Good news!

It’s nothing amazing or spectacular or even really that big. But it is, to me.

I finally got published!! *yay*

Just a short story really,¬†less than 1,000 words, nothing special… but still — something I wrote is actually published. Alhamdulillah ūüôā

Big thank you to Bunbury Magazine for giving me this opportunity, this stepping stone in my publishing and writing journey. You can find ‘Red’ in Issue 14 of the magazine here. All they ask for is a small contribution towards the magazine to help keep it running. That sounds fair, right?

And now to leave you with one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite books ūüôā

“– a beauty neither of fine colour nor long eyelash, nor pencilled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance. Then her soul sat on her lips, and language flowed, from what source I cannot tell.” – Jane Eyre

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Catch the sunlight

In these early hours of the morning, when all the dreams and wishes of the world lay in the palm of your hand, everything seems possible. Sunrise stretches over this ancient earth, but each morning it feels as soft and supple as a newborn baby,  like fresh snow awaiting footprints to carve a path into its canvas.

Push past the dreary remnants of sleep, the exhaustion that fills your bones, and the dread of the coming day. Push it all to the side. Listen to the songs of the morning birds, those that are ready to chase their purpose with every fibre in their tiny feathers. Those that chase the sunlight.

Spread the prayer rug out and let your forehead touch the worn¬†fabric. Whisper words of wishes and hopes, to the only One who listens. Listens¬†to the fears of frightened souls who have hearts too fragile to hold the world’s pain.

Go outside and embrace the breeze–cold and shocking at first–and feel goosebumps tickle the surface of your skin. Then catch the sunlight as it rises¬†across a sleepy sky, until the¬†warmth spreads over¬†and fills you up from the inside.

In those earliest hours of the morning, when everything seems possible. When years of muddled confusions evaporate and you are left with a clarity as clear as polished glass. A clarity of purpose, of intention.

Take a deep breath. Look in the mirror and see your future staring back at you, waiting for you to take hold of it. Waiting for you to catch it in the palm of your hands, your eyes ablaze with the euphoria of eternal victory.

Crybaby

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I used to keep a baking blog here, but it took up too much time and I had far too much leftover goodies than I could eat myself. I kept the blog up for the nostalgic factor, but regardless, here’s what I made for Eid this year–a carrot cake that actually turned out pretty nice (if I do say so myself). Enough to get me back into baking! (Note: I realise I need to be more conscious about what I eat, but this cake was too pretty not to post!)

This post will probably be all over the place but to be honest, that’s how I feel right now. It’s as if I’ve been¬†dragged out of my own body and plunked me into someone else’s, someone who’s more emotional, more tired, more fed up. And every day I keep saying “this isn’t me, this just isn’t me”.

I’m reading more into hypothyroidism/underactive thyroid because I want to learn more.¬†Because the doctor can’t tell me more than is possible in a 10 minute consultation. Because I hadn’t realised how deep this condition can go (I’m still struggling to say the word ‘illness’). The more I do it, the more emotional I feel. Even the word ‘emotional‘–makes it sound like I’m getting teary for nothing. And honestly, I was never the type of person to cry over these kinds of things.

Was.

I remember being adamant that I only cried at ‘physical pain’, not emotional. I toughed myself out. Never used to cry at films. All that sort of stuff. Sure, maybe I put it on a little, but I wasn’t a crybaby. Now, these days, I’m having to take deep breaths. Tell myself to calm down. Don’t let myself get overwhelmed.

This isn’t me!

I tell myself I should stop reading into it and just give my brain a break–but in between all those moments of my brain fogging out, I’m thinking about this condition, because it’s starting to define me.

And I am so, so worried about that. It’s like having a cold define you. Or an itchy rash.¬†It sounds ridiculous, right? So why should I let my underactive thyroid start to become¬†me, because it’s not. I am so much more than my health, though my health is such an important part of me.

