Remona Aly
Thursday 19 March 2020 BBC Radio 2

A frog’s tale

A name, a leap and a frog

 

The newsfeed on COVID-19 has been so constant and consuming that I saw a meme this week saying, ‘I miss Brexit’. It made me chuckle, but I can’t say I share the sentiment, as Brexit-related jargon has managed to ruin my name – Remona. 

People have often got my name mixed up. One time, I was at a course and placed in a team with a well-meaning Arab guy. “Salam, sister! Your name?” he asked. “Remona,” I said, “Rumana, yes! In Arabic, it is pomegranate.” “No not a fruit, my name’s Remona.” A few attempts later, he said, “Ok I got it!” And standing up to address the room he said, “I’m happy to have a young woman on my team called…Reminder!”

I recently bought a book that points out, it’s not what people say, it’s what you hear. That no matter what words are said, a person will only understand them through the prism of their own life experience, emotions and beliefs.

There’s a Sufi Muslim tale of a group of frogs travelling through the woods, when two of the frogs fell into a deep pit. The others kept telling the two panicked frogs to stop trying to jump out, as it was no use to kill themselves from exhaustion. One heeded the advice and gave up, but the other kept on going and finally leapt to its freedom. The frogs were surprised and said, “Did you not hear us?” The little frog said: “I thought you were encouraging me the whole time. That’s why I never gave up.”

The frog heard what he needed to hear, gave a different power to their words and ultimately survived. Sometimes, as a journalist, I get some people seeking to pull me down, and stop me from having a voice. It can be disheartening. But whenever they throw a brick at my head, I’ll place it beneath my feet and rise higher, with even more determination.

The Persian Muslim poet, Shams of Tabriz, said, “There is only one important point you must keep in your mind and let it be your guide. No matter what people call you, you are just who you are. So consider carefully, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?”

For me, that’s the best ‘reminder’ this Remona could hope for.