Eid Mubarak…! Eid-al-Adha 2017/1438

Wishing you all a wonderful Eid and a fun-filled, food-filled and beautiful weekend. How beautiful are these Eid decorations made by my sister? Loved the green and blue theme!

Love, Harlequin Tea Set
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Deaf not Stupid

Capt. Braddock: [to Dave, talking slowly] Was there… a wom-an… pres-ent?
Dave: [to Capt. Braddock, talking slowly] Yes. There was… a wom-an… pres-ent.
Capt. Braddock: Why is he talking like that?
Wally: [to Capt. Braddock, talking slowly] Because he’s deaf… not stup-id.

Scene from – See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

I thought really long and hard about this post, and whether I wanted to write about it. It’s something pretty personal and close to my heart, and something I haven’t written about before, partly because I’m a pretty reserved person when it comes to personal things like this, and also partly because I felt that writing about it makes it into something which is a big deal.

Not many people know that I have a severe hearing impairment which has affected me my whole life, to the point that as a child I wore hearing aids, and even now I have to make sure I can see a person’s face to lip-read them, that I keep an eye out for visible signs when I can’t hear alarms, and that sometimes, not often, I have to ask a person twice, three times to repeat themselves before I understand what they’re saying. Oh, and I have the subtitles on EVERYTHING I watch (although to be fair, I think I’d have them even if I wasn’t deaf!)

So what made me write about this now?  I read an article recently written by a deaf woman who talked about getting awareness for her disability, and the fact that when she was younger she didn’t like to bring attention to it, and how it took her a long time not to be embarrassed by it. It was something which resonated with me quite strongly – I’m not exactly embarrassed by my deafness, but for a long time I divorced myself from the idea. I’ve been told by a lot of people (most people, in fact) and I don’t ‘look’ deaf. I don’t talk like I am, it doesn’t seem like I miss anything, and in fact, I look ‘normal’.

When I was younger, I would often see other deaf children in my school who were not able to hide their impairment as well as I could – it would show in their speech, or their mannerisms, and often their discomfort in standing out was as obvious as their impairment when you spoke to them. Sometimes it felt to me that their parents, in their well-meaning ways to protect them, had bubble-wrapped them a little too much and made them overly-sensitive to their condition and made them feel a little helpless, so that their disability really did become an impairment for them in some ways.

I learned from an early age that if you don’t make a fuss about something, neither will other people. Because I didn’t make a big deal about my deafness or draw much attention to it, other people didn’t either, and assumed it wasn’t a big thing, nor did they treat me differently. In hindsight, this had its blessings but also its drawbacks too. It meant that I didn’t feel too much of an outsider or felt too different, but it also meant that I wasn’t always able to talk about my disability with some people when I needed to. In one way, I normalised the issue, but in other ways I blended in a little too much, so people couldn’t see that sometimes I had to try harder, or I would struggle to make up for my deafness.

My attitude now is to approach it with as much straightforwardness as possible, without letting myself undermine myself, as I have done in the past, which has sometimes unintentionally made things harder for me. Don’t make a big deal out of it, but don’t downplay it either, because while it’s not what defines me, it’s still pretty important to me. I’m naturally a pretty sarcastic person anyway, and never miss a chance to make a joke out of something (like the rest of my family!), so have always made fun of my disability to show people it’s not a sensitive issue. It’s not something which has hurt me exactly, but it means there are times when I need to face up to it and take it more seriously. As I get older I feel that I should be more careful about the way I treat my impairment –  I have never felt ‘disabled’ but there are times when I feel that I should be more aware of my health and limitations, especially as it will affect me as I get older.

One of the reasons I wrote this post was because I wanted to articulate how important it is for me – as a woman of colour, as a Muslim woman,  as a deaf woman – that these things do not limit us or stop us from being like everyone else, or doing our best. As a child I was very conscious of my disability because I was surrounded by it – fellow deaf students, support teachers who shadowed me, speech therapists, and even the equipments we had to use to aid our hearings, and it made it harder for me to make friends quickly, nor did I have a lot of confidence. But I will also say that this didn’t stop me in my achievements either – I continuously got the highest grades and awards for my years through most of high school, and left with the highest GCSEs and A Levels in my year because I was determined to not be held back.

