Anyone is welcome to read my material but not all posts are intended specifically for public consumption. Often I’m just documenting my thoughts, learnings and conversations for myself so that I can come back to them again in the future. Sometimes I don’t share these posts with anyone, sometimes I only share them with a friend or two to engage in a specific topic and sometimes I share them far and wide through social media platforms. No matter the recipient, I like to post them all on this blog so that I have can track the history and reflect on my thoughts. I’m also happy to have my thoughts available for public scrutiny.
This one is for me, my friends, my family and my wife. It is my wedding speech from November 2017.
I am so happy!
One of my earliest memories of Zakeeya and my relationship is a phrase that she used frequently in those days. “This is the best day ever.” Now many of you might know, I don’t love cheesy cliché statements. I’m a little bit more of a straight-talking contrarian. So at first glance, this statement “the best day ever” didn’t gel perfectly. However, on deeper reflection, I’ve grown to appreciate the nugget of gold below the surface.
The statement is an affirmation and sets the intention for life. So… This is the best day ever! Not in the singular sense of one day, in the figurative sense of my life. There are many times in the past year when I’ve been planning this wedding and I’ve luckily been able to take a step back and remember that I’m honestly just a very happy person. It’s great to stand here in front of you today and share my happiness, our happiness with you.
In reflecting on the day, there has been a lot of congratulations. Thank you but I must ask, “what for?” The road ahead is filled with much bigger challenges and obstacles, opportunities and experiences. Zakeeya and I are only just getting started! Please let me know what exactly you’re congratulating us for because it allows me to get into the detail and communicate more clearly with each of you.
Planning a wedding is, of course, no mean feat. Thank you deeply to everyone for all the support, advice and help. We wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without the immense support of numerous people. I won’t go into all of the details now otherwise I’ll speak for hours but you know how you are. I am immensely grateful to all of you!
Returning to the ceremony earlier today and the analogy of the home. Family and friends are the walls of our spiritual and emotional home. That’s really what this is all about. Forget all the lights, food, music, clothes and dancing. These are all merely tools to lure you into our home. I hope that when you walk through the doors, peel away the thrills and spills you realise that we’re two humans who want to live, love and grow with all of you.
So I have a favour to ask all of you. I’ve said that the road ahead is filled with challenges and obstacles that are so much bigger than today. We’re only scratching the surface and we clearly don’t have the answers.
Please don’t ever stop helping, guiding, supporting and offering us counsel. Our marriage is not a sign of Zakeeya and me racing off into the sunset by ourselves. It’s a sign of YOU, our family and friends, confirming our commitment to each other. Many of you know how much Zakeeya and I value our home (another reason to love this lady). Please come to visit and have a cup of tea or glass of bubbles with us.
To the groomsman, you are an expression of the wonderful friends that I’m absolutely blessed to have. Two friends, I’ve known since I was 4. One of those who has been an inseparable part of my journey ever since with numerous incredible memories created over the years. Another of those two whose friendship that lay dormant for many years but has grown steadily into a powerhouse of support for both myself and Zak. Friends I’ve lived with. Friends I’ve partied with and worked with. Friends I’ve known for such a short space of time yet who have had such a strong influence over that time. All friends that I’ve grown up with in different ways. Friends who I’m still growing up with, who are growing in their own rights and doing great things with their lives. Friends that remind me of all that I don’t know but may still have the opportunity to experience in the future. I love you all very much.
To the Patel’s. Of course, Zak is the most impressive part of your family. I say that in jest but there is a crystal piece of truth below the surface. The characteristics of the family shine through brightly in Zakeeya. Getting to know the family has been an integral aspect of getting to know Zakeeya. Here are a few characteristics which emerge simultaneously in Zakeeya and the family. Ma’s fierce independence and business spirit with radiant beauty at 80. The beauty which Ma and Zakeeya share is a special one, not necessarily based purely on dashing good looks but an internal beauty that exudes no matter the way they might look. Jacinta’s love, energy, passion and homeliness. She welcomed me into the family from the first day that we met. Abe’s determination, storytelling and positive energy. There are few stories that I’ve heard at least 10 times but I still look forward to the next rendition. Ameera’s dreams that take her to the stars that she hastily acts upon and makes a reality. Jay, what a character, bringing his own special energy and influence to the family, as well as an immense love for Dharma and Zaran. I love you all and appreciate your influence very much.
