Words by Karan Maitra
This week Manchester Writing School’s Sherry Ashworth and Anjum Malik are in Dubai to take part in the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature, in association with this summer’s Manchester Children’s Book Festival. As part of the trip Anjum held a writing workshop attended by local students at GEMS Wellington Academy, aged 15 to 17.
Anjum felt that the workshop was a fantastic experience, not just for the students but for herself as well, “I had an amazing day with them, I was made very welcome and started with the performance of my monologue, Nahid, based on my own story of arriving in England as a young girl from Pakistan to join my Dad in London with my family. This was followed by a Q&A where the students were firing away some amazing questions. I then ran a workshop where they all began their own monologues.” One of the students, Karan Maitra, wrote this blog.
Anjum Malik joined us to give a talk on monologues and scriptwriting. Anjum was born in Saudi Arabia and has spent most of her life in Pakistan.
Ms Malik began with a monologue titled Nahid. It was from the point of view of a girl talking about moving to the UK from her home country of Pakistan. Many important sociological issues were brought up in the first few minutes. This included racism, as well as the Indo-Pakistan war.
In the monologue, the ratio of boys to girls in the education system was noted; it was interesting to see that the genders mix more freely in Pakistan than in the UK.
The protagonist of the monologue was sad. She did not like the new atmosphere and longed for her home country. After moving twice, her family had faced nothing but racism. Her dad had been sacked. He fought with the bus driver because the driver threw expletives at him. He was not happy with himself as he said it’s a bad thing to fight back.
The education system was shown to be very discriminative. The teachers picked on the students from Asia saying, “Go back where you came from,” despite the students being apt at studies. The Indo-Pakistan war is highlighted again when the lead falls in love with Jaswant, a Sikh from India. To get married he changes his name to Jameel to fit in with the Muslim community as this union enraged them.
Her dad is in hospital, dying. She spends her last moments with him by his bed talking about times that have passed, taking joy in the reminiscence. After he passes away, he is buried there, in Bradford. He did not wish his body to be sent back to Pakistan as that would be Un-Islamic.
After the monologue had ended, we had a question-answer session with Ms Malik. The audience asked a number of questions. One student asked, “Is it more enjoyable to write a story or perform it?” Ms Malik responded by saying that she started acting only a year ago. She was previously only a writer, with other actors performing her work. She was initially petrified by the prospect of acting, but has since overcome her fears.
Mrs Malik told us more about her roots. She was born in Saudi, but her father went back to Pakistan after receiving a letter from her Grandfather. They later went on to move to the UK as her father preferred a more social environment and he did not feel that Pakistan was conducive to his mind set.
Ms Malik held a writing workshop after theQ&A. We started with a synopsis of the Nahid monologue that we had seen earlier. Many ideas were brought up. Some people believed the monologue was more about family and family ties, while others thought the main aspect was highlighting racism, and even others believed it was mainly about cultural diversity.
All of us in the workshop then tried writing a monologue in a specified time frame. This helped us experience a bit of the real world by putting us under pressure to ignite a creative spark within us.
We all attempted writing a monologue about ourselves. We followed this by discussing how our ideas change as they go along and don’t conform to what we originally thought. Ms Malik told us about overcoming writers block by trying ‘free writing’.
We were all mustering the courage to speak up and present our monologues. Individuals took it in turn to read their monologues and received feedback from the rest of the class. A lot of feedback was shared. It seemed as though we were beginning to understand the concept of saying a lot in very few words. We all thoroughly enjoyed the seminar.
Here are a few excerpts from the students’ monologues:
1. “Ages. It took ages to convince my dad. Then the decision was made. We are leaving.”
2. “It makes me think now. This very moment, is something happening while I write this that I will think about in a few years.”
3. “I don’t want to be spending time with Year 7’s and 8’s when I don’t have to.”
4. “A tall man with glasses appears in front of me blocking my view of a better morning.”
5. “Subconsciously I noted different faces waiting around me, counting who had been there before I had arrived and how many had been there before me.”
6. “He watched me extricate my purse from the bundle and use my credit card to pay the 63 pound fine.”
7. “Getting directions in New York City, I keep walking and turn right at Starbucks. It’s not like there is one on every corner.”
8. “The other kids weren’t as impressed as I was. They were indifferent while I was in love.”
9. “Whether I changed or not for the better or the worse, I will never know.”
10. “I am sitting here trying to think of something to write.”
11. “I feel like I am the only normal person in this Alien and messed up world.”
12. “It was difficult because I had to live with my mother alone for three years in Greece.”
13. “But then sometimes reality comes knocking and tells me that I am just being egocentric and that I have no idea what I’m talking about.”
14. “My dad used to talk to me in English but I was stubborn and would just answer back in Dutch. But now I have to work harder. School was harder.”
15. “We were firstly friends. Best friends. Then secondly cousins. “
16. “I am also afraid now. I hold my nerves steady but my hand is shaking slightly. If my parents get to know I’ve skipped a class it will be hell for me at home.”
17. “I felt like I was a Jigsaw piece. The completing piece in this portrait was finally complete. I am home.”
18. “No one is a small blip of existence. If anyone is, I am.”
GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis offers a uniquely crafted progression from the Early Years Foundation Stage, through an enriched and developed National Curriculum for England into personalised qualification pathways. The Academy offers world class facilities set in a modern campus in one of Dubai’s most prestigious new developments.
Anjum Malik is a poet and scriptwriter who also exhibits and performs her work. She is a fellow of Manchester Metropolitan University and lectures to the new writers at the Manchester Writing School. Find out more about Anjum at www.anjummalik.com.