Women

Conversations during Lockdown: Sakeenah ben N.

July 16, 2020
Sakeenah_C.D.L.

In conversation with Sakeenah ben N.  
Artwork Fatema A. (@cosmicweavers) 

Separator.

Fatema:

Hey! It’s so nice to be able to have this conversation with you. What has the lockdown been like for you? What has changed?

 

Sakeenah:

I work for Shoppers Drug Mart. It’s a departmental store, and they have their own pharmacy. I’m actually still working because they don’t have enough staff right now. All of us university students literally have nothing else to do. We can’t find jobs in our own fields which is what I was looking forward to this summer. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. So I just had to stick to my job. So I’m still working- not from home. 

Something that has changed for me is it’s just a lot more quieter during Ramadan right now. I would be at Masjid every day and that’s a void in my life right now. That’s the only place where I realize “Oh, I can’t step out.”  But I was officially done with school this semester. 

 

Fatema:

How exciting! How does it feel? 

 

Sakeenah:

Good. I’m looking forward to summer in the sense that it’s going to be a lot of self growth. I’m committed to learning certain software and it’s going to be for myself. 

 

Fatema:

Has there been any shifts either mentally, emotionally, or spiritually for you in the face of this whole pandemic?

 

Sakeenah:

Yes for all three! Spiritually- as much as I love going to masjid during Ramadan, it does get exhausting because from my house to masjid, it’s like a 20 minute drive. And because maghrib is so late, you’re coming home really late. On a normal day when I would be going to masjid, I wouldn’t have been praying as much Behori as I have been. When you’re at home you don’t have anything else to do. There is no excuse. 

Mentally and emotionally there’s been an uncertainty that everyone has right now. You don’t know when things are going to be normal. Air travel will never be the same again. Grocery shopping will never be the same again. It does concern you to some level. That uncertainty is always in the back of my head.

 

Fatema:

That’s one of the most terrifying aspects you know, thinking like, only so many days until we can go back to a normal life, until I realise, “Wait, but what is normal now?” 

In what ways do you think this has negatively impacted you? 

 

Sakeenah:

It has become harder to plan things. If this continues, which I really hope it does not, it will affect my degree. My educational journey is going to have this weird gap. It has forced me to think that far where I have to think if four years from now, will I have a job? Or even if I’ll have an internship over the next two years? I feel like by the time I’m 30, I would be surprised if I have a stable job. Just the field itself is a project based field where if you have a project you’re employed, but the moment the project’s over, it’s really easy for them to say, okay, we don’t need you on our team anymore. 

 

Fatema: 

What do you think is the one thing that you’ve learned during this time that will serve your future yourself? 

 

Sakeenah:

First off all, do not take anything for granted. Absolutely nothing. 

Another thing is, if you have a gut instinct to do something or tell someone something do it right then and there. Sometimes I’m sitting in the thaal and I’ll be like, I want that salad. I’m like, should I ask her to pass me the salad? Is it going to be an inconvenience for her? Should I just reach out? Sometimes you’re interrupting a really good conversation. It’s such a problem. I just cannot find a solution to it. I feel like I’ve learned to ease off a little bit. 

 

Fatema:

Do you have a routine in the day that either you’ve adopted after quarantine or you’ve had for a while that you absolutely follow?

 

Sakeenah:

It’s a newly developed one and we shouldn’t talk about my routines because they’re terrible. My mom would love to tell you how I sleep during the day and am always up during the night. My parents are so fed up to the point that they don’t even say anything anymore. But the one thing I’m really happy with right now is I have this little routine where it’s maghrib namaz and then we’ll eat and then there’s raat ni majlis. I then sleep for an hour, and get up exactly at one 1:30am to pray Bihori. And right after my bihori, I finish one entire Siparo, which I’ve not done in so long. When I’m done my mom will be ready with chai for sehori. I enjoy those few hours every night, I feel like those are my best hours. It’s my calmest time. I’m not too happy. I’m not too sad. I’m not too frustrated. I’m Zen.

 

Fatema:

If you were to think about all the various facets of your identity, you know, being a muminah, being a student, being a daughter, how do you feel like they intertwine?

Are they at odds in this one physical space that you’re confined to? How do you reconcile them? 

 

Sakeenah:

There was a psychological separation between everything. I would have confidently said that I’m not the same person at home versus when I am at school versus when I am with my friends. But being in a confined space and having everyone at home 24/7, those lines have completely blended. Especially with my parents. Like certain topics that you wouldn’t generally talk about in a household. Because we’re the only people that see each other, it’s forced us to express all the different facets of our personality. There is no longer a Sakeenah from school, a masjid Sakeenah and the Sakeenah at home. 

 

Fatema:

And how does that make you feel?

 

Sakeenah:

I am very grateful for it. Sometimes it’s very frustrating because in the past if my mum asked me, “Hey, what’s wrong?” – my instinct would be to say “You’re not going to understand.” It’s forced me to communicate with people at home and not rely on people outside to give me that comfort. Instead I found comfort in one place that’s always going to be a constant. Don’t take your house for granted. It is so important to me. As a highly, emotionally sensitive person, in a time like this, that’s the only constant thing. You might as well be your truest self. 

 

Fatema: 

It has been so nice getting to know you. Do you have any parting thoughts?

 

Sakeenah:

I have realized how important it is to talk, right now especially. I am trying to make myself as available as I can to talk to people. People I haven’t spoken to in years. 

Actually, for our Mississauga Talebaat we did Khabirgiri Calls. We would call all these aunties who are staying alone. The first time you ask them “Aunty tame kem cho” they get so excited to answer! They get so happy to hear an apnawala’s voice. And once they start talking there is no end. I feel like we make this amazing connection over the phone.


 

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