Monday, March 31, 2008

Inspiration from the recycle bin

Don't ask too many questions. Just read!

When they first met, it was in a chat room at a time when the cosmos were in full bloom. I know, dicey places those. But you see, she is of a different generation. A generation where being a computer geek is considered cool. Where conversation with The Parents that involves grunts and nods is considered more than adequate –some kids never have any conversation with the parents except the kind that sounds like, ‘mummy, I need 200. My cell phone is out of airtime’. Where hair irons and hair gel are fashion must-haves and everyone looks like some long lost relative of someone else. Just go to Fordsburg Square on a Saturday night. You’ll see what I mean.

He called himself Indian-Boy. Wow! She went as Indian-Girl. Soul mates! She could feel it in her bones, all of which jut out in all the right places. Clearly she has heard someone in Hollywood say, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” She’s working on the rich bit. He’d better fit the bill.

It has never occurred to either of them that Indian boy/girl – these are more than just misnomers (is there a word like misno-whopper-mer?)- , since both of them have never seen India – the real village India with the cows in the houses – and neither are they likely to. Oh they see India- The Bollywood India – which often doubles as chaars in Holland – speaking Eeenglish -; or chaars in Australia speaking ‘Mate’; or chaars in Thailand speaking…wait for it – more Eeenglish.

So that settles it, they’re Indian – South African, fifth generation, so 100% Indian that they do not understand a word of Gujarati. What would Bollywood be without subtitles (sigh)?

The conclusion is obvious. They must get married - after it was ascertained through calls from one haga to another, via this second cousin of a cousin, that his family – they’re more than just rich. They swim in ghee, and considering the price of ghee, that is not something to sneeze at.

No one gives a toss that he’s not yet 21, or that she is still in matric. Everyone is just too relieved that the poyri found a hara Muslim poyra. Not some Dhori who would have to be converted and definitely not a Malay boy with a surname like Gabriels. How, you tell me, would Rajaa Gabriels sound?

And everyone is over that moon that the poyri did not need the services of Marie Stopes. Abortion is legal, you know! Not that she would ever have been at risk, see. She has been known to mistake his - erm, you know, for a cell phone in his pocket during one of his previous visits when they did more than just talk. She's one of the 'good girls'. The ones who are kept on a leash so short that they have never known what a sleep-over entails. See the inside of a nightclub! Never!

Yes, better that they get married. Terrible times, these are to live in. Our children, they are getting lost. Apartheid was better. It protected us.

And so, without so much as a hurricane warning, a hurricane of Katrina proportions is unleashed on her home.

And she survives. Rajaa bint Abu Bakr ibn Uthmaan Sultan – yes, that’s what appears in her passport (though how Mr Sultan and his pretentious wife got the whole ibn and bint thing right remains a mystery, consigned to the annals of Bermuda Triangles and Highway Shielas, since South African Muslims are famous for their fluent recital of Arabic and complete lack of understanding thereof) – she has survived the whole run up to the wedding. And not just any wedding. An Indian wedding.

She has survived Julie Fois snubbing when her parents had gone to do the inviting. What was wrong with her family that they invited only the parents and their kids and not Julie Foi’s in laws? She has not seen the drama. She has eyes for one face only. That of her husband-to-be whose nights are tormented by images of her virgin flesh being caressed by his callused hands – he hates lotions of any sort, they make him sweat.

She has survived Asma Khala’s argument with her mother about how big the pies for the wedding should be. She has not heard it. She has ears for one voice only. That of her husband-to-be who has kept her up into the wee hours of the morning as he waits for her to put the phone down before him as proof of how much more he loves her. . You put down…no you put down.

‘I’m a survivor, I’m going to make it…’ the chorus of the trashy song repeats itself somewhere in her subconscious, wedged between wondering what the ‘first night’ - that mystery shrouded in musallahs and white sheets - and the nikaah – presently being performed at the masjid will be like.

What if he says no, instead of the qubiltuha wa nakahtuha line, she wonders. He’s been practicing it, she knows. He’s told her the line over and over. Softly whispered it down kilometres of Telkom cable – thankfully it wasn't stolen during that time - into her steadily warming ear. In a language we all understand, it means, I accept her and have taken her into my nikaah (i.e. married her).

“You ready?” Moon-faced Nahla – the Sultans have a knack for regal names. She stops. Stares for a moment. “Wow!” She breathes. And in her mind she says, I want to look just like you when I get married. Like too many Indian girls her age, her ambitions in life seldom venture beyond the six foot walls of a house in a more-trees-than-people suburb and two children strapped up in designer prams.

So this is what's been forcing its way onto the keyboard. I say 'forcing' since I really don't have the time these days. And 'recycle bin'? - you figure that one out...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What's in a Name??

