29/04/16

She tied her mud stained shoelaces and headed out the door after giving salaam to her mum. It was quarter to twelve and she had to be at work for half past, bearing in mind it’s an hour journey. Obviously, she was going to be late. But today she didn’t care. She had been early on every single occasion ever since she started working there, so what’s one day of tardiness in a lifetime of perfection, eh? That doesn’t mean she took extra time in getting there, it just meant she didn’t hyperventilate trying to get her out of shape body to run to inevitably still be late.

It was one of those days in late April, where spring was meant to be at its peak, the sun shining, people getting their sunglasses out, sun cream on, less clothes more skin, all of that kind of stuff, but it couldn’t have looked the furthest away from it. The clouds were in a conflict, the blue hues trying to override the grey; a battle that would seem to last forever in a country like Britain. The air was humid, but the wind was fierce, still taking everyone as its victim, refusing to surrender to complaints and pleas of wishful thinkers.

Her hands began to look pale; a coffee, she thought. She needed her morning coffee. After her first bus ride and having thanked the driver for carrying out his duty, she trotted along to her favourite coffee shop. There she ordered her grande cappuccino and literally threw in her dozen or so sugars because she has a sweet tooth, clearly. Sweet teeth would be appropriate in this case. It was quarter past twelve at this point, her stomach growled and reminded her she needed to feed it lunch. On the way to her second bus stop was a Subway, where she stopped and picked up her sandwich from. It was nearly half past twelve by the time the bus arrived, and boy time was going by fast.

It began when she sat down. Gradually, as the bus halted to offload and take on more passengers at each stop, the doubled decker bus started to fill up pretty easily. Hoodlums and hooligans were custom to sitting upstairs, so she found herself a seat towards the back end of the bottom floor next to a window. She liked to people watch, and dazing on a public form of transport was the perfect medium to fulfil her hobby. Soon, she placed her bags onto her lap, being considerate for all the passengers coming onto the bus and not going upstairs. After all, she was one of them. It was then when he came and sat next to her.

She smiled under her veil, her eyes squinted as they showed compassion for him for he reminded her of someone close to her heart. His smile as he climbed aboard that revealed a not so pristine set of teeth, but still made him cute. His golden, beige salwar kameez, gathered underneath his green parka coat, and the white, intricately patterned topi sat on what was a few white hairs. On his face, semi white and semi black straggles of hair gathered ever so neatly under his chin. His hands, with skin so thin his every vein could be seen carrying blood to his beating heart. Dismissively, she turned away from him, hoping her peripheral vision wouldn’t betray her tedious heart and catch another glimpse, but how could she not?

A short while had passed, another few stops had come and gone when suddenly the bus stopped. A man walked on with a neon orange vest top and demanded everyone show their tickets. Funnily enough how the buses to an Asian area were always getting checked. She took out the tiny piece of paper that was folded several times, placed neatly in the back of her purse and showed the officer she wasn’t a fraud trying to get a free bus ride. And so did he; his fragile yet sturdy hands held out his red bus pass and she failed. Her eyes quickly glanced and she saw his I.D. photo. Memories came flushing back as her nose began to sniffle. She remembered how she would hold his hands as she carefully glided oil over his arms, massaging his aching muscles. How he would smile and greet people in the very same, gracious manner as this man. How he would sit so close to her on his single bed downstairs through the dark hours of the night because he needed her by his side, and she refused to leave. How when he was taken into hospital and there had been an infection, yet he still wanted her to come visit. To tell him, inshallah we will meet again tomorrow before laying a single kiss on his wrinkled forehead.  How she wished she wasn’t there on that bus. He didn’t look much like him, but it was the only man she had ever sat so close to that took her back to square one.

She strained to stop the tears stream down her face, soaking her veil but it was to no avail. The lodge that she had struggled so hard to remove was back in the middle of her throat, catching her heart in between.

The struggle

You would think after a year the ache would somewhat subside, and life, as I know it, would reform itself into the way it used to be. The small, mundane issues of everyday life would consume my mind and heart and immerse me into the cycle of ‘normality’, so to speak. To be frank, I don’t know whether or not the fact that it hasn’t happened is a good or bad thing. I feel like some days, maybe it is happening. Perhaps the once thumping heart, ready to implode by carrying its emotions decided to beat at normal rate. And then someone mentions something that reminds me of you and I’m taken back to square one.

Recently at work, when in conversation and the mention of me not living at home comes up, often I’m asked why. Being South Asian and not living at home just causes everyone to assume you’re either married or, well, you’re married. I’m then forced to explain I live with my grandmother, which beckons the next, usual question; why? Initially I had moved in to look after my grandfather, but after his passing I found it even more unbearable to return home and leave my naani alone. This, in turn, leads to the final question; why did you have to look after him?

Cancer. Even now the word lodges in my throat, and when I can finally shove it down it feels as though I’m swallowing the disease itself.

