Surviving: Contents






Chapter One: The Past – Part Three

(please note we are editing as we go along, so there maybe changes,apologies,  mummy’s husband is now Riaz)

After that incident, Nani never spoke to Mummy again. She wanted nothing to do with her. As long as Riaz was in the picture, Nani preferred to be out. I’m not even sure whether Mummy noticed. She was so glaze-eyed everytime I saw her, sinking deeper and deeper into her self-made pit of misery. Two hours was the most I ever spent there anymore. It was two hours filled with a silence that eats at your heart. I saw Nani’s pain. Fatikhala tried to soften the blow for her, for both of us actually. She tried to ease the pain by distracting us with her antics, hoping we would forget and go about our lives. But how could a mother forget her daughter, and a little child could never forget her mother.

Not long after that incident, Fatikhala received a proposal for marriage, when we went to Durban, for Nani’s neice, Aunty Rabia’s wedding. Mustafa’s aunt found our lovely hazel-eyes Fatima not only beautiful, but full of good manners too. “Just like a Muslim pooyri should behave” Rooki Nani told Nani, was what Mustafa’s aunt had said about Fatikhala. Aunty Shabnum, his mother, phoned a week after the wedding to say that her sister-in-law gave high recommendations about Fatikhala and asked if they could come for a Maangu – official proposal. Of course Nani jumped at the offer and said yes without even bothering to discuss it with Fatikhala. Who turns down such a good Maangu? After bitching and moaning for almost a whole week, Fatikhala finally relented. “I’m only allowing them to come because it would be rude to turn them away after you already said yes. But I’m not marrying him,” she added quickly and firmly. Nani only nodded, maintaining a straight face, but I saw the twinkle in her eyes, and the elated smile when she turned her face.

Mustafa’s family was from Cape Town and a month after the phone call came, they flew down to Jo’burg and drove down to Pietspruit, a little town three hours from Jo’burg, settled in old-fashioned ways and lots of dust. They were going to sleep by family in the town next door. Nani invited them for a Saturday night supper.. She cried amid cleaning the chicken that morning.

“It’s not my wedding day, Ma, only a proposal,” Fatikhala laughed at Nani. She waited for Fatikhala to leave the kitchen before turning to me to say, “I can feel it in my bones, Mumi, this is the one for Fati. A mother knows these things.” I guess they do, or else Nani would have given my mother to Riaz as willingly as she gave her hand to my father.

The Mohammed family were expected to arrive after Maghrib Salaah – the prayer at dusk. In spite of herself, Fatikhala was excited. That afternoon she had a long soak in the tub. She even bought special clothes for the occasion. As the sun lowered further into the horizon, and the time grew nearer to meet the family, Fatikhala was beginning to get nervous. She kept going back to her room to check herself in the mirror. She came back to the dining room to arrange and rearrange the table she and I had laid out that afternoon for the supper. “Shoo, get away from here,” Nani flicked her kitchen cloth, ushering Fatikhala away from the table as if she were a pecking bird, leading her into the lounge, where the family would sit and indulge in sweetmeats before making their way into the dining room for the big feast. “Everything looks perfect Fatima, just relax,” Nani scolded her lovingly.

As soon as Nani left the lounge to go check on the food one last time, before hopping in for a quick shower and change, Fatikhala jumped up and studied herself in the sideboard mirror. “You do look perfect, Fatikhala, You’re the prettiest person I know,” I told her, feasting my eyes on her beautiful face and lovely clothes. When she emerged from her bedroom earlier, I was in awe. Fatikhala was generally beautiful, but that day she had a different glow about her. She looked the image of a good wife serene and pure in wide cut linen trousers and a long flowing chiffon kaftan in white, intricately beaded in the palest of gold. She wasn’t very tall, but the gold diamante sandals gave her the perfect height. As a token of respect to Mustafa and his family, Fatikhala draped a white and gold ohni – long scarf– over her head. With just the slightest bit of make-up, she looked like a real-life fairy princess, in my nine year old eyes.

It was obvious to everyone that from the moment Mustafa laid eyes on Fatikhala, he was hopelessly in love. She was impressed too. Mustafa was better looking than she expected. His thick, black curly mop dishevelled upon his head, accentuated the deepness of his eyes and allowed you to notice the soft curve in his nose. And when he smiled, you could notice his deep dimples a mile away. They made a striking couple. The only flaw in the match was Fatikhala’s tiny body against Mustafa’s body-built hulk, but even then they seemed to fit perfectly together, like two pieces of a puzzle clicking into place. The heels did nothing to allow her even a fraction of height next to him. When he looked at her, his eyes already gave off promises of love and safety for all eternity.

His mother’s eyes were a whole different story. They kept darting everywhere around the house, looking for something, possibly faults. I wondered if she only phoned Nani on her sister-in-law’s insistence. Finally, I understood her nervousness. “I heard you have another daughter, Kulsum,” she addressed Nani, her mock-sweet tone immediately bringing silence to the table. “Couldn’t she make it today?”

