Concise Compositions: Friendship

A friend is someone who holds your breath. Friendship. It is such a wonderful thing. If you are blessed enough, in this life of yours, to have at least one amazing friend, then you are truly blessed indeed. How awful would it have been to be alone – without friendship – in this world?

A friend is someone who looks into your eyes, and understands. Friendship is sacred, even if, these days, we often act like it is not. It takes things like trust and effort, yes. Humour, love, adventures. Sometimes just sitting in silence, enjoying one another’s company.

You are indeed who your friends are. Well, you are you, a separate entity. But so much of you will be dependent on who they are. They will be reflections of you, too. So choose wisely.

You know, we sometimes act as though every person we have met, whom we perhaps shared a class at school with, or whom we worked alongside as colleagues – we (or, do I mean I?) act like these are ‘friends’. But, no, I think, realistically, these are…acquaintances. They might be circumstantially somewhat close acquaintances, sure. But I think the term ‘friend’ ought to hold far more weight.

Friends are here for the best of your times. They are equally there for the worst ones. Your happiness and sadness becomes theirs, somehow, and vice versa. Friends are the family we are fortunate enough to be able to choose for ourselves; their lives become intertwined with ours, in parts. We end up sharing some of our flowers.

Okay I’ve got like twenty seconds left. I love my friends; over and over again, I would choose them. I love having good food with them. Good food, good friends. And FLOWERS. Life complete.

4 seconds left. 3, 2, 1.

  • The Concise Compositions series comprises a series of blog articles that are each based on a certain topic. You give yourself five minutes – timed – to write about whatever comes to mind, based on the topic. You cannot go over the time; you cannot stop typing beforehand, either. And you cannot go back to edit [save for grammatical errors, etc.]. I challenge all fellow bloggers to give this a try [or, if you do not have a blog, try it on paper – maybe in a journal]! Include ‘ConciseCompositions’ as a tag for your pieces, and include this block of writing at the end of them. Good luck! 

Sadia Ahmed J., 2020

Career Crisis

At fifteen years old, I have recently withdrawn myself from an intense existential crisis about my personal identity, however I now find myself entering a new phase of crisis: a career crisis, even though I have never actually had a career. 

It genuinely surprises me how often the topic of future career options springs up in daily conversation. I am habitually asked about what I would like to become in the future, by my friends, my parents’ friends, teachers, and even fellow passengers on public transport. I am a very ambitious person, and I would undoubtedly like to make something of my life by impacting the world in a positive way, but in truth, at present, I do not know precisely what I wish to become in the future. There are tens of thousands of potential choices out there, and I cannot narrow my options down at this point- I have yet to take my GCSE exams, let alone decide unequivocally on what my life will look like in ten years’ time.

The incessant questioning regarding my desired career path has led me to think about the world of work, and where I would fit into it. I have realised that our society and every single industry within it shares one particular thing in common: they each rely on human problems. Businesses exploit problems to make a profit; doctors solve health-related problems; lawyers deal with conflicts, which are a human problem. Problems are absolutely essential to the progression of our society, but society will never be perfect. As humans, we have all found ourselves in this futile search for perfection, both on a personal and wider scale. When people ask me about what I would like to become in the future, I now rephrase the question in my mind, and instead, I ask myself: what qualities, skills and interests do I have, and how can I harness these to solve a particular set of problems in society?

Ideas about my potential future career choices have changed drastically over the years. First, I wanted to be a teacher, and/or a journalist. Then, my interests changed for a while, and I wanted to become a doctor…then I was absolutely certain that I would become an astronaut…but then I developed an interesting in the field of engineering…and then (more recently) I thought about becoming a lawyer, but not one who defends criminals. Instead, I wanted to be a lawyer who would defend the human rights of civilians in war-torn areas of the world, such as Palestine and Syria. When I told my prying teachers about this potential choice of career path, I was met with strong disapproval. My teachers assured me that there were ‘better’ options for me out there- options that would make me more wealthy and ‘successful’.

