Day Twenty-Six

What I have learnt, Episode Twenty-Six: Blood Orange, Daylight Robbery, Roses, horse excretion, and a sparkly purple straw.

Today, ‘t’had been some messages from Tasnim, which had really motivated me to get up and properly start my day.

I went to Waitrose, for my weekly shop. Today became ‘arm day’ because the two bags I came back carrying were heavy. Today I bought food that is in line with my current diet goals [again, not to lose weight or anything. Simply in pursuit of goodness].

When I go food-shopping, I tend to have the following in mind: finding Halāl and Tayyibāt (permissible and wholesome) food. I came up with this acronym: POMGR. [A bit like ‘pomegranate’]. It stands for: Produce-heavy, Organic [as much as possible], Moderation [I very much, so it would seem, have a sweet tooth], Gluten-free, Range [i.e. a good range of fruit and veg colours, for example]. I think about: breakfast; lunch; dinner; snacks. Finally, I get my produce stuff, my protein stuff, and some carbs: three parts of the plate, generally.

Now, this may make it sound as though I am a responsible eater, dear reader. But, nay: I know it’s not super cute for food to be a personality trait but… it’s certainly one of my personality traits. When I see burgers, chips, chocolate… something within me activates. In my head, I tell myself: this is going to be the last time. It rarely ever is. But… I am a changed woman now.

A changed woman, I tell thee. [Alhamdulillah, though, for my ‘high/fast metabolism’: without it, I’d probably be a bit obese by now. It does have a downside, though: I’m pretty much always hungry.]

Today I got some ingredients for stir-fry: for myself and for Tamanna, whom I will be seeing later today Insha Allah. I found some vegan chicken tikka sauce, which I intend to eat with brown rice, Insha Allah, and some salad. I also decided to get some… tofu. To pretend it’s chicken. Sigh. My love for chicken might just end up giving me heart disease, you see. Maybe I’ll begin to have it only once a month, and I’ll really cherish it each time. Maybe. But after mine and Stomami’s Korean food date next week Insha Allah [I say ‘Insha Allah’ quite often because we’re not really meant to speak of the future without acknowledging that it is all ‘God-Willing’].

When I go food-shopping, if I need certain things, I make a list. But, generally, it makes for a nice adventure when I don’t. I didn’t know that I would get baby carrots and granola in a jar today, but I am glad that I did.

From Twitter, I learned who voiced Tommy Pickles from the Rugrats. She’s a woman called EG Daily (stage name) and she dated Brad Pitt for a while, in the past, apparently.

I also learned from Twitter (which I need to ease my way out of, into moderation. But it’s just so filled with amazing and interesting people; knowledge; humour; aesthetics) that if you Google ‘Florida man’ followed by a random date – say, your birthday – wild things come up. Murder stories involving alligators; iguanas; women beating their boyfriends up with frozen pork chops. “Homeless man with no arms charged with stabbing tourist”. He used scissors, apparently. Things like that.

Today I came home with my heavy bags to witness an opposite-of-sorry sight: Sara (spirited little girl from next door. She has stars in her eyes, Masha Allah) riding Faris’ bike, speeding through one of the brick ‘tunnels’ (archways with homes above them) and Faris, chasing after her. “Give me back my bike!

A later remark from him [paraphrased a little, probably, since I find I can’t always remember things word-for-word]:

“It’s terrifying. I could leave my bike for two minutes, and it would get robbed!

I used to see Faris playing outside by himself quite often. On this year’s snow-days (February 2021, I believe) I’d seen him going around with a little plastic sled. I tried to get Isa and Saif to play with him. They were shy at first, avoidant. But what I love about some friendships is that… all it takes is a snowball, to become friends. Faris had thrown snow at me, too: I think I look like a kid, sometimes, to kids.

Now, it seems like Sara, Safia and Sadika from next door are his friends too. He’d brought deck chairs, from his house, and had set them up right outside mine. He had his bike; they had their scooters. I decided to pour myself a bowl of (newly-bought) granola (in oat milk) and sat outside, on the steps, to eat.

The kids kept coming up to me to ask what I was eating. “Cereal,” I explained. “But it’s basically rabbit food.” They marvelled at the fact that there’d been seeds in it. I asked Sadika if she wanted some: I could go and get her a spoon. She said she’s okay, and crinkled her nose in absolute disgust.

