To Sir… with LOVE

What can I say? Where do I begin? These words have been lost inside me for so long, bouncing within the walls of my soul. Eight months.Long months that went by so quickly. I don’t even know how to string any one of these to complete a whole sentance. I don’t know what these words are. Does anybody? They are laments, and painful tears. They are fond memories. They are childhood visions that are so vivid in my mind. These words began speaking to me slowly on that fateful night. That awful, heart-wrenching, tragic night when we lost you…

 

I got a call from my brother, telling me that my granny phoned and he couldn’t understand what she was trying to say. My uncle had met in an accident on their way back from Durban. What? I asked him, swallowing the lump that had built in my throat the moment he said my granny called him. She tried to call me, but I was in the bathroom. With a racing heart and sweaty palms, I phoned her back. Till this day her voice over the phone haunts me. The urgency with which she willed this dreadful news not to be still claws at my heart and I wish I could make it go away. Even now, after all these months, my arms get goosebumps and my hearts thumps so hard I’m afraid of it bursting out of my chest. She was hysterical. She received a call that my uncle and his family had met in accident on their way home from Durban. She didn’t know if it was true. She didn’t know who to call to find out any news. She was alone. She was afraid. This was her baby boy. My aunty was in Durban, and my own parents were with my unlce’s youngest daughter in Mozambique.

Who do I call? The first person I always call is my mother. But she was across the border and I couldn’t get through. I tried to calm her down. To assure her that everything was going to be okay. But it wasn’t. It would never be the same. I willed myself to be strong for her. My husband made a few calls. I called my Foi. We comforted each other with a sense of hope that everything would be fine. I called my granny back to make sure she was fine. I told her I was on my way to Azaadville. I ran around my house trying to gather children and pack clothes and bottles and socks. I packed socks because Azaadville always got cold at night. I stuffed them into gowns and wrapped them in blankets, and I ran downstairs with a handful of clothes falling all over the place. I ran back upstairs as my husband loaded the sleeping children into the car. I grabbed a bag and stuffed the clothes in. I grabbed another bag and stuffed more things in, I can’t even remember the contents. I almost started crying once, but I willed myself not to.

I finally got through to my mother. They had heard the news, but no one knew anything further. I spoke to my brother. I spoke to my Foi. I spoke to my brother again on the stairs on my way down. Nothing was confirmed but three people were dead.  I sat down in the car and burst into tears. I wanted none of them gone. Was it cruel to hope that the three dead were from another car? My eldest son woke up amid the chaos to ask what was happening. Seeing me in tears, he began crying as well. I knew I had to get a hold of myself. I took a deep breathe and assured him that all was okay. He fell asleep crying in the back seat. My brother called back. The driver of the car was one of three. The passenger. And someone in the backseat. My mind started racing with possibilities. How were they sitting? My uncle!!!!! My mind was screaming and I was trying so very hard not to panic. My granny was alone and she needed me. I whispered prayers. I tried to read Yaseen. I begged Allah to keep them safe. My husband’s uncle called. I can hear his voice as clear as if it was this morning. I can feel the echo of the aftermath as the news sunk in without really hitting me at all. I felt myself slipping away. I handed the phone to my husband. It is confirmed. Aslam, Fatima and Muhammad passed away. Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raaji’oon. May Allah grant them Jannatul Firdows. 

 

I relive this night every single day. I accept Allah’s decision to remove these beautiful souls from this darkening world. They are in a better place. It is us who have to live on and try to fill the void. It is his three beautiful, strong daughters who have to go on, every single day in the hopes that they will meet them one day in Jannah. Ameen.

I would like to follow this sad post with the tribute I wrote for my uncle at his memorial, held by his school, Ahmed Timol Secondary.

 

I stand here today with such deep sorrow, my heart is hanging at my feet, for never in a million years would I have dreamt that I have to pay this tribute, and so very soon. My earliest memory of the late Mr. Aslam Khan is of him making me laugh, and my last memory is of him making my own sons laugh. I look back and I can’t think of a single child who has passed by either Aslam, or his wife Fatima, and the child was not drawn to them, or whom they did not share their genuine smiles with. 

My name is Asmaa Khan, and the late Muhammad Aslam Khan was my beloved uncle, my father and my teacher all rolled into one. A heavy task, that only he was able to carry out so honourably. He and his Fatima so generously opened their home to me, He raised me, together with my granny, and guided me as his own daughter for almost 16 years.

