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Mwandishi: Mtoto wa Katama

Picha: http://www.magic4walls.com

 

Kwa mara nyingne Khamisi aliamka taratibu na kuingiwa na wasiwasi kidogo kwani mudaule hakuwa anamtarajia mtu yeyote. Alijaribu kufikiria atakuwa nani huyu? Moyoni alijiuliza bila kupata jibu mwafaka. Akaamua kujikokota polepole, alipofika karibu na bawaba, aliskia mtu akishusha pumzi nzito nzito. Mara kidogo akaita “Khamisi, Khamisi ehhh! Upoo”, Khamisi si muda akaifahamu sauti ile na kujibu “ Nipo babu, haya nipe la mwafaka umefuatia nini?, maana niko bize kiasi”. “ Fungua kwanza nikueleze, usikuwe hivyo” Lipopo akanena. Khamisi akazubaa kidogo na kufungua mlango, akamuangalia lipopo jinsi alivyokuwa anateremkwa na jasho, akajua hapa kuna habari za muhimu ila hakupendelea masahibu zake kumfuatia nyumbani kwao. Alipendelea kumaliza shughuli zote wakiwa kijiweni au nje ya nyumba. Lipopo alipojaribu kujitokomeza chumbani, Khamisi alimzuia na kifua na kumnyoshea kidole akiashiria wakazungumzie nje. Lipopo hakuwa na la zaidi ila kufuata maagizo na kutangulia huku Khamisi akimfuatia nyuma.

 

“ Hebu niambie lililokuleta na mbio zote hivyo ni lipi haswa?” Khamisi aliuliza. “Usikuwe hivyo yakhe, mbona una hasira” akajibu Lipopo kwa kunyeng’enyea.” Mi hapa nimekuja na mazuri, Bw.Salimu atuhitaji tukamuone habari ndiyo hiyo” Lipopo akamalizia akiongea huku akitabasamu. Khamisi akamuangalia Lipopo toka juu mpaka chini, kana kwamba alikuwa anampima hivi katika mizani flani hivi. Akautazama uso wa Lipopo na kisha akatikisa kichwa baada ya kufanya dadisi zake na kuenusha mikono juu na kuleta dua “Ewe Mola! Uliye juu, mpe mja wako huyu shughli ya kufanya na wepesi wa kuongea” na kucheka kwa dhihaka. “Kumbe we ovyo! Hivi muda wote uliopoteza kumbe maneno yalikuwa ni haya, kama ingekuwa umenitaarifu pale mlangoni ulipogonga kungeharibika lipi? na tuonane hiyo jioni” Khamisi akafoka bila kusubiri jibu la Lipopo na alimuacha akiongea peke yake na kugeuka mbio mbio na kuingia nyumbani kwao. “Watu wengine wapuuzi kweli, wanafaa makofi chap! chap!” alijisemea moyoni. Alipoingia chumbani, alijipiga kichwa na kidole chake mara kadhaa na kupiga macho huku na kule mpaka akaliona albamu, muda wote lilikuwa lipo kitandani na hakudiriki kuangalia kwa makini, kisha akatabasamu kwa kujiona bwege kweli. Ikawa anaendelea na kulifungua huku akicheka ovyo ovyo, picha zake za utotoni zimleletea furaha na kumbukumbu tamu sana. Kwenye picha moja aliona kitoto kidogo, puani akitokwa na kamasi na magwanda yake ya kuchanika. “Kweli huyu ni mimi lo! Haiwezekani huu mzaha sasa, labda ni mdogo wangu Idrissa, itakuwa Idrissa tu!” alijaribu kujisemeza. Lakini alipokodoa macho vizuri na kuangalia ile picha kwa umakinifu aligundua kuwa ni yeye. Pichani mtoto alikuwa na alama ya ngozi nyeusi katika mguu wake na hofu zake zote zikawa kweli. Hakupendezwa na picha ile kamwe, ye keshakuwa barobaro sasa na ndevu zilishaanza kuota, tena zilimea kwa ajabu sana. Zilikuwa zimetapakaa kwenye kidevu kwa vifungu vifungu kama matuta kwenye shamba la mkonge. Alishajaribu mbinu nyingi kuzifanya ziote vizuri, huyu huyu Lipopo aliwahi kumwambia apake asali iliyochemshwa na kuchanganywa na haba soda(habbat sawda) kwenye kidevu chote. Alifuata masharti kama alivyoambiwa na mwendani wake wa karibu. Lakini matokeo hayakuwa mazuri, hata siku ilikuwa haijaisha Khamisi alipata mwasho wa ajabu na kuishilia kujikuna kwa wiki mbili mfululizo, mkuno ulileta yale mapele magumu kidevu kizima. Kwa wiki mbili nzima alibaki ndani kwa ndani tu kama mwari aliyeletewa posa na mtoto wa Sultani. Alidiriki kutoka usiku tena mara moja moja kwa sababu ya shughuli za kimsingi. Tena alitembea kwa tahadhari nyingi sana alinyatanyata kwenye vichochoro kwa staili ya kimgambo ili asiwahi kupishana na watu wanaomjua. Lakini waswahili wanasema siku utakayokwenda uchi ndiyo siku utakayokutana na mkweo na naam!

 

Usiku mmoja katika mishe mishe zake za kuenda kununua chapatti mitaa ya ndani usiku, baada ya kukata vichochoro vitatu viwili ghafla bin vuu! mchumba wake Zeituni alitokea kwenye chochoro. Khamisi alipunguza hatua, na kumuangalia vizuri mtu aliyekuwa anakuja kwenye upande mwengine wa kichochoro kama kweli ndiye aliyekuwa anamdhania, baada ya kugundua kuwa alikuwa Zeituni, polepole alipiga kona na kutaka kurudi alipokuwa anatokea. Kweli ile siku anayokufa nyani miti yote huteleza, mara tu bila mpangilio paka wawili shume  waliokuwa wanakimbizana wakatokea kwenye upande wa uchochoro aliokuwa Khamisi anaregea nao. Toba ya Ilahi! Khamisi alikuwa muoga wa paka ajaabu bora hata angekutana na nyoka. Yeye na paka ni mbingu na ardhi. Aliamua kubarutika mbio upande aliokuwa anaokuja nao Zeituni na kumpiga kumbo mchumba wake huku akitokomea kwenye giza bila hata kushikwa na wasiwasi wa kuangalia nyuma. Kwa hasira Khamisi alichukua ile picha ya mtoto na kuichanachana vipande vipande na kuitafuna, hakuweza kukubali kuwa mtoto yule mchafu na kamasi zake kuwa alikuwa ni yeye na cha zaidi alichukia kwa kuwa yakhe. Hakuelewa kwanini watu wengine walijaaliwa mali na wengine kunyimwa.

 

Mara Khamisi alitulia kwa ghafla baada ya kufungua kurasa nyengine ya albamu lile, akasita kwa muda, macho yakawa mazito na machozi kuanza kumlengalenga. Akawa baridi na ukiwa ukamtawala kwa ghafla, akajiona mnyonge ajaabu na kufunga albamu na baadaye kulifungua tena. Picha iliyofuatia ilikuwa ni ya marehemu babake. Ni miaka kumi imepita tangu kumpoteza babake katika ajali ya barabarani iliyonaswa na vyombo vya habari karibia vyote. Taarifa za kifo cha babake zilimpa mshtuko zaidi nina yake aliyekuwa mtegemezi zaidi, hakujua angeanzia. Baba Khamisi ndiye alikuwa anatarazaki pekee yake. Tena Baba Khamisi shughli zake zilikuwa nadhif kabisa, alisifika kwa kufanya adala baina ya watu na zaidi kwenye shughuli zake za kila siku. Lakini kinaya kilikuwa ni madhila na unyanyasaji mamake Khamisi aliyopitia kutokana na nduguze mumewe. Haya yote Khamisi aliyaelewa kabisaa na alikuwa ameweka nadhiri kitambo ya kupanga kisasi…

 

Picha: http://www.magic4walls.com

Mwandishi: Mtoto wa Katama

Purukushani za kutafuta picha za mwisho katika ‘albamu’ kuu kuu iliyochakaa. Khamisi hangependa kuacha ushahidi wowote nyuma kwa insani yeyote yule. Juu katika kabati la mamake alilipiga macho albamu lile, lilokuwa limejaa picha lukuki zake pamoja na za ahli zake. Bila kusita alipanda kwenye kiti kidogo na kudakia kwenye upande mmoja wa kabati huku akining’inia kama ngedere. Mle juu ya kabati kulikuwa na vumbi si haba, tandu za buibui zilitapakaa kote. Alikitia mkono kwenye magorogoro yale na kulivuta albamu lile. Chafya zilimparamia kwa ghafla! Himidi nazo zikaja nyingi tu! Kwa sababu ya vumbi lile. Kombamwiko na panya nao walikuwa kila mtu roho mkononi walitawanyika kila hayawani akikimbilia maskani mapya, laity wangalijua kuwa ‘operesheni’ nzima ilikuwa ni juu ya ‘albamu’ wala wasingejitia tumbo joto. Khamisi alijiachilia chini na kukita kwa kishindo pu! Aliguna ki bebeeru beehh! kutokana na maumivu kwenye visigino.

