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Photo Courtesy: http://www.hivisasa.com/

Apart from the Uhuru-Joho and #UhuruChallenge fuss, people like me consider the foot bridge to be a great blessing. And when I say people like me I mean the paranoid, the hysterical, the psychotic freaks, the ones suffering from agyrophobia (fear of streets or crossing the street); yep, the people who see a car rushing right into them, crashing all their bones when crossing a busy road.

So years back when I started uni, I was quite overwhelmed with the highway. I would always stand for moments and moments again before actually crossing the road. I would stand close by to the next person beside me and follow them right when they cross. If I am to die I wouldn’t die alone right? I mean, who wants to die alone? 😀 But then we do die alone so while standing next to the person, I would go their left side or right side according to which side the cars are appearing from. If the cars are coming from the right side, I would go to the left side. If we are to be knocked down, the person is to die first. It sounds so selfish nah? So I decided I should stop being selfish and take care of my paranoid self. I decided to use the underground pathway-under the bridge 😀

Now there is something about the Buxton underground bridge. It is dark and scary. It is old and smelly. And most of all, it is not the place for me to walk into. Once I was down the stairs, I would hold my bag firmly.
Phone stashed away-check
Money hidden in a paperbag, inside a zipped smaller bag, inside a smaller smaller bag-check.
Karate move-Urgh, I should have watched the karate kid more.
Walking steps-Fast, FASTER THAN FASTEST.
But then remains one problem, what if this bridge falls on my head?!

This is precisely what happens when you watch too much of final destination 🙁

Oh my God, I should have written a will. My diary should be taken by Husna, my best friend after ‘the tragic incident of underground bridge collapsing’. But who will tell my mum that I love her more than I love my phone and laptop? 🙁
Which is worse though? Bridge Collapsing or someone attacking you in this dark hole? Rape, murder or kidnap?
Oh my God, I don’t even have a daughter to share this tiny sweet paranoic love portions with ;( No no, enough is enough. Where is the highway route again? So I decided to go back to innocently stalking people crossing the road.

God heard my cry and sent me a blessing 😀 I had some lovely classmates who would always accompany me to the stage. Yeah, sometimes I would be grasping one of their hands because a car from the farthest end is approaching. They would wait until the childish me was inside a matatu before they left their ways. You know, just to ensure I don’t get kidnapped or robbed or have my intestines scattered on the highway floor after a tragic accident. So on the days one of them or more wouldn’t come to class, I would have a mini-attack.
“Where are youuu? Why haven’t you come to class?!” *weeping emoji*
“Ah siji leo, mwalimu aboesha (I am not coming today, the teacher is boring)
*Weeping emoji, weeeeeeping emoji* “I am going home alone today” *weeping emoji again*
“You will be okay” *laughing emoji*
*weeping emoji is even tired of crying*

Then comes a bully or more bullies, “You going home alone today 😀 ” But then some bullies are friendly bullies, so they’d escort me and wait until I am gone. No wonder one of my friends told me I was always walking around with bodyguards 😀

Right now when I think of those moments and now with the foot bridge up I’m like, “If this highway was to be speak, it would be proud of how terrified I was of it.” Not to mention that one night I almost got knocked down for real and in my pursuit to evade the car, one of my legs ended up in one of those uncovered holes. Don’t even ask me how I got home that day 😀

May the credit for whoever built the bridge reach them because one of my 2017 goals (ameen) is to walk on that bridge, take a perfect selfie and caption it like, “Well well well, guess who survived the highway 😀 Oh! and the underground too!” 😀 😉

Photo Courtesy: I have no idea who has the brains to do this 😂

After the surprise release of results and the shock that followed, Matiang’i still remains to be the man of the hour; the man of 2016. Whether we like him or not, we can’t deny that he is irresistible! You just can’t help but adore the man. From when he entered office, we have seen MAJOR changes never seen in Kenyan history.

He declared it forbidden for schools to hold any events during the third term, he denied candidates to enter the exam room with any watches, pencil pouch or even a mathematical set. All stationary was to be in transparent paper bag. He ensured that during the examinations no students were around and teachers except the head and the deputy. He literally did the rounds himself to some schools during the examinations to ensure no irregularities. He had both the KCPE and KCSE results released before the completion of a month after the seating. And why I say this man will remain of the hour is his enigmatic style of doing things. On 29th we suddenly had breaking news just out of the blue for the release of KCSE results. For the past few days before that, I could hear candidates create panic attacks amongst themselves with the false alarm always, “I hear the results will be released today!” As much as the exams were practically ‘made familiar’ with almost all questions coming from the ‘made familar series books’, candidates were barely eating, barely sleeping, moving into their grandma’s homes so as not to be asked their index numbers 😀 He kept Kenyans on suspense and hands on their hearts always. It’s like he wants to play this hide and seek game yet wanting to prove that THIS IS HIS GAME!

For the first time in history we are having at least more realistic results than ever. They look clean and it really clarifies where we are as a country. Matiang’i has insisted that he won’t allow any monkey business in his reign and that cheating is out of his dictionary. A new system has also come up whereby students won’t be using index numbers anymore but instead be using specific student identifiers throughout a student’s school life. Again Matiang’i wants to bring in common exams in universities just like the KNEC and KASNEB exams which may greatly affect the number of graduates in universities. While this will be a pain in the necks of some, students confusedly still like Matiang’i. Like he is doing something that may affect them greatly especially considering how many depend on leakage, students still can’t help but adore the man. He is doing a great job and many are ready to vote for him if he vied for presidency. Or at least he should be the chairman of IEBC right? We surely need such a clean-up in our politics too!

You know, when I remember during our days after KCPE we would have to wait until February to start school and after KCSE, have to wait for at least four to six or more months before getting their university calling letters. And if you ask the older school generations, they had to stay at home for almost two years waiting for the calling letters like they are being summoned to heaven. These people would do all kind of small jobs; from secretarial to farming to salon to doing house chores to cooking, counting the days until they would get too tired and just lie down on their beds, heads staring at the ceiling like they are tempted to commit suicide before joining university. Then the most painful part after those dreadful two years you get called for a course that you never even knew existed, in a down-town small college where your ancestors belonged. In a college with just two lecturers! Well, Matiang’i has saved some souls hasn’t he? 😀

Better still is that students finally got a longer holiday. The primary students have always been busy; always at school, always doing homework, always at tuition, always carrying heavy bags until their shoulders drop, always tired! They really deserved a longer break so that they could actually relax and have a normal childhood like it should be. So this time round both primary and secondary schools closed before November, giving them two good and healthy months to take a break. Yey Matiang’i!

Nonetheless, Matiang’i didn’t just break the headlines with 141 A’s, he also broke our ribs or rather, cracked them. You know Kenyans are never late creating memes and jokes when something happens and right now, Matiang’i it is. Whilst the old students thank God that they completed before Matiangi’s reign, everyone is still excited and amused by his style and swagger should we say? 😀 Since the day before yesterday my whatsapp has been knocked off with Matiangi jokes all thanks to the Khalifa alumni group lol and of course all over social media; still made my week though 😀

1. Yaani Matiang’i alikua holiday huko Coast kurelax beach akaona watoi wanaswim na ju hajui kuswim akaamua atoe results.