You didn’t just teach life science, you taught us life, Sir….

Whatever he did, his mission was to teach through it. Even in the classroom, he never adopted that stern teacher-behind-the-desk-way. He had a way to engage his learners, and put things across in such a manner, that only he could. His teaching style was jovial, though he was stern where he needed to be. 

Let us look back into his life and draw from some of the few lessons he left behind as a legacy. 

Some of you may know that he wasn’t always exactly the ‘model student’ and he never claimed to be. He mentioned it countless times in his many chats to his students. That is why he always included the phrase, “I’m ten steps ahead.” But he was able to turn his life completely around, and use himself unabashedly as an example that there was, and still is hope for those that have slipped through, or are lost and struggling to find direction. From this example, let us take the lesson of hope. Things will turn around, everything gets better, and most importantly, change lies within ourselves. We just have to be willing to admit our mistakes, and be ready to take the first step forward. 

What the right hand gives, the left hand shouldn’t know about. This is another lesson we should draw from Mr. Khan. He gave, even when he had nothing to give. And I am good testament to this statement. There were days when he had no money to fix his cars, but he made sure to drive me to school. There were nights spent in the dark, but neither husband or wife phoned my parents to ask them to collect me because I was an extra mouth to feed. And now, years later, when they had even more, they gave even more, as we are finding out each since their passing on. This wasn’t a mere man. This was a humanitarian and there are no words I have to describe him that will do justice to his qualities.

There are probably a thousand more lessons we could take from the lifestyle he led, but I will leave with one more that is essential in living life. That is passion and dedication. Whatever you do, do it with so much passion that it fills your life with meaning, and as much dedication that you can already envision the end result of 100% perfection and no room for failure. That is why, through Mr. Khan, all those he touched in some way, we are that much better versions of ourselves. Because he was willing to believe in us. He was willing to give us that chance. The isn’t a single teacher who has the passion and dedication to phone the homes of his learners to find out why they were not attending school on that particular day. And drive over if he suspected they were trying to bunk. 

Passion is the powerful force in accomplishing anything you set your mind to, and in experiencing work and life to the fullest extent possible. Ultimately, passion is the driving force behind success and the happiness that allows us to live better lives. And so, when we measure the success of my dear unlce Aslam’s life, we should gauge this success by the amount of lives he touched, and aspire to instil even a percentage of his lifestyle into our own lives. How lucky are we all to have known such a dynamic personality.

Yes! Our family has lost its soul. The community and school has lost a limb, but let this heartbreaking, colossal loss not be in vain. Let us go out there and celebrate his life by trying to emulate the qualities he adopted. 

May Almighty Allah elevate Aslam’s, Fatima’s and sweet Muhammad’s status in Jannah, and may he grant us all the courage to step up and adopt these changes. Ameen.

 

Please remember my family in your duas. Remember my beloved grandmother, my father, my Foi. Remember his three beautiful girls, Sabeeha, Sameera and Yaseera. Pray that one day the pain will subside and Jannah awaits us all, so the link in the broken chain may be mended again ❤

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Subhanallah! I Did It

For the first time in my life I have almost no words to describe the deep emotion I feel as people read my words all over South Africa. I leave you with my speech that I recited at the launch.

 

Ever since I can remember I had a dream. One day I would see my name on the cover of a book. My heart swelled when I dreamed about this, so you can only imagine the overwhelming emotion I feel now as my dream becomes a reality. My love of reading knows no bounds and I only have my late grandfather and my mother to thank for that. I remember reading from a very young age, and I am trying to the best of my ability to instil the same love of books in my children.

I knew the only way to complete a book was to write everyday, a little at a time, and I vowed to myself that I would finish a book one day, even if it took my whole life. Alhamdulillah, today I have not only accomplished my dream, but so much more. I have learned more about life and people. My eyes have opened wide and so has my heart. When I write I am transported into a different world, where anything is possible and everything is magical. When people asked me what inspired me to write a book, I could not give them a reason, other than I wanted to do it. Now, I finally understand why I wrote “Surviving”! It was the foundation of many great starts in my life. Firstly, beautiful bonds have solidified because of this journey. But most importantly, it gives the victims a voice! It allows us a glimpse into their world, and even though we would never be able to truly understand the depth of their situations, we are now able to open our hearts and assist a worthy cause by trying to get them help!

