Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Heart Like A Stallion.

These are a few captions that I posted below pictures on Instagram, I wanted to share them with you.

Upon entering churches, I always find myself feeling quite overwhelmed. I don't know whether it's because of the harrowing pianists, the grandeur of intricate paintings in mosaics across the ceiling, the forsaken candles swaying to the cadence of our footsteps or the emptiness of the oak pews awaiting diffidence and sin.

Today I bonded with an Italian man over a turtle and ate the most spectacular gnocchi on the edge of the lake. I must hand it to life for not granting me the things that I wanted, because it has allowed me to be here experiencing Italy in all of its glory.

I'm currently on a boat in Venice and I've never felt more alive, infinite than I do in this moment.

I stood at the top of the arena today, felt the souls of those who once performed here, their truths still echoing in the harrowing emptiness of each step. Being contained in a space in which the past still lives was quite magical, the way you could still feel their breath as you stopped to take in the magnitude of it all, or the cadence of your own footsteps against the infinite layers of bricks and the evanescent shadows of your former self metamorphosed into silence.
Verona is more than just a means of revival, it is an embodiment of metaphysical understanding, an amalgamation of the cyclical conception of life and death and everything in between. Verona makes me want to hold on to this life, I understand now that we leave a part of ourselves in everything that we touch and so as long as these things remain alive, we ourselves become immortal. Life and death are preconceived notions interjecting our movements with fear, but this, here, now, is everything.

I took this picture whilst standing on the ledge of a bridge because I knew that I would never be young again.

Today I stood on Juliet's balcony, watched lovers scribbling their dreams onto letters, stroking her statue for good luck. Romeo and Juliet was supposedly based on the family that resided in this house and there was something quite extraordinary about standing amid this space, a realm of fiction that I've studied so profusely, a world so distant and yet capacitated in my footsteps. The house may just be a tourist attraction but a landscape that is filled with so much love and light will always be magical. Maybe we give the insignificant things too much meaning but maybe we just want to connect to something. The thing is, we create meaning, and in doing so, create significance. I don't know what Shakespeare was thinking when he wrote the play, I don't know where he sat or who his muse was, I don't know what he ate and drank, said and screamed, but for a transitory moment, I existed as part of his narrative and I felt at the depth of my own mortality.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Hold The Applause While We Dance.

I’ve been back from Madrid for two weeks and it has been a strange, perturbed feeling. Madrid was honestly one of the best decisions that I have ever made; it was beautiful and demonstrated to me that I am capable of existing outside of this psychological catastrophe. I am flying out to Italy on Monday and there are so many things that I want to write but the words do not fit or will not reach my fingertips.

Venlafaxine makes it difficult to hear myself, it almost creates a barrier between self and mind.

I feel like there is a lot of pressure in the UK, pressure to decide on a career and conform to the societal expectancy. It’s almost as if the concept of taking time out has no validity and is therefore frowned upon. Being away made me realise just how stressful our lifestyle, reaffirming my decision to leave.

I’m supposed to be using this time to think about what I want to do with my life, but the idea of having to commit to one thing is discouraging and I don’t know why society makes us feel like the idea of a ‘career’ is a lifelong conception that we must see through. I don’t know where I belong because the things that I dreamt of doing contributed to my demise and I suppose that I have to re-define my perception of success. I just want to create and be well. 

I’m in a position where I am trying to avoid subjecting and exposing my body to any incoming stress, I feel like I’m still reeling from this past life.

I’m accepting that my existence is going to be a cyclical war between myself and my mind. It’s always something that I assumed would go away, with time, age, change but I turn 26 this year and in some ways am more lost and broken than ever before. Having said that, the lack of direction and purpose feels somewhat liberating. It’s nice to have the flexibility of not being tied down or committed to anything.

It’s strange because everyone around me is getting married; having children, buying houses, being promoted and here I am struggling to commit to a sense of self.

I’m not where I thought I’d be, however I have achieved all of the things that I had hoped to and therefore have not failed or disappointed myself. I have two degrees, I have my own proofreading company, I have savings, I am able to travel, so although the picture may look different, the landscape is still the same and I must give myself more credit. I’m hoping that when I return, something inside me will have shifted. I suppose that I just need a sense of clarity, which appears to be unattainable in an environment where everything is a trigger. Being away helps me feel in control of this space. I don’t know where I want to go or what I want to do, I just know that I need to be away from here and maybe that is the place to start.

I don’t know what I will want in a few months and I think it is difficult to make decisions for your future self.

I am aware of the repetition in this post, but nothing comes out in a linear form. Everything within us is fragmented, broken. Show me a person who is whole. I don’t know what I’m thinking; Venlafaxine keeps me here in this present moment, disregards future and past, which I think is the best thing for me right now.

I just want this existence to mean something; I want to know that this struggle was worthwhile because I lived for something. I want to create movement; I want to make people feel the things that I felt. It terrifies me to think that I could die without leaving anything behind. I just want this existence to matter, I want to matter. I want this suffering to be purposeful. I want people to analyse the spaces in between my words, find truth in them. My writing is my breath and if I can't leave that behind, then I am already dead. I feel like Islam has really caused me to become preoccupied with death, and it’s like I’ve just forgotten that I have to exist before I get there.

I feel more like Sylvia Plath with every passing day.

