The Rahma Diaries

Thank Allah for small mercies...

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Currently, this is a place to store my writing – fiction and creative non-fiction; occasionally I may post my random musings about life.  What I have learned in over three decades of life is that people will always find a way to make a noise about whatever you do publically; and if I want to be a serious writer, it’s time to develop a thicker skin; it’s not time to stop writing.

If you choose to see yourself, or anyone you know in any of my posts, this is purely coincidental and something I cannot be held responsible for.  Like others, I don’t write in a vaccum and cannot control what others choose to read into my writing; all I control is what I write.  And write I shall.

The Rahma Diaries will be evolving, changing and migrating.  Eventually it may no longer exist in its current form and much is happening behind the scenes, so in the meantime, this site is active.  It is a space for my writing to occupy; a space that I share publically; a space that others are welcome to occupy with me.

Given that we only have a limited window in which to make our mark, I’ve decided to start here and then hopefully move onto other things.  But before I move, I need to stop practising and pretending to be a writer and actually live it.  So I say to myself: dear writer, it’s time to stop playing.



A tumultuous black sea between her fingers, the fabric waved and rippled.  Midnight without moonlight, just the way she wanted it.  Hair, face, skin, nothing should be showing.  Shadows loomed on the wall beside her as she pulled on one garment after another, cloaking herself in her own piety.

Control.  Islam.  Superiority. Continue reading

Why Are You Crying, Mama?

I glance in the rear-view mirror and see your face.  “Why are you crying, Mama?”  You look to me for an answer to what you perceive is a perfectly sensible question; one that requires an answer straight away.  An answer that fits with your world-view.  I sigh and choke back a sob, trying not to look at you while you peer at me, searchingly.

I’m crying because I’m so mind-achingly exhausted.  You haven’t slept before nine or ten o’clock at night for such a long time that I feel like I’ve never been without you.  Continue reading

A Rucksack and Spider-man Sandals

“She’s lost weight.”

Inwardly, I sighed.  Outwardly I nodded, affirming her untruth, not wanting to be difficult.  In reality, the Small One hadn’t lost any weight, she was just looking a little slender, possibly because she was taller, but I agreed anyway.  I agreed because it was easier than disagreeing; I agreed because disagreeing would have meant I’d have had to enter into a conversation about it, a conversation I didn’t really want to have.  It was easier to agree and shut down the possibility of any debate.  Looking back, perhaps it was not the best example for the Small One: if she sees me backing down, placidly, will she always do the same?  Continue reading

You Will Need To Fight 

You’ll never be accepted, dear daughter. Your name, the name we were so proud of; the name we bestowed on you because we wanted you to be gentle, merciful and a beautiful soul, your name will always betray you. It’ll rise up against you every time you utter it. We named you Rahma because you were a mercy to us; we named you Rahma because we wanted you to be a Rahma to everyone around you in name and character, but your name, though you can never have another, is not suited to this world. People will mispronounce it, but you won’t mind, but when they say it, sneering, nose turned up at the foreignness of it, you will mind. It’ll hurt you. It will cut you deeply because you’ll be abnormal and abhorrent. That peaceful name we gave you? You may come to loathe it. It makes you too different. Continue reading

I Wasn’t A Very Good Mother

Today I wasn’t a good mother. I know I wasn’t. Just like last night when you got up for the fourth time and wanted to breastfeed. Again. From both sides. Again. Even after you were in our bed. Again. It felt like you were using your teeth and the feeling of your sandpaper teeth on my exhausted body was just too much. So I told you. I told you I couldn’t do it anymore, didn’t want to do it anymore. I didn’t want to be your mum. But I fed you again anyway. Because I felt bad. I felt bad for shouting at you and for wanting you to just go to sleep without me. But I fed you again anyway. Because I didn’t know what else to do. But I shouted at you first. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to do this anymore. Leave me alone. I’m sorry. Continue reading

