Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh…
Soo, it appears that there’s been a mistake in my last post…or a misunderstanding rather. All these years I thought that using contraception without a valid excuse is impermissible. However, as a sister pointed out to me through a fatwa, it’s not impermissible but rather, disliked (makruh tanzihi) except in certain scenarios where it’s permissible. Jazakillah to the sister for enlightening me. We learn something new each day. For the benefit of the readers you can read the fatwa here since its too long to mention it here.
Regarding the khatam,jazakumullah khair once more to all the readers who contributed. The response was truly touching Alhamdulillah. May Allah reward all of you and grant you the best in this world and the hereafter. Whoever has prayed their parts please comment with your name and the juz completed so I can tick it off.
I was removing the third and final batch of biscuits from the oven when the doorbell rang. Wiping my floury hands on my apron I went to open the door then stepped back with a smile.
“Humi! Come on in!”
Humi followed me with an answering smile then stopped to sniff around. “This place smells lekker! What you making?”
“Biscuits. And cupcakes,” I told her as we walked back to the kitchen. Humi eyed the trays of biscuits with raised eyebrows.
“What’s the occasion?”
“Nothing. I’m just free today so I thought I’ll stock up the pantry,” I replied. I started putting together the mixture for cupcakes while Humi walked around, sampling the biscuits and humming in appreciation. I grinned and pointed to the kettle.
“Make yourself some coffee. And make one for me as well, please.”
Humi made us both mugs of coffee and we sat down to have coffee and biscuits while the cupcakes baked.
“Which ones are these?” Humi pointed to some plain white biscuits.
“Burfee biscuits. I stil have to put the burfee icing on them.” I saw Humi’s raised eyebrows and shrugged, “you know your brother. He loves anything burfee.”
“Do you freeze half of this? It seems like a lot for just two people,” Humi asked.
“It looks like a lot but it isn’t,” I grinned, “I made three types but only half a recipe each. And I was planning on sending some to my mum’s and some over to yours though I wasn’t sure if mummy would accept them,” I winced involuntarily and regretted bringing up the topic of my mother inlaw immediately when Humi’s face clouded over.
“Ya, she’d probably throw them away in the trash, in the mood she’s in nowadays.”
“What mood?” I asked in spite of myself.
“Her usual mood since you’ll moved out. It’s like she doesn’t know what to do with herself anymore, now that you’re not there to focus her negative energy on. So now she’s taking it out on us and daddy. Dalia gets away the most but even she has her share of shouting these days. But I get it the worst because I’m stuck with her the whole day. God, I just feel like running away and never coming back!” Humi ran her hands through her hair aggressively, pulling it loose from her ponytail. Her face was filled with a range of emotions; frustration, anger, helplessness…but beneath it all was a bleakness…a deadness in her eyes, that scared me the most. In that moment I wished I could do anything to alleviate her misery. I placed my hand on hers comfortingly.
“I’m sorry Humi. I know this might sound cliche but things will get better inshaAllah. Just hang in there till the storm passes.”
Humi laughed bitterly. “The only way things will get better is if I move out. That woman will never change. Things will never get better under her roof!”
“Do you want to come stay here for a while?” I asked impulsively though I didn’t know if it would make things better or worse for all of us.
Humi shook her head. “That’s a temporary solution, Faz. It won’t change anything in the long run. Besides that witch would never allow it!”
I felt like telling her to respect her mother because it was her mother at the end of the day but I wisely kept quiet. There were times to speak up and times to remain silent; and now wasn’t the time to speak up.
“Never mind,” Humi said finally, “like you said, things do eventually get better. I just have to wait for the right opportunity to present itself.”
“What opportunity?” I asked curiously.
Humi smiled but it wasn’t a comforting smile. “You’ll find out when the time comes. Now let’s drink to better times, shall we?” She lifted her mug of coffee in a parody of a toast, clinked it with mine and downed it in a single gulp. I smiled and swallowed my own warm coffee, telling myself that the uneasy feeling settling in my gut was simply a figment of my imagination.
“Mmmmmm. What’s that amaaazing smell?” Ahmed entered the kitchen sniffing appreciatively. He paused to grab me for a quick kiss before hunting down the source of the smell. He didn’t have far to look. I had set the trays of freshly iced burfee biscuits in the pantry to cool.
“This tastes like burfee,” Ahmed said, popping a couple into his mouth.
I laughed. “Yeah, ’cause they’re burfee biscuits!”
“Seriously? Someone took out burfee biscuits now? That’s genius, man! Must be a burfee lover like me,” Ahmed popped another few in his mouth before I shooed him from the pantry and shut the door.
