Day Fourteen

What I have learnt, Episode Fourteen: Fear, Wetness, and Compromise.

Bismillah. (Things are always better when you begin with ‘Bismillah’).

Yesterday, I spoke to my uncle about the whole ‘conformity’ and ‘individuality’ thing. He always, Masha Allah, exposes me to different perspectives on things. He asks me, “What’s your take?” It’s nice when people want your opinions on these things, also.

“For example, if all I ever achieve, outside of Allah’s mercy, is bonds with family and friends, I’d honestly feel like my life counted.

If I blend into a more general background while achieving this, no problem. It’s in these bonds that you feel special” — R.M.

“Dunya of itself is a pursuit in futility.”

And then I responded with that Shaykh Hamza Yusuf quote: “Everything other than Allah is vanity.”

This morning, I received a “Good luck at work” message from my cousin Sarina. She, after an Ariana Grande phase, is currently going through her ‘Harris J’ phase… a coming-of-age/rite-of-passage thing for pretty much all Muslim girls, everywhere. Sarina is a very amusing, lovely, and (can be) quite an outspoken kid, Masha Allah. [I feel like I am currently writing up an academic report for her]. If other girls start on her, she gives it back as good as she gets it. It really is better to be kind… but equally, retaliation in equal measure is great sometimes, too.

Today, I learned that a compromise can be made: to work, when I cycle in, I can wear my knee-length hoodie, and trousers: modest, and practical. I can put my Abaya on when I get there. And I also learned that… East London Mosque is on Alexa [domestic robot servant, who listens in on conversations]! The other day, when I asked Alexa when the next prayer time is, she (though my brother determinedly and persistently refers to her as a ‘he’) responded with the exact time, with location. Sick, with a dollah sign, Masha Allah.

Today I sort of almost got run over, maybe once or twice. Normal, for me. I don’t know how to explain it: I am, at once, a very clumsy individual, often a little lost in my own world. And, yet, I am often very hyper-aware of things, too. Spider-Man reflexes, sometimes: like when I reach out, to catch things, sort of way before they fall.

[On the way back from work, my Abaya got caught in the chains again. I didn’t have my scissors with me; a kind stranger yanked it out for me.]

Recently, things have been feeling somewhat scattered, in this mind of mine. It feels like there is so much – too much, perhaps – on my phone, and on my laptop, and in my bags, and at home. Thankfully, Insha Allah, the May half-term holiday is rapidly approaching: hopefully, a great time for a thorough clean.

Today, I learned some more random words — this time, from a thesaurus that had been left on my form class desk. ‘Renege’: to betray; to go back on a promise or commitment [I usually have to Google definitions, then click on the ‘sound’ icon, to hear how they should be pronounced. Or use the speech feature on Chrome]. ‘Malinger’: to pretend to be sick, usually to get out of doing something. And synonyms for ‘malodorous‘ include: ‘noisome’, ‘mephitic’.

Today, a student of mine lent me a book… ‘The Boy at the Back of The Class’, a story about a young boy who is a Syrian refugee. But then, halfway into the school day, she asked if she could have it back for a while: she has yet to finish the last page, apparently.

Today, we named our form class wooden spoon. H–a named him, ‘Chef Tony’. He’s kinda stiff, but he stirs up some good discussions. Alternatively, his government name is also ‘The Spoon of Peace’. As soon as I brought him out, there were jokes (which… were kind of rooted in reality, as jokes tend to be) like “Miss, are you gonna hit us with that?” To many Bengalis, a wooden spoon signifies a Singla, a Dewwa. I hope Chef Tony grows on them, though…

[Update: he did! Our class discussions today were great, Masha Allah. Very open and insightful… Call it Pavlovian re-conditioning.]

Home, in terms of areas, for me, are Wapping, and Whitechapel. Today, during our free together, Saajidah, Fahmeda and I [they are twenty-three years old. Along with Samaiya, they are the closest, in terms of age, to me] went out for lunch. Brunch for me: I didn’t quite get to eat breakfast today, save for… a ‘Thank You’ chocolate from that restaurant from the other day…

Saajidah and Fahmeda had to leave a little early, since they had a lesson soon. I stayed, for longer, alone. Alhamdulillah, this is something I had to really come to develop: the ability to do things like this alone. Sitting at cafés by myself, for example, used to bring me something like terror, fear. Now, it just feels like… table, tea, book. Writing on a napkin. Comfort, ease. And, the gorgeous, gorgeous sound of the rain, outside, in beautiful, somewhat-run-down, though mostly-terrific, Whitechapel.

