Awkward Pauses

Bismihi Ta’ala


Coming home after a long trip was challenging enough when I had my mother and Jameela annoying the hell out of me, but when Nani was at home, well, it just made things significantly worse.

And to top it off, Jameela couldn’t even give me a warning on the way home. Just damn selfish, if you ask me. Entering the house to the welcome smell of chicken and methie, only the way Nani cooked it, was an extremely welcome fragrance, but knowing that it meant that I would have to deal with Nani’s verbal battering that evening already left a bad taste in my mouth.

I scowled as I placed my bag in the passage, knowing I’d have to greet her first and then only go to my room and freshen up. My sheila pin was literally stabbing my neck and my heels were literally breaking my feet. I removed my suit jacket and hung it up on the door hook, because my mother had refused to keep a coat hanger (like I had asked her to) straightened my back and made my way to the kitchen.

Both women turned to look at me, with a big smile on their faces. Okay, maybe this wasn’t going to be as challenging as I thought

“Salaams,” I said, going to my Nani and kissing the top of her head.

“As salaamu alaykim,” Nani said emphatically with a shake of her head, not looking impressed by me today. That was nothing new of recent.

I returned her greeting before she got offended.

What salaams, salaams,” she was muttering to herself and sighed emphatically.

The thing was, Nani and I used to be really close but now…

Well, that was a story for another day. Ma was a little more easy-going, comparatively. She was busy rolling Roti so I grabbed one from the cooked pile and patted Ma’s shoulder, because there was no way I was getting that stuff on any part of my charcoal suit.

“How was your trip, poiree?” My mother asked, not even noticing Nani’s eyes getting narrower as I answered her.

Now it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Nani hated my work. And of course, her next words were an affirmation that she didn’t even want to conceal it.

”Look at her, Bhengori,” Nani was saying in Gujarati, pulling up her dupatta to cover her hair again. “Like a proper man. Only with scarf on her head. Big, big suit she wears like she’s one big business mogul. What does Iqbal think about this, letting his daughter act like she is doing good things? Chi.”

I internally rolled my eyes. It was time for me to make an exit, but I had to do it skilfully. Salaah. Yes.

“Let me read my Asr,” I said loudly, while my mother tried to answer Nani. What to say to her when she was like this was basically falling on deaf ears, but it wasn’t my problem.

“You see when it’s time for her to get married,” Nani was saying, not falling for the Salaah excuse, now in English as Jameela entered the kitchen. Since Jameela was the youngest and had missed most of Nani’s gujarati lectures as she grew up, she didn’t understand so much. Nani generally switched to English for extra effect. “Men don’t like all these- too educated career women. See Nadeema, she’s learning to cook, clean and studying that online Madrassa over the zoom. That’s why she’s getting nice proposal coming.”

I wanted to say something but I wisely zipped my mouth. At least I knew how to do that much. It wasn’t anything good, even though it was necessary for Nani to stop with the praising of her favorite granddaughter. Nadeema was my cousin who was a few months younger than me, and since she had once bad-mouthed me to a good friend of ours a few years back, we were no longer close. Unfortunately, Nani didn’t seem to think it was a big deal what she did. I still did.

Like, if she was so amazing, why would she talk bad behind my back for no reason?

“But Nani,” Jameela was saying. “As it is, you the first one- you don’t like going to male doctors… So if girls don’t study, Nani, then how will we have all these professionals?”

I wanted to pat my sister on the back for sticking up for me and women in general, but I knew Nani would have an answer for that.

“Yes, study is one thing, but Hayaa, Jameela,” Nani said emphatically. “Dr Hameeda wears full abaya and niqab. She works only with women. She has respect… She has – whats this called… She is honoured. It’s not the same when you dress like a business man with bum showing.”

Astagh. How rude!

I wasn’t even sure if Nani realised what she said, but there was an awkward pause and then Jameela burst out laughing while my cheeks burned with embarrassment. Okay, maybe my tops had been creeping up a bit during the past week but that was just unnecessary. Ghuh!

“Nani, we have dress code at work!” I argued.

“Dress code like man?” Nani said, raising her eyebrows and the rolling pin up at the same time. “I don’t know Mohsina. How will you find a husband? Every boy wants to come home, you say no. Just now you will be twenty five and then the boys won’t even want to come anymore.”

Ugh. I couldn’t hear all this. I couldn’t hear the point behind what she was saying.

“Mohsina, my cousins got a son who is an engineer,” Nani was saying last month. The previous time was, “Mohsina, this boy got his own shop, he’s looking for a nice wife.”

Maybe I should count my lucky stars. At least she wasn’t trying to introduce me to Aalims anymore, in the hope that they could ‘fix’ me and turn me into a haari poiree.

Anyway, long story short, Nani just made me angry with her talks and I couldn’t see reason when that happened. Maybe it was the way she said it, or whatever, but all I could think of doing then was spin around and stomping up the stairs to my room. And I did just that.

I read my Salaah speedily and then opened my Tiktok app, scrolling through some dumb videos that made me laugh. It was just what I needed to destress, but only for that short time, and when I finally emerged from the room half an hour later, my father had gone for Maghrib and Nani left with him to go to my uncles place, I was just feeling more crappy than before.