 

Baada ya kutulia kidogo na maumivu kupungua, alivuta pumzi nzito na kufungua kurasa ya kwanza ya albamu lile. Kumbukumbu zilifurika akilini, moyoni alijiambia “kumbe mamangu naye alikuwa mrembo wakati wake”, “hivisasa tumempata amechoka maskini ya mungu” alijisuta. Akafikiria zile taabu mamake anapitia na mchana ule, kuzungusha bamia na dagaa gengeni siku kutwa na muda mwengine kuambulia patupu. Khamisi alishawahi kumshawishi mamake mara nyingi tu! Kuachana na biashara ile. Waswahili washam’maliza kwa kumkopa, naye Mola kampa roho ya huruma kukataa kukopesha haezi na kudai hela yake ni mzito ajabu. Kipindi kimoja Khamisi alimkaripia mamake zeituni, ‘ibilisi’ alikuwa amemjaa pomoni haskii la mwadhini, aliamua leo ni leo.”Hivi mama wewe mbona kisirani sana, hela ya mamangu utalipa lini” alifoka. Mamake Khamisi alposkia purukushani zile ukumbini, alitoka chumbani kwa kasi na kufululiza hadi alipokuwa amesimama Khamisi. “Achana naye Khamisi nakuomba mwanangu, mlaani shetani, kama biashara ni yangu” alimsihi Khamisi. Kidogo Khamisi mori ukashuka na kumwachilia mamake zeituni baada ya kubembelezwa. Lakini naye akaapa kutoingilia tena masuala ya biashara za mamake na wala mamake asimuhusishe na lolote. Yote hayo akiyafikiria akajiona kweli kakosa, zile tabu zote mamake alizopitia ilikuwa ni kwa ajili yake na ndunguze. Na alijutia siku ile kumkana mbele ya mamake zeituni, lakini yashamwagika hakuna la zaidi ila kujirudia na kuisuta nafsi yake.

 

Zile picha za mamake zilimnogea kwa kipindi kidogo mara “Ngo! ngo! Ngo!” zilisikika kelele za mlango ukigongwa na kumshtua kutoka kwenye lindi la mawazo. Khamisi,kwa sekunde kadhaa alibaki kimya akijaribu kusikiliza tena ikiwa ni kweli mlango ulikuwa ukigongwa au alikuwa akiweweseka.kwa dakika kadhaa alikuwa bado amesimama akiendelea kusikiliza lakini hakusikia chochote,taratibu alishusha pumzi na kuendelea kuangalia albamu lakini kabla hajaendelea kufungua kurasa nyingine shuka alisikia mlango ukigongwa tena na wakati huu mlango ulikuwa ukigongwa kwa nguvu na sekunde chache kukawa kimya tena.Kwa mara nyingne Khamisi aliamka taratibu na kuingiwa na wasiwasi kidogo kwani mudaule hakuwa anamtarajia mtu yeyote. Alijaribu kufikiria atakuwa nani huyu? Moyoni alijiuliza bila kupata jibu mwafaka. Akaamua kujikokota polepole, alipofika karibu na bawaba, aliskia mtu akishusha pumzi nzito nzito.

 

Mara kidogo akaita “Khamisi, Khamisi ehhh! Upoo”, Khamisi si muda akaifahamu sauti ile na kujibu “ Nipo babu, haya nipe la mwafaka umefuatia nini?, maana niko bize kiasi”. “ Fungua kwanza nikueleze, usikuwe hivyo” Lipopo akanena. Khamisi akazubaa kidogo na kufungua mlango, akamuangalia lipopo jinsi alivyokuwa anateremkwa na jasho, akajua hapa kuna habari za muhimu ila hakupendelea masahibu zake kumfuatia nyumbani kwao. Alipendelea kumaliza shughuli zote wakiwa kijiweni au nje ya nyumba. Lipopo alipojaribu kujitokomeza chumbani, Khamisi alimzuia na kifua na kumnyoshea kidole akiashiria wakazungumzie nje. Lipopo hakuwa na la zaidi ila kufuata maagizo na kutangulia huku Khamisi akimfuatia nyuma. “ Hebu niambie lililokuleta na mbio zote hivyo ni lipi haswa?” Khamisi aliuliza…

Photo Courtesy: Salem_Beliegraphy

Rashid sat by the window as his fellow passengers continued boarding the bus. It was already getting dark and his mind was far off. The smile on his face was clear even with the dimness of the lights at the crowded bus stage. He was finally heading to fulfill his dream and it was only his introverted nature that made him to not scream out of excitement. A young boy of about twelve was roaming around the bus restlessly, his lips looked so dry and his kinky hair seemed to have not touched water in ages. He finally found his way to Rashid’s window and very sadly, he extended his hand. Rashid looked at the hand for a while; debating with himself. His mother had always discouraged him to give beggars money. ‘They are just manipulative conmen‘ she would say. If someone heard her rather dis likable comments about the beggars, you would think she is just an arrogant lady with wealth and thus doesn’t know what struggle is. Totally opposite to that, Rashid’s mother had raised him singlehandedly. She worked tirelessly to ensure Rashid had a comfortable life but to this stage where Rashid was now going to university, it sounded like a miracle. She would always tell him how ugly it is for a human being to beg while they have limbs to use and a brain that is functional. It all made sense to him but even as he looked at that small hand still stretched out to him, his heart gave him a pinch.
“Shikamoo…chakula…chakula” The small untidy boy repeated the statement thrice; staring directly at Rashid.
‘I’ll just do it for today, he thought…it’s my best day anyway’ He searched in his pockets and gave him his last coins. His smile had now broadened. He felt accomplished; satisfied. He had restored humanity.

The boy was now smiling too as he moved away from the bus towards the one at the back. Rashid went back to his day dreaming as his face beamed happiness. There were just a few more passengers remaining to board before the bus would leave to Nairobi. This seemed like an unrealistic dream. Once he arrives at Nairobi, he was going to get a plane to UK for a scholarship program. ‘UK? Unbelievable!!’ he remarked to himself. Just a few days before he had given up that he will ever get to university and here he was…‘It is cause of mummy’s prayers, i’m sure’. He smiled once again and he seemed so confident that nothing; absolutely NOTHING would spoil his night.

Suddenly there was chaos from the bus behind them and some men were cursing in Kiswahili. Everyone in the bus was now peeping from their windows as a crowd formed. “Mtoto mkorofi!” someone shouted as several other people asked, “what is going on?”
Rashid stuck his head out, peeping over people’s heads. A man came out from the crowd and Rashid quickly asked, “Kuna nini?”
“Some young boy here stole a passengers wallet after he refused to help him and insulted him on his bad behaviour of begging,” he answered in kiswahili.
“Did you see the boy who stole? How does he look like?” Rashid quickly asked.
“He was a begger; a bit short. Looked really untidy,” he said with disgust.
Rashid immediately knew that it was the same boy who had come to him. He bit his lower lip hardly as he felt a cocktail of emotions. First it was rage; ‘perhaps what mummy said was right. They are just thieves and conmen at the end of the day.’ Then came the pity and guilt; ‘perhaps if I gave him enough money to eat he wouldn’t have stolen.’

Another yell interrupted him. It seemed like he was the one who had just been robbed off his wallet.
“Sasa mimi nitasafiri vipi?!” Rashid clicked. Whom is he asking that? But in Mombasa you never miss the sympathizers. A few people came in and handed him some money to take him through his journey. ‘Ironic right? He was no any much different from the beggar boy now. They both needed help and both of them had gotten money from other people. They were now equals. He definitely has no right to talk about the beggar boy anymore. Perhaps if he had helped him, all this wouldn’t have happened.’ Rashid snapped loudly. The old man seated next to him looked at him strangely, maybe wondering what this young man could be so angry about.

His phone was beeping in his pocket. He took it and glanced at the name on the screen ‘mama’…‘She must be calling to ask whether I already left.’
“Yes mama?”
“Have you left already?”
“Not yet…but about to.”
“You have to come back.”
“What do you mean?” Rashid sat upright.
“You have to come back immediately. Your father needs you…he is on his dying bed.”
“Father…which father?!” His tone rose.
“Your father… I lied to you. He is not dead.”
“Mama…what do you mean?!”
“Just come back home son. Right away.”
The phone went off. His hands were shaking now. He waited for a moment on his seat; as if comprehending the whole conversation. He took out his passport and the ticket and stared at them for a while. His dream had just been shattered. By whom? By a father he had never met. He ran his fingers through the ticket once again and cursed in a whisper. The old man turned to look at him once again, only this time it was a glare. Rashid ignored him, pulled out his bag and alighted from the bus.

He walked slowly and his shoulders weighed down. All he could see now were the blurred lights of the streets. The more he walked. the more his steps became more of a stagger. He met a few more beggars seated by the road with empty plastic containers. He opened his bag and pulled out the appetizing dinner that his mother had made him for the journey. When she first gave them to him, he was too delighted. There were several samosas, kebabs and ‘mkate wa sinia’. She had packed so many of them with the claim ‘you will stay for so long without tasting these special delicacies by your mum so make sure to eat them all’. But now it didn’t matter anymore; he was going back home and will get to eat them forever. He approached the old ladies seated by the roadside with their children and gave them the lunch box. They were now all crowding towards him and for a moment, Rashid thought they would get into a fight out of excitement for the food. This time he did not feel accomplished or even satisfied. It felt no different than throwing away the food in the dustbin…

Right ahead of him was their home. His cheeks still round in a frown, he stared at their house like it was the first time he was seeing it. Time had witnessed a lot of struggle in that house. Time was the only living proof of the mud house that was about to fall down at it’s own weight. The house was nearly swept off by rain more than once. And while everyone stayed safe in their homes from the floods, he and his mum were not saved from it. They would sit by their tiny table and float like in a boat; busy fetching the mad water from the floor and pouring it of the house. Only God knows how they survived. Only God knows how they lived through hunger and poverty for days. Rashid sighed and moved towards the open door.

Upon entering the house, he saw a few familiar faces seated next to the bed. It was a bit crowded and could barely see the faces clearly. Their living room was also their bedroom and everything they ever had. Every night he would spread some two to three cotton blankets on the floor to avoid the hard touch of the stony floor. His mother would sleep on the bed; the only bed. His eyes narrowed as he recognized his two paternal aunts and three uncles. He hadn’t seen them since he was very young. It was almost that same time when his father disappeared and his mum had told him then that his father had gone to heaven.

“What is happening?” Rashid broke the silence. He dropped his bag and took the small diminishing candle that was lit near the door. He moved closer to the bed and raised it high to see the face of a very frail, old man lying on his mother’s bed.

