Lockdown Weddings

Not walking our daughter down the aisle

 

The pandemic has brought with it change in practically all aspects of our lives including tying the knot.  The long, drawn-out days of lockdown turning into weeks, months and now the year mark has given rise to the ever-growing trend of exchanging vows in your living room and without any of the extravagance depicting a Bollywood wedding. Not to miss out on the opportunity of a minimalist ceremony, my daughter followed suit and tied the knot on 20th June 2020; the cusp of exiting the first lockdown. The weeks prior to the event were filled with so many mixed emotions; sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, frustration to name a few.  My initial reaction was of disbelief when my daughter made it painfully clear that she would still be wanting to get married this year and instead of July she would like to bring it forward to June!  Oh my! I wept and staggered through all the 5 stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance in the space of 3 days!  

We had been planning a summer wedding for some time before Covid decided to visit the world.   

With story boards in full swing, dates for bridesmaid fittings, favours in the post and a colour scheme 

finally coming together after weeks of deliberation.  Letting everything go was a hard pill to swallow. One would contemplate whose wedding was it anyway?  The way I was feeling and reacting you would be forgiven to think it was mine not my daughters’! I do believe I am not alone that there are some of us mothers who secretly live out our dream wedding day through our children, especially me having deprived myself of one by eloping all those years ago!  If I am really honest with myself, I was feeling a little cheated.  Not living out my own fantasies of a dream wedding I was trying to inflict my dreams onto my daughter. 

Momentarily, I fell into the trap of worldly etiquettes that I never cared for her when I was her age.  How would it look not having a big fat Indian wedding? What would members of the family and friends think? How can my daughter be happy depriving herself of such an important day without all the trimmings? My friends!! I need them to be there with me witnessing my daughter getting married! I could feel the remnants of conversations I had with my own mother all those years ago when it was clear I was not going to get married in the traditional way with all the chaos my conversion to Islam brought with it.  

Initially I felt sad for us as a family because she was going to be the first to get married and we were all looking forward to it immensely.  It was a day longed for, especially by me where I could live out the secret wish I had for a Mehndi surrounded by friends and family, dancing the night away to all the traditional folk songs accompanied by the legendary dholki and my daughter the centrepiece of all the ceremonial banter she would experience and one day pass the traditions on to her own daughter. 

Then gradually something happened as the shutters on my thoughts began to lift, I started to reason with my emotions. I began to listen to my daughter and actually hear her. A young woman with a clarity beyond her years.  A maturity that spoke volumes about the state of the world and the relationships she wanted to nurture.  The voice of reason.  I finally heard her underneath all the weight of my stories and longings which were not hers but mine from an era long departed.  I began to see her reality rather than confuse it with my past.  She simply wanted to be with the person she loved. She did not care for the show and parade, just the union.  I was humbled by the depth of her conviction, much more focused and intentional than I ever was at that age.  The desire to exchange her vows surrounded by her nearest and dearest at home.  I finally understood that she had already at such a young age discovered the beauty of ‘what is’ and ‘to be’ whereas I have taken the best part of my adult life getting there.  The ‘what is’ for her – to start her new life and not wait around just so she can enter it with a fanfare once Covid gave permission.  The ‘to be’ was becoming a companion to her other half now, the way God intended and not to hold her back until it was deemed acceptable by our norms and ideals.

The day was beautiful, far beyond the horizon of my mind’s expectation, as she walked in 

gracefully, captivating our attention wearing her mother’s deep crimson Indian wedding dress. There were intimate and loving encounters between siblings and grandparents that would have drowned within the crowds of a large banqueting suite.  I would never have witnessed the delicate exchanges of affection between the bride and groom throughout their day which would have been lost in the stream of overflowing guests.  Nor would I have caught the loving glances and frequent embraces enriched with fatherly pride from her dad.  It was nothing short of an enchanted day, untarnished through its simplicity.  Grandparents chatting over cups of tea and never-ending slices of wedding cake.  Captivated by the joy of their granddaughters undivided attention while Imparting words of wisdom and chuckling at the memories of courtships as they relived stories of their own vows. 

