Remona Aly
Monday 25 July 2022 Pause for Thought, BBC Radio 2

Layers of the unexpected

Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2, Zoe Ball Breakfast Show
Layers of the unexpected


I was recently met with a news story that even six months ago, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash at. I read the headline that the biggest band in the world – the Korean pop, rap and hip-hop group BTS, were taking time out to pursue solo projects. Before, I was like “BTS who?!” But now I know all their names and nicknames, attempt to sing along to their lyrics – in Korean, and pretend I’m the eighth member of the band mimicking their flawless dance routines with my second rate moves.

But Zoe, this is as much a surprise to me as anyone, for I am a girl who was forged in the fires of rock and welded with the steel of heavy metal. The teenage angsty headbanging hijabi devoted to Faith No More, Led Zeppelin and U2 would be baffled at my playlist now.    

I read a Sufi Muslim parable about a stream trying to cross the desert. A hidden voice tells the stream to let itself be absorbed by the wind in order to make it across. “But what if I don’t remain the same stream I am today?” The voice replies that it can never remain exactly the same, yet while its essence is carried away as different forms, it eventually rebuilds itself anew.

Whenever I’ve twisted and turned through difficulty or doubt, I’ve felt like I’m losing part of who I am. Despite being an extrovert, I retreat into the silence of myself, but I need that time to return to the world, regrouped, renewed, re-formed.

I reckon there are many unexpected layers we unfold as we traverse our own personal landscapes, presenting us with versions of ourselves we never thought we’d be.

Instead of resisting the changes, I’ll work with them. Accepting all the unique complexities and contradictions that don’t always make sense, but piece together who I am.

The medieval Muslim poet and scholar, Rumi says, This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all.” 

So I’ll carry all my truths – the doubt and the determination, the hard rock and the K-pop, cos there’s more than enough room in me for it all.