“I asked what is happening. Who is this?” The silence was loud. “And where is my mother?”
“My son…” the old man started.
“Rashid!” His mother made a quick entrance into the room. She was carrying some herbs which she dropped on the table before pulling Rashid outside the house.
“Rashid..my dear son…I will explain everything. Please don’t be angry. Just listen to what he has to say.”
“Why now? Just when I was about to kick off my studies. When else will I get such an opportunity?!” He said slowly yet in a firm voice.
“And when else will you get a chance to meet your father? Your dying father? He just has a few days left. Please come in…” she pulled him back inside before he could say one more word.

At the bedside, Rashid sat next to his father. They were on the same bed yet so distant. Everyone else had gone out, leaving them alone. The candle lit in a feeble way as their shadows displayed on the old curtains. The old man stretched his hand and placed it slowly on Rashid’s hand. Rashid pulled back his hand without a word but the old man was not about to give up. He held his hand again; firmly this time. As firm as his weak shaky hands would allow him.
“My son…”he started.
“Don’t start it now. Stop ‘sonning’ me. I am only listening to you because mum asked me to.”
“I…you have every right to be angry at me. I have been a bad father. And a bad husband too…but life teaches us the greatest lessons…”he stopped to cough. It was a painful cough. More of a groan.
“When I married your mother, she was that kind of woman who sacrificed her entire world to create our own small world of me, you and her. But I betrayed her. I was still young and started getting rich. Money deceived me. I remarried and left your mother. But I was still so young my son. I was very young to know that money has it’s end too… My second wife empowered me to continue building my empire. I forgot all the sacrifices your mother made to get me there. It is only after I was filthy rich when my second wife did the same thing I did to your mother. She left me. But she didn’t just leave me; she left me penniless. She made me richer than ever so that she can have the entire kingdom to herself afterwards…” he breathed loudly and Rashid could almost feel how slow his heartbeat was.

He paused a bit to catch his breath.
“And where were you all this time after she left you? Didn’t you regret? Why didn’t you come back to us?” Rashid said in a bitter tone.
“Kwa uso gani?…how could I come back to your mother after all that I had done? After hurting her so badly?…how could I face you after you already knew I was dead?…I was poor once again and nothing to offer to you two.”
“You are still poor. Why did you come back now? Today precisely?! Just when I was leaving to UK?! Do you know what it meant to me? That scholarship?!” He snapped.
“Please forgive me my son. I came back so that I can see you, see how you’ve grown and…apologize to both you and your mum. I have countable days remaining…”

Photo Courtesy: www.ayeina.com

Dear Pain,

From the moment I was born and as I grew up, I found myself already betrothed to you. It’s strange isn’t it? How does someone get betrothed at such an age? I mean, what if I turned out to be a vampire just when I turned thirteen? Weird. But it’s more of the culture issue I guess. As far as my memories go by into the past, I remember how you were so obsessed with me. You always fancied that both our names start with ‘P’ and you would always chorus it lovingly ‘Pain and Paranoia’. You were so loving yet so bitter. You were carrying all the world’s misery on your shoulders yet you still afforded to spend time with me. You would walk hand in hand with me and you would introduce me to all your friends. I still remember your best friends; Ego, Selfish and Evil. I remember how you would praise me in front of them as if I were the only girl in this world. You wanted the whole world to know how much you loved me and that you would never depart me. I remember all those days you would take me out with your so called best friends and we would have ‘fun’. That’s what you used to tell me; ‘let’s go have fun’ yet all I remember was hearing the four of you mock people and laugh so loudly. It used to puzzle me a lot. Well, you were quite older than me so I thought maybe I didn’t really understand what this ‘fun’ really meant. For the foolish girl I was, I’d stand next to you; your hand still firmly holding mine, just staring at you and your friends.

I still remember Ego; he was TALL. Really tall that I really had to strain my neck to see his face. But he was still elegant. He was quite handsome and I used to wonder why I wasn’t betrothed to him instead. He always had his hands in his pockets and talk with a firm voice. He walked with a bounce and his head was always held high. Is that what they call confidence? I used to admire him but that was then, I was barely fifteen. At that age you barely know how to differentiate between a cheetah and a tiger. I was so naive…but now…now I know everything in this life.

Selfish was hilariously short and it really used to make me laugh at how the four of you could be best friends. I mean, your physiques were so opposite. It is the first thing anyone would notice upon seeing you together. Anyway back to selfish. Selfish was so over confident. I have never seen anyone think so high of themselves. He always wanted to get the biggest share of everything for he thought he deserves it.To me, he looked a bully. I used to see him snatch food from the beggar’s mouth. Have you ever seen anyone so cruel like that? But selfish thought he deserves it. Sometimes I used to see him look at me maliciously and it used to freak me out. He probably also thought that he should have me instead of you. Well, you never noticed all that because you were always busy praising to the world about me without looking at their reactions. Maybe you trusted them so much??

Evil…evil was ugly. Damn ugly and ironically, he used to boast about himself like there is no one on this earth like him. Everything about him was ugly; his croaky laughter and even his dark enigmatic smile. He was rough and tough. He was all the three of you combined; he was torment, torture, unpleasant and wicked all together. He always considered himself the ring leader of your group.

I still remember the night your friends raped me. Oh…how can I forget the misery that came after. How can I forget the sadness and despair? You know what pain, you always used to make me wonder which side are you really? When your best friends raped me, you were mad. So mad that it worried me you would explode. Yet you decided to cover it up for them by marrying me. You thought that would make me forget. You thought you could make me happy once again.

Years went by and I gave birth to our first child; insomnia. Oh my son…he wouldn’t let me sleep. He made me turn and roll on the bed restlessly. I cried and cried until the wee hours of the night. I cried until I had no more tears. I cried until my pillow was too wet. I cried for you; because of you, for the past, present and future. I cried that you were the only person who loved me so dearly in this life. The only person who wouldn’t leave me alone. I treated myself with lots of chocolates and bowls of ice cream. As people say, treating oneself like that is good for the stressed soul…yet this technique didn’t work for me. My boy troubled me…but where were you Pain? You were just there with me; like a shadow. Always there yet never giving me the happiness I needed.

Insomnia grew and soon we had our second child. It was a girl this time. I was so happy. I wanted to make her my best friend, teach her how to cook and how to dress up. I had so many plans for her and for us. I called her ‘eating issues’. She was so fragile and weak. She had no appetite even to live. Her eyes looked tired and she was weightless like cotton. Eating issues worried me a lot. I worried that she was going to die soon yet she still lives; still as fragile. Still as weak.

Having too troublesome kids is not easy especially when you have an obsessive husband like you Pain. Anyway, God has now blessed me with another bump. A third one is coming. I think it’s a ‘she’. Don’t ask me how I know this. I am a mother, I can feel it. I have been thinking of aborting her for quite a while now but i’m a mother after all, I don’t think I can be that cruel. I think I will name her ‘pending issues’ for she will be born whilst her mother is still worrying about how much the past will affect her future. I hope ‘pending issues’ won’t trouble me. I hope she can be my hope.

Insomnia and Eating issues have grown to be teenagers now yet each one of them is still worrying their mother in a different way. Insomnia wouldn’t let me rest and stop crying. Eating issues wouldn’t let me have a peace of mind or a healthy life. ‘Pending issues’ is soon coming by…

My dear husband; Pain, I have never really enjoyed the idea of having a man so obsessed with me. I’ve had enough of you. I want to be free once again. I want to breath fresh air once again. I want to fly and be happy. I just don’t want to live with you anymore…

I am sorry Pain…I really need a divorce from you. Please grant me that as soon as possible. I already kept the divorce papers under my pillow. My very wet pillow. I hope the papers are still safe. Please do sign them soon. If you truly love me then do it for my sake. Please. Allow me to be the free woman I’ve always wanted to be. Don’t worry about our children. I promise to take good care of them. I was also planning to change their names soon. I was thinking of calling our son, Brave instead of Insomnia. As for our daughter Eating issue, let’s call her ‘Love’ and when our last baby finally comes by, I will call her ‘Hope’. I am sure you like the names right? I know you can trust me to take care of them and raise them with good manners and health. Please do take care of yourself as well and I hope we can meet years from now where your name would then be something like ‘Delight’ or probably ‘Euphoria?’. No, ‘Jubilant’ is even better! My name then would be ‘Joy’ and you will be able to chorus our new names once again, ‘Jubilant and Joy’. I promise we will be happy then.

Before I end this heart-breaking letter, I want to really thank you for being there with me throughout; for the lessons learnt and for the undying love.

Your so-long-loving wife,
Your soon-divorcee,

Paranoia.

Photo Courtesy: https://3.bp.blogspot.com/

Selective Mutism. That’s the medical term for what I went through for a good portion of my childhood. Crucible of Suffering is more accurate if you ask me. Apparently millions of kids all over the world suffer from it every year, but none of them went to school where I did.

Mother carefully tied the yellow scarf on my head so as not to tamper with my neatly plaited hair and slowly led me towards the fancy yellow car. Yellow was undoubtedly her favorite color, but I didn’t understand why she was forcing me like it too. I just stared at small edges of the yellow scarf that were hanging to my tiny shoulders and shrugged.

But I have to tell her today, I said to myself as I treaded along. But how? I scratched my head. I have to find a way, I was now almost in tears.I don’t want to go to that school again. No. Never again. Soon tears were rolling down my face and she turned to face me.

“What is wrong mami?” she said as she stopped in her tracks. She lifted her hands and wiped the tears from my face all the while whispering softly, ‘Don’t cry.’

“When are you going to get used to your school? It’s been more than six months now since you joined,” she once again said using her hands.

How am I going to tell you mother? I thought to myself.

Mother held my hand firmly and made me sit in her sparkling clean car.

“Your teacher says you haven’t yet learnt to write the letters…you have to work harder mmh?” she gestured to me and softly patted my head.

But that is the problem! How can I tell you anything when I can’t even write besides everything else?

When you can’t talk or write you cry.

When you cry, you get reprimanded and punished or at best pitied.

I all but squeezed my mother’s hand as we approached the school gate. I could see my colleagues playing in the compound with so much zeal, all dressed in uniform pink skirts and white t-shirts. I stared at them for a moment. They were all younger than me…and smarter. At least they know how to write.