Festival Envy 

Let’s just be honest: Christmas is brilliant.  I don’t celebrate it but I can see how enticing it is.  It seems even more amazing now that I have my own child and I can see it through baby eyes all over again.  The bright lights, the tree, the presents,  the songs, the shiny, shiny things. Continue reading

Busy Being Mediocre

When waiting for inspiration to strike, the best thing to do is just write.  Even if it’s mediocre.  Just write.  Write now.  That’s been your mantra for a while now, but it’s getting old and worn.  Like tired old boots.  You just dragged out another cliché, while your pen bled from the pain of doing what it hates so much: being mediocre. Continue reading

We Do Not Negotiate With Toddlers

We do not negotiate with toddlers. Except we do.

The Bearded One and I have always favoured the gentle parenting approach where smacking is frowned upon and locking them in a cupboard is definitely not an option. We’ve always found it easier to listen then explain things to her rather than ignore or distract her from her needs. Continue reading

Miss Read

I’ve started post after post and left them unfinished recently. I’ve not published anything since December and this lack of output has only been exacerbated by recent events. It turns out a completely innocuous letter to my cousin who died of cancer can be scoured for perceived ‘dirt’ and used to spread malicious gossip. Here’s what happened: someone in my husband’s family read my last post, a letter to my cousin who recently died of cancer in Kashmir, took a partial sentence that alluded to my past and turned it into something it really wasn’t. Continue reading

A Letter to My Cousin

Dear Wajeeha, (I always knew you as Jia)

You were always such a happy baby.   Continue reading

Daddy’s Girl

In the wake of the decision taken in parliament to bomb Syria, this was written by my talented husband for Rahma.  Originally published as a Facebook post, I felt it deserved more publicity. Why? Read it and you’ll understand.

Daddy’s Girl

Daddy loves to hug his girl and cuddle her each night
And Daddy loves to know that she is safe and hold her tight Continue reading

Stupid Things People Say To New Mothers

After Rahma was born, we had visitors, not as many as I thought we would have, but obviously people wanted to see the new bundle.  That time was fraught with stress about breastfeeding, latching and supply, anxiety about what people would think/say about me feeding her and her wanting to feed; and above all it was filled with thick clouds of stupidity from well-meaning but annoying people who felt compelled to say helpfully unhelpful things.  I collected some of the highlights below:  Continue reading

I Haven’t Done Anything Wrong

You feel responsible for what happened.  When you watched the news you thought, please God, don’t let them be Muslims. But they were. And they did it.  A night of murder. And before that a day of bombing in a land that was forgotten; not white enough, not European enough, not secular enough to be remembered.  And before that, somewhere else too foreign to care about; it always happens there anyway, it’s not worth reporting every death from there anyway.  They’re not white enough anyway.   Continue reading

Batteries Not Included

Before Rahma was born, we decided not to give her screen time until she was over two years old and even then it would be very limited.  We also decided we were not going to encourage her to hold, handle or use our phones or other hand-held electronic devices.  After she was born, I extended that to include a “no battery-operated toys” rule (that’s the catchiest thing I could come up with) as electronic toys with flashing lights do absolutely nothing for a baby’s cognitive development.  No, I’m not Amish and yes, I’ve done plenty of research. Continue reading

Never Yours

“You come to ours and I’ll teach you how to make bread properly,” he said to his granddaughter.  “Using a bread maker is not really making bread at all.  It’s not proper bread.  I’ll teach you properly, not like how your Mum does it.” Continue reading

Indiana Jones and the Last Resort 

It’s been a long time coming, but we booked and prepared for our first holiday abroad with the Small One and left in early October.  The idea was to base the holiday around the needs of the Small One, with the option to do other things if she was up to it.  Neither of us had experienced the delights of a resort holiday, so we decided, after much research,  that Lara Beach in Antalya was the place of choice: the promise of sandy beaches, cooling pools, a spa for me, and all-inclusive food and drinks lured us in, and after much review-perusing, we booked it, packed up, flew off. Continue reading

