What I have learnt.
Bismillāhir Rahmānir Raheem.
Eid Mubarak, dear readers!
It is Day Three (of thirty, Insha Allah) of this attempted thirty-day daily documentation thing of mine.
Today has been a, in Arabic, ‘yawmun jameel’: a beautiful day, Alhamdulillah. ‘Jameel’. What a beautiful word, what a beautiful name. Dear friends and family who read this blog: if I ever have a son (Bi’ithnillah) then I think I will name him this: ‘beautiful’ in Arabic. And if anybody tries to take this name for their own son even after I have explicitly dibsed it… there will be consequences. Namely, I will not speak to you. For two to three business days.
So, today, then, and what I have learnt.
Chocolate is a wonderful thing to receive. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. ‘Responsible’, twenty-year-old, me had a box of chocolates for breakfast, today. And a quarter of a seeded bagel. I really cannot eat properly when I am excited… except when it is the food that I find myself excited about.
In the morning, I woke up to a clean room and the promise of a brand new day. A blessed day: my favourite time of the year. Yawmun jameelun. I arose to so many possibilities, within this day. Texts from friends – Muslim and non-Muslim alike, and from family.
Helped out with some gift-wrapping, got ready. Received a lovely set of scented candles – and some chocolate – from brother mine. He just gave them to me and then walked away. No follow-up interaction. I love this kid.
Last night, Maryam, Moosa, Isa, Saif and I worked on some decorations. Not too industriously. Moosa put together the puzzling sweet boxes. Maryam hosted her own gameshow: a quiz. When she asked (nine-year-old) Isa who the current First Lady of America is, he replied, in earnest, bless his soul: “Bucko-rama’s wife”. Bucko-rama, ladies and gents. That’s my president. [The current U.S. president is Joe Biden].
Moosa told us that, apparently, all Skittles actually have the same flavour, and that our minds convince us, based on the colours, that they are flavoured differently. ‘Red is strawberry’, ‘green is apple’, and so on. If this is true, then wow. How we can deceive ourselves, huh? And, how the senses are connected. [Naturally, my spirited cousins put this very thesis to the test, there and then].
Eid. This has been my 39th Eid ever, since the day of my birth. Not all Eids have been the same for me. Some Eids have been far less eventful than others have been. Some Eids, we would go cruising around, to different extended-extended family members’ households. Once, we met up at my Nan’s (which used to be tradition. Go there in the morning, where the Fita and pumpkin-and-meat curry would be waiting for us. Eid hugs!) and then we simply went to After’s, got ice-creams, and all sat in the park.
A few years ago, we had a nice evening garden party. Food, family, and flowers. And… drinking non-alcoholic drinks from wine glasses, of course.
Some Eids, although I still cherished them for what they had been, in essence, had not been so fun. Due to a range of circumstances, we could not get together. And those ones felt lonesome, and a little heartbreaking. But the thing is:
Nothing will ever be all-good, in Dunya. Nothing will ever be all-‘bad’, either. And as I keep reminding myself, through these pieces of writing: it is all about those fundamental principles of Sabr and Shukr. Patience: things will be hard, and/or stressful, and/or confusing and lonely, sometimes. And as soon as you taste the sweetnesses of their opposites: you kind of instinctively know to appreciate them that much more, right?
I got given Eidi (Eid money!) from my dad, and from my nan. Always nice to receive Eidis when you are above the age of six!
And… this Eid, we decided to make our theme ‘Disney’… princesses and Marvel superheroes! Admittedly, I was going to wear all-black, and then paint Post-Malone tattoos on my face with eyeliner, and call myself ‘Princess Posty’ (because sometimes I think I am hilarious and all). But I decided on being (hijabi) Aurora — before she wears the pink dress. She wears a grey dress with a whitish shirt, and then a black vest-top on top, with a black hairband on her head. The thing is, I had already purchased my Eid outfit a while ago (during a quick trip to the shops during my frees at work) and it so happened that I had picked a grey outfit. So I just had to find a princess or a superhero who wears grey. Aurora!
