Monday, 27 October 2008

Ode to Madré

We are by no means your average family. So what makes us so different to everyone else? Madré…Mother.

The matriarch in our family turns 45 today…still quite young actually. Mother rarely responds to “Mummy”, that’s why we call her Mother, Ma, Madré or Mama. With all the years of calling her “Mummy”, the mere inclination of the word suggests a bout of nagging and over time Mother has honed the skill of automatically tuning out any speech that follows the dreaded “Mummy”.

To describe Mother may take eons, considering that she’s everything, from Wise to Eccentric, Spontaneous to Philosophical. Mom is a myriad of paradoxes. I have NEVER met ANYONE who commands so much respect just by walking into a room, wherever she goes…whose stern character displays an innate strength unrivalled by any other woman…who is a humanitarian that is self-righteous, just and compassionate…who’s a legend in her own right…not one soul who even comes close to the woman she is.

Our relationship has always had its ups and downs and most of my teenage years were spent in a Love/Hate cycle. We were brought up with a lot of discipline in our house because Mama had both the role of Mother and Father. When we were much younger, Mother was The General, a strict, no-nonsense approach to parenting. We always had to attend school, only a death certificate would exempt us from going. The telephone account was always divided amongst us, VAT and incurred taxes always included and we generally had to work for whatever we wanted. At Varsity, Mother helped me get a part-time job with a couple of Private Detectives she knew so that I could contribute to the Varsity bills and not waste my time day-dreaming on the roof at the C-Les Lecture Hallway. Mother would drop us off on the N1 highway, watch as we made our way to the top of the ramp to catch the bus to Varsity…because the traffic to Auckland Park was horrendous and she would have been late for work if she had to drop us. Ah the good old days…

Even today, Mother invoices us at the end of the month for rent, 1 week each for the domestic worker, a portion of the telephone bill etc. In our house, we sign legally binding contracts for everything. Nisa wants a new R3500-00 phone…that’s ok, as long as she draws up the contract and has two people to sign as witnesses, to affirm that she agrees to pay it off with her allowance money for the next year.

“I, Miss Nisa A with ID number 910605 8888 888 residing at house address, hereby agree to relinquish a total of R??? for the following twelve (12) months to Mother SC….in addition, I hereby agree to the terms and conditions imposed upon me from the date of this contract and consider it to be binding on my conscience”…

She’s been doing that since she was 13. It’s friggin’ HILARIOUS!

Mother is truly one of a kind. This is the same woman who would refuse to entertain my friends in High School. Induction at my house was mandatory…
Mummy: Welcome to our house, here’s the kitchen and there’s the fridge and grocery cupboard.
Friend: Thank You. (Smile)
Mummy: Well we only have two rules in this house. Number 1 is that you help yourself to anything you like, please don’t expect to be waited on, you’ll starve to death. And Number 2, whatever you’re making for you, please make for me as well. Thanks.

Mother is many things…but docile and weak is not one of them. Mother loves her peace and serenity, and will rarely engage in matters that do not concern her or the greater good of mankind. She is a lone warrior. Quiet and reflective but ready to attack at a moments’ notice.

Over the years, Mother has come to epitomise eccentricity, sarcastic wit and facetiousness too…often driving us completely crazy! One day in our mis-spent teenage youth, Taz and I were complaining about the maintenance of long hair. Anyone with long hair will know and understand what I mean. I had my long locks up in a bun, and Taz had a little Pipi Long-Stocking imitation going on – with two plaits on either side. We didn’t complain for too long though, because I just heard the snip and before I knew it I was holding my entire bun in my hand…long cascading hair reduced to a bob in mere seconds. Poor Taz was doing the dishes at the time and had two neat plaits piled next to her. We were horrified! Mother jsut shrugged it off and said “there you go, no need to complain anymore”.

Mother: You girls are so boring…why don’t you go out somewhere…meet new people!
Teenage Taz & Az: Ok, Fatima is having a get together at her place, can we go?
Mother: No.

Mother’s nickname in our house is Savannah. She’s “dry but you can drink it”…Honestly she has the driest sense of humour you will ever come across. We can have an argument; she states something completely arbitrary and out of context and laughs for what seems to be an eternity.

Azra: See, now that is NOT funny…AT ALL!
Mother: ROTFL

Ay that is life in my house. Never a dull moment :D Mother is the type of spontaneous spirit that will decide to do something, go ahead and do it without thinking too much about it.
Mother: Let’s go to Durban.
Kids: Yeah ok, good idea… (5 minutes later) Where you going to Ma?
Mother: I told you I’m going to Durban, you coming or what?

