As I lie here motionless, atop my eternal bed,
My soul is dead, though my corpse remains,
So here I lie, in everlasting pain.
© Sadia Ahmed 2015
Being a teenager from this generation, I absolutely love movies and TV shows created by Disney, with valid reason:
Disney is certainly keeping with the times. Disney princesses can fend for themselves; they are handy with weapons, save lives and reject cultural norms and expectations. Modern female Disney characters are therefore heroes.
This track by Disney is one I am particularly fond of. It was first introduced during the Disney Channel original series ‘Liv and Maddie’. When boys from the girls’ school begin to rate girls numerically, solely based on outward appearances (thus making the girls feel insecure and unattractive) Liv decides that enough is enough. Granted, the storyline may appear rather puerile, but the underlying message is one all women should cherish: beauty is entirely subjective. It comes in all shapes, sizes, colours and personalities.
On a scale from 1-10, I am perfect like I am.
I don’t need your number, we don’t need your number.
And the stupid magazines, want me to change my everything.
It don’t even matter, they’re not taking my power.
I’m so over all of these voices around; they’ve said enough
It’s my turn- lets get loud.
I’ll show you what a girl is, ’cause all of me is perfect.
Who cares about the dress size?
It’s all about what’s inside.
I’ll stand up now, and won’t back down.
We’re breaking through the surface, to show you what a girl is.
I’m feeling flawless in my skin; your words don’t mean anything.
I’m done wasting my time,
I can make up my own mind.
I’ll show you what a girl is, cause all of me is perfect.
You are exactly what you’re made to be, I swear.
Don’t be afraid just to put yourself out there.
Its pretty clear that you wont see us on the sidelines,
We’re gonna take it over standing like a high-rise.
And if you ever doubt what a girl can do,
Sit back and let us show you,
It’s been really nice to know you.
No doubt, we’re a force that’s undeniable.
Get together we’ll work this house to bring it down on you.
I’ve got a feeling that were gonna be there for you.
Sit back and let us show you ’cause the girls are taking over.
Embrace your own beauty, for you are perfect, and worry not if others cannot see you for who you are. Unrealistic portrayals of beauty in magazines do not determine whether or not you are beautiful. Your self-perception does.
People often ask me where I am from. This question irritates me in a way that even I cannot comprehend. I was born and raised in Britain, yet the question of ethnic origins appears to be of more importance, despite the fact that I’ve only visited Bangladesh thrice in my life, for three weeks at most each time. Despite my outward features (headscarf, brown skin, dark eyebrows and the like) I naturally consider myself very British.
Perhaps what I admire most about Great Britain is its values of mutual respect and tolerance: how men, women, black people, white people, Christians, Atheists, homosexual people- people across a vast spectrum of diversity- are accepted and celebrated. Though these are the fundamental values of Britain, not everyone is willing to abide by them.
It supposedly all began after the tragedies of 9/11; I was only a year old at the time, and yet the events of this day continue to resonate around me wherever I go. I shuffle in discomfort when the line “Please report any suspicious items or activity to transport staff” is articulated over the Tannoy system on the Tube, and bow my head in discomfort when I am stared at afterwards- sometimes with quick glances of sympathy, but far too often with unmoving glares of hostility. I am seen as not an individual, but a representational piece of the bigger picture- the media narrative that speaks of rapes, bombings, female degradation, beheadings and mass terror. People fail to acknowledge that not all Muslims harbour ideological stances adjacent to that of ISIS. In fact, most Muslims openly condemn the acts of ISIS, as the Quran explicitly advises Muslims to “Enjoin in what is good, and forbid what is evil”.
On one end of the spectrum, I am afraid of ISIS and its reign of terror, and of similar ‘Islamist’ organisations that threaten to deface Islam and invade countries, spreading terror and unrest across the world. On the other end of the spectrum, I am afraid due to the stories I hear from my aunts and uncles, of racist assaults and verbal abuse that they themselves have been victim of.