Okay! Wow! I am sharing the third part of my story with you! Thank you for  all your support and encouragement.

Till Tomorrow

NB: NB: this is all fiction and all part of a made up world with real life problems.We are editing as we go along and there maybe some changes to characters, names etc. please bear with us.

Chapter One: The Past – Part Two

(please note we are editing as we go along, so there maybe changes,apologies,  mummy’s husband is now Riaz)

“I’m still young, Ma,” my Fatikhala would say to Nani when Nani nagged her about finding a life partner. Sometimes when Nani spoke to herself and thought no one was listening I would hear her praying, “Ya Allah! When will Fatima settle down? She must be looking at Yumna and Riaz’s marriage and getting scared. Ya Allah! Find my Fatima one good man, just like her father was. I don’t want her to be alone when I’m gone.” Nani was a tiny lady, with a head full of grey, neatly pinned into place and a scarf always half covering her head. She had a fiery, strong personality, and everybody expected her her to live forever. She was the stitches that was holding her family together. After her husband, Nana, passed away, way before I was born, her daughters were all that she had, and then me.

Life for me at Nani’s house was bittersweet. I was finally free, I didn’t have to tiptoe around the house, afraid of walking too loudly or having something to eat. At the same time, I missed my mother, the old Mummy. I was trapped in a child’s dream of happiness involving both parents. A part of me wanted to hold onto that dream, but I discarded it, deciding that I needed to grow up. A mighty task for an eight year old. I was torn between loyalty to my mother – I didn’t want her to think that I abandoned her – and my own selfish reasons for staying at Nani’s house, enveloped in love. This was the safe haven I hadn’t known since my father died, the chance for me to try to be a child again, instead of the miniature adult I needed to be at my mother’s house. It was my chance to be looked after, cared for and loved unconditionally. Isn’t that what all children deserve? Then why did I feel so guilty? How was it possible to live so peacefully, when down the road and around the corner my mother’s life was hell?

I went to visit her as often as I could at first, with Nani or Fatikhala, but the adults always ended up arguing, especially when Fatikhala was with, so over time the visits became less frequent. Mummy drifted far away, becoming a stranger, saying almost nothing at all and staring at me, or through me. The beautiful mother I knew had turned into a hag. She was always wearing pyjamas and everytime I saw her she looked more thin and frail than the last time. Her pyjamas might have been hanging on a hanger instead of her skeletal frame. Her skin had turned dark, almost with a green undertone. All this scared me, but what terrified me were her eyes. There was a never-ending nothingness in them and when you looked directly into them, you had the chilling feeling that you might get lost forever if you were drawn into the emptiness. There was no emotion residing there, no love for anyone, no pain, not even hatred or anger. It was as if she was blind, or worse, dead.

I felt guilty and started blaming myself. “She wouldn’t be like this if I left, Nani, maybe I should go back home,” I would confide. On these confessional occassions Naani would pack me a weekend suitcase and drop me off there. But these sleepovers depressed me and had me longing for the safety and loving atmosphere of Nanis house. I wanted to save my mother, but knew that I could do nothing. At times I grew angry at my father for leaving us. What right did he have to leave us all alone? Because of him I had lost my mother too.

Around six months after I moved in with Nani, one of our rare visits together to my mother, turned into a nightmare. We knocked on the front door. No one answered. We saw Riaz’s beat-up jalopy in the driveway and we could hear shouting from inside, so we knew they were home. Fatikhala led the way to the backyard, but the door there was locked too. We could see Riaz beating my mother from the wide kitchen window. Nani banged her fists against the glass and the back door, while Fatikhala began yelling obscene threats.

“Go away!” Riaz roared, looking like a cave man as he waved his fists at us. “It’s none of your’lls business what goes on in this house. Now go away before your’ll will get a hiding too!”

“Riaz! Leave my sister alone or I’m calling the cops!” Fatikhala threatened him, bellowing back, the fury clearly showing in her hazel eyes. In pure rage, she began stomping her feet, looking like a little girl, clearly no match to take on Riaz. Utterly frustrated, she began searching for her cell phone in her handbag when Riaz came crashing through the door, charging after her. Nani tried to stop him, but with the flick of a hand he threw her tiny frame aside. I froze, I couldn’t breathe, and I felt myself sinking to the floor. By the time I woke up, we all three safetly inside Nani’s white Toyota Corolla, heading home. Fatikhala was driving, and expressing her anger through road rage.

“Nani,” I called out.

“Jee, my Bethi?” Naani’s voice reassured me, but I couldn’t keep it in any longer, the tears began flowing out like the beginning of a thunderstorm. Gentle drizzles at first, followed by howling winds and roaring claps of thunder. I cried for several hours, even after we reached the safety of Nani’s house. I screamed out all the emotions built in for years. I cried until I had no tears left, and then I just screamed and eventually calmed down to a moan, like the licking squall after the storm. Nani let me be, occasionally holding me, helping me sip sugar water and whispered soothing words from time to time.