This is probably the longest thing that I have written in a long time and I suppose that the key is to keep writing through this Venlafaxine barrier and eventually it will break and I will be able to control and feel the stream of my own mind. It’s crazy to think that I’m in my own body but not really directing my movements but then are we all not just puppets of our own psyche?

Thursday, 7 April 2016

When The Conscience Is Closed.

Some of my favourite tweets from the past few weeks. You can follow me  at @inthespaces.

I feel like films put you inside a character's shoes, books put you inside their heads. Some people can't handle both.

Me: I'm going to book flights this morning.
Dad: Oh cool, where to?
Me: No idea.

You'd think that with my frequent hair-dyeing, I would have perfected the art of not leaving the bathroom looking like I'd massacred Barney.

Writing sometimes feels like giving blood. You feel your body weaken momentarily; you've just poured yourself into something.

I read a post where someone compared and likened Venlafaxine withdrawal to the experience of coming off of heroin.

Would it be immoral to place a tracking device on my postman? Imagine being able to identify his whereabouts so I don't miss parcels.

Did we smile in pictures because we were happy or because we wanted to look back and think that we were?

Trying to write it all out but it won't reach my fingertips.

I hate the fact that having a phone means that you're expected to be immediately available at all hours of the day.

The portrayal of Muslims across media platforms is disgusting. All we want to do is stand up and say 'hey, look, I'm living a normal life.'

I don't think of myself as being a particularly high-maintenance person but I look at my daily skin/haircare routine and it says otherwise.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Allegiance To My Only.

The ever-beautiful Nina posted this comment on my blog in response to ‘Growing Up As A Muslim’ and I have found myself reading it almost everyday as a reminder, a means of restoration. 

There are sometimes things that you need to hear or perceive in a tangible form before your brain can recognise, comprehend and accept ideas and views. Maybe it explains why we turn to other people; it's almost as if our bodies feel like they are obliged to somehow validate our thoughts before they can begin to actualise. However, I also believe that the universe has a strange way of bringing words to you precisely when you need them. For example, something led you here, to read this exact sentence. Maybe one day, you’ll draw lines to constellations and remember where this moment led you. And now, for the intricate and remarkable piece in which I hope you will find some truth, a part of yourself, or God.

   *                                                                                               *

'So I've had this page open in my browser for a few days now, thinking of what exactly to say. In the end, I'm not sure what advice I can give, or am even in a rightful position to give, so all I will give to you is my narrative of religion. I came to God and religion in my own way - I am. I do not believe there is a Hell. I believe what we put ourselves through with our repentance, guilt, shame and self-hatred is hell. We create our own hell. I believe in His Mercy and Kindness and Love above all. I cannot believe - I reject the idea that the Being who claims to love me more than 70 mothers would punish me because I took pleasure in a funny movie, because I wanted to look pretty and put on nail polish, because I wanted to feel sexy and put on fitted clothing, or to be perfectly frank with you, because I fell in love and made love to someone outside of marriage or because my body needed something and I gave it or because I fell in love with someone of the 'wrong' gender.

I believe He would see me, the essence of my soul, the person who is constantly and consistently trying to do her best to be a good person, to do the right things, to find value in people, to encourage, support and love others, to never hurt someone else, to never cause pain to another living creation. I believe these are the important things - how much pain I caused, how much love I gave, how much I relieved someone of their suffering, how much of another's burden I lightened.

Obey God, by all means. But find Him first. And do not rely on the words, interpretations and customs of others to do so. Come to your own understanding of God. And please, please, please, my lovely friend. Come to the understanding that He resides in all of us. Come to the understanding that He is the moment of gratitude you feel when the sunlight warms your bones, He is the smile on your face when you look in the mirror admiring a new hairdo, He is the love you feel when you hug your best friend, He is in the contentment you feel when you're cuddling a puppy, He is the anger you feel when witnessing some injustice. He should be and is the peace in your life.

And this is what I want to end with - please remember that it is a sin in Islam to think you are superior to anyone - but it is also a sin to think you are inferior to anyone. You are a wonderful person, someone who has fought and is fighting a hard battle. Jihad is the betterment of the self. You are on your jihad. Do not let the interpretations of others mar that for you. Love yourself. Love who you are and know that you, as you are, are a part of God and He is a part of you and He would never reject you. Maybe you have not followed the tenets of Islam as we are taught them - but it does not reflect on your worth as a human being or as a Muslim. If you did something you believed was a sin, you can always come back. You can always repent. My memory fails me but there is a hadith that says true repentance and praise of God will wipe away sins even if they are as much as the foam of the ocean. So please don't give up hope. Don't give up your faith. If you are angry, rage at Him (and believe me, I have. I have done just that, refused to believe in Him, refused to speak to Him.) But if you still believe, then yes, do exactly what you said, start over, disregard everything, question everything, find your own path, find your own way and let no one interfere. God is who you are, what you are, where you are, and everything else.'

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Drawing Lines To Every Constellation.

How do you leave a city as beautiful as Madrid and not mourn the loss of something inside yourself?

Being in Madrid brought me back to life, showed me that I am capable of feeling happy through abandoning this mediocre existence and everything that I know. I have been back home for less than 24 hours and am already looking at flights to Italy due to the unbearable weight of being in the UK

I watched the luminous clouds change to grey and I immediately knew that we were descending over home; I felt the shift inside me. 

