Abida Mian's Blog

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

Quora Question: What do you fear the most? 

I imagine most people fear death – pain/suffering, non existence. It is human nature to want to understand and make sense of the world around us, but death can never be fully understood by anyone. It’s the greatest unknown.

But that’s not mine. There’s something worse than that:

“The fear of losing my mind is my greatest fear”

There was an elderly married couple I knew through work. They’d come and see me every month for the past eight years. She was from Belgium, him British. Always well dressed, old school money, lived in Knightsbridge. The wife wore the trousers, super smart (spoke several languages), meticulous, her memory was superb. Although we were from different worlds, she was never snooty. Refreshingly, very down to earth, direct at times, but I admired her head strong nature.

Over time we became close, she would always ask about my family, worry that I was looking too thin, and would tell me that I looked beautiful when I didn’t try too hard. I found her to be very caring. Despite her privileged life, there was great sadness in her heart. As her confidence in me grew, she told me that she had a son but they hadn’t spoken in years, he lived abroad with his wife and children. The quarrel was over money, he stole a substantial amount from them, and scarpered. She tried to reach out to him, but she felt that they were missing the mother-son relationship, because he was raised by a nanny.

The nicest thing she ever said to me was that she wished I was her daughter. A couple of months after my dad died, her husband died too. At the time, I was grieving, I didn’t see it, but in hindsight the signs were there, her mind was gradually deteriorating. Her behaviour was odd, she started to miss things that she would never have done before. She’d open her bag lots of times, take things out then put back in. There was a lot of cash in her bag, when I asked her why she carried thousands of pounds, her answer was that she lost trust in the bank. I feared her getting mugged.

At first, I assumed she had dementia, but it progressed to paranoia when she thought that everybody in her life was trying to kill her. That included her neighbours, her doctor, my colleagues, the only person she trusted bizarrely was me. I listened to her and became increasingly disturbed. How could someone who was one of the brightest women I’d ever met change so drastically?

Everyone dismissed her as a crazy woman, but I had known the ‘real’ her for years. I didn’t like her being referred to as such. Alarm bells rang when I could see bruises on her frail skeletal body. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten. After seeing her I had tears running down my cheeks, people told me to not get affected, because she was old (late 70’s) and it was just a part of life that she would die.

I didn’t sleep well that night. Her husband had gone, her son abandoned her, and she had no other family she spoke of. She was all alone. It played heavily on my conscience, how could I turn my back on her? Just because she was old didn’t mean she shouldn’t be allowed dignity and respect like everyone else. I took the next day off work, and went to see her. Her paranoia was so bad that she thought the people that were trying to kill her bugged her mobile & landline.

I waited for sometime before she eventually answered the door to me. Over the next couple of weeks, I would help with her shopping, take her for coffee. I was convinced if I tried hard enough, I could get through to her, somewhere deep down, she would talk to me in the way she once did. Sadly, she kept talking about things that made no sense. There was a brief moment when she recalled my nephew’s age. Her memory was still there locked away deep inside.

I pleaded with her to get a carer or go to a private care home, although she valued her independence, stubborningly so, it was clear she wasn’t well enough to look after herself. If she had an accident, I wasn’t there to check on her. The thought of her suffering in silence scared me. I was to betray her wishes, but it wasn’t as easy as I imagined it would be to get someone sectioned. I tried but to no avail.

She died not long after. It was heartbreaking to watch her decline into someone almost unrecognisable. I confided in no one that I went to check on her. I take some comfort in knowing that although she may have felt alone in her mind, there was someone that shed tears in her memory…

Love you Nella.

RIP

Abi xxx

You see without my mind, I have lost my self-identity, losing connection with everyone & everything around me. That for me means ‘Abi’ has already gone.

Advertisements

Quora Question: How do I move on after four years of waiting?

I was in a longterm relationship, but she left me over four years ago for another man. They are now married and have a child. I can’t get up from under the bedcovers, and don’t want to delete her number from my phone.

My Answer:

Dear Anonymous,

Four years! I think this lack of acceptance and unwillingness to move on is emotionally holding you back.

In the past, I used to dwell on missed opportunities and failed relationships, but a culmination of growing older and the death of two important people in my life has made me more pragmatic.

