May 2020 could very well have been an episode of Black Mirror on Netflix. The last 31 days made up for one of the most disquieting months in living memory. The feelings of overwhelm and helplessness over a collapsing economy and unprecedented number of peacetime deaths have become unbearable. All day every day the bad news arrive in fresh new waves of agony. There are no breaks, no relief in sight. All our coping mechanisms – memes, tiktoks, banana bread, gratitude – are collectively failing us.
While UK seems to have flattened the curve, Bangladesh’s lack of real data means its covid status is undefinable. Families are losing multiple members, with relatives dying within days of each other. Every morning we wake up to news of someone we know losing someone they love. Every new death makes our selfish hearts beat faster for our own friends and family. This is beginning to feel like a badly scripted, dystopian film. We want to leave the cinema – only there aren’t any exits.
If March was the Beginning of the Lockdown Story, May was the Beginning of the End. My local coffee shop opened for takeaway, its hours stretching from 3pm to 6pm by mid-month. The PM declared a relaxation of lockdown rules, allowing us unlimited time outside and urging those who need to go to work to do so, but discouraging the use of public transport. Memes erupted in every corner of the internet criticising the response. The ‘Stay Alert, Control the Virus’ slogan was deemed confusing and vague.
Despite the doom and gloom, we fasted and feasted throughout Ramadan. We celebrated Cov-Eid over a four-day weekend with amazing weather as bonus. The excuse to get dressed in new clothes and resume daytime business hours to eat through our feelings served as a much needed mental boost.
Me, My Naps and I
May is an outlier in my life’s hectic history. Two months ago, I was spending up to 5 hours a day commuting between London and Southampton. At present, my longest commute is between my bed and balcony. Furloughed life is a lot less manic. My toddler keeps my days full but I no longer feel stretched to bursting point across multiple avenues. It took me a while to embrace this simplified, slower pace but I am getting more and more comfortable with each passing day.
Throughout Ramadan, I napped in the afternoon, napped before bedtime and stayed up like a night owl before and after Fajr. By the end of the month, skipping my afternoon naps was triggering the same unease that unproductivity did once upon a pre-Covid time. I am a napper who has spent over a decade without siestas. It feels imperative that I make up for lost time. Napland is where I truly belong.
Although napping helped, it wasn’t enough to block out the outside world. I went through huge dips in my mood and struggled to stay motivated.
During Ramadan, I slept through the window between Iftar and Fajr, barely surfacing to pray Isha. TV was a total no-no. Towards the end of the month, we started watching Paatal Lok on Amazon Prime. I am usually good with handling gory/intense/violent shows but I realised that the pandemic has chipped away at my abilities to digest dark entertainment. Nonetheless, both TMB and I are hooked.
Earlier this month, I finished ‘My Past is a Foreign Country’. It is a memoir by Zeba Talkhani in which she extracts herself as a Muslim Feminist from the oppression of the patriarchy. I could relate to Zeba’s anecdotes on multiple levels (Nizar’s Jeddah stories, our Hindi serial influenced childhoods and societies, an obsession with Harry Potter, leaving our family homes to pursue higher studies and building a life abroad, the journey to be financially independent as coloured women in the West) which made it a rare gem of a book. Her resistance to the patriarchy and discussion of the psychology of women who enable it tackle some very difficult topics in our society. Highly recommend!
NADS facial wax strips. Does make my skin scab a bit but it’s my preferred solution to get rid of my moustache in this era of social distancing. Dermaplaning/facial razors require frequent maintenance while threading seems like too much commitment. Waxing is it for me.
‘He is such a lad!” Nizar’s colleague exclaimed over Zoom as Aryan darted across the laptop screen. What a perfect description, I thought. My almost two-year old is a tornado of energy whose sole aim in life is to maximise play time while eating fistfuls of ice-cream.
Other than ice cream and fruits, nothing else can hold his interest for too long. He has been extremely fussy with food lately, shedding weight from his already slim body. I sound like a broken record, but I suspect its teething – again. This time, its them bloody molars.
He tries his utmost to communicate with the words he knows and its endearing watching him interpret the world with his limited vocab. He is a master at making up games (his favourite one is putting us to sleep, then screaming in our ears to wake us up), and has stringent rules that we must adhere to (we have to pretend to jump out of our skin when he shouts). If we defy, we must face his toddler wrath.
He has developed a sense of prestige, preference and authority that boggles my mind. I cant believe my little baby has so much agency. When he doesn’t approve of our behaviour, he wags his finger and declares, ‘Naughtaaay Mummay!’ with all the emphasis that only a baby British accent can impose.
Our daily afternoon walks have turned into the highlight of my day. We spot and count ducks, dogs and pigeons, eat ice-cream and drink coffee, soak up the rare sun, before returning home to nap. I am going to miss this if and when we go back to our old ways.
Recipe On Repeat
Doibora must get a special mention for the month of May. I pretty much started a doibora train on IG. Throughout Ramadan, my DMs were buzzing with a constant stream of updates from doibora lovers and converts alike.
Ramadan arrived just when we needed it the most. A month of striving to wrestle lockdown life into routine and reflection taught us how to exercise mind over matter during these difficult times.
Fasting through Motherhood and Covid was a physical and mental challenge. Fasting as a breastfeeding mom, managing suhoor with a human movement detector, resisting iftar with friends who are a stone’s throw away (last year we drove from Southampton to London with a one year old!) – it was a true test of সংযম and sabr. At the same time, staying home the entire month was a huge blessing, a dream come true for every immigrant living in a non-Muslim majority country. I had no office work to tend to which made it feel like a dream within a dream.
When the hashtag #RamadanReflectionsPandemicEdit crossed my mind, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I wanted to bring in all our unique Ramadan experiences during Covid together and share it with each other. To my delight, the response exceeded my expectations. Over a hundred posts filled with beautiful memories and nostalgia started pooling on Instagram. Even though the stories were unique, some common themes repeatedly cropped up: self-reflection, spiritual growth and forging new rituals being the top 3.
1. Aryan’s 2nd birthday (HOW?) and TMB’s 32nd, In Sha Allah. We had grand plans this year but for now, we need to prioritise safety above everything else.
2. My Nanu’s first death anniversary. Its strange to think she has been gone for that long.
3. Phase 2 of lockdown. Non-essential businesses are due to open in June. So is Ary’s daycare although we aren’t sending him for now. We can meet up to six people from different households at one time, as long as we are 2 metres apart and outside.
4. Another month of furlough.
5. A second wave? Only time will tell.
I read somewhere that to be alive is to be afraid. Amidst the fear and grief, there is a very bittersweet gratefulness we carry in our hearts that makes us appreciate life on a whole new level. Going back to the real world is going to be quite a journey, yes, but at least we are alive to witness it. Coronavirus: The End Game, where will thou take us?
Enjoyed reading it. It was a good timeout – extremely depressed right now with lots of negative news caused by covid19. It was a myth and now it has almost reached our doorsteps in Bangladesh. Stay safe!
Such an inspiration you are. Loved reading it, very eloquently put
sanjida akter says
Loved reading this! “Bittersweet gratefulness” it is! Thank you for getting me hooked to Zeba’s book and I cannot wait time read your memoir in a few years!