Acceptance is a lot easier said than done. When your life began to revolve around someone else, every move, every plan had to be made to ensure their involvement. Heck, I couldn’t even shower without checking up on him beforehand, or go to university without making sure I was certain to be back at the said time. He was my world, and still is. There never was a moment where I felt like they were a burden. Sure I used to struggle sometimes because looking after someone so old, with an Asian mentality and suffering a painful illness requires a lot of patience, mental and emotional strength. But what I wouldn’t trade for them to be here, tapping on the window, calling my name to come give them some kind of comfort.

They sought comfort in me not knowing they were my comfort.

I saw the weakened shadow of a man he had become, the ache in his eyes, the loss of strength in his muscles that once made him proud to be a father and grandfather. Every night he would wish Allah would return his soul back to Him so he could ease my affairs, to take my illnesses and have them inflicted on his own body so I would not ache. Unbeknownst to him that once his wish had been fulfilled, and I pray and hope inshallah his soul is risen on the final day with pious people, my body would forever continue to ache and my heart would never be at ease.

Bad niqab day

As a Muslim woman adorning the veil for quite some time now, I’ve always been prone to people assuming we don’t have ‘bad’ days. I don’t mean emotionally, despite the fact that many think we’re aliens underneath this ‘black cloth of doom’ but I’m talking about the Muslim equivalent to a bad hair day. Yes, this actually exists.

Being born into Islam and a relatively practicing family, the idea of dressing modestly wasn’t one of foreign thought. I had the pleasure of wearing a hijab through most of my younger years and hand on heart, I can honestly say that some days, things just don’t go your way. I feel like I should make a disclaimer here and push the clouds of confusion adrift; wearing the hijab is the most liberating thing anyone could ever choose to do. For the sisters that are lazy, like me, and don’t pin your scarves down, the wind becomes the bane to your existence. It’s almost as if it knows what a lazy sucker you are; intentionally blustering through the layers of your loose, chiffon hijab. And it’s not like your hands are free; one hand keeping your haya together, and the other trying to balance in between holding a cup of your morning coffee. The handles of your bag sit ever so stylishly, resting mid-elbow and forearm, making your arm its hook and your bag the garment. So apart from being a juggler, it seems as if you are also a human hanger and your flapping arms try in vain to keep your modesty intact. You might be thinking, well, why doesn’t she just stick a pin and keep everything in place? No, honey boo. The ferocity of the wind has little to no mercy for wishful-thinking survivor wannabes. Everyone is a victim. Recently, the gales of wind have been crazy. Just the other week an elderly man was literally ‘blown away’. (Puns aside, I don’t know if I actually read this in a news article or they may be a chance I might be making this up), but I kid you not, it’s a tough job trying to be modest in this kind of weather.

It was sometime last week or the week before that, I’m not too sure because I was meant to type this blog up as soon as it happened. Procrastination, however, is also the bane to my existence and so here I am. I was on my way to work. Usually to save myself the effort of taking public transport, I slide into the car with my Dad on his way to work. This day, however, I just could not be bothered to wake up two hours early for the sake of a lift. I’ll be fine, I assured myself. I haven’t got any books to carry, or a bag full to the brim, I got this. After my homogenous routine I set on my way, but was set back by one tiny, oh-so-important-detail; my veil was in my mother’s house. Okay, so here’s the deal. A lot of you may already know I moved in with my grandparents a while ago. Occasionally, I tend to leave my things in my mum’s house as a habitual thing. Old habits die hard and all that. Back to the situation at hand, my mum had left that morning to attend her regular tajweed classes at our local mosque. There it lay in the house, doors and windows all sealed and locked to keep wayfarers like me out. I’m running late. I try to scrounge for a back-up I thought I was sure I had somewhere in my room. Ten whole minutes of panging anxiety and frantic searching, I stumble across it. I didn’t even think about whether it needed to be ironed, or whether it was a single or double layered style. I tied up the two long, black strings and left my house. It was only when I was halfway down the street did I come to the realisation that this was not going to be my day.

This niqab was too tight. The slit made for my eyes, or in this case a mouse’s eyes, was way too small. If you’ve seen the size of mine I think you can feel my pain. Not only that, the layer beneath my eyes was overwhelming, forcing my eyes to close, blurring my vision. I could have dealt with that to be honest, if that was the only problem. Like, who really needs to see anyway? Vision is overrated. (It’s not really but I was running out of positive thoughts here). The layer of cloth, horizontally tied across my forehead was bearing down onto my eyelids. How was I supposed to make my way to work if I couldn’t see? (This is the bit where I start to appreciate the fact that on a usual basis, I have the ability to see, alhamdulillah.) This is a niqabi’s worst nightmare, and for me, it was living hell. I wasn’t going to give in, PFFT. Heck, I’ve been through far worse situations in regards to my veil. This was nothing. So what if the odds were stacked against me? Does the wind even know me doe? I needed to use my hands strategically. One hand was designated to holding the layer down, allowing me some breathing space. The top layer would just have to do. As I got onto, and left each bus, my heart was anxious as to what trial I’d have to face next.

