What’s under my hijab?

And now, for something a little different…

Hijab infographic by Aneesa Bodiat

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You will die. And so will I.

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I remember this line from “What’s eating Gilbert Grape” once in a while. The young character of Arnie  played by a 19 year old Leonardo DiCaprio is mentally disabled, but in a moment of innocent clarity, he cheerfully proclaims that “I can go any time you know.”

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So true.

Any one of us, right this moment, could die.

Poof.

Out like a light. Or a candle. But this heart-stoppingly critical notion hardly ever bubbles up to the surface of conscious thought. Maybe we deny our own deaths to ourselves so that we can carry on with our everyday lives without a sense of tragedy and fatality, as a self-preservation mechanism. But pondering our inevitable end is not all gloom and murk. There are benefits to this morbid meander.

If you stopped to think, at least once a day, that you will die, possible someday soon, what would you do differently? Would you go ahead and give your baby that extra snuggle? Open the door for that stranger? Wear your favourite hideous, but comfortable, jersey for all the world to see, testing whether it really matters what other people think? Would you pray salah on time and give more charity?

How long is a human life? We don’t know how long we will live, but on a good day, when you’re feeling optimistic, a long lifespan of an average human could be around 90 years. There’s an excellent couple of articles by Tim Urban on his blog, Wait but why? where he measures the span of a life in winters, summers, baseball seasons (and some other metrics). Seriously, just click through and read the two articles, the first being Your life in weeks, and the follow-up called The tail end.

In The tail end, Urban invites you to consider your current age and weigh it up against your potential 90 year lifespan. If you’re 28, that means 28 summers enjoyed, with just 62 summers left. 62 more springs, winters and autumns. If you’re lucky.

If you eat pizza once a week, that’s around 3224 pizzas left in life.

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But that isn’t the most notable thing. The part about relationships is the bit that will get you thinking. If your parents are 30 years older than you, that’s 32 years left with the folks, if they’re also lucky to live to 90.

But – you spent most of your time with your parents before the age of 18. Like, 90% of your days were spent with them when you were a kid. That time decreased when you started school. That time is probably much less now if you live away from home.

So even though you may not be too close to the end of your life (but really, only Allah knows about that) you may be near the end of the time you spend with some important people in your life.

Urban says “It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end. It’s a similar story with my two sisters.”

Therefore he offers 3 takeaways: live close to the people you love, prioritize, and make an effort to spend quality time with people who are important to you.

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It’s a new year, and that means five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes of 2017 to fill up, to live in, to enjoy or squander. The choice is ours.

By the way, Leo DiCaprio got his first Oscar nomination for his role in Gilbert Grape, but only last year, after 5 more nominations and after over 20 years did he finally win. I wonder how much that statue means to him.

Anyways.

All this to say: be good. Or better.

Perspectives on the craziness

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It seems that evil is Trumping most things at the moment.

Now would be a good time to cultivate that short attention span, and try to be grateful for the small things.

Let’s take a moment to think about the rest of the world too. Maybe we’re all shocked that a democracy, land of milk and honey like America, can elect such a bigoted, racist, pathetic ruler. However, remember that there have been Hadith to the effect that the end of times will be marked by the rule of unfit persons. I guess this is just one more sign of Qiyaamat.

Also, a good point made by Alain de Botton in his response to the US election results is that the norm the world over is that we tend to have oppressive, despotic leaders who terrorize their populations and spread misery across the land.

People have been surviving and enduring this for centuries, and are currently still enduring this in many parts of the world. I mean, who even knows what is happening in North Korea, not to mention Palestine, Syria, Somalia and so many others. Our own leaders in South Africa are nothing to write home about.

So let’s take a chill pill, hope for the best, say a prayer and realize that the norm is generally junk rulers, and that beautiful rulers are an anomaly. Maybe we can somehow in our own way work towards a better future.

But if not, keep doing the good that you’re doing, be awesome, and breathe.

 

Please don’t call

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I have a smartphone and I use it… a lot. But not for calls. I hardly ever call anyone unless I really really have to. For example, I’ll call my gran because dadima doesn’t have a cell phone and if she did, I doubt she would use Watsapp. So she’s one of the few exceptions of people who I really do need to call.

Everyone else? I think Watsapp is perfectly acceptable. I hate calling people. I hate picking up the phone. Don’t call me. Please. Unless someone died, maybe. Just send me an email, a Watsapp, a facebook message, a smoke signal, a carrier pigeon, a handwritten note – anything else. Please don’t call me.

