Sunday, December 07, 2014

Silver Linings

2014 has been the year of the Great Boob Scare. So now I just call em Lumpy and am thankful that said Lumpies turned out to be benign.

It has been the year of the Faith in Humanity is Overrated epiphany. Now, I scrape the bottom of my barrel of Optimism and pray that 2015 will see it refilled.

It has been the year of Never Judge Others by The Standards You Set for Yourself. While learning that lesson is painful in the extreme,  I cannot help but feel that it will turn out to be one of my most valuable ever life lessons.

I could start whining about Why He chose these specific tests for me, but what would be the point? Submission to His will means submitting to His tests.

So instead I’ll tell you how it felt to spend days waiting for my mammogram appointment and the questions that turned my mind into a carousel that made me feel quite ill.

It was the Not Knowing that was hardest. Feeling those lumps and thinking ‘What if..?’
Looking at my children and thinking ‘What if…?’
Looking at my husband and thinking ‘What if…?’
Looking at my life and asking myself ‘What if…?

If they were to be my body cannibalising itself what would I regret most? What would I want to do over? More of? Less of?

What came out of all that Not Knowing, all that mental torture, was a realisation that life really is the shortest of slumbers. The Death is the Only Reality. (Geez, I really am going to town with these silly capitalisations!)

And that the greatest injustice we do ourselves is to defer our dreams to a Tomorrow that has not been promised. Yes, sometimes life does get in the way. Sometimes our duties and responsibilities tie us down but that does not mean that we shouldn’t reach out and grab those dreams that we can realise.

Like learning to fly a small plane.

Or booking a hot air balloon ride.

Or making the time to complete writing your novel.

On Faith in Humanity, I think some of my ire stems from my love/hate relationship with Instagram, where I have just now posted THREE - ohemgee, what was I thinking?! – pictures and entered myself into a black and white landscape photography challenge (the falls we set ourselves up for! SMH). Talk of contradiction!

Thing is, more and more I grow annoyed with social media. Annoyed at how it has reduced our lives to 140 characters, retweets or likes on statuses, and in the process, reduced us to voyeurs and exhibitionists. Instagram, being an entirely visual medium seems to nurture the ‘Windgat’ gene in each of us. I see people boasting of the lavish functions they attended or hosted and it makes me sad because I have visited Informal Settlements, aka, squatter camps and seen with poverty looks like. It reminds me of Allah promising us that our wealth and children will be a test. And Often I cannot help but feel that we're failing that test.

Simply put, what bounty we have been given that exceeds our needs is best banked for the life to come. The one that matters. Yet we’re so deep in our slumber that we take this worldly fantasy to be our reality and hold the life hereafter to be a dream.

And on not holding others to the standards I set myself? I think right now, that one hurts too much to even unpack.

Wishing everyone joy over what remains of 2014. To those celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or Life, every happiness.

Live meaningfully
and go gently, see…

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Chocolate Mousse

For me, the mark of a good recipe is simplicity. Probably because, as a working mother of five (yes, you read right), I just don’t have the time or energy for fussy culinary experiments. And if the recipe is versatile, then it’s a definite keeper. After all, cooking and baking ought to be an adventure every time.

I’ve long been intrigued by chocolate mousse. I blame it on that picnic by the river some months back where the overpriced and unimpressive picnic basket we were supplied with, redeemed itself with a sliver of dark, gooey chocolate mousse cake. The venue wasn't half bad either. 

So I decided to devise the perfect mousse. It had to be dark, very chocolatey, and melt in the mouth like a very pleasant dream.

I settled on Lindt 70% Dark, marshmallows and Evaporated Milk as key ingredients. A bastardisation of a mousse I made as a child, many years ago.

The first time I made his mousse,  I turned it into a Chocolate Mousse Cake. It was the night before Eid, I’d had a hectic day at work, so I used a store bought chocolate cake mix (2 boxes), baked in two 10” round pans. I sandwiched them with the mousse, topped with another layer of chocolatey deliciousness. Allowed this to set in a spring form pan and finished it thus:

Chocolate mousse


21 white marshmallows (if you add one or two more, no fairies will die)
1 tin Evaporated Milk
1 slab Lindt of choice (70% dark is perfect. 80% was a bit overwhelming, so the cream needed sweetening)
500 ml fresh cream
Vanilla essence (try to get a really good quality essence)
Icing sugar to taste (optional)


Chop marshmallows up with scissors. Place in a glass bowl along with evaporated milk and chocolate, broken into bits. Set microwave to 60% power and microwave for 3 – 4 minutes (until marshmallows melt), stopping at minute intervals to stir.

Set aside to cool. 

Whip cream and vanilla essence until soft peaks form. At this point, taste marshmallow mixture. If you feel you’d like a sweeter mousse, add a tablespoon or two of icing sugar to the cream.
Fold into marshmallow mixture.

