair on her.”
“I understand… but it is too late for you to say I shouldn’t get attached to her. I am already attached. It is weird but it is what it is.”
“Would you want to play mummy or daddy’s wife?”
“I don’t know… I love this child already…”
“It is quite difficult hey…”
“If I chose to be mummy then it has to be for the long haul. We can’t think of splitting up soon…”
“Yes. From my side I would love for you to be her mummy… you have shown me what a great mother you can be and how loving you are. But I also don’t want to deprive you from your own happiness.”
“This child brings me happiness…”
“You say that now… but what if you meet someone and you fall in love…”
“I would never. I think you know me to be better than that.”
“What about having your own kids… have you ever thought about that?”
“I don’t know… Do you want more kids?”
“I also have no idea… Not right now anyways…”
“Oh gosh. It can’t happen now,” I say and we both laugh.
“I don’t want to ever mention that woman to Rahma… if you want to be her her mummy, you must be the only mummy she knows.”
“Do you think that is fair on her?”
“I don’t know… it is very tough. I guess we have a good decade before she starts asking questions.”
“How would you want to raise her?”
“I think I will be bad cop and you can be good cop… She will not be allowed to have a smart phone until she’s 30!”
“I think by the time she’s a teenager phone’s will be dated and there will be more tech connecting people,” I say and Ozayr chuckles.
“But she’s not allowed near boys. Boys are schum!”
“We definitely agree on that one.”
“But seriously… I think while I am to many people liberal I would want to raise my kid with good values and morals… And I think you would be great in helping me in that regard.
I just smile and look down.
“I want to give her everything I can but I also don’t want her to be a brat…”
“I will make sure she doesn’t become a brat…”
“Believe it or not… if we want her to go to a private school we would have to apply now.”
“Gosh I would like to think we still have a few years before we think about school.”
“I will get my PA to make a few hefty donations to some good private schools and we can hope they will accept her when its time.”
“And you think we will live in Jo’burg all of our life?”
“I think so… I have travelled the world already and Jo’burg will always be home… at least as long as my mother is alive.”
“Speaking of your mother, when will you introduce her to Rahma…”
“I think… after our three month anniversary… I am dreading that.”
“Let’s not think about it. For now we can stay in my apartment.”
“I have the other flat ready if you want… I am easy with anything.”
“When did your PA arrange the event with your colleagues to meet me?”
“She scheduled it for Wednesday evening. Mid week is weird but that’s the only reservation she could get at Mia Vora.”
“It is fine. I must remember to call work and ask for another 2 months of unpaid leave.”
“Are you sure about that? You don’t have to do it you know.”
“I know. But I have been meaning to take a sabbatical for years now.”
“I would never want you to compromise on your career…”
“I am not giving up my job… I just will take a break and then work less hours.”
“As long as its your own decision… but I would appreciate it. You know what hectic hours I work. I would try to scale down but I know it would be difficult if not impossible at first.”
“Are you nervous of introducing me to your work colleagues?”
“Frankly I am…”
“Because it is weird introducing a wife to people who know me to be the office player.”
“I am not going to pretend that I don’t have a checkered past. It is what it is.”
“What type of wife would you want me to be?”
“The honest answer or the nice answer?”
“I want you to be a trophy wife. A wife people would be envious of. Always beautiful and well dressed. Always happy and confident. Someone who is a pleasure to have on my arm. Someone who will be supportive of me but mostly just well put together.”
“Trophy wife… wow… At least you being honest about it.”
“And what type of husband do you expect.”
“The bar is so low… just someone who won’t cheat on me. That’s basically it.”
I see Ozayr tense up.
“Why are you that way? Huh? You expect so little from the world and you are so disillusioned. Why? You are a beautiful stunning woman with so much to offer the world. But you are so disillusioned its so horrible.”
“You know what’s horrible… You can’t even assure me you won’t cheat.”
“You just expect the worst..”
And our lovely conversation has now erupted into yet another argument.
“When you cheat on me all bets are off.”
“It is like you think its inevitable. I won’t cheat on you. But I am giving you the option to leave… You can get out if you want to.”