2. Next year results KCSE results zinakuja kama message ya sportpesa…CONGRATULATIONS you scored a D in KCSE results ID 1205.

3. Ati Matiang’i akiwa minister for health, madem watakuwa wanakaa na ball 4 months =, hakuna kuteseka na mizigo.

4. KCSE 2017: HISTORY PAPER 1A: Describe the Matiangi massacre and it’s significance in shaping Kenya’s education sector (20 marks)

5. Saa hii mtu mjanja anafaa afungue kinyozi ju watu wenye wanarepeat high school ni wengi na walikuwa washaweka rasta.

6.This ‘failing of the boy child’ is a strategy by the government to decongest JKUAT.

7. Kama hujaendea cert yako high school endea sai before Matiangi aifanyie corrections.

8. But those of us who finished our KCSE before Matiangi’s reign, acheni Mungu aitwe Mungu. Juu wengi wangepata certificate of participation.

9. Matiangi be like cut it cut it cut it that mark is way too high you need to cuuut it.

10.Interview job itakuwa swali moja tu ‘before or after Matiang’i?’

11. I never dreamt of a day when KCSE results would be breaking news. Congratulations Matiang’i, results are now at par with terrorist attacks.

12. Urban Dictionary:
Word: Matiangi_surprise
Example in a sentence: Hey Duncan you matiangied me.
Synonym: surprise, shock, eye opener, rude awakening.

13. Ati hao 141 wamepata A ata wanaweza form whatsapp group na wajiite ‘the only doctors, wengine ni witch doctors’

14.I hereby take this opportunity to thank my parents, for timing 😀 I did my KCSE before Matiangi 😀

Let’s all have a moment of LOL LOL LOL for the one and only Matiang’i. He has done a great job nay? Well, uni students brace yourselves, you are yet to be roasted 😃😂

To all those who have received their results, congratulations. As the saying goes, you reap what you sow. Nonetheless one thing I realized is that, High school defines your personality yet it is university that defines your real IQ because this is where you do what you choose to do and you learn the way you want to. So whatever the case, prove your abilities in the next level. All the best ahead! 🙂

Photo Courtesy: http://media.istockphoto.com/

2016 has been like any other year; with it’s own ups and downs, new innovations, great changes, tragedies, successes, new habits both good and bad ones. As much as we are encouraged to embrace change and accept it, there are some things that we shouldn’t be okay with, that we should STOP doing as fast as the four letters can be pronounced and that each one of us should really reconsider before doing them again. Let us make 2017 a better year.

1. Let the journalists do their work: This is one of the things that really REALLY bothers and pisses me off honestly and it makes me sad too. We are in this era whereby everyone is a citizen journalist, everyone is a photographer. Of course there is a good side and great advantages of this but we are sooo misusing the privilege. Having people take photos and videos of tragic events, heart-breaking scenarios is soo not okay. It is NOT okay to take photos of someone’s bloody body at the accident scene, of someone’s burial, of someone who just committed suicide, of a total stranger having his private time somewhere and you decide the world should laugh with you on how they had worn their dress the wrong way or make-up done so badly or whatever embarrassing moment they are facing. Or even ‘better’, making a meme out of it. For heavens sake, please just don’t. We have journalists for a reason. And we go through four years of learning for a reason. We are taught ethics which apparently many don’t have.

Sometimes, I come across very devastating situations in which I know I could create a master piece story from yet I, as a journalist refrain from taking the pic or the video because I always remind myself that I am a human being before a journalist. And this is something we should all consider before we are so quick to pull out our phones. Ask yourself this question, if I were in that same situation, would I want someone to expose me to the world like that?! Would I want that to be done if it was my mother in the bad make up? Or if it was my dad lying on the ground dead? Would I want the world my dead body’s picture circulating before even my own family is notified of my death? For those who have ever read the biography of the Bang bang club of South Africa, or watched the movie, they can tell you how photo journalists at that time suffered from guilt and depression due to the heart-breaking scenes they had to capture. One committed suicide yet his photo of a vulture waiting for a hungry child to die brought him great fame. It was all guilt…but do we have any left? He was a journalist, that was his job, yet he couldn’t stand it. What of us of the all day, all night selfie era??

Don’t say I can’t be in that situation. I can’t commit suicide. I can’t do bad make-up. I can’t I can’t…but you may do something way worse and trust me, you wouldn’t even want to admit it to your own self let alone the whole world knowing about it. We need to start acting like human beings with brains and with a heart. Act HUMAN!

2. Stop putting yourself down: Stop waiting for a miracle to happen to bring you out of your misery. You need to believe in yourself, believe that you have a purpose in this life. That you do make a difference. It doesn’t have to be world wide difference. You don’t have to be mother Theresa or Nelson Mandela for you to know that you are making a difference. You are. Because you make someone in your life happy. Because you help your friends in their difficult times. Because you love your family and they love you back. You are making a difference just by your existence. So don’t allow rain drops look like a storm. Don’t create problems that don’t exist. Don’t overthink. Just believe. Have faith. Love and love again. Be kind and never let yourself down. Remember, you are amazing! 🙂

3. Staying low key is important. It is as important as you taking your medicine on time. I personally spend a lot of time on social media because that is where all my work is but if there is anything that I learnt is; learn to separate your personal life from social media. Stop worshiping the internet. Stop giving out too many details about your life. It is okay to let your friends know when you are happy and when you are sad or when you are having a nice time somewhere. Just don’t over-do it. There are many vultures out there waiting for you to trip or maybe even your downfall. You upload your every single movement; from hotel to hotel. From outing to outing. From boyfriend to boyfriend. From meal to meal. Do you believe that people actually are happy for you just because they clicked ‘like’? or because the comments got to 100 plus? Think about it. How many are actually your friends; REAL friends? Few I am sure. What then becomes of the rest who have so much information about you to write your biography yet you are actually strangers? Doesn’t it ever scare you that you have nothing left in your life that is private and unknown to the world? Be a little bit mysterious. It has it’s own beauty.

4. Regard depression seriously. It’s high time we stopped mocking people undergoing depression. They are not attention seekers. They are not drama queens and kings. They are not weak. They are just too overwhelmed with their lives. They just need your help, your advice, your support. We need to stop telling on them like they are being delicate babies. That they are not strong enough. We need to stop pushing them away because depression is an illness of the heart just as cancer is to the body. It is real. It is deadly. It is suicidal. We shouldn’t wait until someone has harmed themselves is when we say, ‘He told me how he had suicide thoughts many times. I thought he was joking…’ Sweet heart there is no jokes on depression issues. When your friend/family/close person comes to you then give them your time, your love, your prayers and assist them in discovering God and having faith in Him and His plans.