There is a part of us that believes that we are not worthy of great things, a part that sabotages experiences through the preconception of them being short-lived, and if anything, this trip taught me how to drown out these compulsions and not mourn the loss of moments before they had even had the chance to present themselves. My mind is my worst predator but something about leaving the UK silenced its narrative and I cannot explain just how liberating it was to finally be able to navigate this space and not stand in my own way.

I was thinking about the brevity of our breaths juxtaposed with their magical purpose of sustaining our existence; if something so frail yet extraordinary can keep us alive, our tangible selves are entitled to and can be attributed to so much more and we owe it to ourselves to recognise the sacred nature of our own beings. I wasn't ready to go because I felt like I still had more to give to the world and Madrid made me feel excited to be alive, to discover. I cannot recall the last time, if ever, that I felt this grateful to be alive, and yet something about being back in the country seemingly stripped me of all of that again.

I feel like the shattered remnants of an unfinished sculpture.

I know that we, as a nation, are renowned for complaining about the weather and our general residence here, but my dissociation with this landscape rests amid a whole new realm of antipathy. I felt more at home in a foreign land where I was unable to communicate with anyone than I ever have done here, and this coupled with the detachment from my Pakistani heritage, has left me feeling distant from everything that I know. The concept of 'home' is interesting, it is where one feels the most at ease, and contrary to popular belief, sometimes you have to find and make your own home because it isn't necessarily always amid the places in which you live or have lived. It's evident through the sudden deterioration of my mood that
England really isn't and has never felt like home. I've spent my entire life questioning why I feel out of place, unable to connect, and I've always believed that this somehow stems from an issue that exists within the fibre of my being instead of its backdrop. I understand now that I don't belong here, I've tried and tried, but the disappointment upon waking up this morning was too unbearable and the weight of that sentiment made me realise just how detrimental it is to remain here. I don't know whether this means that I must travel until I find home, but anything is better than the overwhelming sadness that I've been re-bestowed with.

Maybe it really isn't depression that is the problem, maybe it's just this space.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Regeneration of The Dark Moon.

Sometimes it looked as if the moon was trapped inside his skin,
orbiting to the cadence of his blood flow,
pulsating only with the consent of my fingertips.

Sometimes the moon illuminated each limb,
transfixed with the spectre of its pirouette
back to glory.

Sometimes the moon peaked through his silhouette,
creating indentations like the carvings of ancient scriptures in a forsaken tombstone.

Sometimes we remembered only in shades of blue black
where we were lost at sea
and the moon could not find its way home.

Sometimes the pandemic in his derma sang the angels to sleep,
tried to set fire to the moon,
(it would not be moved).

Sometimes his incandescent veins changed colour,
illustrated the directions back to his centre of gravity,
found the weeping moon 
(soaked in its own sin).

Save me from him.’

Monday, 21 March 2016

When The Angels Sold Their Souls.

I wondered what the angels felt like, 
whether they were often blinded by their own light. 
Could they even feel the grandeur of their skin?

Did they recognise the brevity of the space inside their halos? 
Were they able to see its reflection against the lines of their palms?

I wondered whether they removed their wings at the end of the day. 
Maybe they were hollow, 
weighed nothing?

I asked,
and the angels told me that they could not fly.
'The wings are just decorative.'

I suppose I felt sorry for them, 
for looking so magnificent but not being able to see themselves 
(or capitalise on it).

Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Wrong To Feel Right.

As you read these words, I am most likely standing in a museum in Madrid, marvelling at the works of Picasso and Dali.

Being able to travel the world alone is a dream that I have had since my father handed me my first atlas. I remember opening up the pages, admiring different continents, feeling captivated by the glory of an omnipresent world. I wanted to see it all, experience the intricacies of every culture, explore each monument of our forsaken ancestors, feel the presence of someone else’s earth beneath my soles.

Having grown up within the restraints of Pakistani culture where the mere thought of a woman travelling alone is undignified, the likelihood of me being able to do these things has always been non-existent. After fighting this for a myriad of years, to grasp even just a fragment of my independence, I think that it took completely falling apart for everyone and myself to realise just how much I needed it.

Two weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to go to Madrid. I booked myself onto a flight and left five days later.

You are reading this in the future so I cannot write whether or not I loved it, but what I can say is that I tried. I suppose that the triumph is sometimes in the attempt. 

I have scheduled blog posts for the time that I am away but will update you upon my return.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Birthed From An Incongruous Mind.

I sat at a table in the centre of a chaotic library, adjusted my headphones and dialled into myself. I wrote until I could no longer think or remember my own name. I wanted to share a few short excerpts.

There’s something so liberating about not writing on lined paper, it’s almost as if the words have the capacity to align themselves into their own montage. Having said that, I can’t seem to write in a straight line and I suppose that Freud would interpret it as being some sort of subconscious attempt to defy conventions.

My handwriting is dreadful. My thoughts are always in a strange kind of rush because I just want to create a space inside my head. I have an irrational fear that I’ll die without emptying my mind and then I will have existed for nothing; my thoughts will remain unheard. I must memorialise everything. If I don’t have tangible memories, there is the possibility of them becoming lost, and then who will I be? The inside of my head feels like a frenetic snow globe where I can’t access anything because it’s all moving too fast. I’m standing in the centre, watching the snow flakes in the iridescent light, but my hands don’t extend far enough to reach.

