Umar Zain

I have had a good (as in amount) time quarrelling with Zain (my alter-ego) regarding what to find our way through this self-definition conundrum. As usual, his nature of immediacy made him the first to come up with a response: recount an emotionally stirring past. While I could temporarily dismiss my resentment towards sorrowful endeavours and lead myself to believe that he has what it takes to tread such path, I would never play the pity-seeking game of life tragedy and self-development juxtaposition only to end up with a dicey charming-spell.

At last, the dragged argument concluded with a mutual agreement; it marked the beginning of an intimate story on how our contrasting values intertwined into a singularity. It was a story best narrated from my perspective though Zain would tenaciously squeezed his part in along the way. So henceforth unfolds the story of Umar Zain:

For me, none of the buzz – about the constrictions, trials and tribulations inflicted upon anyone who embraces Islam – budged my faith even slightly. After all, there had been years-long research and oath sworn to unceasingly find the true religion. It was my eyesight that worried me the most. Will I hurt my loved ones? Treat women with unworthiness? Criticize everything and lose myself? These questions relied crucially on the hidden purpose of a name: the root where a person’s traits blossom.

Despite the whole painstaking week spent on ‘Googling’ the meaning of every Arabic name ever existed, settling with a name was as sure as eggs is eggs. It was as though the name was just waiting there for a perfectly fitting entity, like a jigsaw puzzle and its missing pieces. The pride and honour arose from a grand name bestowed were beyond measurable, and more so the magnitude of identity embossed thereafter. Zain was equally triumphant with his name. In one word, it was transcendent. By the way, mine was Umar.

We were not a pair of good-and-evil as much as we were a duo of scientist-and-artist. My side contributed the scrutiny of reality observation. Judicious use of accurate facts coalesced with neck-deep analysis were the aces up my sleeve. Zain, on the contrary, was made out of an outlandish realm; everything he did or said signified a subtlety of bizarreness with endless possibilities.

It seemed that the lively imagination erupting from his head turned out to be, astoundingly, very handy during and outside class hours. Once upon a time, we encountered a chemistry test, asking for reasons why iodine is able to make more bonds than chlorine. I was at the verge of quitting – exhausted from the struggle of recalling oxidation state’s concepts and making sense of the question’s existence – when I glimpsed Zain’s images of atoms. The sizes!

Sometimes, though, he would put me in the hot soup. In the midst of Mrs Rohana’s blazing fury, he could manage to whisper me a snarky pun, “Burning hair plus crashing thunder equals to Kraken.” What a scolding-of-the-century for that little chuckle he triggered.

He wept silently to sad movies. He succumbed to jealousy and frustration, wasting my precious time to come up with words of encouragement. He went silly at the slightest hint of humour. He bobbed his head to rev-up songs. Et cetera.

I ruined the fun, sometimes, “Listen more carefully.”

“You know, you’re such a mood spoiler. Fine then. The background music is kind of…”


But eventually, he grew up, “We’re handsome.”

“Ah-ah. We are the group of ugly geniuses who created social websites, gadgets and fashionable clothes for those commercially appealing people.”

“Look more carefully.”


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