Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Coz I've had an apostrophe...

There’s a remarkably fine line between a deduction and an assumption. Deductions typically use existing information in a process of elimination, where the result or end product is the inferred conclusion. Assumptions are the applied projections of people’s own unique thoughts and experiences in a somewhat cultivated hypothesis. Both are variations of postulations and conjecture and could very well be the same thing. However, there is the subtle implication that a deduction employs factual information and is therefore more objective in nature, whereas an assumption is opinion-based and more subjective and biased.

I’ve had many epiphanies throughout my life. Some of them were borne through arbitrary reflections or careful observations or thought processes indulging in the symbolisms of life... all at the oddest of times. Sometimes these epiphanies would come while my hands were immersed in a raw chicken's backside, scraping out the innards with a spoon before using the butchers knife to slice through the joints... we're all chickens just waiting to be slaughtered I'd reflect.

At other times, my epiphanies would arrive when my hands were immersed in a bucket full of popcorn, cupping a handful of popped kernels whilst engaging in the depths of raw conversations with friends... conversations that carved out pieces of the puzzle, presenting the revelation before my very eyes.

And then there were those times when my epiphanies came to me in a flash of light... as simple as a light bulb going on in my head. Completely random musings that came from no where.

I had one such epiphany a few years ago, on a warm day while I was washing my car out in our yard, using the shammy as well as all the muscles in my upper body to scrub all the grime that's so evident on white paintwork. It really came out of no where. There was nothing to allude to it, nothing that reminded me of it, nothing to suggest that my thought patterns would lead me on that road of self-discovery.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I must have been about 5 or 6 years old at the time and in the first grade (I was always a little forward and started school at an early age). There was a period of time when both of my parents worked and I had to go to my aunt's place after school to have lunch and change out of my school uniform into an Abaya or cloak before going off to afternoon Madressa classes. On one particular day, I had gotten to my aunts home after school to find that she wasn't alone as usual. She had a "friend" over and they were sitting and chatting casually in the kitchen.

They weren't actually her "friends". She used to mentor and counsel high school kids as well as some of her own friends' kids, so while she was in her 40's at the time, they were all in their late teens and early 20's... but she called them her "friends". And this particular friend was in his late teens or early twenties, wearing a black suit with a tie, and he was very very good looking.

From the moment I laid my 5 and a half year old eyes on him, I recoiled and became somewhat paralysed. He called me over to him, telling my aunt that I was so "cute", and I nearly vomited all over him. I remember feeling anxious and a little out of breath and then ran to the other end of the table where I climbed onto a stool and immediately put my head down on the table, shielding myself from his gaze with my little arms covering my head and face. "Come and say hello" my aunt told me and my little arms squeezed tighter around my head while my visual and olfactory senses pondered over the chemical composition of the vinyl tablecloth.

"She's shy" my aunt told him. Smiling and highly amused, he said "Aaww don't be shy. Come here and give me a hug". At this point I was practically licking the vinyl tablecloth, maybe even tasting hints of the previous night's chicken curry and rice. A large part of me wanted to go to him and be his friend, but an even larger part of me was petrified and confused. He moved closer to me and whispered in my ear "Don't be shy, it's ok. Come and talk to us"; and my tiny 5 and a half year old frame went all shades of crimson from the top of my curly head, right down to the tips of my leather school shoes.

My aunt thought it was hilarious and goaded me from where she was sitting, "Don't be nasty, come and give us a hug and then you can go and get ready for Madressa". But I sat there, my arms clinging even tighter around my head, shielding my face... frozen, terrified, excited and confused. He tried to lift one of my arms up gently, but soon found that trying to lift a boulder would've been easier. And then, all went quiet and he disappeared.

I lifted my head slowly, peaking with one eye, making sure the coast was clear and that he wasn't there anymore, and my aunt just laughed. She told me "that man is just trying to be nice silly". I exhaled slowly and sat back more relaxed, feeling somewhat relieved and yet disappointed. And then suddenly, he walked into the kitchen again and like an oyster I clamped up, my arms and head hitting the table in a perfect synchronized motion, hiding from his sight.