“I won’t leave. This marriage will work. Even if its bound together by a strained hair. I don’t like failing. And I will not be that girl who got divorced in less than a year.”
“We need to stop arguing…”
“You are right… I need to go for more therapy. Maybe you can join me… I just have so many nagging concerns and questions…”
“Why wait for therapy… lets iron it our now…”
“How many women have you been with?”
“Wow… Uhm. I am not sure. I only ever dated two girls seriously. One on campus. She broke up with me cos I was poor. And then when I was still doing my articles I dated a girl but she couldn’t handle my partying so I broke up with her. I have had many brief encounters… I can’t but a number to it.”
“More than 10?”
“I guess so…”
“And would you have gotten married if you weren’t in the same circumstances?”
“I don’t know. I think eventually I would have because of my mother…”
“What about religion… is it important to you?”
“Yes… but I am a bad Muslim… I hope to become a better one.”
“And would you mind if I wore a scarf?”
“Right now I would. Perhaps when we older its fine. Now I want you to be attractive… I am not ready yet for that…”
“If I had an argument with your mother whose side would you choose?”
“Would you expect me to cook for you every day?”
“Not everyday but most days.
“How much say would I have in this marriage?”
“I will consult you. The final decision is mine.”
“Do I have a say in money matters?”
“Not really. Also, you won’t be allowed to use your income on the house.”
“Can I pick holiday destinations?”
“Will you fraternise with other women?”
“I will interact with other women. Not inappropriately.”
“Will you allow me to have male friends then?”
“I think I am done for now…”
“Do you want to run yet?”
“I don’t scare so easily.”
We laugh heartily as we play in the sand.
Ozayr jumps up and pulls me up with him as he starts running towards the water.
“This is illegal… We are not allowed to do this,” I say in between laughter.
He pulls me into the shore and I lift my dress as the waves die against my toes.
As we laugh and play around in the water, we get the attention of beach patrol.
Two security guards run towards us with batons and flashlights.
“What are you two doing here. It is 3am. You are not allowed to be here. We can arrest you.”
“Listen here boss… We just got married. We are just celebrating.”
“Okay leave now and I won’t arrest you two,” the one security guard says.
“Okay we are going now…”
“Before you go… what you got for us boss?”
Ozayr digs in his pocket and hands them each a R200 note.
They leave smiling and we make our way back to the hotel.
“This is a story you will remember forever. We almost got arrested on our wedding night,” he says as I laugh.
Maybe this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be…
Note: Do you believe the notion of a ‘trophy wife’ is derogatory and sexist?
I may be the only bride who is not nervous at all on her wedding day.
I think the only time I was a ball of nervous when I had to argue my first case in court.
Standing up for the first time in front of an old beady-eyed judge was terrifying.
Even though I had everything I had to say scripted and practised it a million times.
I remember the judge told me to “take a deep breath” mid way through my heads of argument.
After that I decided to see the inside of a courtroom as little as possible.
I try to avoid trial.
And even now… almost 10 years in the profession, I still get some butterflies at the thought of going to trial.
I swear by out of court settlements.
But Ozayr on the other hand doesn’t agree. Well he is a criminal lawyer- and his bread and butter comes from lengthy trials.
He has the gift of the gab and can articulate an argument very well.
I once heard from a state prosecutor that they hate it when they hear ‘OM’ will be on the other side.
Most of those state prosecutors don’t have half the swag he has in court.
Anyways, the house is mostly calm as we get ready for the wedding.
My sister in law is doing last minute errands, my brother took all the cars to the car wash, my father went in to the bank for some reason and his wife was just pottering around behind the helpers.
I decide to go to the venue earlier than expected just to have a final check of everything before I start getting done.
When I arrive, the caterers are mostly done with the décor and are now focusing on the food.
It looks even better than it did yesterday. The lights are on and all the finer details are ironed out.
I am in love with the mini rose-wall lining the red carpet. Also, the stage is incredibly decorated.
I call my sister in law to join me at the hall.
When she arrives she is also taken aback by how lovely everything looks.
“Please tell your waiters to be on point and kind when serving and the food must not be cold,” she instructs the owner of the catering company.
I laugh and we leave.
The getting done process was long and tiring.