Today, Mazhar was Thor. Moosa was Black Panther. Isa, Spider-Man. Saif, Deadpool [to my alarm. We kept asking him if he had watched Deadpool. He kept proudly saying, yes, he had. Turns out: apparently he tried watching it, but fifteen or so minutes into the movie, Moosa had seized the remote from him, thank God.] Dawud, Woody from ‘Toy Story’. Siyana, Jess. etc., etc.
Today has been a day filled with food, family, fun, and gratitude, Alhamdulillah Alhamdulillah.
My uncle (Captain America) and my aunt (Princess Elsa) took pictures of him using a cooking pot lid [is ‘Hundi’ a Bengali word?] as a shield, and my aunt pretending to whack him with a saucepan.
Today, I did not wear any makeup, and this feels like kind of a big thing for me. The last time I had wanted to not wear makeup to an event: my aunt (who is an MUA) sort of pressured me into ‘at least’ wearing some concealer, and some mascara and blush and whatnot. But… I don’t know. I’m a little fed up of the ‘women look dead without makeup’ idea. I don’t think we do. And if we do, then there is something that must be fixed, but not necessarily only cosmetically. ‘Tis an idea I came across while watching a Muslim YouTuber who looked radiant Masha Allah. But she does not wear makeup. Her revolutionary way of thinking: if, for example, she has spots, or eye-bags, or whatever else, then this is a sign that she probably has some internal-health things to work on. Sleep deprivation, dehydration, hormonal issues, iron deficiencies… all a’ that.
Yesterday, at work, the Year Eights had a bit of a relaxed lesson. They are very creative, Masha Allah, and some of them were doing Mendhi on one another. Two of my students pulled up a chair and invited me to sit with them. They asked me what I was wearing for Eid, and whether or not I intended to wear makeup. I apologised in advance: sometimes, when people ask me the shortest questions, I give the most long-winded answers.
The makeup industry. And this image of ‘confidence’, which is actually rooted in insecurity. It tells us that we must wear new and plastic-seeming faces, in order to be confident. And that there is always something else to be insecure about: to get us to buy all these new products.
I think makeup really is fun sometimes. But there is a difference between doing it for fun, and genuinely altering all our features, and masking our true faces, because they’ve convinced us that we look ‘dead’ or ‘ugly’ or whatever else without it.
Plus my two Year Eight students really gassed me up by saying I don’t need makeup anyway. And I trust everything these particular girls say, so… Today was alright.
We had nibbles [felt so weird to have not been fasting in the daytime anymore] and some nice conversations. Dawud and I sat on the garden swing for a little while. And when he told someone else to “move!” and I told him to say “excuse me” instead, he said… “A-goose me!” So cute, Masha Allah.
We ran out to get ice-cream from the ice-cream van. I had been wearing flip-flops with socks. I am ready to be a Bengali grandad! The ice-cream man said Eid Mubarak to us. Very sweet indeed.
Mazhar held a plastic sword to my eye and (jokingly) asked me if I wanted to re-enact our childhood. He was my best friend, growing up. In a strange way. He would protect me if others ever started on me, and yet… he also caused me quite a few injuries himself. The time he (accidentally, I hope) poked my eye with a [we are still not entirely sure if it had been a Harry Potter sword, or a Power Rangers one] plastic sword, and I had to be rushed to the hospital. Another time, at school, during PE, he accidentally swung a golf ball into my eye. And thus my first ever visit to Moorfields Eye Hospital.
We played ‘Secret Sahabah’ today. We’d played it before, maybe once or twice, but… there was something especially nice about today’s. I added the idea that we should each include a sentimental message with the giving of our gifts. Moosa went first. He had my dad. Spoke about a really old and endearing memory. And that’s pretty much how the rest of the game went.
