“The rock is from my Dad. It’s from the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holy city), when he did Hajj. I was really young, probably about ten and he gave me this rock. He lost his sight, gradually, he was partially sighted. But when he gave it to me, I remember him saying that it’s got a really lot of colours on it. But it’s more like different shades of green. We really disagreed on that. I like the memory connected to it. This is one of the stones which are thrown at a well in Hajj. Dad picked it up, as he liked it and the connection of where the stone came from . . . So whenever I move home, I make sure I have not forgotten it or lost it”.
“Dad passed away about six years ago, so the rock means a lot more. It has a whole lot of mixture of things”. Ayshah and her dad had a special connection: “as I was the only religious one in the family, we had a kind of a close bond because of it. I was interested in religion, and in different religions, so I quizzed my Dad all the time. We talked all the time. He liked explaining stuff, I questioned stuff”.
“I actually say I am Muslim but I work in a bar, I drink, and I smoke, and . . . I am bisexual. Do all the things that people would say you shouldn’t. Some people think that being Muslim just means involving all the things you are not allowed to do. At the end of the day, I have been brought up in England, my upbringing and my surroundings that I have grown up in. You can’t think you are not going to be affected by it all”.
Ayshah’s dad was “not really that traditional. He was a shoemaker” and accepted her and her sister’s career choices: art and fashion design.
“We always seemed to be different that way”. Now in Manchester, Ayshah remains respectful when she returns to her home city and in predominately Asian areas to avoid hurting her family in case of news of her ‘misbehaving’ reaches them: “simple stuff like holding hands”. She sees herself as ‘loyal, creative and bit of a rebel. I hate being told what to do.”
Ayshah, 34, Pakistani, female, b. UK