Abida Mian's Blog

An outlier that's living, learning and being myself…

Body Shaming: Kate Middleton Unfairly Slated on Royal Indian Tour by Shobhaa De

There are numerous examples of body shaming in the press. This particular one slating Kate Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge) for being thin is no better than doing it to overweight people.

In a world already bombarding us with images of what the perfect physique is, I find body shaming abhorrent. Why do women feel the need to do this to each other?

In response to Kate’s current Royal tour of India, a novelist, Shobhaa De, commented in the press:

“a saree needs curves. A saree demands a derriere,” she said. “Kate has none. Thank God, some misguided fashion guru has spared her and us so far”

This would be my response to this delightful lady.

Dear Shobhaa Ji,

In light of your recent comments, you’re certainly not a gracious or welcoming host. Clearly your mother didn’t teach you basic values such as decency and hospitality.

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Kate clearly dresses appropriately as to cause no offence to anyone and I think she has done a great job so far. She’s certainly a charming, elegant, fun (impressing Sachin with her cricket skills) woman that has handled herself with great dignity. I disagree with your comment, and hope to see her in a saree, I bet she’d look stunning, and who better to showcase India’s most beautiful garment.

I hope you enjoyed your ten minutes of fame publicly criticising Kate for being curveless. As a fellow woman, I’m sure you’re all too aware of the inordinate pressure for us to measure up to society’s perception of ideal beauty.

What sort of example are you setting impressionable teenage girls? That they shouldn’t wear certain clothes because they don’t have the body for it? Surely they’re worth more than the clothes they choose to wear? Please do your fellow sex a favour, don’t make publicly inappropriate comments that erodes our self-esteem. It’s not warranted and certainly not appreciated!

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I wear my saree with pride for my parental heritage. Like Kate, I’m also lacking in the curves department. Whilst I note your obnoxious comment, I’m afraid you don’t command enough respect for me to take you seriously. I’ll continue to wear mine, as I hope all women with curves and without will do.

In my opinion, Kate is one of the few educated and charitable female role models in the public eye. The only ‘shame’ that needs addressing is that at an age of 68, with all due respect, you’ve not grown into a wise, emotionally mature woman, instead you’ve retained your attention seeking playground bullying mentality…

Kind regards,

Abida

What was the worst day of your life yet and why?

The news that anyone who has a loved one in intensive care dreads to hear. The doctor advised that we were prolonging the inevitable. I knew it was coming, but nothing really prepares you for it. Everyone dies right? With a heavy heart, we made the hard decision to switch off my dad’s life support.

I was in London when I got the news. The journey to the hospital would take me just over three hours. It was an agonising race against time. As I walked out of my door with a few belongings to hand, my neighbour smiled. “Abida, are you going somewhere nice,” he said. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was embarking on the worst journey of my life. I associated travelling home with joyful thoughts of seeing my family, how could I reconcile that I was having to say goodbye forever? Sat on my seat, in my mind, I was thinking, ‘please train, don’t stop, I’m not ready yet.’

Standing in his hospital room, they gave him drugs so that he wouldn’t suffer. After they switched off the machine, he gasped for air a few times, then there was silence. I kept hold of his hand throughout, tears streaming down my face. Apparently hearing is the last sense you have, so I told him that I loved him, and he will always be in my heart.

I thought that was the worst day, but it wasn’t…

Islamic funeral:

Religion seems a rather alien concept to me. Given my name, Abida, is Arabic, I’m already assumed to be born and to die a Muslim. However, up until this point, I’d never stepped into a mosque. My dad was unusual for his generation, unlike many South Asians who were shop-keepers, he was highly educated, naturally gifted in Mathematics and Physics. My dad told me that when he was a small child in India (before the partition), in those days, he had to swim across the river to get to school every morning, there was no other way. I asked him what would happen if you couldn’t swim? The answer was simple, you wouldn’t get educated. It wasn’t surprising that he was a strong swimmer. The reason that I mention this was that his philosophy was that the most important aspects of life were education, family and kindness. He had his faith but he never thought it necessary to go to mosque and pray, it’s what you do with your life that is of any worth were his thoughts.

I’m trying to paint a picture of a non-traditional Muslim family. We had an unusual upbringing, the only non-white family in the village, my dad thought it best that his children didn’t feel segregated, so we celebrated Christmas and Easter like any other normal child. He was multicultural with the opinion that if you live in a country, you should respect their traditions.

Years later, we were now faced with not knowing anything about Islam. My mother was still in shock, so my older brother took over. He researched the internet and found that we had to bury him within 48 hours, given that a post mortem wasn’t required. With the kindness of family friends who were practicing Muslims, they were able to guide us through the process. In Islamic faith, a dead body has to be washed prior to burial (known as the ghusl) by family members of the same sex. So my brothers had to go to the mosque and wash our father’s dead body, as one can imagine, they found that pretty horrific, but got through it. Then his body was wrapped in white cloth (enshrouding) and placed in the coffin. The men and women are kept separate in two rooms for the prayers (salah), an unusual aspect is that anyone who also uses the mosque for prayers can be present, so there were people that we didn’t know in the rooms. I found that unnerving. My dad’s coffin came to the women’s room first. I walked towards it, but when I saw his sunken and sallow face it broke my heart. I gasped in horror. My sister-in law said, “what’s wrong?” I noticed that his tracheostomy tube hadn’t been removed. That wasn’t my dad, it was his shell. My sister-in law grabbed my hands and told me to block that image out of my mind, to focus on good memories of him. I didn’t look again. We knelt on the floor, but as I didn’t know how to pray, I just read a few verses of the Quran with a scarf around my head.

