I made some more cream puffs during the weekend and decided to give some to our Muslim neighbours who are undoubtedly fasting just like us. I couldn’t be bothered to go up to their front door because that will mean putting on my head scarf and wearing something a little more decent – the family next door seems to be of the ‘Tabligh’ group (a group of people who dedicate their lives to spreading the word of God (I think)), the master of the house grows a long white beard and wears white all the time and his wife is covered in black except for the narrow slit she allows for her eyes.
I didn’t want them to faint at the sight of me in my jeans and short sleeves at their door step, so I just climb onto a chair leaning against the fence in our backyard and called out my ‘salam’ over the fence to their open kitchen door. The mistress of the house promptly appeared and she received my offerings with a smile and jazakallah (thanks) and I saw her for the first time without her face covered with her burkha. She invited me to come over and I said something or other (I have forgotten what) and a few seconds later, we both went back to our respective kitchens to resume cooking for our iftar (the breaking of fast), which was half an hour later. My husband surprised me with a hug as soon as I stepped into our kitchen, saying that he’s 'proud' that I am such a ‘good cook’ and that I’m such a 'kind hearted' and 'thoughtful' person to have thought of giving some food for the neighbours’ iftar. He was probably being sarcastic or just being silly, but it was a welcomed hug and compliment nonetheless.
I felt good immediately after that, as I always do after doing something nice and of course, after being so generously complimented, honestly or not!
The next day, at 6pm sharp, again 30 minutes before iftar, there was a loud knock at the front door. When my husband opened the door, he was surprised to see the sweet little girl, Safiyya, from next door, wearing her usual white hijab, standing with a tray. The neighbours were returning the favour, with a tray filled with food! It was definitely more than what I gave them – I only gave them 10 little cream puffs and in return they gave us a large container of (very nice) fried rice, a half loaf of cake, some traditional dessert (my neighbours are originally from Bangladesh) which tasted similar to our very own kuih lidah buaya only it wasn’t as crispy, some samosas and some fried bread rolls which were curiously filled with some noodles and a layer of pancake! They were all undoubtedly home made and tasted wonderful!
The weekend brought a lot of happiness for me because somehow, that tray of food made me feel like we somehow belonged in this community and have some sort of a connection with the people around us.
Somehow, the incident made me feel that I am home.