Smoke & Mirrors
Written by Qaanitah Hunter and edited by Benazir Cassim
Have the wedding of your dreams, they said. You only get married once, they said.
First of all, how is ‘you only get married once’ still a thing in 2019? I thought the world would’ve learned from Hollywood by now. Nobody gets married once.
People marry once. People marry twice. Gosh, I know an old lady in Nelspruit who married four times and was widowed each time. Life happens. I don’t think everyone is meant to have one soul mate for the rest of their lives. Those who do are lucky. The rest of us have to kiss a few toads before we find our prince. I didn’t kiss any toad; I married the first one that showed up at my door! Why is there no fairytale about that girl in Disney!
The first time I got married it was small and simple and at the cost of my in-laws. I got to choose nothing but the shoes I wore on the day. My dress was borrowed, my veil was rented, and the entire reception was planned and paid for by Ozayr’s mother. I was honestly a guest at my own wedding.
This time around, I am doing things right. I have a Pinterest vision board and I plan on having a cake tasting and all the frills. I don’t care that it’s my second wedding but I am wearing a big fat white gown with the longest veil a la Priyanka Chopra-Jonas.
For the first time in my life, I want it all. I deserve it all.
This blogger, Amanda S, got married recently and she arrived in a horse and carriage and her groom arrived in a helicopter. She even had cherry blossoms flown in from Japan for the decor.
This is the brattiest I,ve been in my entire life, but honestly why can other girls have it all? I’ve been through hell and back. I literally had to beg Adil to tell me how he feels for me.
I probably have to put up with an emotionally unavailable control freak for the rest of my life, so this wedding better be worth it.
Gosh. Who the hell says that?
Before I even start thinking about wedding plans, I have to get ready to meet Adil’s parents for the first time and your girl is sweating buckets.
Ayesha has been really calm about everything and she insists that they will love me. Ma seemed to suggest that I should ignore whatever “that daughter-in-law of mine says”, almost preempting something negative. And Adil has been freaking out for two whole days.
My mother flew in from Nelspruit the day after we called her to tell her the news and she has been so happy to be around. I think she’s comforted by the fact that I have a solid base and that my job to post things on the internet has become a “real job”.
It’s been hilarious to see Adil rant to my mother about his mother and how she doubts every decision he makes. My mother has always been a great listener and a good person to go to for advice. I mean, she’s relatively young — she is 42 years old — which is about 14 years older than Adil. It’s a bit weird, but whatever.
People always think we are friends and I suspect if I didn’t have white genes they would think we were sisters. She was 17 when she had me, after all.
To be widowed at 42 is sad but somehow my mother is still as full of life as she’s always been. Last night when we were sitting and chatting about my work and my plans for my brand and blog, I told her that I want to start an online store that I want her to run.
She gets paid a pittance anyways from the library and I really want her to move to Jo’burg to be closer to me. For the first time ever she didn’t explicitly say no and seemed somewhat interested in the suggestion. I hope I can convince her soon enough.
From the time she was 17, her life has been focused on making ends meet and looking after me. And while I get her argument that she’s too young not to work, I do think she does deserve some pampering.
Adil and I decided that I should meet his parents without my mother at first and then set a lunch date where they can meet each other. Ma initially suggested it and I trust her advice because Adil acts irrationally when it comes to his parents.
I am satisfied with what I see in the mirror; wide-leg black culottes, a pink boxy top from Zara and black kitten heels. It’s the right mix between casual and formal and I add a pair of earrings just for a little sophistication.
For a while, I mull over how to tie my hair. Sometimes over-styled hair is a little bit offensive in a casual setting. But my signature messy-on-purpose ponytail probably doesn’t suit the occasion.
While I am at it, I am going to take a few bomb selfies because why waste good makeup, honey?
I make use of some miracle oil to sleek back my hair and to tie my hair in a low ponytail. I spritz a new perfume I’m reviewing and I’m good to go.
“You look nice,” my mother says as I walk into the room I set up for her.
“Are you going to be okay? I’m leaving the car, in case you want to go to the mall. You know the Netflix password?”
“Hey! I am fully capable of looking after myself. I might just go and take a swim.”
“Okay, I will message you before we leave there.”
“Don’t be nervous. Don’t let other people’s bad energy affect you. Just be who you are and don’t worry about anything else,” she says as I hug her.
Adil comes to fetch me and pops in to greet my mother briefly. He looks more stressed than I do, and it’s his parents.
“She seems excited to see you,” he says about his mother when we get into the car.
