This may not make much sense to you at all, but… I seem to have friendshipped into a Pakistani family. I, myself, am Bengali. And, at least among the older generations, there can often be… some tensions between Pakistanis and Bengalis. These tensions can often – and, do often – trickle down into the attitudes held by younger generations, too: I have heard some awful stories pertaining to this. But, I digress. A beloved friend of mine happens to be Pakistani, and today, I went to her house and met her family. So I have friendshipped my way into a Pakistani family.
Her name is Aatqa, and she is wonderful. Her mother, Masha Allah, Allahummabārik, is a (fellow plant lover! And a) wonderful person too. [And, frankly, I live for the validation of my friends’ mums. My friends can dislike me — whatever, me da igual. But I have this little need for their mums to approve of me!]
Fundamentally, the basis of all relationships is conversation. Etymologically, the word implies (from the Latin) ‘turning towards’ one another. And I really think that good, true, and close friendships necessitate enough sameness to make it comfortable – to feel, mutually, seen, and heard, and understood – as well as enough difference (of personality, of life experience: past and present, etc.) to make it interesting, and learnable-from.
From Aatqa, I have, and always do, learn so much. We are both girls of South Asian backgrounds; INFJs; (existentialist overthinkers!); we like to talk, quite a lot, about things like religion, humanity, growth [sigh. Not the physical kind, unfortunately.] and Literature. And she lives in suburbia, while I live closer to the centre of the city. She is Pakistani; I am (now an honorary Pakistani-) Bengali. Her career inclinations are (at present) towards medicine; mine are towards teaching. And so on, and so on.
Today, Khala (‘auntie’ in Bengali) made us some d e l i c i o u s kebabs, and put together a nice burger bar, for us to make our own burgers. We sat outside, in Aatqa’s garden – on a Barbie picnic mat, no less – and ate our burgers (and drank our Vimto), and talked about little nothings and everythings, under pendulum sunshine. This is definitely a day that I wish to remember, and (clearly) blog about. Both my mind and heart feel nourished as a result of our conversations today: on everything from ‘neurodivergence’ to the criteria that might be necessary for ‘spiritual architecture’ .
It is such a blessing to have people in one’s life, with whom one can be, and it feels thoroughly authentic and beneficial and interesting.
And I like that, in true friendships, one enters another’s world, and becomes a living, breathing part of it. It does not feel… performative. Not an intricately-planned event, and not a boring and overlooked thing either. Today has been lovely: planned a little, but also unplanned and serendipitous. The ‘fences’ and the ‘flowers’.
We spoke about how Allah plans things for us, and the beauty and undeniable genius of it all. This is a friendship that had been borne of… a peculiar set of little circumstances; it is also a friendship that I really could not have done without. And oh, how much has happened in the space of a mere year-and-a-bit: it is quite awesome.
Conversations with certain people deeply energise me. They make me excited, and want to talk and talk, and listen and listen. I think the conversations Aatqa and I tend to have with one another are weird and w o n d e r f u l.
‘Weird’. A concept that the two of us have struggled with. In Spanish, the word for it is ‘raro’. To be ‘weird’ is… to be rare! I know for a fact that the relationship I am able to have with this friend of mine is extremely rare. I cannot speak like this with everybody; I certainly do not feel authentically at-ease with everybody. And the rarity of her being [you listen to mey, young lady] boosts her, immensely, in value.
A conversation with just anyone:
“So would you ever want pets, in the future?”
“Yeah. A dog.”
A conversation with an Aatqa Arham:
(She brings out her pet moss ball called Peezo and lets me stroke him.)
“So would you ever want pet animals, in the future?”
“Well, actually, I have ethical issues with that.” *She proceeds to talk about obedience and power plays and a bunch of other things*
In any experience, one must necessarily witness and experience the upsides of it, and the downsides. To feel like… an outsider. To not effortlessly connect with everybody. Wondering if you are… existing in the ‘right’ sort of way. And then, the diamond friendships (and sitcom-like experiences) and such, which are forged against the backdrop of it all. Brokenness, blooming, and breakthroughs!
Here is something that I need to hear, myself, and which I also feel I need to say: that there is value to you, being exactly whom and how you are. Though you may, at times, fixate on the unique downsides of it all — necessarily, you have what you have, and you lack what you lack — … nobody alive can take your particular space. The spaces you occupy: within your home; in the hearts and minds of your closest friends; in the rest of your (and the big wide) world: from the very first thud that your heart produced, to everything you have ever done, learnt, and said, up until now. [You might not be able to see it so easily: you have grown tremendously used to your own self; to the untouchable beauty of your own being. But it is all still there…]
And, I don’t know. I love words so much; I love considering the nature of language, and the human mind, and how the former fits into and informs the latter. But, as Aatqa and I realised more today, things like identity and personality and ‘culture’ cannot sit neatly behind the walls of mere words. Everything we are is everything we are, and not merely… a ‘smart girl’ label, or a preference for kebabs and Vimto, or some lines of poetry, or the clothes we choose to wear, or what we choose to post online.
Things like beauty and brilliance (both of which, this girl has. I sound like such a moist groveller right now, but oh well) often escape easy definition. And, yes, there may be some (remarkable, along-the-way) difficulty in that. And there is goodness and value unspeakable and unmatchable in that, also.
[Young Aatqa Arham also has her own blog. You can check it out here.]
With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.