I always feel weighed down, like the devil is learning to dance on the edges of my shoulders.

There’s so much that I have to unlock, but writing means that these things are accessible and I’d prefer to keep my memories safe in my own skull. Maybe one day I’ll write truths in anonymity, but then there are always traces of us in the spaces of all the things that we’ve ever written, almost like a painting with the faint shadows of the artist’s reflection. You read and automatically attribute words to a writer. There is no escape from your own truth. Writing is like building a bridge home and I suppose that’s what we all want to feel, connection, belonging.

My hand doesn’t move fast enough, it’s beginning to ache, which I suppose comes with age and all of the words that I’ve ever written, the worlds I’ve created. I often wonder about pens, the stories they’ve told, all of the hands and lives they’ve passed through. It’s really a gift, being able to fill books with thoughts that nobody else can reach or hear.

I remembered the lips of the therapist, watching them move as she illustrated and annotated pictures of the brain. Maybe one day someone would read this, annotate the spaces in between my words as an attempt to decipher my truth. If there is anything that I want to leave behind, it is my words.

I was always taught to be preoccupied with death, which I suppose is the reason for why I write a lot about hell, heaven, the devil. The afterlife is embedded into my skin. Thoughts of hell always made me feel a strange sense of familiarity, like I’d seen it before or been there in a distant dream.

I’m just writing because I’m in one of those overwrought moods where I feel like I may burst into tears at any given moment, but then what do I even have to be sad about? I often wonder what people think when they look at me. Do they follow the destructive movements of my palms? See my sad girl smile? Sometimes the sentiments are too heavy, they encompass the entire body and there’s just no capacity for anything else to interject.

Monday, 7 March 2016

To The Rhythm of The Psychedelic Glass.

There was always something about being able to perceive the world through glass without participating that I found fascinating as a child. It was only later during my adolescence that I recognised this premise to be indicative of how I felt about my own existence. I often described it as not really being present in the room, in my own body, a harrowing sense of vacancy from my own self. I was always watching, advising, guiding, helping, being seen, but nobody was able to quite reach me because I was safeguarded behind layers of decadent glass. Coherently, this glass meant that I was always able to perceive my own reflection amongst the world outside, a kind of haunting overlay being projected over my conception of the universe. I eventually taught myself how to ignore and divert attention from it, I separated my being from the things that I could see, but I somehow lost touch with my reflection along the way. I forgot what I looked like, could no longer recognise my own face. I studied the lines on my palms, questioned whether they belonged to me. All I saw was the world, people going about their daily lives as I desperately tried to be present in the room. It was difficult because I could not feel the things that I wanted to feel, I was a ghost trapped in a state of purgatory trying to barter my way back to earth. I heard stories, listened to other people’s minds rotating on the peak of their skeletal axes, but I could not feel the cadence of my own pulse. I was able to map out the architecture of the skull but did not know where mine resided. I suppose it paid off because something inside me inevitably shifted and my mind gradually crept back into my body. I'd like to say that I'm more in control and aware now, and whilst my brain and limbs are in the process of reconciling, I still feel the presence of the glass more than ever before. Having said that, I see the things that many do not and it's a strange gift that I wouldn't possess otherwise. When I find myself feeling sad, I sit at my window and remember. The glass, I suppose is a gift and a curse.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

The Sin of Her Skin.

Some of my favourite tweets from this week. You can follow me at @inthespaces.

And the thing is, people cannot love you back to life.

To be honest, I feel like Gregor Samsa every morning.

It's fascinating how when a child is born & a parent knows nothing about them, they grant a name and the child then grows into that meaning.

Most people like to unwind before bed; I'm here watching tour videos of Anne Frank's house.

I think that mixing my Nars Sheer Glow with strobe cream was slightly ambitious because I currently resemble a glazed donut.

There are always traces of us in the spaces of the things we’ve written, like a painting with the faint shadow of the artist’s reflection.

I feel very lost in myself and I just want to be able to look at my life and feel settled in what I have.

There are two types of people: those who feel the absence in the room and those who only feel the presence.

I've managed to stay away from drugs and cigarettes my whole life but as soon as it comes to chocolate, I apparently have no willpower.

I often wondered about pens, about all of the words and stories they’d told, all of the hands and lives they’d passed through.

You can be whoever you want to be at any given moment. You're not committed to one sense of self.

And the veins on my shoulder look like faded tattoos of the globe.

I feel like the library should have baskets beside the entrance because I always want more books than I can possibly carry.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

And You Said I've Lost My Head.

There are two types of people in the world: those who embrace my otherness, and those who ridicule it. The interesting thing about the latter is that the contempt generally stems from an inability to understand or accept anything that does not corroborate a preconceived conception, cultivated by one's ancestral roots. We still exist in an incredibly bigoted society and although your values may not be parallel to the extremities that we associate with such dogmatic attitudes, the dismissive narrative that you choose to direct at one's otherness still lies upon the same spectrum.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Monday, 29 February 2016

Symphonies For The Undressed Angel In Command.

