.بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
My aunt knows how to make and tailor her own clothes. For my uncle’s wedding earlier this year, she had made her own dress. She makes a mean chicken curry too, Maa Shaa Allah, and I wanted to learn from her, how to make it that way too. She points out that I said I wanted to learn, but then… I got too “busy”.
I just think, and know, though: when the time is right, In Shaa Allah. I think some of her special touches include: adding in some chopped tomato. And olive or mango pickle. And:
Having tea at her house just feels… homely, and comfortable, Maa Shaa Allah. A ‘small’ moment of: does anybody want tea? And she adds in powdered milk, and sometimes there are Bengali-style biscuits, and Tang [orange-y powdered squash].
I call my aunt ‘Mitti Fufu’. Bengalis: it’s commonly seen as rude to refer to our elders by name. ‘Fufu’ means ‘paternal aunt’. And different aunties and uncles get different names. ‘Mitti Fufu’ was meant to be called ‘Mishti Fufu’ by me [Mishti: Bengali sweets, typically made with flour and milk, in various ways]. But I guess I couldn’t pronounce that properly when I was younger, so now: Mitti Fufu she remains…
My little cousins call me ‘Fuldi’. This means: flower sister. I love that, no matter how old they get, In Shaa Allah, I’ll always be their Fuldi.
Tanbir, for example, my aunt’s eldest child, is sixteen years old, and he, too, calls me Fuldi.
I have little brothers and little sisters, Maa Shaa Allah, with whom I do not share parents. And some of whom: are taller than me. But: aunts and uncles really can play significant maternal and paternal roles, can’t they? And, for roughly eleven-and-a-quarter years, I didn’t have siblings ‘of my own’. But! I had my cousins!
Yesterday, Tanbir [nickname: Tan-biryani] had been speaking to me and his parents about wanting to go into a degree apprenticeship eventually, In Shaa Allah. And… we managed to convince them!
And once, about six years ago now, when Tanbir had come with me to the library, for him to do some schoolwork, and for me to do some tutoring… The mother of this tutee of mine at the time had remarked along the lines that: she could easily tell that Tanbir and I are related; she thought he’s my little brother, I think she’d said. Because we have the same eyes. Which is actually a super sweet thing to notice and say, methinks.
Yesterday, in the darkened quiet of the kitchen at my house, Tanbir had just unthinkingly, I guess, been washing his own plate. And then: he didn’t know where to put the plate. And: he’d also been too old, basically, to go and sit with the little boys, who had been in my brother’s room, gaming. And: too male to sit with us, in the girls’ room.
Fabbiha, Tanbir’s younger sister, had done some of her homework upstairs, in my room. On a sheet of blue paper. [Also: she really got to see, firsthand, how much I like pistachios, I guess].
And, in the kitchen, after Ifthār, I overheard Fabi’s dad tell his daughter, “I love you, always.” And Fabi kind of cheekily smiled and said something like, “I know.“
And Tahmid – Tanbir and Fabbiha’s youngest brother – had, whether jokingly and in a jibe against his own sister, referred to me as his “sister“, at the Ifthār table. And a discussion as to which of them I like more, which I didn’t really get involved in…
Sometimes, my ‘little’ cousin-brother Moosa, for example, offers to walk with me home. I don’t particularly think that I ‘need his protection’ or anything, around where I live; although now taller and broader than I will likely… ever be… Moosa is still (a grown-up version of) the little boy who… used to run to and away from phone cameras, laughing, mispronouncing “smiiiiile!” as “miiile!”
And I actually love that, at an Ifthār Dawat [Dawat: Bengali for ‘meal invitation’] at Mitti Fufu’s house kinda recently, at maybe about 10pm, I think I was asked how I’d get home [my parents had been in Saudi Arabia at the time, and my nan had been staying with me at my house] and I said, I’d maybe walk. Whitechapel actually doesn’t feel unsafe to me, and especially not in Ramadan, I don’t think.
But: I think four uncles and a cousin basically said, nobody here is going to let you do that, you know. Not while we are drivers.
It’s also that really sweet question, from uncles and aunties:
“Did you eat?”
“What else do you want?”
“Did you eat enough?”
It’s: to be known, and/or sought to be known. In those unique bundles of ‘smaller’ things that we find that we (say, and do, and) are, ‘unthinkingly’, organically.
I had some… saffron-infused Arabian coffee yesterday evening [probably put too much of the powder/granules into it, however], and ended up also having a nice chat with my aunt, AlHamduli Llah.
Perhaps one day, I’ll be able to make chicken curry like hers too, In Shaa Allah.
See: I wouldn’t say family is something that is ‘perfect’. It’s a bunch of human beings, destined to be together. You find you can’t really idealise what is… real. For example: when your little brother is running away with your phone.
Part of it is, I guess, misunderstandings, here and there; it is real life. [e.g., some individuals not laughing at your jokes sometimes, you know…?]
But, truly: what a gift. That these people, whomever they may be, whether your daughter, or your grandma, or your little siblings. Loving them is so fundamental to you that: it is in your blood. [Do you even need to think that much about it, or is it just there, and does it just happen?]
And loving you: it is very much in theirs, too.
Ya might even discover that you actually have the same eyes as them, you know. Same surname. A deeper sort of ‘acceptance’, and appreciation, which is actually just… love. [Whether they live here, in this same city… or way over there, in say, Bangladesh or America]. For family, and for kebabs made by your aunt, and for… sticky toffee cake (which I didn’t quite get to eat yesterday,) we say: