Madam Mjuaji scrutinised the card in her hand. Then got out her reading glasses to have a proper look. She frowned.
This was an invitation card? She had seen business cards bigger and better looking than this. What were they thinking? With all the money they had? There was just a little sprinkle of glitter to differentiate it from an old post office voucher. She gasped when she saw the reception venue. Surely, it must be a typo?She hoped they had asked for a refund if the printers had indeed made a mistake. Had they not noticed? How could they have not noticed?Maybe Madam Afiya had more info on this. Madam M turned off her phone’s charger and typed a few words.” Have u seen the invitation card for Bibi’s daughter’s wedding?”
” 😀 I saw it 😀 😀 “
” Tutaona hapo”
” Is there another card for the heena party? Or the nikaah ceremony? “
” Heard it’s just the one day”
“???. And can you believe the venue??”
” I know. I expected the Supreme Golf Club Banquet Hall.”
” Or even the Downtown Galleria.”
” But seriously that card. I mean really. What were they thinking?” “?”
Well, that did not go the way she had expected. She put away her phone. Still, the venue was big enough to at least accomodate tables. Madam Mjuaji found herself cheering up. She had thought for one horrifying moment that they would have to actually ….Madam shuddered…sit on the floor.
When she arrived at the reception hall a little after maghrib, she found only the caretakers and some of Bibi’s aunts putting last minute touches here and there. Madam M had known that she would be the first one there and that was exactly how she liked it. She was a well organised person and liked to be early rather than on time.That way she was sure to miss nothing. She wanted to see who came in wearing what, who had worn a repeat outfit and whose heena was by a student artist and whose was by the geniuses at Bint Wafeek Centre. She also knew whose hair and makeup was done by which stylist and who was trying to get away with a bad flat iron attempt.
She herself had on a beautiful classy thawb and shayla combo, a gift from her niece’s friend from Muscat. Lila, her neighbour, had done a great job with Madam M’s make up. And were her perfectly tied shayla to fall from her head she had a bejewelled hair pin around her thick bun. Her shoes and handbag were high fashion in Dubai’s trendy shops.As she was pulling up her skirts to get over the steps she stopped and her mouth fell open.Mats. They were to be seated on mats. Oh, the indignity! Oh, her beautiful outfit!Would it have killed Bibi to arrange for tables for her guests to sit around? She could see that the only chairs were those backed up against the wall for those hababas whose weak knees and tired legs would not allow them to sit down cross legged.
Reluctantly she went to sit on one of them. If anyone called her Hababa for sitting they would get an earful!
She looked around. She sighed. Such a disappointment.There were so few opportunities to show off in this here little town of theirs. A wedding was the perfect time to let society know how classy you were. Or vice versa. They were rich enough these people, the bride’s family- why in Allah’s name were they choosing to play small?It was not as if it would make a dent in their net worth. Madam M huffed. In her scorecard, this wedding was down there with the others did not even deserve mention- honourable or otherwise.
From her vantage point in the far corner of the hall Hikma sat in her abaya willing the ceremony to be over and done with.Weddings had become such a chore. A circus even. If it weren’t for the fact that the bridegroom’ s family had been neighbours with them before they had moved up in life and went to live in Mombasaly Hills and that she also knew Bibi she would have made her excuses and left. It was all so superficial. Women teetering on their high heels when it was obvious they would rather put on some comfortable flats. So much extravagance; gowns she knew would be worn once and then discarded. She abhorred large weddings even though by their town’s standards this was “cute” and lowkey.She felt weddings were to be an intimate gathering of your closest friends and family, the smaller the group the better. A hall filled with almost a thousand people? Did any one person really know a thousand people? Who was ever certain that each person in that mammoth group actually sincerely meant well for the families. Hasad was real.Hikma shuddered. But to each her own. Just because she preferred it that way did not mean that others felt the same.
There was Swabra- Bibi as they called her- greeting her guests. Hikma smiled at the mother of the bride. She was dressed in a simple classy thawb. Her makeup was subtle and natural looking. No fake eyelashes, hair extensions, and three kilograms of foundation for this mamma.
The guests were done eating and dancing. They were done gossiping and rating each other’s gowns, hairstyles and or weightloss/weight gain. They kept turning their heads towards the entrance of the hall. It was late. Where on earth was the bride? Some of the women had already begun to put on their abayas while impatiently searching the hall for Swabra to thank her and wonder when the bride would show up.
Madam M looked at her classic Rado watch. She shook her head. Could this event get any worse? They’d been served prepacked food. In a hideous cloth bag with a cola bottle inside. She was sure the meat pie had gone bad and the Swiss roll was as hard as a rock. She had gone without lunch for what? For something she could have gotten from the neighbourhood bakery?
It was late and there was no sign of the bride. At this point Madam M had given up. If the bride showed up with some hideous number from Market Street instead of Jeddah she would not be surprised. The whole thing had been tepid, lukewarm; nothing to write home about.She got up, tapped Swabra and : ” where is your daughter…..?”
“…..straight ahead first room to your right. You will find my sister Thureya there with Nabila ,” Swabra leaned close to Hikma’s ear.Hikma smiled. ” Bravo, ” her look said to the mother of the bride. Good for Nabila for breaking out of the mold and refusing to walk down the hall’s aisle. The stage had been decorated yes, but it was not for the bride to sit at; it was merely for ambience.
” Madam M.” Bibi hugged the older lady.”Do we not get to see the bride? ” Swabra smiled. ” Straight ahead——-“” ———she is not coming into the hall?!”
” No, ” smiled Bibi.
Madam M’s mouth fell open and for once was at a loss for words.
Then she smiled back.
This was a whole other level of class. And in spite of herself, Madam M found herself approving of it…..