Day Twenty-Nine

What I have learnt, Episode Twenty-Nine: Big Sister Things, and Juice from Brazil.

Today I learned that that daily KRRRRT! sound from the stock-room is not as a result of the cat doing something in there, as I’d previously thought. It’s… the sporadic air-freshener thing. Good place to put it, since the kitty litter box is there too.

Today, I bought a meal deal from Tesco, having very recently rediscovered my love for… egg-and-cress sandwiches on brown bread! I got a meal deal (which is, at this moment in time, £3) and then I got an extra sandwich because… I’m self-aware and all, and knew I would get hungry again right after school.

Saif has just reminded me that Isa’s birthday is in a week. Moosa’s is, also, three days later. Isa is going to be ten years old, Masha Allah; Moosa, sixteen! Now my brother is pretending to cry like a few-month-old baby. “MAAAAAAAA”. The accuracy.

When I say I love my brother so, one thing I mean is: he was, and is, such a big part of home for me. I would be at school: classes, all those various social considerations. Outside. And then a bus home. Inside. And baby brother dearest: the smartest, coolest, funniest (and most gorgeous) little boy whom I am lucky enough to call my own. We would: read books together, scribble. Watch all sorts of TV shows (Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, Thomas the Tank Engine; the list goes on and on). I taught him how to play chess, when he was four or something. And, whenever I would have exams to study for, I would have to close my bedroom door. And he would come in, and start touching all my things, throwing tantrums for attention. Ripping things, sometimes. And he was, and still is, one of my biggest sources of unbridled joy, in this here life of mine.

He is… currently trying to teach the cat how to sneeze. “Safi, Hatchoo.

Saif also has girls on his case already. A particular neighbour of ours, for instance. And once, when I picked him up from school, two little girls were behind us, talking about him, trying to get his attention, wondering aloud if I’m his sister. Little boy blanked them completely.

I can’t believe that I actually occupy this role as a big sister. I think adulthood in general is like this: you just have these roles, and you grow into them. Mushfikah did also say that teaching, for example, forces you to reach into parts of yourself you perhaps previously didn’t even know existed.

You just take responsibilities, and you grow with them; into them. But nobody alive has it ‘all together’. Not even the ‘cool’ ones who seem ‘put-together’ [at work, just like at sixth form, quite a few people have told me that they think I seem ‘very put-together’. Ma’am… I, in truth, am a mess. Because I’m human. And y’all are seeing but

g l i m p s e s.].

This is everybody’s first time being here in Dunya. Being eight years old: you get only one year as an eight-year-old. Being twenty-years-old: one year. And this is it, in my case.

Today, I annoyed Saif [this is just an organic, very important part of my life. It doesn’t even take much forethought at all: it’s just so integral to our existences] and he called me ANNOYING and said he hates me. I told him to say Wallahi he hates me. He stopped, and just smiled, and didn’t say anything more. Ohhhhhh he was lying [I’m insecure].

Fairly recently, he complained, from the bathroom, that I’m “the worst sister in the world!” And I said, though I normally wouldn’t, that “you’re the worst brother in the world”. And then he came out and tried to make out as though, gosh, he was just joking! People really can’t understand when people are jokingggg. He can dish it but… he can’t take it <3.

The truth is, we probably both annoy one another in equal measure. I really wouldn’t have it any other way though. I have this brother of mine who is just like this, and he is beautiful, Masha Allah. Some people can’t really easily understand him very well (because they have limited minds. I’m salty) but das okay… I’ll (metaphorically) beat them up. By slight contrast to Saif, I also have my little cousin-brother Dawud: the adorable-sweetheart type, Masha Allah.