My family. You guys are sensational!
Steph & Cath – what wonderful sisters and incredibly important influences on my life, a factor sometimes underestimated. Growing up, Steph and Cath were the “perfect children” achieving so much while I was still building mud castles in the garden with Chris. Their achievements certainly led to a rebellious streak in me as I reckoned I’d never match up. Despite the perfection, they were never vindictive, competitive or conceited about it. As with most experiences in life, the rebellion was taking place in my mind, not their’s. Cath and Steph actually always provided support and love from above. You guys were my lighthouses – always guiding me in the right direction despite my frequent desire to deviate from the path set out for me.
While Zak and I obviously build our own paths together it’s important to recognise that you remain lighthouses.
Cath your love for Derek and the kids is unparalleled. The way you dovetail each other is beautiful to watch. Zak and I would be lucky to create the love, warmth and tranquillity of Sunday afternoon braais at the Martins. We love spending time with you guys, appreciate your counsel, humour and pragmatism greatly.
Steph, you never settle. You know what you want, what you don’t want and have an amazing strength of mind to get it. I respect that deeply. Your relationship with Xolela is wonderful. The similarities and differences you bring to that relationship and the ways you navigate them are impressive. I love learning from your learnings, hearing about the conversations you’ve been having and using them as an opportunity for Zak and I to engage on new topics.
Dad, or father as I affectionately call him. Like a few things in our adult relationship, it didn’t start affectionately. Antagonism was the name of the game for many years. Fernando, Dave, Woody and Chris can attest to this after spending time on the golf course with the two of us. If people wanted to antagonise me in those days, which wasn’t difficult mind-you, they could just tell me “you’re just like your father”
At some point, I investigated this concept, realised the obvious truth of the statement and thought, “how can anyone not get along with someone like me?” In truth, understanding our similarities has been such a big area of growth for me. The growth in our relationship over recent years is something I’m very proud of. You are an incredibly principled person and your love of our family never wavers. I respect you greatly as my dad, the father of our family and a friend.
Mom, my rock for so many years. The love you’ve shared with me is one the most indescribable things. You are always there! Your love is constant, compassionate and powerful yet never overpowering or controlling. My mom is so understated and quiet, powerful isn’t a word that my mom might associate with. This is precisely one of the areas where I’ve learned so much from Zakeeya. Zak’s ability to recognise the power within people that is sometimes not noticed because it lies ever so slightly below the surface. Mom, your love is powerful!
One of the funny contrasts about my mom where Zak doesn’t necessarily believe me is her ability to force me to self-reflect. On the frequent occasion when I made some stupid mistake, your love never wavered but you also had this incredible ability to put the mirror up to my face. I was always aware when I made mistakes and what I had done wrong. This is a quality I hold very dear to my heart and I try my utmost to live it out each and every day. Mom, you’re simply the best. Your attributes of friendship, kindness, steadfastness, endurance, humility are immensely powerful.
To my family holistically, I know as I’ve moved through life I have pursued many different experiences. There are times when I make mistakes and do things you wouldn’t be proud of. Please know that I never forget where I’ve come from. Your influence on my life is permanent and on-going. Your values remain my values, I always respect your perspectives and I am incredibly grateful for everything we have as a family.
Madame. You are a firecracker! You light up my life on a daily basis
I’m often asked, what was the initial attraction? Excitement. At first glance, this attraction can appear a surface level superficial emotion. Your dashing good looks and celebrity status could reaffirm the suspicion that I was chasing a short-term thrill. And my god, you are beautiful! I am incredibly physically attracted to you. But that’s not really the message I’m trying to deliver.
