Remona Aly
Sunday 22 August 2021 Pause for Thought, BBC Radio 2

Breaking through the dark

Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2, Good Morning Sunday

Secret escapes, tragedy and the stories we tell


I count myself lucky to have a big-hearted and rather madcap friend who often whisks me away from the stresses of work, to secret escapes all over Blighty. This time I was told to pack my bags for a new adventure and was spirited off not to a glam hotel, but to an eco-treehouse at the edge of a forest so Middle Earth, it felt like Frodo and Legolas might pop out from behind the foliage at any given moment. 

Using the treehouse as our base, we visited the local area, and one of our day trips took us to the former home and gardens of Rudyard Kipling, the famous English writer best known for ‘The Jungle Book’. As we moved around the stunning walled gardens that remained true to Kipling’s original design and vision, I breathed in the fragrance of wild flowers, while dragonflies danced a jig around my hijab. 

It felt like there was happiness in every corner of this place. But behind all the beauty was a life clouded with tragedy, as I learnt that Kipling had borne the loss of his teenage son and his six year old daughter, after whose death he bought this little piece of paradise, where he wrote his finest children’s stories.

I think it’s often the stories that we don’t tell that shape the ones we do. I’ve struggled with different kinds of grief: the loss of those closest to me, the moments of loneliness, and the times of failure, have made me wonder how I’ll make sense of it all. Yet the dark days, unwelcome as they are, have made me reach deeper.

The pain has somehow given me a new pen to write my life with. 

“There is a light within every soul; it only needs the clouds that overshadow it to be broken for it to beam forth,” said Hazrat Inayat Khan, the Indian Sufi Muslim musician. 

I reckon the difficulties we face can forge who we are and help the most beautiful parts of ourselves break through. I’ll remember that tears can lead to brighter laughter, and make me cherish hope in ways I never thought possible. Well, I think I’m looking forward to my next secret escape.