And whenever there was a note that included some ‘big words’ in it, everyone assumed that either I, or my uncle R.M., had written it.
For a while, I had been near-certain that whoever had me would get me: a journal, or other forms of stationery. Which I would not have minded at all! But… ‘twould have been awfully predictable. Instead, Subhan Allah, I received something that actually made me teary. On the wrapping, a note that read, “Just my way of showing I do follow your thoughts and I find them valuable”. It had to be: my Ranga Mama (uncle). I asked him if that meant that he reads my blog. He said I’d find out the answer to that question if I opened the present. I had no idea what I would unwrap.
It was… the best thing I think I have ever been gifted in my entire life. Is that an exaggeration? I don’t think it is. A T-shirt with a poem I had posted with one of my articles! One of my most favourite poems of all time. About authenticity, ‘weirdness’, social masks. I had taught it to my Year Seven English class this academic year. Every time I look at the T-shirt, I want to cry. In a good way: the best way. It’s the fact that… one of my role models (Masha Allah) reads my thoughts, and finds value in them. And he got me something that wasn’t generic. It’s such a thoughtful gift, and so particular to me.
Today, I have learnt, again, that ‘spontaneous’ things can be truly wonderful. With a useful helping of planning, of course. And that presence – in genuineness – is absolutely everything.
While we prayed in the goldenly-dim-lit room, Mazhar left us a tray of teas, and whispered, “there’s teas for you all”. I am proud of who my cousin brothers are, and about how they are turning out. Isa will never let anybody insult his sister. Moosa is very physically strong, and he is also excellent with being patient with little kids who use him as a climbing-frame. Mazhar cooks, helps out, wears makeup… no, that last one: I kid. Kind of. Today, he sat at Maryam’s dressing table, applying scar-and-bruise makeup to his face, and to Isa’s.
And when we had to go to pick up the remainder of Sweetie’s gifts for all of us, I went with her and Mama in the car. When she bumped the car into a pole by accident… Mama had been extraordinarily patient. Being firm, firmly gentle. Comforting her, probably in spite of his inner reactions. This is whom he is, Masha Allah.
I wish I could capture the entirety of the story of this day, and of what I have learnt between its bookends, and of everything that has changed, and everything that has stayed the same, but in varying ways. But I cannot. The day is gone, and I cherish it for all that it has been, Alhamdulillahi rabbil ‘Aalameen.
Today I have learnt, again, that our expectations tend to be disproven: sometimes unfavourably, sometimes very pleasantly, over and over again. That we can be so utterly convinced about things, but that we can truly, truly be wrong.
We have these ideas of ‘perfection’, and things we think we want and stuff. And we have these limited human minds. True, true perfection is beyond us. Sometimes, its presences in our lives can feel, to us, rather… indecipherable. Perplexing. But there is Perfection beyond whatever reflections of it we have in mind: our frames of reference are, at present, quite limited. And is it not often quite fun, to find we have to part with our preconceptions? Is it not sometimes quite lovely, for our ideas – our convictions – to be turned completely on their own heads, disproven?
How could I have known that today would have turned out like this? That my most favourite T-shirt in the world was just waiting there, to be opened? That we would laugh so much, about the silliest of memories? That those moments would have left these imprints on my mind, today?
“I did not expect for him/her to be like this,” “I did not expect for things to turn out like this,” “I did not expect for this to happen”. You could always be so wrong about what you (however strongly) think they think of you, also, for example.
“Perhaps you may hate a thing [while] it is good for you, and perhaps you love a thing [while] it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” [Qur’an, (2:216)]. The mind, and its assumptions, which can quickly develop into convictions. Its forgetfulness, about its own limitations. And when we realise that it is the source of Perfection that is beyond us who is in control of things, here. Not we… Subhan Allah.
Eid Mu-Bucko-rama, folks!
When asked for comment, Moosa Alam (pictured above) said:
“Four wives and dat.”
With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.