I am BRITISH-BANGLADESHI

Much to the detest of the British brown skin haters, I was born on a Saturday evening in a hospital in Worcestershire which makes me, in part, like them: British.

My parents emigrated to the UK from Bangladesh which means when faced with a list of ethnicities, I tick the little box next to Bangladeshi.
But what do these labels mean to me?

They mean a lot because my childhood is very much influenced by both. Bengali was my first language and Bengali food nourished me. British schools educated me and British teachers encouraged my creativity.

But being British & Bangladeshi shaped my past. What’s shaping me now is the belief that I am a citizen of the world.

Dressing For Prayer

I wanted to focus on the first part of this ayah…about dressing well for prayer.

When I was a little girl, I used to watch mum change into her ‘prayer clothes’ after wudhu. When I became of age she had a set of prayer clothes stitched for me and advised me to change into them for every salah. I remember doing just that but as I became older and rebellious (and lazy) I stopped doing it.

A few years ago I decided to invest in a dedicated prayer jilbab because it was simpler to wear it over whatever I had on. But wasn’t until I came across this ayah that I put much more thought into it.

“It will please Allah if I dress well for prayer!”

I reflected with guilt how I put great thought and care into dressing for an outing/special event but not for the most important meeting of all: with my Lord.

After reflecting on this ayah I happened to be travelling for Umrah. Whilst there I took my time in selecting two prayer outfits and it has helped me achieve a little more khushu alhamdulillah.

The act of performing wudhu then changing into beautiful perfumed clothes calms me, helps me to disconnect from the frenzy of life and makes me happier as I take a moment to breathe deep and think: ‘I’m about to pray to Allah.’

Just like my mother, I will be encouraging my children to dress well for salah -in shaa Allah.



[Little girl reading Qur’an illustrated by Amir Al Zubi, taken from my book Good Deeds: Just To Please Allah]

What Role Models Are Made Of

My dad arrived in the UK as a teen. He’d have loved to have gone to school but he had to work to support his family in Bangladesh. Whatever moderate amount of English he speaks now has been picked up through his career in a grocery store and a never ending string of restaurants. Needless to say, my dad can’t write in English (only his version of shorthand when taking down curry orders – see image, aww!). Continue reading “What Role Models Are Made Of”

Piecing Together Our Past

I’m visiting my family in the UK and was looking through some old photo albums stored in my bedroom. I came across a sepia toned photograph of my mum smiling as she happily held me – a three day old baby – in her arms.

I must have seen this picture a handful of times in the past but today was different. For the first time, I noticed how young she looks. And seeing the happiness in her face as she looked down at her baby – me – filled me with warmth. I carefully pulled back the plastic covering, peeled the photo off the sticky page and took it downstairs to the kitchen. Once there, I grinned, hugged my mum and showed her the picture. I’ve always known I was born on a Saturday morning by caesarean section but I got to hear a little more today as mum nestled into the nook of my arm and recalled her first birthing experience. Continue reading “Piecing Together Our Past”

Can Fat Be Fit?

I managed to swim thirty lengths yesterday – the most I’ve ever swum in my life.

It made me remember the school swimming gala I took part in when I was approximately twelve years old.  I was representing my class in the front crawl race.  But before I continue – a little background information – I’ve always carried a little (and sometimes a lot) of extra weight compared to my peers.  My brother, who was sat in the spectators’ area on the first floor, told me over dinner that evening about what had happened to him when I stepped forward to the edge of the pool.

“Oh my God Juned – is that your fat sister?!” His ‘friends’ pointed down and laughed.  I imagine he shrivelled back in his seat and waited for me to come in last.

Thank God the laughter and cruel words didn’t reach me as I focused on my lane of water.  The whistle blew, I swam with all my might and the race ended.  I came in second place.  The boys stopped laughing and my brother sat forward with surprise and pride (I imagine).

“I didn’t know you were a good swimmer Afa,” he beamed over dinner.

Like any school kid or person, I had my weaknesses of course – long distance running was (and still isn’t) my thing.  I used to dread the yearly cross country runs (which only really involved running around the school grounds but it seemed an enormous task for an overweight teen like myself!).  And don’t get me started on hurdles – the shame I felt at needing to be carried off by 2 students and a teacher after crashing into a hurdle still haunts me when I think about it!

But I did go on to come in second (or third – I can’t recall exactly) in a discus throwing competition during a Sports Day.  Also, I was a Captain and led my netball team to victory in an intra-school tournament a few years later.

I still appear a little overweight than my peers but one thing never left my side – stamina.  As an adult I can dance vigorously for hours as well as train in the gym with mighty force.

Moral of the story?

Do not assume that a person carrying extra flesh is lazy, unfit or unsupple.  They may just be able to swim, walk, jog or run that extra mile more than you.

© Rabia Bashir 2013

 

 

Standing in Dad’s Shoes

Background: I love to cook and have started a small catering business here in Riyadh.  During the month of May 2013 I took over the restaurant in the compound I live in – to offer Curry Nights once a week.  This is what I wrote (and later told my Dad over Skype) after I hobbled home and fell onto my bed:

I stood in my dad’s shoes for a mere 9 hours today…something he’s been doing for longer than I’ve been alive.  My throbbing feet force my mind back to my childhood when he would finish a stint at the restaurant in the early hours then get up to take us shopping for Eid clothes.  I always wanted matching jewellery with my outfit and back in those days, Asian fashion shops were scarce.  So my dad took us out for hours – hunting for new clothes (and my matching accessories).  As  I would insist on finding the right shade of bangles, I don’t remember him ever complaining – not about him being tired and not about him spending his hard earned money.  His feet must have throbbed from the night before, or at least felt heavy with the anticipation of doing it all over again after our shopping trip.

It’s amazing how parents have the capacity to put their needs and wants aside to make their children happy.  I’m truly blessed to have such parents.

-Rabia Bashir