Today is not only about getting your copy of Surviving, scurrying back home and reading it. This is about reading it, understanding Mumtaz’s journey, helping others in her situation, even if you only have the ability to make a dua on their behalf, and most importantly not judging the next persons choices in life. Today is about the victim of abuse! I pledge my solidarity to always help another woman wherever I can, to the best of my abilities. Allah didn’t create us the weak, feeble creatures we are so often made out to be. Within us there is indestructible strength, which breaks free when we are tested, again and again. A womans tears are not her weakness. It is an outlet of the pain, and hurt and agony that her heart weeps, to make place for the resounding resilience that she displays. So pray not for her strength, but for sound wisdom so that she is able to make the best decision for herself.

I would like to offer thanks to all those who made this dream of mine possible. Firstly, to the Almighty for breezing the words into my heart so that I could weave them into a story. To my husband, my parents and all my family for being here today to mark this special occasion. To Ask Nanima, for making this dream a reality. To Taahira Rubidge, for her excellent editing and typesetting skills. To Saaleha Bamjee, for her amazing camera and design work. To my blog readers, for believing in Mumtaz’s story and opening your heart, as I have. To Mariam Fakir, who couldn’t be with us today but without who this ChariTea wouldn’t have been possible.  To all the generous people that have donated wholeheartedly to this cause.

 

The proceeds from the ChariTea will be donated to Nisaa Institute for Womens Development.

I would like to thank the following people for donating various items for the chariTea:

NiqiLivingLuxe, Stashy’s, Tasneem Jadwat Casoojee, Fatima Laher, Khadija Mohamed, Theshni Govender, Basheera Mayet, Uncle Haroon Moolla (Scarves Unlimted), Moosa’s Sales Room (Plaza), Haberdashery Supermarket (Plaza), Edible Elegance, and those helping hands who assisted in the setting and manning of the tea tables. Jazakallah also to all those who attended to support me and share that special moment with me.

 

Please continue to make dua for me on my journey to better myself. May Allah guide me in my writing so that through me, our youth can open their eyes, and through my words I become a source of inspiration and motivation to many more. And make dua that I am able to write with ease, and produce something else equally as gripping as “Surviving”. I am not done… within me there is insurmountable energy waiting to be transferred into words… My journey has only begun.

 

Much Love

Asmaa

(Pics to follow)

 

Why are you scared of death?

Jummah Mubarak Beautiful Readers. Just thought I would share this piece I wrote some time ago and give us something to reflect on…. Happy Reading!

I would sit with her late at night as her body writhed in pain, I would dab her with a cool cloth when she felt too hot, wiping away the drizzles of sweat forming on her nose and forehead, and I held her close when she shivered. And finally I would watch her as she fell into a peaceful slumber. Only then would the tears exit the corners of my eyes, and roll down my cheeks, around my chin and into the crevice of my breasts, from which I nursed her so lovingly till she was a year old. I couldn’t watch my baby die, it was tearing me apart, ripping my soul into a thousand, million shreds. Was it even fair to watch one’s child, who you carried for nine months inside of you and cared for nine more years, die?  I could not wrap my mind around the thought of not having her around, my sunshine in the morning, my personal dose of daily hope.

She burst into our lives on her exact due date, just as the sun was bursting through the sky, bringing with her more joy to add to our family, and smelly nappies, loud burps and plenty giggles. She captured everyone’s heart who ever laid sight on her bright blue eyes and dimpled smile. And even now, when the effects of chemo has left her skin as grey as ash and she has lost her chubby cheeks to the point where you can trace her cheekbones with your finger, even now people are in awe of her sparkling blue eyes and beautiful smile.

But today she has moved everyone to tears, even the doctor, who has trained himself in the face of death, and watches people die on a daily basis, shed a tear for my daughter and her never-ending courage and determination in life and death, alike.

Today, as we all surround her in her final moments, she requests to be at home.

“Why sweetheart?” I ask her gently. “You will be more comfortable here, and they will be able to help you with the pain.”

“What pain, Mummy?” she looked at me with those crystal eyes, filled with sincererity and determintaion. “I feel no pain, other than in my heart. I would like to be in my own bed, surrounded by my family and smelling the smells I did all my life, the smells of love. I want to close my eyes and remember you there, in the room you made for me from scratch, choosing the colours and linen so carefully. I want that perfect image as my last.”