 

With a silver lining to add, there was no compromising on dreams and dazzle. The whole day came together within three weeks of lockdown thanks to efficient next day deliveries and the vast world of social media! 

The icing on the cake….a beautiful wedding with no detail spared, less than £1500.

#lockdownweddings #nikkahceremonies #weddingsathome #turquoisecoaching #lifehacks #mothersanddaughters

Dear Beloved Teen

A poem for all us parents raising post millennial teens. What doesn’t break you tries again! ❤️

Dear beloved teen,

It’s a storm out there, be careful where you tread. The reptile in us does not take time to prepare.

This space we find ourselves in isn’t always fair. Manifesting it’s way into our thoughts taking us to a place of scattered despair.

There are wholesome moments of joy and laughter but only a few that are sublime; sometimes tucked away between the folds of uneven moral decline.

A youth that is fast fading beneath the weight of impending adulthood. Being drawn in by the waves that come forth from peers you want to please.

I fear that you are sliding through the maternal embrace that can no longer keep hold.

To conceal you from the world that persists with its demands, so bold.

From Mumzi x

The Crimson River

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Each visit brings with it a reality of a childhood, fading far too soon

A glimpse of the woman in making, as I watch the creation bloom

This child of mine embraces the crimson river, that will one day bring forth the promise of fertility

Once upon a time it surrendered, wrapped in a shroud of silence beneath the wall of shame

No more, as the crimson river meanders through generations

It leaves behind the secrecy amongst female and foe, no longer does it travel through misfortune and fear

Nor does it demand the burning of a brassiere

The Crimson river flows fruitful and free

The child, the woman, the woman, the child

To be whatever she will be

Poem by AA

 

Menstruating daughters

She was nine and a half when she started, my eldest now nineteen. I can’t even remember the exact moment when it happened, I just remember the feeling of despair and disbelief rush through me and the overwhelming desire to protect her from the world. I hadn’t even had the ‘period talk’ yet! I was certainly not impressed with the hand mother nature had just played. My initial reaction was to tell no one and protect her secret as memories of my own experience came flooding back. It was 1986 and I was eleven. Back then you didn’t have ‘period talks’ and I don’t remember the talk at school either. The first signs appeared and I thought ‘OMG I’m going to die!’

A bit nervous about telling my mum, I felt the need for privacy so I joined her for an evening walk to buy some groceries, as you do! Her reaction was of surprise as I was only eleven, she then told me of her story. she was 15 and just engaged to my father, not a clue about the monthly cycle! Then one day she walked home from school in a white Salwar Kameez and the rest I leave to your imagination!

For me the instructions were clear, ‘you’re becoming a woman now, you’ll need pads, expect it every month and by the way you can’t stay out late and be extra vigilant when on your own because now there’s always a risk of pregnancy, if anything happens!’ The ‘period talk’ over and out!

Now fast forward to 2008. I talked to my little girl and explained the process her body was going through and how to manage the monthly visitor, we went and bought some panty liners and off she went back into her world of Nintendo DS.

When the grandmothers came to know of their granddaughter’s unexpected visitor, they went straight into mourning. The fear of her starting so young and shedding her shield of innocence in front of the intrusive male gaze was something they found difficult to overcome in the weeks that followed.

My daughter, on the other hand embraced it and went with the flow – excuse the pun! Thankfully, oblivious to the dialogue around menstruation within our communities and its never ending impact on a woman’s life, for example still keeping women away from positions of authority; placing them in secluded huts around the world; exclusion from places of worship; basically the largest thorn in side of gender equality!