I remember the days when we never had a lot of money laying around. Mama would pack up her three kids in her car, pillows and all, and take us on road trips. We went everywhere that South Africa would allow us to go to. Our staple diet? Simba Chips and Rolls…if we were lucky we’d have Cheese too :)

Today, Mother is one of the wisest people around…

Azra: I hate Men, they’re all assholes.
Mother: Every man is a product of a woman....
Azra: Then all women are assholes for not teaching their sons how to treat women!

This morning…
Azra: Happy Birthday Mummy (kiss and hug)…May the Almighty SWT give you 100 more years…filled with health…and wealth too, otherwise there’d be no point.
Mother: Every poor person gives every rich person a chance to do some good.
Azra: You’re becoming very wise these days…
Mother: I've noticed.

What is the best gift that my mother has ever given me? Materially, it would have to be the R20k Middle East holiday that was inspirational beyond what words could describe.

Mentally, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically?

FREEDOM – Freedom to be myself with her. The Freedom to explore my options and choose my own path in life. The Freedom to approach her with any problem and listen to her dispensing sound advice. The Freedom to come and go as I please (not that I ever do for some weird reason).

RESPONSIBILITY – I’ve been paying bills since I was 5 years old…enough said.

CONFIDENCE – Mother has instilled an unwavering confidence in us.

A VOICE – A voice to speak up when I witness an injustice. I’m not afraid of confrontation, and can hold my own in any battle.

SUPERIOR CULLINARY SKILLS – Since Mother was more likely to be found servicing her own car that making dinner and since she considers anything that doesn’t burn a hole in her stomach lining as “bland and boring”, we were forced to learn the art of making everything from Indian to Mexican food. (Not that she isn’t an excellent cook, just lazy).

AMBITION – Mother has always been a driving force in our lives, encouraging us to achieve excellence.

FAITH – A cornerstone in Mothers life. Steadfastness and sound faith in The Almighty’s Power and submission to His Will.

There are many other things, too varied and numerous to mention that my mother has bestowed upon me with the Grace and Will of The Almighty SWT. If I can be half the woman that my Mother is in my lifetime, I will be successful.

I can remember the day I left South Africa to go work and live in London, UK (sans family, friends, job and accommodation). Mother’s boss, a Director told me “You are so Brave!! How on earth are you going to survive?”
To which I replied “I will survive because I’m my Mothers child”. Not only did I survive, I thrived.


  1. Happy Birthday to your Madre

    May Allah SWT give her oemer long, Risq wide and shifa with iebadat. Insha Allah Ameen

  2. i love LOVE loved reading this!!!

    many happy returns to a woman of inspiration, it seems. clearly, the apple doesnt fall to far from the tree :P

    ps: have u ever tried making atchar of green apples?! ;)

  3. Your Ma sounds amazing :-)
    You are very lucky to have been blessed with a Mum like that (I know you know that already!) :-)
    May your Mother have many long, happy years Insha-allah...

  4. Happy Birthday to Ummi (Mum) Dearest! May Allah (swt) grant her the ability to inspire you always and may He give her all that her Heart's Desire, Aameen :)

  5. Aasia - InshaAllah Ameen...

    Shafinaaz - Thanks for the comps :) I really do wish I was more like her...a little less stubborn tho...Achar with green apples? SOunds like something Madre will experiment with and get right by accident :D Mail me :)

    TCQ - Thanx Insha Allah Ameen...

    Princess & MJ - Aaaw thanx...

    PS. My mother is a Lord of the Rings fanatic...knows most of the lines..2 points for guessing what we'll be doing :)

  6. Happy Bday to your mother..

    May she see many more.

  7. This was such a lovely and heartfelt write up. Mothers are such amazing beings, such pillars of strength and such a well of love and compassion. At times I wonder how i survive without mine for this long.

    May your mom stay happy and healthy and fill your lives with her love and warmth. Amen

  8. I love the picture that you paint. I thik that I aspire to instil many of those qualities in my prospective children , inshallah.

    You sound interesting ...

    Where are you ?

  9. Aaahhhh.... so sweet!
    I'm sure you will turn out like your mom. After all isnt that what girls do? Like you said" You are your mothers daughter"

  10. LMAO...very nicely done!! Happy Birthday Mother!!

  11. Beautiful...

    Happy Belated Madre!

  12. lol...sweet man...your mother seems rather awesome :)
    it's great that you've been brought up by such a strong woman :)