Ultimately, the average salaries of people in different industries will, no doubt, be a relatively important contributing factor to the career path I end up deciding on, but for me, money is certainly not a central element. I would like a job that will be decently financially rewarding, but most importantly, I desire a job that will be morally uplifting- a job in which I feel challenged (enough to feel fulfilled) and secure and satisfied – a job that will harness my abilities and constantly stimulate my mind. In the meantime, however, I will live most contentedly in the present. I will work hard and focus on expanding my mind and bettering myself as a person.

And I will stop and smell the roses. 

Why GCSEs are a problem

Every British student has his or her own story to tell when it comes to the topic of GCSEs. There are the ridiculously bright, organised and perpetually energetic who jump with glee at the thought of endless hours of revision. Then there are the other 99% of the British teen population: the insanely intelligent and unique individuals who are not particularly compatible with the GCSE system of broad memorisation.

This article is dedicated to all of you: the brilliant, creative beings who have been labeled “dumb” or “lazy” due to your reluctance to sit down for hours on end, memorising an abundance of pointless information; the ones currently suffering from anxiety or depression or ADHD, so revision becomes synonymous with torture; the teens whose lives are currently too unstable for them to bear the burden of the responsibility of such a task, and, of course, the model students who suffer endlessly for their grades. I understand you, and I believe in you. You are not stupid or incompetent, and the system has failed you.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

To any non-Brits reading this article who are wondering what on Earth GCSEs are, they are a series of examinations fifteen and sixteen-year-olds take here in the UK, across eight to fifteen subjects in total. Most of these tests rely not on creativity, practical skills or logic; they rely primarily on memory retention. Imagine having to memorise subject content (usually about three textbooks of information for each subject) across numerous subjects. Some students have to sit over thirty exams- exams that do not focus on a particular career path, but across a desultory range.

Of course, as a keen socialist, I am all for education- it is the key to success both on a personal and global basis. However, that being said, the GCSE system here in the UK is in desperate need of reform. Not only does it counterproductively dull down intelligence and creativity, it also does little to prepare young individuals for life in the real world, especially in the digital age.

The system has failed to modernise- the constructors of the GCSE system must be unaware of the existence of Google. We do not need to memorise useless dates such as when the NHS Act was introduced, nor do we need to memorise complex algebraic functions or how dust precipitators work. The education of our generation- Generation Alpha- is being placed into the hands of a group of old, incompetent, privileged politicians who are simply making it increasingly difficult for the underprivileged to succeed.

GCSE grades lull high achieving students into a false sense of security and subsequent academic arrogance (which is sometimes absolutely demolished come A-levels) and give underachieving students the false impression that they are stupid and good for nothing. The truth is, not every GCSE Physics student will grow up to become a Physicist, and the same can be said for every other GCSE subject. Everyone excels at something- whether it be painting, baking, engineering or politics- and everyone deserves to be commended for their talents, irrespective of whether or not they were able to bag 10 A*s at GCSE level.

I do not, in any way, believe that GCSEs should be scrapped altogether, however I believe they are in desperate need of reform; the British education system must keep with the times, make learning more accessible and enjoyable (without leaving students with a feeling of perpetual exhaustion and dread), and do a better job at preparing us for the future.


Sadia Ahmed, 2016

Where Youth and Laughter Go

This poem is about the inherent folly of war.


From fighting for  my country, I have learnt

That bombs fall like raindrops,

But so do tears. So does vomit. So does blood.

And the human ego is so

Fragile, yet indestructible.

It finds itself woven subtly

Into uniforms, weapons and empty pledges of empty allegiance.

Looking up at the sooty, dust-filled sky,

I thought it was almost beautiful

How one person flying overhead,

Holds in his hands the limitless power to kill,

To destruct and destroy,

To take our lives and wipe our sins away

And compete against infinity.

Every bullet that slices through the air like a shooting star

Holds the power to slice through a heart,

To bring a man down to his knees and breathe

His very last breath.

To orphan a child, to widow a wife,

To extinguish a thousand hopes, dreams and fears,

To steal a life.

Because war makes us feel powerful- immortal- like gods.

But it reduces men to nothing- to ghosts, not gods, hiding in their own ribcages,

Unsure of what to do-

It’s almost beautiful how men cry too.