He came closer to me again, and whispered in my ear. "Would you like a sweet?", he asked. My arms supported my head and I shook it furiously. I didn't want a sweet. I couldn't even say "hello"! He found me so endearing and began to stroke my curly hair in an attempt to soothe whatever panic and anxiety he elicited from me. I don't remember much in those few minutes, but a part of me must have died there somewhere.

It was soon time for him to leave and as he got up, he grabbed his coat and suitcase, came over to my firmly clamped up face on the vinyl tablecloth, stroked and patted my hair once more and whispered in my ear again "I have to go, be a good girl ok", and with that, he secretly pressed a little pink rose into the palm of one of my hands - a rose that he had picked from the garden when he disappeared a little earlier - then closed my fingers around it and left.
I never saw him again. And until today, I don't know who he is. I never got to ask my aunt about him.

I grew up quite conservatively, in a world where there wasn't a boyfriend / girlfriend culture, especially at such a young age. In fact, boys were considered utterly gross, and I didn't even look at or become aware of them until I was in my mid-teens. So between those ages of 5 and 6, I had absolutely no concept of relationships between men and women, or what it meant to be attracted to someone, or what it meant to like or love a boy.

At that age, in my mind, only mummy's and daddy's loved each other and they were born married. I didn't ask any further questions and I wasn't curious either... I was quite happy to live in my own little oblivious world and fortunately, the people I grew up around felt the same. Any other concepts were completely foreign to me, only revealing themselves much later when I went to junior high school.

And so, I must say that I find it both weird and amazing that I had such a strong reaction to a member of the opposite sex at such a young age without any knowledge of what it meant to like someone. I didn’t know it back then because I didn’t recognize or comprehend what I felt, it was all new and strange to me. I didn’t have the vocabulary or understanding. I didn’t have a clue!

But I know today… I know that I liked that man or that I became aware of him in a capacity that I was not familiar with because he wasn’t my father, or brother or cousin or uncle. I must have fancied him to bits without even knowing what it is to fancy someone and what that meant. Maybe that would explain why my arms were like lead around my head.

In fact, my biological reaction was so intense that I can remember EXACTLY how I felt when he was around to this very day. And the impact of my somewhat limited interaction with him has reverberated throughout my life. In many ways, it was my first introduction to a "boy" as such – not a boy that was gross and disgusting – but a boy that I could marry one day (Gosh I had high hopes, even back then). And the remarkable result of my time in this man’s company is that for the next two decades I found myself looking for him in every man that I was ever attracted to.

And this was my epiphany. That man had such a profound impact on my consciousness that for more than two decades, I kept on looking for him in every single man that approached me and every single man that I was attracted to. And when I didn’t find him – if the man in question didn’t possess the same qualities he did; or if he didn’t treat me in the same kind, caring and gentle manner; or if he didn’t elicit a similar emotional response from me – I’d move along to the next guy… still looking for him.

It makes me wonder about all the other experiences that we have as children that end up dictating the kind of lives we choose to live. In one moment, everything can change in a child’s life. I didn’t know it at the time, but in that one hour on that fateful day, I had established my criteria for a suitable mate. And before this epiphany, I couldn’t understand why I was attracted to a man in a suit. To me, a man in a good suit is what a lifetime supply of Dunkin’ Donuts is to Homer Simpson.

I can still remember almost every single aspect of that day… his suit, his hair, the way he smelled, his hand on my hair, even the texture of the rose as he pressed it into the palm of my hand… everything except the details of his face. His face is a blur.

I am sure he had no idea at the time, but his kindness and compassion towards me in those moments had enabled me to formulate a distinct idea of the kind of man that I wanted to spend eternity with – and has subsequently raised the bar for every single man that has ever come into my life since. I’m sure he’s out there somewhere, probably married with kids that are the same age that he was back then.

