Day Sixteen

What I have learnt, Episode Sixteen: Matcha Tea, and Marriage.

Bismillah.

Today, in contrast to yesterday, I got to work on time, Alhamdulillah. My aim is to get here, at least fifteen minutes early, every day, Insha Allah. No: scrap that. Twenty-five minutes early, perhaps. That would give me enough time to relaxedly enjoy some cornflakes, and some random conversations. One of today’s random conversations had been really funny: Mas—ah really showing her take-no-shiz side. [Compare to when Mah—, who is known to be super tough and cool, with her trainers and her biker jackets… FaceTimed her baby niece/nephew, and started enthusiastically babbling along with them, in baby language. Trés cute: things like this, they, how you say, set the lil heart on flowery fire].

This morning, I discovered that the scarf I am currently using for Salāh (navy blue) still smells like fire! And… my bag still smells like chicken wings. So does my coat [I sprayed some of that weak-and-diluted perfume over myself, before leaving the house]. Living in an Asian household means quite often smelling like food…

Today, I learned again how much I love my friend Tamanna. She wished me a good day today, God-Willing, and she told me that I am her “favourite writer”! Subhan Allah. For me, it is okay if hundreds of people do not see, or like, my work. If a Tamanna Islam [not a Tamanna Atheism or a Tamanna Christianity. Not even a Tamanna Agnosticism, mate] enjoys my work, then I have absolutely succeeded, Masha Allah. When people compliment me or what I write and stuff, I like to write it down. [Ref: Ay—, Aw—, Aq–, P-li, Ranga Mama, also!]

Is the stuff of the above merely some exercise in vanity? Nah… I think it’s more one in encouragement, for me. I want to keep on going, Insha Allah. I really, really, really, love writing, and I would like for my words to always be rooted in Truth, and in pursuit of goodness, and dipped – like a feather quill in ink – in beauty.

Today, I found out that it is Mominah’s last day at work… Apparently, she had announced it around, in the staff room, while I had been off sick last week. I am going to miss her being here: she has such a soft and comforting presence [which quickly becomes something else entirely when she is telling her students off…] She has taught me such interesting things about Islamic Psychology.

Today, Mominah asked me to “decode” [handwriting] another one of the exam scripts she has been marking. I secretly love doing this: it makes me feel somewhat Benedict-Cumberbatch-as-Sherlock-ian.

Mominah: when I first met her, she immediately reminded me of someone else I know. Very, very similar in appearance. Then I looked at her lanyard: she had the same surname as Maryam – not my cousin, or any of the other gajillion Maryams I have come into acquaintance with, in this lifetime of mine, but – my former Qur’an teacher. Maryam, as we later discovered, is also my aunts’ (Sunia and Tania Khala’s) friend, from their old Tae Kwondo class. Maryam and Mominah are sisters; I knew it! And I discovered, through a long story involving a rather sad incident, that one of the girls in my form class is Maryam and Mominah’s cousin.

[Weirdly enough, this whole recognising-someone-I-know’s-sister thing has happened again, at work. One of my colleagues looked, to me, a lot like my mum’s friend/colleague. And, yep: they’re sistahs. Miss K got homemade guacamole into work for me, once, to encourage me with this whole ‘healthy eating’ ting].

Today, Mominah has brought in two big boxes of Krispy Kremes. There are twenty-four doughnuts within reach-out distance, for me, right now. But I said (internally, of course) to my Nafs: NO. U fatty.

I kind-of-jokingly just asked M when my invite to her house will come: she has a big family, Masha Allah, and they seem to really enjoy holding (highly aesthetique) parties. Right before she said, “yeah, I would love to pick you up and take you!” I quickly assumed she wouldn’t really want to, and said, “I’m joking,” [yeh can’t just invite yourself to other people’s houses…]. At this exact time, I had accidentally pressed down the button on my phone that gets Siri up: he completed Mominah and my exchange, for some reason, with a remark of: “Deep down, I’m LOL-ing”. AI, folks. 2021. The robots have not come for us just yet, but……. ….. ……….

Mominah and I might have a ‘matcha tea party’ soon, at her house, Insha Allah. I’m quite excited to meet the rest of her clan, whom I have previously only seen on Snapchat. They seem like a spirited and stylish bunch, Masha Allah. [Update: we have planned to have a book-shop tour together – Islamic bookshops, followed by the ‘floating’ one, in East London, topped off with a matcha tea date, Insha Allah Insha Allah.]