This is a strange post, I know. I figure writing it all out will help me sort myself out to a certain extent. It’s such an unsettling feeling, not being as reliable as you used to be. Reliable to myself; forget other people.¬†I’d like to think myself as an independent person, always have done. Solitude isn’t frightening to me–that’s the perks of being an introvert. But the importance of¬†asking for help is something I need to work on. It’s okay to feel weak, but asking for help¬†doesn’t make you weak. It’s not something that should be looked down upon.

It’s like I have a dimmer switch in my brain that keeps going brighter or dimmer with a single thought. One moment I’ll be struggling to pull things out of my memory; the next, I’ll be jumping from one anxious thought to another, too quick to recall what I had thought the previous moment.

It’s frustrating.

Brain fog

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I’m tired of being tired.

I’m tired that my paper thin patience can snap¬†at a moment’s notice¬†because of something incredibly insignificant. I’m tired of feeling that way, and I know¬†I wasn’t always like this. I’m anxious that I’m becoming more anxious;

a tiny thing I did yesterday is riddled in my thoughts today;

I feel embarrassed about doing something that other people barely noticed–or did they?

I am¬†so¬†concerned over these small things… and then not concerned at all. Not bothered and not caring–but not carefree. I just want to spend an entire day–twenty four cosy hours–in the security of my bed. Not having to speak to anyone. But I’m tired of¬†feeling like I have to mentally pull a ‘let’s-be-social-now’ jacket over myself together just to talk to someone.

My bones, my muscles, my¬†blood, feels tired.¬†I can’t bear to drag myself up again, but I have to.

That’s normal, right?

But those are only the bad days.

I used to be carefree. I used to have the energy and zeal to spend time with others, to be able to make others laugh, be concerned about their well being. Now I fear that I’ll be¬†too concerned, so I step back.

I don’t want to get hurt either.

I step so far back that I feel like my mind is in another room: boxed away, sterilised and sanitised; yet here I am, talking to you. You probably don’t notice all these things spilling around in¬†my mind. Confusion upon confusion. Layers of fog.

I literally just forgot what I wanted to write next. I’m tired of that too.

I hate conflict, yet I feel like I want to start one whenever something ticks me off. I never used to be like this, I promise.

This isn’t normal.

It’s as if there’s a strange storm thundering inside me, wearing me down, straining me on all pressure points–and in the next instance there is nothing. Not even a calm sea–just nothing. I could stare blankly at a wall, neurons dimming, chemical circuits flickering; my thoughts too weak to resurface.

And then I’ll fall asleep, wake up, and the day will renew. It can be better. Sometimes I go back to normal, my normal, where I feel balanced and whole inside once again. But then it can get worse, and I’ll feel like grey clouds are filling me up, top to toe, bringing misery wherever I go.

It’s awful when you realise you’re no longer interested in those things that you loved to do. Not every day, thankfully, but sometimes I can’t bear to look at a book or pick up the pen. That could be classed as usual behaviour, but this isn’t just “I can’t be bothered”. It’s more a hollow non-feeling, where you have no connection to that activity, as if I’d never picked up a book in my life. A strange and unsettling thing.

It is terrible and tiresome when you have to contend with yourself. When your mind is telling you that nothing is going well, but there’s that silver voice that goes¬†over the negativity, the voice of some-kind-of reason, telling you to get yourself together. Telling you it’s all okay, you’re just crying for no reason, you’re being scared for no reason. There’s no reason why you should stay in bed all day. There’s no need for this.

This is the fog that I fight through, and it feels terrible, because battling with your own thoughts is exhausting.

I don’t know where the end is. I don’t know for how long I have to carry on like this. I hope, well and truly hope, that I can manage this. You can never know what cards you’ll get dealt, but you can’t swap them or throw them back to the dealer. This is your lot in life, and you have to get on with it. Through every tear, every cry of frustration, each and every miserable morning where¬†I don’t want to get up–I can do this.

It’s gonna be difficult, but that’s okay.

Not everything comes easy.

