Shazia Mirza: Diary of a disappointing daughter

I was in the supermarket the other day and two women in front of me were talking about Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow. And last week I overheard two men gossiping about Steven Gerrard. But yesterday two women in the post office were gossiping about their Auntie Jean and how she’d just got herself a new man 20 years younger than her. That was the best, because there is no gossip like family gossip.

I haven’t spoken to my family for about two months, but this week my mother left a message on my phone: “Auntie Belkise, a cousin of Auntie Noreen, who lives 20 km from your dad’s birthplace in Rawalpindi… you know, if you follow that long road that takes you to a big town? Well, her daughter lives next to Uncle Malik, who has a son, who has three sons, one’s an engineer, one works in textiles, the last one is a doctor. He’s the eldest and he’s getting married.”
I don’t know what is more sad, the fact that I haven’t spoken to my mother for months and that she rings me to tell me about the personal lives of people in other countries whom I will never meet, or the fact that I find this information fascinating. Then, two hours later, my youngest brother calls me after three months to say, “Have you heard? That friend of mum’s is getting married.” He’d obviously got the same message.

My family has run out of things to say to each other, and the bond that remains is based on gossip about people we’ve vaguely heard of. It’s like reading Hello! magazine.