About Fat African Khoja Weddings
It’s wedding galore at Masjid al Hayy in Sanford, FL, with 3 marriages in a row, 3 times the artery-busting biryani to feast on, followed by another 3 days of gorging at Tehsina and Ghadeer’s reception held at the Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton. Tehsina is the daughter of dear friends Sukaina and Riyaz Devji of Vancouver, Canada; wisely, they have decided to hold the wedding reception in warmer Orlando. In time too, because it’s turned chillier than the city’s morgue in Sanford now.
It’s nice to meet up with all the relatives who have come from across the globe for my niece Zeenat’s son Mudassir’s wedding, of course. Zeenat and Munaver Nanthani have put up a great welcome week of feasting and merrymaking, culminating with a barbecue reception fit for the Maharajas. A Motomoto specialist is flown in from Toronto to ensure the beef ribs and chicken Poussin are perfect, no less. I think I’ve packed in a month’s worth of chicken, beef, and desserts in the 5 days of feasting. No wonder I have a belligerent relationship with my weighing scale every time I use it. I am convinced the stupid thing has a definite bias against me.
Keeping with the Khoja tradition after all nikkahs, I’ve just finished shaking hands and hugging scores of people I don’t know, all the while maintaining a goofy smile until my cheeks hurt. I do not imagine meeting Mullah Mchungu again after his dismal state of health the last time I met him. Then, he was huffing and puffing, effects from years of smoking stinking beedis finally catching up to his waning lungs and he looked like a goner. But no, bless him, here is he, in person, in Sanford, in line, leaning on his danda, flashing goofy dentures at me.
Hah, Kisukaali, he rasps, what is that awful earing doing on you? Had a change of lifestyle? He convulses into uncontrollable guffaws that change very quickly to a flurry of wild hacking that startles fellow merrymakers. Some want to help, but stay away at the conflict of grinning dentures that do not match with a face engulfed in pain.
I want to abandon him for his ignorant remark and walk away, but the old geezer appeals to me with his eyes so I help him to his wheelchair and maneuver him to one of the easy chairs lining the main prayer hall. The porch outside is chilly and jam-packed, so I sit by the Mullah as he regains his composure.
He tells me he is on his annual visit to see his grandchildren, reminds me his daughter in Dar, not son in Sanford, who paid for the airfare. There is no mention of where the son or grandchildren are right now; I do not ask. I know he has a combative relationship with both the son and daughter in law, especially with the bahoo, who he terms a blood-sucking daakan – witch. He tells me his health is iffy, and that the flight from Dar es Salaam to Dubai and then here nearly kills him. It is only a kind-hearted Indian Emirates Airline air hostess that moves him to a comfortable seat with more legroom that saves him from certain perdition.
Bah, he gripes, what extraordinary extravagant display of wealth, this masjid. He cranes his head this way and that, taking in the beautiful calligraphy of Masjid al Hayy. Bet you this place cost a pretty penny Kisukaali. How much you think you guys paid for this luxury?
I shrug my shoulders and keep mum. Many have commented on the price tag for this one of a kind Khoja masjid in the whole of USA and I do not want to speculate. But the grouch repeats the question and looks at me with steely glassy eyes.
I don’t know Mullah Saheb, I am not privy to the information. I have heard of it costing between 15 to 20 million, perhaps…
I do not get to finish my sentence as the guy literally collapses. I mean he is sitting up looking at all the beautiful decor one second and then the dude doubles down and begins huffing and puffing again. Almost all others have left the main hall so I am left to resuscitate him; I’m scared he might finally kick the bucket. But the geezer is merely playacting, trying to be sarcastic or funny. I am not impressed, and I let him know. But like everything else about this Mullah, he either pretends he did not hear or ignores me.
20 million dollars! Are you guys out of your minds, Kisukaali?! Where do you guys get this kind of money? You…
I stop him, sternly, and inform him it is not our money. It is a gift from a generous donor who wants to spend HIS money in Allah’s way HIS way, so the community gratefully accepted the kind and generous gift. Mullah Saheb looks dubious and skeptical but thankfully shuts up; changes the subject.
So, Kisukaali, I gather it is your nephew that just tied the knot?
I correct him, that it is my niece’s son, Mudassir, that was just married.
Hmmm, I like his style. He has more class than most of us. He wore a simple yet elegant kandoora that looked comfortable and stylish at the same time while most of you looked silly and uncomfortable in a suit and a stiff tie, hardly able to sit on the floor. I also saw him drive up to the masjid in his own car instead of being chauffeured in an expensively rented limo… The guy seems to have more common sense than some of you. He waves his hand around.
It’s useless arguing with the guy so I stay quiet. But the opinionated mind of his will not shut up. As usual, I let him speak and hope he’ll tire out soon.
I observed my daughter in law, the daakan, dress up tonight. She has a pretty face, even though her attitude and behavior stink horribly. The way she kept on applying layers of makeup disgusted me. It’s the same with all our ladies. They have such good complexions, yet apply layers of expensive junk just because…
My cellphone shudders. It’s daughter Zainab, asking where I am. They want to go eat dessert at groom’s and meet the newlyweds. It’s a good excuse to get away but I feel bad leaving the old crow alone. My prayers are instantly answered as son Ali comes running in looking for his father.
Saalo ghadeero, where were you? Berates Mullah Mchungu promptly… Kisulkaali here has been kind enough to look after me while you…
I sneak away in a hurry. Zainab can go eat the desserts. I have a stubborn weighing scale to fight. Unlike Mullah Mchungu, I can’t make it shut up.
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