We were sceptical. We didn’t want her suffering any more than she had to. The doctors could do no more. The cancer that started like a leech on her spine, a year before she turned nine, had spread through to the rest of her body, attacking her and becoming larger than her. The fight was over. Nadia had quietly grown up, grown wise, and had put her zealous swords of courage away and invited the cancer to consume her with a frightening calmness. She wasn’t giving up, she was setting herself free.

Later on, I can recall her smiling sweetly and asking for grape juice, her favourite juice, because purple was her favourite colour. She lay in bed, propped high by the large lilac pillows, as we surrounded her once again. Myself, her father, her elder sister and her baby brother. She took her time to look at each of us exclusively, for long moments, silently, her eyes piercing through to the depths of our souls. And then she spoke to us all.

“Why are you scared of death?” she asked calmly. It was the first time she had mentioned the word. We all gaped at her in shock, awed by her resilience, as tears stung our eyes again. “If you choose to look at death as dark and gloomy, it will scare you. You will be so petrified in your final moments that you will forget to remember the beautiful gift you been handed to by Allah. Your life is the packaging, wrapped in bright colours and pretty ribbons. It is what surrounds the surprise on the inside. Unwrapping the gift is living your life. If you do it slowly, meticulously, careful not to damage the pretty patterns on the wrapping and without ripping the bows so they unwind, you will have so much more appreciation for the gift that lies inside. And when the time comes to look at your gift and hold it in the palm of your hand, if it fits, you can finally close your eyes and savour the moment, and be grateful that you took your time. I have taken my time. My nine years with you may seem short, but slowly you all helped me unwrap my gift sent by Allah. Now I will take the final steps, there is one more layer, which I must undo by myself, but I would like you all to sit here while I do. I want to close my eyes, and hold these precious moments in my heart before I enjoy the incredible beauty of my gift. Hold my hand Mummy, and guide me as you always have.”

I didn’t understand what she meant, but I moved even closer and gently took her frail hand in my own, wondering how my child got so wise, and when? She smiled again. Her eyes twinkled as she captured each one’s memory in her heart. Then she closed them and whispered a single word, “Jannah.”

And as the sun disappeared below the horizon, Nadia’s soul fluttered away, leaving her lifeless body behind in her purple room. She had gone to collect her final gift. Finally, my baby could walk without pain, and maybe even fly, as she often wished. Her suffering had come to an end. She was home, her final abode. It wasn’t the end, but the beginning of another incredible journey for her.

Dedicated to my beloved Granny, who was a victim of Cancer. May Allah grant her direct flight into Jannatul Firdows. Ameen!

Painful Memories

Please Note: The following post contains disturbing scenes!!! Sensitive readers are not advised to scroll down!!!

Once upon a time I used to smile and laugh… I could talk your ears off. I was a happy-go-lucky kind of girl, didn’t have a care in the world. But not any more…. my past has changed me. I became miserable and full of hate. I abhored being in a roomful of happy people. I felt lifeless, as if that incident sucked the soul from my core. I didn’t understand then, that it was a test from Allah.

This is my story:

Growing up wasn’t easy. I lost my beloved father at a very young age. I know from family members that he treated my mother like a queen.

My mother remarried. He was nice in the beginning, but soon enough he began showing his true colours. He was a drug addict and would do anything for a hit. If he could have sold us also, I’m sure he would have. He would take all my mother’s money, not bothering whether we had enough food to eat or clothes that fit. There were many days that we went by hungry. My siblings and I became used to it, our bodies became immune to the gnawing hunger that clung to us, sometimes for days.

He began beating my mother up. It became an everyday occurrence. It reached to a stage, where if he didn’t hit her, the day wouldn’t feel normal. Then she fell pregnant with his child. That didn’t stop him. He continued beating her mercilessly. Soon, he started hitting us also. My mother tried to stop him from doing that, but he would turn his anger back to her, so she stopped trying to help us.

We wouldn’t go to school for days on end because of the blue and black marks he would leave us with. We grew immune to his beating too. We prepared for it by wearing extra layers of clothing just so it wouldn’t hurt so much. Not that it helped.

Their child was born. Shukr to Allah, the drugs stopped. But the beating continued. At times my mother would leave us at family or friends, but he would always find us and the hiding was the worst. He was in jail quite often, but he was bailed out by family or my mother.

I was about nine years old when he stared sexually abusing me. At first I didn’t even realise what he was doing. He would touch my butt or my breasts. I was young and innocent. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know that what he was doing was wrong. My mother didn’t teach us about all this stuff. It got worse. He would come into the shower and watch me. If I tried to lock the door he would bang on it and create a scene. My mother worked so there was no supervision during the day. I was alone and afraid. I had enough of my own by then to understand that this was wrong, but who could I tell? I would look for friends to come home with me after school so that I wouldn’t have to be alone with him, but more often, no one would come.

