Day One

What I have learnt.

Day One had actually been yesterday. But I had been far too drained to write.

The night before: I had only managed to get in, like, two-and-a-half hours of sleep. Why, you may ask? Long story. Involving a lot of Amazon cardboard boxes, ribbons, postcards, scrunchies, and hot chocolate sachets. Short-term buzz. Long term: bad idea, bad idea, bad idea.

Alhamdulillah… Eid-ul-Fitr 2021 tomorrow. I love Eid. But when I was younger, I thought it always had to be inundated with events and ‘official’ things to do, in order to be enjoyable. Eid – like Ramadan, and like most other things, I now think – is about its essence.

The essence of Eid is: Takbeer, family (including friends), food(!!!!!!!!!!) and celebration! You hug, give gifts, make memories. The feast after the fasting. You drop your worries and such for a day: Eid is meant to be somewhat larger-than-life.

Recently I have been trying to do more of that thing that I know I really should do… Realise that I will only ever be twenty years old, here on Earth, once. And I might not ever be a secondary school teacher again. May not ever live in this area again. And so on, and so on.

“Everything is more beautiful

because we are doomed.

You will never be lovelier

than you are now.

We will never be here again. [— Homer. Not Simpson though.]

Never again.

How everything looks right now. And when we go to capture these things, which we find we will never again be able to return to, except as they are, relative to those futures that we find we are yet to meet. Man.

Yesterday I learned, again, that clothes, for example, look awful-cool underneath a microscope. From the outside, things can appear so solid-seeming. Look a little closer: you can see all those little fibres, piece by piece, intertwined. From a different perspective, things can really take you by surprise. They can seem so alien-like: unfamiliar. It is amazing.

I learned, as aforementioned, that sleep deprivation leads to catastrophe. Not the life-destroying kind, generally… but the humorous kind that makes life feel more like a sitcom. Alhamdulillah: these things add colour, don’t they?

I like the notion of adventure. And yesterday and the day before, two separate people I know have told me that I seem like I am quite an “adventurous” person: a colleague, and, later, a student. I see myself as quite a ‘homebody’. But I realise now that the two are not mutually exclusive.

I do not desire to travel all the time. I think travel is cool sometimes: a shake-up of usualness, learning journeys. And, yet, I am glad I do not rely on notions of ‘getting away’ in order to experience ‘adventure’. ‘Adventure’ is everywhere, and it is every day!

Well, I tried to take a nap yesterday. Sometimes I rejoice in the fact that I am short: it means that I am able to sleep comfortably in cars, on planes, on chairs.

And… I was awoken from my nap by someone who wanted to talk. Sigh. Yes, as a twenty-year-old grandma, I can now completely sympathise with Squidward Tentacles’ plight.

I went with a colleague to the shop that I used to work at: the Islamic bookstore. They sell perfumes – Atr – there, too, and she wanted to get some Eid gifts for her dad and for her father-in-law. I came out of the shop with my hands smelling like men’s perfume — of the Bengali grandad kind.

Inhaled those aromas as I tried, once again, to nap… but to no avail.

Sleep deprivation is delirium. I feel like I exist in some other world.

I also learned, yesterday, that Amazon boxes are not always the best choice for in-school transportation of things. After emptying one of my boxes in one of my Year Eight classes, I had accidentally left the box there, on the desk… forgetting that it had my full address on it! Ran back, before the girls (some of whom have proudly and openly stalked me online…) could find out where I live.

After school: a most peculiar occurrence at the Post Office. Involving one of my little cousins, who had lost his way, and who had decided to go on a little adventure of his own. I saw him at the door of the shop, alarmingly unaccompanied, his parents nowhere to be seen, while I had been writing addresses at the window-side table. ‘Lucky’. No: Qadr-ic.

Sometimes, when I am Hijābbed up, and when I have four things to process and do at once – a panicked call from my aunt, and stamps to give the money for, and a (kind) stranger who stopped to speak about my cousin (whom she had seen earlier, and felt concerned for), and a little fidgety boy at one hand… I think I look quite like a stressed Asian mother. That might just be my public face: the stressed Bengali Tower Hamlets mother. The aforementioned stranger actually first assumed that my cousin was my son. Someone else had also mistaken me for my brother’s mother, at the park… when I was twelve years old. Love that for us, we do, we really do.

The next thing I learned, yesterday: learning is not always solely about novelty. It can be about reminders too. Learning the same thing again, albeit in a necessarily varying way. Like how some people, sometimes, are excessively pedantic about things. It is like they look for reasons to not be grateful, and instead desperately find faults in others. Bet it makes ’em feel powerful, by contrast.

Also, I learned that… you know how oranges, in English, are named thusly because of their colour? Well, actually, today I learned – in doing some quick Google research for this very article – that it was the other way around: the name of the fruit had come first!

Yesterday: due to the seeming obsession among Bengalis (Sylhetis in London, at least, so it would seem) with ‘Boingon Boras’ (aubergine fritters) this year, my Nan had sent me to the grocery shop to get an aubergine. £1 for an aubergine. Carried the lil baby home in a brown paper bag. It turns out, in Bengali – in ‘proper’ Bengali (Shuddho) at least – the word for ‘aubergine’ is ‘Begun’, which means ‘purple’. I wonder which came first: the name of the colour, or the name of the fruit.

Sigh. What the heck is in a name?

[An aubergine by any other name would taste as aubergine-y.]

Another obsession that many of our households had been witnessing throughout Ramadan is the one with Roshmalai cake: milk cake. ‘Roshmalai’ actually means ‘milk juice’. And, well, I do like ma milk-juice cakes… especially the ones made with dried rose petals! Delicious.

There is so much more that I found I had learnt, yesterday, just as there is so, so much that we learn every single day that we are alive, even when we do not give those little things – those individual twisted fibres that make up the entirety of the fabric – much thought.

The cute – and shocking, and unexpected – happening with Dawud, and the phone, and the girl called Aaminah. More about how people in other countries – this time, women from the upper-classes, in Egypt – tend to spend their time. A reminder as to how much I love buffalo wings: they would definitely make up part of my Last Meal, if I had to choose one. A Zoom meeting with a Dominican friar, which took place at 11:30 PM [my bad entirely. He had given me a series of time slots to choose from, and made sure to point out in his email that he, in America, goes by Pacific Daylight Time, not British Standard. But this key piece of information seemed to have gone right over my head…].

Awkwardness, some adventure, and a good helping of c h a o s: these would appear to be some of the ingredients that, Alhamdulillah for the ‘good’ and [what my limited mind can drive me to perceive as being] ‘bad’, make up this life of mine. And I love these things for all that they are. Although I do cherish the calm, too. The compressions: chaos, chaos, chaos, and then the Calm… which is made all the more valuable by its rarity.

Today, Insha Allah, when I go home, and as we welcome the eve of Eid, I hope to tidy things up more, again. Mentally, and in my physical space. I know that things will get messy again, and I also know that both the ‘messy’ and the ‘tidy’ come together to form the entirety of the Point of this whole thing.

Life: we are made up of all of these things, which fill our moments, and our days,

and our minds, and our veins.

And call me Squidward – or… Sad-ward? – because sleep is actually a deeply cherished hobby of mine, and I want for the world to know it.

With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

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