What I have learnt.
Day Four of this thing; day after Eid; day who-knows-what of being alive. It is midnight right now. I have just returned from my Nan’s. Today I learned that… I think my cousin Dawud sees me as a friend, which I find adorable. He was “blue Hulk” today, and he called me “pink Hulk”. He sat on my Nan’s prayer chair – which the family had collectively gifted her, for Ramadan – and pretended it was a car. We sat in his car, and ‘drove’ to various places: his Nanu’s house, Moosa’s house, “holiday”, and so on.
Today, I had a day off from work: they’d given us Eid and the following day off, so I basically get a four-day weekend this week! I woke up to discover that… my brother had taken a day off from school. He’d caught a cold, apparently.
My best friend, Tamanna, came around today. We normally see each other on Eid day; this time, I invited her to mine for the day after. The plan had been to have a little tea party. Yesterday, since I went out, I wore modest clothes. For today, I wanted to dress up, and for Tee and I to take pictures. Memreez: we will never ever be this young again.
A while ago, Tee and I – on one of our notorious ‘meet-at-the-Bridge’ walks, I think – had been talking about hijāb. It is, of course, a good concept. It signifies obedience to Allah, and the cultivation of an understanding that a woman’s sexual value/outward beauty is not the crux of her value.
The thing is, it is also easy to feel insecure. When we are so used to seeing ourselves covered up. When we are more used to seeing ourselves in hijāb than without it. Tee had helpfully reminded me that we don’t really look like that. It is not that women who observe this sacred thing look ‘ugly’… but when we start comparing ourselves in hijāb to women who are not wearing it… it is an unfair comparison to make. Tee said that if we ever feel like this, we should imagine a guy being fully covered up [the scarf on his head, for example, would significantly affect his facial structure, the framing of his face, etc.]. I love this idea so much. It’s such a comforting and funny thing to do.
Today I learned that… I don’t know how Asian mums do it. Since my parents had both gone to work, I had been left in charge of the house, and of my little brother. I made our food, left the kitchen in a bit of a state, set the dining room up for Tammy-lam, and went up to get ready.
I also received a box of chocolates from my Khalamoni’s – my aunt, who has learning disabilities – lovely carer. She said they’re for me and my brother. What a kind person. Before, when she would come to my nan’s, she would always ask about me, and that always means a lot.
Today I wore a dress that my aunt had given me. Another Eid gift [big extended family = stress, sometimes. Drama. But also lots of love, many gifts, Alhamdulillah]. It is black, and has pink rose designs on it. Apparently, my cousin Fabiha had picked it out for me.
Tee wore an Abaya. Classy choice. She’d arrived while I had still been getting ready. I opened the door and asked her what the heck she’s doing at my house. She smiled, and knew that that means “welcome, my dude. I really missed you, you know <3”.
Tasks to do: check on the chips [today I learned how to make steak chips!]; tidy up the kitchen; finish getting ready; talk to Tee; drink ma rooibos tea.
I learned that… my best friend of over a decade-many years: I’d always, for some reason, assumed that she does not like vegetables at all. I don’t quite know where that assumption had come from in the first place. But today I discovered that… it’s not true.
We talked and talked – as we do. Ate and ate – as we also do. And… we exchanged presents! Gift-giving really is a love-language: when tender thought goes into whatever is being given. Tee gave me a handmade card with a beautiful message inside; a print of a sublime piece of artwork — a mosque with a storm raging in the background; a gorgeous checked coat, which fit perfectly.
I gave Tee a (highly cheesy) letter, and an emerald-green hoodie that informs people of how to pronounce her name properly. Insha Allah, later this year, Tamanna is (after a long – Qadr-ic – story, and two years of Sabr!) going to Cambridge, to study Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. I can scarcely think of another place – or another course – that suits her this well, Masha Allah. And we’ll just have to hope that these Arabic-learning Cambridge students can read Arabic and pronounce her name properly!
And, yes, as we tend to do, we reflected, quite a bit, together, on our lives, and on our selves, and on this friendship of ours. Truth be told, I cannot fit all the things this friendship has taught me, and how it has changed me and my life, into words. It is everything. I cannot imagine my life without her being in it: it’s impossible.
“I don’t know who I am without you.”
“People change people. Secret of life” [Cory, ‘GMW’]. And people are people: we each exist as we are. As separate entities, and inextricably connected. Our lives are painted with the colours of the people whom we are lucky enough to love.
And I have got to learn to meet people where and how they are. Look at what is there, not at what I sometimes think I want to be there. People love in their own varying ways. My particular favoured ways of showing my love are different from others’. And what a great thing to learn: the love languages, the styles, the preferences, of those whom we love…
*DJ Khaled voice* The key to success is… communication, probably.
Communication. Today I also received (yet another. I’m not even trying to flex here: this Eid has just happened to have been a very present-filled one, Masha Allah!) a parcel from my friend Aatqa. The ‘Freshly Grounded’ (podcast. Recommended) card set! A set of thought-provoking cards to foster communication, openness, introspection, connection. I love, love, love it. I used them this evening, actually, with my uncle and aunts. Again: someone who is beloved to me thought about who I am, and about what I would like and use. Makes my ol’ heart feel all fuzzy.
I am too tired to write now… right now. Do I carry on? Do I not? Decisions, decisions.
I’m carrying on. I want to say, again, that people are people. They are not us. And that is precisely the point. I am I, and you are you. And when two people meet, and befriend one another, we meet each other where we are. We are challenged, we may clash a little; we learn. We are changed. We fall in love with their beings (to paraphrase a cheesy John Green line) slowly, and then… all at once.
Expectations. We cannot expect ‘perfection’ of people. We cannot expect them to befit what we think that love looks like, or ‘ought’ to. Because this is quite subjective, and varies from person to person. We must let ourselves, and them, be human, as we are.
Man. I have learnt that I should really learn to start winding down at around Maghrib time. I want for my mind to be in sync, as much as it can be, with the sky. For now, I am tired, and I guess I can say the rest of what I want to say, (and then some,) tomorrow, Insha Allah. Until then, adieu!
With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.