The Stroke Of A Pen Across A Page

You looked at me like you wished I was dead.  I saw your eyes.  Cold, hard, steely brown eyes, peeping out from beneath the hood of your scarf.  You couldn’t smile, you couldn’t return my salaam as doing so would be act of friendship, an act of humanity. And I’m not deserving of your humanity.  So you looked right through me, wishing me dead with those pudgy eyes, drilling holes into my soul.   Continue reading

We Were Soldiers

We braved soft play today.  Our regular Friday morning playgroup was cancelled so I thought I’d bundle the Small One into the car seat and go to a soft play centre. I’d been twice before to this same place with friends and thought, how bad could it be? It was small compared with other soft play centres; it’d be fine wouldn’t it?

From the outset, everything was screaming, save yourself, turn back now, but I paid no heed.  I paid no heed to the fact that the Small One protested while I put her in the car seat; I paid no heed to the fact that I couldn’t find my purse – belligerently I looked for it anyway; I paid no heed to the acres of cars snaking down the ring road, hissing at me, urging me to turn around and head home, head anywhere, anywhere but there.  I paid no heed to all the signs; determined to do something aimed at the small person, I soldiered on.

Even when we got there, the car park was full.  This should have set alarm bells off in my head, and I guess it may have done, but I was ignoring negativity and was determined to do this.  I parked in a spot marked for the disabled (yes, I know, it was the wrong thing to do, but I was desperate to give the Small One an experience aimed at her.  I’m sorry), grabbed the child and my bag and headed for the entrance. Pushing open the inviting white door, I noticed something odd: it was surprisingly full of other people’s children.  I didn’t remember it being that full the last time I went.  But I was there, and I was committed, there was no turning back.

My non-walker was admitted at a reduced rate and after ordering toast and tea, we settled at a spotty table, high chair and water bottle at the ready.  Since the Small One isn’t walking, I had to put her in the baby area.  The problem was all the toys were aimed at children younger than her and she kept pointing to the maze of softness at the other side of the room.  For those unfamiliar with the concept of soft play, it is basically a warehouse on an industrial estate where a brightly-coloured soft structure with nets, a ball pool and soft slides are installed, after being blessed by Satan, and where people take their children to unleash hell in a controlled environment,while they sit on their smartphones, ignoring their offspring, drinking tea and eating toast. There is nothing ‘soft’ about soft play; it’s a hardcore battleground and to survive it you have to be a warrior, a soldier, a fighter.  Soft play, it’s not for babies. Soft play: Hell in a Room.

Eventually, I conceded and let her come out of the tiny enclosure but only because the walking toddlers were not respecting the sanctity of the baby area and kept climbing in, or in one child’s case, throwing himself in head-first.  The danger was far too great, and the small one bum-shuffles far too slowly to get out of the way of diving toddlers. I know I will be accused of all manner of things: you’re too careful with her, you’re a helicopter parent, always buzzing around her, you can’t protect her from everything.  I know I can’t.  But if you stopped your Small Hyperactive Infant Terror throwing himself into the baby area like some kind of vertically-challenged action hero, I wouldn’t have to remove my child would I?

The Small One was removed, placed in the high chair to eat her toast while I drank my tea; she was bored anyway.  Breathe.  We looked around; we both like to watch people; we’re not nosy, we’re just curious.  To the right of us, a small boy, on the floor, snot dripping into his mouth, stuffed toast into his cavernous foodhole, sometimes dipping the crust into the wetness oozing out of his nostrils. Above him, the table was full of women, presumably women who knew him; women who had probably come together.  I don’t blame them, it’s tough looking after kids on your own, and the only way to survive is to socialise.  Except they weren’t socialising, not with each other anyway.  All four of these women were sat together, transfixed by the phones glued to their hands.  Occasionally one would take a sip of tea, a bite of toast, glancing at another, making quick eye contact, smiling, but then quickly looking at her hands again, as if the key to the universe and all its treasures were contained in the small black box and to look away would mean losing some riches, giving up some treasure.