Today, from Waitrose (‘Wai’yyy’s’, for when Tamanna and I suddenly morph into wannabe roadmen) I also got a ready-made cake. Ready-made, because I have no time to make it from scratch, although I wanted to. It had some really nice iced flowers on it. I also got a tube of chocolate icing: a special sort, which you have to put in hot water for a while, for it to melt and be usable.

My plan: to ice a cake for next-door (No. 8). To put, ‘The SA family’ on it. When they’d brought that cake of theirs to our house, for us, the other day, Sara had explained to me that she wants to call her family the ‘S.A.’ family. Her dad’s name is Sadiqul; her mum’s name is Salma. Her name is Sara. Then, there’s Safia, Sadika, and baby Sakina. Their names all begin with S and A.

I had to snip the top of the icing tube, like how you do with Mendhi ones, and then started icing. I think I’d cut off too much, because the writing ended up being quite thick. Didn’t exactly look like a masterpiece, but das okay: cake is cake.

When I took the cake to their house, Salma Khala really liked it. I really like Salma Khala: she’s soft-spoken; she’s gentle, she’s good vibes, Masha Allah. Sadiqul Mama too: he just does his thing, and enjoys it, and seems like a genuine person. Once, in lockdown, I saw him feeding the pigeons by the canal, while sporting an Ertuğrul-style hat. The pigeons even ate from his hand.

While outside, I also met Faris’ mum. Her name, as I later learned, is Catherine. She is extremely nice, and gentle (and I just love the word ‘unassuming’) too. She had just come back from a run, and had been doing some things in her garden, I guess. We spoke for a while, about random, various things. [She asked me how come I hadn’t gone with my family to Peppa Pig World. Faris finds it really funny that my brother had been looking so forward to it: my brother’s defence had been that there are ‘big rides’ there too!]

We spoke about Chessington [‘Vampire’ had been my first ever rollercoaster, back in Year Six. And I was terrified. I think I only opened my eyes once while on it, but had to act all ‘cool’ in front of my friends] and about Itsu, and about those neighbours who would bass ‘Hey There Delilah’ at those crazy hours. Things like that.

Sara, Safia and Sadika are very familiar with our house: my nan and their grandma had been next-door neighbours when they’d first moved here, some thirty years ago. The girls come around to play with Saif, and for snacks, sometimes [and this just reminds me of a particular scene in ‘Call the Midwife’. East London: spirited kids, finding comfort and jam sandwiches in one another’s homes]. Today, they had chocolate. And Faris isn’t really allowed sweets and chocolate, so I offered him an Itsu yoghurt rice cake instead (and hence the conversation about Itsu), which he then took and shared with his mum. The girls then said that they wanted rice cakes too. So… gone are those snacks that I’d planned to keep for the week.

Catherine told me that, by profession, she is a hairdresser. And, before the first lockdown, I think she’d said, she had also started training to become a children’s counsellor. She’s just so lovely: I kind of want to do a cake thing for her family, too. But I don’t want to seem like that overenthusiastic, overly-‘spirited’, neighbour. Might wait until Eid Insha Allah: the next Eid is… next month! I’ve already ordered my outfit: I found it on SHEIN.

Catherine told me that her sister-in-law is called Sadia too. I think Faris’ dad is of Pakistani origin. Faris did tell me last time: either Indian or Pakistani.

I asked if Faris is an only child: he seemed like he is. And yes, he is. I told them that I used to be an only child too: for almost twelve years, before Safeefatee (one of my old nicknames for Saif – pronounced ‘Sigh-iff’) had been born. Being an only child: interesting experience. Lonely, sometimes. But the spaces often get filled with the stuff of the imagination. And Faris, like me, has lots of cousins too. Part-time siblings: you see them, you put them away, before they get on your nerves too much, and before you get on theirs.

Today, Sara and the others stood on the white bench by one of our neighbours’ garden walls. They were looking over the wall together, for Sara’s cat Chase, who had gone for a little adventure through the gardens, via a small gap in one of the wooden fences. Faris climbed the lamppost in front of our house, and then Sara and Safia tried to do the same. These girls are brave. I love this: they come out wearing dresses, and with their hair nicely brushed. Then they start… ‘robbing’ neighbours of their bikes [I told Faris to just go ahead and take Sara’s scooter in retaliation, and he did] and climbing lampposts and walls and shiz. They’re going to have great childhoods to look back on, Insha Allah.