I feel like I have a tin of Plascon paint on my face.
“We have to cake your face. It is for the pictures,” the makeup artist insists.
When I look in the mirror when she is done I am pleasantly surprised. I look pretty, even if I must say so myself.
“Do you want me to add the falsies?” she asks and I shake my head. There is a level of fake I can tolerate and falsies belong in the same basket with colour contacts!
Once the makeup is done the hairdresser steps in.
I want a simple knot bun. It shouldn’t take long. Or so I thought.
“You are a bride. We have to make sure the hairstyle stays the entire evening,” she responds to my protests.
“By the amount of hairspray you are using this style will last a year!”
Finally my hair is done and my head piece is in place.
I am ready to put my dress on. There is no turning back now, is there?
I slip on my dress and a lump forms in my throat.
If only my mother was here to see me get married. That was her dying wish.
I wonder how she would have been if she was alive today.
Would we fight? Would she be emotional?
I miss her today more than any other time in the world.
Finally I am ready and I go to the lounge where my family members are converged.
My father looks emotional.
He gets up briskly and hugs me.
“Come with me,” he says as he leads the way to his bedroom.
He goes to his cupboard and takes out a dusty box.
“I went to the bank to take this out for you. Your mother said I must give this to you on your wedding day,” he says as he gives me the box and leaves the room before I could open in.
Inside the box is a chain I don’t remember my mother ever wearing.
And at the bottom is a note.
I open it cautiously.
My dear Zahra.
If you are reading this then it is probably your wedding day and Papa kept his promise to me.
Just remember that sometimes life doesn’t always go the way we planned it to go. Sometimes the Almighty has a greater plan. If you put Him first everything else will fall in place.
People disappoint but He never does.
I love you always.
I read the note over and over. As tears well up in my eyes.
She could have said anything in this letter but this is all she said. It was as if she wanted people to disappoint me. Am I being irrational?
I am filled with grief and anger.
Had she not died I would have not been in this situation.
I am in tears.
Yes I get it. The Almighty has a bigger plan. I believe that. But why?
As I tremble in tears my brother walks in.
He doesn’t say anything but just hugs me.
The last time my brother hugged me was at my mother’s funeral.
He just embraces me in silence.
Eventually I stop crying.
“We need to leave for the mosque. I need your permission to go ahead with the nikaah.”
I nod my head.
“I miss her too. She would be very proud of you today,” he says as he leaves the room.
I sit there feeling terrible. I am not happy or excited that I am getting married. I feel like hell.
My sister in law walks in the room with tissues, a box of makeup and two brown pills.
“Take this. It will calm you down. Let me fix your make up, your in laws are here already.”
I swallow the pills without water as she fixes my make up.
Thankfully it wasn’t badly smudged.
“I need you to be act happy okay my dear,” she says as straightens my dress.
I nod and smile. Inside I am trembling.
“Happy thoughts only,” she says as she leads the way out of the room.
I think of baby Rahma. And how cute she looks when she is asleep.
I think of how my mother would cut of my crusts every time she made me a sandwich even when I was on campus.
I think of my first trip to DisneyLand with my parents. They were happy. We were all so happy.
When I walk into the lounge the entire room gasps.
A few of my aunties were there and Ozayr’s mother and aunties.
“You look amazing,” two aunties said in unison. The room erupted in laughter.
I look at my reflection in a mirrored cabinet and I can barely recognise myself.
Smile Zahra, I tell myself.
After that everything becomes a blur. I hear my nikaah take place over a receiver from our local mosque but it feels surreal.
Like it is not my religious ceremony taking place.
I think of random things. Is Zayn married? How did my brother know my sister in law was the one? Where did my father meet his new wife?
I am lost in thoughts when I am interrupted by Ozayr’s mother who gets up to hug me.
“Welcome to the family,” she says with tears in her eyes.
If only she knows the half of it!
Everyone scurries around to congratulate me and I smile and nod. Inside my stomach feels hollow.
And then Ozayr shows up.
He is wearing a traditional white islamic Kurta. It is long and flowing.
I have never seen him wear this before.
It is hard to read his emotions. His face is blank as he stares at me.