Mother kissed me on the cheek and gave me a slight push towards my teacher; Miss Khadija who was standing some steps away. My teacher was elegantly tall, but “tall” wasn’t adequate to describe her height. She was reallytall! I always feared looking up at her because I thought my neck might break in the process. But that wasn’t all; Miss Khadija always wore that same scarf throughout the six months that I had spent in the school. She wore it tight enough only to reveal the middle part of her face which made her look old and grumpy. She always managed to match her dark veil matched with her scarf but even that could not distract fromthe fact that she was scary.

She bundled her way to where I was stood and hugged me so tightly her expensive perfume flooded my nostrils. I wriggled myself out of her grip and quickly walked away.

I stood by the wall of the school and hunched; with my hands covering my tiny face except for my teary eyes.Then Leila, the kindergarten prima donna with hordes of sheep following her around, appeared with a smirk on her face. She pulled out her tongue and made funny faces to me. I decided not to bulge from my place. But soon enough, a whole gang of other bullies joined her and were now laughing hysterically at me. I tried to speak out but all I could make were incomprehensible sounds, useless mumbles. My mouth betrayed me again.

Selective mutism, you still remember that term right? I should have told you it’s worse when you are deaf as well as selectively mute. Once in a while though, the rage that stems from being different and misunderstood can be quite liberating. I rushed to Leila and pulled her scarf off. I got hold of her long pigtails and pulled them with all my energy. Her screams filled the entire compound immediately. The other bullies suddenly freaked out and called Miss Khadija. I was breathing heavily when Miss Khadija finally succeeded in stopping the fight. I saw Leila say something to our teacher in between tears, although I couldn’t exactly understand what she was saying, I knew she was hurt. And that was enough to satisfy me; at least for the day

During the lunch break, Miss Khadija came and sat opposite me. She slid my lunch box across the table and stared me in the eyes. I looked away to where the other children were playing. I sighed with a longing; I wished I could have friends too, even if just one. I sighed again My helplessness was killing me!

Miss Khadija drew my lunch box closer to her. My lip-reading was not perfect but I understood the words she mouthed to me perfectly. I was to be punished for losing my temper that morning, not that my account for that event mattered. I stared at her long nails as she grabbed my sandwich, pushed it in her mouth quickly and gobbled it down, maintaining her stare as if to gauge my reaction. She cleared my lunch in no time and left my table without a word. Mother has to know about all this…I have to learn how to write! I declared with a finality.

I grabbed my book and held the pencil firmly with all fingers. I slowly started drawing the curve to shape an ‘a’, struggling my way through. After what seemed to be an endless energy-draining hour, I wrote my first letter. It was enough to make me jump up in delight.

I am going to write a letter to mother soon! Yes I will!

Photo Courtesy: Unknown

The over-flowing rays of the sun overwhelm my face, a beautiful feeling it is. A feeling that makes me awaken from my hilarious dream; I can see the beautiful, colourful birds scatter in the bright sunlight, children are busily playing as their voices ring in the bewilderment, laughing and running after each other. In the farthest corner, is a small girl hunching with her hands on the tiny pretty face, facing the wall. She looks lost, in agony that is sweeping her away with the fast moving wind. Another girl appears, a huge and well looking girl, just mercilessly, throws a stone to the other. The small girl hunching, stands up, waving her tiny hands in the air, puppeting them and crying out in her timid voice,
“Who is that?”

The huge girl laughs loudly, throws another stone and elegantly walks away. Suddenly, everything becomes dark. The rays of the blooming sun disappears and the children’s’ laughter fades away. It becomes so dark and the once ever swaying trees now become like skeleton structures all around the small girl. She starts crying loudly, confused, terrified and agitated- all at once.

The trees are whispering loudly, in a grotesque manner, ‘welcome to reality!’ and yes I turn back to reality. The reality of being in dark always, then I see the familiar face of the timid girl again. This is me, I think to myself. This has always been my life; a life without even a glowing splint in the darkness of misery and stigma. A life of loneliness. A dark never ending life, the life of a blind girl.

Photo Courtesy: Salem_Beliegraphy

Mama’s laughter was always hysterical. It would echo all around the three-bedroom house. It was something I always enjoyed hearing, especially when Mama Aisha came home. The short stout woman always had a story to tell; an adventure to narrate. I would hear her talk endlessly as if there was no tomorrow. White saliva would gather at the end of her lips and she would rarely pause during her narrating spree. Being the young boy I was, I always found it amusing just watching her lips move up and down. I usually wondered whether mama really believed her stories. I never asked but whenever Mama Aisha was telling her endless stories, I would keep glancing from mama then to her, trying to capture mama’s expressions.

Mama would squint her eyes tightly to show how deeply engrossed she was in the story and she didn’t fail to bulge her beautiful black almond shaped eyes when there was need to. In short, she was a good listener, whether she really believed the stories or not.

I could not withstand missing out on Mama Aisha’s adventures and thus, whenever I would just hear the doorbell and her loud voice start narrating from the doorstep, I would quickly slip out from my room, run downstairs and sit on Mama’s laps.

“ Hehe! Mamake Fatma!” she started with a great urgency.

“Ehe? Nini tena?!” Mama asked quickly; always prepared for a story.

“Today at the market…hehe!” she said; purposely pausing to keep us in suspense.

“What happened in the market?” Mama asked from the kitchen as she made her some juice.

“That lady…I don’t even know what she was thinking!”

“What lady?” mama asked excitedly.

“Juma’s niece! You do remember her right? The one who had gone to America for her studies!”

“Yes I do remember her. Her name is Leila. What happened to her?” mama asked, more calmly.

“I don’t even know where to start!” The suspense growing ever more.

“From the start mama Aisha…from the start,” Mama said, rolling her eyes.

“Basi Leila leo! She came to the market in those short tight dresses from America. She didn’t even have her hijab on! I heard she snatched a mzungu’s husband and came with him to Kenya. So sad!” she said as she vigorously shook her head.

Mama shook hers too, as if in shame.

“Watoto wa siku hizi!” mama Aisha said before circling her index finger around her temple, as if to express how much abnormal the current generation is.

“May God guide us and our children. Western life is really having a negative influence on our girls and boys,” mama said, caressing my hair.

“Yes indeed,” Mama Aisha said before she stood up to leave.

She chattered away until she was outside the door. I always stood out to see her disappear into the third lane with her quick steps, frequently throwing the edges of her long scarf to her back. Each day she would go to the market and come by with a brand new story. It would either be about the thief that was beaten up or how the vegetable vendor smells like rotten fish. As I escorted her with my eyes as she walked away, I always wondered what it would be like to have a mother like that.

I grew up frequently hearing mama being called ‘mama Fatma’. I always wondered why they still called her by my older sister’s name while she no longer lived with us. I still remember that tragic incident that shattered our family forever; the night when Fatma called from America. She had finally graduated and now she had her degree in hand. Mama sounded very excited talking to her; telling her to take the first plane back home. Suddenly, she fell silent and handed papa the phone. I stood still at the door, listening quietly. I could see how much mama was straining to hold back her tears. Papa took the phone, gesturing to mama, as if asking what was wrong. It didn’t take long before I saw papa’s face turn red with rage. His voice grew into a thunderous roar as he barked several questions into the phone at once.

“What do you mean you got married?! How could you do that without seeking our blessings?!”

I didn’t like the sight of my parents but for some reason I couldn’t detach myself from the room. I looked at mama once again who was now seated at the edge of the bed, hugging herself tightly and crying silently. I stared at her for a while before I was startled by the end of the conversation when papa slammed the phone into the floor. I had never seen him that livid, even for a policeman who had been through so much stressful times. Papa had always been very patient. I always considered him to be the coolest police officer ever, and now I held my breath, unsure of what would happen next and afraid for the first time ever around my papa.

He moved around the room in restless steps, fidgeting with his fingers. He then sat next to mama before he turned to her after a short pause.

“You knew that she was interested in an English non-Muslim man?”

Mama nodded slowly before sniffing loudly.

“I…I tried to stop her…I did, I swear!” She sobbed.

“You should have told me!” papa said with finality before he stood and left.

The whole neighbourhood soon knew about Fatma’s marriage. It wasn’t surprising at all that they knew even without mama telling them. The news just had to get to Mama Aisha and the whole neighbourhood soon knew the story. Some friends came to console her silently and Mama Aisha was obviously there. Soon though, as with all other stories, it died away and people found more interesting topics to gossip about.

We didn’t hear from Fatma for quite some time. It was much later that she called to inform Mama that she was expecting a baby. Being the golden heart lady that Mama was, it wasn’t surprising that she was soon in frequent communication with Fatma. She often tried to give the phone to papa so he would also talk to her but he would push it off by saying, ‘I don’t have a daughter.’

Papa was my biggest role model and mentor throughout my life. He was tall, masculine and his brown skin shined under the sun.  He walked in quick steps and he spoke very little. I looked up to him with so much admiration as he sat with his colleagues and held what seemed to be very important conversations. He never spoke much but it was very clear how the visitors frequenting our house respected his opinions and thoughts. My friends were always amused that papa was a policeman, but what was even more amusing was that he wasn’t rough as many expected; he was simply a tough hard-willed gentleman. He and mama always took turns entertaining guests at home. They would talk on politics, the society and many other things. I always felt proud when he’d call me along to sit with him as he spoke with his guests.

He sometimes took me along to the police station where he worked in Mtwapa whenever he could. Because of this I always though he wanted me to become a policeman like him and like his father and his grandfather too. It felt like family heritage that the men ended up being protectors of the law, or more importantly, guardians of the common mwananchi. In fact, for the sake of continuity, I never imagined myself doing any other job apart from being a police officer. So I just followed him without complaining.

Mtwapa was the kind of town that had a stretch of bars from one end of the town to the next, which meant the police always had their hands full. I would stand outside the police station and watch drunkards stumbling as they walked past and the provocatively-dressed women who had no business being out so late.  It was a queer town. When sunset approached, just before the evening prayer, I would get a stool from the office and sit by the gate next to the guard. I was always amused and concerned by the sheer number of bars situated just next to churches and mosques. It seemed like a never-ending struggle between servants of their own desires and purists. There were times when I could hear the call to prayer blend with the loud booming music from the nearby bars and I’d just shake my head. Strange world.