Whether you wish to believe this or not, the truth is that each and every one of us share this in common: we’re born alone and we’ll die alone. There’s ultimately only a limited time we have to fulfil our goals in life. However morbid this sounds, without question, I know in X time in the future, my fate will be realised, and I will be in some box underground.

The journey between birth and death is all about taking risks that only you can choose. Those people you welcome to join you along that path may cause heartache, disappointment and sadness, but there is also the opportunity for friendship, passion, commitment and happiness.

I’m afraid there’s no way of predicting which direction your relationship takes, that’s the uncertainty of life. Failures we learn from: I’m never going out with someone that has a,b,c instead the next one will have x,y,z. Overtime, you’ll recognise within a short period of meeting someone whether they’re right or not, a skill that comes with age old wisdom (making mistakes + learning from them).

The problem with ruminating over your ex is that it has led to depression, your ‘hiding under the bed covers’ tells me this. Your behaviour is understandable. You are alone in your comfort zone. It all stems from our childhood, being put to bed at night by our parents, given special attention and kisses, and our duvet cover tucked in tight around us. We feel safe. You can see nobody else, and on a subconscious level you think nobody that might want to harm you, can see you either. In reality, all you’re doing is burying your head in the sand.

Sometimes you need a proverbial kick up the backside. That’s what my close friends do, never sugar coat a situation to make me feel better, they offer advice that will benefit me in the longterm even if it hurts. When women have problems we talk about them. Men complain that women “always want to talk about things” – yeah, because it’s a healthy way to work through emotions! Half of my close friends are male, they probably feel more comfortable talking to me than another man. That’s what I’m going to do to you. Your ex girlfriend has moved on with her life, she’s married with a child, in years to come she may also have grandchildren, while you grow into a lonely old man, not letting anyone that has the potential to make you happy be part of your life. Don’t you think that would be a real shame? I don’t even know you, but I feel it would be.

Keeping her contact details. I’m sure many of us can relate to this. For me, it was about sentimentality. One day, I saw the dress I wore when I switched my dad’s life support off, it was in mint condition, but everytime I looked at it in my cupboard it made me sad. So, I put it in a bag with the rest of the clothes I’d never wear again and gave them to charity. My dad was gone, keeping hold of something I was never going to use again was pointless, instead I was giving it away to a new owner.

The same analogy applies to phone numbers. My phone has no trace of any past ex’s contact information, I delete anyone I know I won’t ever see again. I genuinely wish them health & happiness, but those doors of getting back together are firmly closed. In any new relationship I start, I don’t want to bring s*** to their doorstep. I think it’s important to always look forwards than to remain stuck in the past.

Despite leaving you, the memories will always be in your head & the love you felt for her will still remain in your heart. Your ex maybe gone but she’ll not be forgotten. I’m not cynical but a realist, I don’t believe there’s only one “soulmate” rather that there are a number of “companions” out there in the world that share the same aspirations as I do.

The “one that got away” is a myth that allows us to hang around feeling down on ourselves, instead of going forth into the world and meeting new people. Do yourself a favour, kick those covers off, place one foot in front of the other, and start living again… (think of those young innocent people who lost their lives in that horrendous Orlando gay club massacre. They had no idea that would be their end. You’re still alive with the world at your fingertips, don’t waste a second more wallowing in self-pity!).

“Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see life with a clearer view again” – Alex Tan

Thanks for the A2A.

Best wishes,

Abi

Comments: 

Abida Ask’s Quora: How would you feel if your future wife kept her maiden name after marriage?

I’m interested to get the general consensus. When I asked male friends it seemed that it was a big “No” Their comments were, “if a woman expects half of what I own then she can’t expect to keep her maiden name.” I was told, “get used to a life not getting married if that’s your attitude” 🙂 Abi

Joel’s Answer:

When I was younger, my answer would have been a definite “no”. There was no way I would allow anyone who married me to keep their maiden name.

But over time, I came to realize that feeling, for me at least, came from a place of insecurity. I felt, for some reason, that having a woman take my name made her mine. As if I had some claim to ownership.

Once I saw that part of me, I didn’t like it. It’s rather an ugly sentiment. Don’t you think?

