What I have learnt, Episode Twenty-Two: Farm-grown Mixed Salad (with flowers in it) and Stolen Chips.
Welcome back to this portion of the ongoing sit-com, so it would seem, that is my life.
Random excerpt from the Wikipedia page on hipsters:
In the 21st century, a hipster is a member of a subculture that is defined by claims to authenticity and uniqueness yet, ironically, is notably lacking in authenticity and conforms to a collective style. The subculture embodies a particular ethic of consumption which seeks to commodify the idea of rebellion or counterculture. Fashion is one of the major markers of hipster identity. Members of the subculture typically do not self-identify as hipsters, and the word hipster is often used as a pejorative for someone who is pretentious or overly concerned with appearing trendy or fashionable in a non-mainstream way. Stereotypical elements include vintage clothes, alternative fashion, or a mixture of different fashions, often including skinny jeans, checked shirts, knit beanies, a full beard or deliberately attention-grabbing moustache, and thick-rimmed or lensless glasses.
Today I learned that the gold-wrapper Lindor tastes like… Milkybar chocolate [I had to Google ‘cowboy white chocolate’ to remember the name of this childhood-flavoured bar]. Nom nom.
In line with the Hadiths that indicate that string instruments are likely Harām, I don’t really actively listen to music anymore. But, before, my taste in music, I suppose, had been the Shawn Mendes/Taylor Swift/Ed Sheeran kind of stuff. Some of the lines from their songs can only be described as poetry; I’m glad I got to learn them while in my Jahiliyyah (ignorance) phase of life, because I love humming and singing, even though I don’t think I’m particularly good at it…
I keep (beggishly. That should be a word) trying to get Beesa and Soopaf to rate my singing. They both have tendencies towards… brutal honesty. But whenever I tell them to rate how well I sing, they say, “we weren’t even listening”. The other day, in the mini-van, while Dad had been at the suppliers’, Isa rated my voice an… 8.5! “But sometimes it cracks,” he added.
I also challenged them to arm-wrestles, to see who should be the rightful leader of the ‘Medium Mac Squad’. I beat both of them (although there had been a brief period when they would keep beating me, and then showing off about it). Then Isa decided that ‘the losers are actually the winners’.
“I just wanna know you
Better, know you better,
know you better now.” [T.S.]
Everything has changed.
At this point in time (and it will likely never change) I have a favourite punctuation mark. Same as the one that Emily Dickinson favoured, I think: the em dash. — — —. This beauty. Compare to this emblem of inferiority: the en dash. – – -. [I also really love square brackets. Even though these blog entries of mine comprise, ‘most entirely, my own voice… I like to include ‘asides’ in them…]
Today, I discovered an amazing Twitter account (@cafedelov) because Aatqa had ‘liked’ some of its posts. Islam, poetry, flowers, stars. ‘Romantic’. I cannot express how much I have learnt, through the bird app, over time.
Now, it is 06:38 AM the next day (Wednesday) and… what a time to be alive. I’m starving, but there are stairs between myself and food. Is the journey worth it? Yes. I have Keema (mince) in the fridge – which Stomami made – and garlic-flavoured rice somewhere. And a packet of farm-grown mixed salad in my bag, which I forgot to put in the fridge. But more on that, a bit later.
Okay, 07:14 AM and she has now been fed. Alhamdulillah. Good meal; extraordinary salad, and a salad of extraordinary proportions because I guess I got excited and put too much on my plate. Now I am having orange juice (en español: el zumo de naranja) from a shot glass.
Incidentally, a handful of people – including Tasnim, yesterday, who agreed with the idea – seem to think that if I were not Muslim, I would have 100% been a wine-drinker. … … Like, probably not even a healthy wine drinker. Priya says it’s because of my writing tendencies: she can picture me being really stressed, with my writing materials out, and drinking a lot. Tasnim thinks I would be a ‘sophisticated’ wine drinker, going to wine-tasting sessions, and having a collection of wines — different ones for different things. Sigh. In Jannah, Insha Allah. [This all also reminds me of, the other day, at the Eid extended lunch at work, when I made a joke that I’m gonna do shots with the Panee Puree, and a student (T–im) … at an Islamic school… got out a plastic cup and said, “Ohhh, I thought you meant Vodka.“
In Jannah, Insha Allah, T–im. In Jannah.]
