My friend Merrilyn remembers a wonderful Afghan family and has a visual picture of where she parked when she visited them twelve years ago. On hearing that I would like to interview Afghans for my book, the two of us set out in my little car to try to locate this family.
‘It’s a corner house like this, but this one looks too flash.’
‘It has a long backyard like this, but there are only men’s shirts hanging in the backyard.’
‘Look, there are council workers over there. Would you be embarrassed if I spoke to them?’
‘No, but I don’t think they are going to know the Afghan family.’ I was starting to have my doubts, but admired Merrilyn’s commitment to the mission.
When we crossed the street to speak to a lady wearing a fluorescent vest, I thought of Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi, the detective and her secretary from the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, as brought to life by Alexander McCall Smith. The only difference was location: Adelaide, not Gabarone.
‘I’m looking for an Afghan refugee family who live here. I visited them twelve years ago. You wouldn’t have stumbled upon them would you?’
‘No,’ she shook her head. ‘We’ve just started in this area.’
‘You’re probably not even asking ethnicity.’
‘No, dog registrations.’
‘Ah, that’s a good thing to do. Keep cool. Sorry to take up your time.’
‘Not at all.’
It was a cheerful exchange, though not a very productive one.
‘Let’s try this one,’ said Merrilyn, pointing to an old sandstone bungalow with a letterbox propped up against the chain link fence. My heart sank when we rung the doorbell and heard Broadway music from the last century. An Aussie bloke in a singlet shuffled to the door. Definitely not Afghan. We did however learn that he barracked for Carlton because his brother lived there, though he did occasionally barrack for Port.
Ah, well, it was not to be.
We had spied a bustling cafe and decided to quench our thirst after all that sleuthing. Once again, like Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi, only we had iced coffee instead of bush tea. Waiting to pay, I read a small newspaper article pasted to the till. Loveon Cafe had been started by a certain Rashed Kabir, who came from Bangladesh 10 years ago. While waiting for our coffees, we admired the handmade clay earrings we had bought to commemorate our day of detective work, the artistic decor and the little teapot on our table with the words ‘Coronation 2 June 1953 Queen Elizabeth.’
We met Rashed before we left and I said, ‘Wonderful cafe. Who is the artistic person who did your decor?’
‘All of you. The community. Everybody contributes.’
‘Where are you from?’ asked Merrilyn.
‘Bangladesh, crazy place,’ he says, smiling.
His son was just behind the counter, a mop of curly hair and bright black eyes. The young boy moved to a small table with crayons and toys, and I understood why it felt like a child friendly place, not just because of the brown paper wall covered with children’s drawings, the high chairs, the mothers with their babies, but because it was this child’s space too.
Trying to finish the first draft for the book while juggling all the other commitments in life, the best thing motto I can think of for now is: Love On. After all, ‘Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Loveon Cafe along Gladstone Road, Mile End. Well worth checking out if you’re in town.