Fatikhala ranted and raved about my mother being such a fool for not coming home with us. “One of these days he’s gonna kill her, Ma!” And “How dare that pig even think of laying a hand on you, Ma?” Her hazel eyes were blazing, “Just wait and see what I’ll do to him!” Eventually, we both calmed down.

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NB: this is all fiction and all part of a made up world with real life problems.We are editing as we go along and there maybe some changes to characters, names etc. please bear with us.

Chapter One: The Past – Part One

They say when life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade. Probably to sweeten the bitterness, maybe to cool you off and allow you time to stop and think. Maybe they just say that. I wouldn’t know what to do with lemons, because I was handed beer cans, then mops and finally rose petals to soothe the cuts from the sharp edges of steel and soften the ridges of my palms from harsh detergents.

My story is long, mostly sad. There are only memories that I have left to hold onto. My survival depends on the pleasant reminiscences. I try to shed the terrible memories, but I cannot ultimately evade them. They haunt me in the deep recess of my mind. They taunt my future and question my merit. I needed to break free. Sometimes in life we all feel the need to escape the ugly reality that our lives have become. We may achieve escape upto a certain level, only to eventually come back down to earth and hate our lives more passionately than before. I needed that escape more than anyone, ever before. I needed that escape forever, infinitely and now. Escapism was my fortitude. I learned the art at an early age.

I was six when my father died. Nani told me that he had been wrongfully killed. Revenge on the wrong person. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time. A case of mistaken identity. They shot him twice in the chest, once in the head. He died immediately. He died a Shaheed – a martyr. How often didn’t I wish for those days when Daddy was alive – happy times. I had prayed many times to Allah to please bring my Daddy back to me. I understood, at the age of six, that the dead could never return, but I continued asking. I pleaded with Him unti my mother married Ritesh, now known as Riaz, because Nani would never allow Mummy to marry someone who wasn’t Muslim. So Ritesh converted to Islam, on the surface only, as we all came to find out too soon. Sweet, caring Ritesh turned into mean, drunk Riaz.

The good picture only lasted a few monts before Riaz started drinking and abusing my mother, insulting and belittling her during every moment his eyes were open. She begged him to stop drinking. She could have left him in those early days, but she chose to stay, igniting my first flikcering flame of hate for the pair. I sometimes wonder now, if my mother had a fear of being alone. Mummy wasn’t a showstopper, but she was pretty in her own way. She always took pride in her appearance and carefully chose her clothes to suit her neat and laidback style. Her dark brown hair was always shining and not a strand was out of place in her twisted bun at the nape of her neck. Maybe you wouldn’t look at her twice, but to me, as any child to it’s mother, she was beautiful.She tried to cover up Riaz’s drinking, but Nani knew, and it wasn’t more than a year after they were married, when one day Nani popped in at home, as grannies do. What she suspected was far better than what she saw that day. Mummys face was a series if colours ranging from black to purple to yellow, and about four times its normal size. Riaz was in the state he usualy was after a session of drinking and beating, sprawled out on the fuzzy brown sofa, mouth wide open, eyes shut. Thankfully, nothing could wake him from his liquor induced slumber. Mummy began desperately trying to hide the beer cans strewn around the lounge. I ussualy shut myself up in the room when several ice cold six packs came out, only to emerge after the screaming and thumping had stopped.

I did try to stop Riaz hitting my mother once. I knew it was a futile gesture; but I would die if it didn’t all stop. One slap from Riaz split my lip. I would’ve probably tried again, but my mother forbade me from inerfering again. “It’s not your business Mumtaz,” she scolded me, and the venom in her voice ket me from ever trying again. As if she was trying to tell me that she had made her bed, now she had to lie in it. Mummy had changed alot, so I couldn’t speak to her as easily as I used to. She would get snappy, and shout at me for no reason. I would retreat into my threadbare bedroom, with its ugly, brown rickety wardrobe, and single wooden bed with the lumpy mattress, and curl up under the duvet.

Nani begged Mummy to leave Riaz no mother could see her daughter suffering so. “He tricked you into this marriage, Yumna. Look at him, he’s Muslim only by name. Al gunnah!” she struck her own head, as if to cleanse all the sins. “Please come home, Yumna.”

Mummy refused. Nani took me with her. “I can’t have our Mumtaz living in this house with all the sin going on. What kind of upbringing will the child have? Her father will be turning in his grave.” And so, from the age of eight, I began living with Nani and Mummy’s sister, Fatima, twenty one years of age and still not married.

Please give me feedback. Chapter One introduces Mumtaz’s past. Let me know if I should make posts longer or shorter. Thanks!

NB: this is all fiction and all part of a made up world with real life problems.We are editing as we go along and there maybe some changes to characters, names etc. please bear with us. (please note we are editing as we go along, so there maybe changes,apologies,  mummy’s husband is now Riaz )