Sara asked Faris if he could get her a rose from the red-rose tree that is right opposite our house. Faris’ response: “No.

I mean, I could, but… I don’t want to.” Poor kid. Getting robbed, you see, can really affect one’s willingness to climb walls to get roses for one’s robbers.

While I’d been speaking with Catherine, I’d also been highly aware of the fact that I’d left some spring rolls on the pan, in the kitchen. They were probably going to burn if I didn’t run and turn the stove off. But I didn’t want to end the conversation really abruptly. What to do?! [Edge out, slowly.]

I ended up just cutting off the parts that had been burnt. The rest still tasted great. There’s a m e t a p h o r to be found in that, probably.

I find it interesting just how much inner turmoil I have experienced, with this fighting need, so it has felt, to ‘define myself’. To feel ‘neatly package-able, into words and such’, even though I know that humans cannot be. When people, for example, ask me what my hobbies are, what do I say?

Chilling with a bowl of ‘rabbit food’ outside, while the neighbourhood kids play. That is such a hobby of mine, even if it isn’t neatly explicable to everyone; even if they do not deem it to be particularly exciting/desirable for themselves or whatever. I don’t know: I just like doing what I like doing. My hobbies are… doing ‘stuff‘.

Children are just so cool and fun and cute and pure, Masha Allah. I mean, yes, there are kids who are actually… little brats… out there. But, until they hit the age of maturity [puberty], they aren’t really to blame.

Children don’t seek to define themselves like how we do: they ain’t got no CVs, no Twitter and Instagram bios to decorate. They just are, and without the self-consciousness that we all seem to develop, come the cusps of adulthood.

Children can take two deck-chairs, a bottle of bubbles, a bike and some scooters, and all the time that they have. And, suddenly, there’s a whole world of possibilities, there. To make a lot, out of whatever is before you, out of a ‘little’: the basis of gratitude. Not want, but have, have, have! Allah increases in favours, according to the Qur’an, whomever is grateful.

I think we should be more like children — like our (true,) childhood selves, definitely. But in all these developed ways. Children really are closer to Fitrah. Muhammad (SAW) used to love hanging out with little children too. He said that people who aren’t compassionate towards children aren’t from the Muslims.

While getting rid of a couple of things, I put some things on Olio. And the person coming to collecting them called me. This might sound mean, but I swear, it sounded like a woman on the phone. So, in going to the door to give the things, I hadn’t been wearing my scarf. And then I ran upstairs and grabbed one.

From doing this thirty-day thing, I guess, I’ve realised how extraordinary this world is, Subhan Allah. How much there is, in each day. Just all the ‘little’ things, which come together, and suddenly there is a tapestry made out of each individual day.

Today I learned lots of random things. As always, too much to get it all down into these entries. But, just some things:

Vocal mimicry in birds is actually amazing. How on Earth?! Why on Earth?!

My nan likes drinking coffee. Never had I known that. Until today.

There was a box of sparkly straws in the kitchen. Probably for Saif, Aana and Dawud. I wanted one too: between a yellow one or a purple one from the box, I chose… purple. In anticipatory celebration of Mazhar’s Nikkah, Insha Allah [his chosen colour code is black and purple, and I think he’s actually being serious about this. And I hope he’s consulted his wifey-to-be about this, also]. And purple is my brother’s favourite colour too.

This straw: I love it. It’s really helped me to want to drink enough water today. I also had a bottle of (‘organic’) blood orange soda [Fever-Tree]. Chug, chug, chug, like the pseudo-alcoholic I am, according to my friends. I… am a simple woman. I see the words ‘organic’ and/or ‘blood‘ and/or ‘vegan-friendly’ on food packaging, I become intrigued. This drink – which, bonus, comes in a glass bottle, with tree designs on it – is really nice! I think I’m going to get it again next time, Insha Allah, and I want to call it ‘sangría’, like the alcoholic drink that is named after the Spanish word for ‘blood’.

Today I saw Tamanna, and we had another one of our super important meetings. About our lives and everything. Today I learned that Tamanna has gotten her new iPad. And, even though she’d asked for my advice on whether she should get a rose-gold one or a sky-blue one and I said rose-gold, she went rogue I guess and chose sky-blue.

I think it is amazing how the people in our lives live their own lives: have their own experiences; know their own people. And then you come together again, after some time has passed since the last time, and you share.