Behind me, a Dad, with his tablet computer, tried to work while his toddler ran around and kept coming back to demand to have her socks taken off.  He was clearly outnumbered this morning and I felt a bit sorry for him.  He smiled at me when his little girl came over for the third time trying to remove the socks that were so offensive to her.  I understood his aversion to letting her play barefoot in Hell’s Pit: it was probably crawling with germs, lice, rabies and anything else that children bring with them in their snot and saliva.  “No darling, leaving your socks on, you have to leave them on in here, it’s in the rules. And they match your dress, they’re both stripy.” Both dress and socks inspected, the toddler conceded and wandered off staring at her feet.  He sighed and looked at me, “You can tell I didn’t get her dressed this morning.”  He sat back, breathed in deeply and exhaled.  I gave him what I thought was a supportive smile which hopefully said, I know, it’s hard, I find it hard too. Except because it’s me, it probably said, I like to stare at people and probably want to make a living out of it. Give me your soul. 

By now the Small One was impatient to get out of the high chair and determined to shuffle to the pit of Satan’s minions – the soft play area.  She had spied the ball pool and wanted a taste of some of the action. I didn’t want to be the parent who wrapped her child in cotton wool and refused to let her take risks so I let her go and off she went, on her bum, hair bouncing up and down with every shuffle. I did keep one eye on her while I watched what was happening behind the nets: one Small Hyperactive Infant Terror, arms full of balls from the seventh circle of hell where he had left his soul, hurled them at another child’s head.  The bullied child cowered while the onslaught of plastic balls rained down on her, delivering their judgment.

Over at the slide, more Small Hyperactive Infant Terrors gathered, waiting to partake in the joys of hurtling themselves down an incline at a relatively high speed.  Whilst waiting, a few of the Small Hyperactive Infant Terrors entertained themselves by pushing a smaller child into the nets to see if he would bounce back.  He did.  So they pushed him again.  They kept pushing until he wailed, opening his lungs and piercing through the laughter and squeals of delight, prompting his mother to enter the fiery pit of hell and rescue him.

I had to tear myself away from my disapproval as my Small One was trying to climb a tiny set of soft steps to reach a incline.  She looked determined and ready to pull herself onto the second step and I silently cheered her on from my vantage point, not wanting to interfere, letting her get over this hurdle on her own.  But she was thwarted: another Small Hyperactive Infant Terror had decided the stairs were not for her, and she must be held back, with his foot.  At first he put his foot on the Small One’s shoulder, pushing her belly-first down the steps; then he decided he wasn’t content to just get her off the second step, she had to leave the steps entirely, he had to push her head, with his foot; his foot that had probably been trained by Satan himself.

That was it. I couldn’t just sit by sipping tea and allow that as the Small One wasn’t defending herself, she was being beaten and trodden on; she was Palestine, he was Israel.  Her face looked pained as Israel drove his foot into her head. I rose, but I knew I was too far away to stop him so I opened my mouth and out came this sound.  It was a sound I hadn’t used in a few years: my teacher sound.  It consisted of a raised voice and an “Errrrrrm,” drawn out to the length it was needed. He met my gaze, knowing that I was displeased, but before I could get over and stop him, he drove his Satan foot into my Small One’s shoulder, deliberately, slowly, not breaking eye-contact with me the whole time.  This 18-month old Small Hyperactive Infant Terror knew what he was doing; he had done it before, he was a veteran of the Great War. I got to my child, picked her up and fixed him with a glare so angry and potent, I think he may have wet his already-poo-filled nappy.  I didn’t want to tell him off verbally; I didn’t want to be that mother: you know the one everyone tuts at because she can’t tolerate other peoples’ children misbehaving? The one who tells children off in public.  I didn’t want to be the teacher in the room, but I was.  He ran to his mother, not crying, but demanding a cuddle; my glare had terrified him.  Good.   Supervise your Small Hyperactive Infant Terrors, people, is what I said in my head, afraid that if I opened my mouth I’d unleash a tirade of judgement about how parenting wasn’t just pushing them out of your vagina and letting them free-range while you read a magazine, oblivious to their crimes.