I stand at this point right now. Looking out at a world that breaths the promise of a new day, complete with challenges and surprises. And I grapple...I grapple with a name for myself.
What's wrong with author? You are listed on Amazon. You are listed on Kalahari. You will begin summitting these peaks, one by one, as you knock yourself out trying to promote a dream that has finally been realised. So what is wrong with author?
That's the pragmatic her speaking. The one who says that I'm better off being wonderful to the mother in law and tells me tales about attracting more bees with honey.
But that her does not tell me that I will, in all likelihood, attract flies as well.
So what does being an author entail? Does it mean that you are now entitled to certain privileges that were previously denied to you? Does it mean that you enter into an illustrious society? Does it make you a better person? Help!!!
And for the record, I still prefer the word :Writer. It's nebulous. Just as I am when I emerge from home wrapped in black, my face hidden from view.
I use it on the Internet and never on forms of any kind. Even the ones at the dentist.
For those, 'Self-employed' does the trick.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


It's been a loooong journey. But finally The Beautiful Names has been released. And I'm thrilled. Can't exclaim over it though, since my exclamation key is stuck.
Watch this space for ordering and other information.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Some writing - at long last

An excerpt from a work in progress

Each year in December we took a holiday as a family. Daddy’s chacha would run the shop for him for that week. Ebrahim chacha was a bachelor who made a living from playing locum. He could be trusted not to dip his hands into the petty cash, and to keep an eye on the staff to ensure that they did not steal. So Daddy could make his journey with a heart at ease. Yeah right!The week would be an unwanted pregnancy of discomfort, swollen feet and heartburn. I wonder what they did while I spent hours on the beach. Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth. These oceans had arms that welcomed me. I would walk far out, as I grew older. Beyond the crashing waves to a place where the water rose and fell as gently as a sheet. I would feel the currents churning against my legs, around and around. And I would taste complete happiness. Happiness that I could bottle, like the Africans did with the sea water, and take home. Imbibe whenever I felt the need.

One afternoon I had climbed onto some rocks that had been revealed by the low tide. They were warm and rough beneath my feet. Mussels and limpets clung resolutely to the rocks. A few waves washed over the ones on the sides. Seaweed attached itself there now and again. I tried to pry a few of the limpets loose. At first touch, they would move, just a little. But on my second attempt, well I’d have an easier time chipping off chunks of concrete. And then I learnt a trick. Catch them unawares; one quick, swift movement and they come loose. And you have in your hands a little black shell, all ridged and mottled with a tiny snot-like creature inside. A creature that seemed to be experiencing severe separation anxiety, writhing furiously. Put it back on the rock. Why Pratley Putty would give you an easier time to remove.

These limpets, they had a story to tell. I could almost hear them whisper. But then an odd thing happened. Their whispering became real. Loud and very deep. No longer nebulous, an echo of the crashing waves.

‘So what do you think of us? Fascinating? Charming?’

I bent my head forward to hear them better. I was beginning to feel rather excited by them talking. The kind of excitement I felt when I once fancied as a child that I could fly. A jump from the first floor of our house that daddy was in the process of renovating convinced me otherwise and resulted in a broken ankle.

It was only when a large form obscured my sun that I looked up and realised that the whispering was nothing more than a certain, unknown young man mocking at my intense concentration.

I looked down again to hide my annoyance at having this precious world of mine invaded. But somehow, dumb-ass didn’t get the message.

“Did you know that I once got a cousin to eat a limpet? Told him that it was an oyster. Don’t judge me. At least I chose a pretty large one.”

He flopped down on the rock beside me and stretched his long, hairy legs in front of him. I happened to notice that his second toe was slightly longer than the first. My mother said that it was a sign of a domineering nature. She often said that I’d be that way, just like my Dadi, who was not one of her favourite people. By this time, the comment no longer had any sting left. The poison had been weakened due to over-usage. But I would not be caught dead in sandals. Remembering this little oddity, I curled my feet up underneath me.

“Did you know that they would rather allow themselves to be destroyed than be removed from their spot? They understand stubbornness. ”
I did not respond. He appeared not to notice and continued talking.
“Did you know that even though they move around during high tide to graze, they return to their ‘home scar’ before the tide goes out? A perfect fit. Don’t you see?”

“Are you done, Mr Chappie Paper? I think that’s enough.”

And so we’d meet every day on the rock. He’d seek me out. And chat about the ocean. Turned out that he was quite knowledgeable.

It was the first time that I discovered the joy of undemanding male company. And he even got me to show him my toes. Sometimes we’d just sit, looking out towards the ocean that churned and swirled and share a silence so sweet, I could almost taste it. Sometimes we saw dolphins.

Love could take on different forms, I learnt. And strangers sometimes know us better than we know ourselves.

note: I know it needs refining. It's nothing more than a first rough draft. But I felt the need to share. Since I am finally writing after ages. And that feels good :-)

Sunday, March 02, 2008


it's been ages, i admit. but to me, it feels like lifetimes have slipped through time's peephole. so much has happened.

in between the rush of trying to get a new book 'out there' and set up a bakery, i've survived having my husband and sons involved in a car crash. They were not badly hurt, except that husband will be parading a rather ugly cast strapped to his wrist for a few more weeks. but the's a write-off

then we have the misfortune of having had a gambler and (he says) drug addict on our staff for ages. two weeks ago, he vanishes with a substantial sum of money (he owed Nigerian drug lords lots of dosh - he says) and a vehicle that was used in the business. the said vehicle has since been re-united with husband, thanks to the cops. Of course they had no difficulty finding it, since it had been abandoned at the side of the road. this, after his bogus hijacking claim was proven to be ...bogus, by a polygraph test.

and then, this week, the last and only surviving decent vehicle gets stolen while the crew are out on a job. so, i guess, i'm just another crime statistic. but i can't help feeling that this was all a bit excessive.

but don't worry, my shift key hasn't crashed on me. I'm just too tired to use it. and all you grammar correct types out there, for once, i think you'll understand.