My father is behind him and is smiling from ear to ear.
Ozayr greets me softly and take out the wedding ring. It is simple white gold band with a diamond.
I look at the ring nervously. Rings signify nothing, to be honest.
After what seemed like hours of photos and congratulations, everyone leaves for the hall and my brother and sister in law give us some time alone.
“So…” he says smiling.
“I suppose you are my husband now…”
“Unfortunately,” he says frowning.
“Now is not the time.”
“I know that. I just can’t help but feel bad for ruining your life. You make an amazing bride. This ought to be the best day of your life… I am sorry.”
“Can we please pretend all is well. Just for a few hours. I really can’t deal with anything more than what I am currently dealing with at the moment.”
He just smiles at me and holds my hand.
“I gave your father the dowry,” he says.
I don’t even know how much it was.
“The whole Nikah was a blur for me… I was so overwhelmed.”
“It was kinda like that for me until I had to pay up,” he says with a chuckle.
“So how much am I worth?”
“I initially offered 100 bux. But then after serious negotiations we agreed on 4o bucks,” he jokes.
“It was 150K including the ring.”
“That is a lot…”
We make small talk and I tell him about my mother’s note. He just listens and nods.
“I think contrary to what you think your mother would have been proud of you today,” he says.
Eventually my brother comes and signals for us to leave for the venue.
As we drive to the reception, Ozayr charms my brother and sister in law.
Like I said, he has the gift of the gab.
My niece sits between us and is fascinated by my dress.
We arrive and we are told to wait until our entrance is announced.
I chose to be walked in with Ozayr and not my father.
“You ready Mrs Mohammed?”
Surprisingly I am actually excited and a little bit happy.
My father and his wife walk in first followed by my brother and sister in law.
Then my niece walked ahead of us.
Finally we walk on.
The entire hall falls silent.
“I hope I don’t trip,” Ozayr whispers in my hear.
I clutch on to my boquet of flowers.
“You are not even wearing high heels,” I respond and he laughs.
The photographers snap away as we make our way along the red carpet.
“You would swear it is as if my mother is getting married today,” he tells me as we walk passed his smiling mother.
You can see she is overwhelmed with happiness.
Once we are on stage a short programme starts and we sit side by side and listen.
Then finally the food is served and Ozayr and I move to the side of the stage where a semi private table was set up for us.
I didn’t want to eat with family members. It would just be awkward.
I look around the hall and I am happy to see everyone enjoying the function although I see only a few familiar faces.
“Gosh, I hope no one is complaining about the food,” I tell Ozayr as we sit down to eat.
“I doubt it but even if they are it shouldn’t affect you.”
“Do you want to see what people think of the wedding?” Ozayr asks as he pulls out his phone and opens Instagram.
All my cousins- the snotty ones- were using the hashtag #ModernDayFairytale to describe my wedding.
“That makes me feel better,” I tell Ozayr and he chuckles.
“I wish Rahma could have been here…”
“Me too… I miss her,” I say again waiting for a response.
“Zahra… You know… I appreciate you taking care of her… but I don’t want you to get too attached. We don’t know…”
“What don’t we know, huh?” I snap back.
“We don’t know how long this will last. I don’t want you to get emotionally attached. The last thing I want to deal with is a kid torn between two people.”
“The monster is back.”
“What do you mean?”
“You have your monster moments… I thought I will be sparred on our wedding day but oh well…”
“I don’t mean to be awful… it’s just…”
“Not now… people are coming to take pictures,” I say with a fake smile plastered on my face.
He holds my hand tight as the press photographer snaps away.
“Kiss her!” the photographer chants as he snaps from different angles.
Instantly I tense up.
“Kiss her!” the annoying photographer shouts.
I maintain my fake smile although I want to go and slap the photographer.
Then to my horror- Ozayr plants a kiss on my cheek.
And the photographers- a few gathered now- all cheer as family members laugh.
“You will do anything for the optics,” I scowl in Ozayr’s ear.
He just smiles for the camera.
And then what seemed like hours of photos began.
People I don’t know came on stage to be photographed with the ‘happy couple’.
They put their babies on my lap and some gave me wet sticky kisses.