Just take it slowly, one foggy day at a time.

Our Innate Ignorance

You were not born with hatred, but with curiosity.

You were born with an intense thirst for¬†knowing, even if you didn’t know that.

Children are little students of life. They don’t have a pen and paper ready but they make notes in their minds as they crawl, walk, and run;¬†entranced by¬†everyone and everything. The first dandelion they hold is the sun in their hands.¬†They stand at a mountain’s peak every time their wobbly legs hold them upright.

We¬†don’t know about hatred until we¬†are taught. This¬†raw, horrible feeling that riddles your emotions and clouds your judgement. Making you less human, perhaps.

There are people who have been taught to hate others. To hate a certain group of people, just for being different. But that ‘different’ is what allows us to¬†grow. It’s what children need to learn; ¬†anything different is a new¬†universe opened to¬†them.¬†But there are people who will continue to hate¬†others because of their difference. And when the seed of hatred grows within them, they water it with malice. It takes over their limbs and lungs.

They breathe with venom. Can’t go without the spite.

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Why?

Does making someone else feel disgusting, make you feel better? Do you feed off their tears? Do your ugly words taste like honey to you?

Because somehow constantly telling yourself the lies made them the truth, and you’re blinded by your truth. But really, deep inside, you let your curiosity wither. You¬†let the hate grow.

Do you fear the colour of his skin, or the strange accent¬†traced in her speech? Do you hate the scarf on her head, or his¬†language that you don’t understand?

But what would have happened if you called out a question instead of an insult? What if you asked him‚ÄĒhey, that’s a lovely¬†accent you have. Where you from?

What’s your name? That’s a cool name, what does it mean?

Your clothes are nice, is it from your culture?

Children rely on that curiosity to discover the world. They are explorers of the Strange. Adventurers in the Mysterious. They ask questions, perhaps one too many at times. But that’s how they learn. To learn is to be human.

And we, as shameful adults, decide that asking questions makes us feel stupid. We feel defeated by our innate ignorance. By denying our natural curiosity‚ÄĒthe thing that challenged us and let us grow‚ÄĒwe turned to fear the unknown. As we feared that which is strange, we instinctively want to lash out at it. To hurt it. To put it away somewhere so that it doesn’t affect our cosy familiarity.

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These are just some thoughts I’ve had about¬†various events happening across the world, related to¬†racism and intolerance. It is heartbreaking¬†to see people who believe that one race or people are inherently better than others. To even say that¬†other races came ‘from animals’.¬†It makes me sad that they cannot see past their ignorance, that their curiosity has died within them and given rise to something vile. It¬†is a small minority that have these attitudes, but often times this minority shouts the loudest.

But know that the world is filled with decent people. In every country, on every street corner, in every home in this tired world we live in.

Hatred breeds hatred; don’t add fuel to the fire.

 

Streets of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. All photos taken by me.

Celebrations of Faith

The sun is setting¬†on another Ramadan. We prepare ourselves to¬†welcome the day of Eid al-Fitr, but I can’t help but feel that Ramadan itself is a celebration. It’s a celebration of faith, and something that I feel blessed to be a part of.

A lot has happened this month that has made¬†our hearts heavy with sadness, worry, and fear. But I can already feel the comfort¬†that Ramadan has given me, one that I’m sad to leave behind. This solace we find as¬†we¬†swing from long days and blessed¬†nights, from the breaking of the fast to the dawn prayer, and from the supplications we make and the prayers we recite.

Some may ask why we would even allow ourselves to go without food or drink for hours on end, for thirty consecutive days (dawn to sunset, that is!). It is a whole month that tests our self discipline, not just in the kitchen, but also within ourselves. But do we really need to go through the rituals of Ramadan just to prove we can become better people? Is it really necessary?

I ask you, is anything worth achieving in life easy to come by?

Finishing a degree. Getting a job. Buying a house. Becoming a mother or a father.