I got out a book from my bag. I really haven’t been reading recently: I don’t remember the last time I actually finished a whole book. Perhaps this is something for me to get back into, Insha Allah.

My socks are currently wet, as is the bottom of my trousers. But I don’t mind: worth it.

The Assistant Principal just walked into the staff room and referred to us as “kids”. I referred to her as “grandma” back [it just came out]. She looked at me, joke-offended, and said she’d much prefer that I called her “mum” instead.

People keep calling the things I do “so cute”. They call my things “little”. “Your little bike,” “your little…” It’s kind, it’s nice, I guess. But it’s probably only because I’m small. If I were tall… different story, probably.

My colleague (A-level Psych teacher) is currently on the phone, talking about how the café she frequents so often let her off for the 20p she had been short of. “Afa, no, no, you’re basically family!” they had said to her.

Today, I had been pleasantly surprised by Miss Doli, who had come into work holding a large carrier bag. In it, a maxi box of cornflakes. She said it’s for me, to have a bowl of cereal whenever I get peckish in the staff room! This is the second time she’s got me food: last time, she got me an entire big box of Wasabi sushi… The thing is, what I understand is often quite different to what is true. [As I write this, my brother is watching another ‘Dhar Mann’ video, which is narrated in a similarly cheesy way to the writing of éste article]. I really, really thought that Doli Khala found me really awkward and weird [recurring theme here, no?] But whenever she sees me, she comes to me to talk for a while. In Bengali: with her, I am practising my Bengali, while she is practising her English. We have plans, Insha Allah, to hold actual lessons with one another. And, in return for the food, I went to Tesco today (inspired by yet another interesting staff room conversation, this time about flowers) and looked for a bunch of flowers, for her. I found a bunch of nice pink roses… but they had quickly been rotting, browned. I looked up, and on one of the movable shelves: a beautiful orchid plant. [Orchids remind me of Aatqa’s mum, and Tamanna’s. And Tasnim’s. Why do all my friends’ mums love orchids? Mine doesn’t].

I carried the plant; my newspaper; my oat milk [to have le cornflakes with] past the mosque, and back to the school, in the gorgeous pouring rain. And since I had still been wearing my screen glasses, it was like… sitting in a car, when there are rain droplets all over the front window.

And when I poured the milk in before the cereal, Samaiya looked at me (jokingly) like I were a lab experiment gone wrong.

Today, I learned about the art of compromise. Samaiya and I chose to work on our form class’ main display board, after school. We got the keys to the resource room (which is like being given the keys to a Lambo, for me) and got our paper and our borders. I kind of thought a yellow backing would be good — last time, I’d done the display alone, and had used yellow. Samaiya suggested something a little darker, perhaps. And, more in line with what the 9S girls had been saying. We chose a rich shade of purple. And, between a shiny red border, or a black one: after a few moments of deliberation… we went for black.

Samaiya took charge of printing things out, and laminating them. We both measured the paper, and cut it, and stapled it on, together. Next came the borders. I asked if we could paint the title, and she agreed. The font she had chosen for the sheets would not have necessarily been my first choice [I’ve been consistently using ‘TW Cen MT’ this teaching-year] but… iz okay. This form class is both of ours’. And, all in all, teamwork makes the dream work. Communication, efficiency, and the rest: good stuff.

When I went back to Tesco after school (after checking to see, again, if the mosque was yet open) I grabbed some fruits, and looked for my food for the week. Today I really discovered that there is sugar in ‘most everything! ‘Healthy’ soups; bread; sandwiches… sugar, sugar, sugar. Like crack cocaine, this stuff; it is everywhere. I really need to start making my own food every day… Even if ’tis hard. ‘Twill be worthwhile, Insha Allah.

This is quite serious. Diabetes, cholesterol issues, and all the rest of it: it scares me. And “Allah does not change the condition of a people unless they change what is in themselves”. I have hope for this journey, and I must also put the werk in.