Others tell me how beautiful I look and pray for my happiness.
My snotty cousins come on stage last more to pose with Ozayr than me.
“He is much cuter close up,” my one cousin whispered a bit too loud to the other. They just giggle.
I sit there with my signature fake smile.
“So where are you guys going for honeymoon? Thailand? Dubai?” one of my cousins ask.
“We want to settle in together first back home and then I am taking my wife dearest on a 7 star cruise,” he respond with utter charm.
I could see these girl go weak at the knees and I want to roll my eyes.
“You are so lucky,” the tell me as they trot off the stage.
“I think we need to leave. I am actually quite exhausted,” I tell Ozayr.
He obliges and we leave…
On the way out everyone is talking about how wonderful the wedding is…
The last person I greet on my way out is my father. He is standing with business associates who I vaguely remember coming home for dinner quite often when I was younger.
He walks me to Ozayr’s hired car and gives me a heartfelt hug.
“You look so beautiful… So much like your mother today…”
I just look down.
“She would have been so proud of you!”
“Don’t talk about her like this!” I snap at my father.
Ozayr stands there awkwardly.
“Zahra… All I am saying is that your mother would have been very happy for you.”
“Don’t talk about my mother like you knew her. You were too busy cheating!”
Note: I will be posting a vlog soon based on the underlining social discussion emanating from this series. Do you believe depression is taken seriously enough? Do you believe irrational fears lead us to make life altering decisions? Do you think it was okay for Zahra to enter into this arrangement if it meant some hope of a happily ever after? Comment on the blog, on facebook and on twitter @QaanitahHunter
“Its fine… I don’t mind.”
“Is everything about the wedding in order?”
“Yes… I am flying on Friday morning. And we will fly back on Sunday right?”
“Yes. I think we will have to fly earlier because of… because of Rahma.”
“I am fine with that. I hate being around family for too long anyways.”
“When I held her earlier… I could not understand why my father walked out on me. A child is so innocent. What type of man would turn his back on an innocent child?! And then I thought about how selfish I was earlier when I said I don’t want this child. Sometimes things are sent to us and we may think is bad but could be good for us. I believe the Almighty sent me this child as a gift.”
I just nod.
“I will look for a temp nurse tomorrow again. And the original nurse will be back on Wednesday. So she will have the baby… Rahma… from then on.”
“I think… I think once we get back from Durban I will look after her. There is no need for the nurse. I will ask my helper to help out.”
“But soon you will have to get back to work…”
“I think I could take some unpaid leave. At least until she is a month or so. She needs dedicated care…”
“I can’t expect that from you…”
“I know… but it is only right. This child needs full time support…”
And with that baby Rahma wakes up with a shriek.
We scurry around her trying to pacify her. We change her diaper and plug a bottle in her.
Baby Rahma stays with me for 4 days of confusion, laughter and tears.
I don’t know what I am doing.
But I am looking after a child.
Law school and even a masters did not prepare me from burping a new born baby.
Ozayr would come from time to time to check on her and give me a break.
I ruled out the possibility of him staying at my apartment.
All is okay- and by that I mean its chaotic and I have not slept in four days- until my phone rings and I answer at the same time Rahma decides to shriek.
It is my sister in law.
“Zahra… where are you? Whose baby?”
“It is… my friends… I am baby sitting. Can I call you later?”
I didn’t technically lie. But no one can find out about this.
Imagine if my family must know I have a child in my flat. Gosh. It is all so crazy.
And the weird thing is that I always did steady and normal all my life.
And this… this is just…
While Rahma finally gets sleep I pull out my Ipad and email the caterers and the dress company. Everything is in order for the wedding day.
I call the other catering company and make sure all is well for the function at my dad’s house on Friday evening.
I pack my bags and get everything ready.
Tomorrow the nurse, Aunty Lulu, a muslim lady from Cape Town is going to fetch Rahma.
I have become so attached to this child I don’t know whether it would be hard to give her to someone else or not.
But its just temporary. I just have to do the mundane thing of getting married.
When the nurse comes to fetch her its bitter sweet. Ozayr notices that I have become attached to her and smiles at me.
