I’ll eventually grow into it

It happened just after my eyes fell on the notice stuck to one of the walls at Khan’s Butchery.

“Ready fried onions. Perfect for vagaars and biryanis. Don’t be fooled by imitations”.

Where my mind was fixed on the pastrami and chump chops, it was now ambushed by intrigue. Fake fried onions? What a thing! Perhaps the onions were really reconstituted soya, that Madonna of the plant world. Repeatedly re-invented, they have the power to become anything. I mean, look at Robert Mugabe.

Or maybe, they were made out of Soylent Green?

Seriously, how can you even try to monopolise the ready-fried onion market? You might as well patent rotis and snatch the aloo ghosht out the mouths of some entrepreneurally-spirited housewife’s brats.

Such were the brainworks that I forget my copy of the Al-Huda magazine at the cashier. It’s not a regular read, but a new editorial team promised to make it a bit more of a thinky than others in its category.

I was almost at my car when I heard the shout.

“Aunty, you forgot this!”

My sheepish thank you was Saaleha-speak for, “Aunty? Aveh!* Who’s your uncle? I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of his acquaintance.”

But unfortunately, much was lost in the translation.

I got into the car and made sure my radio was turned up loud.

” ‘Tsek Aunty. Which Aunty you know listens to the Best of MTV Unplugged?!”

It was futile, he was gone.

I’m only 25 dammit! And he looked older than me.

Granted, I was in Aunty-gear; scarf, skirt and sensible flats. Should’ve gone with the red mary-janes and one of my Springleap t-shirts.

Agh, yes, I do know he was just being respectful. I’m trying to fan up some vanity here.

It gets harder as we age you know.

*guji for ‘and now what’; used as an ejaculation of surprise (no, not the kind you need to go to the men’s clinic to sort out)

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I am a writer and photographer (look up my work on www.shootcake.com) based in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have an MA in Creative Writing from the university currently known as Rhodes. My writing accolades include winning the 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize and the 2020 Ingrid Jonker Poetry Prize for my debut collection, Zikr.

32 thoughts on “I’ll eventually grow into it”

  1. @ Aunty Saaleha – Sprightly – I like the word.. thanx to define: in google i know the meaning.. very nice word..
    The minute you enter Khan’s butcher then you automatically inaugurated into becoming a chachi?.. all young brides first stop on the first weekend of marriage.. Khan’s butcher where life is made sooo easy..
    So I also went to Khan’s this weekend.. never go to Khan’s unless it is half an hour before Jumah on a friday.. while on a Saturday it is worse than a houtbay fish market especially end of the month on a friday just before they gonna close for Jumah it is like a Kabrastaan there.. dead quite.. you can get things done sharp sharp.. (although willy forgot to give me all my sandwich stuff as my intention was to make Madala lunch for the week :()

    fake onions.. are they faking those as well these days.. 🙂

    Aunty.. i always have the opposite reaction.. whenever someone finds out that I am Nanima.. they say eish we were looking out for a dohi ma with a stick or something.. can’t seem to have that problem ok maybe once and that was in front of an audience.. the abaya’s for obvious reasons are not very flattering to us and maybe that is the reason for it in the first place.. many of friends seem to think I am wiser then my years.. but that can be blamed to my midlife crisis at 23.. 🙂 see that is how you become a Nanima..

    As the website says anyone can be a Nanima or Madala – age is just a number ne’

    I got a call once from someone selling freshly made onions in Lenasia..
    the housewife home industry market is really cut throat.. I have witnessed a few cloak and dagger things especially in the Choria i.e syrup/dry lemons, mangoes, bor etc.(as bichoo says why you eating all that junk, the homeopath agrees with bichoo- left the sugary substance now have to give up the sour stuff as well).
    People scared to say who the suppliers are.. They are scared someone is going to steal businesses.. you’d think they were pushing hard core stuff or something.. like TOP secret stuff..

    in the home industry.. sharing a recipe is like sharing Colonel Sarnders from KFC’s secret recipe or maybe the mysterious coke recipe..

    Your website looking great.. about time you had your own namesake Saaleha.com
    why is Nanima not on Foodblog?

  2. I didn’t mean to up the comment count on this post. WordPress has this function where you can respond to comments from inside the backend, but I don’t think I have threaded comments enabled, so they don’t show up underneath each reply.
    Erm yeah, that made sense in my head.

  3. Oooo saals,let me tell u-jst after i gave birth i answered the door of my mums flat in a burkah,now bare in mind im suffering from PND got about 15kgs of baby weight2lose and standing at the door r these 2young hot trendy things and they say “aunty,we looking for (whoever)” i wanted to DIE.anyways 1,5 years later my 17yr old cousin tells his mum i look way too young to hav a baby-BLESS HIM

    1. @MJ Why I oughtta… (insert apt french here)
      I’m not so sure about the avatars. I think it’s linked to your email address somehow, or your profile on wordpress.com
      Mine’s is an old photo – from back in my non-aunty days.

  4. Those crafty Khans and their quirky marketing campaigns :P.

    This is shades of Koo Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce – I dig. Wear That widget with pride Mamma.

  5. lmao…yeah it gets worse, believe me…especially when they’re in cars and Mayfair’s traffic looks like a funeral on steroids and some dude that is 2 years younger than you wants to turn but doesn’t realise that you have right of way and then he exclaims quite loudly through the window of his car “Aunty, you got no brains?”

    Talk about a moral oxymoron. lol

  6. Here I thought I was the only one getting called an Aunty.
    As soon as the wedding ring gets placed on our fingers, we’re placed in the same category as the ‘samoosa aunty’ and ‘next-door-aunty’.
    Lol. 😉
    The onions still befuddle me.
    It amazes me the fried onions are available commercially.

    Shafs: afrikaners call everyone ‘oom’ and ‘tannie’.
    ‘Ntate’ and ‘ousie’ in sotho.
    I take delight in the fact that i know this useless bit of info. Lol 😉

  7. Aunty.. Lol..

    You couldve at least said ” thank you deekrah” out of sarcasm of the situation.

    You clearly dont remember the plagiarism of BIMRI RICE. You think this fried onion story is funny.. i witnessed the BIMRI rice story first hand.. Was in the battlefield..

    Aadilah Bimri, Khusboo, Non-Khusboo. (i know the scent and stuff.) . But they took it too seriously for just rice..

  8. aw… although i know some folks you use aunty as an erm endearing term when they speak to ‘chicks’ .. for lack of a better onnewordthatconveystheessenceofitall.

    anyway, its possible that if u call a girl aunty n u actually interested in something more, then freud would have a field day with making a textbook case out of that one.

    as far as titles go, tho… be assured that its an ‘indian’ thing 😛
    if u’d asked him, he mightv said, why ur like my mother’s youngest sister!’


  9. Aveh lol
    hey i introd you to fried onions 😉
    remem the amount my mum sent eish
    you didnt help me finish it lol

    anyway auntyjee
    when you coming to collect your heater ma?

    we moving so you better make it sharp sharp

    see you soon auntyjee

  10. Aveh seems akin to ayo 😀

    Loved this post, you don’t need the tutoring, you’re genius :).

    Someone close to me always calls me uncle, so I have taken to calling her aunty, nevermind the fact she is a sprightly 24, and I’m 25, grey hair notwithstanding.

  11. Lol. I get the same thing. When did we go from sorry girly to sorry aunty? It’s sad… But next you’ll see ghee patented and then they’ll come out with ghee light!

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