I myself am not immune to being a target of such misconduct. For instance, when I was aged twelve years old, during a boat ride down a river in Kent, a group of men instructed me to “Jump in the lake, for everyone’s sake” and that “EDL will someday destroy” me, and also quite recently, when my two-year-old brother and I looked on as a man physically assaulted our father because he was a “F***ing Paki”.
Whereas before, I was extremely confident, proudly displaying my eccentric nature wherever I went, I am now afraid of lingering alone in public areas, for fear of both being a victim of racist abuse, and of reminding others of the brutal acts carried out by alleged constituents of my faith. I feel as though I must constantly show signs of remorse, despite my prodigious distance from the villains in question. When someone stares at me, I smile awkwardly and apologetically.
Over the past few decades, the influence of mass media has grown exponentially with the advancement of technology, to the extent where people uncritically rely on the media as an objective source of information. With the growth of mass media, the term ‘terrorism’ to describe crimes committed by ‘Islamists’ has become exceedingly popular. The definition of this term according to the Oxford dictionary is:
(n) The unofficial use of violence/intimidation in the pursuit of political aims
So what of right-wing fascist movements? Where are the front-page articles reporting their offences? Where is the generalised vilification of them?
Young British Muslims are somehow externalised from their rightful British identities, unduly forced to choose between their religious and cultural identities, regardless of where they were born, or the colour of their passports. A mere scarf over my head to express my pride in my faith is somehow enough to provoke a torrent of Islamophobic abuse, even as a teenager.
I believe that in a country where freedom of expression and values of tolerance and respect are central societal components, this should not be the case, and that young Muslims should have the freedom to uphold and be proud of both their Muslim and British identities- the two are not mutually exclusive.
I know how you hide behind your locked bedroom door,
Desperate to escape what lurks outside.
You can’t run, and so you try to hide.
I know how your thoughts devour you,
How you crouch against the wall, clutching your knees.
How it hurts to exist, how it aches to breathe.
I know how you cry, copiously yet
Silently. You do not wish to be heard,
Unable to go outside, spread your wings and fly,
Into the sky that over time, you have grown to despise, like a caged bird
Without its song,
But I still hear the words.
You weep until your pain is superseded by a greater force-
And yet you starve yourself,
With the intent to become so thin, you disappear.
But I still see you.
Though your eyes remain unseen beneath that wisp of hair,
And an oversized hoodie cloaks your beauty like a second skin,
Draped over your bones, nothing can conceal what lies within,
So allow me to clarify just one thing:
You can hide from the universe, but you cannot hide from me.
Please don’t fear- please know I’m here.
I know that you are not just skin and bones,
And that sticks and stones
Are not the only things that can hurt you.
I know how you cannot face your fears because your fears exist on your very own face,
You spend hours hating your own reflection,
But when I see you, I see only perfection.
I see more than a mirror ever will,
And I will never stop trying to find you until,
You open your door.
I wish to explore your world and every inch of your magnificent mind-
Please come out, and let me in.
© Sadia Ahmed 2015
Often flowers wilt whilst still in bloom,
And souls grow old far too soon,
But darling, your soul is, and has always been,
Beautiful and evergreen.
© Sadia Ahmed 2015
Since the age of four or five, I have always considered myself a ‘tomboy’, and would always argue vehemently if someone called me ‘girly’ or ‘feminine’. These terms are usually associated with being dainty, polite and graceful, and having an intense admiration of the colour pink. I am not dainty or polite, and am about as graceful as a physically unstable elephant. I am fond of all colours, however pink is not exactly a favourite of mine. Can I still be considered feminine?
According to the Oxford dictionary, the first definition of ‘feminine’ is as follows:
Having qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness.
The second definition of the term according to the Oxford dictionary appears to contradict the former:
Relating to women.
