My welcome speech for the event
Assalamualaykum .. ahlan wa sahlan
On behalf of the Mehtar and Patel families I would like to take this opportunity in welcoming one and all to grace the commemoration of our nani ma, Zuleikha Paruk Patel’s 80th birthday celebrations. Indeed, as the eldest and only grand-daughter it gives me an immense pleasure in playing the role of the master of ceremonies for this afternoons family event.
As is customary and in line with tradition, we will commence today’s short program with the recitation of the holy Quraan that will be rendered by Hafez Haroon Ismail. This will then be followed by a poem by my niece Juwairiyya Mehtar in honour of her great grandmother. We then have a small eulogy about my Nani ma’s life, where it all began... and of course no program is complete without a dua.
We are gathered here to celebrate 80 birthdays and 60 years of mothering, 34 years of grandmothering, and 7 years of great-grandmothering.
Each of us has entered my grandmother’s book of life in a different chapter—some long ago, some more recently—but we are, nevertheless, all part of a story that began in a small town called Newcastle. Nanima was born on the 25th of September 1935. She is the eldest daughter of Ismail Paruk and Aisha Variawa. The story goes that when Naimas mother was 10 years old she came from India on a ship to South Africa as her father was residing in Lichtenburg. Naima’s fathers family was distantly related to the Variawa family and so he was also on the ship on his way to South Africa at the tender age of 15 years old. Nanima’s grandfather at first made his way to Reunion when he left India. After residing in Reunion for a while he realised that an island life was not for him so he continued to South Africa settling in Durban. Once again he did not adjust to a Durban lifestyle and he eventually landed up in Newcastle. Whilst chatting to Nanima on the phone a few days ago, I asked her how did she meet her knight in shining armour, my late Nana Ismail Bhai Patel.. known to some as uncle IC or to others as dash mota.. Whilst laughing on the phone she mentioned to me that my nana was looking to settle down and hence, the late marhoom Jeeva mota brought my nana to Newcastle for a samoosa express. Whilst viewing a few potential suitors, he eventually settled for nanima after she won the award for making the tastiest samoosas.....lolol..... well actually nana wished to marry nanimas younger sister but nanimas father said that according to the rivaaj the eldest daughter must get married first. So after both family’s reached a concensus in a typical Indian movie type situation, nanima agreed to marry nana. The rest of course is history.
Growing up I have fond memories that I shared with Nanina.,playing at the flat in Wynberg whilst enjoying a hot sugar roti...Ma staying up late with me to watch Saregama during my university years.Or ma trying to make baked potatoes when she received unexpected visitors one afternoon for lunch. In the rush she pressed the wrong button on the microwave with the end result being an empty potatoe shell. It was as though the whole potato evaporated... When I opened the microwave to take out the potatoes I burst out laughing although ma was irritated and not amused at all as she had a few hungry stomachs to feed. We then landed up frying chips.
"Of course these are few incidents that I recall and more memories will be made insha Allah, the end is not yet written, so we will refrain from speculation, but suffice it to say that we will be eagerly awaiting the sequel at her 90th birthday celebration insha Allah. But as we reflect today upon the time we have been given with our grandmother, mother , confidant and friend, however long or short, we are reminded that our connections with one another constitute our greatest blessing and though we choose to celebrate the length of our lives, it is their essence that is more worthy of recognition. And so it is true here.To that end, let us celebrate to times shared, advice given and sought, wisdom imparted, stories remembered and, of course, the joy of being in the company of a living legend. Happy Birthday Nanima, and may there be many more chapters to come."