Today, randomly, I am missing Hishaam a little. Hishaam is my aunt’s friend’s son; I think he is seven years old. Last year, when I worked at an Islamic bookshop in East London, we would be given breaks to go to the mosque and pray. And, at the mosque, at Dhuhr (noon) time, I would frequently see my aunt’s friend (Nazia Khala) and her son Hishaam. Once, Nazia Khala had been there with her (and my aunt’s) other friend (who’d recently applied for a lab tech role at the school, actually). I had been eating my lunch [Tesco meal deal, from that Tesco. The first time I’d been there had been when I was eleven. I went for carrots, hummus, and roti. For Ifthar.]. I ate in the small room on the second floor, just outside of the main prayer space. Nazia Khala’s friend recommended that I crush my crisps and sprinkle it over my pasta — it tastes really good, apparently. So I tried it. It did taste nice.
But when Hishaam had seen that I had crisps over my pasta, he found it super weird. “You’re weird!” he said, with a smile that was quite bubbly, contagious, Masha Allah. And then we became friends. Sweetie (my aunt) said he’s asked his mum about me. I’m the weird crisps girl. I miss our conversations: he is so. Cute. Masha Allah. The sound of his laughter is adorable: I would sometimes say things that were extra weird, just to make him laugh.
I guess I need to fully, fully accept that I am ‘weird’. Synonyms, alternatives: ‘quirky’ (ew, I hate the word) and eccentric. ‘Unique’, perhaps. I am weird, and I don’t really even try to be: I just am, I guess. But I also need to realise that it is not necessarily ‘off-putting’, as this mind of mine frequently makes it out to be. I think it’s what makes me me, and it is what makes the people who like me, like me, also. I can’t be me, without all of me.
Sigh. ‘Weird’. At once, my biggest strength, probably, and my biggest weakness, probably.
Okay, so yesterday had been Day Twenty-Two. I saw Tasnim yesterday; we took an Über to the farm! One of my favourite places on this Earth. *Northern accent* The farrrrrm.
I used to volunteer at this particular farm, some seven years ago [during this time, once a week, I would shovel things for compost, pick berries, ‘socialise’ with sheep, and… powder and also inspect chicken butts, for signs of infection. Yup.]. Much of the farm has changed quite a bit: there are many new things, there. Like a new wooden remote hall-thing. A new pond area! A colourful little kids’ play area. I love the farm; I think going there is just so… necessary, almost. Community, nature, discovery. They have this nice three-section workshop shed space: one section is for clay-pottery-making. The next is for woodwork. The third is for art (painting).
Tas and I only managed to get there about twenty minutes before its closing time. In that time, however, we got to see… a rabbit; some donkeys; pigs (‘Lord of the Flies’ vibes); goats, including baby goats [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]. Baby goats. One got up from where it was sitting, and popped its head through the fence, to say hello. S/he probably thought we had food on us.
I think I am very much a ‘country girl’, but one who could probably never actually live in the country-country. I think I would find that too boring; I would experience massive FOMO, also, probably, being away from the city. I suppose the wonderful thing is that there are pockets of Londinium (the Roman name for this majestic city) that are very ‘country-like’. You don’t have to escape places, to find what yer lookin’ for. Everything is here already! Masha Allah, Masha Allah.
Yesterday, I purchased a bag of (farm-grown, fresh!) mixed salad from the ‘welcome’ shed by the entrance. Only £2 for such a great mix. It even has flowers (edible, of course) in it. Orange flowers, white ones, purple ones. I remember eating my first flowers those seven years ago, at this farm. We picked them and ate them. And there was also a dude who used to work on a big country farm, who told us about his experiences of castrating horses, and seeing them give birth; at this ‘city farm’, he would look around for mice to whack with a shovel [I’m terrified of mice, but I don’t believe in whacking them with a shovel at all].
Work, the farm, the masjid, gardens/parks, cafés. The planetarium. Nando’s. Anywhere with plants. I love these places. In Jannah, I think I would like to have a farm/library/planetarium/café thing. With amazing food. And it will also be a castle, with horses and a dragon. Insha Allah.
After walking around the farm [we got to visit all the sections, save for the café this time] and sitting by the pond for a while to talk at length about things [I took my shoes off: it’s the only way to be comfortable. Am I a Manush or a Goru? I belong to the farm.] we were both hungry. I suggested Nando’s and Tasnim, agleam, said she hadn’t been there in a while. So… yikes. We went from cooing at live animals to…
eating chicken. This just took a dark turn.
[Help, I think I’m the least-vegan kind-of-vegan ever.]
Nando’s. Due to the ol’ ‘Rona [but, as I have announced to Tamanna already, I think I’m going to start calling this disease ‘Pedro’s Cough’, after that Peppa Pig episode, when Pedro starts coughing, and then it spreads] we had to scan a QR code, to get into a queue for tables. Upon discovering that, if you sit outside, you don’t have to queue up, though: we decided to sit outside.
I ordered my usual (quarter chicken, with peri peri chips. But whenever I go to Nando’s with my dad, we tend to order a whole family platter and eat it between us). Tas ordered some halloumi sticks too [normally at Nando’s, I don’t get anything outside of what I go for: le chicken, and les pommes frites – those fried apples. But these halloumi sticks were niiice!]
