To read part II, click the following: https://creativewritersleague.co.ke/the-love-laboratory-part-ii/
We had squads depending on your personality and hobbies. If you played pool table you would fly with the pool squad. If you smoked, you would hang up with the boys. And if you were a football player, the same applied. Groups were inevitable for one’s survival and enjoyment of life in our microcosm. At times, you needed to be reminded through a phone call when a lecturer had entered the hall and you were in the other corner of the faculty.
There was this group which distinguished itself: The angel girls. It was a squad of a dozen girls who rolled together. They were the most visible with the highest loyalty to their group. Sometimes they could customize their dressing, wear abayas of the same design, and sheilas-scarfs-of the same color. Their leader was a plump lady. We used to call her big mama. Big mama was protective like a hen with her chicks. This specific group I think provided more security, loyalty, and camaraderie. The squad would pose romantic challenges for those who wanted to woo a member. First, the member had to get permission to engage from big mama. And in case of relationship challenges, one would be dealing with a dozen minds instead of one. I could envision big mama with a council of ladies sitting around a table trying to come up with a resolution to one of the member’s romantic dilemmas. And everyone suggesting before big mama would have her final take.
The boys were not ready to give up the fight. Big mama’s backyard had beautiful flowers that interested them. They had to pluck them. Fast and with precision. As fate would have it some members would be wooed and wooed permanently deserting the group. But the group must survive and it did. And you had to be careful not to wrong a member of the angel girls otherwise you would be drawing lots of attention and the wrath of a team of fierce angels towards yourself.
The lab love was full of surprises. You were supposed to be always prepared. At times, from the first semester, after the lectures, we were supposed to board the buses and be driven to the hospital. The girls would proceed but instead of going into one bus till it was full, they would fill half a bus then move to occupy the next. On such occasions, you were tempted to think that all the ladies’ hormones were at peak and in sync.
As we proceeded to the fourth year and became senior students, the dynamics would shift. Sometimes, you could stay a few days without coming to the faculty as the center of learning shifted to hospital lecture halls and wards. You just came from the room and head straight to the hospital. Now some ladies would change their dress codes. From the black abaya, you would start to see colorful dresses and some clothing that would not have given the wearer a free pass to the Faculty.
At one point a lady in our group of twelve came dressed in tight trousers that everyone was concerned and refused to walk with her. The exams were approaching and we needed to sharpen our clinical skills. She asked me whether she could accompany me to Ahmed Kassim Hospital which specializes in cardiac disease the next day for revision. I told her to meet me at the stage where we usually board buses heading there.
I arrived at the stage earlier and bought a newspaper to update myself while waiting. I heard someone greeting, looking up, I saw her with the previous day dressing code. I responded and buried my head back into the newspaper. In short, I was so uneasy and didn’t want people to think we were together. But today I had to tell her. After the day’s task, I asked her whether her grandfather, with whom she used to spend some days, had seen her leaving the house and agreed to her dressing code. She said he was sitting in the sitting room but did not `see her’ clearly leave as he had cataracts which causes one to have blurred vision. She went further to quote for me Suratul Yasin verse nine, `And We have put before them a barrier and behind them a barrier and covered them, so they could not see’. I have never heard a verse misused more than that.
I was dealing with someone who had memorized the whole Quran but beauty and a youthful age had overpowered her. I told her about the uneasiness the group members had felt the previous day and how she needed to dress modestly. She told me to forget about the group, even if the whole class would be uneasy she is not to be shaken. I asked her why she dresses modestly when she comes from the dakhiliya but awkwardly when she comes from her grandpa’s place. She replied that the dakhiliya had rules and since she needed shelter from that place she had to abide by them. I queried on what she would teach her countrywomen when she goes back when she was dressing inappropriately; she was supposed to be a role model. She said she would teach them what was in the Quran and Sunna. She told me that sometimes even her young brother back in Saudi complains and refuses to walk with her but she usually dismisses him. At this point, I was a bit angry and she noticed. She told me not to be angry. I should be doing the advising for Allah’s sake and not for myself. If I was doing it for Allah’s sake then I was not supposed to be angry.
I was a bit tired of this adamancy. If one was to marry such a girl based only on her religious knowledge, man, he would be in for a rude shock. Like opening a casket you thought had jewels only to discover it is an empty tin. A woman’s religion is her modesty. I told her if she was to associate with me she would need to dress modestly. A man has to be a man and make rules. We don’t give a damn about feminism. She dressed her lab coat over her clothing as we went back. It was much better. Anyway, a woman’s knees are just anatomical joints not an item for public entertainment!