Anything that is worth something is never easy to attain. For us Muslims, Ramadan is about attaining the quality of being¬†conscious of God. This precious trait¬†is at the core of our faith,¬†a crucial characteristic that helps us to govern the way we live. It’s a state of knowing that God is aware of our actions and that we should be accountable for the way we carry ourselves.

Should I have spoken to my mother in a more gentle tone? Should I have listened to my colleague, who seemed upset about something, instead of rushing to go home? Should I have offered to go to the shops instead of my father¬†as I know he’s¬†exhausted from work?

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These things are minute details in our lives, but no one ever said we had to save the day. It’s all about making sure we’re trying to do the little things right. The things that no one really notices, no one tweets about, the things that slip into the cracks of our¬†fast¬†paced days.

So how does fasting help with this? To me, keeping myself away from food and drink is almost like a gateway to help me discipline myself in other ways. Ramadan helps us to slow things down, take life in perspective, and provides a mechanism for us to improve ourselves.

This month holds a special place in our¬†faith. It¬†celebrates the Qur’an and its¬†guidance in helping us¬†become people who are conscious of God in the every day details of our seemingly busy lives.

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Masjid Negara in Kuala Lumpur. Pictures are my own.

definition

Diaspora.

Sounds like a strange word, doesn’t it? Before I knew its meaning, I always thought it was linked with war, turmoil, or something else that I didn’t really understand. Another technical term. I wasn’t completely wrong, however.

Diaspora: a technical term for the feeling of being “not quite there”.

At least, this is how I feel.

I’ve spent many quiet moments thinking about my¬†identity and how I‚Äôm often caught between a crossfire of different culture, so much so that it feels like¬†I don’t actually have an identity.¬†Now that’s a scary thought. Imagine being nameless and faceless when you’re surrounded by¬†the vibrancy and colour of other people’s national or cultural pride.

But, of course, I‚Äôm not the only one who feels this way. I know that there are people in the world like me, probably not 100% like me, but they feel the same way about identity. Being “not quite there”. They know they can’t speak their mother’s tongue with perfect fluency, but they still appreciate its subtle phrases that express their feelings better than English. Or, they have a soft spot in their stomach for both homemade curry, and a beef lasagne. Or, they feel most comfortable walking the streets of their capital city more than they would driving through a market place back in the ‘homeland’. I know that describes me.

There are several directions I’ve been pulled in:

am I Muslim,

am I English,

am I Bengali,

am I British?

Many ropes that tug me in separate ways in separate moments, sometimes giving me a wonderful colour to my life, and other times wishing that the each identity wouldn’t clash so much.

I still wonder at¬†my identity. Perhaps only¬†to satisfy that human urge to¬†belong. I have friends and family who are proud of their cultural heritage as well as their Britishness. But in all truth, I am neither proud nor am I ashamed of my culture. I just don’t feel that strong, irreplaceable connection that other people might do.

And you know what? I like it like that. I like who I am; I’m just trying to figure out¬†who¬†that is.

When I¬†was coming from a holiday all the way in Malaysia, it was only then when I realised what my ‘homeland’ was. It’s England. More specifically, London. I never felt like I would miss England (in fact, I was more than happy for a holiday), but I felt a genuine homesickness for my¬†home. Not ‘the country’.¬†For home: the place where I wake up and feel secure, the place where I live with¬†the people I have grown up with for the past twenty-odd years, the place where I feel my soul is connected to the ground that I walk on.

Sounds deep, but really, isn’t that what home is? When some people say that home is the people they love; you have a connection to your loved ones, right? So I have a connection to this home of mine, this city, this little part in the south of London that I’ve inhabited for my entire life. It’s my home. It’s not defined by a certain culture or language. It’s a mish-mash of many things, and I think that pretty much describes me. A mish-mash. Not quite 100% this, nor 100% that. So you can stick as many labels as you can on me to try to define my identity, but you’ll never be able to pinpoint me¬†exactly¬†to the letter.

I guess this means you’ll have to speak to me to find out who I really am.