“What is it about me, seriously??” I shook my hair away from my face and stared morosely at Zee through the strands that still clung damply to my forehead. “I mean, do I look like a magnet for weirdos??” I jabbed a finger on my chest. “Or do I have a sign printed on my forehead that says, weirdos this way??”
Zee leaned back and stared back at me, lifting her brows in amusement. “You know what they say about birds of a feather……people being attracted to their own kind and all that.”
“Are you saying I’m as weird as those…those…” I waved a hand in the air as though trying to snatch a suitable word floating around somewhere, “…morons??”
“Well, I can’t deny that you are weird…” Zee laughed and ducked as I threw a shoe in her direction, “but you’re a special kind of weird,” she finished, raising her head and grinning at me.
“That last one…” I shook my head, unable to come up with a word suitable enough to describe that one, “the nerve of him! I still can’t believe I actually sat there and listened to his sh** for like twenty minutes! My head’s going soft with these all these samoosa runs, I tell ya!”
Zee laughed again then sobered. “Shame man, it must be a pain. I can’t say I know how it is since I don’t have any experience of it but it sounds like a really tiresome way to get a husband.”
“Yeah, you’re lucky you didn’t have to go through all of that. I mean, I know it was hard for you at that time and not what you wanted but here you are, settled and happy alhamdulillah…while I have to parade around infront of one guy after another like I’m some goods for sale! And not even nice guys! I have to waste my time for these idiots!”
“You should have rolled that guy out on his ego…what was his name? Javed?”
“Yeah, Javed. Javed Topee.”
Zee burst into giggles again. “Count yourself lucky that it didn’t work out. Imagine being Fazila Topee!”
I snorted in amusement. “The Topee part would be the least of my worries if I married HIM! I would have had to spend the rest of my life stoking his massive ego and simpering away at him like a lovesick puppy! I wonder if he really believes he’ll get a wife like that…” I shook my head, thinking back to that day. The day that had started off so nicely, so unassumingly that I’d had no idea what kind of disaster was waiting for me around the corner.
Javed’s father and my Sajid Mama had been good friends back at the time when Sajid Mama and them had been living in S.A. I don’t know what Sajid Mama had said to him but he had phoned dad with a proposal based on the recommendations of Sajid Mama. Dad had phoned Sajid Mama who had said they were a good family and asked around at a few places, coming away with nothing negative. And so another date was set, another samoosa run to get through.
At first it had seemed to go well. Javed’s mother was a small woman with a soft voice and warm expression. She had spoken to mum quite nicely, including me in the conversation as well, asking my opinions on certain things and listening, really listening to what I had to say. I had just begun to think that as far as mothers inlaw go this one was quite nice and I might get along with her well when dad called me to the dining room. I walked in confidently then halted again, this time because of a tall, lanky dude who was unfolding himself from the chair he was sitting on with a smile on his long, thin face. His gaze met mine and his mouth pursed in a long, slow whistle as his eyes travelled leisurely from the top of my head to the tips of my toes and back again.
“Holy shite! You’re even hotter than I expected, babe. Come sit down,” and he pulled out a chair opposite his with flourish.
My brain had skidded to a halt and was watching this scene unfold before me in shock. I took the offered chair automatically then started when he sat down opposite me, so close that his knees touched mine. I pushed my chair back hurriedly which screeched as it slid across the polished tiles. Javed laughed.
“Come on, babe, no need to be so jumpy. We’re supposed to be getting comfortable here, you know, getting to know each other…” his hands moved expressively as he talked. “So…what’s your name, beautiful?”
I stared at his hands as he talked…long, thin hands, just like the rest of him…except his brain, which seemed to be no bigger than a pea.
My brain was chugging to life again, trying to process this new turn of events. It started throwing thoughts at me, the foremost of them being, why??? Why did I always have such guys coming to see me??? I had thought I’d had my share of weird proposals but no…this guy had to top them all!
“Forgotten your name, babe? Or are you too busy admiring me to think straight?” He chuckled as my gaze shot up to meet his, “no need to be ashamed. This meeting was so we could check each other out anyways. So go ahead…look to your fill,” he indicated at himself and leaned back in his chair, watching me through amused eyes. He himself was doing a lot of looking, I realised, and I suddenly wished I had worn my baggiest jilbaab instead of a dress.
Two could play at this game though…
I deliberately looked him up and down slowly in the same way he had looked at me, though my cheeks were burning brighter than a dozen candles. Then I shook my head and clucked my tongue.
“Won’t do. Won’t do at all…” I said, injecting a stern note in my voice.
“What?” Javed looked confused.
“You. You’re tooo thin!” I pronounced, jabbing a finger at him, “you need more meat on your bones, man. And that hairstyle…what were you thinking?? This isn’t the nineties anymore and you’re no Michael Jackson. You need a trim!” I decided I had gone far enough when I saw the stunned look on his face. He sat up in his chair, looking at me in annoyance and affront.
“My hair is cut in the latest fashion, okay! And the chicks all go crazy over me, what you talking??”
I shrugged. “Honesty is the best policy.”
He looked at me for a long moment, then his expression cleared. “Well, that’s your opinion though I don’t agree with you. But anyways, at least you’re honest. And since we are on the topic of looks I should be honest as well. You would look much prettier without a scarf. I see your eyelashes are so nice and thick and I’m sure your hair must be nice and silky as well. You won’t show me?”
“I won’t,” I said firmly, “we are still strangers to each other…now if we’re done on the topic of looks can we move on??”
“Ya, no problem. So what do you do?”
“I’m becoming an alima. I finish in two years time.”
