Let me continue with Tamara’s story.
Tamara arrived at her house the house at 645pm. She remembers she looked at the car clock as she got out of the car and walked out onto the street.
She would live in that house for the next 8 years until she was 13 years old. It was a terraced house in Alma Road in the South London Borough of Wandsworth.
Wandsworth was the Borough her father chose to rent a small house in with his friend Samir and his family living next door.
On the way from the airport to the house, Samir and Mr Alvi chatted happily in the car at the front. Mrs Alvi and Tamara and her brother sat in the back.
That was the way and is the way in Pakistani families between friends and wives, not all the time but most of the time.
Tamara recalls Samir Uncle as she came to address him kept insisting “Bhabi aap bayt ye ahge” in Urdu meaning “Sister in law why don’t you sit at the front.”
In Urdu Speaking families friends often refer to each other as brothers or sisters so your relatives become their relatives and between male friends their wives demand a respect if your friend is even a day older than you. In Urdu Speaking families the older brother is called Bhai or Bhaijaan dearest brother. Bhai literally meaning brother and Bhabi is brothers wife literally.
Mrs Alvi declined the offer, smiled and being the practical person she always was said in Urdu “Mein to bayt ja oun ghi magar fayda kya ho gha is liya mujh ko rasta to nahin maloom aap in ko dekh aa eh ghay, ye itna bhool te hai rasta” meaning “I would sit down but what’s the point in that as I don’t know the way and you do and he my husband always forgets the way.”
Samir and Mr Alvi laughed at this heartedly and Mr Alvi winked at his wife with Mrs Alvi blushing inside but still keeping the persona and demeanour on the outside of a royal regal lady as she stepped in the car.
Tamara remembers how her mother tucked in her sari as she sat down next to her brother.
Tamara also remembers how her father kept looking at her mother in the windscreen mirror as their eyes would catch each other and Samir Uncle would catch them and say “Dost driving mein nazar rakh ho, Bhabi ye badla nahin abhee bhi ye khali khoobsoorat larkeyon par nazar dalta hai” meaning “Sister in law he hasn’t changed he is still into eyeing up beautiful girls.”
And each time Samir remarked in this way, Mrs Alvi would slap her husband from the back onto his shoulder.
Of course, Mrs Alvi knew he was talking about her and Mr Alvi knew that. Samir knew that and although Tamara felt the warmth of the humour, Tamara didn’t know that. Instead Tamara suddenly felt scared and her five year old brain took the words at face value. She didn’t say it but thought “Does that mean my father was eyeing up women in London while my mother was away?”
She could not shake this thought off all through the journey from the airport to the house and with it she could not shake off the butterflies and anxiety that she housed from that day on in her stomach.