I do find myself at an odd place sitting on the boundary line of East meets West as a pre-millennial parent of a post-millennial child. Things are so different in our home from my childhood. We are far away from the paper bag that hid the packet of sanitary towels in the shopping trolley. Today brothers pop out to the local shop to help their sister with the crisis at hand when pads run out. Her father announces she’s ‘on holiday again’ so no joining prayers and makes light of the whole monthly visitor. Yet I still find myself at times pulled back by the memories of shame and secrecy which are not always easy to shake.

Negative attitudes remain where menstruation is still stigmatised by many societies and seen as unclean, whether that’s influenced by religion or culture. It’s still an area that is not openly discussed which leads to our young women growing up ill-informed and holding a range of misconceptions, not realising the extent of their contribution to the creative and natural process of life itself.

Through my readings around menstruation I found that all religions in some shape or form refer to menstruating women as ritually unclean, except, to my surprise, Sikhism, I came to know that here it is regarded as an essential and natural process; Guru Nanak, One of the Sikh Guru’s openly chides ‘…that pollution lies in the heart and mind of the person and not in the cosmic process of birth’[1]. How beautiful is that! If we could move away from the stigmas attached and encourage our girls to embrace this natural process and openly learn about their functions of their bodies without shame or exclusion, how the confidence and self-assurance would flow into their lives. If only we could start from the core as parents by becoming more enlightened and open, what a wonderful start our girls would have.

We still have so much to do as a society; so much more that we owe to our daughters; so much more than #metoo.

[1] A.H. Kaur. Sikhism and the status of women, Issue 51, Sikh Spirit. [online]. Available: http://www.sikhspirit.cvom/khalsa/news51.htn

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Mother and Son: 21 years

Conception was cushioned against a backdrop of collaboration and confusions

Birth, a play on test run parenting with welcomed intrusions

I stumbled and stood through the first year of overwhelming tears and joy

Totally absorbed by the ramblings of a rapidly growing, beautiful boy

Through the tenacity of time with its firm grip, I carried you through many a milestone.

Imprinting precious memories even now that you’re all grown.

When did you become this gallant young man arching over my shadow, so very tall.

It was only yesterday, was it not, when I reached out to catch you trip and fall.

How the two decades have passed me by, it feels like only a moment or two.

But, does it really matter where the time has gone?

For all that is absolute and certain in this moment;

My unconditional love for you. X

Poem by AA

Happy 21st Birthday x

Life’s Curveball

CIMG1980Deep in my trials and tribulations I ponder on the complexities of my situation. 

How did my path bring me to this place where I am alone and crippled in desolation. 

My wisdom claws Into my soul and tells me to catch life’s curveball. 

Nurture it’s sorrow and embrace its lesson as affirmation that the pain will, I hope, eventually stall.

What is this life if not the catalyst of continuous change, always with the promise of perpetual pain. 

My child you are life’s curveball.  A chance encounter from womb to world, holding me ransom with no escape. 

Entwined together beyond reality through an existence wholeheartedly innate. 

Poem by AA

The WonderWoman

Courage that pulls from within starts at the core of a dark black hole where love resides.

Here pulls something at the depths of existence and attaches to the loves of thy life.

Hence WonderWoman comes forth to nurture and nourish the spirit of hearts that beat with hers aligned as one.

She is the daughter, the sister, the wife, the mother. She is a woman who embraces the cries she hears that pull at the core of a dark black whole where love resides.

Poem by Asma x

My own sunshine

The first light seeps through just above the window sill, beneath the rim of the blind and catches the tender flicker that is the space beneath the lid of my eye.

First light, as you creep into the crevice of my soul I lay here and can feel life slowly stir through me intruding my peaceful slumber as I savour the last moments of my solitude.

I know. It is time to greet the dawn light and a new day. Only then can I begin the arduous task of creating my own sunshine.

Poem by Asma Ahmad.

