Day Twenty-Eight

Subhan Allah.

I have got to write about this day.

What I have learnt, Episode Twenty-Eight: I don’t even know what to call this one. A great big salad bowl of various things, I suppose.

Bismillah.

Today. Monday 7th June 2021. I woke up. Cherished those last few minutes of half-slumber. Got ready real quick. Normally, if I leave before 7:30 am, then I arrive at work early. Today, it had been 7:38 am, and on days like this, I tend to resort to taking an Über. I really must stop spending money like this, but alas…

Über. Mask on. A kind-seeming driver with a Spanish accent. I love it when the drivers don’t try to engage in small talk, because I just love staring out of the window and not having to exert myself with anything. In the car today, I opened the window. As a Muslim woman, you’re not meant to sit with non-Mahram men in secluded places. I thought, hopefully, opening the window would invite a sense of openness into the car.

Cars. How strange it is to think about the fact that… if they had not been invented, then… we would still see horses and carriages everywhere. Imagine… an Über horse-and-carriage service [and… a Rikshaw one]! They should do this anyway, I think. They have a Thames boat service already. 10/10, I would call horse Übers just for fun.

Today, I learned the word ‘quisquilious’ from Dr. Susie Dent’s Twitter [she’s the awesome woman from the ‘Dictionary Corner’ on Countdown, which I, along with my cousins (albeit, separately) used to love watching]. The word means: ‘worthless’, ‘trivial’, ‘rubbish’.

“We are humans helping other humans deal with their humanness.”

Right now, before attending university-university (like, the legal robbery institutionalisation kind) I am attending, so it would seem: el universidad del Twitter. Y del YouTube. I… am learning a lot, here.

At work, some staffroom conversations. I don’t know, today I felt quite cheerful, Alhamdulillah. Something in the sunshine, maybe. And when I’m happy like this, conversations with (certain) colleagues of mine just (to quote Farhana, in describing… pasta) hit differently. Like today, when I’d been trying to get Mushfika to try Tesco’s salted caramel chocolate pots [they are… peng. And when I called them peng, one of the others said something like, we’ve got to try this thing that made you call it PENG!]. I told her that my chocolate mousse could easily beat the chocolate mousse she’d been eating, in a fight. And she asked me if this mousse is really that good, to make me talk about it like this. I said yes, and if it isn’t, I’ll give her her money back. Now, this is perhaps quite literally one of the lamest jokes in the whole entire world, ever made. But… my own joke made me cackle, quite unexpectedly, today.

But, still, I know I need to work on my morning routine (again). Waking up at Fajr time, and staying awake, por ejemplo. Slower mornings = better mornings, in my opinion. With many of these mornings before work, though: I’ve really been living life on the edge.

I like it when things maybe work for a while, and then they stop working for a while. And then you are left with a new project to work on: a new venture through which to explore and develop. My morning routine which I will (Insha Allah) make for now will necessarily look different to, say, that of last year. New times, new requirements and considerations.

Today, while teaching 7M (History), I asked how everybody’s holiday went. Before going into the classroom, M–yam M.’s smile met mine: a distinctive remember-when-I-saw-you-at-Nando’s-the-other-day,-Miss? smile. And then I heard about some stories re what they got up to. Laser tag, Nando’s, seeing cousins. M–ryam M. described her half-term holiday as being a bit… “HOO-GA BOO-GA”. No idea what this really means, but I quite like the phrase. Does it mean… eventful? Outlandish? Hoo-ga boo-ga knows?!

And, in the staffroom, I met the KS4 History teacher whom Mominah had been covering for, while she (this teacher) had been on maternity leave. She gave me some guidance, today, on how to design the KS3 girls’ end-of-year-assessments.

Today I began designing the Year Sevens’ English lessons on non-fiction writing. To plan these lessons, you need: a Starter, a Main, an Activity, and a Plenary. Generally, we use certain textbooks (Ignite). Resources from TES are also unbelievably useful, generally. TES: the site onto which I used to upload my own revision materials, in KS4. And teachers would use them!