When papa was done with his work, he joined me where I was seated, shook his head and said, “Where Satan is involved, fickle humans always grow weak. It is the end of the world.” I slowly nodded in agreement. I was thirteen years old; old enough to understand his perception of life.

One day, after another long one at school, I stood by the bridge together with my friends watching the beautiful ocean beyond. That had always been our norm. We would stand there for as long as it would take before dispersing upon hearing the evening call of prayer.

I fastened my steps and dashed into the house to avoid mama’s scolding for coming late but she didn’t even notice my entrance. I could hear some loud weeping from the sitting room. That isn’t mama’s voice, I thought to myself. Puzzled, I peeped at where she was seated and saw that it was Mama Aisha who was crying uncontrollably.  She was chattering away, pausing once in a while to wipe away her tears and blow her nose. I couldn’t clearly hear what she was saying but I could read the deep grief on her face. She kept calling out her eldest son in a depressing tone. I inched closer to the door to eavesdrop some more when papa appeared and gestured to me to follow him.

I rushed into my room, dropped my back pack and changed into a kanzu. Papa was walking really fast and I could see he was deep in thought. I tried to ask him what had happened to Mama Aisha but all he did was whisper, ‘Not now!’

When we got back home after prayers, Mama Aisha was in the company of another elderly lady. I could see that she was still crying and all I ever heard was, “He was going to Dubai and now they say they found him at the Kenya-Somalia border! This is too much! They won’t even allow me to see him…” Papa interrupted my attention as chaperoned me off to my room and ordered me to stay in there.

Back in my room, I pressed my ears to the door. My curiosity was really getting the better of me. It was hours later after I had climbed in bed when I heard some commotions from our front door. I rushed downstairs immediately to find Mama Aisha’s husband at the door, yelling at her.

“Come back to the house woman! Why are you bugging everyone about your useless son who can’t even help himself?!”

Mama Aisha cried as mum held her hand.

“I’m looking for help unlike you who does not even care about his own son! The only thing you ever know to do is spend your day at the maskani and chew khat and get high on your family!”

I stood still on the stairs hoping I would not be noticed. Papa led Mama Aisha’s husband out of the house and they talked for a moment. Then papa called Mama Aisha outside as well. I never found out what happened next for I was asked by mama to go to sleep.

The next morning Mama didn’t come to wake me up for morning prayers. I woke up several minutes late and rushed to my parents’ room. Mama was busy folding clothes in a suitcase and Papa was fully dressed; checking some papers on the bed.

“Where are you going papa?!” I said as I went to kiss his hand.

“You have to go to the mosque by yourself today son. I will pray on my way to the bus station” he said without looking at me.

“Where to?!”

“To find justice son. To find justice,” he said as he picked up the now closed suitcase and left the room. Mama followed him to the door and waved him goodbye.

“What is happening mama?” I asked, worried without question.

Mama took my hand and made me sit down next to her.

“Your dad is going to help Mama Aisha find her son. He will be leaving with her husband to find out what really happened.”

“But why was he arrested mama?”

“They say he was caught at the border heading to Somalia. The police are now holding him as a terrorist suspect….so sad. I’ve seen Hassan grow up in the neighborhood all his life. He was a good boy,” mama said, tears welling up.

“Do you think that he might really be involved with terrorists?” I asked as I stared at mama, scared of the answer she might give.

“That is what your papa has gone to find out. There might be a misunderstanding, maybe a case of mistaken identity, or at least we hope it is so…Last we knew was that he was heading to Dubai for a business trip.”

“But what if he is found guilty mama?”

She took a long breath and said, “Then it would be very unfortunate…” She patted my back and asked me to prepare myself to go to the mosque.

A week passed without a word from papa and mama was getting so worried. The days seemed so long and the nights were dragging. Mama could barely eat. She had dark marks under her eyes and her face was so pale. Weeks turned into months and the silence was deafening. But Mama was not alone in this misery. Every evening upon entering the house from school, I would hear mama Aisha’s loud weeping; she had not only lost her son but her husband too. Mama was mourning silently, she would let her tears flow yet she was too quick to wipe them away. She made sure to smile when with me to make me believe that she was alright yet I knew how much she was hurting deep inside. Then finally we got the call we waited so long for; a call from papa, only it wasn’t papa on the phone but someone else using his phone. No one had to tell me that, it was just so clear from how mama talked. She had started talking with a very excited tone before her voice slowly died away.

“What do you mean?!” she said in a slow yet anxious tone. Her eyes were watery and her hands were visibly shaking. My heart was beating fast and I kept hovering around mama, trying hard to hear what was being said on the other end. Mama suddenly dropped the phone and fell on her bed. She sat frozen as tears welled up her face.

“What happened mama?! What happened?!” I asked, panicking. She sat still in her position, staring at the wall as the tears mixed with her running nose.

“What happened?” I asked, almost shouting and in my anxiety, I broke down too. I hugged her and stayed in her arms for the longest time.

Papa and Mama Aisha’s husband had been shot; Mama told me in the quietest, most depressing tone. Millions and millions of questions raced across my mind as the house started getting crowded with visitors coming to console us. I watched Mama as she sat silently in a corner, wiping her tears. Mama Aisha was seated next to her and she kept wailing uncontrollably. I was confused and depressed, but mostly I was angry; I did not know what or who exactly I was angry at but all I knew was that the fury inside me was going to consume me. What had happened to papa? What had gone so wrong that he was shot? Who had shot him?!

The next morning I bought all the local newspapers I could get my hands on and sat in the sitting room, poring over each one.

‘A local policeman shot dead by unknown people during his investigative probe into the arrest of one terror suspect …’

‘…shot along with the suspect’s father where he was planning to release the terrorist suspect from the hands of law…’

‘It is alleged that the policeman had connections with the terror suspect’s handlers…’

‘As to the question of who could have carried out this heinous act, that still remains a mystery…’

‘Could it really be possible that an officer of the law was so deeply connected with a terror group …?’

I pushed the newspapers away. My anger had now turned to bitterness and my mind seemed to be moving in circles. I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry, I wanted to hit a wall; I just needed to do something. I looked up to see mama standing at the window staring outside with longing; as if expecting papa to appear any moment. She sniffed slowly and wiped her tears every once in a while with her head scarf.

“I talked to Fatma, she cried so much. Your papa died before they reconciled,” mama said between tears, “She will be flying in this evening with her husband.”

I moved to where she stood and hugged her tightly.

Strange world this is, I muttered to myself, where in the struggle between good and bad, the bad always won!

I did not know how, but I was going to avenge papa’s murder somehow. Even if it meant the death of me!

…Even if it meant being on the Wrong side of the law!

#To be continued…

MAMA TWO; THE WOMAN THAT WILL FOREVER LIVE

By: Lubnah Abdulhalim
Photo Courtesy: Salem_Beliegraphy

THE MAGIC PEN

The illustrations just couldn’t be comprehended,

Every feature just seemed faceless,

What was happening?

What were all these creatures etched like lines?

In circles, squares and straight lines

They just didn’t make any sense

but wait!

in came the illustrator with his magic pen and of course just instantly he got to work

and wow, behold! Suddenly everything made sense.

All the illustrations came to life

All that were lines became features

These features were of beautiful people and trees, houses and furnitures

Then it all made sense

And I realised

That he had done it again,

The illustrator and his magic pen.

 

My aunt was reciting the poem to the illustrator who was seated in front of him. With a lot of excitement, the illustrator’s eyes twinkled.

‘I am going to print that out and frame it,’ he said as he went on taking notes on the descriptions of the characters in my aunt’s storybook. And as for my aunt, she went on giving explanations with such joy that I could imagine the characters in my head. For months that followed, the illustrator was a frequent visitor at home and my aunt was at the top of the world.  At last her dream was going to come true. After almost ten years, she was finally going to publish a few of her many short stories that she had written for us while we were young.

Being a prospective writer, I usually found it interesting to hear her give descriptions and plan on her books. She was my mentor and I loved that spark of life in her. She was a perfectionist and she was very particular about everything.

All throughout my school days, she was the one who attended parents meetings and came for not only my report card but all my siblings’ as well. It wasn’t because my mum was too lazy or negligent do it herself, but my aunt was just really insistent. She loved it. The teachers got so used to this charming woman who always had something to say about the children’s perfomance and behaviour. It was naturally in her; that magic touch that she shared with everyone she met. I remember how she would make us create study timetables and she frequently held pep talks with us. We were what she couldn’t have; children that she could consider her own.

She had married late and unfortunately her marriage was short-lived, but she has lived with us as long back as my memory goes. She was the first woman to hold me in her arms, even before my mother. And I remember how much she loved that I resembled her and how many people thought that I was her daughter. And there are just so many memories attached to her. The woman who, when any of us was preparing for a national exam, would transfer us to her room and take it upon herself to wake us late at night to study. I remember how she would always arrange the study table and every once in a while she would stick an inspirational note on the wall throughout the year from the word go.

Several months later,  she had her first two books published and I could read the enthusiasm in her eyes.

‘You will be my personal secretary,’ she told me and ever since, I became so. Days turned into nights and nights into day as she went up and down marketing her books. Her diabetes was eating her up but she wanted to live her dream and so she did. Then slowly, she started losing her eyesight; her diabetes was acting up again.

When she went for the first operation on one of her eyes, she feared it was probably the end. She wanted to give the power of attorney of her books to my dad but my mother quickly refuted; she didn’t want her to think it was the end of her odyssey. As time flew by, her second eye got weak as well and she had to go through another operation. I woke up to days where she would sit for long hours struggling to write. She could no longer write in a straight line and her letters were playfully scattered like that of a child learning to write. I saw her strain futilely to immortalize pieces of her imagination in writing.