He began inserting his finger inside me. It hurt and I would cry, but he would yell at me. He would send me to his room to “fetch something” but would follow me there and touch me. Other times he would open his pants and tell me to touch him “there”. When I refused he would grab my hand and make me touch him. He would lay next to me in bed and rub himself against me, until i was forced to jump out of the bed.

One day he forced his mouth on mine. My mother saw him holding me, but she didn’t say anything. The next morning I overheard her telling my someone that I was “trying tricks with her husband”. I was so hurt, but didn’t bother defending myself. I didn’t see the point. She wouldn’t believe me. I was now the girl trying to steal her husband. Everyday my life was getting worse.

And even though all of this happened, I was in no way prepared for what happened next. I didn’t think he would actually do something so vile. I was only twelve years old at that time, playing outside with the local kids like every other normal child. He was angry when he saw me playing with the boys. He chased them all away and demanded that I go inside the house. Once behind closed doors, he hit me with a thick iron pipe and ordered me to go to his room. I don’t think I was ever so scared in my life as I was on that day. My body was literally shaking. He came in, closed the door and pulled off my clothes. He still had the pipe in his hand while he removed his own clothes and raped me. I wanted to scream and shout but whenever I tried to open my mouth, he lifted the pipe and threatened to use it. When he was done, he laughed at me and teased me. I cried until I couldn’t cry no more. I felt so numb. I went to bath and scrubbed myself so hard, wishing that it was dream and that it never happened. I felt helpless.I was alive on the outside and dead inside. When my mother came home from work that evening, I was so afraid to tell her. She would blame me again. I wasn’t talking to anyone, but tears were falling out on their own accord. I couldn’t control it. In front of everyone he had the nerve to ask me what was wrong. I replied that I was feeling sick.

Eventually, I did tell my mother. She remained silent, but I do remember her being in shock. We waited for him for him to leave, so that my mother and I could talk properly. She wanted to call the cops. I refused. I was too afraid of what he would do. After about one or two weeks he touched me again. This time I did tell my mother. She called the cops. two female cops came. They questioned me, and when they were done I heard them  talking in hushed tones that it was “rape”. I did hear about rape before, but I never really understood what it meant. All I knew was that it was something serious. They arrested him. That day is so clearly embedded in my mind, it feels as though it just happened yesterday. I will never forget his bloodshot eyes, or the look in his face. He was angry and disappointed and embarrassed. And I knew that he wasn’t done. He would get revenge when he came out. When we went home that day, I couldn’t even sleep. His family had heard that he was in jail, and why. They came to our house and swore us, especially me. They asked me why I was making things up, and why did I lie. That demanded that I retract my statement and have him released. My mother tried to make them understand what he did, but they just continued yelling, so she gave up. They bailed him out after about a week and he came back home. He was calm for while, but I knew he’d never change. This was just the calm before the storm.

I woke up to screaming one night. I watched him beating my mother, asking her how she could have listened to me and believe that he was the liar. She apologised, repeatedly, saying that she would never do it again.

I was supposed to go to court and fight the case, but I didn’t. He told me he’s going to win the case, that I shouldn’t even bother because he has the best lawyer. My mother told me the same thing, that my lawyer didn’t stand a chance against his. She said that I should think about my siblings, and what this would do to them and stop being selfish. So I called it off. I refused to testify against him. I had no support. How could I fight with no one on my side? He never touched me again.

I was called so many different nasty name. Liar, slut, rubbish, scum…. I was given constant lectures about how accusation is haraam, and how I was going to get punished. I even remember my mother telling one of my teachers that she didn’t believe me, and that I made it all up. Her husband would never touch me. I’m very forward, so maybe I did something with a boy from school. That tore me apart inside. I hated myself and I hated my body. I hated everything and everyone. I couldn’t laugh any more, or even smile. My own family didn’t stand by me. My siblings wanted to know why I didn’t defend myself. No one took the time to sit down with me and ask me what happened. They just said that they didn’t want to get involved and they didn’t want to know anything. If I cried they would get angry. When my step-father came back home, everyone was acting all happy, eating together, while I sat alone and ate. They made me feel like everything was my fault, and I was a piece of trash. I went into a state of denial. I began to convince myself that it didn’t even happen. I believed that it never happened.