When the A-level Psych teacher (Anj–an. I don’t know why I semi-blank-out some colleagues’ names, while freely writing others’) entered the staff room, we spoke about the Freshly Grounded cards. She was intrigued, as one would expect a Psychology teacher to be, with these, and picked them up to have a browse through them. Today I learned that, a lot of these questions, people find very intimidating. e.g.

“WHAT’S WEIGHING HEAVY UPON YOUR HEART, RIGHT NOW?”

I find these questions just so interesting.

“Will you share

your soul, with me?

Unzip your skin, and let me have a seat.” [Dodie]

When Anj–an happened upon the card that read,

“WHAT’S STOPPING YOU FROM COMPLIMENTING PEOPLE MORE?”

she said something along the lines of, “we’re not really meant to do that anyway.”

“What? Compliment people?”

And then a very interesting and engaging conversation (from my perspective, at least) had been born. A Psychology teacher (whom I frequently see, in the staff room, reading Psych book after Psych book. Apparently, inspired by her father’s reading habits) who doesn’t ‘believe’ in compliments.

Compliments. Our discussion on this quickly revealed that Anj–an looks upon compliments as being, by nature, exaggerations. Not useful; not beneficial for growth. I asked her if she compliments her children [she has two little sons] and she said, yeah, because they’re her children.

Conversations like this: I feel physically excited, when somebody starts them. They come by rarely, maybe. Or a lot, Alhamdulillah, with peopledem like Tasnim.

I argued that, really, we’re all grown-up children, aren’t we? And, complimenting someone by saying “[I think] you have a nice sense of style” is different from exaggeratedly (in a way not rooted in truth) saying something like “OMG YOU ARE A SUPERMODEL WHY ARE YOU ALLOWED TO WALK OUTSIDE WITH YOUR FACE SHOWING OMG QUEEEEEN XOXOXOXO”. I think compliments, when they are true, can be wonderful.

What if no-one has told this woman, for a while, that her being is calming and strong? Or, this man that he is inspiring in the way that he is raising his son. If it’s true… then why not say it? Why withhold that from people? [Dear reader, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, if yeh have any particular ones: hello@sincerelysadia.blog].

[We interrupt this entry with the fact that I’d just spilt some coffee on the table. What even am I?! Okay, we’re returning to normal-ruminator-voice in 3…2…]

We are, by nature, emotional beings. Can’t leave people starving of the recognition, in our eyes, of the goodnesses that they are, in my opinion.

A. said that she feels uncomfortable, generally, when complimented. I asked A what if somebody complimented, say… the colour of her scarf. Or, her style. She said it wouldn’t sit well with her: would just make her feel a little uneasy. But then she said that she would appreciate it if somebody reassured her that she’s doing a good job with raising her sons. She would also appreciate compliments about her efficiency, productivity: how she works.

So, at the end of the day, it might just be about what people value. I, for one, know that I value… emotional intelligence, for example. So, if somebody – especially if it were somebody whose character I am fond of, and therefore whose opinions I hold to a particular high regard – were to compliment me by saying they think I’m emotional intelligent… that would make me pretty happy! I would be like, dang girl. That reassures me, and now I want to work on it even more. And, with writing: it’s quite encouraging for me to know when people feel they have benefitted from my work.

I really do think that encouragement, rooted in genuineness, encourages… a smile. And growth.

Equally, though, as Anj–an pointed out, it needs to be constructive. So, a good friend, for example, is not solely your hype-gyal. She… tells you when you are doing something wrong. She helps you towards your development. Honesty is honest with the ‘good’, and with the not-so-good (but, the latter, still in a healthy, non-destructive way).

Confidence comes from how others have reflected whom we are, back to us. I think maybe, some people – people who have had secure and healthy bonds with parents, in childhood, are less prone to feeling over-affected by compliments. Or, indeed, by criticisms. Securer bases.