5. New beginnings: I believe in new beginnings. I believe in making changes, meeting new people and making new discoveries. I believe in better days and happy moments. But I also believe that none of these are tied to a new year. Every new year we want to make resolutions, we want a fresh start, we want the new beginnings. Yet 1st of January is not any different with 31st December or 20th August or 23rd of March. It is a day like any other. It doesn’t come with a miracle from Santa nor does it hide any surprises. It is all but our own perception of it. The resolutions we make each year, we rarely ever fulfill them. We just make them because everyone is making their resolutions. But it should never be so. Yes I believe in making goals and what better time to make them than on a new year? Yes that is fine. I also do have my resolutions and goals each year. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until next new year for you to make the necessary changes in your life? How are you even sure you will live to the next 1st January?

Please stop complaining that it has been a terrible year, every single year! We hear the same words on and on and on, year after year. So when are you ever going to appreciate the good things that happened in the 12 months phase? Stop being a negative person. Appreciate good things when they come and be patient during tough times. And remember, change can be done any time any day even if it at midnight of a very stormy night. It’s all in your brain. You can start your new beginning right now, right this second. Who is going to stop you? Every day is a beautiful day; beautiful enough to be a fresh start 😉

It has been a year of it’s own. Let’s hope and pray that 2017 will be a more peaceful year for the whole world, a better year for us all, a year with more love and happiness than any other. May we all live to have our new beginnings and achieve our goals. Ameen 🙂

At the moment the whole world is talking about Aleppo, arranging vigil events, donating, doing sincere prayers and all this just makes me fall in love ❤

So this is our week, Mombasa folks. On this thursday (tomorrow) 3 p.m. there will be prayers at Light house mosque. There will be a donation box at the event where people can donate for Aleppo folks. If you are wondering how the money will get to the white helmets then this is how:
One of the organizers of the ‘vigil for aleppo’ event is a member of the foreigner’s students of Turkey. The group is collecting funds to buy medical equipment, blankets, medicines, food, clothes and other necessities. This is the first time we are doing such a wonderful initiative in Mombasa, so please be available when history is being made. Come and connect to the world. Come and be inspired. Come and have your faith in humanity be restored 😊

For those who can’t attend but wish to donate you can mpesa me at 0704 731 560: Lubnah. Please I can only accept donations until tomorrow around 2:30 before the event starts in shaa Allah. I already have 15k donated…please bring in more. Let us make a difference and in shaa Allah our rewards will be from God 😊

Talking of making a difference, we have someone else who desperately needs our help. A brother of ours was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in early December.

He requires Kshs.203,768 to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the Nairobi Hospital for five weeks.

We are appealing for your help as this matter needs to be attended to urgently. We will greatly appreciate on behalf of the family, In Shaa Allah.

You can make your contribution through MPESA- 0790488333 Amina Khamis.

We all know how deadly cancer is and I can’t insist enough how much the family needs us right now. Compared to the Aleppo appeal, his funding is still far behind and we all know how doctors won’t treat him unless he is paying meanwhile. Charity starts at home people. Let’s help him with the little much we can offer.


These are his medical records 👆

Please note that I am only taking donations for Aleppo while Amina khamis mentioned above is receiving for the patient. We can all make it possible. A little here a little there and in shaa Allah we will have helped save some people’s lives. Ameen.

I know some would be confused on which to donate for. My idea is you can divide the money and get rewards for both. If your have little money then you can attend the prayers for Aleppo and donate the money to the patient. But that is just my idea to make you participate in both, you can always do what you wish most 😊

Do remember however small your charity is, it makes a difference. Your small and my small makes it big. So let’s start M-pesaring 😛

God bless you abundantly and grant you well. Ameen. Thanks in advance!!

Photo Courtesy: http://cbsnews2.cbsistatic.com/

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS VERY DISTURBING CONTENT

For those who know me well enough, they’d tell you you’d rarely see me in the middle of a crowd. It makes my head spin. In any event or occasion i’d either be within the two/three rows and most probably at the side-end of the line. It is always easier to get away you know. The nearer to the door, the better. So yesterday I was at the Iqra Youth foundation seminar and they had us to follow the lines. I ended up right at the middle of the third line. So before the event started, we had almost two hours. There were some nasheeds being played. One of the songs was one of the songs my late Mama two loved. Immediately upon hearing it, I could feel her face right in front of me. The memories, the laughter, her jokes…I started crying. I thought it would just a be a tear or two but then it almost became like an outburst of a spring. I was nervously and anxiously searching for my handkerchief in my bag with my head bowed so down almost getting buried in the bag. Obviously I didn’t want anyone see me cry. It was too early in the morning for anyone to be seen crying. I could’t find my hanky so I just used my hijab to wipe the over-streaming tears. My younger sister was seated next to me, I could see how deep in thoughts she was. I guessed that she probably was thinking about her too but no, I wasn’t about to let her see me in tears and make her cry too. I am the older sister remember? In that roller coaster of thoughts, my mind replayed all those depressing videos I had seen the previous night of Aleppo. I started crying even more. Here I am crying for losing one important person what about them?! Losing everything all at once; homes, schools, hospitals, families…Seeing your sisters being gang raped right in front of their eyes…God! It made me feel miserable. The helplessness, the burning feeling…God knows how many times I kept my head bowed down in my bag, pretending to still be searching for the hanky. Looking behind after every two minutes to check whether my best friend had arrived to my rescue. My head was spinning, I could hear the laughter around, people busy chattering away, heads bowed down to their phones with no easy exit to the washroom so I stayed put, had a monologue trying to stay calm while taking deep breaths. God knows how many times I’ve wanted to disappear in such situations; be invisible, dissipate totally if possible. That is what helplessness does to us. Makes one angry, stressed, sad, frustrated all at the same time. It makes one question humanity, question God, question so many things…

This is perhaps one of the worst times to live in, one of the worst centuries to exist in. You see the humanity burn away into ashes. You see misery. You see rivers of blood flowing in a river-less town. You see children being tortured. You see women being raped. You witness a lot while you can do NOTHING about it. NOTHING.

But then this isn’t about Aleppo or Syria only. This is not about religion, race or politics. It is about the lives of innocent people. This is about Yemen, Palestine, Burma and many MANY other places around the world. It is about humanity. It is about the universe.

They cry, they scream, they die. They are calling unto us? Where are we?! Where are we in helping them? As much as we keep tweeting, updating, blogging, instagraming about them, we have to REALLY ACTUALLY LITERALLY pray for them. Let us not just say, ‘let us pray for them.’ We need to take action NOW! We need to organize protests. We need to organize tahajjud for prayers for the whole world. We need to go back to Allah because He? He is the only one who can help them.

I am not trying to torture you too with these videos. I hope you can see the importance of your prayers and protests at this moment, to see the blessings in your life that you barely thank God for…to see how much privileged you are. Alhamdulilah ala kul hal.

Take heart people. God is seeing this all. He is watching and He is preparing great reward for all these people. Take heart that God has a greater plan. That He is still in control; always has been, always will be. Let’s all turn towards Him. Let’s complain to Him. Let us beg Him. Let us PRAY PRAY PRAY! Let us pray for the sake of all those who are gone and those still clutching onto the feeble straws 🙁

Ameen thumma ameen! ;(

CHAPTER THREE

Photo Courtesy: http://www.terapeak.com/

Continuation from chapter two: http://lubnah.me.ke/spreading-the-wings-chapter-2/

 

“Being born in an Asian society with disability has a stigma of its own and discrimination. This was the situation before Dear Diary was born.