The vision I had of Adil’s mum in my head was that she’s an old grouch who is so career-driven that she doesn’t take care of herself or anyone around her. I envisioned her to be a sad, lonely person.
I was NEVER ready for a beautiful woman with thick hair (clearly extensions) and the skinniest waist ever.
“You never tell me you got yourself a famous friend, Adil,” she says in a fake London accent as she hugs me and welcomes me to her home.
I scurry over to greet Ma who goes on a rant about how my baking is far better than any ‘Voolverts’ cakes.
“Oh, so you’re already trying to fatten us with your baking!” Adil’s mother jokes in a sickly sweet voice.
She insists I call her Zeenat and not aunty which seems inappropriate to say the least. We are not friends! Hell, she is older than my mother — although she could pass as my sister.
Her fashion style is on fire though. Definitely not my price point!
Adil’s father, Moosa, is a typical 50-something-year-old Indian dad with his potbelly and dry sense of humour. From the moment I meet him, I know that the two of us will get along quite well. I have never seen a more oddly suited couple in my life. This wasn’t even chalk and cheese.
“So Maariah! I follow your blog quite religiously,” Adil’s mother... Zeenat says.
Why a 49-year-old woman taking style tips from a 25-year-old is beyond me. Adil rolls his eyes and Ayesha has a permanent smile on her face. I look over to Ma who very evidently can’t hide her contempt for her own daughter-in-law. She decides to ignore everyone else and chat with me.
“For December I want to bake for all the security guards here at the estate. I am thinking we can make scones. You will come to help me?” she asks, almost to prove to Adil’s mother that we have a pre-existing strong bond.
“So, you love baking?” Zeenat asks me, trying to join in. I cringe.
“I love making old-fashioned home stuff,” I say.
“Oh, I have no time for such stuff. I just order everything. On Eid day I make nothing,” she says hubristically.
“Maariah, I hear you’ve become Ma’s favourite?” Uncle Moosa jokes.
“I think I am the only one that lets her have cake with her tea,” I joke back and appreciate the overall laughter.
I can understand why Adil has a tense relationship with his parents even though he is 30. His mother has a Sarah Jessica Parker vibe to her but there’s just this cold aura that seeps through. She is not outright rude or grumpy, in fact, quite the opposite of that. She is quite cheerful but it feels disingenuous. This is just my first impression, but it bothers me that she acts as if Ma doesn’t exist and is obviously condescending to Adil. It is weird.
Also, I see why Adil is a Mr-Fix-It. Ma was complaining about her back so Adil’s dad bought her a massage chair. I think it’s in their nature.
It’s funny to see Ayesha become completely incapable in front of her dad. A whole 26-year-old getting her dad to dish out for her and asking him for money so she can go shopping. I don’t even think she needs the money, but I suppose we all have different relationships with our parents. I would never in my wildest dreams have asked Zayn for money when he was alive. Hell, I could barely accept the inheritance he left for me.
After lunch, Adil leads the way to the terrace where Percy has set up for tea and laid out all the stuff I baked. My mousse cake looks so good on Zeenat’s expensive crockery — I struggle not to snap a pic. Even the swiss rolls survived despite the heat.
Adil looks the most stressed I have ever seen him and Ma seems flustered.
Why am I so calm? What is the worst that could happen?
Well, they can freak out when Adil tells them we are getting married.
Or they could love the idea.
Zeenat looks like she would rather be somewhere else. Ayesha and Ma already know, but they look like they’re anticipating drama.
Adil’s dad seems nice enough. But it’s clear as day that they don’t have a good relationship. In fact, it feels like they are more associates than father and son.
“So, Daddy...” Adil starts.
“Do you also want shopping money?” he jokes and Adil rolls his eyes. I still can’t wrap my head around how mulish and juvenile Adil is around his parents. It’s weird. He is not an immature person but with his parents he is five minutes away from throwing a full-blown tantrum.
“So, I’m getting married,” Adil drops the bomb and his father is clearly shocked. He was definitely not expecting this news. What is wrong with this family? Ma and Ayesha knew, could they not have given the father a heads-up?
Why couldn’t Adil have this conversation when I was not here?!
“To who?” Uncle Moosa asks and I don’t know if he is joking or not. He has to be joking, right? I can feel blood rush to my face and I desperately hope I am not flushed. I will just stare at my phone until this awkward moment is over.
“Dad! I am getting married to Maariah,” he says to his father, without looking at me. I want to die of embarrassment. Kill me already!
“Oh?!” his father seems shocked. I just don’t know if he is good-shocked or bad-shocked.
