5/5/15

It is currently raining.  Just like it rained that night.  Precipitation pitter-pattered on the pavement in tune with the beeps of the four blood pressure machines that failed to pick up a heart rate.  I looked on as several nurses and doctors attempted to find ways to pick up her heart rate.

I can’t sleep.  Just like how I couldn’t sleep that night.  I fitfully slept in that uncomfortable chair, not leaving her side.  She wasn’t the same woman I’d known throughout my life.  They had to place a surface drip on her chest as they were unable to find a vein that would allow the intravenous needle to provide her with sustenance.

“Saraiya, I just want to go home.  Take me home.”

Those were the last words that my grandmother uttered to me on her birthday.  That was the last request that I was unable to fulfill.  Early hours of that morning I left and it was raining.  As the day progressed, the sun came out but my heart was heavy.  Heavy as it is now as I struggle to articulate how I felt that day.  Within 10 hours, I was told my grandmother had passed away at my desk.  The emotions and the pretense that I had kept pent up for two years broke the levies and engulfed me in a pain I had never experienced before.

I am crying.  Just like how I cried when I had to explain to my 17 year old sister over the phone that she’d finally lost her battle to cancer.  Just like how I cried and my legs gave way when I saw her lifeless yet peaceful body on the hospital bed I had visited again and again on numerous occasions that year.

I know she’s gone, but I haven’t come to terms with my grandmother’s death.  I haven’t mourned.  At times I feel haunted, because she was such a vivacious and charismatic woman who exuded love and generosity.  How can such qualities just go?  Then I feel guilty because I know she was in a lot of pain.  Remaining alive in the state that she was in wasn’t a mercy to her.  And Allah is most merciful.

Today would have been her 65th birthday, and I find myself wondering what would be a good way to mark it.  A colleague of mine said it would be great to do what she enjoyed doing.  Well, my grandmother was a legendary party animal so this weekend I did just that – I had fun.  But I feel her life should be celebrated every single day.  Which I already do.

I looked within myself and thought: “Which of her qualities do I possess?”

I am vivacious and have a big heart.

“How can I channel these qualities into my life?”

By loving whole heartedly.  Laughing until you’re gasping for much needed oxygen only to then use  it to laugh some more.  Rejoice in happiness – your own and others.  Cry if you need to.  Constructively vent your emotions.  Be the good human being you were created to be.  Use your skills to create a change in the world and inspire others.

Thank you Haja Zainab D’Jenaba Kamara for these life lessons.  It’s a shame I’m too late to thank you personally, but the world will benefit from the teachings. 10482427_10152399087292861_2291426298059811750_n

Sea Food  x  Chopstix  

Pay Day is looming and the only thing on my mind is learning how to budget.  At the ripe old age of 25, I still haven’t grasped the concept of budgeting, living within my means, cutting my shirt to my size or as my mother likes to put it: “Spend money like you have some common sense”.

Believe me, I do try my hardest to follow Mother Dearest’s wise words.  But as soon as my wages hit my bank account, I think I’m Big Meech, Larry Hoover!   The worst thing is most of my money goes on food.   Stats show that consumer expenditure in the UK on food, drinks and catering has continued to rise despite the economic downturn.   A report by The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs states that spending has increased by 4.1% to £197 billion, with expenditure on food (including non-alcoholic drinks) showing the largest increase by 5.1%.  How great is that, I make up that percentage.   Check me out, helping the economy!

Eating out is an experience in itself, especially when you’re in good company.   I went to Busaba Eathai for the first time with my friend Nimo.

Side note – isn’t her afro epic?

Opening its first branch in Soho in 1999, this Thai eatery was designed to give a fine Thai eating experience with minimal fuss and less cost.   Now a franchise across all zones of London; I was very shocked that I hadn’t been there.  We went to the branch in The O2 and indulged in good eats.

I didn’t bargain on the Thai Calamari (£6.50) being so divine.  Seasoned with ginger and green peppercorns; I found that the only thing that stopped me from ordering another portion was the twinge of guilt on adding more to my bill than need be.

Nimo had the Salmon Fillet (£10.50) with baby spinach, cucumber salad with coconut rice; whilst I opted for the Sen Chan Pad Thai (£9.90) which was a stir fried rice noodle dish with crabmeat, king prawns, egg, tofu, mango and peanut.

