Bring Me My Burka

“I’m going to work now!” I call as I grab my helmet and keys and head out the door.

My parents are still at the breakfast table, chatting with their guest over coffee.

“I shall take you to your place of work,” I hear just before the door slams behind me. I turn and go back in and look at my parents’ guest:

Jafar (not his real name) is from Iran. He must be around 35, very polite and has now risen from the table and is bowing formally towards my parents.

“That’s not necessary, but thanks anyway,” I say to him.

“But I would like very much to take you in my car. Then you do not have to ride on this motorcycle.”

“I don’t mind the scooter.”

“I insist. After all the hospitality your parents have shown me, letting me stay in this home, I shall return the kindness and take you to your place of work.”

“But how will I get home?”

“I shall bring you home,” he says, smiling  broadly from behind his huge black moustache.

I see now that resistance is futile and will make me late for work. I put my helmet down and accept his offer. After all, it’s only five minutes’ drive.

In the car, of course, I cannot think of one thing to say to this very foreign person. I’m 20 and neither well-travelled nor experienced in making small talk with people from Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan. Or Egypt, for that matter. Jafar’s car is a big, sleek, silver BMW, and he drives fast, so the trip is mercifully short.

“I finish here at one o’clock…” I say, wishing I had come on the scooter instead.

“Then I shall be here to bring you home,” he says with a smile that I assume is regarded as charming in his part of the world.

One o’clock arrives way too quickly and it is with some hesitation that I climb back into the big car.

“I should like to see the Union buildings. Would you do me the honour of showing them to me?”

“Uhmmm, well, I do need to get home to…”

“I thank you,” he says and accelerates down the road.

The drive is fast and furious and filled with Jafar’s anecdotes about his country of origin. I nod and smile but I don’t pay that much attention. I’m thinking about my boyfriend, who would no doubt want to come over later today. We arrive at the Union buildings. We get out and he steers me gallantly towards the gardens. He wants to buy me an ice-cream.

“Thanks, but I really should get home. I have to study.”

“Ah, you are a student,” he says, smiling blithely. “What subject?”

“Psychology. I have a test tomorrow,” I lie, “And I have a headache.”

“Let us sit on the grass and I shall show you how to heal a headache.”

Oh boy. This is not good.

I sit reluctantly. He faces me and puts his fingertips against my temples. He presses hard. And harder, till it feels like my skull is going to collapse. Then he lets go. My head expands outwards. He presses again until it hurts, and releases. I submit meekly to this treatment, because I have to admit, it seems to be working.

“I shall ask you a question now,” says Jafar in a formal tone. “I would like to propose marriage to you. You can accompany me to Rio de Janeiro at the end of this month. It is a beautiful place. We shall leave on the 27th. We shall travel in luxury. I am wealthy,” he explains, in case I am wondering. “We shall be very happy. We shall have many beautiful children together.”

I am speechless.

“But I already have a boyfriend!” I finally manage to stutter.

“No matter,” he says, smiling.

“And I am studying!” I am trying to be polite. I don’t want to tell him the obvious: that I don’t know him from a bar of soap, that he’s creepy and old and makes my flesh crawl. Being a pretty naive 20 year old, the fact that he is from a country where women have very little freedom, hasn’t occurred to me yet. I’m only just trying to grasp the fact that a stranger is proposing to me.

“You may finish your degree. Then we will go back to my country and have many beautiful children. I can see them already, little dark eyed babies…”


I can’t even begin to come up with a reply, I am so stunned by this conversation.

“You are suffering from culture shock,” the man continues, quite unfazed. “In my culture, we meet a beautiful girl, we meet her parents, we propose marriage. When I met you at dinner last night, I knew that you are a suitable bride.”

Heaven help me. Culture shock indeed. How to put this….

“In my culture, things are very different,” I say, trying to sound diplomatic. “We meet someone, we go out with them for a few years, and then we might get married if we feel we are right for each other. My boyfriend and I are planning to get married as soon as I finish my degree,” I say, trying to sound confident. “And now I really  need to get home. He will be at my house soon.”

I get up and start walking towards the car. He has no choice but to follow me. Needless to say, the atmosphere in the car on the way home is rather tense. At my house, I jump out, thank him for the lift and disappear into my room.

Later that day, Jafar departs, onward to his next destination. However, he does not give up right away. He sends me a long, heartfelt letter written in his exquisite, flowing handwriting. He apologises for upsetting me and repeats his hope that I would agree to marry him. He includes two gifts: a very gawdy necklace and a toiletry travel bag. For Rio maybe…? A few days later, he’s back at the front door, ringing the bell. I tell my sister to answer the door and to tell him I’m visiting my boyfriend, while I run and hide in the laundry.

That evening I tell my parents all that has happened and show them the letter. Even though they are relatively liberal, open-minded, enlightened folk, they are not amused. They decide to write to him and politely ask him to leave me alone. This time, he seems to get the message. And that is the last I ever hear of him. The necklace soon goes into our fancy dress costume box, destined for hospice one day. I am left with some creepy memories, a good way of relieving a headache and a letter in what is probably the most beautiful handwriting I have ever come across. And a toiletry bag, which, though it never makes it to Rio, comes in handy after all.

Erica Neser (c) 2012


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. themisfortunate
    Jan 08, 2012 @ 19:43:24

    I was in a similar situation once, albeit not as grave as this one, but the story stays with me and grabs a few laughs!


  2. meladjusted
    Jan 08, 2012 @ 20:45:27

    Whahahahahahaha – Brink Me My Burka! Is it okay to say that this is one of my TOP favourite stories of yours of ALL time – it still makes me laugh and I imagine Jafar/Borat so well from your description of him. It’s easy to imagine you as a 20 year old because even though you have more experience you still look at least half your age 🙂 (you can post my check for complimenting you to the usual address)


  3. JM Randolph
    Jan 09, 2012 @ 20:06:48

    Wow. That’s a hell of a story, and a great post.


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