“What, Dad?” Adil barks. I want the earth to swallow me whole.
“Guys, not now,” Ayesha intervenes, trying to preempt what’s to come. It looks like she has been through this before. Meanwhile, I am caught in the crossfire between father and son.
“I am just surprised, that’s all,” Uncle Moosa says.
“What are you surprised about? Say it!” I can see the veins in Adil’s forehead. His aggression towards his father is so visible.
“No, never mind... I just didn’t think you would... given your history,” his father says. Ermmm, what history??
Adil doesn’t say anything and I stir my tea a lot more than necessary.
“Why are you like this, dad?” he fires at his father.
“I am happy. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy. I didn’t know we were meeting your future wife today. I thought we were meeting your friend. I am glad. I am so happy,” he says again.
This man can’t show emotion for shit. I can see why Adil even struggles to say ‘I miss you’ sometimes.
“Oh Mar... Let me give you a hug! Welcome to the family, although you have always been part of our family,” Ma says dramatically, although we told her yesterday and she was so happy she couldn’t contain herself.
“Oh, that’s wonderful news... but didn’t you just recently get divorced?” Wow, Adil’s mother knows how to throw shade. Lord. Have. Mercy. On. Me.
I knew this family was intense but I was not expecting this. How do I even respond? Is it a rich people thing to be so passive aggressive with your own family?
How is this a normal reaction to what most people would consider to be good news? Things have gone from zero to 100 in under 10 seconds. I’m starting to understand why Adil and Ayesha aren’t close to their parents.
Things are deteriorating far too quickly; the atmosphere is icy between us all. Ma looks heartbroken and even Percy has a look of anxiety on her face.
“I’ve had enough. Mar, let’s go!” Adil says to me.
I stare at Ma, hoping she would save the situation, but she avoids eye contact.
“I am just asking... I am happy for you guys,” Zeenat says in the sweetest tone she can find.
“Dad... can you tell your wife to stop being a troublemaker!”
“Listen here... calm down. You are always irrational, Adil. She’s just asking a question.”
“You always see no wrong in what she does.”
“I have no time for this,” Zeenat says and walks back into the house.
Ayesha steps in.
“Mar, let’s go hang out in my room,” she says.
“How... why now? I want to get to know my daughter-in-law-to-be,” Adil’s father says.
“I was dreading this day for this very reason,” Ayesha says.
“Come Mar,” Adil says to me as he gets up to leave.
“Adil, you’re not going anywhere. Just sit down. Zeeny! Zeeny! Come here,” Uncle Moosa shouts. She ignores him.
“So... when are you two planning to get married?” he asks.
“We are going to elope,” Adil says as he gets up to get more cake.
I laugh but I don’t know if he’s being serious or not. And his father doesn’t react.
“I am tired,” Adil says.
“Okay. Is there anything I should worry about?” his father asks.
“NO!” he says and I start laughing in disbelief. Does he think I am pregnant? We are yet to hold hands in public, uncle!
“How long have you guys been dating?” his father persists.
“Uh... we didn’t date. We’ve been friends for a few months”.
“Then why rush into getting married?”
“You won’t understand,” he says defensively.
“Maariah, you were married before?” Oh God. Now it’s my turn to be interrogated. Let’s get this over with.
“Jee. When I was much younger. It just didn’t work out.”
“So you didn’t leave your husband because of my son’s charm?”
“Absolutely not! I’ve been divorced for almost five years.”
“Oh okay. Whereabout are you from?”
“Dad! This is not a gaam in India!”
“I am from... I’m from Mpumalanga.”
Please can this stop. Please can this stop. Please. There’s something seriously wrong with this family.
“Just get married while we’re still here.”
“You leave in three weeks”.
I’m going to throw up.
“Dad, I think you should meet Maariah’s mother and then we will decide later what’s going to happen,” Adil saves the day.
“We can leave for Mpumalanga tomorrow?”
“Her mother is with her here in Joburg”.
“But what about her dad?”
This guy though!
“Her stepfather passed away recently,” Adil says with a glare that makes me think he is contemplating beating up his dad.
I get up as Ma does to pack the tea things to the kitchen in the hope to escape the drama of Adil and his father. I find his mum laying on the couch scrolling through Instagram. Ayesha has had enough of her family and went to her room. I try really hard not to judge because my family is pretty crazy, but this is dysfunctional on another level. And here I thought rich people didn’t have dysfunctional lives. When you grow up poor or working-class, you always look at rich people like they have no problems at all. If you have the level of wealth Adil’s dad has, he’s supposed to have a stress-free life, right? If it were not for Ma, this family would be in tatters. There would be no family.