If this is the case- if the genuine definition of the word ‘femininity’ simply means ‘relating to women’, there can never exist a prototypical woman, not in this day and age. According to the second definition of ‘femininity’, women who have pixie cuts, women who have long hair, women who cover their hair, women who enjoy wearing sweatpants and T-shirts, Jewish women, Muslim women, women who enjoy wearing make-up and skinny jeans, transsexual women, sporty women, tough women, outspoken women, shy women, smart women, wild women, women who are obsessed with pink, women who are obsessed with black- these women are all feminine, simply because they are women. However, the lives they choose to lead should not be defined by this term, for a singular adjective can never wholly define a completely unique being.
I am often considered ‘masculine’ and a ‘tomboy’ purely because I happen to express myself freely, and feel comfortable in sporty clothes. When I wear a tinge of makeup, my aunts ignorantly comment, “You look more like a girl!” I am not ‘masculine’, for I am not a male. The term ‘femininity’ for me is completely subjective to each individual woman. I am ‘feminine’ solely because I am a woman. I do not believe the term should come with a set list of rules, expectations and prejudicial associations.
I am a female. I am therefore feminine. Calling me ‘masculine’ or otherwise will never dissuade me from being who I am.
Please share your personal opinions below!
Thanks for reading!
© Sadia Ahmed 2015
The Royal Observatory in London is paradise for every astronomer aficionado in or around London. Located in Greenwich (near three other prominent museums) the Royal Observatory is home to an exceptional astrodome, numerous fascinating artefacts and exhibits, and the renowned Meridian Line.
Since ancient times, human beings have been observing the skies for religious, navigational and timekeeping purposes. Through substantial technological advancements, we have discovered thousands of unprecedented and extraordinary secrets, regarding our creation, existence and place in the universe.
“Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are”
We now know that our Earth is awe-inspiringly unique, as it is the only known habitable planet that nurtures life, and so many different variations of life. Human beings, elephants, whales and even the tiniest ant- nothing of the sort appears to exist anywhere else in our observable universe. But our observable universe (the vast portion of sky that may be seen through powerful telescopes) is only an infinitesimal fragment of our universe, which by the way, is rapidly expanding. Some believe that our universe is infinite, but this is one speculation that cannot be proven for sure.
“The important thing is to never stop questioning”- Albert Einstein
My trip to the Royal Observatory was extremely informative and stimulating; even my cousin Shahara (who generally detests sci-fi, stars and all things technical) thought the planetarium was, and I quote: “sick”, which (contextually) is a colloquial term meaning “remarkable”. There were exhibits regarding dark matter, spectroscopy and the evolution of telescopes, which had been absolutely integral to knowing what we do today. Essentially, telescopes are time machines, as they look back in time: it takes millions of light years for the light of even proximal stars to reach us.
After viewing and handling a few artefacts (including a 4.5 billion-year-old clump from a meteorite, which we were informed would be the oldest physical thing we’d ever handle) we proceeded to the picnic area to enjoy the contents of my aunt’s hefty picnic bag.
We then made our way (through a complex maze of padlocked gates, no-go areas and a very stern security guard, who insisted that we must walk at a leisurely pace) to the astrodome, in order to view a showing of ‘Dark Universe’, narrated by American astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. To express my thoughts about the atmosphere, the factual explanations and the show itself in a concise manner, it was absolutely epic, though the duration was far too compendious for my liking. Given the chance, I’d be more than willing to spend at least three hours in the astrodome.
“We are all made of stardust”. Quite literally, too.
Amongst the many spectacles the Royal Observatory has on offer, the Prime Meridian (the exact geographical line that divides the East and West hemispheres- longitude 0° of the world) could be the most popular. This line is so bewilderingly popular that masses of people are willing to pay a dear fee merely to stand upon it (and post corresponding pictures online), so that one foot is on the literal east side of the world, the other on the west.
I found it witty that they sell pairs of socks in the gift shop, consisting of an East one and a West one.