M a k e g o o d decisions, or… suffer the consequences of the less-than-good ones. A momentary buzz is never worth losing the best, most nourishing, most fulfilling, things for. Lower thouest glaze, young Sadia Ahmed Jannit.

Dear future self, it’s me: you at twenty. How art thou, my dude? I hope that you have always remembered that it is ‘enough’, for you; if only the word itself, could be itself. To nourish one’s soul with all the right sights and sounds and smells, and conversations; to become intoxicated, sometimes, with laughter that bursts forth, messily, melodiously. To try to always do the Right things, irrespective of how hard, in the moment, they may seem. To not delude ourselves in ‘want’ of that which is not good. Bismillah.

There is no ‘next’; there is only now. Still, though, what happens next? Currently, I am in your last few months at —– School. And I never knew that you would become this attached to the place, and to its people. And the new building has not been made yet; I want to stay for the library. Do I get to stay, for the library? What happens next? [Fear and excitement… But, faith: it is all in the Hands of the Almighty.]

And I need to really remember that everybody – even, say, kings and queens – is completely human. Made in weakness, in difficulty. Everybody has to use the toilet; everybody has their struggles, their things they do not necessarily want others to see and know. ‘Vulnerability’. Everybody comes into this world, distressed and wailing. We leave, though, quiet, noiseless, undisturbed. And all those spaces in between life and death: I hope that we make it a good one, a True one, a beautiful one, Insha Allah.

There’s a big, big, big world out there, in which it is so easy to get lost in all the crowds. Anonymity, distress, exhaustion, and dizziness. And, here, we will always have this one, of our own. It is okay if the entirety of the world does not really ‘see’ us: it is okay if only, say, ten of the right people do, Alhamdulillah. They are our worlds. And, in general, people are not ready to really flourish… unless — until… we feel completely, in the embrace of all these love-rooted networks, in the arms of the right people… loved.

To some people, you will be their world. To others, you will be only a stranger; nothing much at all. One man’s trash, another’s treasure. One woman’s poison, another’s medicine. This is how things are; different perspectives on the same things, always. And the other halves of the ‘downsides’ are always worth it, Alhamdulillah.

“Goodness is within that which God chooses for you.”

What concerns me concerns me: I need to focus on these things, and not expend energy on futile things. “Everything other than Allah is vanity”, absolutely.

“Loving can hurt, sometimes.

But it’s the only thing that I

know.” [E.S.]

“6t7 . hjokj.” — this is what Saif has aggressively typed, during one of his characteristic annoying-me-and-then-saying-I’m-the-annoying-one seshes.

Today, I cannot seem to stop singing ‘Away in a Manger’ for some reason, but only the first line, since I have forgotten the rest, and since there are lines of Shirk in it, anyway. Might go ahead and make up some lyrics. [I accidentally-on purpose sang it out loud in the staff room. I’m getting way too comfortable there. At the start, though, I felt so rigid, restricted, and afraid].

“Zack’s such a wet name” — Saif Ahmed, 2021. He’s recently discovered the slang meaning of ‘wet’.

Today, I watched/listened to the Zaytuna College 2021 Commencement: they call their graduation ceremony a ‘commencement’ one… the beginning of going out into the world, after their years at Zaytuna. Nice idea. The speeches were absolutely great, Masha Allah.

How is it 10PM already? This substance that we know to call ‘time’… it do be passing, though. Rapidly, though. I cannot believe that I am twenty years old.

And what a blessing it is, to be able to talk to my Lord each and every day. To feel ‘secure’: that His approval of me counts. And the approval of those whom I love counts. And, ultimately, life is a thing of fear, sometimes. Lots of learning, every day. Stupid courage, sometimes. Unexpected happenings, always. Choices.

“Will man receive anything but the actions he used to do, in this world?”

I’ve been feeling a lot of things recently. Sometimes, my feelings are not so pleasant, but that is no excuse to force myself to be distracted from them.

“Don’t be so ‘cool’ you can’t cry; don’t be so ‘smart’ you can’t wonder;

Don’t be so set on your sunny days

That you can’t love the roll of the thunder.”

And man, had the rain been ferocious today, Masha Allah!

“Sadia/Jannath smells like 100 poops.” — written on a loving note put under my door, from brother mine. Complete with a rather disturbing illustration.

With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

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