I was trapped in the teetering REM moment of that half-asleep half-awake slumber of sleep paralysis. Four consecutive late nights of working until 3am would do that to you. It was inevitable that I would find myself back there, trapped between two worlds, soul flitting in and out like those giant pendulums. My chest squeezed tight, fighting off this feeling of being spun in a tornado of unpleasantness. Trying to remember to hold my breath which would force me out of this trance, I kept misreading ayatul kursi as it was hard to do both.
As I lay there fighting my own demons, I could hear someone pottering around in the kitchen downstairs. My subconscious could see the light filtering through the curtains and it almost felt like those summer days from my childhood though we are bang in the middle of winter. Even through my sleep, my senses could smell the fragrance of childhood breakfasts, the familiar sounds comforting me. I could almost reach out and grab that feeling of being safe.
My subconscious saw my late father’s face for a fleeting second before it whittled away, and I continued the battle of trying to wake. Suddenly the fight freezes as I hear my dad’s voice, clear as daylight call out to me, ‘Nafisa reh’ as he used to, in Bengali endearment. I was immediately transported back to my younger self, of a time where things were simple. The days were bright. It was familiar. It was routine.
I would be in bed, my parents would be up. I could hear them. They would call me down for breakfast, and I would be welcomed with the aroma of spices of the traditional and oh so humble ‘aloo bazi’ (thinly sliced spiced fried potatoes) as well as the delicious and deeply fattening paratha (flatbread) accompanied with rich, dark spicy lamb with a thick gravy; almost a bhuna-like consistency. I could see it in almost microscopic detail, the sheen and glisten of oil.
We would sit around the oval, mahogany dining table, and chit chat about life, his masjid work, politics, education, family and whatever took our fancy. Even the silences were golden.
The memory was so sharp, it felt real.
My dad’s voice.
The normality of life.
The familiarity and comfort, hugging you like a blanket; the warmth wrapping you from head to toe. The heart at peace.
Trapped between two worlds, I slowly pulled away and focused on trying to wake up. After being squeezed and spun around like what felt a thousand times, I woke up sharply, my mouth dry and my throat parched.
Though I was glad to be awake, a sudden feeling of deep sadness engulfed me.
Oh, how I longed to be called so again, my baba’s voice so strong and clear.
How I longed to go back to my past, where my father’s hands covered mine, and I would feel so safe. When I could have a nightmare even well into my 20’s and be able to run into his bedroom next door, wake him up and tell him about my dream. He would pray and reassure me, his words comforted me and I would instantly feel safe and loved.
And so, the grief goes on.
As an adult now, responsible for four small human beings, I realise how they must see me – as a pillar of safety and love. As an arm of hugs, and a lap to lay their souls bare. As a shoulder to carry their anxieties or to simply hold them up, boosting their confidence. A hand to hold their nerves or wipe their tears. A presence to comfort them. A shadow to shelter them.
Above all, I must be the very heart they seek love and validation from.
Little do they know though, as strong as I am, as ‘adult’ as I am, I am but a child just like them.
Yearning the very same.
May Allah grant all our parents jannah without hisaab and protect all our loved ones, ameen.
By Nafisa RahimiCo-Founder of Muslim Mamas, Super Smart Learners English (a unique educational programme) and an award-winning 'Best Podcast 2020' - Not Another Mum Pod. The audio Ramadan diaries are now a Permanent Collectionof the Museum of London. Nafisa has recently been named in Techmae's ‘Woman Spotlight’.Nafisa's pods regularly make waves, frequently ranking in Apple Podcast charts worldwide (no.12 in Sweden and 13 in UK ). Nafisa faces difficult topics head-on in an attempt to grab the mic, and address Muslim-related issues with authentic Muslim voices. Nafisa lives in London with her four children and husband. She enjoys writing, eating out, travelling and hanging out with 'Friends'! Read all about it here:https://linktr.ee/Nafisa.Rahimi