A Smile of Approval | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 14, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 14, 2019

A Smile of Approval

Over the years, Shehreen often found herself looking towards her Nani when in confusion or distress. With Shehreen's Dad's untimely demise and her Mom's demanding work schedule, much of Shehreen's childhood passed in the company of her Nani. She grew up relying on her Nani's opinion on things as menial as outfits to things as important as her career choices. All she had to do was to lay out the options, one at a time and wait for a particular smile to make its way to corner of her lips and ultimately cause her tired eyes to sparkle. Shehreen called this the smile of Nani's approval.

***

“You sure you don't just want to cancel?” Shehreen quickly squeezed in the question in one of the brief intervals between Fahim's sneezes triggered by the dust flying into the car as the windows were rolled down. Fahim looked at her with an assured look, only to break eye contact with yet another sneeze, making Shehreen giggle. “We've been together for 5 years, this is overdue and you know how much I've been looking forward to meeting Nani. We're practically there anyways, so,” his voice trailed off. 'Looking forward' was not exactly the way to describe his true feelings for the day though. He had been crossing out days from his calendar since the past two weeks when Shehreen had just told Fahim that Nani wanted to meet him. Anxiety would be a better word than anticipation to describe his feelings following the days to this meeting. As they pulled up to the parking lot of Nani's place she felt her chest sink, she wasn't sure how her grandmother's opinionated temperament and her boyfriend's awkward jokes would find a healthy middle ground.

The wait for Shehreen's grandma to open the door after the first ring seemed like a waiting game. Shehreen looked at Fahim, and noticed that the look on his face closely resembled the one she'd seen walking up to him on their first date. She looked at him, blinked at him with reassurance and mouthed the word smile. As Nani opened the door, Shehreen leapt forward and hugged her, while Fahim stood outside the door, waiting patiently to greet Nani and enter the house. Shehreen and Nani were about to break out of their squeals of excitement, and Fahim had suddenly forgotten the greeting he had been practicing in front of the mirror for the past week and realised that the afternoon was basically an accident waiting to happen. Nani then turned to Fahim and watched him fumble while saying how nice it was to finally meet her. Shehreen kept looking at Nani to see if Fahim's boyish good looks or if his carefully picked out outfit had impressed her yet, but so far there was nothing.

The food had already been served at the table and Nani had asked them to directly sit for lunch. Little did Fahim know this was an indirect hit at the fact that they had been almost an hour late. Shehreen held her ears as a gesture of apology over Fahim's shoulder to which Nani smiled and nodded in acceptance. Shehreen knew she had to do something, so she struck up a conversation about finishing university. “So I've been looking into a few firms I think I'd be interested in, I don't want to elongate my vacation any further or I might just convince myself to make it permanent,” said Shehreen jokingly. “You know that isn't such a bad idea. I mean of course it would mean that Fahim would have to agree to marry you though, and then you could become a house wife like me!” Nani said with a childish grin. Fahim froze at the comment, he thought Shehreen had already had this conversation with Nani, but it seemed as if Nani was looking for a different version of the story. “Don't worry, I know you both just want to be completely stable and financially secure before getting married. What I don't understand is why you can't just do it after? In our time we would get married and figure it out as we went, I guess times have changed,” said Nani.

Shehreen shot Nani a look and Fahim looked down while running his hand through his sleek hair. Nani went on asking him questions about his home district, his family and his interests. Fahim spent a lot of time explaining his family's background hoping to impress her but the polite smile did not budge. Shehreen knew what this meant, Nani had started to form an opinion of Fahim already, and as more time passes by, it would become more and more difficult to salvage Fahim's standing in front of her. Shehreen, consumed by the nervousness, managed to knock over the bowl of daal. Fahim and Nani, both amused by Shehreen's annoyance over what had just happened broke into a fit of laughter, annoying Shehreen further. Fahim then got up to get tissues to help clean out the mess she had created while Nani kept taunting Shehreen about the lack of interest she had in household chores to which Fahim paid no heed and thus continued helping Nani clean out the mess. For the first time in the afternoon, Fahim seemed to be at ease.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon, Nani had been educated on several topics regarding Fahim's interests and Fahim had been enlightened with Nani's special recipes when she learned that he took a special interest in cooking. When desserts were served and handed to Fahim to pass on, he closely examined both pieces of cake and handed the bigger piece to Shehreen like he always did. Nani had observed the whole thing from a distance and Shehreen finally caught a glimpse of a twitch at the corner of her lips.

 

Syeda Afrin Tarannum would choose 'The Script' over 'G-Eazy' any day. Continue ignoring her taste in music on afrintara@gmail.com

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