After having struggled to live up to everyone’s expectations, having adjusted to all kinds of situations environmentally and also the attitude of people taking me for granted, always keeping the disabled on the side, not including them in the community in any kind of decision making, is what gave birth to Dear Diary.

Down the line after 10 years I am glad that the way people look at me now is different from 10 years ago. Now I am considered part of the society. It wasn’t easy to build a name to keep up to, the pace to keep a smile and keep going, but I have proved my stand. Today I am respected. People want to be associated with me. People want to support me in all that I do purely for humanity and this is a great achievement.

However there is still discrimination where marriage is concerned. People especially in the Asian society have a mindset that a person with disability should not fall in love or have a partner whereas the same disabled person can be part of everything else in the society.

So it makes me wonder why a man or a woman with disability in the Asian society or culture is considered to be not in need of love or to be loved by that special someone…” Nafisa Khanbhai


We have probably seen so many disabled people in our lives; on the streets, in our work places, in our homes and in our communities. As much as they could be outstanding, hardworking, beautiful, strong…there would always be a ‘but’ in the middle of the sentence.

“She is capable and talented to do the job, but she doesn’t have legs…”

“He has outstanding qualifications, but he is deaf…”

“She is beautiful, she would have made a wonderful wife and mother, but…”

The ‘buts’ could go on and on forever and this is because we no longer look at them as normal human beings as what we are. But this is the funny part of life right? Someone ‘normal’ could be so depressed, with so much on their plate, their hearts could be tearing apart, they can barely focus and think straight, yet we still give them the chance to work, to get married, to have a family and a social life, because ‘everyone deserves a chance to prove what they are really capable of.’ Then why can’t we offer the same opportunities to those who are disabled yet still can do what any other normal person can do?

I can’t totally deny that there are some disabled people who can’t do some things because it is simply beyond their power, beyond their abilities and capabilities but there are those who have stood out from the crowd. They are always there but they end up seating on the pavements of the road, begging. Sometimes it is because this is the easiest way out of their troubles but sometimes, they really have no other way except this. And this is because you have stigmatized them; we have.

Have you ever seen the fuss we make when someone gets married or marries a blind girl, or an albino, or a man with no legs, or a lady who is both deaf and dumb? We make it seem like they are aliens, they belong to a world that is close to ours but not exactly the same as ours. Why then don’t we exaggerate the same way when someone marries a totally distorted soul? A soul that is crying out for help? Is it because they are beautiful on the outside or that they are good at covering their pain with a lovely smile?

I am not saying that people with depression issues don’t deserve to be married or be employed or be happy in their lives because anyway, we are all victims of the pain in our hearts. We just endure it differently. But my point is, if we can accept ourselves with all our unseen imperfections and flaws, why then not accept those whose flaws are visible and can be seen?

Mrs Fatema narrates of how once a visitor came home and found Nafisa in a bad state and she quickly told her that maybe someone did some witchcraft or something of the sort to Nafisa. But Nafisa’s mother is a believer that God tests anyone in any way, and this was their test.

The stigma is there everywhere. People believing that disabled people are cursed or victims of witchcraft or a punishment from God etcetera etcetera so however much they may be friends with them or colleagues, there is still some tension in the air, a gap that is always there to differentiate them; ‘the normal people’ to him/her, ‘the disabled’. There is that fine unseen, yet felt line between these two kinds of people and perhaps this line will exist forever.

Go to supermarkets, Government buildings, malls, Company offices, hospitals, schools, how many actually have ‘disabled-friendly’ environments? Are there any wheelchairs, ramps, sign language translators, brail documents? Ask any disabled person how many times they had to cancel their plans because they can’t climb the stairs? Or that there is no one to communicate to with sign language? How many times have you seen a disabled person board a matatu? Have you seen how hectic it is for them? Are the conductors and drivers patient enough to let them board the vehicle and sit comfortably before rushing off? How many schools are there for the disabled? What is the condition of these schools? Most of the times, they are pathetic and sometimes teachers are the same ones who take advantage of the students’ conditions.

Why do we wait until we have become victims ourselves, or until we fall in love with one of them, or when one of our close friends or family members becomes a disabled, is when we decide to think rationally and humanly about them? These people are most often than not, around us or near us all the time. We just don’t see them or even look at them. We don’t try putting ourselves in their shoes. We never think of how that could be you or me someday. We forget that God has never stopped creating us and that we too could become handicapped at any moment in our lives. And I mean, ANY MOMENT. It could even be right now as you read this…

I am not trying to curse you or anyone else. I am trying to remind you that God can twist your story whenever He wills. You just have to be humble to those less advantaged than you. Try helping out whenever you can to those disabled, even if it is just by granting them your true friendship, loyalty and companionship.

I am just trying to tell you that the next time you see a disabled person, treat them like how you would want someone else to treat you if you were wearing the same shoes…


To be continued…stay tuned 🙂

By: Haadya A.

Photo Courtesy: http://img15.deviantart.net/

 

Shadows of the battles we fight,

It’s memories keeping us up at night,

The sky now is never bright.

 

Blame in folded knots,

Hammering our hearts like nuts and bolts.

 

Fear of expression

Our souls dying with depression

 

Courage blown like an autumn leaf,

Happiness fading like our once vast coral reef.

 

We have forgotten to care

All we do is nod and stare

 

We are like dying roots of the big tree

We are trapped in our own battles and can never be free

 

It has been a long while

Since we last saw a real smile

 

We lose seconds of reality

Our actions are now done silently

 

If we could all go back to our heart

We can make another beautiful start.

 

We are but oblivious things

We’ve lost the title of human beings.

Continuation from ‘Unbroken Wings- chapter 1’: http://lubnah.me.ke/unbroken-wings/

Photo Courtesy: https://angypaints.files.wordpress.com

“My parents have given me tremendous support. They never stopped me at any juncture to pursue whatever I wanted to do. After class eight, I couldn’t go on with secondary education due to my condition but I joined Burhaniya finishing college instead. I did a two years home science course there where I perfected my art of embroidery, crotchet, fabric/glass painting amongst other skills that I learnt,” she says as she looks at her art pieces, longingly, that are still hanged on her bedroom walls, “Unfortunately I stopped doing art when I started venturing into other things in life, but I still love art like I always have.”

Nafisa didn’t stop spreading her wings by learning art; she went on to seeking a job where she first worked at a Celebral Palsy centre situated in Tudor in 1994. She however had to quit because the pay couldn’t fit her needs and also it being a tough job handling the challenged children. She thereafter studied several packages at Aries Data Systems, she got a job at Compucon Ventures Ltd and worked there for two years before the company closed. Not giving up, she went on to work at Tyre and Tread ventures, worked there for a while before moving on to Marajani Communications where the working hours and days were challenging and thus couldn’t stay there any longer too. Her last job was with her father at Hatimi Joinery works Ltd.