Everything was delish.  I haven’t been back since my trip there, but it is definitely somewhere I would go again.  I thoroughly enjoyed the Sen Chan Pad Thai – then again I adore seafood so maybe that’s a bit biased.

Just a tad.

W O M A N 

First and foremost, Happy International Women’s Day!  What does this mean to me?  Well, I feel the fact that you’re a woman shouldn’t be limited to one day.   There are many issues that women face: unfair payment, domestic and sexual violence, discrimination.  The list is endless.   Yet we overcome them.   We should get a party every single day.  With loads of burritos.   And a shopping spree.   Maybe a life time supply of Krispy Kremes . . .

What does it mean to be a woman in Islam?   Contrary to popular belief in Western society that the Muslim Woman is a surpressed, meek non-enity; if people actually took the time to research, they would see that Islam raised the status of women in pre-Islamic Arabia.

I came across this post on Instagram and felt these points – though small – uplifted me and made me want to be a better version of myself.  As Muslim and most of all as a woman.

I’m blessed to be able to have the opportunity to make the same achievements as a man, yet possess the biological diversity to bear children.  I’m blessed to be in tune with my feminity and glorify my intuition which enables me to create some dope ass pieces of art.  

I salute all the women whose existence, wisdom and experiences have contributed to the woman that I am today.  

New Year Blues, Sunny hues, Queen Convos.

First and foremost, I hope you’re all having a blessed start to 2015.  I’m two months deep in the new year with a new philosophy and ethos – I must take the bad with the good.  You have to take the bad first because it’s first alphabetically and you know us Brits are sticklers for protocol.  So I will regurgitate the bad thoughts that I have had thus far to make way for the good:

  • I am a first generation Brit of Sierra Leonean descent.  I have melanin. There is no way I am engineered to deal with this cold.  It’s inhumane to expect me to live in these conditions with a smile on my face.  Bring back Autumn ASAP.
  • Whilst December’s early Pay Day was amazing in the festive season where there were bargains and lots of merriment to be made, I have reached the stage where I am financial stranded in a desert with no sign of an oasis of funds to reach me until the end of the month.  Whilst the first few days of having a healthy bank balance was amazeballs, once the bills were paid I’m right back to square one.  #firstworldproblems
  • Life always seems to be more morbid and depressing now than any other time of the year (bar my birthday – everything is depressing then also).

Right.  That’s off my chest.  Onwards and upwards.  I’m happy and blessed to have the opportunity to vent alhamdulillah.  And don’t get me wrong, those things I’ve listed do make me feel bleurgh.  But that is exactly what friends are for – to take the bleurgh out of life and uplift you.

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Devika to the rescue.  A few messages via Whatsapp and I found myself venturing like a lost tourist frantically looking from Google Maps to the street ahead of me and fighting the cold.   Most commonly known for it’s halal chicken shops, estates and numerous nail bars; in the past few years Camberwell has become a haven for foodies to get lost in the melee of eateries.  Malako is the hidden gem where I met up with my kindred spirit.

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This creperie is the place vegetarians, vegans and gluten-freers have been dreaming off.   Whether you simply want to indulge in a hot brew (herbal tea in our case) or you have a taste for sweet crepes and savoury galettes (made from buckwheat) you are most definitely in for a treat.

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Mismatch furniture, African print upholstered sofas, walls adorned with art made by local residents and a ceiling covered in Brazilian coffee bean bags.  With a world music playlist and the aroma of assorted spices, I can feel the warmth of the tropical sun as I am transported to a place of contentment and serenity, watching the hustle and bustle of Camberwell.

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With a sip of fresh mint tea, I allowed the weight on my shoulders to slide off as I listened, discussed, laughed and lived in the moment.


Shout out to Atta, the Ethopian/Eritrean brother who served us and had the most radiant smile I have seen in a while.  

Reflecting III

Hi Nana, it’s me, Rai
I know you can’t hear me, it’s probably too late
But it’s been a while and I thought you’d like an update

Life’s been a whirlwind and I don’t know where to start
But you’re probably only concerned with the matters of my heart

I’m still single, I haven’t walked down the aisle
And to be quite frank I don’t see that happening in a while.
I know you’re probably kissing your teeth, I know you want a reason to tun up
But I’m still waiting for the right person, insha’allah, to turn up

I guess I’m being really picky, that much is true
I guess I’m waiting to meet someone who loves me like you do

Like you did

The tears that soaked my pillows through
Can’t absorb the tears I’ve cried for you
You see those guys that at times in my life I thought were my life support
Cannot compare to the love you brought

When they waged a war on my heart and left me in defeat
And I’d end up a wreck, reduced to weep and weep and weep

You held my face in your soft perfumed hands
And you firmly told me “don’t ever shed your tears for an unworthy man!”

