Day Twenty-Three

What I have learnt, Episode Twenty-Three: A Delightful Homebody Day, and an Unhealthy Obsession with Harris J.

Bismillah.

Yesterday had been Day Twenty-Three of this thing. I woke up, did some things. I got ready to go for a quick bike ride: to pick up some plates and bowls from another Olio user, Julia. These plates and bowls: at work, we tend to have a shortage of them. The expectation is that everyone brings in crockery and cutlery of their own, and not use others’. But everybody starts using everybody else’s stuff. Things go missing. My mini cereal bowl gets used randomly. So… solutions. Alhamdulillah. I’m glad I also got to meet one of my neighbours. I don’t really like the idea of living in the same area as people, and not knowing others at all. Leading separate and anonymous lives: what a recipe for deep misery.

One could never be content, in this life, without coming to know, knowing, other people, I don’t think.

Julia, like the majority of professionals at this time, is currently working from home. Zoom meetings. She also goes to the gym. Wapping is a very interesting place in which to dwell: council houses, and extraordinarily expensive houses, on the same street. Yachts, just a ten-minute walk away [they have boating festivals and all] and… PFC (fried chicken) shops a different ten-minute walk away.

I always find it extremely interesting to consider how other people live their lives. Gym, yoga, WFH. Late-night gatherings outside, when some of my neighbours drink and celebrate… being alive, I suppose. To the detriment of my sleep, usually, though. Singing ‘Hey There Delilah’, playing the trumpet… at 2AM. Last year’s lockdown had been… an interesting time, with all this.

And, yet, when we have had some of our things (like when Sweetie got married, and our relatives from America had come round to stay) a woman popped her head out of the window to scream at us, while we had been waiting by the cars. No words. Just scream. Sarwar Mama (my mum’s cousin) decided to scream right back.

When I was in Year Ten, once a week I worked for a little tutoring agency based opposite one of our local churches. Christine’s agency [Tamanna, remember Victor and his fish fingers?]. That had been a very (I’ll use the word again, for want of a better alternative) interesting experience. For me, it had been a little (or maybe very) anxiety-inducing, back then. A group of very middle-class Christian mothers, teaching one another’s children, and their friends’ children. Talking about things that were quite unfamiliar to me: childcare; boarding schools; theatre classes. Things like that. But I believe that it is a great thing, to come to know people who are different from ourselves. I didn’t feel entirely comfortable at the agency – and maybe that’s because, at age fourteen, I hadn’t really fully grown into myself, yet, and relied on others, far more, to inform me of who I might be – like I do at work, now. But it was a beneficial experience, Alhamdulillah.

Random memory of when the teacher-mums had been stuck on what the third homophone for ‘pour/poor’ might be. And I, the skincare enthusiast, said that it’s ‘pore’ [“absorbent and yella and porous is he. SpongeBob SquarePants!”].

[I mean, at first I had been terrified that they would… think I’m a ‘terrorist’ (by narrow Western-governmental definitions) or something, on account of the whole Hijāb and everything. And, also, for a couple of sessions, we had to relocate to the Church, and I just wasn’t sure if there was anything I had to do. Anxiety.

Turns out, one of my colleagues there – man, I seem to have forgotten her name. Something with a ‘C’, I’m almost certain. Charlotte? – said that her grandmother worked for an Armed Forces hospital in Saudi Arabia. Whenever she goes to visit her, she has to wear a headscarf and abaya. She’d also been really understanding with the whole ‘Yo I don’t really know what to do in a Church’ thing.]

Further reflecting on how much things have changed, for me, Subhan Allah: back then, I, as an employed tutor, would ask them – the other teachers – if I could go to the bathroom. That institutionalisation creeping in: the obedience to authority figures that even extends to control over one’s bladder. I also used to ask my students if they wanted to do things. “Do you want to try… that one?” Christine had advised me to maybe stop framing my instructions as questions. Imagine if I hadn’t learnt this from her. In my current role at the school, I probably would have continued framing things as questions.

“Do you girls want to try to edit your work with a green pen?”

“Nah, not really.”

*Career. Destroyed.*

Ya live, ya learn. And the process, the journey, is quite amazing to reflect back upon. Subhan Allah. Allah’s Plans.

While waiting for Julia, I received a call. [Ref: we were going to go to the Science Museum yesterday, but couldn’t]. And… my face flooded with happiness, excitement. For reasons I am not at liberty to divulge just yet. But wow. I had been as excited, in an unbridled way, as Dawud had been, upon seeing the Adventure Park for the first time. He literally just screamed. fjheskhfwekhwe

Everything is going to change in the coming year, Subhan Allah. Mazhar, for example (my cousin whom I had been at the same school with, from Nursery to Year Eleven. In the same class, even, from Reception onwards) is getting Nikkah’d in August, Insha Allah. To… wait for it… a girl called Sadia. And she likes writing too. My life is a sit-com. I haven’t met her personally yet, but I’m excited to. Apparently she’s not a very loud person; I like not-very-loud people. ‘Twill be interesting, though, because her family-in-law-to-be-Insha Allah are quite an outgoing collection of people.