I was recently asked to write a short presentation of my time at my secondary school by some old teachers, for parents as well as potential students who were deaf, to tell them about my time as a student and whether I found it difficult. I found myself looking back with fondness – yes there were hard times for me in that I didn’t always fit in (for more reasons than my deafness) and yes I didn’t see it at the time how my future could be – but I have come such a long way since then. I wrote about my job, where I help homeless people find homes and even though it can be thankless, it can also be rewarding. I wrote about being married to a wonderful man who has understood me better than anyone. And I wrote about my dreams which I have never given up on – wanted to write, my love for art and photography, and my forever romance with books.

These days I don’t feel like an outsider or a ‘disabled’ person with my family, husband or work colleagues because it feels easy to show what I can do – and I certainly believe this was sparked by the the years of sensitivity and hard work from my teachers as well as my family, who showed me that I can do anything I want to do, and while that being deaf is important, it isn’t a bad thing.

Lilac Views and Perfume Smells at the Lavender Fields

My sister and I have been planning to visit a lavender field for quite some time now, and were counting down the months that the lavender fields would be ready – the best time being July and August.

We finally found time to visit the beautiful Mayfield Lavender Farm last weekend, which we visited on a lovely sunny day, and were not disappointed!

One of the first things which struck us when walking up to the fields was how beautiful it all smells – the smell of fresh lavender is in the air all around us and it smells like a perfumerie. These field were pretty big, and we mananged to walk all around and explore the beautiful flowers.

The lavender fields have become pretty popular these days – there were lots of other photographers, bloggers, vloggers and general tourists making the most of the fields, so although you can’t tell in the photos, it was pretty busy! The lavender farm had plenty of pretty spots – a red telephone box, a pretty folly to sit and relax, and lots of hidden seating areas (like one we found with grape vines!)

One of the other things we soon noticed was the amount of bees flitting from flower to flower – there were hundreds of them all keeping busy and buzzing around.

There was a lovely gift store which we could buy all things lavender – including bunches of dried lavender which smelled heavenly. We bought a few bunches to take home and give to our mum and sister, and our bags smelled of lavender all the way home!

At one point while we were choosing our bunches, a bird calmly flew into the middle of the flowers and watched us for a while – although it flew away soon after!

We also bought some lavender chocolate and lavender soap – there was a huge range of lavender products – from tea, oils, fudge, chocolate and skin products to drawer liners, candles, pouches and even cushions!

By the time we left the Lavender Fields it was getting pretty busy, and the day was getting even warmer. I love that these beautiful fields are so close to London, especially as when we were in the fields it felt like another part of England entirely.

One of the things I’d warn anyone about when visiting is to try and visit early to avoid the crowd, it can be hard to take pretty photos when there’s a queue for the right shot! We had a lovely day at the lavender farm, although our feet were pretty tired by the end of it, and after a few hours of smelling non-stop lavender, we did need a break from it!

Halal Gems Street Eat Food Festival

My sisters and all recently went (although all of us at different times!) to the Halal Gems Street Eat Food Festival at Spitalsfield Market in London, which was an a pretty iconic event in that it brought more attention to diverse halal food, for Muslims and non-Muslims.

I’ve been to food festivals before, and even halal food festivals, but this one was an interesting one to go to because of how much publicity it got, and the different vendors who would be at the event. One of the things we liked was that there was a lot of fusion cuisines, and a chance to try food from places I’d been meaning to visit but hadn’t got around to (either because the restuarants were a little far away or I jsut never got the time!)

I managed to try a slow-pulled smoked brisket burger from Meat & Shake, haloumi fries from Oli Baba’s and a mango soda from Square Root London and finished off with my friend’s tumeric-and-brownies ice cream sandwich from Blu Top – all of which I really liked. The food was a little pricey for a food festival for me, and the queues were huge (although luckily I came early so didn’t have to wait as long), not to mention some foods selling out so not everyone got a chance to try it! I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to make the most of the different dishes because I got full pretty quickly, and the fact that I couldn’t spend too much, as some of the food was a little expensive.

I think this was aimed at a lot of younger families and working professionals, and certainly we saw a lot of these at the event – people who had come for lunch, after work or even just with their families.

I think it’s a really nice way to bring halal food to the fore and raise awareness, and we saw a lot of non-Muslims enjoying the festival as well. We also managed to make the most of the games available – although I will admit, we managed to get distracted from these by the shops and markets nearby and ended up shopping instead!

Shoreditch Honours #Grenfell

‘You heard it in the cries in the air howling for justice.’

