We went to Fatema's daughter's formal proposal today; a chance to give MadCat a glimpse into the Muslim world about which he is so interested and yet so uninformed. Most people who don't have Muslim friends would probably think of women in all-encompassing burqas (those are head-scarves, by the way; the long black dress is an abayah, says Fats), niqabs (face-veils), quiet and mouse-like, in the corner. Not these women! Vibrant, loud, pushy, bossy, friendly, charming, welcoming, beautiful ... so very beautiful.
Yes, the proposing family is much more conservative than Fatema's, and MadCat, Das Fotografer and I garnered quite a few curious looks, but they were still incredibly polite and charming.
Poor MadCat is still battling the dreaded lurgy, and was rather zoned out on his painkillers. Still, he managed to hold conversations, during the times that he was around other people and not ensconced on the couch watching Discovery channel (loner that he is). The groups naturally divided into male-female, as usually happens at gatherings of this size (more than 70 people!), although there was a fair amount of co-mingling, especially amongst the younger folk who eventually gravitated toward the cottage and the pool table to be found inside.
The women, while many were clad head-to-toe, were very far from being boring. In fact, most of them - particularly the young ones - while not showing flesh, were dressed rather provocatively! I suppose it's quite a juxtaposition to look at a woman whose hair is covered by a scarf wound around her head and neck, and consider her sexy - but the skin-tight leggings and the form-fitting tunics may make you change your mind. And the sparkles! Lord, did they shine and sparkle and dazzle - even the conservative crowd. The colours, the sequins, and even the black abayahs and headscarves shone brilliantly in the sun.
The food, naturally, was top-notch and plentiful. The curious stares turned into nods of approval when MadCat and I politely declined cutlery and ate with our right hands like everyone else; it's no big deal to us, we've done so before with Bin Journo and hey, we eat chips, ribs, burgers with our hands, so what's rice and meat? Akni, Fatema said it was called - rice and lamb and potatoes, like biryani, but cooked in a different fashion and with a different flavour. So delicious!
After lunch, we sat in the sun for a while until Faried - the man of the house - called over his neighbour's son, Mirash (a Hindu, not a Muslim - his mother is truly stunning and wore the most beautiful cream and burgundy sari). Apparently Mirash is very interested in Hindu forms of astrology, numerology, and the like - although he can't remember the name encompassing all these studies. Such a lovely, soft-spoken, well-mannered young man, what a pleasure it was to speak to him.
It was my turn first and according to the reading of my birth date, well ... I'm lazy. No, seriously. Not that that's the word he used, he was very diplomatic and said I don't like to work. That means lazy! And my base is spirituality - seems I'm deeply spiritual and always look back to that when I'm in a bind. And I must have been a pretty good person in my former lives because I have an abundance of good karma, which seems to see me through even the toughest times! On the negative side, I tend to (subconsciously) rely on that karma, which, you know, not such a great attitude - I should be making *more* good karma! However, that spirituality of which I speak is not the "normal" kind - I believe deeply and strongly, but not what most people believe. Something I have always known, but never put into words. Very few people follow my belief system and it's quite rare - not mainstream in any sense of the word.
As far as my name goes, people who know me as "Sue-Ann" see me as ... well ... lazy! Okay, as someone who receives good fortune through no effort of her own, that's the way he put it. If they only knew, I suppose. These are the people who tend to use me, because they know that, even though I take forever to get things done, I will get things done eventually and I am generous. (Oh, the positive side of being perceived as lazy is that actually, I am merely taking my own sweet time to analyse and work through things before I finally finish off.)
Then there are the people who know me as Suki, and these people know they can rely on me and, for some reason, think I am good with money (possibly a consequence of me spending on them frequently). They know that they can always turn to me and I will be able to help them, either through guidance or through subconsciously imparting some of my karma.
Then there was MadCat, whose name - Michael - indicates that those calling him by his full name perceive him as a "dark" person. Now what that means wasn't fully explained, but afterward, we analysed it and figured it must mean various things, including his depressive states, the fact that he is much deeper than the initial impressions people may have of him, the whole "hidden depths" scenario, and - as Mirash said - that there is more to him than meets the eye. He likes to help people, too, but not in my fashion - by giving them handouts - but by helping them to help themselves. Unfortunately, he also helps people almost to the point of disadvantaging himself. He is also able to perceive things that other people cannot, things for which there are no words, and he is aware both of the Other World, and its influence over him. MadCat is like a bottomless pit of spiritual energy, one of the tools with which he can help people, a way of spiritually nudging them onto the right path.
Those who know him as Mike are those who "want" to use his energy - the ones who subconsciously know that it's there and who need it themselves. Finally, his birthdate - even though he's a Capricorn - shows that although money is important to him, it's not the actual money itself that means anything, but what he can do with it, i.e. spending on other people whom he considers worthy. So his big positive is his spiritual energy, his ability to make other people feel good and to change their lives for the better simply through a phrase that may seem unimportant at the time - and that is usually forgotten both by himself and the person in question, afterward. His view of life is a gigantic sea of gray, rather than black or white; and he is always able to see the other person's point of view. This was one part I found rather odd, as often he makes a rash statement and I come in and temper his sword, giving the existing possibilities that the other person may be experiencing; so I feel I have more of an edge in that regard. On the other hand, we are both empathetic toward the majority of people.
It was quite illuminating and a lot less boring than what I've written above; I wish I could relay this better, but my writing ability is not up to scratch in this regard. Still, we both have deeply spiritual aspects, although they are out of the norm, and we both believe that we are here for a purpose. What did MadCat say on the drive home? "Do you ever feel that there's something you should be able to do but can't quite reach, like telekinetic ability?" Yes, he should be telekinetic - and yes, I should be psychic. But right now, we aren't. Maybe in a future life, we will unlock those goals.
Getting back to the visit itself, it was quite illuminating for MadCat and we shall be returning, if only for him to spend time talking to Fatema about the various bits of Islamic scripture and prayers she has over virtually all doors in the house. She's far from orthodox, is my little "witch" (as she calls me); but she's deeply faithful and it shines through. In fact, she's not the only Muslim I've met who's read both the Bible and the Torah as well as the Qur'an. We'll be spending more time chatting to her (and being insulted, no doubt!).
All in all, a fantastic day. A pity that damn bronchitis exists, otherwise we would probably still be there, chatting!