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I use my phone for things I find enjoyable like reading articles online, books through kindle, listening to podcasts and tracking my baby’s eating habits with a handy app. I use my phone for work emails. Research. As a mirror. But I don’t want to use it for calls unless I have to.

If it wasn’t a smartphone, with all this other functionality, I could probably get by without having a “calling” phone. Basically, it is a mini-computer for me, not a “phone-phone”. I don’t have a landline. I don’t want one.

All this to say – just send a message, and don’t call. I’m happy to reply to your text, not your call.

It’s always on silent anyways. So I’ll probably miss your call. Or pretend that I did. You’ll never know.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t like phones for phoning…Do any of you have the same phone-phobia?

Fashion is the thing…

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A designer made history, it seems, by featuring Hijabs in every single outfit in her collection – a collection that walked the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, no less.

Boom! Anniesa Hasibuan’s collection “featured silk hijabs in ivory, peach and grey silk”.

That’s the bit of good news.

In other fashion news, not catering for everyone is still a thing. Isn’t there an obesity epidemic in the US? Aren’t people generally more round than long? Why are all the clothes aimed at model-sized people, when there are about 2 model sized humans for every 8 medium to large people? It seems that most models are white and thin – where’s the diversity? Wouldn’t it make sense, at least economically, to cater for more people?

This article by Brodie Lancaster says that “You Can’t Flaunt Plus-Size Models Without Selling Plus-Size Clothes”. Lancaster is furious with the tokenism of putting one fat model on the runway every 5 years, and then being hailed as a hero for it.

She also says that “no investment pieces are worth the expense if our assumed goal (ie weight loss) is met and we can finally shop a straight-size range. But some of us have been fat forever. Some of us will likely stay fat forever. Some of us are very happily fat and actively seeking out — then throwing money at — the handful of brands who dare to cut a larger pattern and dress a larger person outside the context of a highly visible Fashion Week event and in something other than a paisley smock with an asymmetrical hemline and nonsensical shoulder cutouts.”

Agh.

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This webbed life

How much time do you spend updating your social media accounts, curating content, grooming your online persona, choosing the perfect filter? How much time do you spend reading other people’s feeds, ogling their pics, lusting over their lives?

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Every once in a while I try to convince myself to get back online, to be a part of the conversation and make some digital footprints, but I always end up moving my Facebook app off the first page of my phone, trying to hide it away so that I don’t mindlessly click into the bright blue “F”. Because generally I will end up wallowing in misery when I see a post about the suffering in Syria, or some other latest tragedy.

Or, more uselessly, I will fall into the rabbit hole of catching up with what’s been happening with people I don’t see or make an effort to contact in real life.

I’m not sure what the point is.

And then, I keep coming back to this idea that I heard and that always pops into my head when I see competitions, or adverts or any other spammy type of thing on social media: if it’s free, then you are the product.

Why would someone try to give you something online? Often it seems to be straightforward advertising but it’s interesting how email addresses are now so highly prized.

People are not allowed, legally, to spam you without your consent. If you decide to unsubscribe from some newsletter, they cannot keep sending you their stuff. People can’t sell their email lists, their client databases. So now, to legitimately create a user list, websites often offer you something in exchange for your email address. They won’t just give you the secret to eternal youth, or the recipe for that perfect brownie. No, they make you type in your email address and then they mail it to you.

If it’s free, then I am the product.

Then I realise. I am not just consuming stuff online. The web is also consuming me.

Out from under my rock

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The best conversations for me are the ones that feel like they have no beginning and no end, you just start off from somewhere and end up at the next-where but there’s no hello, how-do-you-do… and no real endings or goodbye, just short interludes of real life and then picking back up right where you left off or somewhere completely else.

It’s been a while, but now I have adventures in baby-raising that may or may not make it into the discussion, and the world seems to be topsy-turvy as usual, with politics around the globe acting crazy, making me wonder how truth can be so much stranger than fiction all the time. We have that idiot Trump, our own local dilemmas with our dud President, Turkey going through an almost-coup, and racism all over the place going out of control.

It feels like a time to hide under a rock and wait for it to all blow over, but that’s probably not the  best approach. Firstly, things don’t seem to be blowing over, just escalating all the time.  And secondly, maybe we can contribute to the positivity and the sanity of the world. Do something sane and good today. Or just don’t add to all the chaos if you can. The world needs you 😉

Stocking up in Ramadan

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It’s almost upon us, that serene and blissful time of year… the month of Ramadan is just a few days away.

A public service announcement first – remember to check where your dates come from – be wary of eating kajoor coming from Israeli date farms, who sneakily use deceptive words to hide the origin of their products – I received a watsapp message warning me of dates with the label “Product of the West Bank” – this can be misleading, because the dates either come from Palestinians or Israelis.