Halloumi, halloumi, halloumi. Stop makin’ fun of halloumi.
I also ordered – in contrast with my usual ‘Bottomless Drinks’ – a lemon-flavoured rooibos drink. [Rooibos is something that I had come across this year, while looking up natural remedies for something. There is this particular rooibos tea, flavoured with spiced fig, that I found at Waitrose. It is really good. I’m not sure if it is the taste that I enjoy, per se, but… it smells like Sheesha.] This Nando’s drink was quite awight, actually. In contrast to… the smoothie I had gotten, a couple of Nando’s-es ago, with Farhana: I literally watched as they poured it out of an M&S bottle, and then had the confident audacity to charge a relative fortune for it.
We learned that we had to order by scanning a QR code; that even sauces… you can’t go up and get them yourself, during this Pedro’s-Cough-infested time. [But I accidentally did, before knowing. They let me off for it.]
For our meal, I insisted on paying — it’s sort of a thing among Bengalis (and it might be the same in other ethnic ‘cultures’) to pay for others’ meals/drinks, if you were the one to have invited them somewhere. I told Tas she’s in my area: she has to let me pay. But, as Qadr would have it: we had to pay online. Using the QR code and the online menu. And… my back camera is currently broken (for reasons. Too embarrassing to go into, for this article. But, perhaps tomorrow’s…).
Tas paid for the meal, and I asked if she has a Monzo account, so I could transfer the money. She said no.
I explained that Whitechapel is my home. She’s visiting, like a counter in Monopoly. I have to pay. But this backfired: she quickly added that, in Monopoly, when a counter visits a place where someone’s house is, they have to pay rent. Nando’s: an excellent form of rent. Thank you Tas.
Something like this happened earlier this year: when I really wanted to pay for our meal when Ranga Mama, Stomami, and Sweetie had been at Nanu’s. Über Eats. My aunts and uncle said they can’t accept their niece paying for their food! But I pressed, and did it. It had been Qadr, though, for me to have not paid for this meal, that night. They’d gotten our order wrong (though, it was still stuff that we could eat and enjoy); I got a complete refund. Subhan Allah.
[A random bit of trivia, which is actually very-important-knowledge: the name ‘Nando’s’ comes from one of the founders’ name: Fernando. It had also been called ‘ChickenLand’ prior to this current, universally popular, (cheeky) name. I think I’m going to start calling it ‘ChickenLand’. Cheeky Chickenland.]
“What would you give it? A ten? A nine? An eight?“
“I have high standards.”
Yesterday, Tas noticed somebody walking over to our table (which had been on the other side of the glass, next to a Bengali family, grandma and all. The woman in that family eyed us, and did this sort of complacent smile with a little shoulder pop, as if to say, “Ha ha, we’re inside, and you’re not”. I kind of sort of did it right back).
The person who had walked over to us… one of my students! M–y-m M. (in contrast to M–y-m Z. I would always get mixed up between the two). She is currently in Year Seven, and I have learnt quite a bit about her life, through reading her work in English. She is unbelievably adorable, Masha Allah. And she sort of has three sets of siblings: one, from her own parents. Then, her parents separated and she inherited two sets of (step-parents and) step-siblings, from each side. Yesterday, I had seen her with her little (unbelievably adorable, Masha Allah) brother – guiding him along so responsibly and gently. And her mother had been waiting at the door, with M’s step-brother; she waved at me, and I waved back. I love Whitechapel. [Insert joke here about how it should be called ‘Brown Masjid’ instead].
I can’t lie: I got a bit embarrassed at the thought of one of my students having seen me at Nando’s. What if I’d been eating messily? What if this conversation that had taken place between us would be blurring those professional-private lines? But… nah. In terms of the whole ‘work-life’ balance thing, I’m human, and I’m me, all along. In my role as a teacher; in my role as a Nando’s-enjoyer. And students like M–y-m M. always matter to me, even when I’m outside of work. I actually love them; my aunt did say that I would get surprisingly attached to them. I didn’t think so at first. But now: wow.
M–y-m M.’s father lives in Qatar. Her step-mum, I believe, is from Portugal. She said she really enjoys natas, I think it was (Portuguese cakes). And there we were, at the same branch of an originally-Portuguese-founded chain restaurant.
Next, while I had been waiting for Tas to wash her hands, I saw another familiar face: a veteran reader of this blog, actually [here is a virtual sticker for that; it says ‘thank you’ on it], Aqil (whom I know of because we went to the same sixth form together, albeit in different year groups). He had been there with a friend of his, after going to the gym [again, how do people enjoy going to the gym?!] He said that he didn’t know I hang out in these areas, and I said “yeah, I basically own the whole of Whitechapel…” These are my ‘ends’, it must be known.
