The TV blaring at the far end of the room.
Small talk about jewelry, food or clothes.
An African grey either squawking or mimicking the house elders' voices from the corridor in which it's being held captive.
The same discussions over cricket scores and cricket players that haven't changed in over 30 years.
The clock chiming nine.
Children yelling, crying, screaming, as they race in and out of the living room.
"And Zainab, what else have you been up to?"
The same questions I've heard a thousand times, ones I don't care to put any effort into answering.
"Nothing much, the usual. What about you?"
"The same; kids, school, Ramadan..."
We don't even try. Me, least of all.
But social obligations must be upheld for fear of cultural identity, traditions,, and life as we know it crumbling and crashing down on us, leaving a void in its place.
Is that really so bad?
But it is just one evening. One evening that must be sacrificed every few months, to put on the facade of all of us enjoying our time.
It's amazing how long we've kept it up. How long we've all been able to pretend. One year I was so off my game, I actually fell asleep on the couch of the family we were visiting. To hell with convention. I was tired and stuck there, and napping seemed the most sensible thing to do.
This evening will be one of those evenings. It hasn't even started yet.
I am being summoned. It's time.
I take a deep breath.
Let the facade begin.