While walking back to Tamanna’s house, we noticed that there were lots of horse trailers outside the events venue where we live. We asked someone what’s happening there. A ‘horse drive’. I didn’t even think to ask just what that is. A ‘horse drive’. As Tamanna pointed out, some of the men there seemed a little ‘standoffish’; not really wanting to disclose what they’re doing. But then she said they seem like they’re all members of the Romanian Traveller community: unfortunately, they must be sort of used to not feeling very welcome in places.

The children of the big group seemed very friendly though. One told us, enthusiastically and confidently, that he owns one of the horses: his horse’s name is Kelly-Brooke. Horses: what majestic creatures, though, Masha Allah. Their poop do smell really bad, also, though.

While stroking one of the horses (having asked its attendant first) Tamanna explained that when one of the horse’s legs go up a little, it means that they’re relaxed. She’d learned this tidbit of information from when she’d been given a tour of some stables, on her sixteenth birthday.

I told Tee that I could imagine her being one of those very upper-class horse-riders, with those black caps, and in jodhpurs and boots. If I ever became a horse-rider: I think I would be kind of rogue. With mud on my clothes, and with wellies on, probably.

The idea of grooming horses, wow. In Bangladesh, my Dada (paternal grandfather) has three cows. When I was eleven, I named them ‘Eeyore’, ‘Caramel’, and dang it, I’ve forgotten the third one’s name. I’ve got it written down somewhere, in one of my old journals. I used to love feeding them leaves; stroking them.

Memories of Bangladesh: I keep… smelling smells, recently, which remind me of it. The smell of Dettol, for example, and distinctive food smells. Bangladesh is a country of fields and lakes. Tea gardens: lots and lots of them. Fire, to make food over. Varieties of fruits; banana trees. Fishing. Monsoon rains; the sound of rainfall on tin roofs. Small lizards, climbing up walls [they terrify me]. Playing board games until crazy hours. I quite miss Bangladesh, even though I’ve only ever been three times. It’s the people, mainly, that make places, though.

The cat is currently sitting on me and he kind of terrifies me a little. He has claws. Sometimes he mistakes movements for… a mouse moving or something. And he attacks. He is way too comfortable right here. Move him to avoid being scratched, but this, at risk of being scratched by him? This is what one might call a double-bind: a word I learnt from planning a History lesson at work [Guy Fawkes]. difficult situation in which, whatever action you decide to take, you cannot escape unpleasant results.

Real-time: he just flexed his claws. I’m being warned.

Okay, I moved him. That wasn’t so scary. I would make a really funny cat-pun joke here about myself but I will not.

Today, I learned from Tas that I’m right at the top of her ‘friends pyramid’. And, boy, am I gassed and honoured. ❤ “Complete openness + banter + loyalty + ride or die”.

“It’s this comforting companionship, and feeling of ease and acceptance… and I ONLy feel it when I’m with you.” You know, one of my biggest honours in this WEWLD is being Tasnim’s friend. Best friend. Soul sister. Fellow chicken enthusiast. “Wa miizajuhuu min Tasneem,” from Al-Qur’an.

I guess, maybe, I had to lose a Yu Zhu, in Year Six. A Tasnim had been waiting for me, for six/seven years later. Not necessarily ‘better’, but ‘different’; better for me.

For dinner, I made Khalamoni and me some butternut-squash-andtofu-tikka-masala, with brown rice and salad [I’ve… previously struggled with my attempts to properly cook rice]. It was actually… not too bad, you know? Not at all like that ‘tofu fish’ and chips that I’d had at the vegan café that Tamanna and I had tried to study at a few times. That was like prison food. ‘Vegan English breakfasts’ should maybe be made illegal, for the safety of the general public. But this curry: I think I could actually get used to this.

[Oh no, I think this cat is thinking my arm is food. And I’m just writing about it. Mood: feeling calmly terrified.

Okay, he just scratched me. Nobody told him to sit on my lap in the first place. And then he almost slid off, and then he scratched me.]

On Friday, also, Suto Mami told me that she is just three days older than Sweetie [they’re sisters-in-law]. Their mothers had been at the same hospital: the Royal London Hospital, where I’d been born too. Suto Mami wondered aloud if the two to-be mothers – one of husband, one of wife – had passed each other by, at the hospital, at any point. Absurdly cool to think about, no? Subhan Allah.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

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