But, still, being completely deprived of any positive attention is… unbearable for any human being, no? When people are deprived of any positive attention… some begin to adhere to that maxim that ‘any attention, including negative, is better than no attention’. I guess, this is true especially when it comes to those whom we love, and whose validations [look at me! Smile at me! Love me!] we are in need of, the most.

[“Didimoni, the candle’s out.” My brother has just blown out the candle that I had lit, here, for a m b i e n c e purposes. He then proceeded to hold a little plastic panther figurine over it, maybe to see if it melts. Now… he’s making his new slime (from the zoo) fart. When I say I love this kid… And… I just realised that his tiny hands aren’t going to be this tiny forever, and suddenly I want to cry].

Today, Doli Khala gave me a chocolate bar. So sweet. We also rearranged our English-Bengali exchange lesson thing for this Thursday, Insha Allah. DLR adventurez.

Today, today, today… I discovered that somebody had seemingly replaced the box full of prayer mats (Musallahs) with… white linen mats. So, today, I prayed Dhuhr (the noon-prayer) on a white linen mat. Which is particularly interesting because:

White linen. The fabric that we Muslims, when we are (inevitably, eventually) buried in the ground, are buried enshrouded in. The white shrouds. Three pieces for men; five for women. A while ago, Tasnim had told me that a scholar she had come across, in some way, carries around white shrouds with her, in her bag. Memento mori, of the most grave and fitting degree.

Tasnim and I, for a while, especially this academic year, have discussed much about existentialism and death together. Via emails, voice notes. And I kind of had this idea: that I wanted to go to the textile shop in Watney Market, and get a symbolic piece of white fabric of my own. Maybe, to wear (hidden) on my arm or something. Maybe: for use as a prayer mat…

[Nim – another of her nicknames from me – and I tried to go to the market after our farm-Nando’s date, to locate some white cloth. But, by the time we’d gotten there, the market had been closed.]

I think somebody had taken the staff room prayer mats to be washed or something. A while back, Mushfikah told me that those mats are kinda icky… they hadn’t ever been washed. So, I’d resolved to stop using them to pray on… I started praying on the inside of my jacket, and on my Kheta, sometimes (Bengali-style embroidered quilt) instead.

Work, today: form, times two. A lesson. Some planning. Lunch duty. And that one hour of ‘PPA time’ after student dismissal. Anj–an — ya know what, lemme just say her name. It’s Anjuman. — and Samaiya looked through some more F.G. cards. One of the questions:

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?

And today I really discovered that quite a few people find questions like this quite intimidating. Some people picked up cards, to look at them, and then gasped. Mushfikah, I think, called one of them “brutal”. In my eyes, they are only extremely fascinating. And, in response to that question, there, about crying: according to Anjuman, women’s tears around the time of el period are constitutionally different, compared to during other times. During this time, crying really is catharsis. Feels weirdly nice sometimes.

After work, I decided I would go to the burger place near the school [which I’d discovered as a result of randomly going with Saajidah one day. Previously, I’d never even known this place had been there]. I wanted to get my dad a buttermilk chicken meal: my dad is a massive foodie, like me. I’ve eaten at so many different restaurants, tried so many different types of cuisine, thanks to him. And, when I tried this place’s buttermilk burger, I told my dad I’d get him some too.

Rafi had been there again today. Rafi is a boy – or, man, now – who went to the same secondary school as I did. Just fifteen minutes away from my current place of work. The memory of him that is most prominent in my mind is this one: in Year Seven, he had decided to steal my phone from my hands and run away with it. So I ran after him. And then… I fell. In the mud. Had mud all over my uniform. The embarrassment.

Now, though: deliberate amnesia with things like this. The first time I had taken Sweetie (my aunt) with me to this burger place, Sweetie said that it seemed like the person behind the counter recognised me. He said Salaam to us. And he asked, “are you Sadia?” He said it how I low-key hate for my name to be pronounced: SAD-ia. It’s *Hermione voice, here* Saaadia.

