Thursday, August 04, 2016

My Best Friend & Her Brother

I’m sure we all have at least one person in our life with an unexplainable attachment to. We care for them, love them, sometimes even become overprotective about them. There is nothing weird about caring about a person to such an extent, it’s odd though when this person is not someone you meet on a daily basis. You might even talk to once every year or two. Yet that bond doesn’t change. Faisal, known as Anoosh to his family, is one of them.

Anoosh is my best friend’s youngest brother. I still remember the day after he was born. My best friend, Fatma (or Fatoom as we call her), came to school with a bag filled with Patchi chocolate individually wrapped in blue and silver. She walked around giving each student in the class a piece of chocolate with a genuine smile, reflecting the love she has to the newest member of her family. We were 11 at the time, and I grew up with Fatoom loving Anoosh more and more as time passes. Her love to him, her care and protection, how she always remembers him in the tiny details around us probably rubbed into me. Anoosh, 13 years old now, became a part of my life before he even realised who I was.

My earliest memory of him was during our school’s annual bazaar. He was probably 2 or 3 at the time. We took him to get his face painted as a Spider-man and Fatoom bought him a fish. Fatoom being the eldest sister is like a second mother to him. You could tell he loves her from the way he holds on to her, the way he hugs her and the way he speaks about her. Fast forward 11 years and it’s still the same. Last weekend Fatoom came to my place for a sleepover and I could tell how much he loves her when he asked me why I’m taking his sister away. She was to leave them for less than 12 hours as we had plans to meet them all the next day. Their relationship is special.

Anoosh calls me Super-Mario, he always called me that. He laughed about it the first time he did and since then he stuck with it. Ever since, Super-Mario has always reminded me of him. I remember once going to their house and he ran to his father telling him Super-Mario is here. As embarrassing as it felt when it happened, I found it adorable. It’s the little things he says and does that makes him even more special.

Last night I went out for dinner with Fatoom’s family. I joined them as they made fun of each other like any siblings will do, I laughed till tears ran down my face and joined them as we documented the day with photos. While last night will always have a place in my heart, it won’t be just because of that. I was happy when he walked into the restaurant and said he wanted to sit next to me, when he recommended a dish and agreed to share a piece of his lasagna. I smiled and my soul smiled when their mother told me how he mentions me a lot. I held back my tears with a smile when he said he has 5 sisters and he mentioned me as one of them. He has 2 biological sisters, the other 3 are his cousins and I. I felt the love when his mother told me how one day he’ll walk me down the aisle and his reply was that he’ll make sure he knows the guy well before that.

Fatoom, Anoosh and their family will always have a special place in my heart. I’m indebted to their Aunt who taught me how to read and write. I’m indebted to their mother that always treated me like a daughter and for bringing such a wonderful family to this life. I’m indebted to Fatoom, for all the memories we’ve had and memories we’ll create. And I’m indebted to Anoosh for always saying the right thing at the right time. May they all live a long, healthy and happy life. Because seriously, each and everyone of them deserves it.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Documenting My Life | July

It feels like I was conscious of July only in London's underground. I was in the company of books, stuck in my deepest and shallowest thoughts. Other than underground, July has been a blur. Yet July moved in slow motion, unlike the quick trains that don't have to be stuck in London's traffic. It gave me time to think about very random things, over and over and over again, from different angles.

*At this point I go back to my journal to know what else I have been doing this month*

This has been the first Eid in a while for me to spend it away from my family. It felt weird yet I was mentally prepared for it. I took lots of chocolates with me to the lab. Had different people come up to me with Eid greetings. I also received a big Cadbury bar as a Eid gift. I'm surrounded by great people in the lab and I'm grateful for that.

I love it when I unintentionally discover cafes in a quiet corner of a busy street. Prestat had good coffee and probably the best carrot cake I have ever tried in my life. I spent my time there reading and writing and it actually felt good.

