Things To Do Whilst Social-Distancing: A Guide By Tahmina Begum
A Note from Team BASE: These are unprecedented times and as we all try to adapt and adjust our lives in this strange new world, isolating ourselves from friends and family it is important now more than ever for us to stay connected.
Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing a series of weekly to-do lists, curated by some of our friends, industry insiders and community. They will be sharing their recommendations of things to read, listen to and watch to help keep your minds occupied, your bodies healthy and your souls energised. Whether you’re practising social-distancing or having to self-isolate we hope these recommendations will offer little nuggets of cultural escapism and spark a little joy.
This weeks cultural guide is curated by writer, editor and creative consultant Tahmina Begum. Tahmina has worked in the industry for nearly 10 years, writing for print and online publications such as Glamour, I-D, Refinery29 and gal-dem to name a few. On the subject of her work Tahmina says, ” I always try to centre women of colour and Muslim women in any of my work and I have a newsletter called The Aram that attempts to do this. ‘Aram in Bangla means ‘ease’ and ‘comfort’, my newsletter explores the familiar stories of women of colour and Muslim women on their joy and ease — stories that aren’t circulated as often.”
In this weeks Things To Do, she shares with us the things that are helping her through another Ramandan in lockdown, from bingeing on podcasts and re-runs of Ugly Betty to long walks in nature.
What PODCASTS are you listening to?
I really admire Sheikh and Dr Omar Suleiman and the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. I think the work that they do is not just incredibly in depth but so welcoming and digestible. Last year’s Ramadan’s series was on angels — I learnt SO much! It was great to learn about mysticism around my faith and this year’s series is on Mohammed (PBUH) and who he was as a person. I also adore the team behind Amaliah, whether it’s the thoughtful work they do on the website or for their podcast.
Other podcasts that I’m listening to more in Ramadan is The Therapy Edit by Anna Mathur. I love how she really simplifies the modern anxieties we have in ten minutes through her knowledge in psychology. Unlocking Us with Brene Brown is also another phenomenal listen (I really like her Barack Obama episode). Nikesh Shukla’s Brown Baby podcast (his memoir of the same title) is a really comforting listen. I’d also recommend the Women’s Prize For Fiction Bookshelfie series, Oprah’s Super Soul, The Michelle Obama Podcast, How To Fail, Doing It Right and my latest find is Adilla Jamaluddin’s, Teh Time. As you can tell, I tend to have a podcast regularly on in the background.
What are you currently READING?
I can’t express how much I adore A.Helwa’s Secrets of Divine Love. It covers everything from belonging to grief to mother nature to the heavens and all the ways in which God loves you. That sounds really woo-woo but it’s literally a book that makes you realise that quote ‘nothing bad ever happens to you, it happens for you.” It is so wholesome and uplifting.
I’m finishing Katherine May’s Wintering, which I highly, highly recommend. They have a way of writing about the ups and downs we all go through with such poignant and sharp observation but executed with such a raw and warm selection of words. And for some joy, I’m also going back to Bolu Babalola’s Love in Colour, which I finished last year but it’s so good that I have to re-read it. And I never re-read a book that quickly.
WHAT are you watching?
I’m literally re-watching Ugly Betty on Disney+, a show that was a staple in my house growing up. I connect so much to Betty and wish we had as many great role models in mainstream TV for young girls today. Someone who isn’t scared to do the good thing that isn’t always the coolest thing and someone who always wore her heart on her sleeve and was conscious of who she was becoming. Also, it’s so bloody funny and written so well. What I would have done to be in that writer’s room!
HOW are you looking after yourself physically during Ramadan, have you adapted your routine?
Ramadan is genuinely one of my favourite times of the year. I love how tranquil this month feels. I call it Muslim Wellness and Forgiveness Month because it’s so much more than not eating nor drinking. This Ramadan, I’ve taken the conscious effort to step back from commissions for a couple of weeks and take it slow. I usually work a 10-6 even though I’m technically freelance but this month, I’m actually using that flexibility to sleep and rest more and concentrate on what’s actually important to me and what can wait.
I’m attempting to be more focused in my actions and honour my grandfather, who passed away last year by doing what he used to love doing: taking walks in nature and being truly grateful. I’m also trying to cut down on sugar but rossomalai and shemai is hard to say no to. And you know, not every day deny yourself of something sweet. There’s a purpose to everything.