And then it clicked. It was Rafi. Everyone just looks the same but different: it’s amazing. We had a brief conversation, and then he offered Sweetie and me a really big discount. Then he gave us three free drinks.

I look after my people,” he explained.

This is something that I really like about many of the now-men whom I went to secondary school with. At school, many of them had been the very boisterous types. The types to… always, always, always make (kinda pointless) comments about things. [Once, I came into school with a checked yellow scarf around my neck. Those boys: hahahaha, why do you look like you’re in the Taliban?]. But they knew, also, their limits. And it wasn’t malicious stuff.

According to some of my friends from Khayr, at their schools, boys would: pull up skirts. Pull girls in, to sit on them (ew ew ew). Pull headscarves off. Make sexual comments and gestures about them, while they passed by. Shocking, outrageous stuff.

At my (very heavily Muslim-populated) school: the most they would do is… take a girl’s water bottle or something. I mean, one exposed his (disgusting, jungle-like) leg hair to me once, and asked if I could shave it for him [???????]. Boys can be disturbingly weird sometimes, and I think single-sex schools (and especially Islamic single-sex ones, like the one I am currently working at) might just be the answer.

On Fridays, though, the school (whose make-up had been a ratio of 1:3, girls to boys) would seem like it had been emptied, almost, of male students. They would go to Jummah (congregational Friday prayer). The Khutbahs (accompanying speeches, giving advice and stuff) would be led by certain teachers. Like by Mr R—t, the ardent (so ardent, in fact, that he would, seemingly in earnest, threaten to give detentions to people who said anything bad about his team) Arsenal fan. Dr. Shah, medical-doctor-turned-teacher with a newborn child (back then). The type of teacher to put up pictures of the stir-fry his wife had made for him, the previous day, on the board before our lessons.

Today, I said hello, while Rafi said Salaam in response (Masha Allah, man. Without intent to sound patronising here, I’m just so proud of so many of the people I went to school with) I asked him if he knows about Mazhar’s upcoming Nikkah (Insha Allah). He said yeah: as I learned today, Mazhar only lives a minute away from him; he said that his parents had told him about it. He said something about how… everybody’s doing their own thing now. Mazhar’s photography business. Jahid’s chauffeuring company [which I’d discovered while absent-mindedly walking home from work one day, down C. street. A car stopped beside me — a really nice one, actually. A Jaguar or something. Window rolling down, to reveal that it had been… a boy from form N?! Whaaaat? A road-side catch-up then followed.]

So, here I am. I think I pretty much look the same as I did in secondary school. I became a secondary school teacher at nineteen years old [sometimes it’s still super hard to explain to people. It’s just… a long story]. I own… a bike, as my regular mode of transportation; I call her ‘Maserati’. And… there are people my age who have Jaguars. Working part-time at a burger place. Photography business, getting married real soon. I find myself quite loving the range.

Today I asked Rafi if I could have the buttermilk-chicken-wrap chicken in the burger. When I’d been there with Saajidah, they’d run out of burger patties, and so they put the chicken they usually put in the wraps into my burger. ‘Twas delicious, Masha Allah. The next time I went though, the burger just… wasn’t all that. The key difference: the wrap chicken. The missing piece. Deliciosa.

Today I learned that it’s just the sauce that they change, between the wraps and the burgers, really. They have the ‘Algerian-style’ sauce, and the ‘Moroccan-style’ one. The company that produces these ‘special sauces’: they’d actually hired Mazhar to film an advert for them, a little while ago. And Sweetie and Mama, having become somewhat addicted to them, found the range of these sauces (‘Nawal’, I think, the company is called) at Quality.

So I dropped the food off to father mine, at his shop. I then headed to the market, for some white material. I learned that really good material can actually be really inexpensive, you know: I got one mat for Tas and one for me; they came to only 75p each!