“That’s it, leave some for tomorrow. You won’t be able to have supper if you fill yourself with biscuits.”
“Aah, come on!” Ahmed tried to sway me, first with a puppy face, then with sweet words and kisses. When he saw that I wasn’t having any of it he finally gave up and went to change, grumbling under his breath as he went. I laughed to myself as I opened the oven door to check if the lasagne was done.
“You know what those biscuits remind me of?” Ahmed asked later through a mouthful of lasagne.
“Nani’s burfee!” Ahmed exclaimed then paused, looking at me expectantly.
“Yeah man, me too. I miss her burfee,” I sighed in remembrance. Nani’s burfee was something else, all soft and gooey and melt-in-the-mouth yet set in perfect little squares. I’d never tasted burfee like hers anywhere else, not even when my own mother made it with nani’s own recipe.
“Maybe you can recreate it? Using her recipe?” Ahmed looked at me hopefully.
I laughed. “I was just thinking that mummy also can’t make it like hers, even after using her recipe, so fat chance of me being able to get it right!”
“I’m sure you can. You have the magic touch in the kitchen mashaAllah…”
I held up my hand. “Jazakallah but once you’ve tasted the original A.K.A nani’s burfee you won’t like anything else. Trust me!”
“I haven’t liked any other so far but I was hoping you’d change that. Please, babe? I’m lissing for them so bad!”
Who could resist that magic word “please”, especially when accompanied by that adorable puppy face? I sighed, knowing the battle was already lost.
“Alright then…I’ll try. But don’t blame me when it turns out rock hard and breaks all your teeth!”
Ahmed laughed and squeezed me in response. “I’m sure that won’t happen. Now here, have some lasagne. You’ve barely eaten.” He leaned forward and started feeding me. I hummed in appreciation and made the most of the extra attention. If nani’s burfee was going to get me VIP service then it was definitely worth a try!
“Let’s phone nana and nani. I haven’t spoken to them for so long and I can ask for the recipe one time. Just watch her reaction when I ask her for her recipe!” I said later on when we were curled up in the lounge after supper. Ahmed nodded in agreement and I retrieved the iPad from the room to make a video call.
“Assalamu alaykum, Fazzu!” A huge grin spread across my face as nana’s and nani’s faces popped up, squashed together as both of them attempted to get as close as possible to the screen, “and Ahmed. How you, ma?”
“Wa alaykum salaam,” we both responded dutifully before I dived in, “how you nana, nani? Gosh it’s been so long since I saw your faces! I missed you’ll!”
“That’s because you forgot us all these months since you got married. You were making lots maja (fun) with this young man of yours, huh?” Nani chirped.
Ahmed and I laughed and exchanged wry looks. “No, nothing like that, nani. I was just busy busy, teaching, coming home and cooking…all that.”
“How you, Fazzu?” Nana was looking at me seriously. I knew what he meant. I smiled at him reassuringly.
“I’m fine now, nana. Alhamdulillah.”
Nana turned to Ahmed. “It’s better living on your own, neh?”
“Jee, it is,” Ahmed replied quietly, squirming under nana’s piercing gaze.
“I’m glad you came to your senses before anything worse happened,” Nana continued.
“Nana, you should see the library Ahmed made here!” I jumped in quickly before nana roasted Ahmed, “we’ve put all our kitabs there and Ahmed will still gather more kitabs to put inside. It will make things easier for us.”
Thus the topic was thankfully changed and nani and I sat quietly while nana and Ahmed discussed kitabs for a while. Then I brought up the burfee topic.
“Nani, Ahmed is missing your burfee sooo much…”
“So make for him,” nani promptly replied. I grinned.
“That’s what I was intending to do but I need your recipe, please.”
Nani’s face lit up like a bulb. Other people hesitated to give out recipes. Not nani. She loved sharing her recipes and became especially excited when any of us asked her for her recipes. If it was possible she would have zapped herself to our kitchens and taught us the dish step by step. A pity she lived so far, I thought with a sigh.
Nani reappeared in a few minutes, clutching her thick recipe book in her hands. The recipe book that had been around for over fifty years, since nani had started learning how to cook at the tender age of ten. It had been bound together several times and the pages inside were worn with age but lovingly cared for. A veritable treasure indeed.
“Let’s see. Where’s my burfee recipe,” nani flipped through the pages till she came to the right page. There was no index page in this thick book but nani still knew exactly where each recipe was, “aah, here. Bring your paper and pen, Fazzu, and write this down.”