In a life where love is the only war we’ve yet to wage,

Where men sit in shallow trenches- shallow graves,

Praying- begging- to see their loved ones again.

They don’t have time to see the irony of it all:

They demolish cities and wreck livelihoods

While they yearn for the comfort of their own families.

Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori,

Show me where it hurts, and listen carefully:

Listen to how gunshots sound like heartbeats in the distance,

See how the blood that flows whimsically through the veins of the Earth

Has no name, no nation, no personality;

They are fluids of cowardice and terror, of tenderness and humanity.

We are just children, pretending to be men, and I long

To be held again.

To lay roses over the eternal tombs of the fallen, but there are no roses left-

Only shrapnel and shells of men, hollow and bereft.

Slovenly, we shoot for the moon, for the stars, for love, for peace.

But we all end up in the hell

Where youth and laughter go.


Sadia Ahmed, 2016

#TwoMinutePoetryChallenge

I wrote this poem in the space of two minutes and I challenge my readers to do the same.


Look outside.

Are the clouds weeping? Do they share my sorrow?

Or does the world simply go on?

Did the sun rise today? Did the winds still blow?

Did time just carry on as though

Everything is okay?

Did the birds sing this morning? I would not know,

For their symphonies continue to be cancelled out by my desire to hear nothing.

Tell me: did the trees sway in the breeze today? Did they notify you of their reluctance to bear fruit at this hour?

Why must we wait for things? Why do we challenge ourselves to wait to escape?

Patience reflects delusion and a false sense of

Immortality.

Are we all just kidding ourselves?

We are all just kidding ourselves.

Look outside. The clouds are weeping, but they do not share my sorrow.

I am here, encapsulated in a universe that is neither happy nor sad, yet here I am,

Embodying (compensating for)  its lack of happiness and sadness,

All at once.

Like how the clouds gush tears of neutrality, I cry tears of happiness, sadness

and everything in between.

 


Sadia Ahmed, 2016

My Hijab

I started wearing the hijab at the age of seven, and before you make any rapid assumptions, I was not forced, nor coaxed into wearing it. I wore it because most of my female relatives wore it. I thought it looked rather elegant, and since I could never manage to keep my hair neat or clean, I decided that wearing the hijab would prove rather advantageous for me.

I experimented with wearing netted hijabs, adorned with colourful brooches and pins. My hijab didn’t change who I was. I still loved to play football and take part in maths competitions. A piece of material wasn’t going to alter my personality, and besides, my headscarf quickly became a central component of my appearance. Hijab, jeans, checker shirt and Converses. That was my signature style.

Now I’m fifteen. I’ve been wearing the hijab for nine years. I’ve got major social anxiety, primarily because of the stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding my hijab. People have shouted “terrorist” and “ISIS” at me, and I try not to let it bother me, but in truth, I’m petrified of being a victim of these confrontations. Once, when I was nine, I went on a riverboat cruise with my family, and a group of fisherman threw cans at us, yelling “throw yourselves in the lake! EDL! EDL!” Being the argumentative little girl I was, I stood up and challenged those men, but deep down, that incidence affected me significantly.

So why don’t I just remove my hijab, you may ask? Well, first of all, I enjoy wearing my hijab as a symbol of pride in my religious and cultural identity. Contrary to popular belief, the garment is not inherently misogynistic, nor does it subtract from the rights of non-hijab-wearers. I feel comfortable wearing a headscarf, and I firmly believe that liberty lies in choice. Women deserve respect, regardless of how they choose to dress.

Even though I was born and brought up here in London, I feel very uneasy when it comes to going out. I always receive an inordinate number of hostile stares- nay, glares- from people who are undoubtedly asking themselves internally, “Why is she wearing that thing on her head? Is she the daughter of a terrorist? Can she even speak English? Did someone force her to wear that?”

I know for a fact, largely due to the many fascist imbeciles on Twitter, that I am perceived as a parasite and a threat. The said trolls complain about British Muslims ‘refusing to integrate’, then degrade us, and tell us to “go back to our own countries” if we insist on wearing religious garments.

