I hate public speaking.
Ever since high school when our formidable English teacher mocked my nervous rocking posture after a speech I had delivered , I vowed never to speak on a public platform again. I was mortified to say the least given especially that my secret heart-throb was part of the senior group that Ms Cruella chose to castigate me in front of, ridiculing me with her mimic of my delivery in an exaggerated fashion of swaying her hips in the most absurd manner…How I wished the earth could’ve swallowed me up that day !
In any event the fate of this mythical dalliance was sealed a few days later when , whilst walking past said beau, I slipped right in front of him, landing on my derrière …and was met with a very unchivalrous response from him in the form of a falsetto rendition of Paul Simon’s “Slip Sliding Away” – thus effectively relegating my infatuation for him to the annals of unrequited delusional fancies. I thankfully never gave him a second glance – truth be told more out of embarrassment at my compromised “elegant’ gait than chagrin at his lack of gallantry, unfortunately !
The course of romance for me henceforth was littered with the cadences of arses and theses, settling eventually to a culminating coda of a tumultuous marriage…an institution that still confounds me after almost 20 years of hard labour, mercifully interspersed with halcyon days which served to temper many a stormy night. So I was understandably taken aback when asked to deliver a speech at my nieces wedding …Me, the merry matrimonial manqué who loathed public speaking …and now to proselytize on the virtues of marriage??? My apprehension was somewhat abated by the fact that it was after all my late brother, Allie’s daughter’s wedding , and so indeed an honour that I was asked to represent our family. More especially as I was my brother’s youngest sister, the deviant one at that too 🙂 , I thought best I rise to the occasion and face my demons. I guess it didn’t hurt too that I didn’t have to stand and deliver the speech …thus minimising the likelihood of summonsing memories of that ill fated day in high school of my oratorial bop!
And of course when words are spoken from the heart , the anxiety fades to make way for genuine warm thoughts …
Here’s a transcript of the speech , that thankfully was well received (with the video recorded by my 8 year old grand niece.Note to self- best thing to have doting little people nearby – they instantaneously calm the harsh, critic inside 😉 )
“I was very touched that Raeesah asked me to share a few words as a representative of her dads family as I know my brother would have been beaming today, so very proud , to see his little ‘princess’ complete half her faith and take on this commitment to honour both herself and her spouse in nurturing love and mercy on what is probably the most tumultuous journey they will take together . And if any of you really knew Allie , fondly knowns as Butchie boy or Butch, you would know how he evolved; learning the art of love and mercy through the many ups and downs of life – as he touched the lives of so many with his endearing ways …and I’m sure he would have had so many gems of insight to offer Raeesah tonight – so Im going to try to evoke a little bit of his spirit in the hope that wherever he is , he’s happily looking down and sending you both his blessings, Raeesah and Shaheer
Allie, as many of you will remember was a warm, charismatic, good-looking guy with an infectious laugh and brilliant smile, lekker stout but with a ‘heart of gold’ (as someone commented on a post about him on a Facebook awhile back ) Never one to hold grudges, he always sought to create harmony and good cheer …which I see reflected in Raeesah’s affable disposition. It is precisely her warmth and charm and humility that makes her so special… and traits that I hope she’ll sustain in her space with her spouse and which she in turn, will be cherished and respected for.
And whilst Allie could dress to the nines – Shaheer and Raeesah , I’m sorry to say I reckon you guys,the couple on the cat-walk, would have had some tough competition on Instagram if he’d been around, hey – Im not sure if you remember Raeesah but your dad would shop you the most beautiful frocks when you were little, turning you into a virtual princess! Anyway whilst he liked the good things , he had the same keen sense of style to recognise true wealth of spirit in a man with a torn shirt and holes in his shoes. Talking about shoes, my brother had this annoying habit of drying his just washed and scrubbed, very clean ,white Jack Purcells in the warm drawer of the oven!! I can still remember the shrieks of annoyance when we found the takkies warming in the oven drawer…and he would just stand there cackling, dismissing our complaints with the claim that the drawer wasn’t really used anyway. So Shaheer you’ll cut Raeesah some slack if you don’t find the Sunday roast in the oven and instead find her All Stars there (unless you’re a real man and cooked it yourself of course!) I’m not sure how far this genetic thing goes so I think you ‘d best do the roasting for now.
A jive bunny and crooner of note , Butch was largely responsible for my romance with Blood , Sweat and Tears, the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Bad Co, Breakfast In America – all the pop ballads he’d sing in the car when he dropped me off at school. I’m not sure about Raeesah’s musical ear but I caught a glimpse of her mom and her doing a little Bollywood jig at her Mehndhi night …she’s got the moves alright Shaheer, a little bit stiff so I’m hoping you can belt out some good tunes there to really loosen her up!
Her dad though also read the Quran beautifully- Ramadaan was special with his comforting recitals filling the evening hours , with his reading rendered even more melodic given his understanding of the Arabic verses…..Balance was key to his amiable disposition – a vibrant zest for life harnessed with a strong sense of spirituality. Allie had pursued an Aalim course in India many moons ago. He put a lot by scholastic endeavours especially if it meant making a meaningful contribution to humanity’, as he once told me.
And so he would have been especially proud to know that just a few days ago he’s daughter had graduated with her pharmacy degree , with just few % short of a cum laude pass. Well done Raeesah!! May your mobile pharmacy on wheels now become a legit operation …She’s been our go-to-pharmacist, always ready on the fly with a suggestion for an ailment . We wish you the best in your post-grad studies and pray that you exploit that good head of yours in meaningful endeavours …like a miracle age defying cream or something J
Seriously you have achieved so much, despite the significant losses in your life … and have blossomed from a cutie pie to a beautiful, smart , hard-working and most importantly humble yet strong and forthright young woman.
And thank you Shaheedah (and the Solomon family) …from all us …. Raeesah’s achievements; her strength of character and generous spirit, are in large part, due to your efforts Shaheedah , your tireless dedication and sacrifices and your giving nature. I’m so certain Allie would say, Shot Cooks! You’ve done well with my princess.
So Raeesah, your father and brother who left us too early , and then Papa – the Rahiman men that were all so proud of you, and that you brought so much joy to, make way now for another significant figure who we hope will always have your back- like they would. And who you will bring joy to, too.
Shaheer , on behalf of the Rahiman’s we welcome you to this family (you know what you’re getting into on both sides, so no excuses and no sympathies J!)
My wish for you both is that you be the joy and comfort to each others eyes….
That you both grow spiritually in this union, governed foremost by a love for the Almighty, from which all that is goodly and tranquil must then flow.
That you honour , love and respect each other and never give up falling in love with each other – because without a doubt you will change-both of you – the trick is being tenacious in finding that spark and never closing that space to talk….and to really listen.
And remember that whilst you have each other as your best friends, know that you always have the support of your family and friends. Don’t forget us, hey!
Mabrook ! May the Almighty bless your marriage with tons of happiness! Here’s to years of celebrations Insha-Allah!!”