One morning after having missed my parcel delivery, I went to a neighbour’s house to fetch it. It surprised me to know that she was happy to see me and invited me in for tea as people don’t really let strangers in that early in the morning. We were chatting for a while when she stopped to apologise.
“Sorry I look like this, I was just praying and didn’t have the time.” I couldn’t help but smile at how much we had in common – I was in my PJs too. She was not Muslim, I recall her proudly showing me a shrine she had set up near her dining room.
She told me about her previous neighbours, and how she treated them like her own granddaughters, and that she felt I was one too.
“I’m partially blind, I can’t see in one eye and the other isn’t that good either.”
It amazed me how warm and generous this 80-year-old woman was, she was poking fun at her old age and poor eyesight!
I felt ashamed of myself, immediately thinking of how I handle problems and how much I lack despite having both my vision and youth.
She seemed to have lived a full life, smiling as she proudly showed me photos of her kids and grand-babies.
“You can call me Auntie or Nana, think of me as your own,” she said.
I was holding back the tears when we hugged goodbye.
However, that was just the beginning of our unlikely friendship, she invited me over many times and when I could, I would visit her after classes. I would sit on a sofa watching Bollywood movies without subtitles and asked her what the lyrics to some of the songs meant.
“Do people treat you okay?”, she asked, concerned that people might treat me differently because I wore a hijab.
I could feel that she was more worried about me than herself. This Nana had welcomed me with open arms. Allah brought me someone who is so blind to hatred, a heart that sees only the good in life and the good in others. I thought to myself how she was more Muslim than some Muslims are when it comes to the way she treats her neighbours. I, too, am flawed and have much to learn.