My exceptionally close chum, for whom I reserve a tremendous amount of respect which even my most expert of writings cannot do the justice that she deserves under her name, is Maria, and today, in between my usual fan of prismatic errands and duties, we managed to secure a hearty catch-up in Ginger Tea For Two, our favourite tea shop in Winchester.
Antiquated clocks hung in cosy-sized rooms that are revered for their design rather than their function – since none of them work properly, classic quotes engraved on sea-worn boards and dusty old books lazing away on shelves, the atmosphere of this quaint little hideaway on a side-street serves the best cakes and teas in town and the family-run charm of its staff is always welcoming, a sunshiny balm to rain-trodden days like the one we were in today.
I rushed in through the doors and immediately Maria stood up from her seat, walked over with a motherly smile and grabbed me to plant the obligatory Spanish double-kiss on the cheeks, we had not seen each other in a while and even the waitresses rejoiced and smiled with us from the till point counter. It was a nice feeling to know that our little reunion was as sweet to their eyes as the delicious home-made cakes that twinkled and glistened in bulbous glass domes nested on the servery.
I earnestly made repeated apologies for completely dampening Maria’s top and face, for my coat was saggy and soggy with rainwater and my Mary Poppin’s brolly was dripping a miniature stream from its winged flaps, I was literally carrying a mobile tap and was in desperate need of a hairdryer to quieten down its watery voice! Maria did not mind one bit, and swerving towards our table arm-in-arm, we expectantly took up our seats.
A third person was to join us – our extremely beautiful and lovable friend Agnes – however she ran into a spot of bad luck when the buses decided not to work on time. Seconds had not elapsed that after sitting down by the table Maria received a pinging message from Agnes on her Whatsapp, complete with a snapshot of Agnes, all layered up in scarves and hoods, at the bus stop wearing the most adorably sad face to show that she was running phenomenally late! I knew I would not get a chance to see her today since I had to attend work in forty five minutes so I pleaded to Maria that she ought to tell Agnes of my apologies and that I would soon reschedule another threesome at a future date.
For the meanwhile it was Maria and I and what hearty laughter and juicy gossip went to and fro between us! English Breakfast tea in the centre and a ginormous scone between us, and believe me, we spared no expense at blanketing its top with clotted cream and strawberry jam. It was the perfect comfort medicine for day like this!
But that was not to be the most scintillating crop of our meeting. Maria, in restrained excitement, told me of some rather outstanding news about her personal life which caused me to shoot up from the chair! I was abundantly more touched when I discovered that she had made time to see me today before she was due to catch the train to London to rendezvous with her special person! I could not stop clapping my hands, they were overtaken by the bugs of joy, how wonderful to hear what I was hearing from my good mate. The orchestra in my mind was in full swing, and somewhere on a roof a fiddler played a romantic note that put a trance on the tiny hairs on my neck, for they rose like the first daffodils of spring. ♥
But what I love about these friends, these sisters of mine, is that of their commitment and dedication to advancing my storytelling craft by being the protagonists in them! This contributing influence has never ever ceased by even a fraction. I was genuinely humbled when Maria reached into her suitcase and pulled out the novel that she was currently reading. She remembered that I had announced on Facebook of my 2016 artistic mission and had felt that the rationale was a glitteringly noble one, it was about time we all made our way back to our roots, to the potency encoded in language, in words, in stories. ♥
She raised the book to her face and I did not quite know what to say. In all the giggles and laughter and light talk, suddenly the air took on a different ambience, for just by looking at the piercing eye and its title I paused to catch my breath and then let out a sigh, long and drawn, my mind preparing to ask my friend why she had chosen this particular book. Maria replied that she had picked it up in a charity shop after reading the back cover that had hooked her in with its themes of loss, identity, voice and independence.
‘Daughters Of Shame’ is not a book that I have read and nor have I come across it in all the many perusals and strolls that I have taken in bookshops of late. I took the book in my hand and could tell that it had been flicked through carefully and that it had been taken on trains and even to bed, for there were the inklings of the reader’s aura that lay smeared on its pages. The book focuses on the sad phenomenon of arranged marriages that proceed without consent and the nightmarish abuses that often follow in such cagey relationships. I could not tell whether my heart had shed a tear in remembrance for such unfortunate victims of torturous lives, or that was I enveloped in the warm relief that I, from a young age, was raised to think of myself as an empowered woman who was to create her own Destiny? I had become a nebulous cloud of mixed sentiments, and Maria and I continued to speak in more depth of how her own personal trials and tribulations in life had led her to this book. It was meant for her, to remind how of how far she had come and of how much more beauty and hope awaited her on the road ahead – literally!
It was not my Amma, but my Abba who said to me that I must never think that I must need a man to complete me. He wished for me to be the daughter who would find herself first and foremost. Marriage does not complete a person. It is a hugely romanticised misconception that plagues most of the minds and dreams of people the world over. The dizzying romantic wooing and honeymoon stage is the easy part, it is what happens thereafter that is where the real nitty-gritty chapter begins. I have observed and been relayed to of real stories that underscore a general trend in the air wherein couples in the later stages of their conjugal life begin to experience a splintering off of the heady aromas of passion and excitement that had initially hurtled them to each other. Romance does not sustain the pulsating core at the heart of enduring marital companionships, it is something else, unalloyed and formidably tolerant to the gnarled claws of storms, which perseveres till the very end, and even at the doorstep of the end, such couples will gladly testify, despite the poor leg or hip replacement or ailing kidney or fading eyesight, that they cannot wait to pack up and go off on their next adventure… ♥♥♥
LINK: Abba trained me to be a Daughter Of The Inner Hall Of Fame, to help those in need when possible and to deploy, when the urgency strikes forth, the skilled use of lightning speed Kung-Fu wit and head-wobbling intelligence so that egotism is crushed and warped, and the tums and bums of the bad guys turn as purple like the dark coat of a blackberry in the dawn of autumn! Giggle, giggle! ♥
Photography & Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Winchester | UK 2016