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I Am Saeed

انا سعيد

Written by Aleya Sharif Zadeh | Illustrated by Vanessa Bong (Vess) | Translated by Maryanne Mino

[ English / إنجليزي  ] 

When I was ten years old, my friend Mansour taught me how to laugh.

The year was 2007. School was back on again after the short break we had for the new year and I was not looking forward to being back in that daunting routine. There was nothing appealing about being stuck in a classroom full of noisy boys who were too distracted by paper slingshots to copy the practice sentences Ms. Maryam so thoroughly wrote on the chalkboard. Ms. Maryam was my favourite teacher.

That morning, Ms. Maryam said she had an announcement to make. She looked towards the door and gestured for a little boy to walk in.

“This is Mansour, he is transferring here from Ms. Amal’s class and will be a part of our group from now on. Mansour, please introduce yourself”.

“I’m Mansour!” gleamed this loud, little boy as he giggled and darted his way to his desk. With dishevelled hair, a missing tooth and untied shoelaces, his brief and erratic introduction did not surprise me the least bit. Ms. Maryam tried her best to contain her surprise as she watched him settle in his seat. Snickers could be heard across the classroom, but Mansour did not care. With an almost manic gleam in his eyes, he looked ahead at the blackboard, pencil in hand, workbook half hanging on top of his already messy desk, ready to get started on today’s lesson. 

Ms. Maryam wanted to introduce a fun exercise to the classroom. We all stood up from our seats as she called our names out, one by one, followed by this question: “What is your dream?”

“My dream is to become a soccer player!” shouted Saleh excitedly from across the room.

“My dream is to become a doctor just like my mum,” said Ahmed coyly.

“My dream is to win the lottery,” smirked Khalid.

Ms. Maryam made her way across the room, starting from the back left row and making her way to the front. Soon enough, she landed on Mansour.

“And what about our newest student? What is your dream, Mansour?”

“My dream is to fly! I want to jump from the highest mountain and soar across the sky! I want to float victoriously amongst the clouds! I want to go up, up, up!” he shot from his seat, hands in the air, eyes gleaming with wonder, mouth agape in pure gaiety.

Everyone started laughing and clapping hysterically at his comical reaction. I did not understand the appeal. I stood quietly, waiting for my turn, while my eyes followed Mansour’s every jump, every move, every laugh. Ms. Maryam tried her best to calm them down, but to no avail. 

It was finally my turn.

“And our star student, Saeed! What’s your dream?”

I was suddenly conscious of everybody’s eyes on me. My face flushed and my ears were burning. I looked up and fixated my eyes on Ms. Maryam. After a few short breaths, I said:

“My dream is to be happy. Just like my name, I want to be saeed1, I want to be happy.”

Contrary to the reaction Mansour received, my comment put the entire class in a spine-chilling hush. Ms. Maryam looked at me with concerned eyes, my seatmate Ghanim nudged me gently, and the rest of the class shifted awkwardly in their chairs. Only one reaction stood out between the solemn crowd. 

Right across the room, there was Mansour, standing in his messy self, hands in his pocket, gleaming and flashing his crooked smile my way. 


  1. Saeed:  Saeed is a male Arabic name that translates to “happy”.

Note: This is an excerpt from a much longer and richer story. You can find the full story here.

    . . .


    [ عربي / Arabic ]

    عندما كنت في سن العاشره من العمر, علمني صديقي منصور كيف اضحك.    


     كان عام ٢٠٠٧ عندما عادت الدراسة مجددا بعد اجازه قصيرة بمناسبة العام الجديد. لم اكن شغوفا بالعوده الي هذا الروتين الشاق. لم يكن من شئ جذاب في المكوث في الفصل الدراسي,المليء بالصبيان المزعجين, الذين كانوا مشتتين بالمقالع الورقيه (النبله) او نسخ الجمل التي كتبتها المعلمه مريم على السبوره . كانت المعلمه مريم معلمتي المفضله.


    ذات صباح قالت المعلمه مريم ان لديها خبرا لتعلنه لنا وقد نظرت  ناحيه الباب ليدخل الفصل طفل كان اسمه منصور

    قالت المعلمه مريم "منصور منقول الي فصلنا الدراسي من فصل المعلمه امل. وسوف يكون عضوا من مجموعاتنا". وقالت: "منصور قم بتقديم نفسك"


    قال منصور "اسمي منصور "و عيناه  تلمعا وبصوت منخفض ضاحك قال: "طفلا صغيرا" قال هذا وهو متوجه ناحيه مكتبه . كان شعره منكوشا غير مرتب وكان فاقدا ضرسا من اسنانه ولم يكن حذائه مربوطا.  كانت مقدمه قصيره عن نفسه . مقدمه  غريبه الاطوار.  لم تفاجئني هذه المقدمه ولا شيء بسيطا. 