The hour journey to work was unlike any other. I felt like a soldier persisting through a hidden, ongoing battle that no one could see. Perhaps to a lesser extent, but that’s how it felt. The wind wasn’t doing me any favours, my niqab about to be blown off my face and my numbing hands were on the verge of giving up. I was finally saved. There’s a shop near my workplace that sells veils, honestly, it was like a Eureka moment. I could not have ran into the shop any quicker; it was my salvation. To think, a piece of cloth held so much significance in my life. Who’d have thought, eh?

The thought of me not having my niqab, or having to go out without it was something I couldn’t bear. Not because I have to, but the idea of suddenly abandoning something that means a lot to you for a petty reason is the worst thing possible. There is a sanctuary in the veil that only those sisters who adorn one can relate to. There’s a feeling of content, of happiness, of a spiritual awareness and in a world that seems so strung along by appearances, it’s nice to have the confidence to say I don’t care. Having a bad niqab day is possibly worse than a bad hair day. At least with a bad hair day, you’re still perceived as the same person. If you’re not then girl, I feel sorry for you. A bad niqab day has the potential for an exposure the world isn’t ready for. *Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge* but that’s just my opinion.

Never Getting ‘Round To It

I know I said I’d write more frequently but honestly I don’t know what to say. It’s like this overflow of thoughts and ideas in my mind, but it’s too powerful. I can’t explain it, but I’ll try. It’s like I’ll think of one idea, and the jump onto the next, and before I’ve even fully conceptualised it, I’m already onto the next one. I’ll give you an example, I said I wanted to fulfill my ambition of becoming published and it’s almost as if I’m so ready for it at random bursts in the day, and then the next moment I won’t be bothered. It’s like spontaneous laziness – if that’s even a proper diagnosis. But I’m telling you, it really should be BECAUSE IT’S FLIPPING REAL!  That wasn’t actually supposed to be in capital letters but it fits, so I’m just going to leave that be. So there’s a swarm manifesting in my mind and at the moment I can’t make any sense of it. I need help! I’ve tried making lists but the thing with them right, is I actually get really frustrated when the list stays the same for about six months because I just don’t get round to doing any of it! I need a slap on the wrist, to say the least I know. It’s not like I’ve got an uber busy schedule, I mean today I was bed bound due to an awful headache (make dua for me please), but now that I’m off work for Christmas, I am basically free. Downfall to my awesome self? I LOVE to sleep. I’ll have late nights intentionally so I can sleep a little more in the morning, even if that does mean having my mum on my case. When I am free in the day, I’d rather just go onto my phone and pree social sites, or do something unproductive. I bought a couple of books the other day thinking yeah, “I’m off, I got time”, but no. I’m into chapter four and I’ve just lost the motivation. Maybe it is because I’m under the weather though. I mean seriously, my grandma knits as a past time and watching her made me think “ooh yeah, I want to pick it up as a hobby”, so I did. Instead, however unlike knitting, I decided I wanted to learn how to crochet. I bought some wool and began, mind you it was going so well, until one day I just couldn’t be bothered. I do things by half, and that really annoys me, but I bring it on myself. It’s like I want to get out of this loop of having ideas, starting them off and never finishing them and moving onto another, it’s just so bloody hard. This post has no use by the way, I just thought I’d let you know why I’m such a time waster and non-blogger. Sheesh, I should put that into my C.V instead, haha! This post has defined what it is that goes on in my mind anyway, if you understand what I meant in the beginning by I have so many things I want to do, yet such a limited timescale of ambition for each thing until bam, I’m onto the next new trend, according to my overactive imagination.

An update

Hey there readers, so, basically I’ve been doing some thinking and I’ve decided my aim is to get on top of this whole writing part of my life. Considering it’s a passion, I don’t write as often as I would like. Snippets here and there on instagram perhaps, which you should follow because, you know, I’m awesome (madamepinkpanther), but they’re not long enough, or very blog-like either. I don’t really have any certain topics or anything specific in mind at the moment, but I’m hoping that will just come to me once I get into the habit of blogging on a frequent basis. That’s really it, if I’m honest. Not a great start to a lengthy blog but meh, you guys can wait for the next so called masterpiece, whenever that is.

Imbalance

His eyes, small and carefully placed

just beneath his scrunched eyebrows

look down, and notice me shaking.

Trembling at the thought of what exactly is at stake.

I extend my left hand,

which like my heart is lingering,

in the moist-filled air,

like a delicate, embellished, crystal chandelier

swaying in an all too over crowded room,

hoping it doesn’t fall and crash

on those who admire its beauty.

The silence seems to be echoing as he gulps,

swallowing the little saliva in his mouth,

his lips parched.

He reaches out to hold my hand,

his clammy fingers clutching mine

his thumb stroking my upper hand,

gliding over my weary knuckles.

With every stroke

my heart hangs in balance,

all too afraid of it tipping too heavily on the wrong side of fate.

“We look, but we don’t observe.”

After a very close friend of mine recommended, (and sort of bullied me) to watch Sherlock Holmes I find myself to be more analytical than I was before. It was late morning, nearing afternoon, when my sister and I had just caught the bus we needed. I was awfully hot. The humidity, despite it raining and the fact that I had on four layers of clothing, didn’t help my already hot and flustered body. As we got onto the bus, it was practically empty. Each row of two chairs unoccupied, waiting for someone’s body to sink into them, imprinting their shapes. The seats we chose, obviously it was just my luck, were situated in front of the bus’ engine and I felt as if I were about to overheat and explode. I urged my sister to move before people started taking their seats, and so we sat on the left hand side, diagonal to where we sat before. Mind you, that’s my left hand side and not the left hand side of the person walking onto the bus, if that makes sense. I always like to sit by the window, even if I’ve taken the bus route before, I mean like Sherlock said, we look but we don’t observe. Most of the time I just like to stare obliviously, as if I were I some kind of deep thought making an analysis about the world, but usually it’s just quiet inside my head. Which is a rare thing for me so I take pleasure in its sporadic solitude.

We started engaging in conversation about the gifts my sister had bought one of the teachers. They organised a ‘Secret Santa’, but it wasn’t Christmas and neither was it a secret. They all managed to tell one another who they were given. Typical, huh? The bus started to fill up with more passengers, everyone rushing to get somewhere for lunch or to hurry back to work. We sat near the front, where the single mothers with prams sit, or wheelchair users, and, of course, the elderly. Funny how I made the presumption that the mothers with prams are single, I mean perhaps their partner is at work, or they just don’t have a car. Funny thing that. Presumptions. There were no mothers on this bus, but there was an old man. Rather cute too, I must say. I naturally have always had a soft spot for old people, I don’t know why. He sat down to my right and chose the single seat that faced towards the aisle rather than the other seats that were facing forward in the direction of the bus driver. So he was travelling alone. At first I didn’t take notice of him, he was just an old man with a beige trench coat, grey, ironed trousers, with white socks and brown leather shoes. As the conversation between my sister and I died down, it always does because we can enjoy the silence between us, the bus began to move.

After a while, the old man’s complexion became red and I had thought to myself perhaps he is also hot like me. It was incredibly humid for a supposedly rainy day. The crease lines on his forehead began to crinkle and congeal above his scrunched eyebrows, his mouth mimed the words to a song, and his eyes welled up. It came to my attention that this man was crying. I nudged my sister, asking her to confirm what I had saw because sometimes I like to make things up. This time I was right. He was crying. We debated over what the possible reasons could be, and we deduced due to his age, perhaps maybe he had lost a loved one and the song he was whispering reminded him of them. We didn’t really know, just guessing I guess. She told me to stop staring, but I wasn’t doing it explicitly so. I was just curious as to what made this man suddenly start to cry. In his hand he carried a light green plastic bag, with navy blue writing. He had purchased something from ‘The Card Factory’. Soon after he opened the bag and took its contents out. It was a card of some sort, evidently, but I still couldn’t make out the occasion. He wiped his eyes and opened it to read the passage inside. The card, however, was still in its packaging. As the first layer of the card opened, the big red number immediately caught my eye. It was the number one. Maybe it was his grandchild’s first birthday. He folded the card and put it back into its bag, untiringly singing whatever song it was, and still crying. I didn’t know what was causing him such grief, but whatever it was had clearly meant a lot and my heart swelled with empathy. If only there was a way to make him smile.

For the rest of the journey he continued to cry and sing, silently in the corner of the bus, the thought of someone realising not even crossing his mind. Why would they? Everyone is so caught up in their own business, too busy on their phones, too engrossed in their own issues to notice the poor old man crying on the bus. I would have approached him, but I’m not sure if the situation and circumstances would have been right. Maybe he didn’t want to be disturbed, and you should respect that. It was an emotional memory that his mind decided to dwell on and sometimes you like to be alone with your emotions. So many of us sit on buses, trains and other modes of public transport yet do we even take in our surroundings? Do we stop and see if the other person is ok? They say don’t cry in silence, but this man was openly, publicly grieving and no one noticed. Is this the kind of world we live in today, with no empathy or care for anyone but ourselves? Many will laugh at the naivety of this, or some might say well I’m too busy, but why not? Why is that we only see what we want to see and ignore the rest. Why do we look, but we don’t observe?