I have seen so many counsellors, that after a while I even knew what they were going to say to me. I hated living in the same house with that man, looking at his face everyday, and acting like nothing happened. As i grew older, I realised that my mother wanted him more than she wanted me, her own daughter, he own flesh and blood. Whenever he left, she’d always call him back home. A lot of people told me that I shouldn’t hate my mother because when I get married one day and have kids of my own, I would understand. I am married now, and Alhamdulillah, Allah has blessed us with a beautiful baby. I am a mother now and I don’t understand! I would never want my child to go through what I went through. NEVER! I’m not going to lie, and say that I’m over it now, because I’m not. That day haunts me over and over. Yes, I forgave him and accepted what had happened, because I know for sure that Allah is Just, and if not in this world then definitely in the hereafter. My step-father will be dealt with. Allah was with me. He was always with me, even when no one else was. I still do see my family, but we don’t ever mention what happened, not even a whisper. It is as if it never occurred.

When I got married I understood most of the things he would do to me, back then I was too small and naive. I still have nightmares. Sometimes I think about the past and fall apart inside. But I want to be stronger. I now have a loving husband, and a gorgeous child. I have a reason to get up in the morning.

I decided to tell my story, not because I need or want sympathy, but because I want to tell all women out there who went through any kind of abuse, and those who are still going through it:

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

I know you feel like you’re the only person in the world suffering so badly, but are NOT! There are people out there who do care. And Allah is always, always there. Stay strong!!! You are loved and you are special.

If you have a story to share, we have an ear to lend, hoping to put you on the path for your heart to mend. Your anonymity is guaranteed. You send me your story, I edit, send it back to you for approval and only then do I post. To the readers, please continue encouraging these survivors with your comments. Through your duas and kind words, they will find strength!

Send in your stories to survivin@yahoo.co.za

New Beginnings & Old Dreams

After so much thought, sleepless nights and tormenting guilt, I have decided not to continue Mumtaz’s story. I understand the deep disappointment the readers will have, like unfinished business, you will wonder what would have been…. but please understand that this is something I am doing for myself! I am a woman too, with dreams and wishes.

I am avid reader, an addiction inherited from my mother, and my late grandfather. Read my grandfather’s story here. Now maybe you can understand this deep, almost desperate need for me to see my work in an actual paper-back. It is a dream I have had ever since I can remember. I always said one day, tomorrow, next year…. and then my one day came, and I began scribbling a few words in that notebook. I pushed myself day and in and day out, and felt a sense of self-guilt when I had no words and suffered writer’s block. And it took me FIVE years to complete it. To read it again and again, and change things and edit mistakes, and make sure the words flowed in exactly the right way. I sat into the wee hours of the night clicking away. Sometimes the words came by itself, at other times I felt as though I could bang my head and empty nut shells would fall out. But I persevered. I worked hard. I need, just for this one time, to be selfish. To accomplish my dream.

There were many times when I lost hope, I thought it was all rubbish. Who would read it? Who would believe that there are Muslim women out there getting abused? Who would think there are Muslims maids out there? It’s so cliche that a millionaire’s son fell in love with the maid. It’s all fake, it’s all dumb, it’s all childish….

And there were other times, when I would read my work as if someone else wrote it, with tears pouring down my cheeks. Who put these words in my heart? I’m not that intellect with her glasses perched on her nose, using words in clever circumstances. I doubted myself, I was proud of myself, I was scared of what people would think, I was excited when I shared Mumtaz’s story with a few close souls while I wrote. This has been a learning journey, I grew as much, if not more than Mumtaz!

I humbly apologise, Dear Readers! You guys have made this  blog what it is! This blog s not not only about Mumtaz and her journey. It is about ALL women! The survivor! The Victim! The Mother! The Nurse! The Maid! The Teacher! The Intellectual! Ths is where we unite as one and just be ourselves. Of course, the men are welcome. To learn about us, to see the world through our eyes. We will help you understand why we cry, why we want chocolates and why we remain silent (if we can understand it ourselves).

On Monday I begin a new story. The story of Bilkis. A very naive, sheltered girl, whose breaking point is tested again and again. Bilkis’s journey is meant for my blog readers. We will all be travelling with her up the hill and back down and up again on the same pace. I will not know what is next much sooner than you will. If your heart is too broken and you are sorely disappointed in me, I understand, but please give Bilkis a chance…

Wish me well in my dreams for Mumtaz’s story. Pray and make dua that whatever is best for me Allah will hand to me.