Smee: I’ve just had an apostrophe.
Captain James Hook: I think you mean an epiphany.
Smee: Lighting has just struck my brain.
Captain James Hook: Well, that must hurt.


  1. It's a good thing that that was a good experience - which enabled you to have a high bar set for your future prospects.

    Other people may have had bad experiences in early childhood - abusive, insulting, horrible - and that can have a profound effect on their choice of partner later...which could lead to the cycle starting all over again.

    ANyway - this post also highlighted the importance of being aware of the influence we have on young kids - because (apparently) they take in EVERYTHING. I especially need to be aware of it now...

  2. Geez woman, don't you know putting a picture of a cute kid on your blog will send me into a broody frenzy?

    I just want to bite his cheeks!

  3. Oh and yeah about your 'apostrophe', lol, it's quite interesting how an experience at such a young age has affected your 'selection' criteria ;) hehe

  4. Haha, what a shy little girl you were! He should have just picked you up and told you he wasn't going to put you down until you looked at his face.

  5. Zaheer is CUUUUUTTTTEEEE!
    Whenever I see a vute baby I feel like gobbling them up. They're so cute, they're nearly edible :P.

    Interesting story from your past. It's quite amazing what kids take in. They notice EVERYTHING, I guess they just choose not to understand it.


  6. that was just adorably cute. Both the recalling of meeting that guy to your sweetly smiling zaheer.

  7. dreamlife - It's true that kids take in everything. I can remember from the age of 2. And my memories are very vivid, to the point that I can also remember how I felt at those moments. And I can imagine your little girl would be taking in everything too. Rearing emotionally & mentally healthy children in this world is definitely one of the most difficult things anyone has to do.

    Fatima - I'm just as broody :( My little guy takes my breath away. We can play for hours. I can send you another pic - you'll be dying to meet him haha! And the way he looks up to me with those doting innocent blue eyes MashaAllah, oh man it makes my heart melt. I'm putty in his hands. If he only knew that I love him as much as he loves me. But don't tell child protective services that, just now they'll arrest me under false assumptions.

    Mr. GB - Yes I was terribly shy for many years... even well into adolescence. And I still get shy every now and then. As for picking me up to look into his face, no doubt that's what Gorillas do in the jungle hey? haha! I wouldn't mind being picked up by a Gorilla as long as he doesn't stomp on me - I'd feel like Naomi Watts in King Kong.

    Nas - I don't think that children not being able to understand certain things at such a young age is a choice. Children don't only learn from their parents and each other, but also from the environments they're in. So the child's social setting is very important and as children, we learn from the environment and societies we grow up in as well. SO in essence, children will only understand that which they come to know. In my case, I never knew about girlfriends and boyfriends... as kids, we were never made socially aware of such relationships - we only saw each other as equals.

    Fathima - Thank you. He is very sweet and cute MashaAllah. And very naughty and playful too. And he can shriek like a girl ;D

  8. Nohhhoooooo! You stole this post right outta my head, Azra!
    Damn. Now I've got to wait five months before I blog my take...pfffft:P

    (p.s. that kiddie fascination.cindy blake wrote a chic lit novel called 'it's my party'.....if you're ever in the mood for fluff.

    oh wait. and another thing... tell me something- how does a stalker like you figure out where damon-sorry. Ian- is staying in sa, and what he's up to...but you never found out the identity of He-man?
    Hah. You don't Want to know.....)

  9. Pserean - I'm sorry about that. As for my stalker ways, I never bothered to find out about him because I saw no point in knowing and no good will come of it. It's not like he'll be this Knight in Shining Armour that's going to rescue me. Like I said, he's probably married with kids of his own. Knowing who he is would only taint my otherwise idealised vision of him. And in that case, he's better left to the archives of my brain :)

  10. Oh, Azra! How did I never read this post? I love it! You're right, what an impression such early loves leave on our lives. :) You must have been the MOST adorable child in the world!!

    I have a very interesting childhood story about getting the evil-eye MashaAllah. Do you and your family also use red on babies to ward off the negative energy?