“I will be back soon soon,”I speak to the baby.
The nurse leaves and Ozayr sits down to “do admin”.
“Alright. Just to run through the admin. According to the prenuptial agreement, you proposed that to each his own. I am fine with that if you are. However, I am more than willing to offer you something generous for doing all of this for me. I was think 1.2 but name your price.”
The monster is out to play.
“Do you know how insulting this is?!”
“Don’t regard it as an insult. It is a gift. What do you want?”
“I don’t want anything from you?”
“Then why? Why are you doing this?”
“Surely its not because you are in love with me. We barely know each other.”
“I don’t want your money. I never did. I have plenty of my own still unspent. You want to know why? I loved a boy. With all my heart. And he walked away. And then my mother died. And that was nine years ago. Do you know what it is to be alone and miserable and lonely for nine years? Not one person ever showed any interest in me- even just befriending me. Everyone has irrational fears and mine is dying alone. So you want to know why? I am so scared to be alone for the rest of my life that I will settle for a clearly messed up situation because that gives me hope that I may not die alone after all.”
Ozayr and his family of 20 fly to Durban on the same flight as me.
It is really funny at the airport when his mother sees me and gives me a tight hug. The rest of the family does the same.
“So pretty she is,” says one old aunty to Ozayr’s mother.
Then one uncle jokes with Ozayr and asks how he got so lucky.
I just laugh.
Ozayr swaps a seat with one of his cousins and he sits next to me for the flight.
We talk about some logistics from the wedding when a message pops up on his phone.
He leans to show it to me.
It is a picture of Rahma’s hand in a fist on the top of her head as she sleeps.
We both smile. What a pretty baby!
“Are you nervous?” he asks me.
“Not really. I am just adamant that the whole of Durban must talk about the wedding. I planned something really dramatic.”
He just laughs and clutches at my hand.
This is the first time he got close to me.
Maybe there is a chance for us. Maybe this messed up situation will turn into something we will laugh about.
Maybe looking after Rahma will strengthen our bond.
Maybe we will grow old together happily and retire on a game farm in Limpopo and spend our frail days watching a kudoo philander about.
When I arrive in Durban, my father, brother and sister in law- who flew in yesterday from Australia- come to pick me up.
They are excited to meet Ozayr and his family.
I can see my father fully approves.
My sister in law is giddy.
“Wow. You didn’t tell me he was so good looking?! I am so happy for you!”
We go to my father’s home and I am shocked at how much his wife renovated.
I had no idea my father purchased the neighbours house and extended the house by so much.
Ozayr and his family go to a hotel in Umhlanga where they are all staying.
They are expected to join us for a pre-wedding function tonight. Its not a typical indian mendhi but just a get together of sorts.
After lunch I go to the wedding venue to see how my elaborate décor looks. It is like a fairy tale. It is wow.
Picture this. 3D stage background in white with elaborate lights.
I think my dad may have upped the budget we offered the caterers.
There are huge imposing chandeliers along the red carpet which had our initials embossed on it.
The detail is immaculate.
My sister in law is ooh and ahhing like nobody’s business.
“This is a fairytale. I am so happy for you,” she repeats.
The dessert lounge is incredibly designed and built. Much better than what I had in mind.
We are hoping to serve an early dinner so that people can enjoy the dessert area and mingle.
I hope everything goes well. I want this wedding to be flawless.
As we are about to leave the hall Ozayr arrives.
“What are you doing here?” I ask.
“We came to drop off the wedding favours.”
“You shouldn’t have bothered. We giving the guests so much already.”
“Well I will respect my indian duty of distributing the mandatory wedding favours. And you must be grateful its not cheap chomp chocolates. “
He unpacks his hired car and I insist I see what it is.
“It is a surprise.”
“Show me or else!” I demand.
My sister in law gives me side eyes. Apparently that is not how I am supposed to speak to my husband to be.
Ozayr imported hand crafted swiss chocolate packaged in hand made wooden boxes. It is so unique and beautiful. I know no one has done this before.
After chatting for a bit I greet Ozayr and we leave.
The next time I see him he will be my husband.
The thought sends shivers down my back.