This time, I served the mousse in espresso cups on a bed of crushed Oreos. You could use little pots, or stemmed glasses. Have fun with it.

Allow to set and decorate as desired.


It's easier to pipe the mousse into the cups using a no 8 plain nozzle. Makes for a smooth finish and eliminates mess. 

You could also layer the mousse in glasses with crushed Chockits or even a traditional biscuit crumb base (just cut down on the butter a little). 

You could even transform it into a tart and finish with peppermint crisp or fresh berries. Just ensure that your base has enough butter to prevent it from crumbling when slicing. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

As Rewrites go...

The Dragon

Sara’s eyes are black. Really, really dark black. And in my dreams, they’re red.

“Mummy, how come Sara’s eyes are so black?” 

We’re having breakfast. Daddy is still asleep. Mummy is getting ready to go to school.

“Asma, don’t you know your colours? Sara’s eyes are brown brown. Like chocolate. Remind me to go over your colours with you when I come home.”

 And then she’s gone. Mummy is always gone. Sometimes she’s gone even when she’s here.

I know we’re not supposed to have favourites but I like daddy more. He hugs. Sometimes he tickles me. And sometimes he still throws me in the air and catches me just in time like he used to when I was smaller. Then he groans about how his back is so sore now because I’m growing up and getting so heavy. I know he’s acting. Daddy is a good actor.  

My stomach feels like there’s a knot it in when I see daddy get ready to go to work. I don’t want him to go. When I smell his aftershave, I start to feel sad. I know that when he goes, I’ll be alone at home with Sara.

I don’t like being alone at home with Sara. Mostly, she’s okay. She lets me help her wash dishes. Sometimes I wash vadoeks with her too.

“Eye, mara your mother. I don’t know where she got the idea from that a old vadoek must be white.”

Sara, she complains a lot. I don’t know why she complains about the vadoeks. Washing them is so much fun. There’s so many soapy bubbles. Some have rainbows inside. I try to catch the rainbows but the bubbles always pop in my hands. Sometimes I blow the bubble cloud in the basin and one floats away. Imagine how much fun it would be if I could climb in the bubble and float away?

“Haikhona!” Sara shouts. “Ya mosha. U ya ganga, wena.”

 I don’t know what that means but when Sara says that, I hold my breath. I hope she won’t decide to punish me. I don’t like it when Sara punishes me.

I’m not supposed to speak about Sara’s punishment. Sara says it’s a secret. She says if I tell anyone, the Polices will come take me away because I am so naughty.

I don’t know what to think sometimes. Daddy says I’m the best girl ever. Mummy doesn’t like me. Sara says I will go to jail if I tell anyone about her punishment. All I want is to float away in a bubble.

That. And to stop the dreams. Mummy calls them nightmares. When I wake up screaming, she always rushes into my room. Sometimes her hair is all upside down and she’s wearing mixed up slippers. One of hers and one of daddy’s. Then she sits next to me and pats me back to sleep. I like how that feels.

She reads for me. She says my Kalimas and duas will keep the nightmares away. They work. Most days. But maybe what really works is feeling mummy touch me. Mummy and daddy’s touch doesn’t make me feel dirty like Sara’s does.


Image credit: Dale Rogers /

Today is Sara’s spring cleaning day. I like spring cleaning days. The house smells so lekker. Like lemons and Jik and Handy Andy. But the best thing about spring cleaning days is that Sara won’t find time to punish me no matter what I do. So I make sure I do as much naughty things as I can. I spill water on the table when I pour a glass for me from the jug in the fridge. I make a bowl of Post Toasties and cut a whole fat banana in it even when I know I won’t eat all. I go and play in the garden and make mud cakes.

Mud is just the bestest. It’s gooey and when I mix it just right it looks like yummy cake batter and I could just eat it if I could forget that mummy says it will give me long worms in my stomach. Worms that will end up in my brain. Urgh! That’s scary.

I decorate my mud cakes with flowers and leaves. I put cherries on top. I collect these in the sand. Mummy says they’re actually monkey berries. When I come back in the house Sara screams.

I jump! My heart is beating so fast.

“Hawubo! You dirtied the floor and your mummy will be home now now. Go change!”  Sara is cross cross. She looks like she could just klap me but I know she won’t. Mummy doesn’t allow Sara to klap me.

But maybe, I think, while I change into clean clothes and hide the muddy ones in the washing basket, Sara klapping me would be better than her punishment. If she klapped me it would hurt for a bit and I could go outside and sit on the swing to forget. But this punishment, it’s there all the time. Even when I’m swinging so high it feels like I’m flying. Like I can touch the clouds and kick the sky. 

It’s there when I bath and mum reminds me to wash my nunu. And I don’t want to because I think if I do I’ll feel Sara’s hands there.