I help out in the kitchen for a while but then go back outside where the two of them are now talking passionately about their business. It’s awkward. But then again, this whole day has been awkward.
“I think we must just put those Melrose units on sale,” Adil’s father says.
“It makes no sense. That property was R4 million. We built for about R2 mil. and we have six houses in the complex — seven if you count my unit — renting at a premium price. From rental alone, we make R2 mil per year. In three years, it will be paid up and then that R2 mil will be pure profit and will increase.”
“But we can sell each unit for 3.9 ... That’s 23 bar and no headache.”
“Dad, you wanted to diversify your property portfolio.”
“I want to start cutting back.”
“Like sell up?”
“No... like separate the business and make you 100% owner and whatever assets are mine share it between you and your sister and invest in stock and relax.”
“Dad you are not even 60. You are young. Are you not going to be living in London forever? You need a business when you are back”.
“I wanted to tell you. We are moving to Dubai. Mummy’s company has given her a job to head the firm’s expansion to the Middle East. So, I want to start investing in property there, tax-free.”
“Why are you so wrapped around her finger?!” Adil snaps.
“Adil, I am warning you.”
“I’ve slogged day and night to build your company only for you to want to go relocate?”
“Listen... this is not up for discussion.”
“When you left you owned a few properties. Today it’s a multimillion-rand company. Why would you want to kill it?”
“I’m not killing it. I’m saying to you, I don’t want profits anymore. You can run the business as you see fit. I just want to tie up loose ends.”
“You mean... sell up and leave for good?”
“Look, your property development side of things is doing well. You don’t need to combine it with the rentals. My view is the economy is not growing. The expensive property, sell it all before we get to a point where we can’t get tenants. And I’m ready to try something new.”
Adil seems so insulted and annoyed. I don’t know what’s going on.
Later when we get in the car he starts ranting.
“Babe... I ... This man! Okay. I’m... I’m just so frustrated! How can he think he can just sell up after all the effort I put in?”
Babe? That’s new.
“Ads, just leave him. He thinks differently. You can do this yourself. You’ve been doing it yourself. You can build the business how you want to,” I say, trying my best to be a supportive partner. The truth is, I have no clue what this means. I just can’t understand how one family can be so dysfunctional.
“Are we going home? To my place?”
“I just need to chill out for a bit. Do you want to come with me somewhere?”
“Sure. But I’m too full to eat,” I say.
“I just want to let loose and chill. This man is going to kill me.”
“Where are we going?”
“Just to a spot I know,” he says as he drives towards Bryanston.
I haven’t really been out with Adil besides the usual getting food or doing the odd errand. We’ve been on road trips together back and forth from Nelspruit, but we haven’t even gone to the movies together.
We get to a place that looks like a quiet strip mall, but when we get to his ‘spot’ it turns out to be a loud smokey karaoke bar where every person inside seems to know Adil.
“Adilistooooo,” someone whistles as we walk in.
“Who is this sugar on your arm?” a woman asks him and when I look closer it’s Alicia Mdonda! THE Alicia Mdonda, TV personality, radio show host and basically celeb.
Then I see Shaun Piper, an Insta-famous guy I know from blogger events. The music is blaring so I can barely greet everyone properly but I see Adil hug Alicia.
“This is Maariah,” he introduces me with a level of confidence I haven’t seen in him before. He is a different man.
Soon we are all in a circle, singing to the karaoke while others are drinking. Being sober around drunk people is probably the worst thing in the world. But thankfully, Alicia and her friend Bec, who I’ve met at events, are not drinking either so we hang out with them as they dance and try to teach Adil to do a vosho.
The only reason why I know what the vosho is, is because I went to an event with a fashion label and they had an opening party with a DJ and they had these girls dropping down and up when the music dropped. I was embarrassed at how everyone looked at me when I asked what they were doing.
I obviously had to google it and according to Google: “the ‘vosho’ can be described as a South African dance that involves squatting and kicking at the same time”.
Now imagine a stiff Indian boy who has never been to a township in his life trying to vosho and being cheered on by a bunch of his friends. Thank God I’m wearing waterproof mascara because I’m literally crying with laughter.
“You look like you’re having an epileptic fit!” I shout over the music.
It’s just crazy to see Adil have a whole other life outside of his family that’s so different and interesting and weird. In that moment of the attempted vosho, I completely forgot about the day that was and the drama.
Once the attempted dancing is done, we decide to leave this place and go to a nearby hotel for dinner around the pool. It was just me, Adil, Alicia, Bec and Adil’s two other friends, Ishaaq and Joe.