My brother would freely jump on my bed [“dumping, dumping” had been his way of saying “jumping, jumping”, putting his arms up, having real fun”]. Draw on my things, sometimes. My friend Yu Zhu had gifted me a guitar before she’d left for Canada; my brother cut one of its strings. Encyclopaedia that Sweetie had gifted me: he tore some pages out. The names of various dinosaurs: he’d learned at a very young age, Masha Allah. He, for a while, liked working on maths problems for fun. He’d prank me in some… kinda brilliant ways. As a really little kid, while walking outside, I’d randomly hold his hand up, and he would pirouette through the arch. I’d teach him, sometimes, at home: he was super fun to teach, but also… very easily distracted [it’s probably genetic, you know]. I taught him, again, last lockdown, along with Isa: we made our dining room into a classroom, for a short while. Used the window as a whiteboard. I don’t know if this is what it’s like when people have kids of their own, but… I’m proud of this kid for even breathing.

Saif just called me to go and look at Safi’s (i.e. his cat’s) teeth. What the heck: cat’s teeth (save for their canines) are so… tiny and hilarious?! I wonder if being a cat dentist is an actual profession.

There are so many other hilarious stories about my brother, and I’m glad, Alhamdulillah, that I’ve managed to document many of them in the journal I’ve been keeping for him: ‘Good Luck Saif’.

Our wee lickle fights – these spirited interactions between us – just tend to be quite dumb, but I kind of quite enjoy them. I (somewhat lightly) push him sometimes, for fun. Kick him, if he kicks me. One time, he kept punching me, at the front of our dad’s mini-van. So I punched him back (equal to how hard he punched me, I hope). And then he punched me again. So I punched him again. And we just carried on like this. What even are we?

I am, at present, twenty years old. And he’s eight. And there is an eight-year-old boy part of me, certainly. And, yeah, it would appear as though he’s got this strong inner twenty-year-old too.

Today I learned why the ‘V’ sign (with one’s hand facing backwards) is sometimes given as an insult, here in Britain. It’s from back when the English had been at war with France: the French would capture the English archers, and cut off their index and middle fingers (archery fingers). The English would run around holding up their (intact) fingers as a symbol of defiance and derision.

Incidentally, while, here in Britain, a ‘thumbs-up‘ might be indicative of a positive response to something, in Bangladesh… it’s a swear, a cuss. One of my students, today, told me that when she first met someone in Bangladesh, she greeted them, and gave a thumbs-up. Much to the alarm of the other person. [Woah, literally just met this girl and she is showing me (the Bengali version of) the middle finger].

Same thing in question, but drastically different reactions, understandings of it, depending on who is looking upon it. Definitely a metaphor to be reflected upon, here.

Today, with both my Year Eight classes, we learned about women on the homefront, during WWI. Women, and labour. The ‘white feather campaign’: when women would hand out white feathers to those men who’d refused to join the army. White feathers: a symbol of cowardice, apparently because in cockfighting traditions, traditionally cockerels with a white feather in their tail were thought to have been the weakest ones.

Today I learned what ‘DORA’ stands for. Not the Mexican explorer chica. But: the Defence of the Realm Act, during WWI. The name of this law sounds quite Harry-Potter-y. Actually, quite a lot of British-in-general things are ‘Harry-Potter-y’. So, too, are lots of ‘Muslim-aesthetic’ things. The cloaks, the gold-engraved books. I would say this school is like Muslim Hogwarts, but… no. Hogwarts would wanna be us. All… actually-existent, real, and Halāl and stuff.

Women being encouraged to join the labour force, back then, though: shovelling poop, even, had been so deliberately glamorised. And, nowadays, full-time work, for example, isn’t necessarily by nature ‘liberating’. It’s not about the work, but about the essences of what we are always doin’; it is about the goodness, and the balances.

Today, some of my colleagues starting discussing, in depth and in length, cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, I had a nice nap. This conversation, to me, had been like… having a droney podcast on, which I didn’t fully understand, or want to, for that matter. Their voices just drifted away, as I sunk into my slumber.

After work, I wanted to go and sit in nature again. Last time, I went and sat by that bit near the start of the canal (right behind 21 W.L.). I just chilled, watched a CMC (Cambridge Muslim College) video, read a book, I think. ‘T’had been a rewarding experience, Masha Allah. Recollection.