“He is really as charming as the newspapers make him out to be,” my sister in law says.
I just laugh.
Later I see if my dress is ready, go for a manicure and get ready for the evening.
My niece is absolutely obsessed with me and the fact that I am going to be a princess.
She is such a delight. She will get along so well with Rahma.
I miss her. Rahma. I hope she is okay.
It is weird how attached we can become to a human who didn’t exist until last week.
Soon family members I haven’t seen in years- since my mother’s funeral- start arriving.
The mood is festive.
My younger cousins arrive looking as if they are going to a ball.
“So is your wedding going to be fancy?” the one, Lutfiya, asks.
“No. Not really,” I lie.
They must be surprised when they arrive.
“So where did you meet Ozzy?” another asks.
Ozzy? They have no right to call him by a nickname. They don’t even know him.
“We were working on the same case.”
The girls let out a collective “aww”. I can’t tell if they are being fake. I don’t really care actually.
One of Ozayr’s cousins and I got along really well. Her name is Zaheera and she is a school teacher. You know when you instantly click with someone. That’s what happened. It is so random.
I think it is because she is such a breath of fresh air. She is so, so positive and optimistic about life. It is rare finding people like this nowadays.
In true Indian tradition, Ozayr’s mother and aunties make a huge fuss about “putting on the jewelry”. I prefer that they give me gifts and jewelry in private. But according to Indian custom it should be donned on the bride to be with much fanfare.
I am not one for chunky pieces of jewelry as my style is more understated unique pieces.
But Ozayr’s mother insisted on giving me heavy pieces of inticate yellow gold jewelry which I would probably never wear. It must go straight to the safe.
A pair of diamond studs and a tennis bracelet is what I would much prefer but oh well.
Also, I will probably have to give all of this back once we get divorced.
I try to dismiss that thought without any luck. I think it is time to google “how to fake happiness”.
The festivities continue until late and finally everyone leaves.
Surprisingly my father’s wife was on her best behaviour and was a great host.
She could have acted up if she really wanted to but I think my father promised her an oversees trip or something.
Once everyone leaves my brother, father, his wife and my sister in law all sit around me in the lounge dissecting the night’s events.
“They seem like really wonderful people,” my father’s wife says.
“Ya… so humble,” my father chips in.
“So tomorrow the nikah at the mosque is at 5. And we should start expecting guests at 6. Bride must be in the hall at 6.30. Daddy are you driving Zahra to the hall?” my sister in law says. She is great when it comes to ironing out logistics.
“You and bhai can drive her… You can take the Merc. We going to sleep now… it has been a long day,” my dad says as he and my step mother leave.
My sister in law sat with a page and pen to iron out logistics.
“Okay so Zahra… we need you to get as much sleep as you can get. Sleep in if you must. At 10 we are going to inspect the venue for the last time, you can come if you want. Then your hair appointment starts at 1. It should take an hour and a half. Then the makeup lady will be hear at half passed 2. I want you done and ready by 3.30 at the latest. During the Nikah the only people that will be here are us- family people and his immediate family. Five ladies max. Then after the nikah they must leave for the hall. We will give you space to spend time with your husband and by 6.15 we must leave. All good?”
I just laugh.
“Yes sir!” her husband lets out.
“Right now get some sleep!” she orders.
When I finally get into bed I see a few text messages from Ozayr- he wants me to call him when I can.
“My mother is full of praise for you. She may love you more than she loves me.”
“It was a lovely evening.”
“So we are getting married hey.”
“I guess we are.”
“The nurse called earlier. Rahma was a bit under the weather but she says we should not panic.”
“I miss her,” I say without thinking.
Ozayr is silent at first. Am I not supposed to miss her?
“So… the law society I am part of have arranged a full spread of our wedding in one of the legal magazines we publish. I hope you don’t mind. And then there will me a photographer from the Sunday Times there and two journalists. It will help to accelerate my push to become chairman of the organisation. Everyone likes a happily married man.”
His monster is coming out again.
“My mother was asking about honeymoon… I didn’t get down to think about it considering… considering our arrangement. I am sure you don’t…”
“Yeah I just want to get back to Jo’burg already.”
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.
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.”