I'm considering doing Nanowrimo this year. Hoping it will push me to write since all that oomph that followed me back from Uganda has dissipated into nothing. I last did this in 2006. Horribly written drivel, but you can read it here if you're brave enough. 

Putting this excerpt of my first chapter 'out there' to get a feel of what readers think. 

Hope you've all been well. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Muslim Guilt > Catholic Guilt

A few weeks ago Jennifer Lawrence’s boobs went viral because some ass decided that violating a woman’s privacy was fine. Because she’s a woman.

In the aftermath of guys boasting of their single (or dual) handed orgies, Haji Mohamed Dawjee wrote in a Mail & Guardian column: “We live in a world where women must pay the price of being taken down a peg by a hacker or a this or that, for embracing their sexuality – whatever it is – or expressing their sexuality, in the very same way men do.”

And I thought, wow, that’s optimistic. The idea that women actually do embrace their sexuality, that is. 

Not long after, we were drawn into the brouhaha around the Open Mosque. In case you've just crawled out from under a rock (or aren't South African) have a look at the link. To summarise, claims were made that The Open Mosque, a 'gender-equal, non aligned, interracial mosque', was in fact a gay mosque. The Muslim community was up in arms, primarily, I suspect, because on some strange level, we consider being gay a bigger sin than being a fraudster.

Muhsin Hendriks, founder of The Inner Circle, an organisation dedicated to assisting “sexually diverse Muslims to reconcile Islam with their sexuality”, was dragged into the fray. The otherwise enlightened among us began their name calling and he was declared an infidel in no uncertain terms by the self appointed gods of social media. 

At this point I found myself wondering whether anyone had bothered calling insurance fraudsters, gamblers and drug addicts ‘unworthy of calling themselves Muslims’, or whether Hendriks was singled out for this special treatment, because his ‘sin’ was of a sexual nature?

This brought me right back to Jennifer Lawrence. And her boobs. Right back to the question of sexuality. And female sexuality. 

We squirm, don't we, when Muslim sexuality is brought under the spotlight? Over time, we've come to regard sex and all that is connected to it as a sinful pleasure to be indulged in covertly. Like drug use.

I say, 'over time' because from what I've read of the the life of the Prophet PBUH, his approach to matters of sexuality and sex was forthright. His legacy was not our special Muslim brand of faux modesty that has evolved into mislaid coquetry. 

While drugs have been declared forbidden in Islam, sex within a marriage is not. And given that we now have Islamic Erotica as a new genre of Islamic fiction to contend with, I’d say the time is ripe for exploring Sexuality, in particular, female sexuality, since Muslim men have less of a hard time (no pun intended) expressing theirs, than Muslim women do.

I had a pretty shitty introduction to female sexuality 101. I was four. The ‘other’ was over thirty (I think). I hated myself for what I allowed them to do. I hated that my body responded in spite of my own revulsion, shame and self-loathing. Add that to the guilt of knowing I’d SINNED, I was pretty much doomed from the get go.

As I grew up, I would not allow myself to explore my own sexuality because for me it was a shameful thing. In fact, I shunned that aspect of my ‘coming of age’ completely.

But what if I hadn't experienced what I had? Would I have been as comfortable with the idea of knowing both mind and body in the early stages of my marriage, as I am now?

I doubt so. 

I was weaned on Kitaabun Nikaah. The Karma Sutra of Muslim soon-to-be-weds, where I was taught that I’d have children born blind if I looked at my husband naked. That I was never to talk during sex or my children would be born deaf and dumb – I obviously heeded the advice, since I was blessed with five perfectly healthy children. Right? Right. 

But, above all, I was duty bound to satisfy my husband’s appetite. That I should hasten to his bed when he called, though I may be busy preparing his food (because that's all that women are made for?). That recreational sex was bad and that the sole purpose of intercourse was procreation (and keeping your husband faithful), though how procreational-sex-only would achieve this, the book never explained.

I know that I was not the only one to have this initiation to sex. Given this cloistered introduction, tis scant wonder that the mere idea of female sexuality is enough to have fellow Muslimahs scrambling for their hijabs and tasbeehs. After all, a good Muslimah embraces her role as lover in the dutiful way she embraces her hijaab, her role as caregiver to the children, her role as cook and cleaner. Who said she had to actually ENJOY any of it? 

While I understand the need for Hayaa, modesty, in Islam, I also understand that the urge for sexual release is natural, as natural a bodily function as peeing, though a whole lot more life affirming. Aside from the obvious benefit of ensuring the perpetuation of the human race, mutually pleasurable sex in a marriage is a value added bonus, the worth of which is not to be underestimated.  

So say it with me: Muslims enjoy sex.

And we shouldn't feel guilty making this admission. We are, after all, as human as the next.

And exploring and experimenting does, in no way, render us less Muslim. 

