As narrated by Aara
Happily ever after. And as we have obviously and ultimately come to understand ,that there is no such thing in this temporary world.
But there is happiness, and sometimes intense bouts of it. In the smallest, most simplest of things..Like in Hana’s dimpled smile, a fleeting memory of Zoheb, Laeeka’s peppermint cake, Zainab’s motivating words, Maariah’s half a dozen children, Riza’s slurping at every single meal, Arshad’s not so funny jokes, Immy’s contentment every time he looked at his family and Nemo’s affection towards Hana. And these simple things, gestures, and moments make that feeling of happiness priceless.
Getting married for the second time, especially when it’s not because the first marriage ended in divorce, isn’t as easy as it looks and I didn’t think that I had it in me to actually go through with it. But looking back, it’s the best thing that I could have done. For all of us.
It was hard in the beginning, when you have gone through living with someone else already, when you have already experienced those early morning smiles, a cup of coffee made for you by him, when you have already bumped into someone else in a mad dash to the bathroom that you both share, when there had already been another toothbrush next to yours, when you had already fallen asleep besides someone else before him, when there is no expectation and yet there is. It was no cake walk. We really did struggle and after much contemplation, we decided to take the plunge and that plunge meant that Nemo would have to take up a job offer far away from home.
And it proved to be one of the best decisions of our lives yet!
For amongst the tall, widespread mountains, gusts of pure, fresh air , we found ourselves again, we rediscovered ourselves on a level that was so honest, so pure, our eyes were opened to the beauty of our Creator and of our Deen. We became more and more inclined to what our real purpose was on this earth, we became better Muslims, and under the influence of these beautiful changes, our friendship thrived, our marriage thrived and a new love blossomed. Love truly can happen over and over again, for there are different kinds of love and when we realise and understand that we should love Allah the most and first, loving another ,for his pleasure, becomes so easy and in that love He places so much of goodness, so much of blessings.
My heart broke a million times every day since we had moved back to Durban…for I missed it, I missed home. I felt as though, if I had to forward my hand into the air, I would be able to feel the snowflakes melt on my fingers, as though I’d be able to marvel once again at the hundreds of peach trees in full blossom, as though I’d be able to inhale the soulful aroma of a rain-soaked piece of earth hundreds of meters above sea level, untainted, unpolluted…pristine..
But our parents were aging and longed to have us close to them so here we were, lock stock and barrel. The barrel being my huge tummy ofcourse!
So much had changed over the years but the smallest things remained intact.
I guess that everything and every little step is a learning experience.
“That’s alot of icing…”
I snapped out of my chain of thought and looked up into Zainab’s face and then back at the cupcake that I was icing and oh my gosh….
“It’s enough for an entire cake”, she grinned,’are you okay?”
“I’m fine”, I sighed, “lost in my mountain dreams again”
“I didn’t realize that it was this bad”, she laughed and that caught my attention..
“So he’s been complaining?”
“Not complaining but yeah he’s mentioned it” , she admitted
All our friends were in Durban with their kids and were staying with us for the next few days to welcome our new baby who seemed to be prolonging his or her arrival by a few days already. We…now lived in Nemo’s father’s house. We had our own extended wing and I honestly didn’t want to break Uncle A.K’s heart when he asked us to move there so here we were. Joint family living wasn’t quite my thing, but it’s actually turning out to be quite awesome I have to admit.
“When I had gone off to Madressa all those years ago,it took me a long while to adjust back to normality..”, Zainab said softly, ” so if it’s any consolation I know somewhat how you feel and once again, I’m always here if you ever need to talk”
I put the piping bag down and looked at Zainab. It’s not like I was depressed or stressed or unhappy or anything of the sort, I just couldn’t put my finger on the exact spot of the “disturbance”, if I could call it that. Maybe Nemo was right, I need to accept the move and let it go. It was the phase of our lives that was probably there to heal us and now it was back to the grind and back to the tests.
You see, life was simple on that side. People expected very little of you and in a good way. It was as though you were at peace, you were one with your soul and you were in sync with every beat of your heart. There were so few distractions, no malls, no fast city life, no halaal take aways, no entertainment and in the beginning I almost died of boredom but when my focus shifted , I had virtually no time on my hands, yet everything and more would get done in a day. On this side, it was so different yet this is where we grew up. It was as if you belonged and didn’t belong at the same time. To gain balance seemed impossible and I was stumbling every day.
Zainab listened intently and then smiled her million dollar smile.
“It’s because you’ve changed, your focus has shifted, you’ve grown and become a better version of yourself and that’s nothing to be afraid of”
Did I mention that Zainab had become a life coach? I didn’t. Well, she became a life coach!
“Isn’t this world just a test? And all these tests will come as they are meant to. Do what is right and you will never go wrong”
I chuckled and hugged her. “You have no idea how much I needed that..JazakAllah Hu Khairan”
She whispered an Ameen and I could feel her smile while hugging me . I knew where that was coming from. It was the change, the shift in focus, the new closeness that I had felt towards my religion, what I had learnt and brought with me from those snow covered mountains . It was a life cycle, it was a new me.
As narrated by Riza:
“Arshad your lighty is constantly behind my daughter!”, Nemo moaned for the hundredth time today
” She’s 9 years old Nemo” , I mumbled
“9 is as good as 19!”
I laughed and shook my head. When Hana turns 19, I feel sorry for her. Nemo would probably hire a few female Chinese assassin type bodyguards for her. Heck he’d probably make his son in law stay with them also!