I don’t know if I should carry on being ‘Sadia’ in my family. Or, if I should tell all of them to start referring to me by my other name: Jannath. [“Which Sadia? Mazhar’s wife or his cousin?” Too weird.] I’m in need of some Sadia-solidarity here, though. I really can’t wait to meet her Insha Allah. Like Mazhar, she’s into photography, and drawing; they both also discovered that they have the exact same dream car. [How sick would it be, if they both got these cars, with personalised number-plates? I have high hopes for them, Insha Allah. High hopes.]

I remember when I’d learned of Dawud’s birth. We had been in Pisa, Italy, at the time; it was the day before my seventeenth birthday. I literally jumped on the bed, at our small villa. And then, on the same day, I heard that I was going to become a big cousin yet again: Sweetie had announced that she was pregnant too. Two reasons to jump on the bed like an overexcited kid. Three: I found out, that day, that I’d been accepted for a Cambridge residential. Four: my birthday had been the next day. My dad bought me a ‘University of Florence’ hoodie, which I’d picked out. We got a cake from Carrefour. Mazhar got me a vintage writing set. Italian-vintage-style feather quill and ink. Very… Da Vinci. [While writing with it, at home, I managed to spill the ink everywhere. Now that had been extremely hard to clean.]

Fear: what happens in the coming days, months, which will come to make up a year? Excitement: everything is changing, and there are always new things to do and to learn. [Mazhar, the Science Museum thing, the basis of this email from ‘Darth Maul’]. I’m too curious. What happens?

So… cancelled Science Museum plans. Meaning: a homebody day, yaaaaay. With everybody out. I love being home alone. The prospect of completing little tasks that need to be done. Bits of cleaning. Bits of reading. Sitting in the garden. Making some food. Literally my idea of a dream day, a lot of the time.

Yesterday I think I spent too much time… on Twitter. I also came across the word ‘undertow’. I love its literal meaning:strong current flowing underwater in a different direction to the way the water on the surface is moving. Metaphorically, it reminds me of the battle with the Nafs. The Nafs pushes us towards things, sometimes. We have to develop the strength of the ol’ undertow. A lot of the time, it’s hard. And that is very much the point. And triumph tastes sweet. Like this mango I am currently eating.

Yesterday we also went to Surrey, to see my aunt, who is currently recovering from an operation. Scary, irreversible stuff. She didn’t seem her usual upbeat, determined self yesterday.

This aunt of mine is amazing, Masha Allah. When I had been quite sick, for a while, she took such good care of me: I stayed at her house a few times. She is strong, and determined, and very loving, and a really good chef, Masha Allah.

In the car, on the way there, I saw a really nice-looking run-down building. Teal-blue-coloured, three black cast iron balconies. I also saw a couple at a Chinese restaurant, maybe, among other things. The neon ‘Open’ sign, their silhouettes, in contrast with the surrounding crepuscular darkness. I’m sure I learned some more little things, on the way there. But: daydream-y observations interrupted by my little brother kicking me because I’d unthinkingly stretched my legs out, across the seats. Even after I moved myself, he kicked me. So I kicked him back. We have… an interesting dynamic between us, for a twenty-year-old and a little boy almost twelve years her junior. Wouldn’t trade it for the world though.

Sarina, Shakira and Saif ran around and played an interesting game. Tahmid had named it… an inappropriate name. [Something to do with a synonym for ‘donkey’]. Sarina made me a mug of hot chocolate. As soon as I saw her, she said something along the lines of, “Fuldi! I’ve gone boy crazy.”

Harris J. seems to be on her mind 24/7. She’s written out his songs, on paper. She pretends to be speaking with him on the phone. She’s got about sixty pictures of him, saved in her gallery… and none of herself. Nobody can say anything bad about him, in front of her.

Early adolescence is wild and scary; I guess it is easy to forget that. Hormones everywhere. Intense self-consciousness, about body image (face, weight) among other things. Finding our places in the world; winning, and losing, and losing. Obsessions with Harris J./Tom Holland/Theo James/Justin Bieber to think about. Way too much. [One of mine had been… Justin Bieber. I’d even made an entire Facebook page dedicated to… stopping people from bullying him.]

Sarina said she would be happy if any of our relatives – Maryam, maybe – were to marry Harris J. At least then she’d become a relative of his; any connection to him is good enough for her, apparently.

I think preteens need to be loved a little harder (but not smothering-ly) in these most challenging times in their lives. Even when they begin to resist: they are really going through things, and it is hard.

Suto Fufu gave me an Eid gift yesterday: a nice mustard-yellow dress [last time she’d gotten me a black one, with poofy sleeves and flower-like designs on them]. I decided to wear it today. I realised that, ordinarily, I don’t think I would have picked out a mustard-yellow dress for myself. But yah, I’m glad that this one is mine now.

Alhamdulillah: these are all blessings from God.

Furthermore, there are no pictures from yesterday, because my phone is at my dad’s shop, being repaired. Since I am committing to being quite open in these entries… my phone cracked because… I got really angry with something (someone) one day. I locked myself in my room (because I didn’t want to take it out on anybody, and thought it would just go. But it didn’t this time). I… like those dudes from those memes… took it out on my phone. I just chucked it on the floor, thinking that it wouldn’t break, since I’ve accidentally dropped it so many times before. The screen smashed. I am Hulk.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

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