Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem
A new beginning is always a challenge. As exciting as it is, expectations can easily backfire when you’re too ambitious.
Amidst it all, there’s one thing I learnt along the way. Be true to you.
It was a lesson I learnt the hard way, and as I went along, more than once, I’ve had to take a step back, assess my priorities, and then refocus. Re-align. Reroute.
And now, as I did so, I was started to get the prickly feeling at the back of my neck againIt hadn’t gone away from yesterday. Like the day before, I was completely ignoring it.
The reminder was always there.
This wasn’t right. This wasn’t right.This wasn’t right.
Yesterday hadn’t ended well. Besides the stubborn and persistent nature of Aunty Romana, who insisted we wait till every guest had left to go, various male members of Jameel’s family had thought it was okay to come forward and not only greet me… but even attempted shaking my hand.
Jameel had seen the look of despair on my face and immediately and strategically distracted them. It could have been a nightmare, but to my great surprise, Jameel actually understood my fears. I had looked at him gratefully as he gently guided me away.
I had never been more relieved in my life. The casual braai had turned out to be something that was completely foreign to me. Sitting lounges and dummy kitchens. I hadn’t spoken to my sister, but I knew I would definitely tell Khawlah about this. I was sure she would be mortified.
I shook my head.
Being shallow was not normal for me, but my spirits lifted slightly when when I remembered that I had an exciting honeymoon to look forward to. It would just be Jameel and I, and just for that day, Jameel had agreed upon his mother’s insistence, to have a meal at their house before we left.
Although I was hesitant, I reluctantly agreed, hoping that she would warm up to me during that time. She wasn’t an easy woman to impress and upon arrival, I sat quietly in the entrance hall for at least fifteen minutes before she finally came out. I braced myself for the big meeting, and my heart started beating a little faster as I thought about it. It would be the first time we were meeting without other people around… or any other distractions. It was slightly daunting.
I looked around, marveling at the marble floor and staircase. This house was a little less exclusive than Aunty Romana’s, but it still gave me that eery and isolated feeling.
I shivered involuntarily, my eyes darting around, trying to spot anyone in the vicinity.
Jameel had gone to look for his sister. The silence was slightly creepy.
A good few minutes passed, and my mother-in-law finally strutted in, wearing a three-quarter fancy kaftan and fluffy slippers.
I was a little overdressed for the occasion.
I blushed as she scanned my clothing.
“Where are you’ll off to?” She asked, raising her eyebrows.
I blushed again.
“Um… I… err…” I mumbled, not knowing what to say.
It was just as well that Jameel entered at that time, all smiles and positive energy.
“Hey Mum, howsit?” He said, going to kiss her cheek.
She remained physically aloof as he bent down, and merely nodded back at him.
I cringed. This was difficult to watch.
How cold. It was like her entire body stiffened when he came closer.
His sister came in behind him, and I was glad that at least she gave me a dazzling smile as she saw me.
“How do you do it?” She asked me, eyeing out my outfit and focusing on my hijab.
“What?” I asked, slightly confused. I didn’t like the attention.
“Wear a scarf and look so damn awesome!” she exclaimed.
I couldn’t help but smile at her expression. I mean, who didn’t love complimented? I knew the point of wearing hijab wasn’t to look awesome, but it was obviously beyond her comprehension, right?
I didn’t want to admit I was wrong.
The thought of wanting to explain to her the true purpose of covering up crossed my mind.. but then I thought… why must I be so hectic? I didn’t want to scare her either…
”I just try to be modest…” I murmured. “And not draw unnecessary attention too…”
Jameel’s mum turned to me suddenly, and pursed her lips.
“Well, in this day and age, madam,” she said to me in an acid voice. “Us women can’t go around being all modest when there are so many women out there who are out to steal our men. We have to wake up. You can’t expect to dress like an old bag and keep a man.”
Now it was Jameel and Mishka’s turn to go red. I too, flushed deeply as she looked at me pointedly.
“What’s for lunch?” Jameel asked quickly, making his mother’s wide eyes widen even more. She didn’t look impressed.
I wanted to pursue this. Maybe I shouldn’t just be quiet. I wanted to ask her… because it just amazed me how many women especially, despise my choice of dress.
Yet, would they rather their husband’s secretary to be dressed like me or otherwise?
Is it me and my sisters who are turning their husband’s head or attracting their boyfriends?
Is it me and my sisters whose bodies and faces solicit their husband’s attention on every corner? Is it me and my sisters who have aroused that man to rape or harass their sisters?
I wanted to ask her to think again.