Besides all that, she was also a member of the Rotary Club of Mombasa since 1998. The club brings people together for beneficial activities, fellowship and to help the needs of others. Nafisa became part of the Rotaract wing which is the youth wing of Rotary club i.e. below 30 fellows. She was given the responsibility of Director of community service three months after becoming a member, later she became its president in 2000 and 2001. Again in 2009, she joined ‘Inner Wheel club of Mombasa’ which is a group of the wives and female relatives of Rotarians. In this group she served as a president for two years.

“Nafisa used to do wonders at the Rotaract youth wing. She used to come up with great ideas, organize everything, work tirelessly and make things happen. They used to call me her transport manager for I would always be the one to pick her up for meetings and all events. I tell you, Nafisa is the strongest woman I have ever met. She never made me feel her disability or even allow me to pity her at any moment,” Manoj, her long-time friend says.

“My sister has always been doing things that not even us; the normal and healthy beings are doing. While she was still at Rotaract, she once came up with this idea of feeding handicapped children during Christmas. She arranged everything and made packages for the children by the help of other Rotractors. During that Christmas, we fed 1200 children. It was a huge success. It was because of her great ambition and passion that she was sponsored by Rotary International for a tour to Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe,” Hussein, Nafisa’s elder brother narrates.

“What Nafisa has done is prove to me and everyone else that disability is not inability. She physically participates in all events. You know we have so many people who have roads named after them, hospitals, schools yet all they did is give out  large cheques while someone like Nafisa always goes out of her way to do the charity projects. She is resourceful, determined, kind and caring; always has great ideas and makes sure she is present to supervise all her projects. Nafisa works even when it is harmful for her body. She is indeed one of the unsung heroes,” an ex-rotarian says.

In 2006, Nafisa went on to do something that was going to change her life forever. She organized a stage drama by the name ‘Dear Diary’ which was highlighting the challenges of the disabled. The play revolved around Hanifa, who has lived with a physical disability all her life. She is forced out of school at an early age due to her failing health, shattering her dreams of becoming a lawyer. She then meets Zaheer and falls in love with him. But Zaheer did that one devastating thing; he dumps Hanifa for a ‘perfectly created’ lady. The play was sponsored by Nakumatt holdings, directed by Namanje and Godiah, stage managed by Muscat Sayye and produced by Nafisa herself. It was first acted at Little Theatre Club and the play brought a new untouched topic to people’s minds; the hidden feelings of the disabled.

The play won the hearts of many and the start was magical. The play opened with the main character, Nafisa, being wheeled onto the podium to receive an award. But she pauses at the base of the staircase and rejects her guide’s offer to lift her onto the stage. She then read what she calls a speech from her diary:

“I am standing before this staircase of confusion with a task of transforming my thoughts, to a destiny and the access to this wonderful destiny lies on the ability of this wheelchair. I have struggled all my life to make it to the peak, and I am standing at the foot of my dream to receive a star of honour for serving diligently towards a humanity cause. They are giving medals to humanity-generals up there (points to the podium), but the same problem I have fought all my life (pointing at the stairs) is barring me from receiving my priceless trophy.”

The play was staged again thrice at Little theatre club again, then done again twice in 2008 at the same venue while the last two shows were staged in 2009, in Kenya National theatre in Nairobi.

“My aim for Dear Diary is to change the perception of the society of people with disability. And another thing that inspired me to put up my life on stage is that every time I visit the United Kingdom, I get a completely different experience as there are facilities for the physically disabled. I feel that if a quarter of the facilities there were put in place in our country, our life would be better for us.”

In 2011, she formed an initiative with the same name as her play, ‘Dear Diary Initiative”. It is a non-profitable community initiative to advocate for the welfare and rights of the disabled. With that, Nafisa allowed herself to transform from being a sensitive girl with unachieved dreams to a strong, passionate lady making changes.

“Nafisa dedicated her life to Dear Diary. She still does. And without bias I would say, Dear Diary is Nafisa more than it is a group. She is the face of the initiative and she has worked without paying herself any penny from what they are offered. See Dear Diary depends entirely on sponsors and well wishers. Nafisa is not working anywhere else to earn herself any extra penny. Yet still, she would never accept any money for herself from Dear Diary Money. Even the religion allows us that for the collector of charity gets a portion, but Nafisa would never allow that. She does this entirely as charity. She is strong willed and a go-getter,” Mustan, Nafisa’s other brother says.

Without knowing it, Nafisa was inspiring many other disabled people AND normal people. To date DDI projects have been so many and her principle was that, disabled people do not need us to give them food and money and our sympathy. But they need us to help them in ways that can make them stand up for themselves. Be strong enough to venture into the world. Hence, Nafisa’s strategies in DDI was not only providing food but more important things like albino caps, educational text books in brail, reflective jackets, wheelchairs, mosquito nets among many other things. This is precisely what made Nafisa outstanding. She knew exactly what her fellows needed. She is empathetic and looks beyond the corners of the box. She wanted to make a difference and she did. She still does.

“I have known Nafisa since childhood and I was there too when her story was first staged. I was the one who was playing the background music of the play. I have been with her through many phases of her life and have always considered her my sister. From her childhood where she used to like scrabble and keram and hide and seek, to the days we used to meet at her grandparents’ farm in Mariakani during holidays, to the times she would feel low due to loneliness…I can tell you that she is very aggressive, hardworking, with a vision. She never asks for favours from anyone not unless it is entirely above her powers. Otherwise, she is very strong and independent…and this is how she has been able to make DDI something amazing,” Aziz, her other childhood friend says.

On September 2015, Nafisa and her Dear Diary team organized a charity fashion show to raise funds for physically challenged people at Fort Jesus in Mombasa. All the participants were people living with a disability. The event was attended by hundreds of people, including Mombasa County gender and sports executive Mohammad Abbas and director of gender and youth department Esther Ingolo.

“When she first told me about the fashion show I have to admit I wasn’t really sure how it would turn out but it was a great success! I wasn’t surprised though, this is Nafisa. She has always been strong and firm and she never gives up. She is truly a source of inspiration,” Juzer, one of Nafisa’s relatives and close friend says.

“Just at the last moment, some of her colleagues at Dear Diary dropped out of the project. It became a panic moment because it was unexpected. My other brother called me that Nafisa needed us, so we rushed in to help. But as always Nafisa was positive and ensured that the fashion show worked out amazingly as planned,” Hussein recalls.

“The use of the word Outstanding would be undermining Nafisa. She is more than that.  Why? Usually when a person is challenged, they usually are either trying to help themselves or are looking at others to help them but Nafisa is out to help others.  I believe she would have done more of charity work if not impended by her challenges but again I don’t think an abled person would be doing so much she is doing right now. But then again you would only feel the pinch if you wear the shoes.

