This afternoon we brought the second, third and fourth standards home in the last two periods of the day to watch The Gods Must Be Crazy. Sabbah, in her prefilm spiel, told them that the Kalahari was in my garden and that Botswana was in my neighbourhood which is really not something you tell impressionable kids, no matter how geographically correct your statements might be. And so as a result, Mehfooz now thinks that all the people in my country run around barely clad, Shahid is convinced that my village is not much different from Breswana and Amjed cannot understand why I do not have zebras and rhinos in my backyard.
Muneeza, far less concerned with the minor details of the overall film, turned to me halfway through and said: ‘ma’am, I see that the only thing the people do in your country is fight’. I tried my best to explain that Botswana was not my country, that Sam Bogo and his gang of banana-hiding guerillas were not actually my people and that most of my people wore a fair amount of clothes, but she would hear none of it. Instead she told me, rather disapprovingly, that yesterday on her walk to South Africa, in addition to meeting my parents and being gifted a piece of meat from them, she had seen my country and seen for herself that all the people were doing, was fighting. She would not return, she added with a scary amount of certainty.
At some point during the movie, Shahid and Amjed’s dad called Sabbah and for a moment I was worried that he’d gotten wind of the barely clad bushmen through the Breswana Grapevine and was calling to remove his kids from the school, but as it turns out, he was calling to invite us to a farewell dinner at his residence. Sabbah accepted the invitation and just after the magrib prayers, Amjed, Shahid and Umar showed up at our door, to guide us to dinner.
The Latief residence is halfway between Hajipura and Wanipura and we reached their house just after 6. Shahid’s mum, dad and sisters welcomed us in and after quick greetings and pleasantries, showed us in to the room on the right of the corridor. It was the room the size of a garage and there were some cupboards along the wall to the left and a single bed and fireplace against the wall to the right. They showed us to the mats laid out in the corner of the room, made sure we were seated comfortably, that there were enough blankets available to keep us warm and then promptly disappeared into the kitchen, leaving us in the capable hands of Shahid and Amjed for predinner entertainment.
Sabbah used the time before dinner to enquire about the house and its occupants. There were two floors to the house. The bottom floor had two rooms; the one we were sitting in and a kitchen. The top floor had another kitchen and two or three more rooms. 15 people stayed in the house. Shahid and Amjed shared the single bed in the room that we were in and their parents slept on the floor, in the spot we were sitting on, to be exact. Their sisters, elder brother, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins all slept upstairs.
Dinner had still not arrived and so she enquired about each family member individually, even about the uncle who was in Dubai and when she had exhausted all possible questions of the family inquisition, we entertained them with the universal wonder that is Talking Tom and just as their enthusiasm for causing the cat much pain, began to wane, Molvi came in with a tablecloth, laid it on the floor and dinner was served.
There was rice, pheasant, mutton, some grilled meat pieces, potatoes, chips, dhal, chapattis, turnip chutney and some other vegetable dish. As ashamed as I am of my eating reputation, I am glad that news of it had reached the Latief household before we did and so I was not left awkwardly declining several variations of meat dishes and the potatoes were strategically placed right in front of me. I had boiled potatoes and fried chips on rice. Then I had the boiled potatoes on their own. Then I had a few solitary fried chips and then for good measure, I ended off the meal with fried chips on top of boiled potatoes on top of a chappati.
Best CarbFest. Ever.