Her health deteriorated and she spoke less. I remember those nights I’d hear her coughing uncontrollably and I’d close my ears and turn to the wall. I didn’t want to hear. I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to feel. Those days we grew apart and I could barely look into her eyes. And many of the nights when I’d hear her in the next room struggling with an attack, I’d sob slowly and squeeze myself so hard to the wall as if expecting it to hug back or maybe swallow me and let me disappear. After I had had my share of tears I’d slowly tiptoe to the washroom and would still hear her groans of pain. Most times I would avoid her and she would notice that I did. In the morning I’d walk into her room and kiss her cheek and walk away before any other conversation could come up. Days seemed to be dragging on and the nights seemed longer than the days.

Soon after, she was diagnosed with a swollen heart and was soon admitted to the hospital. But upon meeting the doctor for the second time and showing him her blackened toe, the doctor informed us that the toe was a worse issue than the heart. Since she was a diabetic, the blackness in her toe was poisonous and dangerous. So she was transferred to the hospital…and that was the last time we ever saw her at home…

On the first night that she was admitted, I promptly offered to stay over at the hospital with her. Hours later, my mum informed me that my aunt didn’t want me to stay back. And I felt stung by those words.

‘But why?’ I asked my mum as a bitter lump formed in my throat.

‘She said that you couldn’t even look at her when she was at home so how can you tend to her at this situation?’

And my heart broke to a million pieces. It hurt so.

‘Mum..I just can’t stand seeing her wither away like that. I couldn’t see her hurt and ache. I just couldn’t. ..’ I said between tears, ‘but now I want to be there for her…’

‘You can’t keep on living like this. Were your children to get ill, would you dump them to me just because you couldn’t take it?’ And my mum left me with that. So it was decided that my big brother would be the one to spend the nights with her.

Sorrow engulfed our house and our schedules changed drastically. Every morning, I would wake up to an empty house. Everyone had left to their busy lives while my parents rushed before sunrise to relieve my brother so he could rest as well and I stayed at home all alone and it got to a point that I could actually hear the walls vibrating due to the deathly silence. It was a lonesome time. Every evening I would visit my aunt at the hospital before going for my classes. It was a large ward and her bed was at the farthest corner. The cries of agony, the groans from the first bed were clinging to my head like the limbs of tiny insects. I couldn’t stand the tense pain-evoking environment and I remember that the tenant of the first bed was a young child who was burnt from a fire. I would often hear her scream as she was being nursed. My heart was aching and the acrid smell of the medication made my head ache as well. I would glance at the occupant of each bed in dismay.  Truly, people undervalue their bounties. And here was my aunt, still talking less but groaning unbearably in pain.

The doctors decided to cut her toe to stop the poison from spreading . Unfortunately it had already spread and the second time, they severed her whole foot to just above her ankles. I remember how she would scream loudly and would sometimes get hysterical when she was being nursed and my mum would whisper softly  ‘Calm down..everyone is watching you…’ and she would reply even more loudly, ‘Ah I’m in pain..I don’t care.’

It was somewhat comical how she would act at times; instructing the nurses loudly not to hurt her or how sometimes she would slap my brother or tighten her grip on his hand so hard. We would smile silently and the nurses informed us that that was because of the many medicines she was taking. She would hallucinate frequently and she slept almost all the time.

Her complications stretched in number; her heart, high blood pressure, the poison rising in her leg and she suddenly had ulcers as well. The doctors noticed that the medication was not effective and they kept writing different prescriptions each day. The medicines were complicating it even further. Sometimes the medicines for ulcers would react with her diabetics or the medicine for ulcers would react with hyper tension and for the doctors, it became like a game of trial and error.

Just across her bed was another woman who had her entire leg cut off and had stayed in the hospital for months since she was unable to pay her bills but she looked quite strong and she was even walking around sometimes. This woman’s survival story was our glimmer of hope; hope that our aunt would survive, that she would be able to walk even with one leg. On the left side of my aunt’s bed was a young girl of my age group who had had a terrible motorbike accident.I always used to hear my mother mention how patient the girl had been and one day during the visits to the hospital, I asked her to show me her covered leg. What I saw was certainly not a good sight.

‘They have to slice part of my thighs to patch it to the leg.’ I took another look at the red leg that seemed to have all of its skin sheared off. I was becoming so affected that I could no longer stand these visits. It was unbearable.

The first time my story was published in a newspaper I rushed to the hospital and showed it to her and she nodded slowly, like in appreciation of  my hard work and murmured, mabruk. I knew she couldn’t see what was written well but I still wanted her to see it. I wanted her to see the fruits of her inspiration.

Day after day, night after night found my brother in the ward. He would feed her and take her to the washroom and bring her curtains so she would bath right where she was and when bad got worse, he was the one who bathed her and nursed her in the washroom as well. My heart melted at that. Maybe I had really underestimated my brother’s kindness or maybe I just hadn’t realized how much he loved her. All the other patients in the ward would be mesmerized at my brother and kept asking whether he was her son and when she’d say she’s like their second mother, they’d be awed even more at the beauty of it. Then came the night when she suddenly became unconscious and was taken to Intensive care Unit and we thought this would probably be the end of it. We went down in prayers and each of us at home silently sat in a corner; deep in thoughts. We needed her, we needed her charm and her laughter. We needed to hear her scold us about our duties and responsibilities.  We just needed her beside us.

God answered our prayers. By the next afternoon she was fully conscious and was sent back to her ward. That night as my mum was wishing goodnight to the other patients around my aunt called out to her, “You are wishing everyone and you’re forgetting me huh?” And we laughed lightly at that; at her undying humour.

It was the 7th of June and my younger sisters went to visit her after their annual sports day at school.  The sister right after me had won an award in the sports and she went to show her it. Mama two just mumbled slowly, mabruk. My mum told my sister, ‘Ask her if she has recognized you.’ and my sister was like ‘Seriously mum? Why wouldn’t she know me now?’ But mum insisted, ‘Just ask her.’

‘Mama two…who am i?’ And she said, ‘Lubnah…’ My sister was surprised that she hadn’t recognized her and actually thought she was talking to me. Feeling a lump in her throat, she kept quiet. She also had the same fear that I would have later in the day; that maybe she had already lost her sight then.

That same evening, my mum called me as I was left from uni. It was already dark and I was so exhausted.

“You have to come to the hospital.”

“I’m so tired mum. I don’t want to come that side of the town now.”

“You have to. Your brother hasn’t arrived yet and we can’t leave her alone until he comes by. Your younger sisters already saw her this afternoon. You have to come.”

After a lot of complaining and whining I still went and when I got there, my dad was trying to make her lie well on the bed.

“Mama two,” I called out as I patted on her hair. She didn’t say a word.

“Mama two…” I called her again and she looked up at me but her eyes seemed different, like they were seeing in opposite directions and for a moment I feared she had lost her sight. Then my dad called out her name

“Naima?”

“Naam,” she whispered and my dad was giving her instructions what she should do so that he could make her comfortable on the bed.

As she turned over she suddenly screamed ‘SubhanaAllah!’ before she went back to her mysterious silence. And those became the last words I ever heard from her. I stood helplessly beside her, trying to hear anything more from her but alas. My brother soon arrived and we all stood stiffly by the bed. I had a lump in my throat and my face was filled with sorrow and that’s when my brother teased at my disastrous posture and came and stood by my side. I understood he was trying to cheer me up but I couldn’t take my face away from the withering flower in front of me.

As we were leaving,I kissed her on the forehead and said goodbye. I walked a few steps ahead and suddenly had a premonition and quickly went back to her bedside, ‘I promise I will take care of your books’ before I kissed her again and left. Now, thinking about it I wonder why did I say goodbye and not goodnight as I always did. Why did I make that promise precisely that night? I never understood why.

It was way past midnight; almost dawn when my aunt called onto my brother.

“My chest…my chest..” she murmured with much difficulty. She was running out of breath. My brother took a glass of water and recited Surat Yasin on the water and made her drink it. And she was still complaining of her congested chest.

La ilaha illa Llah,” my brother kept saying to her and in slow bits she followed, ‘La illaha illa Llah.’

Muhammad rasulu Llah,‘ my brother continued but this time she could no longer speak and in a moment, she took her last breath peacefully as if she had been rehearsing for that moment for so long.

It was earlier on, at around 2 a.m when I suddenly woke up from my sleep and I remembered her. I said a short prayer for her; I asked God to let her live at least till ramadhan or until after my sister’s wedding. We needed her. We still greatly needed her. When my aunt’s health had become really critical, my brother called my mum to inform them to rush to the hospital. Just when they had reached downstairs at the door, they received another call from my brother again. She was gone.

It was on 8th June. I will never forget that date for it was the day I was woken up at fajr hour with silent cries at the corridor. I held my breath as I jumped out of my bed just to see my two sisters hugging each other tightly as tears welled up their eyes. My heart stopped for a moment and I stopped still in my tracks.

“Don’t tell me!” Is all I said as my heart started racing. “Please don’t tell me.” I repeated. But they didn’t have to tell me the obvious. I knew very well why they were holding each other like that at such a time. I knew they wouldn’t cry like that for anyone else so I just joined them in the group hug.

Our parents had already left for the hospital to plan on removing the body from the hospital. We were all alone at home now and just after the prayers, we were all seated narrating of all her last moments with us. That seemed to worsen the pain. It was like living in a worldly hell. I had never lost anyone I loved that much. I had never even thought about her death this soon. And all of a sudden I was lost in a trance. Remembering, remembering, remembering…I couldn’t even cry anymore.

After we had cleaned the house ready to receive the visitors, we realized that our seven year old sister was not with us. Rushing to the stairs, I found her seated silently at the stairs. She wasn’t crying nor did she seem sad but she seemed aware of what was happening. I hugged her.

“Do you know the meaning of death?”

She nodded.

“Pray for her okay?”

She nodded again and I took her with me.

Plans were changed and the body was no longer going to be brought home but rather to our family house and so we had to leave immediately too. By the time we got there, it was too crowded. And the moment we stepped in, everyone rushed towards us. They all knew we were her children and she was our mother; mother not by birth but through sentiment and all else that is good and heavenly. She had already been washed by then and people were just kissing her goodbye now. We walked in to the room where she was and just found several people hugging me. I just went numb and broke down. I wasn’t crying coz of the death but more because of how the people around were wailing. The louder they cried the more tears silently rushed to my face.