Tas had been craving ice-cream, and near this Nando’s there is a dessert place (C&C). I made her say “Wallahi.”
“Just say it.”
“…that you’re gonna let me pay for dessert. Ooooooh. [not burn, but freeze].” [This tactic worked last time, as well, at Waitrose, when Tasnim bought some of that Korean gochujang sauce. But then she’d ended up paying for my stuff, there, also. Still, it’s the essences of these nice interactions, which count.]
We had ice-cream.
“The biggest achievement of Western intellectuals is convincing others that they are moral”. Source: Twitter, again. Unbelievably true, I think. Who are the gatekeepers of ‘philosophical’ academia, and why? What gives them that right?
This reminds me of a post, I think – maybe from Twitter, again – about the differences between Hellenistic (etc.) philosophers, and where Muslims fundamentally derive knowledge which may also be called ‘wisdom‘, from: Qur’an, and the Prophets (‘alayhi wa sallam). A key difference is that, often, Greek/Roman philosophers spoke at length on such things as… family. Without really partaking in family life much, themselves; not getting married, etc. The Prophets (AS) on the other hand: they… had families; had ‘ordinary’ jobs (as shepherds and so on). Muhammad (SAW) had been an orphan. Yusuf (AS) had been sold into slavery. Musa (AS) had anger issues, which he had to deal with. And these Prophets embodied, fully, the wisdom that they had preached. They were so thoroughly human; there is at least one Prophets’ story for anybody, everybody to relate to/take inspiration from. Wisdom, borne from the truest, realest of human experiences.
Separately: you know what really intrigues me, dear reader? The male kind. Their ways of viewing the world; how they are different to women. Mad, madly (aggressively) fascinating. I would give away a non-essential organ to see the world through a man’s eyes, filtered through his mind, if for only a day.
Recently, I seem to have been calling lots of people (friends, family) ‘babes’, in a Cockney/roadman-ny accent. [Normally I would call them ‘bro’]. I started off doing it ‘ironically’, I guess, but it seems to have really, really stuck. Yesterday I also received a voice note on WhatsApp from Dawud (sent by his mum) in which he said: “You’re my babes Fuldi” (with the ‘zh’ sound at the end). <<<<<<33333 [I love Dawud Biyya “big much”!]
So, at twenty years old, I am a fellow twenty-year-old’s “sugar ma-ma” [I don’t think I’ll ever forget how she said it, while eating her ice-cream] and my three-year-old cousin’s “babes”.
On the way home, Tas and I both took the Overground. I got off at my station; she carried on until hers. I waited for her carriage to pass me by, and watched her leave, at train-speed… still carrying my (leftover) chips! The pomme frites thief.
“I’VE JUST REALISED I’VE STILL GOT YOUR CHIPS.”
“Yeah, I watched you on the train, leaving with them.
Please honour their existence by eating them.”
After a wonderful day out with a beautiful person (Masha Allah) I headed to Nanu’s to nap… but to no avail. Very quickly, the flat had flooded with noise. Saif, Adyan, and Nusaibah had come back – with the adults – from the travelling fun-fair. I sat and talked to Aaliyah (who is currently in Year Thirteen) for a while: as a result of her eye operation, and because of all the medication she’s on as a result of it, and their side effects, she will be taking a gap year next academic year, Insha Allah. Normalise gap years among Bengalis! [Her mum, nearby, started nodding in agreement, while I explained why I’m glad I took a gap year].
I came home and napped here instead. It lasted until 4-something AM, the next day (today).
‘Where you are, right now’. And, what and who you are. There is nothing else. Neither in terms of time, in terms of place. ‘When’ does life begin? It has begun; it is this, all around us. This is what is real; this is what is mine/yours/ours.
There’s this whole thing, and it is called life; lasts about eighty years, for the average hooman bean. And here we are, living it. [I’m twenty years old, right now. If I am to live for a total of eighty years, here, then I have already spent a quarter of my allotted Dunya time]. And I, we, are going to die. Dis be a journey, to the End.
And I will never, never, never get this day back, ever again (except when it comes to reaping what I have sown, here, in Ākhirah. This place is the sowing ground; there is the Garden).
This beautiful day, though, here in this particular slice of time, this particular slice of place, here in Dunya: it’s gone.
“Perhaps you may love a thing, while it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you do not know.” [Qur’an, (2:216)]
A quote that I saw on my aunt’s-friend-turned-colleague Saadia’s WhatsApp profile pic:
“Perhaps the misfortune that you do not like //
Leads you to a beautiful destiny that you never dreamed of.”
With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.