EARLY LIFE OF SHAJIDA
Shajida Ali's father came to the United Kingdom (UK) in 1962. When she was 7 months old, Shajida, her mother and two brothers came to the UK in 1982. Three of her sisters remained in Bangladesh who were already married off. When they came to the UK they, at first, stayed in the East End. Later they moved to Berkshire for a year but she says:
‘My mum had to move back because there were no Bengalis and there was no community. We could not live like that; so we moved back to east London. I have been living in east London since then.’
Although Shajida has been living all her life in the UK, she goes back to Bangladesh to see her siblings.
Her brothers talked about racism and being attacked when she was young. She remembers Canon Street Park where she played during her childhood.
‘Most of our neighbours were Bangladeshi. Even to this day they call me to find out how we are doing.'
Having moved back to the East End from Berkshire, she studied at Mulberry Secondary School, Tower Hamlets.
‘(I) did not do great (at school). I justed wanted to do my own thing. My family wanted me to focus on my studies. I went to college to do A-Levels and then met someone. And then I wanted to get married. My family was against it.
Shajida was 18 when she got married. She gave birth to a girl when she was 19. She moved in with her in-laws but found living with them very difficult. She explained that her in-laws were very traditional. She was told to stay at home, cook and clean. She was a housewife. She and her husband moved out of the house to make their own home in the local area. Her father-in-law later moved in with them. Shajida cared for him until he passed away.
Once her daughter was two year old, she went to work as Care Worker. She later conceived her second child.
In terms of Shajida's career path, she was juggling different things at the same time:
‘Whilst I was doing my masters degree I became really unwell. My body could not take the stress. I was working full time, l still have kids (to look after); I still have home to look after. My mother-in-law also moved in with me. She was unwell. My body literally could not take it. I just collapsed.’
She changed jobs since. Shajida now works as Quality Assurance Supervisor for a local charity.
LIFE UNDER COVID
Before lockdown, she would go to work, be away from home and away from her mother-in-law. During lockdown, she felt completely trapped.
‘I had an elderly lady at home, (I was) expected to do all the housework…A few weeks into it, I became withdrawn… I was not meeting my colleagues; I was not having tea with my colleagues. It was weird. Everything became overwhelming.’
Shajida then set rules for herself, got ready, clothed for work to make sure she established boundaries in order to cope with new ways of working.
‘When I knew it was lunch time and they (the children) wanted to come into the kitchen, I would then go into my room (to carry on working).’
COVID STORIES & DEATHS
During the early period of the pendamic in Britain, one of her friends' parents passed away within a month of each other. She also heard of rumours from others who lost their loved ones. She thought she was lucky for not experiencing such a tragedy within her close family relations.
‘Just before Ramadan, my sister fell ill. My sister had high temperature. She had diarrhoea…A week into it, she was getting worse…’
Shajida’s nephew took her to the hospital and was later placed into the Intensive Care Unit. A few days later her brother-in-law had also fallen ill due to Covid. Both of them were placed in the same room.
‘After her husband passed away, I think, she lost hope. Four days later she passed away…That for me was such a shock …they passed away within days apart from each other.’
Shajida now feel anxious when she sees people in the local parks, shops and supermarkets do not comply with social distancing rules and not wearing face-masks.
‘Before, if I was angry with my husband, I would not talk to him for days until I got over it. Now I feel as though I get over things very quickly. We all have our flaws. We have to live our lives without getting angry and without being resentful.’
MOTHER-IN-LAW & ALLAH
Her mother-in-law no longer lives with Shajida. She suffers from a number of underlying health conditions.
‘If we all understood that we are all responsible for the disease… If we stay home we are less likely to pass it on. If we have less contact with people we are less likely to pass it on. But the government’s message was very confusing. It was confusing for those who understood it. It was worse for those who did not.’
Her mother-in-law is the only elderly person in her life right now. She bought her in law sanitisers; but she would rarely use them. Shajida bought her face-masks; she would rarely uses them either. Her mother-in-law would make references that if ALLAH’s will is to have it she will have it. Shajida responds by saying:
‘You have to be careful so that ALLAH does not will it. You can’t leave everything to ALLAH. ALLAH has given you mind and you have to use it.’