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Drowning in nothing

Drowning in nothing

Issue 70 July 2010

Summer 2009 and my brother in law, Ahmed, invited us to spend the summer holidays with him and his family in Florida. Mum preferred the cooler summer in London as compared to the scorching heat in Orlando city, which is why she would always ask her eldest son to come down to London every year. After five years of being an award winning host, I really fancied being the guest for a change, so when the words ‘I’ll come if you insist’ rung into my ears one afternoon over a telephone conversation, I knew for sure that mum had signed us up for an American summer vacation.

It would be me, my husband, mum and my sister in law staying with Ahmed and his family of four kids all between the age bracket of 10 and 12. Ahmed’s mother in law, aunty Roshi, was also a regular houseguest. I’d see her first thing in the morning and the last when saying goodnight. She was known to be a rebel of her time – an outgoing and adventurous personality, quite opposite to mum who was the silent sort; timid and least social. For that reason, there was minimal communication between the two. In mum’s opinion, because aunty Roshi was so big in size, she should draw less attention to herself by talking less.

Mum stayed indoors most days and occasionally went out for dinner in the evenings over the three weeks. But one day the grandkids expressed to mum that they wanted to show off their skills at rafting, rock climbing and rowing to their nanni. As much as mum preferred keeping clear of the sun and auntie Roshi, she thought she’d enetertain her grandchildrens’ wish and agreed to come along. Once there, the kids pleaded “nanni, please join us in the boat.” Mum took the request lightly and smiled it off thinking her grandchildren were obviously very excited but this now became a chant and mum, somewhat embarrassed, finally said, “beta, nanni cant swim and I’ve never sat in a boat before. You play and I will watch you all.” The kids, however, wouldn’t settle. Ahmed, however, thought it would be fun for mum, so he managed to emotionally blackmail her into getting in the boat with his nine year old, Amna.

Suddenly, Amna yelled that she had to use the toilet and hopped off the boat. Mum immediately found the ultimate opportunity to get off. Aunty Roshi, recognising this, shifted herself into the boat opposite mum and said, “what are you saying, baji? I will sit with you. I love rowing! It’s great exercise, you know.” Mum was almost speechless for a moment and then screeched, “but I don’t think the boat will balance well…I think…” She hardly had the chance to finish her sentence when Ahmed gave the boat a blowing push. I stood aside watching nervously since I was the only one who realised mum’s discomfort. Ahmed walked back into the nearby restaurant. I thought I’d follow him to suggest we don’t keep her in the water too long before I heard a loud scream, followed by  a huge splash that sounded like an earthquake in water.

I turned towards the pond and there was mum’s boat floating in the water without mum!  Just beside the boat there were two hands and a squirrel-like face yo-yoing in the water screaming for help, “Allah save me! Ya-Allah help me!”

There was mum, struggling for her life – I could hardly believe my eyes. I ran upto the pond and reached out my hand as she was nowhere near the middle of the pond but mum was disappearing into the water. In my initial panic, I was convinced she was drowning; I screamed in panic for help, which scared the kids who also started screaming – soon we were all screaming in chorus. Within a couple of minutes, Ahmed, his wife, my husband and my sister-in-law ran out.  There was manic around the pond for a few moments and mum was now a little above chin level panting for breath still pleading “help me! Hai, help me!” My husband and I, as well as my sister-in-law were all waving our arms towards mum and eventually got hold of her shoulder and pulled her closer to the edge. There was an immediate silence and calm at that point, except for mum’s long sighs and gasping and then I looked at the rest of them standing around her. They were all  staring at the pond smirking and some giggling silently – confused, I looked at the same  direction and I saw auntie Roshi, with one hand comfortably folded on her hip standing in the middle of the pond, the water knee high!

‘Oh, dear,’ I thought; mum was actually drowning into nothing. We didn’t say a word to her about it but she complained the entire trip about Roshi’s weight almost killing her in the pond that day but we decided that we wouldn’t experiment with mum’s leisure preferences ever again.


Illustration GRISCHA HEYER




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