Today, I saw Habiba Khala (a friend of Sweetie’s — Sweetie has a lot of friends, Masha Allah, and they are all my aunties) at work: she is applying for a teaching position there. Part-time, though: she is also a nurse at the Royal London Hospital, as I learned today. In fact, she had been one of the first to have seen my baby cousin Siyana – Sweetie’s daughter – when she had been in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the hospital.

Habiba Khala used to run the local Muslim girls’ Scouts group, here in East London. My cousin Maryam had been a member of it. Sadly, I had been too old (by a year! Oh, what’s in a year) to join… Camping activities; building things; crafts; awesome trips. I missed out on those things, sigh [well, I got to do many of these things, through other avenues. Still, it’s not quite the same as having a Scout-y neckerchief and all those badges…] I’m not sure if Habiba Khala is still a Scouts leader, but she told me that she took the girls to a café called the Crêpe Factory, when it had been open, and obtained permission for them to make their own crêpes in the kitchen! I think, in order to compensate for this, one of my biggest heartbreaks: I would like to sort of spend the rest of my life being a grown-up Girl Scout of sorts.

I (accidentally-on-purpose) looked down at H Khala’s shoes. Pristine-white trainers. Probably her ‘interview shoes’. She is such a cool person: she came in with her backpack on, with a Palestine flag coming out of its side pocket. She wore a long top with floral decorations on it. I just remember her being so cool, when I was younger, and she still is, now, Masha Allah. [Today, also, she said I look like I’m fourteen years old…]

Today, after my school day had ended, I went up to the school’s lab, in order to watch Sweetie and her students carry out their experiment. The plan had been to do a sheep heart dissection [throwback, for me, to Year Nine, when Miss Khatun showed us a sheep’s pulmonary system, and even blew into it to show us how it works. I… could not stand to even look at meat, for weeks, after that event…].

As it so turned out: Sweetie could not find sheep hearts at any of the local butchers’. But she still had to carry out an experiment with her girls. So, Mama (Sweetie’s husband) to the rescue… He called up a bunch of local florists’ and such [pun not intended, but it’s there, Masha Allah! Ohhhhh] and located some pondweed, for Sweetie to carry out a photosynthesis experiment with them instead.

Mama and Sweetie’s relationship. Masha Allah, I just love so much. Mama: lover of Ertuğrul; Islamic history; food; an engineer by day, chef/husband/father by evening. Sweetie: lover of crafts; holding fun dinners for us all; taking us on awesome outings; an A-level Biology teacher by day, chef/wife/mother-to-us-all by evening. I really do believe that Allah made human beings “in pairs”, as the Qur’an says. Some people are lucky enough to find their other halves, in this lifetime. I think this – their beautiful relationship, Masha Allah – is an example of that.

Yesterday, Sweetie found a fiver in her pocket, and got really excited about it. Then Mama said same! He loves randomly finding money in his pockets, and had also found a fiver in his pocket yesterday; they both held their matching notes up excitedly. I love the idea of being married with someone whom you can freely be a dweeb with.

Today I learned what ‘acetate sheets’ are. And I ate some Roses chocolates (they are wrapped in said sheets) in a room in which there had also been dead locusts in vinegar solutions; casual containers of hydrogen peroxide; sand; test tubes… Kinda makes me want to go all Frankenstein and stuff, up in there.

Sweetie and I tend to walk home together on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Sometimes, we grab a bite to eat; usually, Sweetie makes us food. But increasingly, recently, Alhamdulillah, I am really growing into this whole adulthood thing. I make food for her, and she actually enjoys it! [She’s known to be an honest food critic… she’ll tell you when the food is great; she’ll constructively criticise, if need be, also.]

I love hearing about Sweetie’s random stories, on our walks home. And, the way she explains scientific concepts, making them comprehensible to me. Once, the other day (last month, maybe?) she had planned to do an experiment with pollen – there was a more technical name for what she wanted to show them, but alas, alas, science and I had officially parted ways after Year Eleven – and so we went to the local produce shop (H–s-y’s) to get daffodils. Atchoo! if you have hay fever.