Friends who pray togeva

Stay togeva. That is how it is.

At the textile store, I’d also seen the cutest baby in the whole wide world, in his pushchair. But then again, I kind of say that about every baby I see. But this kid was cute, Masha Allah Allahummabārik. I said hello, and he just stared, how babies do. And then, when it had been time for me to go, he smiled at me! I live for the validation of babies. And if they don’t like me… then that becomes the definition of

rejection.

At the market, also, I’d found, at a particular stall… my headscarf for Eid (which is next month). It is navy blue, and has white embroidered patterns on either end of it. The stall-runner asked me if it’s for my mum or something, and he also gave me a 50p discount, but kept adding that he’s really not making much profit, as a result of it. [I didn’t ask for it though! I felt somewhat guilty… do I just… decline the discount or…?]

And, today, I got another waft of a distinctively Bangladesh-like scent: it smelt much like my Dada (grandfather). At once, sweat-like, and… musk-like, in a way. My Dada is… a motorbike-riding farmer (Masha Allah). He must be about… in his late sixties, perhaps, now. And he still works his farm, with the boys who help him. And he still drives his motorbike (which I’ve been on, a couple of times, sitting behind him once maybe, and a few times sitting behind my dad. Cliff-side. I miss Bangladesh so much.)

Today I learned that, much like my brother, Siyana likes cheese-flavoured sweetcorn (‘Magic Corn’) too. I prefer the Mexican chilli flavour. I also think that having spicy food makes people’s skin look nice for a lil while.

I also learned, from Sweetie (re those Palestinian-made gift boxes) about a poet called Zirrar. His blog looks amazing, Masha Allah. The idea of being a Muslim traveller, writer. Explorer, in a Meaningful way. I love. In this world in which we dwell, we are all but travellers.

Today, after having come home from Nanu’s, we discovered that the latch, from inside, had fallen down. So my mum tried to go behind the house, to the garden, to try to get in via that way. Saif and I waited on the doorstep. Suddenly, the door opened and, standing in the doorway, wearing a white thobe with (I think) trainers…

Dobir Mama???!!!!!

[Dobir Mama is my friend Tamanna’s uncle. He lives a few doors down from us.]

Turns out, my mum had enlisted his help — as well as Sayeed [distant-ish neighbour, who had also been a TA for mine and Mazhar’s class, at primary school]’s — to climb over the wall and get into the house. Dobir Mama just has such a funny personality. He opened the door for us, smiling, and silently, as though inviting us in to his home.

[And… I haven’t told Tamanna about this yet, so she’ll just – hopefully – read this entry and find out this way, LOL]

Furthermore, I have decided that I will not take this… possible arranged marriage thing seriously, for now [dear some readers, ‘arranged‘ marriage is not the same as ‘forced’ marriage. Arranged marriage: you basically let yourself get ‘set up’ with people, and you go on (chaperoned) dates with them, and then – after however many meetings it might take – you can decide if you wish to take things further].

Even if people begin to talk about how Mazhar’s already married, and how I’m still a bike-ridin’ spinster. Das okay: I would want to do things in truth, and not merely for appearances’ sake.

Today, when asking the cousins’ group chat about which team Mr. R supports, Didi started typing… and then Moosa did too. And then it dawned on me that we all know Mr. R because… Ranga Mama had been to that school. Sweetie too. Then Didi. Then Mazhar and I. Maryam. Moosa. My paternal cousins Tanbir and Fabiha, also. Family tingz, Masha Allah.

WHAT IS WEIGHING HEAVY UPON [YOUR/MY] HEART, RIGHT NOW?

Dear reader, I will tell you.

I will always care, so very deeply, inside. And it’s a wonderful thing, to be alive, and to feel things. But yes, sometimes it consumes me a little. Sometimes, it really does weigh heavy, doesn’t it?


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

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