I recently saw this beautiful tribute to the Grenfall victims in Shoreditch, London – a  mural which was a collaboration between writer Ben Okri and street artist Ben Eine, taken from the words of Okri’s poem about the Grenfell victims.

I thought this was a beautiful, moving piece, not intended to depress but make us stop, think, drawn in by bright colours and mull over the message. In a city like London where we are surrounded by art everywhere, noise, busy traffic, and overloaded with adverts and random messages – so it’s amazing to see something like this plastered over a huge wall demanding attention. The initial line grabs your attention, and whole poem is written in the corner of the wall to continue the message.

It’ has only been barely a month since the incident, but the Grenfell fire has rippled outwards in ways that we hadn’t imagined. I have read heart-breaking testimonies from the survivors, accounts from volunteers who went to help, and appeals from those with missing friends and families. Amongst it all has been many questions – how can this happen in our city? How can we stop this happening again? Are there still class divides in this city (the block was filled with immigrants, poor residents and the disadvantages)?

There has been a lot of furor in the news about who will be held accountable, whether there should have been more help offered to the survivors, and even whether the country’s leadership has done enough. I think this is something which I have thought about on a more personal level – in a city like London where we take it for granted that we live in safety, we must re-examine our priorities, and the fact that not everyone has the luxuries that we do. The mural is not just an expression of grief and anger, and a demand for justice, it’s also a request for awareness, for equality, and for a warning that this should not happen again.

“You saw it in the tears of those who survived”

Palexpo: The Palestine Exhibition in London

Last weekend, my sisters Everyphototunity, HappyMuslimMama, my niece and I went to the Palestine Expo 2017, a huge event organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa, in order to raise awareness about the issues which are happening in Palestine today.

The timing of the event was not coincidental. This year marks a series of devastating anniversaries for Palestinians: a hundred years since the Balfour Declaration, 50 years of Israeli occupation and 10 years of the Israeli government’s blockade on Gaza.

–  Mondoweiss

This is a topic we are all quite passionate about, as there is so much conflict, struggle and hardship for the citizens of this country, which is still prevalent today. As Muslims ourselves, it is hard to hear about the human rights which are being oppressed in this country, and the fact that this is continually being ignored – by the media, the Western governments and the rule-makers of their own country.

The Palestine Expo was a range of seminars and talks, exhibitions, film showings, workshops and interactive areas for people to walk around, to listen to speakers and get to know more about the country’s rich heritage and history.

Everywhere we went, there were strong messages about what is happening today in Palestine as well as Israel, and what we can also do to raise awareness, help the organisations who are friends of Palestine, and also support ethical companies.

We managed to sit and listen to a few lectures which were pretty emotional, informative, inspiring and moving. Firstly was Dr Inas Abbad, a Palestinian activist, teacher and researcher who spoke about her home, about how their identity was slowly being erased, with their roads, streets towns and even names being changed, and the continuous censoring, lack of education and danger that follows school children as they go to school every day. Secondly was Ronnie Barkan, an Israeli human rights activist and conscientious objector, who spoke about his support for the struggle. I found it really interesting that he pointed out the various things the Israeli government has done to hide their actions, such as mis-labelling passports in English and in Hebrew. Thirdly was Soheir Asad, a Palestinian activist and Human Rights lawyer who spoke about the legal routes that the Israeli government had taken, land laws which were used to take land from Palestinians and the way this was used against them in courts. Lastly was journalist Yvonne Ridley, who is also a political activist, who spoke about the injustices she had seen, about the images which have stayed with her since she was a child and the disillusionment she felt when she realised the lies and distortion of the media.

We also managed to catch an amazing talk by journalist John Pilger (which ended in a standing ovation), in which he talked about his experiences in Palestine, and the ways he had been blocked in reporting the truth – but also the ways people’s mentality was changing so that they were unwilling to stay silent in face of injustice.

There were several places for us to leave our messages of hope throughout the expo – a giant wall of messages, pinned postcards, and even a tree to hang our words. It was pretty inspiring to see such positive words, beautiful messages to support our fellow Muslims and humans from across the country.

We also managed to try some Palestinian cuisine during the lunch rush, and tried some seasoned chicken wraps from Tabun Kitchen, which was pretty tasty (although cold!)

There was plenty of opportunity to walk around and explore, and we saw lots of beautiful pieces of art, as well as some story-telling shows and some documentaries about Palestine which were on show. I love that there was so much to see and do, and that there are a lot of similarities to Pakistan and my family’s village, which has a focus on story-telling, culture and a peaceful Islamic way of life.

