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The Aram

with Tahmina Begum
Sometimes, we don't use our voice because it's more convenient to stay quiet. On the surface, the reason is that it would take too much effort to express how we really feel, never mind change someone else's mind.

But for me, sometimes life is like a set of LEGO and building your life means compiling the smaller as well as the larger pieces. Meaning what we accept in the small moments is just as momentous as what we accept in pivotal times.
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Last night, by the time it was nearly 11 pm, I was exhausted from having to defend Sabina Nessa, her choices and where she was walking to before being fatally murdered, by women who look like both me and the late Sabina Nessa. I know if you're a South Asian woman reading this, you have probably been warned to not go out alone and you're perhaps depleted too.

Though I do not believe it is our job to undo the works of the patriarchy (nor can we) I do believe there are times where there's too much on the line to not use our voice. The cost of not using your voice may mean you feel shanti one weekend but in the long run, the domino effect means the environment in which we're raising our boys and girls is accepting of any kind of behaviour towards male violence. 
I am always in awe of those who don't use their voice. Perhaps you've had to do less fighting to get what you want (which is a good thing) or maybe, you're not that bothered about the shape your life but I can't work out the logic between remaining silent and then expecting to get what you want.

I know for many women, this comes from the lack of experience of exercising your voice. The world isn't always kind to women who use their voice but I'm going to let you in on a secret: it isn't exactly that much kinder to those who don't use theirs either. I believe when we use our voice — and what I really mean by that is saying exactly what you mean — you get a franker sense of your world. You get to live in a reality that you may prefer, instead of a facade of who you want people to think you are.

You also get to have friendships that are real, a life that you may feel is your own and honestly, a lot less regret. There is so much time wasted, so much life gone by having to pussyfoot and guess what someone may mean. 

Sometimes, we don't say what we really mean because we want to appear nice but I care very little about niceness as I do kindness. There is a performance to niceness, a convenience and a lack of wisdom kindness can afford. I would rather check someone who is saying something outrageous about a woman's murder than care about seeming nice to someone. So I guess my question to you today is: what is using and not using your voice costing you? 
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It doesn't have to be as extreme as defending someone who is innocent. Maybe instead of begrudgingly doing that task at work, you need to express how you work best and your needs. Maybe your spouse doesn't feel as close to you anymore and you need to simply voice that.

Every now and then I'll hear the response that 'nothing will ever change, so what's the point of saying how I feel or using my voice?' which to that I answer, there is separate power to using your voice. Even if at that moment, nothing changes, the action of putting something out there inshallah beckons movement and the start of trying to seek a solution.

As women, there are so many buzzwords thrown at us today regarding empowerment, which includes demands such as 'use your voice'. Demands that don’t usually consider the lives of Black, brown and Muslim women. Yet all I want is for the women around me to have the life that they envision and desire. A life that is theirs. And for me, that starts from learning how to use the God-given voice we've been gifted.

It's my right to this voice and I hope you feel like it is yours too. 
 
With kindness,

Tahmina


This newsletter is dedicated to Sabina Nessa. May you find ease in your grave boin. May shanti, aram, rahma and sabr wrap around our family and loved ones. All my love and duas.
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The Aram is a bi-monthly newsletter that explores our relationship with ease and joy. In "Getting Aram With", I ask a woman of colour and/or Muslim woman I admire three questions surrounding her comforts.

#21 is Dina Macki. Food developer, writer and TV chef, Dina is the reason why I now seek out Omani food.

With a passion for celebrating the stories behind food — and I'm not talking super fancy dishes but what many of us, in Black and brown diasporic homes were raised with. I adore watching Dina and her Bibi, her grandmother, whip up Omani dishes on the 'gram. Bibi also sews the most wonderful dresses that you can also buy via Instagram.

Ameen to grandmothers who pass down the recipes that feed our souls, everywhere.

What's currently bringing you aram right now?

I would have to say it's a mixture of being at peace knowing I've found my 'thing', my craft. Each day I am at ease knowing that I've found the thing I enjoy doing which is cooking and being with food.

I can have a bad day, not feel like getting up but then I think about the times when I was really unsure of what my purpose was, what I was going to do with my life and knowing I have found something that brings me constant joy, peace and happiness. Cooking allows me to always calm down and realise I have something solid and that is mine. 

What's your favourite way to tell a story through food and do you have a favourite Autumnal recipe?

Storytelling for me over the last year has transformed. Through transparency, realness and simply being me, I am able to convey the passion for each dish I make. There is a lot to be said for stripping back to basics and showing your audience the real you, not the person who cooks in fancy kitchens and uses unnecessary utensils.

During the pandemic, I spent lots of time cooking and documenting recipes with my grandma in her tiny council flat kitchen. It's not fancy or tidy but it's hers and a similar kitchen to millions of people around the world: it's relatable. Being raw, showing people my way of life, the upbringing of why we cook certain foods, our heritage and sharing past memories from my grandmother has become my favourite way to tell stories of food. 

As for my favourite Autumnal dish,  if I fancy being on theme, I love to make a pumpkin biryani and serve it up in a pumpkin! Otherwise, I need comfort food and my go-to recipe for that is Omani Qabooli — a spiced rice dish made with slow-cooked lamb.   

Spread the maya and share a woman of colour you'd like to shout out.
This is SO hard! I have many I want to rave about but the first that comes to mind is Sana Javeri Kadri the founder of Diaspora Co — a single source origin spice company, aimed at decolonising the spice trade. Which is a woman and LGBTQ+ led brand. She is literally my inspiration and honestly, if we had more people like her in the world, everything would be flipping epic!

What's Brought Me Aram Lately

What I Read Over The Summer (And Would Recommend)
Conversations On Love by Natasha Lunn
Sista Sister by Candice Brathwaite 
I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite 
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
Keep the Receipts: Three Women, Real Talk, No Filter by Tolani Shoneye, Audrey Indome and Milena Sanchez
Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Normal People by Sally Rooney

Exhibition 
Nilupa Yasmin's Tera A Star. I didn't expect to sob so much. 

TV
A Suitable Boy
Normal People

Playlist
Rumours by Lizzo ft Cardi B
You Are The Best Thing by Sophie Faith 

Space 
Root25 café in East London (all proceeds go to charity).
Want to read past newsletters from the archive?
Want to read past newsletters from the archive?
Hola! I'm Tahmina Begum 👋🏾 I'm a writer, editor and creative consultant. The Aram is currently free to subscribers but it does take a labour of love to write and produce, so if you'd like to support, you can 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 @slow_roads @enlaraizdelolivo @qavi_reyez

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