I also remember when we were in our early adulthood; she joined Leo Club where I was the chairman and would be game for any activity or picnics we would plan. Never once did we have to make any special arrangements for her. Whilst as usual a distance came in-between us till the time she joined the Leo Club. Again I moved to Nairobi and only got back when I joined DDI. For the past 3 years we are in touch almost on weekly basis with the common factor being the charity work.” –Muslim

As such, Nafisa was increasingly creating hope in many other people’s lives. She was restoring faith in humanity in many souls…

TO BE CONTINUED…

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About a week ago, my father went missing after Isha prayers. How that went down is a story almost like the ‘Don’t breath’ movie…

My sisters and I were all seated in our room together with mum. Each of us was in a different corner studying for their own exams that were approaching while mum busily texted our other sister abroad. Just out of nowhere mum started, “Your father is really late from the masjid today.” None of us replied because mum always got anxious easily and she had such a talent at making me panic too. I, for one, didn’t want to hear of anything to excite my heart with anxiety at that moment, so I just sat calmly and read on. Some minutes later, mum walked to the window where she could directly see the masjid, “Your father isn’t back yet!”

“Relax mum, relax. He will be back any minute,” I told her as I went on studying. Soon enough, my elder sister’s husband came back home from work and they left, leaving two paranoid creatures alone with one younger but stronger one to keep us sane enough.

As mum kept worrying about dad being late, I kept checking the watch in my phone.

“Ma, it’s just 9 p.m. Say ‘audhubillah mina shaytan rajim’ (I seek refuge to Allah from the Satan). There is probably a meeting at the masjid, or he is talking to one of his friends, or someone needed his help urgently…all that is possible,” I said as I patted her shoulder.

“Audhubillah mina shaytan rajim,” she repeated after me.

Mum thereafter convinced my sister to go check if he is still in the masjid. It isn’t far so it is safe enough especially since we could see her movement. She came back and stood right beside our car, looked up at the window where we were waiting and said, “the masjid is closed.”

Now one thing about my father, which I really admire is that, he was never the kind to roam around places or talk to friends for hours. He was either out for a purpose or inside his home with his family. He is never late home unless it is beyond him. If he wants to go somewhere a bit far from home he wouldn’t go without informing my mother or at least one of us to inform mum. So this was kind of odd. Our masjid is just 3 minutes away. What could have kept him out for more than one hour?

So nowadays, i’ve been reading several self-help books to conquer anxiety and such, and since I know mum’s anxiety is enough to knock me off, I tried really hard not to worry. Time to time, I kept telling her that he will be back soon. My 17 year old sister was in control. Not showing her worry nor saying much, she was just by the window waiting for him to appear. His phone was at home that meant that he had no plan to go anywhere after the prayers and it also meant, we couldn’t call him.

It was already getting past 10 and now I was the one chanting, ‘audhubillah mina shaytan rajim’. I was really struggling not to allow the anxiety get to my head. My sister and I went to the next door neighbour who is also his friend to inquire if he was there or if they had seen him; but they hadn’t. My mum called my brother to inquire from my dad’s friends whether he was with them. His two closest friends said they hadn’t seen him that day let alone that hour. LOL now you know what that means. It means me allowing my super-active anxiety hormones start doing what they have to. My mother? Don’t even ask; she was already having stomach upsets.

We were all reciting duas now; seriously praying, each one of us at a different window. I kept pacing from the window in the bedroom to the one in the sitting room, just hoping to see him appear. Thoughts were now flowing like a waterfall. What could have happened between the masjid and home? An accident? No, it is so close home we would have known by now. Kidnapping? Raid by the police? Perhaps took him as Al-shabaab suspect? Lol but then why would my dad be a suspect anyway?! I started thinking of the families in news crying for their missing persons, of the facebook posts of people missing their dead dads, of what if my dad had gotten into a fight which ended at the police station??

My sister’s baby started crying in the room, barely thinking clearly I walked to him and fed him, “I have to remain sane,” I said to myself. “Things could get worse here…and I am the eldest available. If anything is wrong with dad, mum would need a sane person.” Now my anchor during my panic attacks has always been my best friend. She was the only one who could make me think rationally at such situations. So I was texting her while still checking one window to the other. Making me stay positive, to calm down bla bla bla…lol those are the perks of having a doctor as your best friend 😀

My mum insisted that I should call my elder sister and her husband to come join us in the search. But I told her, “What help can they really offer now? We can’t do anything ourselves except wait. We would just be making two more people anxious like ourselves.” And trust me, waiting helplessly without doing anything is the biggest test of patience.

We were barely exchanging words now; my sister,mum and I that is. Each one was either deep in thoughts, deep duas or deep in conversation with the people who could have information about dad. Mum didn’t want to create a fuss so she tried to only ask the closest friends and the neighbours who pray with him. My brother had already arrived by then. He went back to the masjid. checked again, went to ask the neighbours…no sign of him…

Several minutes past 11 I saw my brother, his friend and dad’s friend walking past home. I knew what that meant. They were going to the police station. It also meant, no good news will come out of this.

Only one thing was in mind now. If something has happened to dad, if he is dead…what would be the situation here?! How would mum be? Does he have any debts we don’t know about?…Drowning in the thoughts and after several hours of stopping myself, I broke down, silently…

I could hear my mother move some utensils in the kitchen of which she explained to me later. “I knew I couldn’t be sure what news was coming then; maybe a dead body so I started clearing the place…”

As I stood by the window, stomach upset and tears in my eyes, I saw my dad appear from the direction of the mosque. I just shouted, “Mum! dad is here!” before running downstairs to open the door. I wasn’t planning to cry in front of my dad but when our eyes met, I just started crying and hugged him.

“Where were you?!! We were worried?!” I said, still in his arms. He remained silent and patted my shoulder, which made me fear that maybe something had been done to him . But by then my mum was already downstairs too, her voice shaky. He looked at us with surprise, like he was confused why we were crying.

“I was in the car. I dozzed off unintentionally…”

Mum said this after she heard that statement, “Upon seeing him, I was already about to cry but when he said he was in the car, I forced back my tears” like ‘what??!!’ So she kept complaining and complaining how worried she was and how she had thought of worst of the worst.

“It isn’t my fault. I came here and rang the bell for almost an hour (which apparently had a problem). No one opened the door for me. It was getting pretty cold out here. I didn’t have a phone to call any of you. So I just got into the car knowing Saeed (my brother) would be here any minute now and we can come in together. But then I just suddenly dozzed off and right now the only thing that woke me up was a noisy car that passed by.”

By the time he woke up he didn’t know that it was already getting to midnight. My mum quickly called my brother to stop them from going to the police station. My elder sister and husband had already been informed that dad was missing just a few minutes earlier by my brother and coincidentally, while mum was dialing my bro’s number, my sister’s call came in and thus both of them were in the call when mum said, “He is back home. You don’t have to go to the police.”

For a few minutes after dad was home, we were still contemplating what was going on.

“Imagine if they had already reported to the police…in fact the police would have wondered who reports a missing healthy, normal, grown-up man after just four hours? Then afterwards going back to inform them that he had just dozzed off in the car.” We were now laughing about it but after every statement, each one would say, ‘alhamdulilah’ (Thank God). That was a mighty scare. But for people like me and mum, we believe there are lessons to be learnt in everything that happens.