     وقد بذلت المعلمه مريم مجهودا  كبيرا لاحتواء رد فعلها على هذه المقدمه . وتفاجٱها وهي تراه متوجها للجلوس  على مكتبه.


     كانت اصوات السخريه تتعالى في الفصل لكن منصور كان لا  يبالي بهذا الصخب. وبعينين تلمعان كان يوجه نظره ناحيه السبوره حاملا قلما رصاص في يده ونصف كراسه التمارين معلقا في الهواء من فوق مكتبه الفوضوي مستعدا لدرس اليوم.


    كانت المعلمه مريم تود تقديم تمرين ترفيهي للفصل الدراسي.  فقد وقفنا كلنا تاركين مقاعدنا ثم بدات المعلمه مريم في المناداه على كل واحد باسمه واحدا تلو الاخر سٱله كل واحد "ما هو حلمك. "


    قال صلاح صارخا عبر الغرفه " حلمي هو ان اصبح لاعب كره "

    بفرحه عارمه قال احمد بخجل " حلمي ان اصبح طبيبا مثل امي" 

    " قال خالد مبتسما "حلمي ان اكسب تذكره اليانصيب " 


    كانت المعلمه مريم تتجول في الفصل كله مبتدئه من الصف اليسار الخلفي الى الامام حتى توقفت عند منصور وقالت المعلمه مريم"  وماذا عن تلميذنا  الجديد ما هو حلمك يا منصور" 

     قال منصور "حلمي هو ان اطير اريد انا اقفز من على قمه اعلا جبل واحلق عبر السماء اريد ان اطفو فوق السحاب   أريد أن اقفز عاليا عاليا "قفز من علي كرسيه رافعا يداه في الهواء كانت عيناه تلمعان من التعجب. وكان فمه مفتوحا في منتهى الابتهاج.


    ظل كل احد في الفصل يضحك ويصفق بجنون على رد فعله المضحك.

     لم افهم المغزى فكنت واقفا في هدوء منتظرا دوري وعيناي تتبعان منصور.في كل قفزه كان يقفزها او حركه يتحركها او ضحكه يضحكها

     وقد بذلت المعلمه مريم قصار جهدها لتهدٱه الفصل دون جدوي.

    ثم جاء دوري اخيرا فقالت المعلمه "وماذا عن نجمنا سعيد ما هو حلمك"  وفجاه لاحظت ان كل الاعين متجهه الي  فقد احمر وجهي وخجلت وايضا اذناي كان يحرقني فقد نظرت الى الاعلى وتوجهت بعيني ناحيه 

    المعلمه مريم وبعد التقاط بعض الانفاس القصيره اجبت "حلمي ان اصبح سعيدا (١) تماما مثل اسمي اريد ان اكون سعيدا فرحا"

    على عكس رد الفعل الذي لقاه منصور فقد وضعت اجابتي الفصل كله في حاله تقشعر لها الابدان . وقد نظرت الى المعلمه مريم بعينين مستعجيتان  وكان زميلي الجالس بجواري غانم قد ركلاني بهدوء .وباقي الفصل قد اتجهو نحو  اماكنهم في استعجاب .

    ما عدا رد فعل واحد كان ظاهرا جدا بين زحام الفصل فكان هذا  منصور واقفا في هيئته الفوضويه ويديه في جيبه وعينانه تلمعان وابتسامته متوجهه نحوي.



     سعيد هو اسم في اللغة العربية يعني فرحان ١


        Aleya Sharif zadeh

        Aleya is a civil engineer, doctoral student and aspiring writer based in Melbourne, Australia. Her research interests include renewable energy integration, carbon accounting, and everything that helps make our planet a little greener. When she isn't busy drowning in research or work, you can find Aleya reading in a cozy cafe, or outside gazing at the clouds.

        Connect with Aleya on Instagram

        Vanessa Bong

        Vanessa (Vess) is an Asian Australian textile designer and illustrator based in Melbourne Australia. She creates work that is infused with joy, delight and often highlights the simple pleasures of life. Aiming to bring a smile to people’s faces, her artwork has an organic handmade touch. Vanessa’s work has been applied to paper goods, murals, textiles, packaging and branding within Australia and internationally.

        view more of Vanessa's work

        Maryanne Mino

        Maryanne Mino is an Australian citizen by choice, who moved to Melbourne 13 years ago after living in Sydney and the Gold Coast. Maryanne is very optimistic about life and new adventures. She loves the part of starting a new chapter in the book of life. She also loves translating, especially when assisting in translating interesting stories or ideas.

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        Designed to be enjoyed by readers of all ages, you can expect a heart-warming story about friendship and mischief.

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