Remona Aly
Wednesday 08 May 2024 Pause for Thought, BBC Radio 2

Mistakes, mettle and the iron maiden

Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2, Zoe Ball Breakfast Show

Mistakes, mettle and the iron maiden


I was on a short getaway recently, and the first thing I look for in a hotel room is not the mini bar, not the view, but an iron.  

For I am known as the iron maiden, painstakingly crushing out any hint of creases in my clothes. Though as a perfectionist who often makes mistakes, this backfired when I was getting ready for a wedding at a friend’s house. I spotted a rebel crease in my top, brandished the iron and burned right through it, attending the blingy Indian wedding in a holey outfit.

Another time, years ago, I interviewed a famous hip hop band, and determined to quote them word for word, chose to use a recording device over writing down notes. The faulty device swallowed up the two hour interview, and I had to write it all from memory. 

The worst mistake, though, was my flawed judgement over a man who I thought was my destiny, but I ended up with a broken spirit and was left to pick up my own pieces. 

There’s a story in the Muslim tradition about a knowledge seeker who yearned to become a student of a Sufi master. The master said, “First you need to answer a question. If you answer correctly, you’ll be accepted as my student after a thousand and one days have passed”. The seeker did answer correctly and was overjoyed, but got curious and asked: “What would have happened if I had not given the right response?” The master answered: “Oh, in that case, you would have been admitted immediately”.

I’ve learnt that sometimes my wrong turns can bring me to the right path, my mistakes can mould my mettle, and my flaws can forge a different kind of beauty.

For my wedding outfit looked unusually elegant with the draped dupatta in front of the burn. My article was one of the best the band had read on them, and my broken spirit rebuilt a bolder version of myself.   

So maybe I do need to get it wrong to arrive at the right lesson. Maybe I do need the detour to get to my destiny. And maybe I don’t need an iron to smooth out my imperfections.

To listen, click here Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2, Zoe Ball Breakfast Show