“Please don’t cry like that. Haraam.” I heard my sister say constantly to the people hugging us but they went on. So we ended up consoling the rest instead of it being the vice versa. None of us screamed or wailed or overreacted. We were just there as silent as we’d always been. Mum was seated at one corner and even when I went to hug her,  we rubbed each other’s tears and consoled one another. We were the ones who loved her more than anyone else. We were the ones who knew her pain and sorrows. We were the ones who knew she wouldn’t want to see us wailing for her sake.

There were so many people at the funeral, majority of whom I never even recognized. Some introduced themselves as her high school classmates, some her long time neighbors, some her old friends. ..I looked at the many faces; grasping none but remembering all those days she’d narrate of her days at school, her very many awards in drama and plays. Her days as an exchange student in America. Her re-known eloquence and her boldness on the stage. She was a legendary storyteller and that crowd was just meant to be there at that moment. Thinking about it, she would have loved to see all these people around her…only they came by a little bit too late.

My friends appeared and we talked and I talked like nothing had happened. They were trying to cheer me up and I played along. When my best friend finally appeared just outside the house I rushed out and gave her a tight hug. Surprisingly, I never cried then. Maybe it was because I was confident that she knew my deepest sorrows just by glancing at me. We walked in and we spent the rest of the afternoon together; talking about everything else and barely touching the topic in hand. The hours were very slowly ticking away. It was the longest day of my life.

That night when we got home I was the first to ask my mother for food and she was surprised.

“Really?? Do you even have the appetite? None of us is thinking of food right now.”

Did I have an appetite really? I don’t know. Maybe I just wanted to get busy with something or just to fill my stomach and numb the acidic lump of pain there.

“You are stronger than I thought,” mum continued after a moment of silence. “In fact today you proved to us all that you were the strongest of us all.”

Was I? Was I really the strongest? I shrugged.

About two to three days passed by and the house was full of gloom. It wasn’t until one of the nights that I dreamt of her. And I broke down. I broke down in the dream and it was so severe that I woke up to find myself crying in reality. And I cried and cried and cried like never before.

“There..now you will be okay. It had just not yet sunk in your head,” mum consoled me. But the next days that followed, I constantly found myself dreaming of her. Dreaming that she was alive still. That she was healthy. And sometimes I would dream of her at home and ask her ‘but are you not supposed to be dead?’ It was haunting me now. It was haunting me that maybe she still died thinking I never cared for her. That she died thinking I did not want to take care of her. That I didn’t love her all that much. I was torturing myself with the thoughts now. Did she die knowing that I loved her so much? Did she understand that I stayed away only because I didn’t want to see her suffer?? Those thoughts never died away but sometimes I think of that last night that I didn’t want to go to the hospital and I say to myself, had I not gone to see her that night then I’d never have forgiven myself. And now I appreciate that night so much like never before and although she didn’t really talk to me but seeing her during her last moments was the best gift God ever gave me.

Almost two years later now, I still dream of her. I still turn to my wall and cry for her but mostly, cry that I stayed away. Had she forgiven me for that before she died?? I hope she did. I hope so…

We all still remember her in everything we do. When we see her favourite food, her favourite tv shows, her large mas-haf that she used to read as she was slowly losing her sight, her photos…and sometimes we just remember her for no good reason; just like that. But what I would never forget is the days we used to joke around about the future. Of how each one of us would have our own family and how she and mum would have special turns visiting each and how they would go to hajj together with dad too and how the house would be more peaceful without us.

I look back at all that and think…she left just too soon. Just too soon. She was the youngest in her family; a woman full of life, and even though she was playing at the early fifties she still had many dreams like she was going to live forever. But who am I to deny God’s will? I know she would have loved to know that I wrote about her. She loved being appreciated. She deserved to be appreciated.

Then one day my youngest sister came and asked my mum, ‘Will we meet aunt Naima in Jannah?’ We were all mesmerized by her question and all mum did was kiss her and say, ‘Ameen.we will all be together in jannah.’ And as I say this ameen, I swallow a bitter lump in my throat.

Ameen Ya Rab, Ameen!

Photo Courtesy: http://www.layman.org/

I write this letter with deep pain in my heart that no doctor, no psychiatrist, no psychologist can cure. I am not the same person I was one year ago and never will I be ever again. I write this letter so that the whole world can know my story. So that the whole world can know the plain truth…the truth that I am no terrorist…to know that Islam has never encouraged terrorism…

 I remember how I walked in the international airport of the foreign land. I was happy like never before. This was my opportunity to raise myself from scratch and I was going to help my mother get her treatment at last. When I just arrived, I took my mother to her room and let her rest before going to meet the ones who had requested my coming to this beautiful new land. The old men had big dreams and they wanted me to be the fulfiller of those dreams. I readily accepted, after all, that was what I came for….
We started a large project of building the biggest masjid, library and madrassa in that entire land. We had big dreams of educating the muslim children that never had the chance to know their religion well. We made big progress in few months and we had people of all sorts getting attracted to our library that had all sorts of books. I soon started teaching the youngsters in the madrassa and we grew very first. We had accomplished what we wanted. People were now flowing in and out of the library and we were requested to increase the opening hours. In few more months we had people converting to Islam…

I finally took my mother for the treatment of the blood cancer she had. I was pleased with myself for I had achieved what I always wanted. During my free time, I did what I loved most-taking pictures of the nature and architectural buildings for that was what I had studied in my home land. Everything went on well and after one complete year, we started having public peace conferences about Islam. We moved to different states of the continent and our name was heard all over…we were spiritually conquering the hearts of the people.

That one night, everything changed and my life was completely destroyed. I was seated with my mother having dinner in our house when the door bell rang. I stood to open the door and there, in front of me were more than five policemen. I stood still for a moment waiting for them to start talking.

“Is this Sheikh Ahmad’s residence?”One of them asked.

“Yes, how may I help you?” but before any one of them could answer, three of the police officers pushed me aside and broke in the house.

“What is happening here?” I quickly asked but there was no answer. The three policemen ransacked the house, breaking everything around.

“Ahmad, what do these people want from you?” my mum hurried to me, fear all over her face.

“You can’t do this. What have I done?” my voice rose up.

“Here’s a search warrant. May you shut up while we do our work!?” one of them snapped.

I stood there helplessly as they threw down all the furniture, books, everything they got hold of. Then one of them suddenly held the Quran and was about to throw it down when my mother, without thinking twice, gave him a hefty slap on the face. The policeman stood up, red with anger and pushed my old mother to the farthest end. Everything happened so fast and my mother was now lying down, very still.

I rushed to my mother and blood was oozing from her head.

“What have you done?! What have you done!?” I shouted loudly.

“Sir, we got them. Here they are,” another policeman said, coming from my room. I raised my eyes to see him holding the pictures of the buildings that I had taken.

The one, who seemed to be the head came to me and boldly said,

“You are under arrest. May you follow us to the station right now.”

“But what have I done?”I asked, panicking.

“You will know everything once we get there,” he said as he handcuffed me.

“But what about my mother? She’s still unconscious.”

“We’ll take care of her. Hey! Call the ambulance,” he said to another policeman. They then took me into their car and I was taken to the station. I was interrogated for hours-why had I taken those pictures from the beginning. It w ent on and on until I finally realized why I was being held. I was a suspect of terrorism. It went from being hours to days and I never was given the chance to rest. I was electrocuted, kept in the darkest of places, denied food and more and more. They were never going to let me go unless I said that I was guilty of having terroristic plans.

Then one day, one of the interrogators came and announced,

“I guess you were surviving until now for the sake of your mother. She is dead now. She died last night in the hospital. You can now speak up.”

The news came as a blow to me and I felt so shattered. Things didn’t get any better in the following months. After some terrible time, I overheard two police officers talking about my case.

“The man is so lucky. This is the fourth day since the people started the demonstrations for his release. I guess he won’t stay any longer. The people have refused to stop the demonstrations…” I didn’t hear the end of that conversation but soon enough, I was released by the court of law after finding me innocent.

I was once more a free man but that didn’t help me at all. My life was completely shattered. I was so weak, so much afraid and I could no longer be the same eloquent man. It is now one year later but I still couldn’t recover my old self and I don’t think I ever will.

So that’s why I am writing this letter to the world. So that they can realize that I never was a terrorist and never has my religion-Islam, ever encouraged any kind of violence. I hope my letter will make things clear- that Islam is a peaceful religion and will always be….

A RAY OF HOPE

By: Lubnah Abdulhalim

Photo Courtesy: Salem_Beliegraphy

 

Early that morning, I rose up with the cock’s crowing so loudly just outside my grandmother’s grass thatched hut. It was a nice feeling being back at the village after ten years of studying in the city. I stood outside the hut for a while, letting the sun rays hit my face as I breathed in the cold fresh farm air.

“You woke up early mamma,” my grandma said as she went on grinding the maize. I could feel the loud thuds of the mortar and the pestle like I could hear my own heartbeats. There was that peace of mind in the village that I couldn’t find anywhere else.

“It is not early grandma…let me go fetch water.”

“No mamma…you are from the city, you don’t have the strength anymore to carry the calabash. I warned you from going to the city to study but you didn’t listen to my words…now look at how weak you seem!”

I laughed loudly at how my grandmother still took me as the little delicate baby she knew long ago. I ignored her words and rushed with a calabash to fetch water. As I walked away barefooted, I realized how much grandma had missed seeing me in her compound here in the village. I was glad I finally came to see her and that way; I would be able to do what had brought me to the village; be a teacher in one of the centers of street children. That had been my dream and here I was, many years later to fulfill it.

