I waited outside the office. Undecided. Afraid. Embarassed. But I didn't have much choice. In fact, none other than one. I knew it's risky and I didn't know him well but I must take his offer. He had told me to find him if I should ever be in trouble, or facing any problem I couldn't solve alone. I was not one who'd wait for things to happen, even during those days. I decided to act.
It was a week towards Eidilfitri. As a new Muslim, I had no place to go to for the celebration. Almost all the undergraduates would be home for the one-week holidays and to celebrate the Eid with their families. I couldn't return to my family- I had been banned from the house for being a Muslim. And nobody had asked me to join them and their family for the Eid celebrations. I didn't want to celebrate the Eid alone in the hostel room with the cafe and all the shops closed for a week, and having instant noodles and cookies for my meals. That's not how I wanted to celebrate my Eid. Shelters for Muslim reverts? I didn't even know their location, being busy with my fulltime studies. The ustaz and ustazahs who knew me were too busy with their own preparations for the Eid than to ask about my plans for the festival. Perhaps everyone assumed that someone else had invited me to celebrate the Eid in their homes, and were too shy to ask me. The truth is, nobody had. And I didn't blame them but as the days drew closer, I didn't want to ask them anymore.
I just couldn't go and ask a 'friend' if she has a room for me in her house during Eidilfitri, could I? It'd just put both of us in a difficult situation if she answered "No".
I didn't even have a Muslim adopted family who could take me in during this time of the year.
And I realised too that as a mualaf woman, also a divorcee at the age of 35, I may not be welcomed in many family homes.
So, I seeked the person whom I believed could help me.
Somebody who was not in the category of "friend".
" You may go in now," said the secretary.
" Thank you," I smiled at her.
The dean's room was neat and spacious. I knocked on the wooden door. He looked up, saw me and smiled.
He recognised me as the friend of his niece, also a teacher.
" Yes, come in. How are you? What can I do for you?"
And I told him my problem.
He listened carefully, nodded at the approprite moment and looked thoughtful.
"Don't worry. Leave it to me. You will not have to celebrate your first Raya as a Muslim alone."
" But where shall I go, Sir?" I asked.
" You said that you want to have a merry Hari Raya Eidilfitri with a large family? Well, you will join us. My niece, your friend, is returning on the second day of Hari Raya and you'll get to meet her again. I hope you will be happy to celebrate your first raya with my family?"
Alhamdulillah. I smiled.
"Meet me here at the lobby of this building this Friday at 5pm. I'll take you there," he offered.
" Thank you, Sir. May Allah bless you for your kindness."
And his reply was so sweet that I had to held back my tears from falling.
I left his office, beamed at the secretary and returned to my hostel to pack my clothes. My heart was full of gladness.
I'd be going to a stranger's home, in God knows where to celebrate my first Hari Raya Eidilfitri with them. I hope they'd be happy to accommodate me, this not-so-young and not-so-naive Chinese lady who had just reverted to Islam four months ago.
The Dean of my School at the university is a kind man. His staff are full of praises for him. I have found a saviour.
And on the appointed date and time, I waited for him at the lobby with a bag of clothes and a bag of cookies.