I let the Small One carry on bum-shuffling into the pit of Satan; she wanted to experience some of it, and I wanted to let her. I couldn’t keep her safe from every danger and she had to know what was out there: this world was a battleground and she had to know how to survive in the stupidly-psychedelic jungle of pain.  She made it down one netted corridor before she was stood on again, but this time she waited until all the Small Hyperactive Infant Terrors had moved before she shuffled her way back out, painfully slowly, careful not to touch anyone on her way out.  She was learning.  I was so proud.

Mission Soft Play accomplished, we had to leave.  It was the longest hour of my life, but I did it.  We did it.  My soldier and I, we had conquered not-so-soft play and survived to tell the tale. We could add it to the list of experiences we had to have,but never want to have again soon. Like vaccinations, a smear test or haemarroids, soft play had to be experienced so we could move on, so we could say: we were there.  We were warriors; we were soldiers.

They Went To The Beach Too

I look at you lying there and my heart swells like my belly was once swollen. I hover between relief and love: relief that you’re finally asleep, relief that now we can both finally rest. Your arms splayed out carelessly tell me you’re comfortable, that you’re safe.  Splashed across the sandy cushion, dark brown locks float to the surface around you, a halo of protection, supporting your head.  I see your mouth is slightly open, like a fish’s mouth and your lips paler and your rose-tinted cheeks whiter than usual.  I watch your belly, exposed since your red rainbow T-shirt has ridden up under your arms in the battle to put you down, but your stomach is still protected and warm under your chalky white vest, creased and worn.  Since you left my swell and became your own, the baby-swell has not left your belly and it rises and falls, rhythmic and reassuring.  Feet together, legs slightly apart, one dashed carelessly against the sofa, one standing erect, ready to spring up.  Your socks, where you’ve pulled them, make your feet look distended, longer, almost reaching for me, like fingers clawing desperately for a shore.  

I look at your feet and I’m taken back to when we had a day of firsts: we took you to the beach with your cousins so you could experience sand and the sea; so you could see how close I lived to the feeling of freedom.  I splashed in the sea with you on my back and you loved it, kicking up the waves as they lapped at me, at us, we were one and the same.  We wanted you to experience everything so took off your shoes but you couldn’t put your feet in the sand so you drew your legs up into yourself: it was too new, too much, too cold, too sand for you.  

As you stretch out to touch me with your distended feet, turning your head to the left, sighing in your sleep, I see her.  She went to the beach too.  Her spotty dress and grey leggings are peppered with a light sandy blanket and her head is turned in relief, relief that she can now rest. She is about your age.  Her eyes, like yours, half-open, look brown and shiny. Her mother knew she might be cold at the beach: she’s wearing a full-sleeved vest under that blue and white polka-dot dress, leggings to keep her legs warm.  There’s a wet sandy pillow beneath her head, turned to the side.  Ocean-blue lips, open and enquiring tell me about her day at the beach: splashing, so much splashing. It was too much, too cold, too wet. 

Further along the same stretch, an older girl went to the beach too.  Her red shirt ridden-up under her armpits, exposes her smooth chalky white skin, her vest-less belly swollen and distended, not a baby-swell.  She lies face down in her crumpled foamy pillow, arms strewn carelessly under her head, eyes closed, face turned slightly to one side, mouth covering the relief that she can now rest.  Her dark hair forms a halo, billowing to the surface; her hands, burrowing into her gritty pillow, hold on.  Wet pink jeans sit atop a camel-coloured mattress, clinging soapily to her legs, desperate to stay on as the waves lap at them both.  The foamy sheets and her wet clothes tell me about her day at the beach: splashing, so much splashing.  It was too much, too cold, too wet.  

When you’re all grown up, I’ll tell you the story of how you went to the beach.  You went to the beach. Just like them, they went to the beach too.  

Please, if anyone feels compelled to share this, do not attach pictures. 

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