A Khoja Wedding In Montreal
Montreal roads are best left to French Canadians; they are more suited to understand the mess that is navigating through this French-speaking city in otherwise more saner English speaking Canada; I only pray this statement does not create an uproar in the parliament in Ottawa. The roads from the airport to my hotel are as easy to navigate as the soggy spaghetti that Maaha Zainab likes so much. Good thing we land in the wee hours of the morning when the citizens are sleeping off their escargots and red wine and not during peak traffic; I would have been in a wreck for sure.
So Maaha Zainab, Tasneem and I are in Montreal to attend the wedding of my nephew Rizwan Mulla’s son Hassan to Maryam. When children of nephews begin to wed, it’s definitely a time to pause and ponder about the inevitable end. I have a lot of pondering to do; I have nieces and nephews who have children that have already procreated. Seeing and meeting up with family/friends is always fun, especially the ones from Minnesota, since I spent a few years living in that frigid state.
So Montreal, with her maddening infuriating roads and directions that confuse even genius Google Maps, is definitely not a friendly city. The Quebeckers take their language and culture rather seriously. Try getting lost and ask for direction; if you don’t understand French, you are out of luck. Or the more polite ones will likely send you round and round the construction madness that’ll make the Texas Skyscreamer at Six Flags in Houston seem like child’s play. We must have wasted 30% or more of our commute getting lost.
The Mullas and Bhaloos put up a great show over the three-day wedding event; so much food and so many rituals. The Hindu inherited ones have still not left us, I see. Phithi and venai and pokna and pagee laghaani and others that seemingly defy logic? Thank goodness we have foregone the slaughtering of a chicken and stepping on its blood. I hear the all-female mehndi party was a superhit, with performing belly dancers in the audience. Hmmm, I would have thought it would have been more of a knockout in a men event
It’s bewildering, for me, to see our women douse so much paraphernalia on their faces, especially the ones past their prime, for other people’s weddings. I know that aging is not very palatable and humans will try and look at themselves from the prism of their youth. But women with startling makeups and overlayered mascaras are a sorry and scary sight; even today’s Vyjayanthimala looks tamer? Standing outside the Hydery Center in Montreal waiting for the women’s rituals to end and coming face to face with some of them can be detrimental to my optimal health.
I make a mistake of going sightseeing downtown Montreal with some of my niece’s children; with their more contemporary outlook to events and social life, I am bored to tears in five minutes. Plus, Western cities hold very little interest for me, I am more into the East and the Orient. So I decide to Uber it back to the hotel, let someone else wrestle with this damn traffic; what an experience!
The Uber driver is from New Mexico, a Jose something, I can’t remember his last name now. He seems an amiable person to begin with. Informs me he left Mexico for greener pastures in Canada thirty years ago. Went to school, had no choice but learn French and became a Certified Public Accountant. Why would a CPA need to drive Uber is my immediate question but I bite my tongue. Jose says living in Montreal is okay except the Quebeckers are outright racist.
No matter how good I am or how hard I work, I will never cross a threshold in management. And I am good, since I struggled up the corporate ladder and can hold my own. But these French Canadians will never accept my birthplace at par with theirs and my accent is akin to asthma to them. I am stuck in a rigmarole rut that takes me nowhere….
Ahaa, I say, is that why you drive for Uber?
Jose looks at me startled, as if I have insulted him. He is quiet for a moment. I can see his face struggling with convulsing emotions. It is my turn to be alarmed. Surely my question is harmless?
No, he finally blurts out, my wife of twenty plus years left me about three months ago. I do this to meet other people and try to fight depression in the process.
The guy begins sobbing, actually sobbing, petrifying me to no end. Presently, I feel like joining him for a good cry, but I don’t think Rizwan will approve me bawling at his happy occasion. I don’t know what to say, so I remain quiet and let him get hold of his emotions, and pray real hard he does not lose control of his driving with the damn construction all around us. I have never been so relieved at sighting my destination. Poor Jose is still sniffling as he drops me off at the hotel.
That’s it, I’ve had enough of merrymaking in this city. Wishing Maryam and Hassan all the best, we beat it towards Niagara Falls the next day, some seven hours drive away. I am so relieved to see the Welcome to Ontario sign in English as we cross over between the Canadian provinces.
A Precarious Situation
Tragically, predictably, a 100 plus-year-old year building adjacent to the Khoja center in Dongri, Mumbai comes tumbling down, killing thirteen. Similar tragedies across India occurs every year during the monsoon rains between June and August. A dilapidated building comes down, people die or are horribly maimed, the State government pays compensation, an inquiry is set up and the tragedy is filed away into the mounting mothballing pile of other miseries that afflict the poor and marginalized in this melting pot of a country.
This time, however, the tragedy rattles me silly, hitting very close to home. CAI supports Sakina Girls Home in the Versova, Andheri vicinity of Mumbai, that houses 50 orphan girls. For reasons that are too lengthy and complicated to pen, these girls are moved to a ramshackle building about four years ago. The foundation to this building is cracked and weakened, and the ancient structure has shrunk, whereby tall people have to bend to enter or exit the building.
I’ve been trying very hard to have these girls moved out but the prohibitive cost of real estate in Mumbai has made it impossible. Now, I have little choice; the tragedy in Dongri has me on edge. CAI should not be in the position of musing We should have… or Only if…. A solution to move these girls must be found like yesterday.
A standalone property close by that is ideal for an orphanage that can accommodate fifty (after renovations) been identified. Our focus at CAI is to acquire this property. US$320,000 is required by December 31, 2019. I need your help.
My 4th book, Vivid Imaginations – A Memoir will insha’Allah publish not in the too distant future. Like my two earlier novels, sale proceeds will go towards this invaluable investment in supporting countless orphans and their progenies forever; I cannot imagine a worthier cause, can you? I am pinning my hope in you, my Blog readers, supporters and well-wishers of CAI to purchase a copy at US$50 each and support this goal – only for the pleasure of Allah. Alternatively, a cash contribution for the project at www.comfortaid.org or a combination of both?