Underwater Tangents

 

Samia Ahmed

Underwater Tangents

It was that time of the year,
When October was creeping into November,
I left my reality in a closet,
And ran away to an island.
Mady, the man held my hand,
Being the guardian to my life,
My savior …
For that hour, I was not mine.

The volcanic sands,
Shining bright,
When the rays of the sun,
Hit the open seas.
Sounds of bubbles never was this loud,
My mouth stuck to tasting only rubber,
I could hardly be at ease.

Yet I could sense my vulnerability.
I could smell my fear…
I want to return to the beauty
Yes, I still want to go back there…
To the colors I had never seen,
Creatures never had been this close to me.
I was overwhelmed with love for God,
Overwhelmed with being alive!
And in those moments,
Underwater weddings made perfect sense.
I decided then, that my children
Will be brought here someday …
And before this day
Never did I want to procreate.

Taking it all in,
Between discomfort and awareness …
No idea I would lose such a precious thing.
Under the sea,
Fishes coming towards me,
With ardent curiosity …
There I was,
Completely losing myself.

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Auschwitz, Animosity & Present Tense

Samia Tamrin Ahmed24179640926_3f247b8175_o

The sunny day and beautiful open blue skies were out of place at the location we were strolling in. We were at the infamous concentration camp in the Polish town of Oswiecim. Auschwitz was the largest of the German Nazi concentration camps and extermination centers where more than 1.1 million lives were taken. A gloomy winter day with a grey horizon would have been the default setting for such a place. Its proximity to Krakow allowed us to visit the memorial and museum to pay homage. Growing up hearing of horrors of torture, I was wondering if I could digest the gory reality of the place. Yet, it was alright, and we kept walking along the solid buildings with shocking melancholy. 

Nazi concentration camps were known for the gas chambers and torture on Jewish people. At the site I got to know camps were initially built for other political prisoners, homosexuals and gypsies. A pre-visit to the Topography of Terror in Berlin gave some background idea on the systemic targeting of victims. There was a lot of discretion regarding records of newly arrived men and women and lies told about disinfecting their bodies, as if for sacrifice. They were told to take an innocent shower that would indeed kill them. Pictures show how people were judged upon arrival – robust health meant they could be workers in the camp (irrigation or ponds) – imminent death if otherwise. Auschwitz has an extension – Birkenau which has a train track and platform where victims were received towards a horrific destiny. All this was gloomy indeed, no wonder there was a media uproar when a tourist took a selfie at this place in 2014. We sure could not think of doing something like this.
The museum and its exhibits convey long stories of detrimental endings and unbridled suffering. The original buildings are open and conserved to show the living quarters, washrooms and toilets of inmates as well as the office room of the supervising officer. Corridors are lined with photographs of registered prisoners; men and women with shaved head have cagey anxiety on their faces.
It hurt when I stepped into a room full of hair inside a glass enclosure. I felt how human dignity was being snatched from simple people. Gold teeth and artificial limbs were taken off dead prisoners. Shoes and spectacles are piled up in remembrance of lost souls. There are certain quarters prepared just for the children; walking along the claustrophobic wooden bunkers is heartbreaking. If people were not killed immediately, there were other horrible means of inflicting torture. Disobedience meant one could be executed (shooting or acid shot to the heart), hung backwards by tied hands, starved or confined in the ‘dark’ or ‘standing’ cells. Doors to those cells were tiny enough for a small animal – when a person did enter the phone-booth sized cubicle, he was not standing alone in punishment. Four people had to stand all night before another hard day’s work.
I am often bound to acknowledge that a certain place has tortured souls floating around. I look around in silence as if to grasp their presence. Then again, torture has not left us. Think of the schools and abandoned buildings turned to torture cells during our liberation war. In this day and age, Rohingya Muslims face marginalization and eradication, forced to living tormented destinies. Children are subjected to deplorable treatment and torture by adults who were supposed to protect them. War, too has not left us. An Economist report titled, ‘Pits of hell: Assad’s torture dungeons’ retells the fate of Syrians who were tortured and executed. The regime altered sports stadiums, abandoned homes, hospitals and schools into jails in order to silence any form of opposition. Survivors tell horrific tales of atrocities conducted at a systemic level. Amnesty International is running a petition campaign to raise voice on torture prisons in Syria and the shocks, burns, beating and confinement that is commonplace.
Auschwitz the concentration camp is accessible to all, to let generations be aware of horrors of war and discrimination. Memorials exist for placing homage to history and embodying the valuable lesson that torture, conflict, annihilation are elements to be erased from the earth. Despite the existence of the UN Convention against Torture, protection of human rights is a vague concept. Cruelty, perhaps is too deeply ingrained in the human DNA. Before we know it, Saydnaya will be the next Auschwitz.

 

Click

click

The photographer
Has the best eye
When the subject
Is the object
Of affection.
The angle is just right
The timing just perfect
Only when emotions
Make the click.
The different faces
Of the same person
Are all equally true,
And all the shades captured,
Seem to make the world tick.
Years and depth
Marking wisdom on the face,
Worries of the world
And human conflict,
Marking those fine lines
Of empathy and pain.
Or even that smile
Of kind endearment
Speaks a thousand words,
A persona captured,
The world within.
A click made with feelings,
On a camera held with deep longing.

What Have We Become?