Today, also, Sweetie asked if she could leave something of hers in my drawer [at work, we are given a drawer – for mail and for printing – and a locker – for personal things. In some people’s lockers, for example in Miss Fillanda’s, there are basically entire kitchens, Tardissed away in there…]. I said yah, sure, why not. When she opened the drawer, we found a parcel in there [and man do I love receiving mail at work!] from… a 17-year-old author, who has published a book about autism (‘The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How to Grow Up Awesome and Autistic’, by Siena Castellon). I love receiving books. I love receiving anything, to be honest. This book: I look so forward to reading, Insha Allah. I just need to fix up on how much I read: my aim is to read (and I know it sounds unrealistic but…) a quarter of a book a day, Insha Allah.

This particular book: I do believe that the attempted organisation of deeply complex human personalities into boxes of ‘symptoms’ is not always so helpful, but equally… if we do take this construct of a ‘spectrum’ to be true, then I know (now, at age twenty) that I am probably basically certainly on it. I look forward to reading this book, Insha Allah, and finding out more about the autism spectrum [and about its links with what is termed ADHD. After flipping through the book a little, I have found a little section on this very link].

Today, while on our way home, Sweetie stopped at S-v-r- (Bengali cake shop) to get pastries, and she insisted on getting me one too.

I probably have more things to say, about what I have learnt today [ref: perspectives; ‘cool’ and true security; today’s FaceTime with Baatqa, while Saif said that “Wallahi [he wouldn’t] annoy [me]”, and then proceeded to… do just that] but I shall leave it for Saturday, Insha Allah.

Today, I am really scared for my future. Mainly: I have choices to make, regarding university. And, marriage, weirdly enough: I found out from Sweetie yesterday that my dad has asked her to start ‘looking’, for me; to see if there would be anyone I might like. He brought up the topic of my marriage with me the other day, in casual conversation, saying something like how he would like to buy me a house once I get married: something like that. And then, apparently, he went and proudly told Sweetie and Mama that he had an “open conversation” with me about it. Bless my dad: how sweet. I can’t really – at. all. – picture myself with a normal Bengali dude, though. I cannot do anything for the mere sake of itself. Marriage for the sake of marriage? No way: I’d rather die a spinster! I need someone with, to quote that poem I so love and now have on a lil beloved T-shirt, (metaphorical) ‘blue skin’ like my own. To pray beside; to be completely myself with; to eat with; to develop with; to talk to all the time, etc., etc. We shall see, we shall see, though. [Does it happen? When? How?! A–ssa’s theory, which she brought up again today, is that… I meet him at a library. I drop my books; he picks them up. Our hands touch, and then he looks at his hand and dies about it. I don’t know why the description was so specific, but it is a developed cut-out from ‘Gilmore Girls’]. Time shall tell; shall reveal the plans of the Almighty.

Being a South Asian woman: as soon as you hit, say, twenty [or eighteen, for some], people start talking about ‘getting you married [off]’. Quite a few colleagues of mine have asked me about it. Students too. And my dad: he expects me to ‘have’ someone already, even though… I don’t really even talk to boys. Asian standards, huh? Me not know, though. It just feels impossible for me to imagine going through things like… the CV-making [British-Bangladeshis who go down the arranged marriage route make a ‘CV’ (like a dating profile) about themselves, which is then released into the masses, the networks] and the fish-cutting ceremonies [once married, you’re ‘meant’ to symbolically… cut a fish. And everyone cheers for you, for some reason] and whatnot.

I… imagine myself weirding people out, during the first meeting. I would gladly pull out my ‘F.G.’ cards; talk about big-question things; bust dad jokes, be annoying (‘Medium Mac Squad’ style). And if I am not accepted and loved for me, then what the heck is the point? I am not especially fond of the idea of putting up façades, in order to be ‘liked’. I like being me; I like it so much that I am willing to embrace the (necessary, inevitable) downsides of my particular experience of being human.

*Cockney accent* I just gotta bey me. And, the right people will be here for it – for all of it – Insha Allah. The wrong people for me, they will necessarily be filtered out, so to speak. Merely being ‘liked’ is not such a priority for me (anymore?), but love will always be my foremost commitment, Insha Allah.

With everything, though, to paraphrase something that Aatqa said, you do your part[s] and then it is in Allah’s realm.

To top off this day, I am going to be marking some (sort of overdue) assessment scripts, Insha Allah [I do always learn little random things about my students, from what they write in their books/for assessments]. And, working on my final English presentations for this half-term: we are going to have some lessons on propaganda and media biases! Time to implement some subtle (anti-)indoctrination; Bismillah…

[Update: I left those last lil tasks to the next day.]


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

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