I decided to do something different and meet an online friend for Dutch pancakes and coffee. We got along well, laughed a lot and discussed very random topics that didn't link to each other. That's always a sign of good company.

I went to Cambridge twice this month and something sparked in my brain when I was there. I imagined a future I could associate myself with. Cambridge might be the place for decision making when times get tough. There is enough greenery to clear your mind. Enough history for inspiration. Enough space and air for clarity.

I've introduced myself to Virginia Woolf this month and I'm not sure where she has been so far. I read an essay she's written but it's definitely on my list to read more of her work. She made me think a lot about Women's contribution to fiction and I feel like I need to list down my favourite books one day and see how many of them are actually females.

This month I've appreciated the time I've spent alone more than ever before, always in the company of some kind of hot beverage (more often than not a cup or two of Americano) and a book. This month I've read:

  • Why I write by George Orwell
  • مهزلة العقل البشري لعلي الوردي
  • A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
  • The Private Life of The Diary by Sally Bayley
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Marking the first month I don't pick up a fiction book to read. I actually don't mind it.

I'm grateful for the way July ended. Spending time with my best friend and reminiscing the 4 years we've spent in Leeds. We caught up with 7 months worth of gossip, news and updates. Today I've laughed till tears ran down my cheeks, had fun at Madam Tussauds and had the perfect dinner at Five Guys.

August is a month I've been looking forward to for a while now and it's finally here.

Let the fun begin!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Maria in Wonderland

I used to be much more muchier, I was more confident in my skin. I was a character full of confidence, smart and successful in my studies, reaching every expectation I set for myself. My mind used to burst with colourful ideas just like my ever so colourful outfits. I was borderline clown, peacock, parrot. I was an eclectic mix of ideas and creative thoughts. I shined like the sequence in my top, reflecting positivity. I was a burst of glitter and confetti always surprising myself with what I could do an achieve. The idea of failing was never really a fear, I tried new things as random as high jump and when I realised I’m not good enough; laughed and tried something new. My attitude towards life was refreshing and learning from my past self is never a bad idea.

I partially lost my muchness when I got my first D after 9 years of being a straight A student, I did get up and get an A but it was the beginning of going down the rabbit hole. I’ve lost my muchness when I started doubting myself. I lost it when I didn’t score my expected 36 in IB. I lost my muchness when I didn’t fight to get up after failing to meet my expectations. I lost my muchness when I left my curiosity at the back of a dusty closet.

I’m now down the rabbit hole, I’m now in Wonderland. I somehow made it down (or up, whichever way you look at it) still sane but with lots of bruises. I’m still not sure how I made it but it seems that people are proud of where I am at this point in my life. I still haven’t opened my eyes wide enough to realise where I am. It is now my job to make the most out of it. To enjoy tea parties and fight the enemies. To regain my muchness that I’ve lost while I still have time.

It’s about time to be the flamingo that sets everything straight.
Hi Omaima!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

With love, the peaceful and caring one

Dear Homo sapiens,

That is Latin for “wise person”. We all fall in the trap of generalising and believing stereotypes, and it’s very important to realise what we’re stepping into. I’ve heard enough “Americans are ignorant”, “Muslim women are oppressed”, “Germans are rude” and the classic “Muslims are terrorists”. Whatever experience you’ve had, please don’t become another statistic.

We live in a time where, generally, Muslims are linked to ISIS when, in fact, the majority of Muslims are against what ISIS are doing. So it’s sad, hurtful and scary to know when an innocent Muslim Arab wearing his traditional attire got detained in Ohio because a hotel clerk suspected he has links to ISIS. I understand the need to keep people safe from terrorist attacks but it’s also not fair for Arabs to lose their identity in fear of being mistaken to be a terrorist. When Emirati officials encouraged Emiratis not to wear their traditional attire when abroad, it really bothered me and I’m sure many have thought the same way.

