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The Chaperone

The Chaperone

Issue 66 March 2010

My sister in law, Salma, wasn’t much younger than me when I got married. I always treated her like a younger sister and we did most things together. 

A couple of years into my marriage, my mother in law asked me to persuade Salma to meet some potential suitors she had in mind. Salma hated the idea of “unknown, random people” coming into the house but my mother in law was strictly opposed to the idea of youngsters meeting up outside, without supervision. After countless protests from Salma, I suggested that I chaperone the meeting. That way, both Salma and the guy could get to know each other but I would be there to stabilize my mother in law’s blood pressure. 

At 28, Khalid had graduated with a business degree, lived alone and managed his own business. My mother in law was convinced he was the perfect catch. 

Salma arranged to meet him in a small garden cafe not far from our house. For the duration of our drive there, she channelled the persona of Jason Bourne; decoding the ‘signals’ she was going to use to communicate with me during the meeting. “Okay bhabi – so if I scratch my cheek with all four fingers like this, that means he looks like an ogre and I’m terrified, so you should pretend you’re having an asthma attack or something and get me out of there. Are you listening? This is important!”

“Yes, yes, Salma - I’ve got it. Don’t worry. What if you actually like the guy? You better come up with some code signs for that, too!” I teased.

Arriving at the cafe, I spotted that Khalid was seated outside, having taken the liberty to order a pot of tea. How considerate, I thought. But the look on Salma’s face suggested she wasn’t thinking the same. 

“Tell me that’s not him”, Salma whispered as we walked through the cafe.

“Okay, so he’s a little healthier than his picture,” I whispered. “But Mum did say it was taken a few months ago.”

“A few months?! Try high school, bhabi! Why is he wearing a shirt five sizes too small; he looks like the Incredible Hulk before the shirt rips off...”

“Shhh!” I nudged Salma hard as we approached the table. “Salam Khalid. I’m Amena – Salma’s bhabi.” 

“Walaikumsalam, bhabi.” I could practically feel Salma’s eyes burning a hole in my back; I imagined her saying, “Who is HE to call you bhabi? He doesn’t even know you!”

After the introductions were over with and the first few awkward silences had passed, Salma morphed back into her friendly self despite noticing that Khalid was quite aloof and didn’t appear at all interested in being there. “I just got back from holiday with my friends in Turkey – its lovely there. Have you ever been?” she quizzed, hoping to instigate a conversation.


“Oh. Well, you should go if you ever get the chance - its beautiful.” 

“I don’t like people much – so, I don’t keep many friends,” he mumbled. I felt Salma’s elbow push slowly but deeply into mine. 

“Oh. Why?”

“I had a bad experience once – I don’t really want to talk about it.” 

I took in a sharp intake of breath, followed by a nervous laugh, convinced that he was joking. But he sat there – stone-faced, completely oblivious to the fact that he was beginning to sound like a perturbed serial killer. 

Just then, Salma let out a yelp. A small cat had brushed past her leg. Laughing at her girlish scream, I explained to Khalid that Salma didn’t like cats. 

“I don’t ‘not like them’, bhabi. They just make me uncomfortable – I can never tell what they’re thinking.” I giggled at her obvious discomfort over something as harmless as a cat. 

“How about you Khalid, do you like cats?” I asked. 


“Oh, why is that then? Do you just find them unpredictable like Salma?”

“No. I had a bad experience with a cat once,” he answered solemnly. 

“What happened?” she enquired. After a pause, he answered rather anxiously, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

The evening passed painfully slow. When it was finally over, Salma didn’t even wait until we walked out of the cafe door before she started to rant and rave. “I mean, he doesn’t want to talk about his bad experience with the cat. What did it do; mug him in a dark alley? The guy is insane!” 

We stopped off for some ice cream on the way home – as a treat for the torture we had endured. When we finally arrived home, we were greeted with my mother in law’s beaming smile. “Khalid’s mother just called. She said Khalid has decided he wants to marry Salma. He says they’re perfect for one another.”

Having just shoved the last few spoonfuls of ice cream greedily in our mouths, we turned and looked at each other -completely bemused-  and burst out laughing... spraying the ice cream all over the front entrance.  λ

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12 Oct 10, 12:34

good one :D

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29 Mar 10, 19:18

this was hilarious

look forward to more

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