Let there be no doubt, excitement with you is not superficial. Zakeeya is a deep, multi-layered, complex individual. She approaches life as a constant opportunity. An opportunity to seize the moment and therein lies the excitement. The wedding is a good metaphor where Zak has seized the opportunity, organising such a special time with our friends and family. She’s reached for the stars and pulled off something absolutely magical. And it is not just a surface level thrill. There’s a deep bond forged between friends and family over the past 12 months. Thank you for creating this amazing canvas for everyone to enjoy.
Talking about the wedding, we received some great early wedding advice; that the wedding is dress-rehearsal for life. The act of communicating with loved ones who care about you greatly but have various different opinions about the direction is an outcome that will be repeated again. This mind-set shift had a big impact on us, turning a challenge into an opportunity. This is a metaphor for our lives where we’re looking for the next opportunity to grow and learn.
Another great expression of our relationship is dancing – something I was never particularly good at – or even yoga which I hadn’t really engaged with before meeting Zak. She threw me head-first into both. Encouraged me, focused on the positives and taught me to use my determination (of which there is abundance) but to use that determination in a different sphere. I’m still pretty lousy at both dancing and yoga but I enjoy both immensely. Zakeeya, you stretched my mind and body – thank you.
My love, you teach me so much! You often deny it, giving me the credit for the moment of personal growth but therein lies the beauty. Whether it’s you or whether it’s me is probably irrelevant. What is critical that we’re learning together, pushing each other, challenging each other, growing with each other – it’s truly a remarkable experience being your partner.
I’ve mentioned before, how you identify the power of other people. You don’t surround yourself with meek, good-looking people who affirm you every 5 seconds. You surround yourself with powerful people who challenge and grow you. I think your industry can sometimes deceive people. Yes, sometimes we speak about the colour of a dress but more often our conversation topics are difficult and scintillating. Race, gender and cultural stereotypes.
You reject the status quo, challenge orthodoxy and have well thought out opinions on these matters. This is an angle that people in the public eye don’t see enough of. I know why and appreciate those reasons but I look forward to unleashing your power to them in the future. You have so much value to add in this space. One day soon we’re going to write down your perspectives, opinions and stories and turn them into an entertainment knock-out punch. You’ve achieved a great deal in your short career but I believe that there is a lot more to unleash in the years ahead.
Dwelling on your qualities of power and passion returned me to that book I bought you a few months ago. Written by a black American author Zora Neale Hurston who has maligned due to her race and gender. She was completely underappreciated during her life and was even fired from her job as a librarian because she was “too well qualified”. I came across this ode to Hurston a few months that made me think of you. “Hurston was nobody’s fool, and she was nobody’s bitch. That’s a hard road to travel in any age.” Madame, you’re nobody’s fool and nobody’s bitch. As Abe says, you can swim upstream, sometimes battling more than you need to. But sometimes those streams need to be swum up and I respect your tenacity to do so.
You take risks, you seize the opportunity and dream big dreams. You put these dreams into the universe and take steps to make your dreams a reality. Over time your dreams have become our dreams. Thank you for sharing those with me and empowering me to dream my own dreams. This word continues to reoccur and for good reason. Madame, you make me powerful and bring out the best in me. What more can I ask for in a partner?
You have such a BIG open heart that you share with me and others. Sometimes even a sense of naivety can creep in where you share or trust too easily. But this naivety is a necessary externality of your desire to grow and share with others – this is beautiful. You’ve taught me to share more. To share my possessions, love and time – thank you – it’s immensely rewarding
In sum, you are an inspiration. To be better at what I do. To push myself and achieve more. To be a better person, friend and family member. To be a better communicator, lover and partner. Thank you.
Wrapping up – I’m eternally grateful for you. Zakeeya and I have this habit that we share at least 5 things we’re grateful for before we go to bed. I sometimes state that this was the best decision we’ve ever made because being grateful is one of the most rewarding states of mind. Well, Madame, I’m grateful for your excitement, your teaching, our home, your power, your passion, your big heart and your desire to share it and your storytelling. You are an inspiration and I’m honoured to be on your team.