Contrasts

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. It is always like this. And I think I have come to understand that this is how we come to understand things: via contrasts.

Whom, how, had I been, before… this experience, or that one? Before arriving at this place; before coming to know that person? Contrasts:

Like when things ‘just are’. But then you are made to meet something fundamentally different. Maybe: the calm after the storm. The slowness after an academic year of fast-paced ‘doing’. And then you realise, in retrospect, what those things had been. Value is recognised via contrasts.

A lot of things, we find, cannot truly entirely be captured via only words. They… just ‘are’, or just ‘have been’. Words are like mirrors, and they can only reflect so much. I think, for example, I can only come to know myself via knowing (as much as I can) my Creator, and other people.

Didi, Maryam, Priya, Tamanna, Farhana, Aatqa, Samaiya: roughly-my-age people, within this life of mine. And my being bears similarities with each of them, and I suppose we are drawn to people who, in some ways or others, remind us of ourselves. And we also learn much through all the contrasts. They actually help to strengthen whom we know ourselves to be.

And in some places, as a result of certain things, we ‘blend in’ more. Ethnic backgrounds, religion, values and such. And those things that are ‘different’ help us to be… somewhat distinguishable, also, as individuals. I, for example, seem to have been, over and over again, seen as an ‘academic’ and ‘religious’ person. At my East London secondary school, I was ‘the’ academic, ‘outspoken’ person. At my sixth form, which had been an academically selective one, I suppose I had been one of ‘the’ academic-religious people. Muslim, East-London. And now: here at this school, everyone is Muslim, and ‘academic’ (teaching, by nature…) and so, I suppose I have come to know myself better, Alhamdulillah. I am those labels, and in spite of some people’s disapprovals, they are big parts of myself, and of my life. I am also… whatever I am. It’s just shown in what I (‘organically’) love and do.

I like, for example, that one of my students wrote in her journal, the other day, that she likes my style. How sweet! I think, to many eyes, I am somewhat ‘eccentric’ in nature. I think life is brighter this way. I love people who love to think ‘deeply’ and widely, and discuss things from a range of fascinating perspectives; people who can be silly and uniquely ‘weird’ sometimes; people who are very ‘soft’ and sensitive. I [hope I] am what I love, too, Masha Allah.

What it means to be a woman. I suppose I can only know this by knowing other women, and by knowing femininity, in contrast with masculinity. What it means to be Muslim: by surrounding oneself with good company, and by recognising that others hold different values and such. What it means to be Bengali, and to belong to the beautiful (Masha Allah, Allahummabārik) family that I do.

How much I love my people, and my ‘ends’: augmented by the times in my life when I had been away from them, for whatever while, for whatever reasons.

What others may say about me does not necessarily define me. I think my own choices, for instance, define me more.

Today I saw my future (Insha Allah) Bhabi’s (sister-in-law’s) family again. I really like her sister Samia, and their neighbour-friends Maisha and Raisa. Samia actually recognised me from when she saw me at my aunt’s friend’s mum’s house, some… five years ago or so! She said I have quite a distinctive face (and she complimented me, and I am something of a validation junkie, I find); reminded me that, back then, I had told her about my volunteering at the farm, about meeting that actor from ‘Tracy Beaker Returns’. [Yep, sounds like me].

I do worry that I am ‘too weird’; that people thus won’t like me. But I know I must trust that I love a touch of ‘spiritedness’ in other people; others’ notions of what ‘should’ be the case, I do not necessarily have to align with very well at all. So why must I think it is somehow ‘detestable’ in me? It’s okay if some people don’t understand me, or where I am coming from. There is a contrast between myself, and those who do not necessarily approve of me. It’s okay: they are not necessarily my ‘ideals’ either. So long as I can continue to respect them, hopefully: this, as I have decided, is a value of mine.

Today I got way too… spirited… about the desserts’ table. Moosa said something like, “We eating yeah? Sa-a-a-y nothing!” I seconded that. These things we do, and our interactions, are so effortlessly ‘normal’ for us. We don’t put words to them. We just do, and are, and this is proof, I suppose, of how ‘real’ these parts of us are. Little forethought; we aren’t ‘engineering’ images. I think something of our essences is shown in everything that we do.

[And who are we, when away from people, social media, alone?]

Today Dawud Biyya and I stood at the door and observed some cars. Siyana climbed the gate. Maryam started talking to Didi’s (yet unborn) baby. Ranga Mama told me he’d read my article on Kibr, and we discussed the nature of human logic, and its limitations before our Creator. Īmān-boosting stuff, for me, Masha Allah. Sweetie pranked Moosa. A Mama (uncle) I hadn’t seen in a while asked how I am, and he called Dawud “Chachu”, which is sweet.

Sadia’s (my future Bhabi, Insha Allah. We have the same name) family would appear to be far more, in Sweetie’s words, “sensible” than ours. We are “Where The Wild Things Are”. Their overall essence would appear to be, Masha Allah, more sweetly quiet. Their elder brother is like this; Samia, too; their uncles, even. I quite like it. And now our families have met: two seas. At the wedding, Insha Allah, we are wearing navy blue, while they plan on wearing pink. A lovely contrast, and it’s interesting:

If I were to try to put words to this, I do have parts of myself that remind me of Moosa. And of Isa and Saif. Maryam, Didi. The secondary school I went to; the sixth form. Tamanna, Tasnim. I also have parts of me that make it easy for me to get along with Samia, Masha Allah. It’s nice to feel nurtured through feelings of ‘home’, wherever we find them. It’s also nice to feel a little challenged, grow, through those feelings of ‘adventure’. New people to meet; new parts of ourselves, to be actualised, met, via new experiences.

Within my family, I suppose I’m comparatively more of a ‘bookish introvert’. But by contrast with others, I’m probably more of a bit of a ‘wild thing’. The contrasts between how we are, at different times, stages in our lives, with different people, and in light of different people, places, situations, roles: awesome, very nice. Masha Allah.

You know, a part of me is so ‘sensitive’ that it translates to quite a bit of internal social anxiety. One of my good friends from work [ref: Tenzing energy drink gang. Population: two] says she experiences the same thing. But she actually comes across as a social butterfly, Masha Allah, and people have said the same about me. I suppose my sensitivity in these regards show that I care, about making people feel comfortable and such. And as long as I care, I’m happy with myself. I care; I’m trying; I’m learning lots, as I am meant to.

Teaching, this academic year: I’ve really just been doing, and only now, towards the end of this academic year, have I been able to truly ‘deep’ it. It’s the same for a lot of things, isn’t it? We come to know things, and ourselves, via contrasts, and through similarities. Cool stuff, Masha Allah.

And although I’m scared about what the next parts of my life might be sayyin’, I am also comforted by the fact that I have a Lord. He has told me that this life is intrinsically challenging; that I will experience fear and grief, and people will come, and go, and such. And, in retrospect, I realise that I have also been growing the entire way through, Masha Allah. Maybe I’ll never fully ‘understand’ it; maybe I, who find myself obsessed with words and linguistic expression, will never quite be able to pin this whole ‘life’ thing down. But that’s okay. I am, and am going to be, okay.

Because I have a Lord: Most Knowing, Most Exalted, Most Kind.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

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