Then the coffin was moved into the men’s room, on speaker, we listened to a man start chanting. It felt strange to me, as I didn’t see the point in it all, he’s dead, why are we doing this, and why am I separated from my brothers? The worst part was to come, only men can bury, so I wasn’t allowed to go to his grave until the day after.

That day was surreal. I felt like the girl in school that would often get picked on by the Maths teacher. “Ceri, what’s the answer to the question,” he retorted. My mind: why is he asking her, he knows that she doesn’t know the answer. He’s feeding her fear of Maths not enthusing her. I turn and look at Ceri, she’s staring intently at the blackboard, but her face is blank, she’s puzzled. Why can’t she see the answer? That’s how I felt about the funeral, I didn’t understand any of it. Regardless, I am however well-brought up and respectful of faith; that day no matter how hard it was, I followed the tradition because it wasn’t about me, but about my dad.

The day after, I visit his grave. I notice diagonally opposite there’s a small pink chair with a doll wrapped around next to the tree. I walk towards it and I read the gravestone, the little girl was only 4 years old. At least I can reconcile that my dad had his life, but this was devastating. I imagine that was her parents worst day of their lives. We share witnessing death of loved ones in common, in fact, we all inevitably do.

The saddest thing? That I may have to go through that whole process again in time…

How do you know when someone really loves you?

When my eldest brother called me up straight after hearing my mum had given me the news that my dad wasn’t going to make it, and that we would have to switch his life support machine off.

I was numb, in shock, then suddenly struck by an overwhelming feeling of emotion. I started sobbing, I tried to hold back with my mum, but felt at ease showing my vulnerability with my brother. I told him, “who was going to be there to guide me when I messed up, see me get married and have children? Dad won’t be there.” My brother calmly said, “I will always be here for my little sister whenever you need me, I will help pick up the pieces when you fall, give you away when you decide to marry, be a great uncle to your future kids.” Followed by, “please hurry Abi, I believe the only reason dad hasn’t gone yet is that he’s waiting to say goodbye to you, he loves you the most.” Those reassuring words at a particularly dark time in my life really meant a lot to me.

He offered to book my train ticket back to the hospital, when I got off the train, he was already there waiting for me. No words were said, he just grabbed me and gave me a hug.

He’s always been an amazing brother. Years ago, I bought a television. I stupidly tried to lift it up without bending properly, and did my back in. I called my brother, that very day he drove three hours to London with his girlfriend (now wife) who was a nurse. She attended to my bad back, and my brother set up my TV.

That’s when you know someone really does love you! I’m very lucky…
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La Poubelle Vintage: 1960s Floral Print Wiggle Dress

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Abida   ©Patrick Anderson 2015

Description:

Vintage 1960s Dress / 60s Floral Print Wiggle Dress / Blue and Pink (XS)

Sweetest little ’60s wiggle dress done in a blue and pink rose print cotton blend. This charming dress features a surplice neckline with bow accent, pleats at the waist and sleeves, and a narrow “wiggle” skirt. A stiff partial lining under the skirt maintains the classic shape. Metal zipper closure in back.

Modern Size: XS
Materials: No label, but feels like a cotton-silk blend
Condition: Some very faint spots on the skirt near the hem.
Brand: None Listed

I love Etsy (etsy.com), and bought this beautiful vintage blue & rose wiggle dress last summer from La Poubelle Vintage. I was a bit worried in case it didn’t fit, as it was being shipped from the US, but it turned out fine, and I got a lot of use out of this. I love the midi length and floral print, looking forward to wearing this again this summer.

The Commander Porterhouse & Oyster Bar, 47 Hereford Road

 img_0966The second time we’ve had our office Christmas party at The Commander on Hereford Road. Both times we’ve had a general knowledge quiz, with everyone putting money in, both times, the winners were great sports and put it towards our food & drinks bill at the end of the night.

In the heart of Notting Hill, this bar is somewhere I feel suits me well. I’m not into crowded noisy bars/pubs, and whilst this undoubtedly gets busy, it’s still comfortable enough to relax in. The Commander has a private room, which we rented out for the evening, it’s always beautifully decorated. There are glass doors which we can shut so as not to disturb the rest of the bar goers when we start to get rowdy over who’s cheated on the quiz😉 The food and service was excellent.