And yes, I loved my Nani and her quirky sense of humour but when she started with me about work and marriage, I couldn’t deal.

It was just that this time… I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe Nani had a point. But then again, what was the big deal? I was happy. Right? I kept to myslef. I didn’t have a boyfriend. I didn’t have to worry about an annoying husbands feet to press. Or a demanding one to cook for. Or some kid to make sleep. But then why?

Why was I still feeling that something was amiss?

And of course, partly because of Nani’s words and also because of the rift that had now become a part of our relationship, my sleep that night was horrible. I had tried to divert my thoughts with an Instagram post and a few stories about the eventful trip I had come back from, but Nani’s words still annoyed me. Plus, she posted on her WhatsApp status about how the new generation has no respect for the older one and they will just do as they please, and reading it just got me more annoyed. And then she posted again the following day about how a woman’s place is at home and not out in the corporate world. Like, she already broke my spirit when she saw me, so why couldn’t she just message and tell me the rest? That was what ticked me off the most.

I spent the next two days sulking at home, making excuses not to join my parents who wanted to take a drive to get chicken tikka in Jo’burg. Jameela was also being extra annoying with all her business proposals about her coffee shop, which my father happily humoured, as long as it was just an idea. Frankly, I didn’t feel like doing any brainstorming with her. All I wanted to do was watch every season of Suits on Netflix and chill.

And of course, it was no wonder that I was still in a crappy mood the following morning when I went to work. I obviously did nothing substantial and just wasted time. Even my Salaah had gotten delayed because I was too obsessed with finishing the third season the previous day. Plus, I’d read no Qur’an at all the entire weekend. I was feeling dark inside and I was obviously suffering with a Netflix hangover but I dressed up carefully for work, aiming for a modest but professional look, in all black, secretly hoping that Nani would approve my new approach. Who ever thought I’d see the day, but I really wanted to impress my Nani.

Entering the office before everyone else that morning had helped. It meant that I wouldn’t have to see any annoying Happy Monday faces and I quickly went to my desk and took a seat, diving into work. That was what I preferred to do. Keep a low profile. Keep my ‘respect’. Be a good Muslim girl. It was only when my hungover head started incessantly pounding, that I realised it was already 10.45AM and the office with buzzing with activity. My brain was calling for coffee time. I knew it was time to go to the kitchen and risk seeing people and I secretly wished that I also had a coffee lady like Bossman who would bring my coffee to my desk.

One day, I consoled myself, as I dragged myself up and headed to the kitchen. One day I’ll have all those privileges. Just had to keep my head in the game and keep on focusing.

I pushed open the kitchen door, avoiding eye contact with anyone in the way, hoping the kettle was hot so I could make the coffee fast and get back to work. I didn’t anticipate seeing a huddled couple in the corner of the kitchen, where there were three seats and a small table, looking almost like they were deep in conversation. Or other things. Obviously, I wasn’t going to pause enough to check.

I knew they weren’t supposed to be in here together. We usually took ten minute breaks to make our tea or coffee in the mornings  and were then expected to return to our desk. I turned my face away, trying to ignore them as I passed through to where the kettle is, and they must have noticed me because I could hear some awkward throat clearing and shuffling as I passed by.

“Sorry Mos,” someone said, and I turned around to see Liyaket standing behind me, with Layyanah on the seat next to him. I realized at that moment that I had gotten it wrong. The two of them weren’t exactly up to what I assumed they were, but I wasn’t sure if this was more awkward or not.

Liyaket was shifting on his feet indecisively, looking as if he really needed to say something or explain but wasn’t quite sure how to. Layyanah was blowing her nose and dabbing her eyes, looking like someone had passed away. Something was definitely wrong and I had a really bad feeling about this. As much as my instinct was urging me to turn around, be wise and remove myself from the situation, I knew that I would appear absolutely heartless if I said nothing at all.

There was an awkward pause, before the words finally came tumbling out of my mouth.

”What’s going on?”

Shukran for the thoughts and comments, love hearing from you guys 🤍

Mission Sunnah Revival!

Wearing Shoes and Covering the head when entering the toilet.

It is recommended not to enter the toilet with the head uncovered, because of a report which says that when the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) entered the toilet, he would put on his shoes and cover his head. End quote.



FB/Instagram: @thejourneyingmuslimah


8 thoughts on “Awkward Pauses

  1. I just loved this post! I couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought of Naani putting things up on her Whatsapp status. How things have changed! Anxiously waiting for the next post. JazaakAllah khair for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Loved it!!!
    Nanis always mean well and for some reason they perfectionists😁 with my sisters and I it was our cooking and sewing must be on point lol. She’ll come scrutinize..even made sure I learnt samoosa pur and mithi rotis😋
    And when I got married and came to the city I came to know hardly anyone makes their own atchaar and rotis. All ordered 😝

    Liked by 4 people

    • lol, yes, they definitely are
      That so good though, it’s good to know. Especially if there’s a time we can’t get, it definitely comes in handy ! haha, you are right, we are very spoilt in the city 🙈
      But my mum still makes her own atchaar, lol. Rotis though… hardly ever 👅

      Liked by 1 person

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