  1.  And I was too sad to sing (didn’t know how)
  2.  a lover without the love
  3.  what more could you possibly ask for?
  4.  My veins knew, tried to steer me away
  5.  (I just needed the idea of you).
  6.  Sang love songs from inside the casket like a devil with a shoplifted halo,
  7.  fingertips tracing my sternum to reach the centre (didn’t let you in).
  8.  Unlearned the face of the barefoot moon in the gradient of your skin,
  9.  like a mosque burning in its own gospel,
  10.  lose myself until I lose you.
  11.  Cremated the voice of your ghost, dispersed ashes beneath a forsaken pew, 
  12.  they gathered in the space of an unwritten sermon, 
  13.  (tried to piece you back together).
  14.  I rebuked my cells one by one in the movement of your prayer beads
  15.  (you are no longer a native).
  16.  A mouthful of the brunette sun to singe my tongue from uttering your name
  17.  and now you’re just another scar (that I wear so well).
  18.  Let us sing symphonies for the undressed angel in command (even in her brokenness)
  19.  did you know me at all?
  20.  I wanted to fill the space (left me empty, pervaded you instead)
  21.  and now you’ll feel my presence caged in your aching limbs
  22.  a cemetery laden with my darkest secrets.
  23.  Evade me, try (you won’t make it to your own burial).
  24.  They’ll find your name carved into my headstone
  25. died of heartache, couldn’t leave her.’

Friday, 26 February 2016

A Scar I Wear So Well.

My favourite tweets from this week.

Fingertips tracing the sternum in an attempt to reach her centre.

I'm having chocolate fudge cake for breakfast because it's 7am and I've already given up on life.

I suppose the frustrating thing is not knowing whether I'm healing, not being able to monitor a scar or feel the pain of a memory any less.

And throwing things away was just a means of exuviating my skin, the memory, the ache.

And the freckles on her skin were just the constellations guiding you back home.

Sometimes she hoped that the water would wash her soul clean.

 But I think that my veins knew, steered me away, (I just needed the memory of you).

(I waited under the covers),
the angels never came.

And did we just become the lost in the space of an unwritten sermon?

Gilmore Girls is mentioned in The Cambridge Companion To Sylvia Plath. I am elated.

If there's anything to keep me hopeful, it's the thought of all the books that I have yet to read.

But we become so many people in a lifetime don't we?

Monday, 22 February 2016

Sending Postcards From Heaven.

Sacred white hair, seraphic blue eyes, 
(I checked his back for wings). 
Face like a concertinaed masterpiece,
a fold for every story.

Celestial palms, the halo of the universe,
each touch like the scripture of a sermon.
Veins mapping the virescent globe upon his skin,
(guided him home).

Upon his demise,
I could only remember his empyrean eyes,
oh how lucky the angels were.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Storm Has Broken; Two Words Spoken.

I was thinking about words and how they are all constant tangible letters that are our archaic guides to history. We breathe them into structure and give them life; we create their subtext and sustain them with our own ideologies and memories. Although our ancestors used them to sculpt our path, we have become the commanders of language.

However, we lose control as soon as we position them in front of another soul because they are being interpreted through the prism of someone else’s ideology and thus being shed of our invoked meaning. Our words are governed by a different perception and no longer belong to us.

While they are inked onto pages in an infinite form, words remain boundless in our minds. They rearrange themselves amid comprehension; lose their subtext amongst the spaces. They transform themselves to create and carve a new dimension and realm within our understanding. Each time we read, something in our minds has shifted and thus this tangible form ascends into a newfound conception.

Words are our gravity, they anchor us back to where we were supposed to be and yet the person that we were upon reading them has evolved, and thus they do not exist in the same form in which we preserved them.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Love Songs From Inside The Casket.

And my cadaver fell into the practice of eulogising all of the souls that I had been and lost.
And I wondered whether he could see through them, transcend the asylum that I had carved for myself.
And I searched the cells of my derma for the sepulchre of my ghost, for the gospel of the lamenting angels on each shoulder.
And I did not understand why our hands with the same imprints were not made to coalesce under the seventh sun.
And I mourned my own demise for the paradigm of rebirth, until the memory was gone.
And I waited for the customary ache, covered in his ashes, holes in the architecture of my skin in the silhouette of anyone that had ever left.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Growing Up As A Muslim.

I grew up with a strict version of Islam where nothing was negotiable. Alongside the regular prohibitions such as not drinking alcohol and eating pork, there were a myriad of rules that I had to live my life in accordance to. From the age of 4, I was sent to classes at the local mosque to learn Arabic, to memorise supplications and study the fundamentals of Islam. I was taught how to pray, how to recite the Qu’ran, and most importantly I was taught about the things that I was forbidden from doing. 

Islam was indoctrinated into my skin.

I was not to wear perfume or nail varnish. I was not to expose anything but my hands and face in public. I was not to wear clothes that revealed the shape of my body. I was not to imitate or dress like the opposite sex. I was not to talk to or befriend the opposite sex. I was not to have any physical contact with the opposite sex. I was not to partake in a relationship outside of marriage. I was not to consume haraam meat. I was not to gossip or backbite. I was not to tell lies, I was not to curse. I was not to read horoscopes or believe in fortune-tellers. I was not to draw pictures with eyes. I was not to hang photographs on the walls. I was not to play card or board games. I was not to watch television or listen to music. Upon reaching puberty, I was to fast during Ramadan. I was to pray 5 times a day. I was not to lust after the opposite sex or make eye contact. I was not to partake in any sort of gambling. I was not to visit places that served alcohol. I was not to be tattooed. I was not to get anything but ear piercings. I was not to wear high heels. I was not to thread my eyebrows. I was not to believe in astrology.