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Alas!
What have we become!
What is not right,
that’s not even wrong,
but a part of existence.
Thoughts, memories,
realities, illusions
all have been crafted,
personalities drafted,
past, present collide-
a spot in history.

Growth is learning
growth is acceptance
and thoughts are prayers,
apparently.
Unbelievable what may come,
Alas,
what have we become!
Though nothing beyond
a speck in time.

Us.We.Be.Been.
An afterglow,
a shooting star,
mild tremor,
dust storms before the rain.
Real, or not really?

 

My Spanish Week

espagnole
A Travelogue by Samia Tamrin Ahmed
Anto said to try traveling without a plan and I set my habits free, and before I knew what was happening, I arrived in Madrid slightly unnerved but equally excited.
I bought my lunch of double cake at the food market at Madrid Opera square. A random Egyptian temple is nurtured in the center of the city. I walked along the first Gran Via, seeking wifi signals to steal and a treat of delirious gelato. The cheerful cafes in La Latina seem to mesmerise me even now… there is wisps of romantic charm in the air. The five hour Alsa bus ride gave me a better entertainment than the Qatar Airways I flew into Europe with. I used internet from one screen and listened to music from the one of the next seat that was vacant. But the night that lay ahead was anything but fun; I froze to frustration in the openness of the bus station in 10 degrees weather.
Morning eventually came in Granada and the boy who helped me use the station locker said I was attractive. I laughed and ran away searching for remnants of Muslim Spain in Alhambra. In the ride uphill, the glorious architecture just made me love Andalusia at first sight. The views atop the palaces can never tire you, the flowers in Generalife can never fail your senses.
The second best thing in Granada to me, would be the shape of the street lamps on Gran Via. They are like several cubes clumped together which looked brilliant alongside the golden leaves along the very road.  I know I must return because the hiking trails of Sierra Nevada are waiting, wishing for my curious footprints.
alhambra

The streets, palm trees and the gulls in Malaga all charmed me. When I revisit, I shall take a walk by the beach, try the Oasis hostel but Calle Mindanao is better left forgotten and avoided. On another morning I rushed within the gardens of Alcazar .. Someday I must enjoy the maze, English garden and Poet’s garden as arenas of quiet contemplation. I have not done justice to their pristine beauty in this trip but took quick photos to serve memory and earnestly chased the peacocks! Seville is also where the girls of that Oasis hostel room bonded and laughed in happy drunkenness. Eventually their paths diverged, staying true to their unique individual experiences.

That led me to Barcelona sixteen hours later. This is a city where I jumped the metro and got away with it. Gaudi’s signature work enmeshing architecture and natural philosophical ideals adorn the city like a default Dali-esque wallpaper. La Sagrada Familia is truly a special place – a remarkable cathedral and so worth the ticket price! I walked the hills, harbour, beach, and medieval trails alone and later with an old friend who was also randomly in Spain at the same week. With the Swiss-German Camino Santiago walker I had a midpoint lunch after which we switched our paths to opposite ends. And in that last walk I took with the Catalan-Iraqi at 3am, there was a girl getting up from a squat position in the far edges of an important square – after a pee or poop, I do not know which…
I did not pretend to know the language but yes, smiled and spread positive energy in every hola and gracias to the strangers who showed me the way. Finally, I was in a place in Europe where I could walk around without a fat coat in December. I truly enjoyed the hostel experiences. The tapas, UNO rounds, conversations and joyful vibe were part of my trip, although my heart broke again and again seeing those in slumber inside the ATM booths. I love some countries for the friends who live there, friends so very close to me but Spain does not need that excuse for a revisit. I must admit, it stands as a favourite on its own right.

Between Absence and Presence

An absence of an existence,
happens to be his greatest presence.
Memories of haunted conversations
and a possible curse…
having found a muse, accidental…
And having been one –
for hope, dreams and life itself…
At being called a best friend;
she can never grant the life he wanted,
Or  shrug off the association…
even in dust or ashes,
when the spirit will be free to move-
outside the wretched,
broken body,
held together by duct tape.
The presence of absence
holds a sense of responsibility,
albeit the attachment,
avec the consistent heavy heart
makes her run away….
from a city of memories,
from a curse in the air,
and eventually, from herself.

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The End

I guess this is the end,
when the heart stops,
Losing a familiar beat…
Oxygen slowly depriving the cells,
Creating confusion and
Their slow standstill.
Life spirit leaving my body,
Reluctantly …
My feeling is to yearn another chance,
To hang on a little bit more.
Hopes and dreams evaporate,
Joining the air and atmosphere…
The bonds holding emotions and nerve endings melt,
Suddenly all my senses make no sense.
Gradually my thoughts converge to
Momentary nothingness,
A fleeting memory of the soft center of a cake,
And the familiar face I was with…
Only vision I now see,
Of the wise old oak tree
Gently gets blurred into oblivion.
This darkness becomes my reality,
Trying hard to convince my soul,
And struggling spirit,
That here is the end,
my very end.

 

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Breaking News

The ticker conveys breaking news…
There has been another factory fire.
This city will gasp in shock…
Till the next one, a familiar satire.
Trapped in smoke,
Burnt alive in minutes,
Or death in stampede,
Humans reduced to numbers, in bits.
Each unit loses a hundred hopes…
A new dress, a family visit, the baby’s smile.
Yet another accident, yet another ticker…
Just killed a thousand dreams, in only a flicker.