My parents are traditional Omanis. They are proud of their origin, nationality, culture and religion. My father is the most peaceful man I have ever met. He always dresses in his white Omani dishdasha and cream musar that matches his white beard and whiter heart. My dad is a walking symbol of peace and I would hate for him to be mistaken for a terrorist. My mother is the most caring woman I have ever met. My mother loves turquoise and purple, when she’s abroad she wears hijabs and jilbabs in these colours. I would hate for her to be mistaken for a terrorist. I’m Muslim and studying in London, while I dress like anyone on the streets of London, I have an extra piece of fabric that covers my hair. I’m peaceful and caring, you can say it’s genetic. I’d hate to be mistaken for a terrorist.

Hiding our identity as Muslim Arabs will not make the world a more peaceful place. Let’s sit and talk, my father’s white beard and white attire is not scary, my mom’s colourful conservative clothes are not scary, my hijab is not scary.

With love,
The peaceful and caring one.

P.S: I was inspired to write this letter because of Moosa Al Lawati’s blog post. You can find it here

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Documenting My Life | June

June felt like a day at the theme park, you're glad the day is over because you're tired but sad that all the fun is over. June was a crazy rollercoaster, one of those that leaves you sick by the end of it but full of adrenaline. The type that leaves you disoriented yet alert. With it done, you feel like you can ride any crazy rollercoaster out there.

On the 1st of June, I went with Mariam and her family to watch Charlie and The Chocolate Factory musical one that I really wanted to watch for a long time now. I didn't like the songs and the acting much but the set was beautiful and as creative as Roald Dahl created it for us.

On the 4th I went to Manchester to attend the Coldplay concert, an experience I never had before. It was more than just listening to my favourite band singing live, it was the atmosphere, the people and the colours. And above all it was a test of courage to do things on my own, a reminder to experience things for the first time. I sang along to my favourite songs, watched as the people sang along and as Chris Martin appreciated the crowd. I stupidly threw away my ticket but I'd rather not remember that.

I presented my mid-project presentation on the 8th and I'm somehow satisfied with the way I presented but I thought I did better. I wouldn't have done as good without the help of the team, their support and giving me a chance to practice in front of them. They made sure I'm prepared well enough for it. I was confident enough to present without the aid of notes, with a good pace and without forgetting what to say. Now that it's out of the way, I find myself more relaxed and able to enjoy my time. I also finished my lab work and started working on my thesis, being able to fully focus on it a while before submission makes me less anxious.

I'm surrounded by great people and it makes me appreciate them even more. When days at the write up area seem longer than normal, they make it more bearable. Everyone is nice, making sure to ask how everyone is doing. Matt telling me about his hiking experience and Manisha asking how my fasting is going. Tina always making sure I'm well, Noeline leaving a piece of cake she baked for me to have after iftar and Silvia asking when I'm done with fasting so we can go back to having lunch together again. I'm surrounded by a lovely bunch.

I don't always get a chance to spend some quality time with my brothers and I really love when we randomly get the chance to sit together for a few hours discussing random topics. Mohammed came over for a weekend and we managed to talk about books and politics, family and studies. Messing around with snapchat filters and just enjoying our time. I really hope my siblings and I get the chance to travel all together this August.

Spending the weekend with a relative we once upon a time were really close with feels good. It feels weird at the same time that she has kids at the age when I was closest to them. We had iftar together, reminisced about the old days and spent time with the kids and the random things they come up with. I enjoyed my time more than I thought I would.

I got a thank you this month when I least expected it. It left a smile for a while and made me more aware to genuinely thank people when I get the chance to. Thank you!

June ended on a bad note and I'm still trying to recover from it. We rely on technology to preserve our memories forgetting that the only things that last are those that are physically existing. A few days ago, my memory failed me and I couldn't remember my phone's passcode. I ended up trying way too many times to the point where my phone got disabled. I had to restore my phone to factory settings and with it I lost letters I've written, memories I kept and pictures I thought I'll keep forever.