You told me to never sell myself short, that I’m worth more than the gold chains you would rock

Just like your jewellery that remains in the box
And there they will stay
My love I won’t pawn or cheaply give away

My love won’t be bartered, it’s not a commodity
It’s a precious and sacred trophy
That to a worthy contender will be awarded for free
To a man that wants all of me

I won’t take anymore time, I’ll wrap this up
I’m rambling now and probably said too much
Signing off, I know I won’t hear from you soon
It’s bye for now, love you all the way to the moon.

 

I enjoy talking and it’s common knowledge that I talk a lot.  But nobody enjoyed talking than my late grandmother.   She could talk for Sierra Leone and South London!  You always got the busy tone or voicemail when you called her.  Hence the style I wrote this poem in.

The last coherent conversation I had with her was on Christmas Day when she made it clear and set the trend of “when are you getting married? You better hurry up Saraiya!”

We never got the opportunity to conclude or follow up and it’s been a year.  It felt like the right thing to do, make my thoughts tangible and all that jazz.

Whatever you do today, let the ones you love know that you love them.  You never know when you have to imagine they are telling you they love you back.  And trust me that’s not an easy pill to swallow.

 

– Saraiya

 

 

Spiritual Calibration

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Last month I was a guest on The Islam Channel. They have a talk show called Living The Life and wanted to talk about me and my fab blog. Alhamdulillah, who would have thunk it?! I even had the opportunity to recite my poem Cocoon. The latter part of this year has been full of many firsts because that’s the first time I’ve recited a poem publicly in 16 years.

All that’s come to pass has only been possible by the mercy and blessings of Allah. One aspect of this blog was for me to convey how I live life as a Muslim woman in the city. A few weeks ago I came across this image on Instagram:

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I told my colleagues about my blog and me going on television. So being curious souls naturally, they asked for my site url which I happily supplied. After the laughs about my undying love for burritos, one of my colleagues said he found my frankness very admirable.

“How can you bare your soul to complete strangers?”

I just gave a small smile and shrugged. Because how can I explain that the only person who knows my soul is Allah. The relief that engulfs my being when I’m in sujood and my forehead connects to the ground is a feeling I wouldn’t trade for all the halal burritos in London. Every thought, feeling, doubt, fear, elation just seeps out and creates a haze of hope and happiness.

That I can express my deepest regrets and wishes without having to worry about being judged. Subhanallah.

I leave you with one of my favourite duas:

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Translation

I am pleased with Allah as my lord, Islam as my religion and Muhammad (pbuh) as the Prophet.

Reflecting II

Renaissance

it’s like emerging from a rain storm.
drenched and soaking through and through;
my bruised soul and tainted love is pure once again
although my mind and my heart still acquires the raw pain
i love i loved i cared for you beyond words
a feeling that before; to me sounded absurd
investing so much time, and effort and abuse and laughter and tears
disregarding my conscience that blatantly expressed my fears
simply to hear your voice and the promises it held
like a new born babe in my arms i held
yep, that yute grew up fast
and the problems came fast
yet i thought we could last
rarse
what a fool am i?
and . . . i thought you genuinely cared
but you made it perfectly made it clear
it was only a casual affair
but after all this … i can’t bring myself to hate you
it’s a learning curve … you taught me alot.
i’m a better person.
your words didn’t kill me … it made me stronger.
i’m born again.

I was 17 when I wrote this poem.  I can agree with one line – what a fool I was.  It’s ironic that the things I considered as traumatic back then I now perceive as comical.

Pearls of wisdom I would gift my younger self:

The issue at hand is that you value other people’s happiness above your own.  If you go out of your way to accommodate to a selfish person’s needs, you will always be on the receiving end of ill treatment.  Some people don’t want to be taught basic courtesy.  I’m not telling you to change, but you need to know your worth and be selective with love and devotion.

– Saraiya