” Look at how he’s throwing the ball to her!”, he moaned again
“That’s because they’re playing you idiot! Gosh you are so mental!”, Arshad laughed
Nemo sniggered irritably and still watched the kids like a hawk. Poor Adnaan, he was such a friendly little boy and surprisingly enough, Nemo’s “mental” behavior as Arshoo put it, didn’t seem to bother him at all.
“Hey hey get back! “, he shouted from the porch
“Sorry, I was just trying to help Hana with her shoelaces”, Adnaan said apologetically
“I’ll tie it” and he was gone in a flash
I burst out laughing and Arshad scoffed under his breath.
“I saw that Arshoo…and I’m really sorry”, Aara said as she entered with a tray full of delicious dessert in her hands, ” he doesn’t mean to hurt you.. I doubt he even knows how bad it is”
Arshad waved it off and urged Aara to sit down.
“It’s me not a stranger Aaroo…I know how he is when it comes to Hana ”
I smiled at Aara as she sat all flushed in this Durban heat.
“Miss the weather too?”, I asked
” Terribly” she sighed
I had been to their place a few times and it was more cold than hot almost always, even the summers were not as bad as Durban so I get why she looked like she was sitting in an oven! That and the fact that she was due any day now but moved around like a Superwoman!
“So..it’s good to see you like this”, I smiled, “Nemo and Aara are expecting a baby”
A small smile crept up on her face and she nodded slowly
“You guys have come a long, long way”
“Yyyep” , she sighed, “and after he or she is fine and well, I need to come to Jhb because I haven’t been there in ages!”
“Your mad husband will keep you under bed rest for a whole year”, Arshoo laughed, while pointing at Nemo lining up all the boys on one side of the yard and making them do garden work instead of playing,” look at him he’s so crazy!”
And then we watched him wipe Hana’s face with his handkerchief and feed her water because her hands were dirty and my heart melted again. He had truly given this precious little girl the love of two fathers and sometimes in his ways and actions, certain mannerisms and words, I saw glimpses of Zoheb. Each person is different, but one thing was certain, he was a much better father than even I was. He would take out the time to teach her new things every day, read to her , do every single thing that he could do for her without letting her become arrogant or proud and I was so proud of him.
When Aara and Nemo got married , Hana was just about 4 years old, and even though Aara and Nemo were friends for so many years, it was awkward for them to redefine themselves in a brand new relationship. I remembered their wedding day very fondly…
They had made nikaah on the very same day that Aara had proposed to him! Returning home from the beach, they broke the news to everyone and needless to say, everyone was ecstatic! They didn’t want to delay saying that everyone who they cared about was there and so that evening,in a simple way, nikaah was done and their relationship changed.
Aara and Hana moved back to Jhb for a few months and before we knew it they were packing their bags again to move very far away from everything and everyone. I had a lump in my throat when I remembered how Nemo cried when he accepted her into his nikaah, it was so evident that he couldn’t believe that the girl who he silently loved for over a decade,was finally his.
That they had crossed so many hurdles to be together, not out of want or need and now five years later, I still can’t find the right word to describe it. It was not a romantic wedding with movie induced frills and decor, there was nothing fancy about it. It was not a typical hold your breath wedding of the year, it was a unique union of two souls who loved each other from the darkest and deepest depths of their own selves, through scars and wounded trails, through hardship and sacrifice, it was the union of two warriors who fought each other for each other’s well being, it was the union of two friends who respected each other and perhaps it would never be a swept-off-your-feet kind of love, but it was still love. And love has more colors than you can count.
“Did you read the documents yet?”, Arshad asked while sipping on his juice
“I browsed through them earlier on but I love it so far”,Aara smiled, still all flushed. I felt so sorry for her because anyone could see that this pregnancy was taking its toll on her ,” I can’t believe how much it’s grown in fact Nuzayh also wants to branch out here in Durban so we can extend the same help here”
Arshad’s eyes lit up along with mine. We also couldn’t believe how much this whole thing had grown. What began as a shelter for abandoned babies and toddlers, from Zoheb and Aara’s home under my and Arshad’s supervision, had extended its wings and also became a shelter for widows and the elderly.
With two sizable buildings in Jhb, a growing branch in the Transkei and now a branch in Cape Town,hence the documents, under Immy and Maariah’s supervision, to yet another one in Durban, meant the world and more to us.
“I never thought that we would have the time or the constant dedication for it “, Arshad said , “but Allah is the most merciful and look it’s already five years”
“It feels like a redemption of sorts, a cleansing, a way of repentance for the wrong that we did” ,I admitted, ” and it leaves me feeling like a million bucks every single time and that in itself is so amazing Alhamdulillah”
“I hope that the most reward goes to him “, Aara said softly, and we knew who she was talking about, “because he really was the game changer in all our lives”
And she was right. Zoheb had left an impression so deep, an imprint so strong, on all our hearts that so many years later, his legacy still lived on.
I sat back in my chair, remembering my friend and watching the spectacle in front of me. Our circle had expanded and was still expanding…it was so amazing listening to the sound of all our kids laughter, having them run around us like the crazy loons that they were! The next generation of us..it felt exhilarating actually, minus the fact that it meant that we were getting older, but we had come this far and despite all the ups and downs, despite all the heartbreak and sadness, despite everything…we have all had nothing short of…a beautiful, beautiful journey…
Okay so that was like two posts in one…very late but better late than never 🙂
Last ever LLD Poll coming up tomorrow InshaAllah..stay tuned…