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Behind the Kitchen Walls – Her sanctity, her listener, her keeper of secrets – By Mumtaz Moosa


I shared my joy of being invited to Taskeen’s first appointment with her gynaecologist-obstetrician with Mama Joyce.

Her first concern was for me as she asked, concerned, “Were you not worried about being there? I mean, did that not make you sad?”

Calmly, I explained to Mama Joyce that I was feeling joy and honour as, most times, people tiptoed around me regarding my infertility, and I always missed out on sharing in their happiness. This was the best gift I had ever received – being part of my niece’s or nephew’s life from the start.

But Mama Joyce was still worried and asked, “Mina, how did Mama react to being invited?”

I happily told Mama Joyce that my mother was well-behaved toward Taskeen, which was odd, but a new life and the prospect of becoming a granny may have softened the old lady.

While we were both in a celebratory mood, I decided to chat with Mama Joyce about our decision and required her buy-in. I asked her to sit with me and held her hands; I explained as gently as possible.

“Mama Joyce, you are like a second mother to me. You’ve looked after me since I was a baby, taught me to sing, even the nazams you learnt from the radio, plaited my hair and even reminded me to pray when I would sneak into my room. But, I see how you are getting on in age and need to retire, so my husband and I have decided to give you two choices with which I think you will be happy. One is for you to move into my granny flat, and I will take care of you and see to your every need, or if you want to go home and be with your grandchildren, you can retire, and I sign a contract stating that I will pay you a salary for the rest of your life, as long as we both can afford to.”

Joyce looked confused, and I held her hand, praying silently that she would not be offended, and more importantly, I hoped she would choose to live with me as I had come to love this woman who was the best parent one could’ve asked for. Selfish as it may seem, it wasn’t easy to see my life without her being part of it.

I walked down memory lane, remembering how her face lighting up when I returned home from school, the motherly hugs when she found me crying because I was bullied at school, those stern reminders to pray on time as she heard the adhaan being called or when I used the phone without permission. This woman I loved so deeply deserved better than what she had given.

But Joyce pulled her hands out of mine, turned, and walked away without a word. I felt sad and rejected, hoping I had not hurt her feelings. I just wanted her to know I loved her. Maybe she felt overwhelmed and needed some time. I let her be.


Our helpers become part of our families and lives; we must show them kindness and mercy. Remember that Allah is most merciful, and if we want His mercy, we should show mercy, especially to those who ease our burdens and help carry our loads.


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