I remember being forbidden from sleeping over at my best friend’s house because my father was afraid that there would be alcohol in their home. I remember being told off by my mosque teacher for asking a boy his name, or for being seen on the street without a head covering. I remember my grandfather profusely yelling from across the road because I was wearing a t-shirt which exposed my arms and did not reach my knees. I remember having to double-check that there were no remnants of nail varnish on my fingernails or that I was not wearing my cartoon-printed socks to the mosque. I remember hearing about the atrocities of the Hellfire, about punishments within the grave.

Although my parents did not forbid me from watching television, playing games or listening to music, I still grew up within the margins of these restrictions. By 11, I had read through the Qur’an 3 times and was able to cease my attendance at the mosque. I was now responsible for upholding my beliefs and obeying God. I was old enough to be accountable for my own sins.

School life was the only sovereignty in my life. I had the capacity to do anything that I wanted and it was liberating. I learned to practice the art of sin in secret, and although I would often be devoured by my own guilt, there was something very electrifying about breaking the rules. When I came home at the end of each day, I was still inherently Muslim but I began living two separate lives. Although I always reaffirmed my belief in God, my compliance to Islam ricocheted on each division of the spectrum. As I grew older, religion began to impose more restrictions, it became a burden. I wasn’t able to live my life the way that I wanted to because everything seemed to be forbidden and it was not until the passing of my grandfather that my perspective changed. His death left me devastated. I did not understand how I was supposed to cope or mourn. However, upon witnessing his smiling cadaver, the concept of Islam and grief suddenly made sense. My grandfather had been a good man, he had spent the entirety of his life living by the word of God. Now that he was gone, he looked happy; he was at peace. Religion became simple in that moment; if I obeyed God, I would be content.

I made changes, I tried to be a better Muslim, but upon realising the magnitude of the sinful life that I was living, my body became filled with a rush of cataclysmic anxiety. I thought about everything that I’d done in my life, I thought about the ways in which I would be reprimanded for the atrocities of my sins. I became repulsed by myself, by my reflection, by my own existence. God would never forgive me, not for these things. The descriptions of the Hellfire were engrained into my skin, its scorn, its potency. I was going to rot for eternity. I was petrified. I needed to revoke my mistakes and the only way that I knew how was to wholeheartedly dedicate myself to God. I began to cover my hair and body, I prayed 5 times a day from sunrise to sunset, I read the Qur'an each morning, I attended Islamic lectures, I surrounded myself with Muslims and thought and spoke about nothing but God. I would have done anything to erase my past. I just wanted to forget. I wanted to be forgiven. I wanted to stop being afraid, of Hell, of God. I spent 2 entire years in this state, anxious, terrified. I gave up everything that I knew to obey Him, but I was trapped in a perpetual cycle of self-hatred. I begged and begged for Him to make things better, to make me feel some brand of peace, but nothing changed. He had abandoned me. 

I gave up.

I removed my hijab and abaya. I stopped praying, I stopped reading the Qur’an. I ceased everything. I lost my faith and the depression had already apprehended my mind so there was no longer anything keeping me alive. Suicide was prohibited in Islam, it was the only reason that I was still alive, but I was alone now. I was no longer afraid of God, of Hell, because life did not matter. I surrendered because no version of Hell was  going to reach the pinnacle of this suffering. I didn't owe God anything and this feeling inevitably led to resentment, which is where I have resided for the past 2 years. 

I’d like to think that the anger has subsided but I can still feel it buried within the meridian of my ribcage. Islam is all that I know, I still do things intrinsically like when I utter ‘alhamdulillah’ in a moment of gratitude or when I return a greeting of salaam. They are embedded within the fibre of my skin. However, Islam for me is associated with anxiety and sin and I’m not ready to succumb to its regulations or this heightened version that has been indoctrinated into my being. Islam is not about existing inside boundaries, it’s about trying your best and having the right intentions so I’m disregarding everything and starting over. I need to learn to trust in God again.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Head In Heaven, Soles In Hell.

And she hangs from the peak of every sin,
like a dress rehearsal for hell.
And the devil sings her love songs until he can't catch his breath.
And she loses herself in the fidelity of the fire.
And the falsetto in flames, screams into silence.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Two Quarters & A Heart Down.

Some of my favourite tweets from the past week.

And if only the pain would settle, so that I could look beyond the skin and perceive the moon that I’d consumed.

[Cashier is counting something. I place my pack of mini eggs onto the counter. He scans them & then looks up.]
'Whoa, your hair is amazing.'

Had a near death experience choking on a mini egg on the train back from Birmingham, but it wasn't compelling enough for my biography, so.

And we just contained our memories in music, as not to forget them.

Sometimes it's like I remember my worth and then wonder what the hell I'm doing in this mediocre life.

It feels so good to be able to tell people that I'm genuinely doing well.

The earlier I wake up, the sooner the day seems to be over. It's a strange kind of paradox.

2:30pm - Company emails me to write blog post, due tomorrow.
3.20pm - Blog post written and emailed across.

'With hair like that, you've got to be in a good mood.'

Deal breaker: if he does not encourage my art.

And how we ache for the people that only exist in memory.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

(It Sent You To Me Without Wings).