So, I set out to change my perspective. I reinforced my values that were built upon my desire for a partner who was a true equal to me, rather than someone who was a treated as a belonging of some sort.

It’s embarrassing for me to admit that I ever felt that way. I feel shame when I think about it. But I have changed. I no longer feel that way. Any partner of mine would be free to choose what they felt was right for them.

Jaidev’s Answer:

Changing the last name of a woman is an indication of the transference of ownership from her father to her husband.

If the man wants to “own” his woman, he probably will expect her to change her last name. Some men might expect the change to take place not due to any personal reasons, but from a wish to conform to social norms. 

There are some men who will see not changing the name as an affront to their ego. Those who see the marriage as a business transaction are probably the ones who expect the change as payment for ownership of half of what they own. If, however, he respects her and sees her as a person and not as property or a trophy, he will not force the issue.

A name is part of our identity. It is a marker of how we see ourselves; of what we see when we look in the mirror; the linchpin of our ability to say “I am”. Does marriage radically change a person’s identity overnight? I think not. Bottom line – no one owns you. Do exactly what you are comfortable with; no more, and no less. If something as trivial as a name can turn a man away, they are probably not the kind of person you want to be with.


 Shafiul’s Answer:

My wife has her maiden name. I’m married for nearly five years now. I personally don’t like it, I don’t see the need for her surname to be changed to mine. She didn’t bother either. My child carries my surname, that’s significant for me, since I carried my fathers.

Dileep’s Answer:

You can always ask her if she would like to change her name after marriage. But that’s it – that’s how far you can go with it. It is entirely up to her if she wants to do or not. If you are very particular about it, I would say clear that up before marriage. What seems unfair to you might seem fair to her. All these arguments depends on their perspective.

I personally believe if she really loves you, it would not matter if she changed her name after marriage or not. Also keep in mind that changing name does not ensure that she would be a great wife and Not changing her name will not make her unfaithful.

Again, can you say that I would be a good husband only if you agree to carry my family name? You can not. If you say you are just degrading yourself.

Having said that you can always tell her that you would like her to change her name after marriage. Leave the decision to her and save your dignity.

 Kyle’s Answer:

It depends on the guy of course, but think there are plenty like me who frankly do not care.

It is easier sharing the same name, frankly if my wife hadn’t taken mine I would have taken hers. Its not important to me which way it goes, merely that we become the same.

I know a few women who’s family’s name was significant in their industry so they keep it after marriage, the guys didn’t seem to care.

Quora: What is the nicest thing you, personally, have ever done for another person?

It was the week preceding Father’s Day. I usually find this a sad time reflecting on another year without mine.

The office cleaner is South American, and cannot speak much English. It was a Friday evening, and I was working late, it was about 8:30pm, and the cleaner arrived. He’s normally smiley, but he seemed off sorts. I was packing my stuff away, his phone vibrated with a message. He looked startled. I asked him what was wrong, and he showed me his mobile. His wife was in hospital, her waters broke, she was in labour.

Immediately, I told him to leave, but he said he can’t afford not to work. I asked if it was his last job, to which he said, “yes.” Me: “Throw me your gloves, I promise to clean the office, but please go be with your family (it was his first child).” Time was of the essence, so I used my account to get him an Uber to the hospital, a bus would have taken him ages.

By the time I finished cleaning, I got home around 10pm.

When people you love leave this earth, they take pieces of our heart and soul with them. Losing someone of such great importance, like a parent, changes us as a person. I’m a lot more humble. Although losing mine was painful for me, I recall the happy memories I had, and recognise the importance of those for others.

The next time I saw the cleaner he sat down with me and showed me pictures of his new born son. We didn’t need language to communicate, his face said it all. A proud father. I smiled intently at him, grateful that his son gets to make memories with the first man that has his heart. Priceless.

Somethings in life money can’t buy…

 

The Code Book – Simon Singh

Clearing out my desk draw found a book gifted by the author, Simon Singh through work years ago. Very pleasant chap to deal with in a professional capacity. Might go re-read it again.