 

 

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It’s the first day of my sugar free month. What’s it all about? A month to detox, lose weight or raise money for charity….actually I don’t think its any of those things.  I think for me its a time to reflect and give my body the chance to rid itself of the unnecessary toxins I keep pumping into it under the disguise of  ‘a treat’.  I learnt much about it all while my husband was recovering from his illness over the last year.  Its such a rude awakening that what I perceived to be a yummy treat was in fact a slow poison released into my blood stream each time I scoffed that delicious cupcake or the bar of Belgium chocolate! Now, I’m not saying I don’t indulge, hell I do! What I’m saying is that now I’m in charge. No longer do I cave in to cravings and feel like I’m not going to get through without a sugar kick. Now I decide if I want ‘a treat’ in moderation and know there will be no nutritional value in it whatsoever and that’s ok once in a while.  Its all about balance.

How did I get here…? I learnt that sugar was feeding the cancer in my husbands body.  With each helping it was providing a feast for the cancer to thrive on.  This time exactly one year ago he was diagnosed and now just under 12 months on he’s in complete remission.  What did he do….? He stopped feeding the cancer sugar!

I decided to join him in a sugar free detox to keep him company.  I noticed within a few days the sugar cravings stopped, My energy levels increased, I slowly began to lose weight (a stone to be exact!)  which a year on has stayed off even when I occasionally help myself to the odd bit of dark chocolate and cupcake!

Some of the facts about sugar I discovered along the way:

‘Refined’ white sugar provides no nutritional value.

Sugar can cause heart disease, tooth decay and headaches

Sugar can cause depression

Sugar contributes to obesity and diabetes

Sugar can make our skin age by changing the structure of collagen

sugar can cause hormonal imbalance

Sugar can make PMS worse!

Sugar can suppress the immune system.

Sugar feeds cancer cells.

Don’t get me wrong I like chocolate and I like cake but now the difference is balance and being able to make an informed choice about what my body actually deserves and not being controlled by what I’ve been conditioned to crave!

 

 

The World Changed…

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We sit. We listen. We listen. We sit. The news. It came. And when it came….the world changed….. We sit. We listen. We listen. We sit. The rage. It came. And when it came….the world changed….. We sit. We listen. We listen. We sit. The fear. It came. And when it came….the world changed…. We sit. We listen. We listen. We sit. The tears. They came. And when they came….they came and they came and they came.

It’s 3am and I’m feeling a lot of gratitude right now as I sit in contemplation. There’s something quite special and exposing about night prayers. You don’t hide behind routine and responsibilities, It’s a very honest place. Me, God and the universe. I look back and I can see November 2016. I can see it stretched out behind me and still feel it’s uncertainty and fear. I’m grateful that I am in the present, a place 11 months on. A place of gratitude and hope. It’s a place of remission I so desperately wanted us to be in that day in November when my world changed. A place that I felt life had in that moment robbed us of our oblivious existence. A place where every day was ‘normal’ ‘You’ve got Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma low grade’ He sat and listened to the news. I watched him and the consultant as I silently mulled over the words and in that moment realised my husband hadn’t fully grasped the magnitude of what was being said to him, not really. I’d done my research when those lymph nodes made an appearance a month ago and recognised the terminology she was using instead of the ‘C word’. I was getting frustrated at why she wasn’t saying it. I waited and let her finish dropping the bomb shell on our lives and then patiently put her on the spot. You mean it’s Cancer? Lymphoma is a form of blood cancer..right? “We don’t like to use that word”, she replied. “We group it with cancer but not like the really serious ones as it behaves differently”. I wanted more than that, I wanted her to explain to me in detail what I was going to tell the children. I wanted answers to all the questions flying around in my head that would soon become their questions. I couldn’t carry back to them the medical jargon I had just been fed. She didn’t know. She couldn’t tell us stage or treatment. We had to wait for further tests. We walked back out of the hospital and back into our world, a very different world to the one I woke up in that morning. A million thoughts running through my mind and him not quite there on the same page as me, as the penny still hadn’t quite dropped yet.