Monday, July 2, 2012

Choose who you want to please your God or your country?

    Saranda would always remember the following week. Dad was on the verge of a
nervous breakdown because of the threatening messages the College kept receiving.
One morning while entering the college she and Dardon joined the row of gleeful
faces stickybeak in through the office window because of a sudden rumour that
someone had broke in and wrote a couple of hateful messages all over the walls.
Principal repeated at every assembly they shouldn't be worried when people abused
them on the streets because God is on their side. What does God have to do with this?
Saranda kept asking herself. Dardon seemed unaware of whole situation, until one
afternoon she found him waiting in front of his school in a gloomy mood. She was
surprised, as he had boasted all day yesterday about his school excursion to Perth ZOO.

   "What's happened Dardon?"

   "Nothing," he snapped back and rushed out of the gate.

   "And what about your excursion?" She yelled as she walked slowly after him. He
knew she refused to run on the streets like a child.

    "It was boring, walking around and gazing at those animals," he answered when
she caught up with him on the bus stop.

She looked up at him in open amusement. Dardon had always enjoyed the ZOO, it
was her complaining about walking around. He stared at the boy about her age
across the street. The boy made a rude gesture, laughed and moved on. Dardon
watched him to leave: "People gazed at us, some behaved like him..."

The bus arrived and Dardon sat at the front ignoring people and kids around. Back
home he stomped straight into his room banging the door behind him. Saranda hugged
Victor who was playing with his favourite blocks. Mum was sitting next to him
sewing some ornaments on a boy's praying hat.

   Saranda touched the velvet and smiled: "I wish I could sew."

   "You need to be more patient for that, Saranda," Mum looked up at her and
smiled: "I can ask the Abuh Ahmed's wife to give you some work, you can earn
some pocket money..."

   "No, Mum I don't think so." Saranda waved her hand. Victor came to her and
handed her the couple of blocks. "BOOOM!" He shouted excitedly when she built
the tower, so he could smash it down.

Mum and Victor seemed to be carrying on as if nothing had happened, locked in their
own world, Saranda wondered, when Mum suddenly asked: "What's wrong with
Dardon, is he sick?"

   "No," Saranda shook her head resolutely: "Only upset about something."

   "Dad is upset too." Mum sighed: "Dardon's teacher complained about him, the
only subject he is switched on is sport."

   "That's not what I am upset about," Dardon entered the living room sulkily: "It's
not fair, I'm all fired up at those mean people, they are so horrible."

   "Very few things in life are fair, my boy," Mum tied the thread carefully: "But
that doesn't mean you give up being nice and obey God."

Victor laughed as in agreement. They all seem happier when Mum was in a good
mood. Saranda only wished that no one would spoil that.


Saranda walked slowly to their little white house. At least she didn't need to listen
to Dardon's endless complaints about his school. He had his soccer training today.
She looked up at the shadowless blue sky. The days grew hotter. A kookaburra chortled
on the brunch in their front yard lifting its beak to the sun. She notices the front door
was opened and someone was standing there. Coming closer she recognized the lady,
they had rented the house from. Even from the distance her face looked red and puffed
up from trying to explain her Mum something.

    "You would better leave," she turned to approaching Saranda: "Remind your Dad
that our contract expires this month." She looked her up and down and left banging
the gate with surprising force.

Saranda caught sight of Mum's face, which was pale with shock: "What's the matter
with her?"

   "I really don't know," Mum shuffled slowly inside. Saranda followed her into
kitchen. Victor smiled at her from the table eating his favourite kebab. Mum sat
opposite to him. She had pushed her half eaten plate and her face was filled with
helpless pain: "Mrs Hysa called me this afternoon, she has sold her business and
decided to live in Sydney to be closer to her son."

Saranda poured herself some tea and took a kebab from the tray. Victor watched her
with his scarred eyes. He always reacted sensitively to Mum's depressive mood.
Saranda sat next to him and gently pinched his cheek.

Suddenly Dad entered kitchen and walked straight to Mum: "What's wrong with
the landlady?"