“Imagine I stood right beside the car when I was telling you the masjid was closed, I didn’t even notice he was in there. And when Saeed went to ask the neighbours he passed by the car more than three times and still…We just weren’t meant to see him,” my younger sister said.

“Oh my, Imagine the power of Allah. How He can shift just something really small in your life and how it can mess you up. Imagine just how all this happened because of the bell that we didn’t hear…God was testing our patience and the value of dad amongst us,” I told them.

“He wanted us to just have a taste of what it would feel like if He took him away from us,” Mum said.

We remained silent for a moment, contemplating that statement. It was heavy…and it made me dread the day I will lose my dad…or any of my family members.

We could barely sleep after that, we were just narrating how we felt during the trial, laughing at how silly the end is, at the wild thoughts we had, at how we made other people anxious too, telling the story to our sister abroad and keeping her in suspense just like I did to you right now 😀 …We slept late that night and in the morning, we had so much to tell to our elder sister and her husband.

If I have learnt anything from this experience is that, perhaps if it were not for this, my dad wouldn’t have known how much exactly I love him or how we all do. And that the worst words are those left unsaid.

P.S I love you dad!

CHAPTER ONE

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PROLOGUE

I have met several disabled people in my life; people with a physical flaw, with a scar, with something on them that they are forever going to see when they look at the mirror. When our hearts are crumbling into pieces and our insides are no longer a beautiful sight, we still can wear a huge smile and stand in front of the mirror, turn left and right, admire ourselves and totally ignore our hearts that are screaming, ‘HELP!’ This is quite different for someone with a disability. They see what they lack, EVERYDAY. It is not as simple as having bushy eyebrows or cellulite or panda eyes. It is not something you can simply use concealers on or make-up to cover it up. It is something permanent. Something they have to accept and live with. They sometimes dread looking at the mirror or even looking at people, because it just reminds them what they are missing or how life would be different if they had normal hands, or eye-sight, or legs, or normal skin etc. But from the physically disabled that I have met, there are those that have picked themselves up, those who have an aura of confidence, they send off very strong vibes of self-esteem and pride, they shake hands with a firm grip and whenever you are about to pity them, they remind you of how whole they are despite what you see. Nafisa is one of them.

UNBROKEN WINGS

A January baby is usually a gift for the New Year. It’s a symbol of hope; the undying hope for an ageing couple. And when the baby is a girl, the only girl in a family of three children, it’s a special gift. The over-joyed couple named her Nafisa, a Muslim name which means Precious. Delicate. Gem. She is indeed Nafisa; she is the girl who was born with spina bifida. The baby that struggled to survive, and when you are born with spina bifida, you just have two choices. You either become a victim of your own pity as you wither away or you fight through all the odds to bloom. Nafisa chose the latter.


In the heart-warming city of Mombasa-Kenya, on the 22nd of January 1976, at 5 a.m. at Aga Khan Hospital, a tiny baby girl came into this world. Mrs. Fatema held her baby; Nafisa lovingly as the nurses helped her clean up. But they kept pacing in and out of the room restlessly and worry immediately started sinking in Mrs. Fatema’s head, ‘what is wrong?’

Right then, Dr. Varma came into the delivery room with a rather enigmatic face.

“You wanted a baby girl right? God gave you one,” he said as his lips remained tightly sealed.

“Sorry,” he continued as he held Nafisa to check her. Mrs. Fatema looked at him with puzzlement as the fear in her grew. Before she could ask anything, Dr. Varma interrupted her thoughts, “When is your husband coming?”

“Any time from now. Once he is informed that I have delivered then he will come immediately.”

Dr. Varma nodded before leaving the room, leaving Mrs. Fatema drowning in her thoughts.

Just when Nafisa’s father, Mr. Kutubudin, arrived in the hospital he was summoned in the doctor’s office and was informed that Nafisa’s spine was cracked above her hip area and the nose of her spine was outside. Her condition is called spina bifida. She needed a surgery immediately. The consequence of the operation was that either her lower or upper parts of the body would end up numb; with no feels or movement. But to survive, it was crucial that she undergoes the knife. However, there was one other problem; the doctors were unavailable. There had been a railway accident and the critical situation of the patients required the doctors there. This left them with only one other option; that they out-source a surgeon to operate on Nafisa. Out of desperation, Nafisa’s father agreed and signed the required papers.

Nafisa was operated on successfully leaving the lower part of her body affected. She was alive, that was what mattered most to her parents and for the years to come, they ensured that Nafisa wouldn’t be any less than a normal child. For the first six months of my life, the doctors tried to support my spine with a cast. Her mother was not allowed to breastfeed her until she was six months old. Other people were hardly allowed to touch her because of her delicate condition.

 In Kilifi area near the large and famous Coast General hospital, Nafisa Kutubudin Khanbhai was brought up. Her parents worried what school to take their gem to. Special schools were not any special anyway and in the early 80’s there were not many choices in terms of schools with special needs. They wanted her to lead a normal life like any normal child. Coming to their rescue, Mrs Rosy Ganiwalla who was a teacher then was able to enroll Nafisa into Alibhai Panju School. This was when her journey started; not just as a child or as a student but also as a survivor. Life was not going to be any easy for her in normal school. There was stigma. There was speculation. There were a lot of rumours. None of the other children would easily understand why until the age of 9, Nafisa was still wearing nappies. They couldn’t fathom why such ‘a big girl’ would still get dirty by passing out stool or why she always had to carry an extra pair of clothes everywhere she went to. Slowly, other children stayed away and for those who understood her condition, pitied her, something she didn’t really like.

But how many people actually understand what spina bifida is all about? It was either just the doctors or its victims and at most, the people who had relatives or friends affected with it who knew what it were about. Her hip had a crack and thus had to be operated on. This is what had caused all the health complications in Nafisa. She could not walk unless with her crutches. She could not control the urine and stool unless with medication. She became a victim of strange stares, whispers around her and eventually, stigma.

Something else unexpected happened, Nafisa became a woman at the age of 6. “My white uniform turned red while at school. I thought I had hurt myself. My mother was called in and took me home. I stayed out of school for three days. Later my parents were told that although I would menstruate regularly, there were low chances of ever being able to conceive.”

Adolescence at such an age can be very alarming. Still in diapers, Nafisa was already experiencing the monthly periods. She was already exposed to the world of cramps, breast pain, pills and darkness with barely any light at the end of the tunnel.

“My school deskmate used to make fun of me; talk about how I smelt of urine and waste and how disgusting it was. She wasn’t the only one though but I don’t blame them. We were just kids; barely understanding what is really happening to me. It used to make me sad but I never used to cry about it. This is because I happened to have amazing friends too; friends who supported me since. I had my neighbour Fatema; we used to go to school together and spend time together after classes too. She was the same girl who used to buy me snacks during break period,” Nafisa narrates.