This year our party also doubled up as a leaving do for my colleague Big Baby (James). The evening was both happy and sad, Big Baby (nickname just stuck) I’ve worked with for over five years. In that time, we’ve never argued or got on each other’s nerves. Not a mean feat given how small the office is. In nearly 11 years I’ve been there, I’ve worked with some many wonderful people. Big Baby though is my all time favourite. 

When the end of our party drew near, Big Baby and I had a bit of a deep conversation. He said it always struck him that he wanted to help me with work, but I would say I’m fine. Instead he would see when I was stressed and run across the road to get me a snack, or drive to my favourite chip shop, Georges on Portobello Road, and bring it back for us to eat. He did that he said because the office couldnt cope without me, it was nice to hear his words of respect. I will miss my little brother… 

Over all, the night was a success, enjoyed by all. I would highly recommend this bar.

Low self-esteem: what you seek is seeking you – the path to mending my heart in a broken world…

  • A question I often ponder on is even with all the will in the world can one overcome low self-esteem?


With time, I’m slowly beginning to mend those self-destructive thoughts of unworthiness. The change of path came from experiencing the death of my father. Two years ago, I got a call to say that the Dr’s couldn’t do anything more for my dad, it was his time, and that my family were waiting for me so that we could switch off his life support machine. I had time before I was due to travel, rather than sit alone in anguish, I went to my office late at night. I wanted to prepare the office for my departure, as I was worried how my colleagues would cope in my absence, they relied on me.

My colleague, Andre, saw me inside when he walked past, perplexed he wondered what I was doing. He could tell from my demeanour that something was up. I opened up, something I was never good at, and told him I would be taking time off to watch my dad die.Andre said that he was going to tell me something about myself that he thought I needed to hear, because he wanted to help me. Abi, you have almost everything going for you, apart from one major flaw, you don’t give your time to people, to let them see the real you. When we go out as an office, you’re the first one to leave early, for my birthday everyone turned up, but you didn’t. You’re not just my colleague, you’re my friend. Am I not good enough? He thought the complete opposite, it was me that thought I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t want anyone to see my unhappiness. Andre: Life isn’t about material possessions, how much money you have, it’s all bull s**t, while it’s laudable you put work first, people are what matters, do you want to die alone, because you have this impenetrable barrier that no-one can get through?

After I went through the grieving process of dad dying, coming to terms that I’d never see him again, Andre’s candour seemed to have resonated with me. Months later, my boss was leaving to start a life in Dubai, he took me to one side and said that I have so much to offer, stop being a servant to others, and work on making you happy, find someone decent, because you deserve it.

Suddenly those words of reassurance were helping me see past the years of self-doubt. If I could watch my father die, then I could face any fear of inadequacy face on, it really was trivial in comparison. I had to work, I mean really work on me. If I couldn’t love myself, how would anyone be able to love me? I went through a period of deep self-introspection. I had to learn to be open and honest, not to hide my foibles, if someone likes me great, if not then that’s ok too, because I now realise I have a lot to offer, I like who I am.

The path hasn’t been easy but I’ve learnt that you just need to push yourself out of the boundaries of your comfort zone. Express yourself, go crazy, this time I’m not the first one leaving, I’m the last one standing. One of the best nights out was a trip to a strip joint, I got a couple of dances (one woman stuck her tongue down my throat and got naked (I’m straight!)). I got home at 6:30am the next morning. I did what I could never do before, let go, my colleagues saw a completely different side to me, one they liked, a chilled out Abi. I’m still working on that self-confidence, but life’s too short not to right?…

How does one psychologically & emotionally prepare for death of parents?

The answer is that you can’t emotionally & psychologically prepare for your parents death.

When my dad was in intensive care, there were times I still held out false hope that by some miracle he would pull through, and I’d hear his voice again. If I was honest with myself, I knew in my heart that was his time, but I loved him so much, the thought of never seeing him again was too painful to bear. I choose to be ignorant to the reality of his condition.

Even when my mum called me, those words ‘the Dr’s said they can’t do anymore for your dad, it’s his time’ felt unreal. Once the gravity of the situation sunk in, my heart shattered into tiny pieces. I couldn’t stop crying, I had to hold it together whilst making the 3 hour train journey to the hospital, I can tell you that felt like the longest hours of my life.

I associated travelling home with joyful thoughts of seeing my family, how could I reconcile that I was having to say goodbye forever? In my mind, I was thinking, ‘please train, don’t stop, I’m not ready yet’ (the reality: no one is ever prepared for this, right?). My brother was waiting for me at the station, there were no words, I just needed a big hug.

The moment I entered my dad’s room, hands trembling with fear, I took whatever emotional strength I had left, held back the tears, and told him that I loved him very much. I’m not sure if he ever heard what I said, all that mattered was that I was there by his side, tightly holding his hand when the Dr switched off his life support, and he drew a few last breaths.

It’s two years now, I’ve gone through the worst of the grieving process. The idiom time’s a great healer is true. I still feel sad, but I’ve learn’t that death is just an inevitable part of life, we cannot seek to control it, however hard it is to accept, we just have to hope that we can be there with them at the end, and make the most of our time with our parents when they’re still alive…

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