There was a fragile silence. Finally Mum said: "I was praying when she entered, it
was really rude of her to disturb me, anyway she is such a noisy and bossy lady,
talking all the time about I have no idea what..."

   "Perhaps you should have been prepared for her arrival as I reminded you many
times today," he turned around and paced impatiently the kitchen floor: "Perhaps,
you should learn English and meet with people outside to understand them and
their customs..."

   "I never wanted to live here, it was your idea," Mum shook her head without
looking at Dad.
Victor started to cry, the food dribbling from his open mouth. He stretched his
dirty hands towards Mum, btu she didn't take notice of him. Dad looked at Saranda.
She just sat, shoulders hunched, not knowing what to do.

   "Take him to the bathroom and stay out of the kitchen for a while, I have something
important to discuss with your Mother," he pointed to her.

While Victor enjoyed the early bath blowing soap bubbles on her, she coud quite
clearly hear them having bitter quarrel, Dad's thundering voice and Mum's sobbing
mentioning God's name. Saranda put a finger on her lips motioning for Victor
to stay quiet and moved quietly out of bathroom through corridor until she reached
the closed kitchen door.

   "Wake up, my girl," suddenly Dad's voice sounded almost tender: "I came back
to Islam as my Mother always wanted but I can tell you God is not going to help you
if you don't help yourself first."

   "It's as I've always suspected, this place was never going to be my home, it's so
strange and lonely so different to our..."

    "Think of our children, what future would they have back home?" Dad asked

Saranda couldn't hear any response from Mum. Dad continued to talk:"You have to
understand, no place was ever going to be the same like our home and you just have
to come to terms with it."

Suddenly she could hear his hurried footsteps aiming to the door. She stayed where
she was afraid that if she moved he'd hear and think she'd been eavesdropping.
Dad's steps stopped suddenly in front of the door, she could hear his hand turning the
door knob: "Lisa was very kind to offer you home English tutoring, take it as a
second chance, Victor starts Kindy soon and you start to be involved in his school
life..." Dad suddenly open the door and Saranda hid behind it. He turned to Mum
once more, and letting the door swing open he stormed outside.
Soon they could hear his car moving from the garage and the house was suddenly
quiet again. Saranda quickly tiptoed back to the bathroom where Victor shivering
in cold water continued to play with his bath toys.
As soon as she had helped him to dry and change in his pyjamas, Dad was back
with Dardon shouting about his scored goal. Victor ran excitedly to meet him and
they soon rolled on the floor in their favourite tumble game. Dad surprisingly let
them to scream and shout. She could hear the sound of shuffling newspapers, he
was obviously reading like always before dinner. From the rattle of pans and pots
in kitchen she assumed that Mum had started to prepare their evening meal.
She didn't call her to help and Saranda was happy to be out of it.
She put on her headphones, what Mrs Hysa bought her on her birthday and opened
her English homework. The music from 'The Phantom of Opera' took her away from
home and she felt at peace. The words in her book looked smudgy and she had to
force herself to concentrate. Tomorrow she had a test. There was a possibility for her
to move to extention class. She dreamt about it. Dad would be proud of her like last
time when her favourite science teacher Dr Polkin told him about her movement to
Science extension.
Nothing unusual happened that evening except that she missed Dad's call for Pray, but
that was nothing unusual at all.


    By the time the school season was drawing to an end, Mum no longer looked
expectantly at the silent phone or imagined that Mrs Hysa might come in to visit her.
It took Saranda a minute or two to realize that something odd happened after Lisa's
regular home tutoring had started. She always brought piles of books and videos for
Mum to choose from and when she complained on her English difficulties, Lisa only
waved her hand: "That's piece of cake for you, do you understand that expression?"
She mimicked biting a delicious cake and her eyes gleamed under her fat cheeks at
that. Even Mum had to laugh at this picture. Next time Mum baked her favourite
sweet dish and they spent all English lessons watching Australian classics and reading
simple kids' books. Lisa became incredibly popular not only with Mum but also with
other members of their family. Ilja Iljic, the Serbian boy of friends of hers, often joined
her to Dardon's delight. Even Dad found time to listen to Lisa's Aussie slang and
laughingly asked for an explanation to many expressions, only rude ones he asked her
politely to avoid in his house. Mum started to be a big fan of Crocodile Dundee and when
his new version came up after many years called: 'Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles', Dad
found time to take them to the movies and afterwards they all drove back together home.

Next morning Mum hastily prepared their breakfast. Saranda looked up in amazement
to see Mum in her special long sleeve dress ready to leave.

   "Where are you going Mum?"

   "I am going to help in this parenting thing, you know in our Shopping Centre,"
Mum picked up Victor biting his favourite corn cob: "Oh, Victor, ou have to finish
it late, you are going to Kindy," she quickly grabbed the unfinished cob and cleaned
his mouth with a handkerchief without taking notice of his loud protests.

   "Mum, where is my ricotta sticks?" Dardon examined his morning dish: "You
know I like it with my breakfast."

   "Today you have to be without it, I am in a hurry," Mum kissedVictor on his
forehead and pointed on the cob: "I make your favourite corn cakes, when we come
back." His crying changed to sobbing.

    "Why you have to go, Mum?" Dardon asked playing with his food in a protest.

    "I have to attend twod days workshop, Lisa organized for me and she also takes
Victor to...oh, where is my bag." Mum found it and marched out the kitchen door.

    "Muum," Saranda ran after her: "I hope you will like it, is it the Parenting Information
Centre, we have been once to ask about teething?"

    "Yes, Saranda, maybe my experience with you lot can be useful, I don't know,"
Mum suddenly stopped in a doorway as uncertain if to leave: "Look after your
brother, hope he finishes his breakfast."

    "Don't worry, he will not starve,"Saranda smiled at Mum and pushed her gently
out of the door. She looked after her, as she hurried down the path, her veil gently
blowing in the wind and Victor's head bobbing on her shoulder in the rhythms with her
steps. Suddenly she realized that she hadn't seen so much energy in Mum for ages.


When Saranda opened the door this afternoon she knew straight away that Mum's
workshop was a disaster Mum looked her old self, Victor sobbed on her knees
biting his promised corn cake and Lisa tried to cheer her up munching the cake too:
    "Hm, so tasty..."She smiled at Victor, but he ignored her looking expectantly at
his Mum talking to Lisa:

    "They should not ask me that, your nuns wear veil too..."

    "Not many nuns wear them these days but it was silly of them to ask you about..."
Lisa stopped in half sentence watching Saranda entering the living room.

   "What's going on?" She asked hastily but one look at Mum's face reminded her
about her forgetfulness. Fortunatelly, Lisa was not a Muslim and didn't care about
formalities. She just waved her hand in a greeting and finished her sentence:
   "Your Mum is upset about some ladies in workshop questioning her about her ..."

   "My jihab," Mum helped her out.

   "They don't think it is appropriate while serving customers," Lisa coughed nervously.

Saranda looked at Mum, who repeated to herself: "I shouldn't go there, I had known
it would happen..."

    "I know it's hard to understand for you, btu here people can't see why Muslim
women should wear them, in fact some women find them quite offensive, you know
as an attack on the freedom and rights of women we have won so hard..." Lisa
coughed unusually uncomfortable with the topic.

   "For Mum it is a statement to faith and commitment to Islam," Saranda tried to back
up Mum: "But in the end it's just a custom."

    "The custom, which helps me to be close to my origin," Mum sighed heavily:
"My home I lost."

    "Frankly speaking," I never understood this custom either, but you are my friend
and I don't care if you wear a bucket on your head," Lisa chuckled but saddened
at once: "It's only because of this 'terrorist thing', people know...
people are just scared, that's all."

Mum nodded. she turned to Lisa and to her surprise Saranda could see her mouth
twisting in an supressed laughter: "I like your funny expressions, Lisa, my friend."

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