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The Aram

with Tahmina Begum
My Nana passed away on Monday. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon. Verily we belong to Allah, and verily to Him do we return. I never thought, a newsletter I planned to write on rest, would begin with those words. 

Yet oddly enough, over the past few weeks, all I’ve thought about is rest. How bad we all are at it. How to an extent, we all boast about not sleeping enough and not having enough time. How there's a perpetual feeling that we should be doing more. The ways in which we treat rest like a treat, instead of a human right. 

But to be honest, when Nana passed away, I didn't care about any of those things. Another reminder that perhaps I shouldn't base my life entirely on my feelings as they're usually just as fleeting. Instead, all I've thought about all week is real rest. When one can rest peacefully after they've done all they can do in this life, all until waiting for the next.
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My grandfather was not a wallflower. Even when he was ill, he took up space, without that ever being the intention. His infrastructure — that includes his soul, his stance, his relationships, his mannerisms, his beliefs — were all strong while always remaining soft. He knew when to push and pull and when to leave it up to God. Perhaps this came from having a family that was a part of the navy as he moved through life like he belonged to the oceans. He realised early on to be a friend to life. To sway alongside it, instead of making the mistake of trying to control and bend it beneath a false sense of power. He always chose faith over fear.

When someone passes away, what's bittersweet is that only then the stories outpour. Earlier this year, I penned for The New Arab, why this is the time we get to know our parents better, especially as children and grandchildren of immigrants. Until this week, that had never felt more real. 

Around midnight four nights ago, my Nani shared when working 8,000 miles away from her, the methods in which my Nana would show he cared. He always found a way to call and always prioritised her, even from afar. When his children were ill, he sent over months of wages from his job as a steel factory worker to ensure they would get better. My Nana and Nani would send each other love letters every week, my grandmother counting down the days until the next one, and always, like clockwork, on the fifth day, a hand-written artefact of affection would arrive addressed only to her. Describing to her how he was keeping. How his jaan pulled for her. 
My grandmother smiles today knowing that, just like in the sixties and seventies, if he could bend time and space, he would do the same now, without her having to ask. See, in my teens, I was made to feel embarrassed about how deeply and wholly I can love. To this day, I'm loveful (my new favourite word) beyond my years. It was only until after his passing, that I realised that this was the legacy and lesson left for me.

My grandfather wasn't naive but historically his kindness was taken for weakness. Yet through countless betrayals, heartbreaks, a widower from his first marriage, he made it clear to all of us that becoming cynical, looking at love and life with anything but sheer gratitude, was the easy way out. Reminding us at every opportunity that love is as accessible as you make it. That it comes from tapping within yourself kindly, then giving it away to others generously. If anything, it's your rizq, and what's already yours. 
What I have taken from his life and now death, (still a very odd thing to say out loud) is that life is too short not to live it. To not give roses to the people you love nor adore yourself in the ways only you know how. Mohammed Somir Uddin also taught me, just like he fiercely conveyed to my aunt (it's ok Ruhena Khala, we all accept that you'll always be his favourite), that you lose nothing by being the one who loves the most in the room.

Any fretting about how you may come across when sharing a part of yourself, the mathematics behind transactional unions are simply a waste of time. As Nana said and showed, the only thing that will remain is first, what you were about and second, your service to others and how you made people feel. The rest is left-over dhaal and croutons.

I love you and miss you entirely Nana. I am so proud to be from you. What an absolute privilege and honour. May we always be bound together. 

Your nathin and moyna,

P.S Happy New Year everyone. Blessings upon blessings as we go into it Inshallah. 
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My grandfather created a society in the nineties to help those who couldn't afford their own funerals. I'm raising money for the same cause. No-one should have to worry about this, especially not in a pandemic. Feel free to share and donate here.
Top 10 Favourite Books of 2020
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid 
Love In Colour by Bolu Babalola 
How Do We Know We're Doing It Right? by Pandora Sykes
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Heart Talk by Cleo Wade
Motherhood by Sheila Heti
Sea of Strangers by Lang Leav
Intimations by Zadie Smith
Quite by Claudia Winkleman
15 Articles I'm Proud I Wrote In 2020
  1. Why finding joy in 2020 should be the new self-care for Muslim women 

  2. Why Are Beauty Brands Afraid To Say They’re Halal?

  3. The Part Of My Muslim Faith That’s Making Lockdown Bearable 

  4. Astrologers didn’t predict COVID-19. Could it be the end of astrology? 

  5. On When Muslim Women Get To Talk About Sex 

  6. How To Help a Parent with Mental Health Issues 

  7. A Response to JK Rowling’s Personal Essay On Sex, Gender and Womanhood 

  8. This is how we can tackle anti-blackness in the South Asian community

  9. Why The “But He’s a Nice Guy” Argument Doesn’t Work Anymore 

  10. Veiled racism: How the law change on Covid-19 face coverings makes Muslim women feel 

  11. Is Talking Therapy Failing Women of Colour? 

  12. Genre-Defying Dan D’Lion 

  13. British Muslim Women On The Moment They Dissociated Shame From Sex 

  14. Visibility Politics and The Case of Kamala Harris 

  15. 10 Lessons We Should Take From 2020 into 2021

Support Independent Bookshops

Everyone knows buying books off Amazon isn't great for authors, or actually anyone involved, so launched in the UK this week. supports indie bookshops with every sale. As I get asked for book recommendations all the time, I've become an affiliate, so 10% goes to an independent bookshop and 10% to me. You can shop for my recommendations here. You'll find reads by Muslim women, my favourite titles, and the books that continue to shape my work. Mwah, mwah. 
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Hola! I'm Tahmina Begum 👋🏾 I'm a writer, editor and  creative consultant. If you like The Aram, feel free to support my work and buy me a digital Ko-Fi. If you'd like to commission me for any work, feel free to check out my website

Images courtesy of: @fashiiongonerouge @shereenmuhmmad @nowness

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