“How did you guys become a crew?” I try to strike up a conversation.
“We were all losers in high school so we stuck together and stayed friends since,” Alicia says.
“Ahhhh Al! I wasn’t a loser, I just felt sorry for you guys,” Adil jokes, again with a confidence I haven’t witnessed before.
“Your granny packed the best lunches. Yoh! We only became friends with you for lunch!” Joe jokes.
“Woooooo girl! This boy’s lunches were lit! Samoosas for starters, chicken strips for mains and a small container with dessert! Some days we would steal his lunch box, hide and eat,” Alicia laughs.
“Guys, if you think my granny loves me you need to see her around Maariah! She’s literally the new favourite.”
“You guys are ‘met the parents’ serious?”
“I told you, we’re getting married!” Adil says.
“FRIEND! LOOK at that RING,” Bec screeches and a flurry of congratulations follows. We are definitely getting side-eyes from other patrons.
“So, when did you propose?” Bec asks, and Adil looks at me and laughs.
“I didn’t propose. We are brown people. It’s the natural course of life. You meet, you briefly get to know each other, then you get married,” Adil jokes and I cringe a little. It wasn’t romantic at all, that’s just the truth.
“Wait hold up! You are brown?!” Alicia looks at me suspiciously.
“Yes! My mother’s Indian.”
“No ways! When you walked in I thought, ja eish Adil is dating another white girl,” Alicia jokes and everyone starts laughing. I don’t get it.
“Wait, so who is white in your family because you are definitely not brown?!” Joe says.
“My biological father is white. But I’m brown as brown can be,” I say.
“Like you can make samoosas and roti brown?” Alicia asks and I almost fall over in laughter. I am so brown, I make my own biryani from scratch.
“I met Maariah... some months back. But we were just friends...” Adil says.
“And now you’re getting married? Haibo? Just like that?” Joe asks and Ishaaq is dying with laughter because he knows the deal.
“You’re not pregnant, right?,” Bec asks, exasperated and I start blushing like hell while Adil shakes his head and laughs.
“My old man asked the same thing,” Adil says as his ears turn bright red.
I giggle but it’s a bit disconcerting. I don’t know if they are saying it in a way that means they think I would trap him with marriage by falling pregnant, or that Adil is reckless. Also the fact that we barely hold hands makes it a little more offensive. My mind starts drifting to Adil’s past. Maybe there’s some history that made his father and friends assume he is marrying me because he knocked me up? IDK.
“Well, Maariah, welcome to our madness,” Bec says as she starts explaining that no matter how crazy everyone’s lives are they try to meet at least once a month for some “raucousness that we can’t have in public”. Alicia is a local celeb, Bec is a PR girl, Joe works in investment banking and Ishaaq is a photographer. Oh, and Adil runs his father’s company.
They all went to a super snotty private school where all the famous sportspeople come from. It’s incredible that like 12 years after high school they are still friends. I didn’t have a big group of friends at school and when I left school, I immediately got married so I’ve never seen any of them again.
“When’s the wedding? Please have a destination wedding, friend,” Alicia says
“We’re thinking of just having a religious ceremony in the mosque,” Adil says and I just smile but I am dying on the inside. This time around I am going to get the wedding I want. Adil will have to get in line because what’s the point in getting married if I don’t get to have a wedding?!
“You guys! Don’t play, man! You guys need a wedding. In fact, WE need a wedding,” Joe says.
“You do know that there’s no partying at our weddings. It’s boring!”
“Don’t lie! Mina, I watch Bollywood movies,” Alicia says.
“Uh... Bollywood movies are Hindu weddings. Muslim weddings it’s all about the food,” Ishaaq throws in.
“Wena Maariah! Don’t give in to this trash bag here. We want to come for biryani!” Alicia says to me and I laugh.
“Girl you must milk your wedding for content for your blog. I can even help,” Bec says.
“We will still see. It’s early days,” I say looking at Adil.
“Adil you swine! Give the girl a wedding of her dreams man!” Alicia says as she hits his shoulder.
“Okay. Okay. But Mar, you have less than three weeks to plan because my dad is only around for three weeks,” Adil says.
“Hey how’s the big man? Is he still such a dzaddy? I had such a crush on him,” Bec says to Ishaaq and the rest of us are laughing at Adil who is pulling his face in disgust. Then he asks: “What's a dzaddy?” And Alicia almost falls off her chair laughing.
This is fiction
No, really. It is fiction. All characters are made up.