When you wear hijab, it's as if you have an automatic set of friends, an automatic community. On the street, I'm greeting strangers, because we're all Muslim! We know that we share much in common, by just being able to recognise each other. It happens at work with new staff, and in shops anywhere I go. Immediately we see the common hijab, or a distinct beard, and we know that we have support at hand, if we need it. At a time in my life when I'm feeling quite unstable and suffering great loss, having a smile brought to my face by the sense of community that I have wearing hijab goes a long way.
Last night coming home from work, the train was full, as usual. I was not surprised that there were no seats. But as the train took off, a man got up from his seat and welcomed me to it. I feel this man recognised my hijab, and felt respect for me. Perhaps he felt more a connection to me on a religious basis. I will never know if he would have done it otherwise. But the man was Indian, and I did not know whether he was Muslim. When he called to order a taxi and said his name was "Vishnu," I recognised that he was actually a Hindu man. I'm sure he is well-acquainted with Muslims, as Hindus and Muslims and Christians live side by side in India.
I felt so honoured to have a seat, and for it to have been offered to me so generously. Usually men just let women, even elderly ones, stand up clasping a rail somewhere to stay on their feet, while they sit comfortably. I was very, very grateful to the respect that this man showed me. I thanked him again when I was leaving the train, and he offered a small smile, as if it was nothing. Not to me.