Simon Singh Fermats Last TheoremSimon Singh Book

The most touching message I’ve ever received

Respecting the sender’s anonymity, I’ve edited out their name, but was genuinely taken aback by this young woman’s message to me:

FullSizeRender

 

Quora Question: I am a Hindu in love with a Muslim girl. She wants me to convert. I love her a lot but don’t want to accept Islam. What should I do?

Obviously I can’t tell you what decision you should make, but I can offer you some guidance.

Life experience shapes who you are:

Most people assume given my name and parental heritage, I’m a Muslim. Truth is, I was born and brought up in a rural village as the only ethnic minority family, apart from my parents & brothers, everyone else was Caucasian. There were no mosques.

My father survived the partition as a young child; his witnessing of death, including that of his childhood Sikh friend by the hands of Muslims changed his perspective on religion. He saw the ugly side of all religions (Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs all fighting). He still retained his faith, for him the thought of Allah existed very much in his heart, but he didn’t believe it was necessary to have to follow the daily traditions and pray/go to mosque. Instead he spent his life doing charitable things. When his younger cousin came to the UK to study, my father was a young graduate in his first job, but every month he would give him money to help him out. Never once did he ask for his cousin to repay his debt. He also went on to buy computers for the school in the Pakistani village he was brought up in, and sent money to a widowed woman who needed Hepatitis medication.

As a parent, his philosophy was that his children were to integrate and respect the religious faith of the country they were to be brought up in. We celebrated Christmas, Easter, I would sing in the choir. Then one day, I was to make my father very angry. He found out that I’d stopped going to morning assembly for prayers. He asked me to go to my room and come out when I realised what I’d done wrong. I was at a difficult age intellectually and emotionally. My passion was Science, my understanding was that there no valid evidence proving the existence of God; so there was no reason to believe. However, I realised after sitting in complete silence for over an hour, regardless of what I believed, what I was lacking in was humility. I was able to figure out his anger, it wasn’t my lack of belief, it was my arrogance to not want to understand & learn why religion is important to others.

The first time I stepped into a mosque was for my dad’s funeral. It was one of the hardest days of my life thus far. I couldn’t read the Quran, my brothers were in a separate room, and as a woman I couldn’t be present for his burial. An elderly woman who was a complete stranger was sat next to me in the mosque. She assumed I couldn’t understand Punjabi, but she made a rather crass comment about my sister-in law (White/English) that a White woman shouldn’t be allowed in a mosque. If someone had said that about me in a Church, you could imagine the outrage, how was this any different to being racist? That’s when I realised that being religious doesn’t make you a better person or give you the right to judge others. My sister in-law was wearing a head scarf paying her respects and mourning the loss of her father-in law. I too witnessed the ugly side of religion, where’s the humanity, tolerance for other human beings?

Conversion:

Religion and spirituality is a very personal thing. I’m not going to suddenly start believing in God/Gods, just because my partner does. I’ll certainly respect their faith, and I’d be fine with altering my diet or lifestyle to make them more comfortable, but my beliefs won’t be changing. Isn’t it illogical to expect someone to believe in something they don’t? Similarly, I wouldn’t dream of giving any man an ultimatum of “it’s either a life with me or a life with your faith, you can’t have both.” Who the hell do I think I am telling someone how they should think?

One of the people I love most in this world is my best friend; in fact, I’d go as far as saying she’s my sister. She’s a devout Hindu. If there was a choice between her and me living, I would sacrifice my life. I’d give up eating beef, and I’d be happy to celebrate religious festivals with her, but I wouldn’t convert for her.

To me being in a relationship doesn’t mean abandoning your sense of individuality. To be a genuine Muslim must come from the heart (exactly in the same way you feel as a Hindu), true conversion can only be done out of love for Allah. I know the difference between when someone loves you unconditionally, and when someone loves you only when you’re the way they want you to be.

My favourite quote from Gandhi: “Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take a different road, so long as we reach the same goal. Wherein is the cause for quarreling?”

Make what you will of my answer…

Thank you for the thought provoking A2A.

Note: despite my lack of faith, I’m currently practicing Ramadan with my Chinese colleague. Both of us are agnostic, but we like the thought behind it – showing compassion & empathy for the poor. If only we could see the world from other’s eyes, surely it would be a better place…

Best wishes,

Abi