June is over now, it gave me memories and took some away but I still have time to make more memories. I still have time to better document my year in London and I think I have an idea.

July, bring it on.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Dear 26

Dear 26,

I thought I’ve really realised and grasped the idea that time will never wait for me to get my s*** together. It won’t wait for me to settle and find time to start on the things I have dreamed to achieve. I try to remind myself about it whenever I remember, but still. I hope you’ve worked up our relationship with time, that we are now best friends and in good terms. That we have worked out the perfect schedule to do everything we want to.

I’m going to ask you my current favourite question: when was the last time you did something for the first time? And I really hope for the sake of both of us and our future selves that your answer is quite recent. I hope you won’t have to think for too long like I have been doing for the past few months. Yours truly at 23 did something for the first time on June 4th 2016. Exactly 20 days ago. I went to a concert and I’ve chosen the perfect show to go to, Coldplay. I’m glad there was someone around to push me to do it. To get out of my comfort zone of not wanting to do things alone. Going to this concert alone was exactly what I needed to remind myself how good it feels to do things for the first time.

For your own good, aim to try something new every single day. It might seem too much and very far fetched but you owe it to yourself to live this one life to the fullest. Find those closest to you and make sure to tell them your plan, for them to constantly remind and encourage you to work on it. And as you continue to try new things, make sure you constantly document them in whatever way you think is most suitable. Take pictures like your 16 year old self; take pictures of your food, the shops, the places around you, people you meet and people you find interesting, pictures of cobbled streets and sand dunes. Take pictures of the entire experience. Write like your 23 year old self; journal as much as you can, write letters to your future self, write letters to your friends and family, document your travels and encounters, make up stories about people in the mall or at the grocery store. Document your life with pictures and words, they will one day make the book of your life. Make sure you live a life worth reading about.

Stay true to yourself, do things that makes you happy and never stop learning. In 2 years time, when you read this I hope you make me proud.

Eagerly wishing for a life full of new experiences,

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Perfectly Planned

One of the things I find satisfying is a fully planned day, one that I know what to expect from it. One that keeps me occupied without it being stressful. I hate days that go to waste, without me doing anything productive. Although I hate routines, I like for my days to have have some kind of structure and a purpose. The purpose can be something as simple as just finding time to unwind and relax or read a book or something a bit more like running errands.

I appreciate a little bit of time having breakfast without rushing to get somewhere. An ideal breakfast will have both sweet and savory options to satisfy all taste buds. I enjoy it when I get time to have a cup of hot coffee with a side of reading and I love it even more when there is someone around for me to then discuss what I read with. I like following it with 20 minutes or so of uninterrupted writing time, I feel most inspired after a day that started as I expected it to and with some intellectual conversations. I don’t like moving from whatever comfortable spot I’m in until I’m ready. Once all of that is done, I’m ready to face the world with a big smile.

I love to have an hour of afternoon tea with a cup of tea and delicious snacks. It’s the ideal way to recharge and feel happy. It probably has to do with the memories I associate with tea time growing up, I’m not sure, I just know that it makes me happy. Some interesting talks come up during this time, random and out of the blue. Some topics are more dense, they make you think hard,  they give you a headache. I sometimes take my tea time seriously and I think I should everyday.

I don’t like loud evenings with a lot of plans and people. Evenings are meant to be quiet, with minimal noise unless it’s a small family gathering (and by family I mean those who you’re comfortable to be around them). Evenings are a time to catch up with my father after a long day of barely seeing him. A time to make sure one last time that my mother is alright. It’s a time to catch up with TV shows or more reading.

This post makes me and my days sound very boring, very structured, overly planned. But believe me I love spontaneous days just as much. I love last minute plans that turn out to be one of the best things I’ve done in a while. I appreciate my days in any way as long as at the end of the day I’m satisfied with the way I spent them.

P.S: This happens less often that it does