Words Insiya K.
Illustration Fatema P (cosmicweavers).
I currently reside in sunny California and I am pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders. To be rawfully honest, I have yet to nail my passion, my voice and my role in this world. To go all Erik-erikson on this, I am still exploring my identity professionally. Hopefully, my degree will open doors for me that I never fathomed. Binge watching on Netflix and scrolling through memes is my favorite pastime. Yup, I’m a millennial through and through.
An outfit so unique and different that it’s just that simple and beautiful.
The thought process has never been “What if someone does something to me? This is America after all.” Instead, it has ALWAYS been “My rida will protect me from anyones bad intentions. This is a rida after all; my shield and my knight in shining armour.”
I have always, after misaaq, been a full-time rida wearer in Singapore and in America. Over the past few years, the media has seriously hyped the whole anti-Muslim rhetoric, especially with Trump on the presidential throne. But this has never been an obstacle for me or something that has ever made me second guess my decision to wear the rida. In fact, it has strengthened me even further to continue wearing it. As Michelle Obama said in her 2016 DNC speech, “When they go low, we go high”. This is, of course, an extreme thought and one reserved for a serious racially aggravated situation should I ever find myself in one, but, I will tell you right now, that that is unlikely.
Ever since I’ve come to the States, I’ve experienced 95% of people accepting my outfit. Time and again, in school, at work and in normal public spaces. Last semester, in my Biology class, my professor was awed by my rida and many times after class, she would bend down, grab my ghaagro to take a closer look at the design, lacing and material. She sews as a hobby and was absolutely fascinated by the intricacy of the rida. So many people have asked me questions out of pure curiosity and interest on whether or not I feel hot in my rida and I am more than happy to shed light on it. “No, I never feel hot. The material is always thin and it actually keeps me aerated. In summer, I wear short sleeves on the inside and yoga-type pants under and in winter, long sleeves and tights under. The rida is simply a cover.” I cannot even begin to describe to you the looks on their faces – stunned and amazed that a clothing so unique and different is really that simple and beautiful. I’ve walked down aisles at school, at work, at grocery stores, receiving compliment after compliment and really, it does nothing but boost my confidence and self-esteem. Once, someone even told me that they respect me and are proud of me for wearing what I believe in because many people can’t find the courage to.
I am young and yes, I’ve been approached by a person or two asking me if I was forced by my parents to wear the rida. I initially felt offended that people would underestimate a youngster’s passion for her religion but then it struck me. If I made it clear to them that there was no parental pressure, then they would internally realise my love for my Moula (TUS), my religion and God and maybe, one day, that would inspire those who don’t wear rida to start wearing one.
Just as Sikhs wear Punjabis and Hindus wear Saris, we mumina wear Ridas! To wear it, is a symbol of pride, it’s our thing, it’s personal, and to me, it’s what makes me feel complete as a mumina.
If anyone asks me what my hobby is, I say rida shopping. That is one of the things I look most forward to when I take a trip to India. It makes me so happy to go into the shops and pick out my favourite colours and unique designs. Never have I thought that wearing rida made me old-fashioned. I mean, why would anyone think that? And coming to America has only made this walwalo stronger because of the positive reception from the people around me. That is when I realised even more, how deceptive the media is. The hype around hatred for Muslims is anything but true, that we cannot justify the hatred of a few for the population of a whole, that most people are nothing but simply curious about our culture and our way of life.
So, I am as a youngster, as a full-time rida wearer, living proof of the fact that wearing rida is in fact, a boon to the American society in every way, whether it’s about comfortability, reception from society or for a kick forward in one’s self-esteem. And I don’t use the word “boon” with ignorance; because even if I get snickered or laughed at for breathing and believing in being fully covered (which I have), having a rida is my boon, it is one of the loves of my life and it is my conviction that it can never be a bane unless I truly believe it to be. No negativity can ever bring me down unless I choose to be brought down.
After all, isn’t life 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it?