“Alima??” He said the word like it had a bitter taste, “I hope you don’t wear purdah and abaya and all that when you go out?”
“I do,” I said with great relish, “I wear purdah and abaya full time out of the house. I wear with everyone, even my own cousins.”
“There’ll be no need to wear all that after we’re married,” he said, leaning forward. I leaned back automatically and thought, who even said we’re getting married??? “After marriage you’ll have all the freedom to wear what you like. Nobody will force you to wear a scarf also…infact I’d prefer it if you left your hair loose. Hair is the beauty of a woman and it would be a shame to see it all covered like it is now. You can wear short dresses, sleeveless ones, anything you like. You’ll be totally free.”
“I think you have the wrong idea, Javed,” I said calmly, “I am not forced to wear any of this right now. I wear it because it’s part of islam and I want to follow islam properly. My parents did not force me into anything, I chose it myself.”
“But there’s no need,” Javed repeated, “maybe you don’t know the freedom of wearing proper clothes but I guarantee you you’ll like it once you get used to the idea. We can go for movies, out to eat, travel everywhere…you’ll be able to go everywhere and do everything without anything coming in your way. Infact I have a lot of friends and we go out in groups lots of times. Many times they bring their wives along, women who dress up lekker. I’d want you to mix in, not be an outcast. And such a pretty figure you got,” his eyes were moving over me again making me cringe inwardly and long to throw him out of there bodily, “I’ll be the envy of all my friends with such a beautiful wife and you’ll be the envy of yours with such a hot husband. You and me, we can rock it, babe,” he smiled at me, his eyes lingering on my lips. And suddenly I’d had enough.
“If you’re looking for all that you’ve come to see the wrong person. I am becoming an alima and the life I see for myself is very different to the one you’ve described. I wear purdah and abaya full time and I have no plans on giving that up for anyone. Even in the house I don’t dress up the way you’ve described. It’s sweatpants and sameeras for me all the way. I’m only wearing this fancy pancy dress because my mother forced me to. But it’s so tight and so uncomfortable, man! I can’t wait to get out of it and into my nice sameera. I love sameeras because they’re so nice and comfy and loose! I hate wearing anything tight so I only wear loose, comfy stuff. And I hate leaving my hair loose as well because it just gets in my way. The best thing it to tie it up in a bun. No hassles like that. I also love the kitchen so I’ll make nice nice food for you, no problem but don’t tell me to dress up because I don’t have the time or interest. I’d rather use your money to buy myself recipe books and a nice set of tupperware.” I met his gaze with a straight face.
“You’re joking, right??” Javed looked astonished.
“Do I look like I’m joking??”
Javed sighed loudly. “Trust my luck to come see an alima! I wonder why Bilal didn’t mention that part…”
“Bilal, my friend. He said he was in school with you. Said you were a hot chick, that’s all. I must say it’s a waste though…so much beauty and wasted!” He shook his head.
“That’s why you should do your homework properly and not go see a girl just for her looks,” I said primly.
“That’s the main thing! I mean, look at me. All the girls go ga-ga when I pass. They’d give anything to have me propose to them. You don’t know what you’re missing out on by turning me down,” he winked and leaned forward again, “you sure you won’t change your mind? I don’t think you’ll get a better proposal than this, to be honest.”
“I will. I’ll get from a nice maulana and settle down nicely with him and make him hot rotis and curries everyday. That’s my aim. I would say yes to you if only to fatten you up. You’ll soon have a nice, round stomach with my food.”
“No thanks,” Javed waved a hand and stood up, “I’d rather have a hot chick any day. Right, I’m off now. Don’t think there’s anything else to say, right?”
“Not at all!” I stood up as well in relief, “and you can stop looking at me like I’m a block of meat for sale now,” I added sharply when his gaze started wandering downwards again.
Javed laughed. “Sharp tongue you got as well. Such a pity…I would have enjoyed silencing it.” He laughed when I glared at him. He seemed to enjoy unsettling me and I was very, very glad to see him go.
“What’s up? You’re lost in your thoughts,” Zee said.
“Hmm? Nothing, just remembering that last meeting. That guy was so blegh. He gave me the shudders!” I shuddered just thinking about it.
“Don’t worry, it’s over,” Zee said comfortingly.
“Yeah but the memories stick, you know.”
“Think of the good parts only. Like how you told him you stay in sameeras and in the kitchen all day,” Zee laughed, “I can’t believe you said you’ll cook him nice nice food! You hate the kitchen!”
“I knew what to say that would send him running,” I chuckled, “like I wouldn’t have said that to Ilyas because that’s exactly what he wanted.”
“You’re getting too good at this. Maybe you should have your own show called, “The Samoosa Runs,” Zee grinned.
“I know, I should, right. I doubt anyone else gets proposals like mine. I’d be a hit!”
I sat with Zee for a while before going home again. Despite the joking way I spoke of them I was tired of these kind of proposals. I had to have a serious talk with mum and dad.
That night I sat with my family and told them what was on my mind.
“I don’t wanna go through anymore of these kinda proposals…I mean it,” I said, “from the next one please find out what kind of girl those guys want and tell them also that I’m an alima and won’t give up my studies for marriage. Only if they agree to all that then they should come see me. Not any weirdo off the street. I’m tired of those now.”
“You know you can’t know everything till the guy comes, Faz,” mum said gently, “but we’ll try our best.”
I nodded, too weary to argue anymore. I went off to sleep wondering what came next. The only good part about these proposals was that I could say no and move on, because I still felt that I wasn’t ready to get married just yet. There was khair in each proposal, I had to know that and trust in Allah’s plan…