Written by: Hajra Aslam Motiwala
The last thing I was expecting was an invitation by The Truth’s Co-Editor, Binte Rizwan. I have a bad habit, I never read anything completely. I just scan it with my eagle eyes and start plotting. So as soon as I read the word “Invitation” on the card, I whooped … a wedding! But … (my mind reminded me that every good thing has a bad BUT) will my parents allow?
I ran to my mother’s room and started begging. The Truth’s Co-Editor is getting married. Yyou know the Islamic magazine for which I write? They are all so religious people; there will be no issue of pardah. You have to let me go…” I said it all in one breath.
I was mentally scanning my wardrobe. I will wear my burgundy dress; no I will wear the peach one. I had tolook my best!
“Stop…stop,” my mother brought my mind and my tongue to a halt.
“When and where is it?” she asked, making me realize that I had read nothing from the card except two things: Invitation and Binte Rizwan.
I grabbed the card from my room. The first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t a wedding invite. Then what was it?
Binte Rizwan and Umme Saad invite you to a gathering of The Truth’s regular and few irregular writers.
Guest list: Amina Khursheed (I was instantly jealous. Why was her name on top?)
Sidra Sohail Hingora
Hajra Aslam Motiwala
Cool Breeze (brrr.. can’t you get a little warm in January?)
Huzaifa Sohaib (a boy! There will be pardah issue after all, sniff)
Atiqa Mohsin (the doll from Dubai)
Venue: Umme Saad’s house
I was overjoyed, this was way better than a wedding. I would get to meet all the regular writers. I wondered, how they would look, will I get along with them?
My mother allowed me after my mouth was dry from pleading and tears stung my eyes (thanks to rubbing them again and again).
Finally, the big day arrived. I reached Umme Saad’s place a little early but with much difficulty as she lived too far and the fact that I didn’t know her or her husband’s name. I just knew she was Saad’s Umm.
An old woman greeted me. She was a beautiful old woman. Very fair and her black spectacles were complementing her complexion. She smiled widely at me.
“Assalamu alaikum! I am Hajra Aslam Motiwala (spare my habit of using my full name, Sidra does too!) Is this Umme Saad’s house?” I asked suddenly nervous as I knew no one.
“It certainly is, so you are Hajra. How good of you to come,” the old woman exclaimed.
“Uh, and you? Are you Umme Saad’s mom” I asked, Umme Saad was nowhere to be seen.
“No, I am Binte Rizwan.”
“What?” I whispered with disbelief. She was Binte Rizwan? I thought she would be my age or even younger than me, the way she replied to my emails with humor and style. She couldn’t be this old! She certainly didn’t look like a binte, er… daughter of someone, she looked like a real grandmother.
It took me 5 minutes to swallow the shock in my throat. Binte Rizwan and I were soon seated in Umme Saad’s drawing room.
“Where is everyone else?” I asked.
“Everyone is coming except Sidra Sohail Hingora. She is attending a similar gathering of Zouq o Shouqmagazine,” Binte Rizwan explained.
(Yes Sidra, we have caught you. You are writing stories for them, I know. I have read them. Have you forgotten us at The Truth?)
It was January, still the house was warm so the sudden cool breeze left us all shivering to our toes. We turned, and there stood “Cool Breeze” in the door way. She didn’t look cool at all, she looked cold.
“Ass-salamu-mu-alaikum,” she said shivering. “I… I … am very c..c..cold,” she stammered.
The ever-kind Binte Rizwan handed Cool Breeze her shawl.
“I am sorry, I have a little fever,” Cool Breeze apologized sneezing.
“Fever?” I asked.
“Story-writing fever,” she explained.
“I hope you never get well,” Binte Rizwan muttered under her breath. I heard her but decided not to tell on her. Hehehe
“Where is Hafsa Zahid?” Cool Breeze wondered out loud as Hafsa is her partner in fever.
“Her car tyre got punctured, she just texted me,” Binte Rizwan said.
“Are you sure you are warm now?” Binte Rizwan was still concerned about Cool Breeze.
“Of course. I’m fine now. First I was invincible, soon I will be…”
Cool Breeze was cut off as someone knocked on the door.
“Who’s there?” Binte Rizwan called out.
“Huzaifa,” came a timid voice.
We all jumped. What do we do? Huzaifa Sohaib was here how can we let him in? We raced for our burqas.
“Uh, Huzaifa bhai? Can you wait for a minute?” Cool Breeze asked.
“Uh sure,” Huzaifa paused, “actually I am Huzaifa behan.”
“Oh,” we all sighed with relief and opened the door.
“Welcome Huzaifa, sorry for uhh, misconception,” I said.
“I want to rectify this misconception and confusion of writers and readers who use the word “brother” for me. I am a girl,” Huzaifa repeated what she had already written in her letter to the editor.
The bell rang again. “Amina Khursheed!” Binte Rizwan hugged her long and not-completely-lost writer.
“I am so sorry I am late! I don’t get a single minute free. You see, I have a little daughter Maryam. She keeps me busy all day and even half the night. My husband says….”
“Yes we know, its okay,” we smiled and introduced ourselves.
Atiqa Mohsin came in just as refreshments were being served.
“This tea is really good. When I was a little kid, my father once told me a story about tea…” we all looked at each other.
“Uh, want to hear it?” she asked.
“You can write the tea story down and hand it to me for Truth and I’ll see if we can publish it,” Binte Rizwan offered.
“Sure that’s what I will do!”
“Where is Umme Saad? This is her house, isn’t it?” Hafsa Zahid finally asked. Hafsa had come in right behind Atiqa Mohsin.
“Umme Saad is a very busy woman. She has three children. It is very difficult to write an editorial and manage kids together. She will come when she can,” Co Ed explained.
“I only came because this is a special occasion,” Amina Khursheed informed us.
“Yes Amina, just like the stories you write on special occasions only,” I could almost hear Binte Rizwan thinking aloud.
Umme Saad came in, a pen behind her ear. She was carrying a child. Another was tugging her shirt.
“Sorry I am late for my own party. Sorry I am late for my own party,” she said flustered.
“No, no... it’s okay,” we quickly said.
“I had to pick my son from his madrasah … I had to pick my son from his madrasah,” she continued.
Why is she saying it all twice? Then I remembered. A reader had complained about editor’s notes being published twice and Binte Rizwan had said Umme Saad was a busy woman and didn’t have time. Okay. That’s why. I understood completely.
Atiqa Mohsin was talking animatedly to Hafsa Zahid. “This apple holds many truths. Truth no.1…” I tuned out and when I tuned in again Atiqa had reached Truth no.5, I grinned. Everyone was being their typical own self. In just an hour I had heard three stories by Atiqa, which her father had related to her.
“I have a request. Hajra Aslam Motiwala has suggested that everyone write about their most embarrassing moments,” the Co Ed said but no one was listening to her except Huzaifa Sohaib who agreed to write asap.
Time flew by, when I looked out the window it was already dark. “When did night come that everything has gone dark?” I asked in a surprised voice.
“The night has to end, Hajra. The political conditions are no doubt bad but we can’t publish them. And we can’t stay here forever, you know. Thank you for a great time Umme Saad. We should be going now,” Binte Rizwan said and we all shuffled out.
“Jazakallah … jazakallah,” Umme Saad said.
“Farewell my fair friends,” I waved as I headed home, having enjoyed myself to the brim.