I like the ones who are known to read four books at once. Pages sprawled across the floor, noses busy poring over them. Sometimes they are keen to put all considerations of schoolwork aside – close the door on monotony for a while, while they beckon to the call of ardent curiosity.
One of my beautiful friends self-learns the Russian language for fun. Without considerations of future business deals nor profits; no desire to go and live there, either, in Russia. She is pulled by that undying spirit of inquiry of hers. And her bookshelf, testament to this truth, is truly a thing to behold. It sings songs of Kantian philosophy; Qur’anic explorations; economics; Victorian classics, all at once…
I like the ones whose intelligence is worn on their beings like a delicate flower upon their lapels. It somehow humbles them; makes them evermore graceful. Where a pentasyllabic word can be used, they shall make use of them. But there is a distinctive flow to the words they utter. Wonder, knowledge, passion, worn not like a badge of pride and honour, but like a flower. It is gentle; it only beautifies.
I like the ones who are known to scribble notes everywhere – in notebooks, book margins, and sometimes upon skin of hand. Who will research the most obscure of topics, and for weeks at a time. When they speak about these things, you can witness their pupils dilate as they do. You could plug yourself into their minds, almost; you are convinced you could listen to them speak, for decades at a time.
These ones – the ones I so love – consume knowledge. Not robotically, and not to ‘prove’ anything at all. They consume what they wish to consume, and then they mentally savour these facts, figures and tidbits of fascination. They proceed to produce: ideas, abstract, wacky and wonderful. Works of art, golden conversations. They do take themselves rather seriously. Rather respectable, they are. But at the same time they are never afraid to laugh at themselves.
I truly like the ones who feel a weird desire to be able to curse in Yiddish. The ones who, for too long, have felt too ‘alien’ to share too much of themselves with others. My friends – I hope they know this – are walking poetry. They have known pain, undoubtedly; some of them have known inconceivable amounts of struggle. But they found solace from the onslaughts of the worlds they were born into, in the worlds that can be found in books, or in classic movies, and in the engraved walls of the mosque. In fantasies of castles and horses; in grand plans that they determinedly build themselves towards, brick by brick.
You will most likely find them in a mosque. Spanish revision cards out, right next to Qur’an. They stand up frictionlessly whenever the Adhan calls them to do so. Or you will find them in an ice-cream parlour: [the ones who enjoy ice-cream dates in winter, what a delight]! Or in a library, eyes (gently, and yet with much purpose) searching for a book on who-knows-what, this time. Or in a park, frustratedly picking up little bits of litter from the floor, then sitting, back against tree, just to observe God’s unmatchable artistry. They know that there is such beauty to be found in simplicity. The ones I so like – they deeply, effortlessly, inspire me.
And how fortunate am I, to have these as friends? These are the ones, who, more times than not, are quite unaware of their own unmistakeable, though mysterious, beauty. I think you can tell a lot about a person by the perceived depths of their eyes when they speak; by the interior designs of their bedrooms; by their handwriting, even. And, more so, by how they speak to other people. My friends speak to people as if social status simply is not a thing. Some of them do not speak often, but when they do, you come to realise why they are so prone to being laconic: melodies like these, by nature, take some time and consideration to be brought into fruition.
I like the ones who sing, inadvertently, when they speak. Who have the funniest of stories to relay all the time, the wittiest of jokes that constantly spring to mind whenever they do. One lens through which they look at life is that of Fascination; the other – Adventure. And perhaps the difficulties of their pasts should have broken them. Single mother, having to work from the age of fourteen onwards. Claustrophobic homes, a scarcity of real-life role models, absent parents who live beneath the same roofs as them. The list goes on.
But, yet, look at them. Masha-Allah. Ridiculously intelligent. Humble before the people, and before God. Stars in their eyes, and things like the Russian language upon their tongues. University lectures by day, entire worlds of art, from comfort of bedroom, by night. I like these ones; I admire them so. And may Allah’s mercy and favour shine upon them, the lights of my life, always.