P.S. I think I deserve a chocolate for having the balls to say the word 'sex' as many times as I did in this post. But hey, lookit, I said 'balls' too. Epic win :p

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sliced sky

Save me from knowledge
That cuts my world a thousand ways
Like a frozen branch, a frozen sky
From knowledge that turns me inside out
Until the last drop of my hot blood
seeps into the bowels of an uncaring earth
From knowledge that burns
Like fire-ants inside me
Biting. Biting. Biting.
It’s okay that I live a lie
That ‘us’ is more in my head
Than it will ever be right here
It’s okay that I feel loved
These are MY lies
My pretty lies
Like rainbows that I  can feel
Or laughter that I can taste
Without my lies
What have I
But this, this thing
So large
This truth
That swallows me
And in its belly I find
All the pain I’d swallowed
Or buried
Or painted over
With rainbows
and lies
and jammy laughter

I am broken Lord,
Can’t you see?
Sliced a thousand ways
By this truth
Give me back my lies
And the mercy of forgetfulness
So I can unslice my being
And wrap my frayed cloak of love
Around my crumbling shoulders
And be real again

Friday, September 05, 2014

Jammy Laughter

You load laughter behind pursed lips
And fire it at me
Like feathers
That tickle the inside of my nose
I giggle too
Tasting your laughter, as it mingles with mine
Your jammy laughter, sweet, with an edge of tart
There was a day when your laughter was sharp
Like cheese, too mature
It bit. Your laughter
even more than the accompanying words
Remember the time your laughter was like chocolate?
Dark and warm, slipping down my throat
Warming me…all the way to my toes?
And then there was the day your laughter was froth
Spilling over the sides of a coffee cup
Pretty to look at
Too soon gone
I like to taste your laughter
Even on the days it leaves a funny taste in my mouth
Like chalk
Even when it cuts my tongue
Sour pineapple like
Even when it’s bitter stale coffee
But mostly, I like the taste of your laughter
When I've given it to you
Cos then it tastes

Like us

At 3 am this morning, I found myself lying awake in bed, thinking of laughter. Of how it tastes. Wanted to get out of bed and write. But it was cold. Better late than never, innit?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Gratitude Challenge

If you’re a Facebooker you've probably stumbled across the Gratitude Challenge, if not participated in it yourself.

It’s been interesting, reading how many different ways people can say: I’m thankful to be Alive.

When the delightful Azra tagged me, I considered doing it. Then chickened out because I’m not in a very thankful space right now (shameful, I know).

 But now I’m ready. And instead of posting three things daily to Facebook, I’ve decided that this Gratitude Challenge deserves, at the very least, a blog post. So here goes:

I’m really thankful for toilet paper.

Ask any poor sod who’s found themselves in a loo, woefully bereft of, at the very least, single ply, just how big a blessing toilet paper is?
Along that same vein, I’m thankful; for sanitary pads and panty liners. And when the kids were younger, disposable nappies. It’s these little things that preserve our dignity.

I’m thankful for puddles.
Not the kind that are fun to stomp in after a rainy day, but the walking, talking kind. Because it is equally possible to see yourself in a deep, still pool as it is to see yourself in a puddle. So to all those shallow, vain folk out there, thank you for being so…puddly. You’re fabulous daaaahlings!

As for people who are like seething oceans, well…they’re best avoided. I’m thankful for the wisdom to know this.

I’m super thankful for indoor plumbing.
Aging means that your own plumbing isn’t as…uhm… watertight as it once was. 2 AM urgent pees are so much better now that the loos are practically in our bedrooms.

I’m thankful for technology.
How else would we measure the trajectory of our own spectacular decline into total failure if we didn’t have all these radiant, I’m-so-fucking-awesome-how-come-I’m-merely-human people to compare ourselves to?

I’m thankful for tastebuds.
Without them we’d have no foodies. Can you even BEGIN to imagine the horror of a foodie free existence? Can you?

I’m thankful for feet. Just thinking how absolutely empty my Instagram feed would be without people’s feet, shod in a zillion different shoes, is enough to make me weep. By the same token, I’m thankful for heads (think hijaabs) and hands. They add such variety to my Instagram feed.
I’m also very thankful for coffee. Again, an Instagram life changer.

I'm thankful for laaities who think they're all that and therefore you MUST be into them just because you added an emoji to your last conversation :)  They do wonders for the ego.

 I’m grateful for illusion.
Without it we’d have no imagined reality.

I’m grateful for forgetfulness.
Though I imagine that if God forbid, I should end up like my mum with Alzheimer’s, I’d be less than grateful for this.

I’m thankful for boobs and nipples and basically all the human bits that make sex so much fun.
I’m also thankful that I can say this without fear of censure.

I’m thankful for words.
Their existence and their absence.

 I’m thankful for thankfulness.