I wanted to ask her to think… this was my choice. In light of this, I wanted to ask her… which mode of dress is really oppressive?
I was scared. I couldn’t say it. Moreso, I had let it affect me. I had let it get to me, where I actually now felt strange dressing the way I did.
Jameel’s brow was furrowed and I could see that the tension was stressing him out. As much as I wanted to prove her wrong, I was too much of a coward. I was too weak. And I knew Jameel was too.
Couldn’t he at least defend me in front of his horrid mother?
I sucked up the feelings of hostility and followed Jameel to his room. The room was beautiful but I didn’t care. I just wanted to bury myself under the goose-down blanket and sleep all my worries away. I was exhausted. Mentally and emotionally.
I hated this house. Everything was so cold. I missed my family. My sister. My father. I just wanted to go home.
And then, Jameel came up to me, and unreservedly engulfed me in the most massive of hugs. His arms were all-encompassing and I sunk into him as he attempted to comfort me.
And of course, my heart felt all fuzzy and warm again because he just knew what to say. He just knew how to make it all okay.
“Don’t worry, babe,” he whispered, and for the first time, I actually didn’t resist the affection. “It’s going to be okay.”
Sometimes you just needed to hear it. Sometimes, just knowing that someone else believed it, was a comfort in itself.
And then, like a babbling cry baby, as he tried to comfort me, somehow, I just couldn’t stop the tears. I was choking and mumbling away, in a very unattractive way. And the weird thing was that I knew that I was being so silly and overreacting, but I just couldn’t stop it.
Tears flowed down my cheeks as I burrowed my face in his shoulder. The poor sod still didn’t let go, and for the unpteenth time that day, all sniffling and snotty, my embarrassment was overwhelming. As I finally gave him a breather and stepped back, I could clearly see the damp patch on the shoulder part of his shirt.
I apologized profusely as he assured me it was okay, but changed his shirt anyway. I looked away quickly, feeling shy again.
Although he was my husband, modesty was also part of Deen, and some qualities were natural. There were some things that you don’t have to be taught.
I supposed it was all the emotion, because my husband had been avoiding eye contact all this time, but now, Jameel looked more like his usual self as he addressed me.
“Later, Love, I have a surprise for you.”
Jameel knew just how to get me. My spirits immediately lifted as I heard that. There was one thing that everyone loved, and I wasn’t immune to it. As old as I was, I couldn’t resist a good surprise.
Surprises were one of my favorite things. I’m sure Jameel had planned something I would love. He already knew me so well.
The flight was scheduled for just after Maghrib, and upon my insistence, we read our Salaah at the airport Jamaat Khana and got ready to board.
It had been a long time since I had been to any airport. I felt slightly nostalgic as we sat and waited, remembering the times Abba would take us for holiday, and reminiscing in the sweet memories that still played often in my mind.
I wiped the stray tears that had formed in the corner of my eyes, and glanced at my husband. He was busy with his phone, and I was glad that he didn’t see me getting emotional. It was just as well.
I watched through slightly blurry vision as people passed by, all on their way to their own destinations. Airports had always fascinated me. It was so amazing that so many people from so many different places could be together under one roof. It was a bit like when Abba had taken us for Umrah when Mama was alive, years ago. Different places. Different languages. Different hopes and aspirations. But all together, in this melody of life, united in one place and for one motive.
I breathed in slowly as I watched, noticing Jameel get up and pace as he spoke on the phone, probably about some important matter. His face looked serious as he spoke, and I could see him turning around, almost as if he was looking for someone. I looked in the direction of his gaze, and as my gaze shifted, the glimpse of a familiar face caught my attention.
I was mesmerized.
My eyes widened and I could barely even breathe as I stared. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or awake anymore. I didn’t know if I was imagining it or if my frazzled mind was just playing silly tricks on me. I couldn’t wait to find out.
I stood up and as wobbly as my jelly legs were, I lifted them just enough to take me the few meters I needed to be. I wasn’t sure if it was all real… but I reached out as I stood, almost in limbo, watching him watching me back, as if we were in some kind of surreal universe.
We stood for nearly minute, simply speechless. It was as if neither of us could quite believe that the other person was there.
I looked at him and he looked at me.
And then, I felt a firm and comforting hand on my shoulder, and Jameel’s voice whispered in my ear.
“Surprise,” he breathed, and without even seeing his face, I knew that he was smiling from ear to ear.
And of course, amidst the tears, I was smiling too.
I mean, who wouldn’t be?
It was just what the doctor ordered. A remedy for the wounded soul.
My Abba was back.