It was a pretty informative day for all of us, there were a lot of things which made a lot more sense to me by the end of the day, and it was amazing to see so much support from Muslims and non-Muslims at the show. There was a protest briefly outside the venue from anti-Palestine protesters, but this didn’t discourage anyone from attending the event, and I liked that there were no shows of arguments or clashes as a result – people just left the protesters to it, and they slowly dispersed.

I would highly recommend to everyone that they do their most to find about this issue – even though we don’t live in Palestine, it is an issue which affects all of us. It isn’t enough just to know that this is happening, but to understand why, what we can do to help, and how to  make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Dominique Ansel Bakery – Home of the Novelty Baked Treats

I recently visited the famous Dominique Ansel bakery in London with a friend, which is famous for the Cronut, as well as a lot of other baked delicacies.  We got a little over-excited and ordered a bunch of treats, all of which we had fun tasting – the cookie shot (a cup made of cookie filled with milk), the peanut-butter creamy cake, the Frozen S’more (a marshmallow-ice cream combination), mini Madeleines fresh and hot from the oven and a yummy hot chocolate with a marshmallow flower which opened up from the heat of the drink.

As I’m sure you can imagine, we were stuffed after all of this, and had to walk around the streets to burn it off a little, but it was worth it! If you’re around the area, I’d recommend this place to sit and try (although it can get very busy so there may be some waiting time!), and it’s not super-cheap (although not overly-expensive either) – sometime to try at least once!

You Don’t Know Me – Slang in the Courtroom

“You know, part of me thought if I told my speech myself then at least you get to feel a little bit of what it is like to be m. That if my QC did it then maybe you would all be thinking, ‘Yeah, it’s all very well to put it over all shiny and slick but that fucker’s still a murderer.’ And I really did think that if I told my own story I could make you feel my life. But actually explaining the evidences is out loud is proper hard.”
– You Don’t Know Me – Imran Mahmood

You’re guilty until proven innocent. Perception is reality, that’s the way that it is in this world.
– Chris Webber

A young man is in court, on trial for murder. As all evidence seems to point to him being the culprit, the unnamed defendant does the unexpected, and sacks his lawyer. There are eight pieces of compelling evidences against him – now he will stand up and tell the real story about what happened.
His life is in the hands of the jury who are listening – but can he convince them of his innocence?

Mixing inner-city ‘London-speak’ and slang with intelligent insights and a perspective into the justice system, the young man describes the events which has led up to his trial, asking us to consider an alternative course of events which lies behinds his innocence.

I thought this was an interesting take on gang culture, social influences, poverty and and the idea of racial profiling and the opportunities available for young men in London today. It sounds like a pretty heavy read, but it’s quite easy to follow, and it’s interesting to see how an intelligent young man presents his story – his way of life, the South-London culture he is immersed in, and the choices he has to make.

The language of the novel is fairly informal, but it flows well enough that it feels credible (although I’ll admit, certain aspects of the story line were a bit dramatic!) It’s also easy to follow – there’s one narrator to keep the story readable, which makes a change from a lot of stories which can be confusing with multiple perspectives. It also helps that the main character is pretty likeable – he tells his life story, which is be sad, funny and moving, and one which keeps you reading.

As a Londoner myself, I thought this was quite an interesting book – I loved seeing the familiar place names, slang and things that the characters do, although there is also a lot of the culture in this story which isn’t so familiar. While I do believe that there is a prevalent issue with drugs, gangs and peer pressure in today’s society, it felt a little too magnified in this book (although this may also be down to the fact that the author of this novel is a lawyer who has spent 25 years defending a mixture of inner-city clients).

I thought this was a really interesting read; while the conclusion is pretty unexpected, which might not appeal to everyone, the character’s voice was interesting enough to keep me reading to see what happened. It takes time to get into the language of the story, but it’s engaging enough that the characters feel well-drawn and the premise of the story is followed through quite well. At first, we see another young, vulnerable black man in London caught up in gang culture, with low prospects and not many opportunities – but through it all, we also that though he is surrounded by poverty, domestic violence and a drug culture, there’s also positives which shine through, as the strong women in his life who are important to him, the loyal friends who stick by him, and the prevailing love he has for the woman who is at the centre of this story.

You Don’t Know Me is available to buy on Amazon and was sent to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.