Much Love

Asmaa

P.s. If there are any women out there that would like to share their stories, please email me survivin@yahoo.co.za

I will share one story with everyone every Saturday, the authors identity will not be revealed, and utmost discretion will be observed.

The Great Reader

In the early 1900’s an African Princess from a Zulu Tribe wed an Indian man in Natal.

He fell in love with her striking beauty and silent dedication to life and truth.  He knew she would bore him beautiful children, filled tremendous inner strength, and her determination and drive would continue to flow through their veins generation after generation.

She fell in love with the powerful aura that seemed to float around his majestic built.  She fell in love with his kindness and spongy soft heart.  She fell in love with his religion, so much so that she threw her whole heart and life into this new religion that she had found through him, her Rajah.

People who didn’t know her thought that she was born into Islam, as she flowed so wholeheartedly into Deen (belief).  She gave up her family wealth and disowned herself from them, she knew that far greater wealth awaited her in the Aakhira (Afterworld). She lived to see her children happy, to make sure her husband was always in comfort and to please her Allah!  And when she died, the people who laid her down to rest got the sweet smell of musk and the pungent aroma of saffron from her grave. Allah had answered her duas that there be great Scholars of Islam from her progeny.  There were Muftis, Alims, Hufaaz and Qaris (learned scholars of Islam).  And there were doctors, lawyers and teachers.

But from this Zulu Princess’ children there was one who outlived all his siblings, and lived to soak up all he could, from all walks of life.  He was born to her in the early 1920’s, olive-skinned like his father, tall and majestically built too.  He possessed the strong-will and determination of his mother.  Due to lack of finances he could not continue his schooling beyond the fifth grade, but his quiet drive to gain knowledge found him reading books in the street, stealing whatever light he could under dull street lamps.

History, geography, religion…his thirst for knowledge knew no bounds.  As the years went by, he started building up his little library.  One book here, another there.  In between he took care of family, he grew up his nieces and nephews and looked out for his sisters.  He travelled and made friends.  He gained a wife that stood staunchly by his side and never wavered till her last breathe.  And when she finally laid her head down for all eternity his heart had weakened.  His library had grown to shelves and shelves of authors and biographies and encyclopaedias and holy books.  And his three children had grown and had children of their own, some of which had children of their own.

Both his library and his family were bulging at the seams, but he missed his wife dearly and he was lonely.  It was his books that gave him comfort, and that continued to help him live for the next five years without his life partner.  He jumped at opportunity to show off his life-times hard work and collections to anyone that was interested, or wasn’t.  And if they were not, the minute they stepped into that tiny room filled with thousands of books, they were immediately impressed by this man who had outlived almost everyone of his generation and could still read and continue collecting every piece of worthy information, book or article.

He was an inspiration!

Read! He advised his children.

Read!  He advised his grandchildren.

Read! Read! Read!

And when he finally laid down to rest and took his last breathe, his legacy silently continued through the hearts of all those who knew him.  He is an inspiration!  He is an icon!  He is a legend!

For every time I read and every time I put pen to paper in an attempt to scribble a few words that make sense I will remember that majestic Grandfather that was so strong-willed and had a fire for knowledge till his last breathe, and that will give me the determination to continue my story and seek the answers I thought were never there.  But more than that, his 87 full years on this earth has given me an understanding that life is about more than fast cars and modern finishing’s in my home.  It is about what you have learnt, the knowledge you have gained, and the basic teachings you will pass on to your own family. With diligence and perseverance nothing is impossible.

I am fourth generation of that striking Zulu Princess, but I can feel her quiet energy rippling through my blood.  I can feel her drive and determination, it gets weak and isn’t as strong as hers was. It comes and goes, and I forget sometimes.  But when I think about my Grandfather and his mother I am inspired and I can look at life with new meaning.  I can wake up on a cold day and decide that I have enough warmth in my home if I love the way they did, if I gave more, with open arms, if I dedicate myself wholeheartedly to the causes I believe in.  I can finally feel that fire beginning to ignite…

This is the story about the Late Ahmed Ebrahim (Mamajee) Laher! It is dedicated in honour of him and his life’s work, his pride and joy the “Abul Kalam Azad Library” (founded: Ramadhan 1394/ English year:1974) home to more than ten thousand books.

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 )