And we thought about the brevity of the space between our fingers, the concision in which they came together.
And we talked about which part of our limbs we would store our dreams in.
And we questioned each exhale and what we were putting out into the universe (contaminating it with). We were breathing a part of ourselves into existence, it would be regurgitated and we'd live on in a molecular graveyard, even when we were apart.

I didn't know who to be but this grandeur that called itself our spirit. How was I supposed to know that it wasn't home?

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Inta Daiman (You Are Always).

I only ached when the clock turned to 11 and I remembered all of the dreams we’d planned under the sadness of the second sun. I wondered whether our skin remembered the touch of everyone that had been there before, the indentations, the carvings, the architecture of tribute they’d sculpted into eternity.

With a shadow like a reincarnated painter,
phantom skin veined with remnants of emeralds,
each palm was chiselled with fragmented marble lining the mosaic of your skin.

You couldn’t shed once I’d been there, you should have known that.

And only when we could see the moon did we feel at home, with conversations in the morning of the night and the tones of decadence in which we became one.

I just wanted to write magnificent poetry but the words didn’t fit.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Pour Them Into Symphony.

And if I could just feel the pulse inside my fingers when I wanted to
(the pulse wasn’t mine).

It was in my ear drum,
the rhythm in the ache of my temples,
the tremor in the contour of my hipbone.
the tenderness at the ball of my foot,
the reverberation in the brevity of my thighs.

It was everywhere and sometimes nowhere at all.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Born Into Foreign Skin.

Foreign skin stretched over bones belonging to my ancestors,
soul does not fit into its designated space.
Always floating, trying to assimilate, changing shape,
carving itself into a sculptural decorum.

Detached from the reach of my own brittle organs,
veins become disordered by the falsetto of the mother tongue.

Disruptive blood inside despondent flesh,
intrinsic pulse to corroborate movements of a legacy.

Please coalesce with paradigm of touch.

Soul rejects,
find a home in the body that you’ve given,
(I’m trying).

Friday, 5 February 2016

Hymn For The Weekend.

Some of my favourite tweets from the past week.

Someone likened me to a pet which is quite true. I just want to be fed, I need occasional love/attention but otherwise I do my own thing.

It's exhausting, this conscious effort to subvert my own narrative.

She was born into foreign skin.

One of the best things about writing is that when you're too afraid to say something, you can write it into the dialogue of your character.

I find it difficult to commit to films but the nonlinear narrative was so compelling, because it's generally how we recall our own memories.

Also I just received a job rejection from Disney, in case you wanted to know how my day is going.

Is it too early to start working on my memoir?

I'm not even ashamed to admit that I love Zayn Malik's new song. I don't know who I am anymore.

I've repressed everything that I've ever gone through in my life and so I never learned to heal from anything.

It manifests when I walk around the city. I feel all of that pain again because my body remembers and stores it in those places.

The aching of the second sun.

'Why do you write?'
'So that people momentarily feel what I feel, what I want them to feel.'

I've just finished Jessica Jones and have reached the conclusion that I'm not ready for that kind of emotional intensity.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

A Lung From Each Continent.

The Sargasso Sea is the area of the North Atlantic Ocean that lies between Europe and the Caribbean. Ships often found themselves caught amid this space and it was concluded that the people on these ships would be stuck between two cultures, due to the central location of the sea. This centrality forms the basis of the novel Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, the protagonist residing in an unfeasible space between two cultures. The novel is about colonisation, a battle with identity and belonging. Upon reading through the narrative, I recognised the correlation between Antoinette’s life and my own.

My life has always been a perpetual navigation between two conflicting cultures. I have written about this extensively in my previous blog posts titled ‘A Battle Between Two Cultures’ and ‘Between Patriarchy and Silent Shrouds.’ However I have not discussed my childhood detachment from the Pakistani culture which is something that has inevitably contributed to my current disposition.

Although I was born and raised in England, my mother took it upon herself to teach me Urdu, the dialect of our ancestors. I vividly remember my grandfather conversing with my uncles in Urdu and it often feeling as if they were speaking a foreign language that did not resonate with me. I watched their lips move and recognised that they were creating sound although their words remained alien. I was dressed in traditional clothing, fed Pakistani dishes, and only spoken to in words that felt distant, unfamiliar. I always remained silent because I did not feel present; I did not feel connected to them, to this language, to this culture. I was too young to understand what I was feeling, too young to verbalise these sentiments. However when I became old enough to have an opinion, I began to openly protest.

As I grew older, I watched as my cousins spoke fluent Urdu, revelling in the intricacies of their salwar kameez, discussing Bollywood films extensively and loving the customary traditions that contributed to our heritage. I wanted to love being Pakistani; I wanted to feel something but I was bewildered by the foreign words that transpired from my tongue. This language did not belong to me and I could not comprehend why I felt isolated from something that was supposed to be a part of the intrinsic fabric of who I was.

