He was sat alone in an isolated spot of the park, illuminated by the sunlight. I asked him what he was doing there sat all alone, and he said: “I speak to myself here. Sometimes silence is good.” Living life in the fast lane can get so overwhelming at times, I couldn’t help but agree.
He got talking about his university life. He failed his first year, but he didn’t give up there. “I grew really depressed, and my family did too. But they were my motivation” he said. Whilst many people would have given up at the first hurdle, he successfully reapplied for the same course and started his degree afresh at another university.
We eventually got talking about Bradford. When I asked him whether he was optimistic about the future of Bradford, he said: “Not really. If you want to look at the future of a city, look at its youth. The reason I have such a negative perspective of Bradford, is because I had a rough time growing up at school. The boys in class would smoke weed and drink, so I didn’t fit in. If you listened to your parents, then you were a “little wimp”. These guys listened to Tupac’s music and took only one thing out of it: thug life. But actually if you look at the bigger picture, Tupac’s lyrics stood up for Black Americans who were being oppressed.”
He also talked about how it was so much easier to find negativity because of the internet. Gone are the days when TV was the only source of negativity invading the safety of your homes. A world of hurt, of Internet trolls and such, is now readily accessible in the palm of your hands. Being a young person by default is one of the most challenging periods of any person’s life, but in the 21st century, it’s even more of a tough break.
When I remarked at how introspective he was for someone so young, he jokingly suggested maybe it was his beard that made him appear wise. It does give him the air of a young philosopher, but I laughed and said it was that brain in his head that was the real seat of his wisdom.
As I took his photo, he quickly put on his sunglasses. He said he didn’t want his mum to see his photo on social media, just in case she thought he’d been indoctrinated by the Illuminati.
Some day, Zeeshan will be designing buildings that will touch the skies. He will literally and figuratively be climbing up the ladder of life. His bullies on the other hand will be stuck on the same street corners, living the thug life they idolise so much.
I don’t think he realised that Bradford has much to be hopeful for if youths like him are there to pave the way onwards and upwards.