Shirin Gerami

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Sound of sand

I was travelling through the Lut desert with a group of friends a couple of years ago. As we approached the first sand dune, I ran to the top, crossed my hands on my chest and rolled down the dune at top speed. Sand working its way into my clothes, mouth, ears and nose. Before long, the sound of our laughter filled the air as we each rolled down the dunes and ran up for the next turn, trying to roll faster and faster each time.

After a while, a friend – an incredible being that I am so lucky to be able to consider as a friend – summoned me to the top of another dune where he was sitting motionlessly. I climbed up next to him, and he said listen. So I sat attentively and closed my eyes. Slowly, I became aware of the sand that was playfully tapping at my face, slowly, I became aware of the gentle whoosh of the wind as it brought the sand to life. I became aware of the rhythmic pattering of the sand that was whirling in the wind – it was mesmerising. It felt like I had suddenly been welcomed into the world of these tiny particles, a secret world filled with beautiful music, subtlety and energy.

After the hill reps today, I took a detour towards the sea to collect the bits I’d left behind from the morning swim. As I approached, I was greeted with the most beautiful view. As I sat on the cliff top watching a couple jogging with their child in a pram, I decided to revisit what my friend had taught me on top of the sand dune. I looked at the beautiful deep blue of the sea, slowly becoming aware of the unfathomable amount of shades of colours that form its beautiful blue. I became aware of the humming of the waves as they crashed underneath me, the deep blue breaking into a distinct, foamy white before reuniting with the deep blue of the sea.

One side of me wanted to soak in all the beauty surrounding me, the colours, calm and freshness. The other side of me mercilessly questioned what I’ve chosen to do with my life. It reminded me of what one of the sport authorities advised me in Iran, which is very much the echo of my own mindset at times: you could do more useful things with your life. Don’t pursue sports, go further your studies and find a real job.

I sat on the cliff top in a bit of a conflict. One side of me said, isn’t this what life is about? Acknowledging these subtle yet significant beauties that inspire and energise us, filling us with so much peace, joy and love for our surroundings and for life? Allow the love and beauty of life to inspire you. The other side said, what are you doing with your life? Isn’t it time to get a real job and to tick a few boxes of what you ought to have ticked by now? Follow the life that you ought to pursue.

I wonder what this journey and the conflicts that it has created will ultimately teach me. There’s definitely one thing that both sides of me agree with, though: life is a learning curve.

Ms. F

I often saw Ms. F at my aunt’s house. A fun, energetic, loving and caring lady, always making the most hilarious yet inappropriate comments, making the victim blush to the ear lobes and everyone else rolling around with laughter.

She spent the final two weeks of her life in hospital. As I was cycling past the hospital on my way home, I decided to stick my head around and say hello. I wasn’t expecting her to even remember me in her old age and deteriorating circumstances, but thought she might appreciate some company, no matter who it may be.

When I got there, she held on tight to my hands, and gave me the most loving smile. Two other ladies were by her bedside. It was time for food and they wanted her to have her dinner, but she would not let go of my hands to eat. She looked at me and said: stay for a while.

I had invited people over for my mum’s birthday for 7:30 that night. A while later, with the time at 6:45, the guests due to arrive at any moment, and dinner by no means anywhere near ready (I hadn’t even bought the ingredients yet!) I told Ms. F I had to go – but promised to come the day after. I was so touched and emotional as I left the hospital.

On my way to my aunt’s on Sunday, I stopped by the hospital again. As I approached her room, I saw that her family was by her bedside and hesitated by the door. I didn’t want to disturb their time together, yet I had promised to visit her again… I entered, shyly. She had a huge oxygen mask on her face this time and was struggling to breathe. She had shrunken since last I saw her and was using her entire body in an attempt to breathe. As I took her hands to say hello, her eyes opened and ignited with love, energy and her mischievous twinkle and she gave me the biggest most loving of smiles. She shook her head from side to side with affection and said: I love you, I love you, I love you like a tape on repeat.

Ms. F died the following day.

Two days later, I got home late in the evening and was browsing through my inbox. I was very excited to find an email in which I had been put in touch with a very exciting triathlon project, and they had responded so positively. It lifted my spirits so much that I kept twirled around the room chanting I love you, I love you, I love you, incessantly. I suddenly stopped still as I realised I was imitating Ms. F.

It made me realise how awesome a human being she had been – to be lying on her deathbed, with hardly any energy left, literally fighting to breathe… Yet still go through the trouble of mustering enough energy to show so much love and affection to me. To a near stranger, to a no-body. To make the effort to make even me feel loved, welcome and appreciated. What an amazing person with such an amazing personality. She set the bar so high: to magnanimously say ‘I love you’ with sincerity shining through her eyes. To make anyone, no matter who you they are – or how she’s feeling herself – loved, valued and worthwhile.

Meeting a teacher

I met up with a very dear teacher/tutor from school yesterday, someone who has impacted my life so positively. It struck me how close you can feel in thoughts with someone, yet how little you may know of them. Although it felt like I last saw him a year or two ago, in reality it had been more than 7 years!

What struck me even more was what amazing human beings, teachers are! They impact the lives of so many people, in such subtle, beautiful and thoughtful ways. They shape, form and guide us, giving us wings to fly towards our dreams. They have one of the most important jobs in society, yet are the most humble of human beings. I, for one, have been blessed with such wonderful teachers who have impacted me so much, helping me grow into the person that I am today.

It seems that often in life people do favours with some sort of interest in mind – a transaction with some sort of return in time. But teachers… I’d never fully grasped how they have always given so selflessly, so generously, wholeheartedly and gracefully, and yet so unassumingly. All the time they spent with me, the guidance, the thoughtful words, the encouragements and helping me through difficult moments – and never expecting anything in return. A silly girl who took her 7 years to merely say thank you for all that you have done for me. What a noble, humble, inexpressibly incredible person one must be to become a teacher.