The first time I can remember visiting Pakistan was at the age of 8; although my mother tells me I visited prior to this, during infancy. Our visit lasted 3 whole months; I can recall roaming the streets in my t-shirt and jeans, acquiring looks from passers by. The air was perpetually filled with the sound of angry motorists, men selling various assortments of multi-coloured food, cows candidly roaming around and the echoes of livid chickens infusing our oxygen at every other minute. I remember riding on the back of a motorcycle through the dark, as if living through the reverberations of a distant nightmare. I remember accidentally setting someone’s hair on fire as we walked through the street with our candle-lit Mehndi trays at twilight. I remember sulking on the roof, counting the multihued kites in the sky and momentarily spying on the neighbours to decipher whether they were really happy. I wrote to my father to tell him that I hated it there, I wanted to come home, I didn’t know which version of hell he had committed me to. Pakistan was supposedly our ‘homeland’ but how could home be a place that made me feel uneasy, secluded? As a consolation, my father began to send me comic books every week to keep me in high spirits. I woke up early every Friday to eagerly await the arrival of the postman. Comics accumulated by my bedside; a connection to England, home, the central part of myself.

My next visit was at the age of 12 and my isolation from Pakistan became more prominent. I was not allowed to wear my jeans outside of the house, I had hit puberty and was becoming a woman and thus was required to dress in traditional clothing. I was outraged. These clothes felt like a costume, like I was a part of a pretence. I decided to remain in the house for the rest of the trip, it was better than having to dress that way. After a disastrous journey to the airport, during which we were involved in relentless fog and a car crash, I decided that I did not ever want to return to Pakistan. However at the age of 15, I was coerced into revisiting. The manifestation of my estrangement had become overbearing by this point, it was then heightened by me being hospitalised after just 3 weeks of being there.

Some would argue that it was my experience with Pakistan that drove me to the ‘emancipation’ of culture, but rather these experiences reaffirmed my already apparent alienation. I had always felt detached, as if this culture belonged to somebody else and I could not resonate with it. Whenever I would try and speak in Urdu or wear traditional clothing, it was not intrinsic. I had to force these things, consciously make an effort to pretend, and I eventually became tired of trying to feel the things that I was supposed to feel.

As a teenager, my movements were progressively contributing to my marriageability and this began to govern my every activity. I came to realise quite early that I did not want the things that the culture wanted for me. I wanted a career, I wanted to achieve greatness, I could not stay at home and nurse my boundless children or consent to being a slave for my husband. Everyone around me seemed to happily accept these customs and thus my refusal was perceived an outrage. For years, I fought with the conception of being a housewife; I was destined to be more than that. I had endured years of education and fought for my own survival; I wanted more for my life. I wanted to travel, to move out, to explore and I could not do these things because they did not adhere to the societal standards that were ordained by the Pakistani culture. Unmarried women were not to be trusted. We were apparently nothing unless validated by men.

The idea of marriage and giving up my life made me deeply unhappy. I watched my cousins deal with raucous children, incessant drama with their in-laws and their own mislaid aspirations. The thought of succumbing to that life terrified me immeasurably. It meant subduing my personality, submitting to the role of a compliant daughter-in-law. I had tolerated too much suffering to give up my vivacity and dreams, but these were the cultural expectations. I could no longer meet up with my male friends because ‘what would people think?’ I was of marriageable age and thus the way that I conducted myself was fundamental. When I completed my Masters and wanted to go on to do my PhD, my mother objected because nobody would marry me if I was too educated. All that I could discern were recitations of marriage in every movement. I felt smothered, confined. What was the point in living my life if I could not choose how to live it? I could not outwardly dispute this because women did not have a voice, and thus I began to internalise everything.

I am a firm believer in philosophising that you should be who you are. I have always felt British, inherently, consciously, and thus I feel that I have no right to claim to be a part of the Pakistani culture when I feel afflicted by it. Upon attending family gatherings, I am the outcast. I sit with my vivacious hair and constrained Urdu, because I understand that it is a part of my heritage and thus I must participate to remain respectful. My grandfather made the decision to immigrate here because he wanted a better life for us. So here I am, fighting the customs of this indoctrinated culture in order to live the life that I have always desired. 

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Inside The Bell Jar.

My earliest memory is of me sitting in my grandfather’s window, leaning against the glass, marvelling at what appeared to be life, the effervescent world outside.

My grandfather was a barber; the front of our house had been converted into his shop. It was positioned on a busy road with a convenient bus stop beside our front door. Sometimes the line of people awaiting the bus became so long that passing cars would slow down to inspect the source of commotion. Others walked by, momentarily glancing and then losing themselves in their strides.  

The butchers stood opposite, with their delivery truck sometimes parking and obscuring my view of the shop. I watched men carry animal carcasses of lost dreams and a severed lineage, bones and contemporary flesh visible. Their overalls were embossed with blood-stains in flamboyant mosaics, and their gloves, descendants of a crime scene. I couldn’t see inside the truck, only what the men carried out; it was an animal cemetery.

The surroundings were always chaotic, it felt as if the earth had been liquidised and was being poured into my irises. I absorbed everything in its entirety, yet all I could hear was the intensity of my own narrative. It became louder and louder and louder and louder.

I closed my eyes and the earth stood still.

When I opened them, I could not decipher whether I was alive in this present reality. The universe felt like a backdrop to the narrative of my own thoughts. I was not navigating this skeletal space, I was not steering myself. I lifted my hand and pressed against the glass, conscious of the void between myself and the tips of my fingers. I was trapped inside my mind, my body was vacant.

The men closed up their delivery truck. I knelt to gaze inside, still feeling the strain of my kneecaps in my 25-year-old body as I recalled this memory during a session of EMDR. 

Your body remembers and stores pain, even from all of those years ago,’ she said.
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