Directly adjacent to the Prime Meridian line is an elevated hill that overlooks an outstanding view: the O2 Arena in the far right corner, the cluster of bank headquarters and media organisations that make up Canary Wharf, hundreds of houses stretching beyond the horizon, all clashing with the tranquility of the surrounding green space.
We enjoyed a spot of footy, took several snapshots of the scenery (as you do) and climbed a tree.
The tree was broad and sturdy, one of hundreds of neighbors. I’m no dendrochronologist, but this tree had to be at least 120 years of age. After climbing the tree with a surprising amount of confidence, I dithered as I looked down. Nervously outstretching my foot to find an orifice in which to rest my foot, I must have taken five minutes to find a route back down.
A nearby young girl, with her arms folded, a look of complacency and impatience across her face, remarked: “I could get up and down by the time you come down.” Her arrogance was met with a simple, “I don’t care” by me.
After this tree debacle, which left me flustered and abashed, we visited the gift shop. There was a wide variety of aesthetically intriguing (especially for an astronomy fanatic like myself) products for relatively pleasant prices. I purchased a postcard for 75p (for my collection, of course) a ruler for £2 (which depicts the planets in our solar system, and a few congruent facts about them) and a NASA pin badge for 75p. I was very satisfied with my purchases.
After the show, my three-year-old cousin Isa (who, much to my astonishment, did not fall asleep or fidget once) exclaimed enthusiastically, dynamically gesticulating with his hands: “I loved seeing the planets and shooting stars! When they exploded, they looked like fireworks! It was so cool!”
In retrospect, the Royal Observatory is highly recommended for a great family day out, and for an insight into the mysterious universe around our home planet.
Peering into darkness, we stand on the threshold of great discovery.
It is one o’clock in the morning. I cannot sleep, though I am tired. My face stings due to the tears that streamed down it earlier today. My internal pain supersedes my exhaustion, and keeps me staring at the ceiling, immersed in my thoughts. I cannot escape them, no matter how hard I try to. My body yearns to sleep, to shut down, to escape the tyranny of reality, yet my mind insists on staying awake.
If one were to question a handful of well-educated adults regarding a specific date in history without the aid of a smartphone or such (take, for example, the birth year of our very own Queen), it is an almost undoubted truth that the majority will fail to answer correctly, perhaps with the excuse of such information being unnecessary. If the same handful of adults were to be asked about the Battle of Hastings, however, it is an undisputed fact that they will be aware of the date ‘1066’ as well as a few other trivial facts. Why? Because the Battle of Hastings was a pivotal event that completely altered the course of English history.
This notorious battle took place seven miles to the north of Hastings, in the beautiful (though eerily undisturbed) present-day market-town and civil parish in East Sussex, known as Battle accordingly. I was fortunate enough to have visited this momentous erstwhile battleground.
Upon disembarking from the train (after a gruelling two-hour journey, excluding the delays due to major engineering works, it being the Easter holidays) I was met with an air of tranquility, and the rare view of a landscape utterly devoid of modern buildings. From the station car park, the only building in view was Battle Station, which resembles a small church, and is surprisingly hailed for being one of the finest Gothic-style small stations in Britain.
The nucleus of Battle is its renowned Abbey, which William the Conqueror built under the pope’s orders, to serve as a penance for the loss of life during the conflict. Today, a thriving community encompasses the Abbey, living atop the very grounds that witnessed the Normal invasion and downfall of the Saxons.
With good reason, Battle is acclaimed to be one of the ‘Top Ten Hidden Gems of Europe” by Lonely Planet, harbouring not only striking historical significance, but also a vibrant culture stemming from it: the town now comprises award-winning restaurants, artisan shops, local history museums, art galleries, country pubs, picturesque pubs, castles and occasional quirky events.
A day trip in this town is ardently recommended, so as to absorb the delightful attributes on offer.
For more information regarding Battle and how to get there, contact:
Thanks for reading!
© Sadia Ahmed 2015