That watsapp message urges us to look further, to check whether dates are packaged on illegal date farms in Israel in the Jordan Valley, where Palestinians are made to work under terrible conditions.  I wish it were easy to support Palestinian goods, but we have to ensure that Israelis aren’t selling us stuff under false pretenses, hoping to make us think we are supporting Palestinians when in fact Israel is profiting. Maybe buy local, or from a Muslim.

The whole BDS thing is complicated, who knows where things come from, who gets harmed in the process and who benefits? And while we may boycott one brand or one store, others may be lurking, and we have no idea that they are also supporting Israel. I guess we have to do the best that we can with the knowledge that we have.

Apart from du’a, I’ll try to avoid as many Israel-benefiting stores as I can…I just wish I knew where to buy good thermal underwear 😦

Anyways, we’re supposed to be ready, stocking up our freezers and getting stuff organised so that we can survive the month. But apart from food, and the ironic overeating that happens in a month meant for abstinence, we should also have been stocking up our spiritual bank accounts and flexing those religious muscles, building them up for this cool month.

From Rajab, our attempts to better ourselves should be amped up, getting us ready to sprint through Ramadan with ease. For those of us who have been lax, and who are wondering where the time has gone…for those of us in a mad dash to make those first few samoosas…fear not – if we haven’t made the most of the time leading up to Ramadan, we can at least commit ourselves to making the most of the month when it comes.

After all, Ramadan is the season to stockpile your religious freezer, filling up on all things blessed, creating good habits to see us through the rest of the year. While we empty our freezers of food during the month, let’s try to fill our insides with goodness to keep us full for the whole year.

Our silent warriors-of-clean

It’s that happy holiday time of year again but for most of us living the comfy life, it’s also the time that all the domestic workers go home and we’re left to fend for ourselves against the dust and dishes.

It’s weird how accustomed we are to having people pick up after us all the time.

Trudy diligently sweeps the floor and puts things in order.  When I tell her to leave some or other cleaning for another day, she laughs good-naturedly and cleans that area anyways. Now we can mop our own floors and appreciate the Trudys in our lives.

Apparently one of the marks of good house keeping is the ability to “keep help”.  I haven’t yet attempted to have my own domestic helper so I’m not sure where I stand in the rankings, but I know many a lady who just can’t seem to get along with their maids.  Maybe we need to ease up the standards a little and just focus on the bigger picture.  These ladies spend almost all their days cleaning our homes with little if any companionship from the house people and limited free time. We’re lucky to have a friendly, shy, diligent Trudy.

It’s surprising how much endless cleaning an Indian household requires.  I’ve heard ominous predictions from some old ladies about the future days to come when we won’t be able to find or afford domestic help.  Will this day come?  If it does, will we cope?  We can eat out of paper plates for two weeks of the year, but what of an endless maid-free life?

Maybe we’ll just dust the counters every second or third day instead of every day (cue Indian aunties around the country fainting at such a dangerous thought!)

Auras of the humble lovelies

Is it just me or does everyone feel this sense of calm and wonder when they meet a really serene and humble apa?

I went to an interesting talk by a really soft spoken and knowledgeable apa – but she was so sweet and kind and gentle and self-effacing – the point of her actions being, I think, to live out her belief that the bottom line is, nothing happens without the mercy of Allah.  Nothing that she can tell us is due to her own ability, but due to the mercy that Allah has bestowed on her, so that she may share her knowledge with us.  It’s an eye-opening thing to see, someone living their belief in their actions and being.

The other upside to attending this talk is that I got to see my long-lost but living-close-by-to-me cousin Amina, and her getting-taller-and-less-naughty cute son.  It’s so cool to see a familiar face in this “new world” that I am not yet quite used to.

Anyways, back to the point: dear apas.  My apa, (my regular apa, if I may call her that!) also has this gentleness that brings back my old memories of other apas.  I had some great apas growing up, one in particular, but they were always much older than the apas I meet nowadays (or maybe I was just so much younger?)  I’m always surprised by how non-judgmental they are, even though I must sometimes look like a hoodlum compared to them.

Wait, on second thought…thinking about the talk today has brought back the image of cousin Amina’s mother – there was just something about her, an elegance, a grace, mixed with a quirky sense of humour and a brilliant smile.  May Allah grant her Jannatul Firdaus, InshAllah.  Even the lovely ladies who we know for just a short while have a lasting impact, and won’t be forgotten.  I feel that every good lady who has passed through my life has left her fingerprints on my identity, and I am richer for it.