I always feel like I have to make an extra effort to show people that I’m more than just my headscarf- I am an intelligent, polite, eccentric, eloquent teenage Brit. In many respects, I am no different to other British teenagers. My headscarf does not render me an alien, but that’s precisely how I am made to feel- in my own home country. And yes, Britain is, and will always be, my home.

My anxiety is not irrational. Islamophobia is on the rise, and I can’t escape that truth. A few days ago, my family and I went to Victoria Park for a day out. I tried my very best to enjoy the day there, but it was hard to: thanks to social media, I know about how a group of men recently went around spitting at all the “filthy Muslims” during one of the weekly debates that take place there. Moreover, when I went to sit down on a bench to read my book, a little girl (who was passing by) said to her mother (whom she was hiding behind) “I don’t want to offend her, but Muslims make me nervous”. I suddenly wanted to cry. This little girl didn’t mean any harm, and what with all the recent terror attacks, I can’t exactly blame her for her views.

Terrorism (or so-called Islamic Jihadism) simultaneously confuses, scares and angers me. I hate those fools for everything that they have done, and I wish I could have a sign on my forehead to clarify that I am not a terrorist sympathizer.

I just want to live my life in peace. I want to make others happy. I want to stop feeling apologetic for existing as I am. I want to be able to sit on the bus or go to an airport without people feeling uneasy around me. I want to make my parents proud; I want to study at Cambridge University, and I want to change the world, without my hijab impeding how people view or treat me.

Is that too much to ask?

 

#DontBombSyria

Two days ago, after a 10-hour parliamentary debate, the Prime Minister’s motion of bombing Syria was carried, and yesterday RAF jets carried out their first airstrikes against so-called Islamic State. For an Eton-educated politician, David Cameron isn’t particularly bright. 

“Fighting fire with fire only makes the flame bigger”. That’s what my friend Michelle had to say when I asked her for her thoughts on the subject. “The war against terror is almost like a playground fight. If a bully abuses someone, hitting the bully will only provoke them. The only way of truly establishing peace is through talking it out”.

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Five-year-old Raghat was killed during a holiday to a Syrian region, which was deemed a ‘safe distance from ISIS’. Russian airstrikes are targeting civilian areas.
According to Russian News Agency TASS, there are some 50,000 ISIS militants in Syria. Official figures show that Raqqa (the city that Russian and British airstrikes are primarily targetting) has a population of 220,268. So, there are approximately 170,268 innocent civilians in the city, who will either be displaced or killed by the bombs- innocent civilians like Raghat. What have these people- these children- done wrong?

“David Cameron knows that opposition to his ill-thought rush to war is growing…On planning, strategy, ground troops, diplomacy, the terrorist threat, refugees and civilian casualties, it’s become increasingly clear that the prime minister’s proposal simply doesn’t stack up.” –Jeremy Corbyn

Common sense is, undoubtedly, a key component of politics and warfare, however it seems to be something that Mr. Cameron lacks almost entirely. He believes that “military intervention” has been “the right decision to keep the UK safe”. Any human being with more than six brain cells knows that this is not an example of intervention- this is downright provocation, and will no doubt act as a catalyst for an adverse reaction of some sort from Islamic State.

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Additionally, Mr. Cameron is under the impression that bombing Syria will result in a decline in the number of people joining Islamic State. I disagree. To innocent men and women in Raqqa, the British airforce will seem like a terrorist group no different to Daesh. Perhaps some will choose to enjoin in the fight against the West in order to prevent such attacks on their country.

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Either way, joining France, Russia, America and Germany in bombing Syria will certainly not have the totally faultless effect that Mr. Cameron (through his rose-tinted spectacles) believes it will. We cannot fight hypocrisy with even more hypocrisy, and we cannot fight fire with fire.

A Lifelong Journey

I am happy. I do not know why. To this date, I find myself still uncertain as to who I am, and who I wish to be, but not all those who wander are lost. I believe that each and every human being on the face of this earth is unique, beautiful and too complex to be limited and defined. So no- I cannot tell you precisely who I am, but perhaps there is some sort of unfathomable beauty in that, for I intend to spend the rest of my life discovering who I am.

A Question of Gender

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