Today, I didn’t walk that way. I stopped at the outdoor cafeteria thing that has caught my eye numerous times before: it’s just in front of those industrial under-train archways, on Cable Street. There are two Brazilian food trucks there, and a third: a coffee cart. The tables, there: repurposed (or, perhaps, deliberately-made-this-way) steel drums. I had a veggie skewer [it had halloumi halloumi halloumi, stop makin’ fun of halloumi in it] with chips, and some (guava, had it been?) juice. Delicious, Masha Allah! The juice: I went to the trailer and asked if they did juices. The lady there explained, “no English”. So I looked at the menu, and asked for a ‘Compal’: a type of South American juice. It was £1.50, and I said “Obrigada” to the woman (remembering an old friend of mine, Ricardo, who is from Portugal).

Eating, and reading a bit, by myself, outside: this shiz makes me feel self-conscious. I think it makes anybody, everybody, self-conscious. But it’s bearable, and you just have to find the right thing to lose your attentions in, to focus on. I think this may have been my first time eating on a steel drum. And wow, the big truck’s sauces. O.K. hand gesture.

I suppose I also learned, today, from seeing the other people there at the ‘Food Garden’ that there’s a seemingly growing Brazilian community here in this part of East London, now. Very cool indeed.

Today I reflected more on how… birth order really does seem to affect personality types. Or, better still: Allah has ordained for us to fill certain roles. I really like this big sister one, Masha Allah. I don’t think I could imagine being a little sister to anybody. I don’t like being told what to do, first of all. And… I don’t know. I like feeling more independent, and depended on; I like growing into the responsibilities of being Fuldi. Makes me want to ‘be a better me’ and all.

Today I learned, again (to my annoyance. What does pointing it out even do?) that people think I look really tired recently. Probably because I quite often am, these days. But ugh: “You look really tired today. It really shows, on your face”. Okay….. what do you want me…. to do?! Except… feel kinda bad for the rest of the day, conscious that I look tired.

The comments that I keep receiving are: “you look tired”. “You’ve lost so much weight.” “You look tired.” “You’ve lost sooooooo much weight!!! Oh my gosh Sadia. *Stares and stares, without restraint*”. What the heck do I even do/say, in response? “Okay”. “Thank you”. And it very much annoys me, and part of me wants to just say, in response to those weight-y ones: “no, I really haven’t. Stop exaggerating and let’s talk about something more meaningful.” Part of my reason for being annoyed is that they say it every time. Like a chosen greeting of sorts. So… am I just getting progressively thinner, in their eyes? If they’re right each time, then should I not be… a breadstick, by now?

Ah, man, my brother is just so cute, Masha Allah Allahummabārik. I just looked to see that we’d been sitting on the sofa in the exact same manner: with one foot tucked under the other knee. Him, sitting on my dad’s kurroh (Bengali for ‘lap’) though.

I’m feeling kind of fed up today. Probably feminine-cycle things. Almost indubitably. Existential discomfort, a quietly-powerful kind of rage.

Today, I’m not liking the fact that I often feel infantilised by certain people. But that’s probably because… a lot of them are a lot older than me. When people my own age do it though… I just don’t know. In one way it’s nice: the cute, cute, CUTE, people feeling like they need to treat you like how children are. Protected, pitied, almost. But sometimes people think they can just freely say whatever, and I don’t like it. I’m just being moody today on account of internal reasons. Womanhood is amazing, isn’t it, but it has its necessary downsides.

I swear, if someone comments on weight/tiredness tomorrow, I will…./.g,.g,lrwjglkrgjrghkwg

say that I really don’t like those comments, and that they don’t help me in any way. Or, I could just spend more time alone instead. That’s probably better: for me, and for other people. Taking time out, in times of anger. I doubt anybody has ever regretted doing this.

To end, somewhat abruptly and in a way that is not particularly harmonious with the parts that have preceded it:

A reminder-note to my current, and future (Insha Allah), self: in this life of mine, I am trying to not escape Reality; the truths of me, of my life, of this world, this existence. I am trying to be here for all of it. And the things I enjoy: I want to ensure that they are always good parts of reality, and not attempts at denying it for any while.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

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