"People should really not just make any kind of cakes and then send it around. They should take pride in what is sent around. I mean this woman sent me a tray with stuff that is supposed to be donuts. Donuts?!!! They looked like tennis balls."
"Why they send you cake ma? It is not Ramadan yet. Is it?"
"Ridwan stop being foolish and talking nonsense in my ear. You know it is not. And these people around here better not think I am going to be baking all day. This Ramadan I am not doing this send a plate to everyone and then ignore them the rest of the year."
"You said so last year too momz. And the year before it. But you did anyway. Why? Who started this thing of sending plates of diabetes inducing treats?"
"It is our tradition. We Muslim."
"Is it in the Qur'an? I mean is there a chapter on baking really nice stuff and sending it to your neighbors to see whether they can top it?"
"I'm gonna ignore that but you know better. These Malays around here don't know how to bake. I'm just saying that they should take pride. They should learn how to bake before just sending flo cakes around."
"Maybe they should just buy baked goods from the white bakeries and make a dua and send it all halal like. Then it would not embarrass all those men and women who bake all day to send stuff around."
"Ridwan. Men don't bake. When have you seen a Muslim man in the kitchen?"
"Ummm this morning for breakfast Fatima. And then again tonight for dinner."
"Where did you go? Who did you see?"
"Me momz. I saw me. I had eggs this morning with sugar-free marmalade toast and brewed coffee. I made it all myself before work. Tonight I had some vegetarian stuff you would not like. And yesterday I did two loads of laundry. I ironed clothes for work. Packed my socks ... OK threw my socks into a corner in my cupboard and before going to bed I washed the kitchen floor 'cause it needed it."
"You different. I trained you right. Most of the rest, if not all, can't boil water but will tell you how they like this and that and never pick up a plate or wash anything."
"This is a Muslim man thing then momz? I mean what about the other men? White men included?"
"Ridwan white people worry you too much. No. I mean all South African men. They are lazy and spoiled. They expect women to cook and clean and be there when they need anything else."
"But the toppie ... "
"Your father was a different man. Not like other Indian men. That's why I married him. None of this women's work and men's work nonsense. He changed nappies and drove you to school. Do you remember when you were in Standard Four I taught you how to knit plain and pearl? Remember? And how to sew too. You still have that recipe book I wrote for you?"
"I can still knit Fatima. But no need for it. I just buy sweaters and stuff now. And sometimes I pick up food at the Chinese place on my way home so I don't need to cook."
"Is it halal? Chinese places are not halal. You are just pulling my leg again."
"I don't worry about halal. It is not an issue for me."
"Ridwan do I need to remind you we are Muslims. I know your father's family thinks that only Indians are real Muslims and these Arabs down the street look down their noses at us but we are Muslims and don't you forget that."
"Ummmm it is not an issue for me 'cause I eat vegetarian when I'm away from you. I make sure that whatever I order is strictly vegetarian. Well I eat eggs but I need protein 'cause I lift weights."
"How are you going to keep that vegetarian thing going when you come home at the end of the month? I don't like vegetarian and you can't possibly eat dhal and rice every night."
"We will have to compromise. I will cook some nights. And then you can experience what I eat. Be adventurous. Try something new. Break out Fatima. I can make you my vegetarian tacos and low GI corn tortillas."
"I'm too old to be adventurous. I'm not Mexican. I like what I know and you grew up eating here and even if your are an old man you are still my child. So I will cook. And you will eat."
"Maybe I should get my own place. Up the street or close to the gym. Then you can come visit and it will be like I actually grew up and left home and have a life of my own."
"Yes Ridwan. And maybe you will get married too. That will never happen. Your room has all your things and you make up your own bed so why would you want to be anywhere else."
"You heard me."
"But what if I wanted to bring a friend over? You know. And she wanted to stay the night? You know? I'm grown and all and ummmm .... "
"We have guest rooms and she can stay there as long as she wants."
"This is a Muslim house. This is not America. I don't care if you earn the money or you have a long grey beard and think you are all grown."
"But how do you know I don't have strippers over my place here in Pretoria all the time. And drink and smoke and eat pork? You can't think I'm a virgin at 47, can you?"
"I don't think that is funny in the least. Your friends may think that is funny. But not me. I'm a lady."
"So then it will be perfect baked goods and celibacy at number 11. Just like when I was 15. But you know I snuck girls in anyway?"
"I know that is why we sent you away to America where you could do just what you want to over there. But you grown now and should be responsible. I'm not putting up with your nonsense anymore."
"You coming home to write. So write. And stop this clowning around. You know when you were a child you used sit in front of the mirror and pull faces until you cried. I told your father we were in for a lot of trouble with you and I was right."
"I still pull faces."
"And one day it is gonna stay like that and all these little girls that still chase you around will stop calling you."
"Little girls? Chasing me? What are you talking about Fatima? I'm 47. Single. I'm excited to see my dogs till I have to pick up their stuff and cut the grass then I'm gonna slit my wrists. Which little girls are you on about?"
"You think I don't know. I hear you on your cell. Your father told you that if you got any of the girls pregnant in our street he would disown you. I'm warning you."
"Fatima get a grip. Those girls are not little anymore. They menopausal heffaz. Grown and gone. I'm 47 ma. I don't roll like that. And I have game momz?"
"What game? Did you see Nadal lost? It was sad to see. But he will be back. He is so nice and kind even when he loses."
"Well one of those girlies from your past is back with her parents and almost divorced now. I still don't like her. She thinks she is who. The cat's whiskers. And she is fat now."
"Fatima you need to check yourself. But still. If I remember right she could bake really well. Remember? She sent delicious fridge cakes over to make you like her. Maybe she could come over and help with Ramadan goodies?"
"Please I don't need help. I will do just fine like every year since your grandmother died. And that Missy is Christian. She won't know our traditions. She can stay where she is. Thank you."
"I could make nikah and make her Muslim ... "
"You see and you wonder why no-one takes you serious. If you ever going to meet anyone who will take you serious you going to have to stop playing the clown so much. The Hadji threw you out of the madressa because you clowned too much and he said you distracted the other children."
"I had to teach you your kalima. Do you remember your kalima?"
"Ridwan you need to stop acting so foolish. I'm going now. My show is almost on. Did you eat tonight? Oh yes you said so. Salaam boetie. I will call you tomorrow. And put more blankets on it is cold."
"OK mom. Maybe I should just ... I don't think we should talk for the rest of the week. You scaring me with all these rules from 1972."
"I'm not listening to you. Grow up."
"Grow up into what ma? A fifteen year old boy peeping naked women in old Scope magazines."
"I'm tired. Salaams Ridwan."
Onward! to adolescence ...