As expected, Nafisa never had much interaction with her class mates. Not everyone was ready to look beyond her disability and her helplessness but still, not everyone totally ignored her. Some few friends really tried to cope up with her situation and helped her whenever she could. During the prayer time, the students would all go to the mosque to pray and getting stares from everyone as she removed her shoes was not a surprise. Yet she learnt to ignore all that and be the strong girl she is. As they say, ‘when they stare, make it worth their while.’

Mrs Fatema would go to her school every day during break time to change Nafisa’s nappy, something even the house girls used to refuse to help with. And whilst her friends played around merrily, she could not take part in any out-door activities.

“Since Nafisa’s birth, my life changed forever. I dropped everything and I had no interest whatsoever in the life out there. My life now revolved around Nafisa. I was always thinking, thinking and thinking. What will I do? What should I do for her? It has always been about her. I wanted her to have a comfortable life. We both wanted that; her father and I.”

Locked away from the normal life her peers enjoyed, Nafisa would soon find herself falling in love with books and movies. Nancy Drew books were her favourite. She would imagine herself lost in a different world, tailing Nancy as they uncovered piece by piece of new clues and evidence for a new mind-blowing case and draw in sharp breath as they discovered, together, something unexpected or find themselves in trouble. She would borrow the books from her friends but those she brought herself, she treasured even more.

So it passed that her free time was spent lost in the imaginary worlds offered by the crisp pages of her books or glued to the screen of their TV watching Tom’s and Jerry’s shenanigans play out. These were her happier moments, she recalls. A bubble all for herself. A tiny one but enough for herself.

Nafisa’s impairment meant that she had to frequently visit her physiotherapist doctor Kishore Adatiya who dedicated her efforts to seeing Nafisa overcome her paralysis and walk on her own. But grit and effort alone wouldn’t be enough. Every six months she had to travel to Nairobi to make her calipers (devices that enable people with motor disabilities to walk and thereby remain mobile) which were being made in Kabete hospital.

At the age of 9, Nafisa started getting persistent stomach aches. The younger of her two brothers took her to hospital where she was told that both her kidneys were infected. She was operated on by a visiting doctor from India. At that time, she was the first and youngest child to undergo that procedure which left her wearing a urine bag (in medical terms known as Urostomy i.e. when a bladder is bypassed or removed, an opening in the belly (abdominal wall) is made during surgery to redirect the urine. The patient is thus unable to control urine coming out so a pouch, which is the urine bag, is needed to collect the urine as it comes out).

“It costs me 7 pounds and 50 cents for every urine bag for Nafisa and the bags were being manufactured in Denmark. The financial costing was becoming heavy on me and her father, and that is when my sister Tara, who lives in the United Kingdom, stepped in to support us in buying the bags. She also raised Nafisa until the age of 6. I didn’t get much support from family but I can’t totally disregard the little much they offered,” Nafisa’s mother says.

Despite all odds stacked against her, she persisted in her pursuit of education. She wasn’t exactly the genius of her class but neither did she settle on being the tail. For her, everything was a struggle but she kept up with the top students as much as she could and never strayed from the top twenty. Her teachers, who mistook her struggles for apathy, complained when she lagged behind in her studies. It was the price she had to pay for wanting to be treated normally, like the rest of her classmates, for trying to prove that her physical handicap bore no effect whatsoever on her ability to learn and think like anybody else. One sentiment she does share was her dislike for maths. “Maths was my childhood enemy, maybe my foe for lifetime.” She would tell you if you prompt her. She would always skip maths classes to the extent that her maths exercise books were literally empty. Her class one teacher was another particularly negative highlight from her early school life. She was too harsh, too rigid; the type to give their seven year old students nightmares. It was from this point, perhaps, that she first learned to hate.

After school every day Nafisa used to go for tuition where she made another friend Naheed. “I remember how we would always carry Jujube (commonly known as ‘kunazi’) to the teacher’s home where she conducted the tuitions. When she got distracted with a phone call or when she disappeared in her kitchen, we would quickly throw the Jujubes into our mouths and act innocent when she is back. Despite everything, I did enjoy my childhood,” She laughs lightly.

It was these kinds of moments that gave her the strength to go on with school life but that was only until class eight when she dropped out. Her medical condition was too heavy on her shoulders and decided to call it quits for school life. Yet still no one could ever forget that she had once won the most disciplined girl award or that she had done her very best to not let her disability or stigma fail her entirely. Of course it did mean she had to give up her dream of being a lawyer but she never gave up hope in life. She decided to accept this situation fast and not dwell on the things that couldn’t be changed. She therefore soldiered on…

———————————————————————————————————————

“Since her childhood, Nafisa, never accepted to be left out in anything just because of her condition. She would always help me out in the kitchen, peeling the potatoes and cutting the tomatoes. She was still that strong girl seating on a table to make her bed, arranging clothes in all the house ward robes and dusting the place. She enjoyed setting up cutlery for events; deciding what plates to be used when the visitors arrived and what cups would best fit. She would anxiously and skillfully choose the appropriate dress for the event with matching jewelries. And whenever there was henna at home, she would always tattoo herself with it. Despite everything, Nafisa loved and lived. She just never allowed her disability become an inability,” Mrs. Fatema, Nafisa’s mother says.

They say, ‘beautiful souls have it the roughest’ and indeed Nafisa had her fair share of ‘rough’. Getting friends was difficult but getting real ones was even more difficult. Her social life was greatly made up of people using her for their own gains, misusing her kindness and forgetting her when she needed them the most. “But I have had life-time friends too. Mariya FidaHussein, Tasneem (my kitty group friend) and Hasanain have been more than just friends, but sisters from another mother. There was Aziz Mustanir too, a brother who came later into my life. These are the people who have been there for me for the longest time; even before I grew into the firm and strong lady I am today,” Nafisa says.

However much darkness overflowed in her life Nafisa still found reason to find happiness and joy in the blessings in her life. She created her best childhood moments from the trips she went with her family and their family friends to Tsavo, Amboseli Park and several other beautiful places that exposed her to that light at the end of the tunnel. Adnaan Bhaiji was the son of Talib Baiji; Nafisa’s father’s best friend. “Adnaan was so charming and naughty and he always knew how to make me happy. He always came along to the trips in the wild. And when we settled in our hotel rooms, he would come to me and excitedly tie his dirty socks or any clothe around my eyes before disappearing for her to find him. He would hide in unexpected places like on a wall and still expect me to find him. He would untie my neat braids and mess with my hair and there were those endless surprise birthday parties that we would do for each other…We shared such a special sibling bond that would live on for a long time afterwards,” Nafisa narrates nostalgically.

Her other childhood friend, Anar Gulam, made it a trend to visit Nafisa every weekend or on some weekends Nafisa would return the favour, and sometimes, she too joined them during their trips to Tsavo or Amboseli or wherever their next vacation adventure took them.

Life was not all that bad after all. Her parents raised her with a very positive attitude, with tremendous support and showered her with love such that she would never feel alone in her journey. Yet there were a lot of surprises yet to come…


Today we celebrate world spina bifida and hydhydrocephalus day. We celebrate the patients and warriors battling with the two. You are indeed an inspiration to many of us! TO BE CONTINUED. PLEASE STAY TUNED…