If it had been anyone else I would have told them to screenshot the recipe and send it to me. But not nani. Just imagining the lecture I’d receive had me scuttling for a pen and paper and dutifully writing it down. Nana had settled back with a kitab in the meantime but Ahmed was listening and watching me scribble down the recipe.
“Ermm, nani. Your aloo parathas are also so nice,” he said after a while…as soon as I’d finished writing the burfee recipe down. I whipped my head around to stare at him in disbelief.
“Ya, Ahmed, I remember your nana inviting you over everytime I made some. And packing some for you if you couldn’t come over. I was making them so much that time. Now I haven’t made them in so long!” Nani said with a reminiscent smile.
Drop the topic…drop the topic…drop the topic… I chanted in my mind. No such luck.
“I also haven’t had them in so long. If only I was there so you could make for me again,” Ahmed replied. Oh no, he didn’t! I shot him my foulest look, knowing exactly what was coming next!
“Oh, Fazzu, you have to make them for Ahmed now. Come, write down the recipe now since I have my book here. Let me just look for the recipe.” Nani began flipping through the book again swiftly while I shot daggers at Ahmed which he returned with a wide-eyed, innocent look while struggling to contain his laughter. After a few seconds nani found the recipe, after which I was subjected to more torture of scribbling down the recipe with fingers that were already sore and cramped. Oh Ahmed, I’m so gonna get you back for this!
“Done, nani,” I said finally, hoping no one remembered any more dishes to make now! But nani wasn’t done yet.
“So Fazzu, you must make the burfee and aloo paratha both okay, and let me know how it comes out. And Ahmed beta, anytime you wish for anything just tell Fazila to make for you…and if she doesn’t know she can always ask me. Fazzu, don’t be so busy with your work work study study that you neglect my poiro. Look how thin he’s getting. You need to feed him nicely, ma.”
“I do feed him very nicely, nani,” I replied defensively, “he’s not thin at all! You haven’t seen his pot-belly underneath this shirt!”
“Fazila!” Nani looked scandalised, “that is good but he’s still looking too thin. Men need a lot of food, not like us. So make sure you put your kitchen first. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, remember that,” she stated matter-of-factly, as though the man in question wasn’t sitting right there…with a very smug look on his face. And as though that wasn’t bad enough he had to rub salt in my wounds by adding, “Ya nani, we always hungry,” with a laugh! At which point nani proceeded to elaborate her point in even more detail!
“Jee, nani,” I murmured demurely and jabbed my elbow sharply into Ahmed’s ribs when no one was looking, listening to his muffled grunt with satisfaction.
After nani had lectured me to her satisfaction and nana had imparted his own wise words of advice we chatted generally for a bit then ended the conversation with salaam and promises to get in touch again soon. As soon as we cut the call I turned to Ahmed with narrowed eyes.
“Uh oh,” he muttered when he saw my look. Before I could blink he jumped up, vaulted over the low coffee table and ran out of the room. Undeterred I pursued him, throwing myself against the bedroom door before he could shut it in my face. Ahmed rounded the bed and stood on the other side, grinning and looking chastened at the same time.
“Now, Fadheelah…calm down. It was only one little recipe…” he began in conciliatory tones. In response I picked up a pillow and hurled it at him, whacking him right in his face.
“One little recipe!? You subjected me to almost an hour of lectures from nani, you dolt!” I picked up another pillow and hurled it at him. He dodged it deftly and threw it back at me, “you made me sound like a frikking lazy wife!” Thwack! A cushion hit him squarely between his eyes. “You made it sound like I work all day and do nothing in the kitchen!” Another pillow hit him in the chest. “You had the nerve to ask her for the aloo paratha recipe after my fingers were already sore copying down the burfee recipe!” The second cushion smacked him in the face. He stood there laughing and throwing the pillows back at me! With a growl I launched myself at him, pummeling him with more pillows and cushions, “you…put me…in…hot water…deliberately…then sat there…enjoying every…bit of it…you…you…” I squealed as Ahmed expertly flipped me over, trapping me underneath him, then proceeded to shut me up in the most effective way ever.
It was exactly three weeks later, on a Wednesday night, as Ahmed and I were preparing to go to sleep, that the phone call came. I remembered the day and even the date clearly because it was mine and Ahmed’s nine months wedding date and we had just been discussing that as we readied ourselves for bed. We didn’t think much of it when Ahmed’s phone rang, though I noted the surprised look on his face as he answered it. But the shrill female voice on the other end was so loud that I heard every word even though I was standing on the other end of the bed.
“Ahmed! She’s gone! She’s gone!!!”