HOW are you looking after yourself mentally and emotionally?
The way I look after myself is through trusting my gut, prioritising my space and time, and really taking in the fact that just because I am physically capable of doing something with my time, doesn’t mean I have the mental, emotional and spiritual capacity. Something I’ve been telling myself more. Also, I go to therapy every week and that helps too, Alhamdullilah.
What TREATS or foods will you be eating to break your fast each day?
I’m very Bengali so I tend to open up my fast with of course a date and a sip of water but also kissori and sanna! (That’s the Sylheti pronunciation also known as kichori and channa). This gingery, turmericy rice and lentil dish with chickpeas is so warming and delicious and my favourite thing to eat when I want a general pick-me-up on a cold day or whenever I feel ill. Kissori and sanna will always be the base of my Ramadan meals, the sides can change but kissori and sanna is here to stay.
WHAT are your sources of inspiration?
Maybe because it’s Ramadan, maybe it’s the way I’ve slowed down in a pandemic to appreciate different titbits of work, I feel such an abundance of inspiration. For wellness, I adore the education behind women’s health sought out by @tayyibwellness @glowbarldn and @womenwithsparkle.
For creativity, across everything from inclusive routes into learning about brain stimulation to a soothing get ready with me video to a well-produced campaign, it has to be my women @textbookbeauty, @urgalsal_, @muslimsisterhood and @phdpending.
For photography, @jahied always captures the beautifully mundane but integral moments in our lives. He’s actually just created prints which I will be buying. For anything beauty related, it has to be my fave @BrookeDevard and the @NakedBeautyplanet. Reva Bhatt from @hybriedhues is also killing it right now in styling.
What are your home luxuries that are making you HAPPY?
If you walk into my room, you’ll see four different candles, so I am clearly moved in some way when it comes to scent. I tend to pick whatever I feel for the season. I just love dim lighting when I read a book which tends to be before I sleep. Other home comforts are a big dunk in the tub: I know it’s a self-care cliché but who doesn’t love a bath? And if you answered wrong, that’s on you. My mum also bought this prayer mat from Mecca a couple of years ago which is all padded in velvet and feels like a luxury to sit on while I pray so whenever I see embroidered prayers mats anywhere in the world, it always brings me back to home.
How are you FEELING about a second Ramadan in lockdown, what are the challenges and how will you celebrate?
Personally, the second Ramadan in lockdown has felt different in comparison to last year. Ramadan in 2020 was more isolated and the silver lining was that you had to work on your internal self without any distractions. Because last Ramadan felt fulfilling, I began this one with too many Ramadan goals so now I’ve stripped them back and I’m trying to focus on what’s important. Small and consistent ways to worship is the prophetic sunnah and I’m trying to remember this.
HOW will you be practising self-care during this month?
Trying to sleep more. Care less about the pressures we all feel about what we *should* be doing and just try being. More walks in greenery. Eating nourishing food and drinking water intentionally. Having patience for myself, loved ones and anyone else. Ramadan is a month of mercy, forgiveness and doing that little bit better so asking for all of those things from the Most High but also learning to have mercy on myself, forgiving myself as well as others. Frankly, trying to let go of shit that I won’t be taking to the grave cause honestly, Ramadan always shows me that it really doesn’t matter and that there’s always time to start anew. I hope everyone comes back to themselves (and God) a bit more this Ramadan.
What ADVICE would you give anyone who may be observing Ramadan alone or away from their families and community?
This is hard. Ramadan is such a communal celebration and has always felt like such a community-driven month too. When I used to live by myself, it was actually really hard (and sad) to break my fast alone or wake up for suhoor without anyone yelling at me that it’s time to hurry up and drink that water or asking me what I’m going to eat for the day.
At the moment, for those of my friends who are living by themselves, we tend to still break fast together but over FaceTime so this would be one of my recommendations. Also, you may want to keep a Ramadan journal so you can really reflect and concentrate on yourself and your relationship with God. I’ve also been praying with my friend Mariam, (and incredible editor/author of It’s Not About The Burqa, a book everyone should buy if you haven’t already) over FaceTime and that feels a bit like we’re in the women’s section of the mosque. It definitely makes one feel less alone and within the Ramadan spirit. You may want to see if there’s space in a local mosque and try to make friends there or organise a socially distanced walk with the local community so you feel less alone and get your steps in before you break your fast.