Today was my first day as a teacher at the center and I couldn’t help but get scared a bit. The director of the center welcomed me to the large and dusty compound with a number of mud and grass thatched rooms. I could see a number of boys playing football at a far end with what seemed to be a ball made of paper bags and dump ropes. Just nearer to me sat a young boy of eleven years, playing with sand and sticks. When he noticed my presence, he stood up and stared deeply at me. I smiled lightly before going to where he was. He shyly gave me his dirty and greasy hand. I looked at his dirty unkempt hair and his torn up oversized clothes without a word. He was just about to take back his hand when I gave him another smile and shook his hand gently. When the rest of the children saw me, they flocked around asking me all kind of questions. I couldn’t help but laugh at how eager they were to know whether I was from the city. I spent the entire day answering their questions and hearing their endless stories of the streets. That evening, as I went home through the thick bushes and plantations, I could feel tears slowly roll down my cheeks. I was glad that I had come to assist them in learning; they really needed me I realized.

The next day, I woke up earlier than usual. I already had a plan on how I was going to teach the boys at the center and I walked very fast to start my lessons with them. I started from teaching them how to read letters and how to write their names. I was so touched at how happy they were to learn. They then started to sing and dance the traditional songs for me as they merrily bet the drums and thumped their feet. The young girls wore old lesos at their waist as they danced to the tunes being made by the flutes. After I had ensured that their minds were already captivated, I started narrating to them an old story of the past; a story that meant a lot to me.

“Paukwa…”

“Pakawa,” they shouted back loudly. I took a long sigh before starting the narration.

“Gitonga, Musau and Muthoni came from a very rich family. They lived in one of the most beautiful houses in Karen. They had a big compound with a nice garden in it. Every evening from school, they would play around in the compound with their many toys, play hide and seek and many other games. Their parents were always busy with work and the three siblings would always find themselves alone in the huge house. They didn’t really mind being left alone for they had all they wanted and could do whatever they wanted, which included, messing the house upside down, disturb the house girls, and play with the water pipe, thus wasting a lot of water.

The three of them went to one of the best school in town. Every morning they would be picked by the school bus. The house girl would give each one of them their packed lunch and watch them leave. That was the same routine for them every day.  They had very little time with their parents.

Gitonga, who was twelve years, was the eldest. He was very playful at school. He always got punished for misbehaving in class. He would also ask his friends to join him in his mischief. His parents were always being summoned at school for his cases. They even tried to get him special tuition but Gitonga never improved in his studies.

Musau was the second born in the family. He was a quiet nine year old boy .He performed better than his older brother Gitonga at school. He would at times study but Gitonga would always ask him to join in the games. Muthoni was their baby sister. She was seven years old .Muthoni liked playing with her two brothers and she loved them very much.

The children grew up seeing their parents only on weekends. They spent most of their time with the house girls. They would bathe them, feed them and prepare them for school each day. But today, something unusual happened. Their parents came home earlier than usual. After they had all eaten dinner and showered, their father called all of them into his room. They stood there, anxious to know what was happening.

“Children, we have received some bad news,” their mother started.

The three of them stood in silence, listening. “Your grand mother is very sick at hospital. We have to live very early tomorrow morning to Mombasa,” their father continued.

“Mombasa?? Hurrah!” Gitonga rejoiced.

“We are coming with you right? It is going to be weekend anyway!” Musau said.

“Children….calm down. We will take you alone but you must understand this is not a holiday…”

“Yes we understand,” Gitonga cut in.

“Our first time to Mombasa! Hurrah!”  Musau exclaimed with joy.

“Okay, okay children …go to your rooms. Let the house girl help you pack for tomorrow.”

The three of them rushed out of the room, very excited. They were going to see their grandma after very long and Mombasa was new to them. They couldn’t wait for sunrise!

This particular day, Mr. and Mrs. Kimathi found their children awake very early. They were all set to leave for Mombasa. Immediately after breakfast, they boarded their car and started their journey. It was quite a long trip. The children were excited and they kept looking through the car windows. They pass through bushes and forestry areas. They saw elephants and giraffes grazing around. This made them jump up and down with joy. They saw heavy trucks moving on the smooth road. Their mother would give them snacks once in a while. Gitonga took many photos on the way.

When they finally arrived in Mombasa, it was getting past noon. The sun was heating and the roads were busy with all kinds of ‘biashara’. The children were a lot quieter than before. They were very tired and hungry. Their father led them into one of the best Swahili dishes restaurant for a late lunch. They were welcomed with the sweet aroma of fish and chicken being fried.

Gitonga and Musau were staring at the menu.

“What is mahamri, mum?”

“And what is vitumbua?” They kept asking in amazement.

“These are cultural foods of coasterians. You do know mahamri. It’s just the other name for maandazi. Let us have lunch now. We will order some of those for take away,” their mother said.

The family had a delicious meal of biriani and fish. Musau didn’t stop describing how tasty the food was. They had never tasted such a meal before and they just loved it. They had ‘matumbo’ as delicacy before leaving for grandma’s house.

Grandma’s house was huge as well. It was situated in a place called Nyali. The place was so calm and quiet. There were beautiful houses all around. The children couldn’t help but see the playgrounds full of swings on the way. But of course their parents wouldn’t let them go to the swings right now. They had to see grandma first.

There was no one at grandma’s place apart from a single house girl. She was cleaning up the rooms when they arrived. Mr. Kimathi assembled his children again. “We all go to shower now, have a rest then we will later on go see grandma.”

“Yes daddy,” they all answered in unison.

The children were just so tired and immediately went for a nap. Later that evening, they all prepared themselves to go to hospital. Mombasa night breeze was so cool and the roads were still busy as if it were midday. The hospital wasn’t so far either. It took them barely fifteen minutes.

Gitonga stared at the playground with swings once more. He couldn’t help but wish he was there. But right now they had already arrived at the hospital. One could immediately see the fear on Muthoni’s face as she saw the doctors and nurses walk past them.

“Don’t worry dear, we are just here to see grandma,” Mrs. Kimathi said, holding her hand tightly. But Muthoni still feared, and her eyes followed the doctors until they disappeared. Meanwhile, Gitonga and Musau were busy sliding at the slippery corridors. Their mother kept warning them to stop but Gitonga would never hear anyone’s words.

Grandma seemed in a critical state. She had pipes all over her and she couldn’t even talk. Gitonga and his two siblings were staring silently at grandma. Each one of them was thinking in their own way. Gitonga was thinking when grandma would wake up so they could go to swings. Musau was just feeling sorry for her and was wishing she would get up soon. Muthoni was busy remembering the stories grandma told her some two years ago.

For the time being, Mr. and Mrs. Kimathi were talking to the doctor. Gitonga tried listening to their conversation but he couldn’t hear anything. They were talking in very low tones. After about ten minutes, they were all walking out from the hospital doors.

The night was so calm and there was a full moon. The family had their dinner and they were off to bed very early that night. The children changed into pajamas and went to sleep. Gitonga just lay in his bed wishing and thinking of the swings. He quickly woke up and went to Musau’s bed.

“Musau! Musau! Musau! Wake up!” Gitonga shook Musau’s shoulder.

“What is it Gitonga?” he replied sleepily.

“Sit up! I have a brilliant idea!” Gitonga said excitedly.

“Mmmh… let me sleep!” but Gitonga kept on insisting. He lazily sat up with eyes half asleep.

“Let us go to the swings!”

“What do you mean? Can’t you see its night?” Musau said.

“Yes…but it’s just eight p.m! I saw at the gate it was written they are open until ten p.m.” Gitonga continued.

“But we can’t go without mum and dad.”

“No we can!” Gitonga said, “Come let me show you,” Gitonga pulled Musau out of the bed to the window. He then pointed to the two gate guards who were busy eating and chatting some few miles away.

“See we can easily sneak out without anybody noticing,” Gitonga whispered.

“Where do you want to go?” a tiny voice said behind them.

They both jumped in fright, only to see Muthoni behind them.

“What are you doing here?” Gitonga asked me quickly.

“Your movements woke me up….what are you two doing? What are you up to?”

“Just go to bed little sister. We were just looking at the beautiful full moon.”

“No! I heard you telling Musau about sneaking out. You have to take me with you or I will report you to mum and dad right away!” Muthoni was about to cry.

“We have to take her along. She will report us if we don’t,” Gitonga whispered to Musau.

“You don’t even know the way! This is not a good idea Gitonga!” Musau said.

“Listen Musau, grandma is suffering from malaria and it is very serious. Did you see all those pipes to provide food and water to her body? She can’t do anything now and she might not be out soon. Let’s take the chance now!” Gitonga said.

Musau sat silently, thinking about Gitonga’s words and Muthoni was just staring at the two.

“Let us go! We won’t take long I promise,” Gitonga said.

“Do you remember the path which we saw the playground?” Musau asked him.

“Yes! Let us go fast before it’s too late!” Gitonga said as he started changing into a t-shirt and jeans.

Musau without saying anything stood up and changed his clothes too. Gitonga quickly dressed up Muthoni while giving her warnings that she shouldn’t disturb or cause trouble. Muthoni nodded quickly, she didn’t want to be left behind.

The three of them slowly crept out of their room. They could hear the low whispers in their parent’s room. They could be talking about grandma’s critical situation and they might not notice our absence, Gitonga thought. Quietly and very carefully, they opened the front door which had not yet been locked. It was very quiet outside and getting even darker. The three walked through the backyard and behind the gate guards. Just as they were about to go past the gate, Muthoni cried out.

“Ouch!”

Musau and Gitonga quickly turned to Muthoni.

“What is it?!”

“I got pricked by a thorn,” Muthoni said.

“You will have us get caught Muthoni!” Gitonga whispered angrily.

Luckily for them, the gate guards were busy chatting and laughing loudly. They didn’t even feel their movement. Both Musau and Gitonga had carried their small bag packs which had some money, snacks and torches. Off they went. Gitonga led the way as he tried to remember and follow the path they had been driven at before.

They first walked past a petrol station, then a roundabout. Muthoni and Musau silently followed. They let Gitonga think clearly.

“Are you sure you remember the way?” Musau asked.

“Yes…don’t worry. We are almost there,” Gitonga said confidently.

They walked and walked but they never got to the swings. When Musau asked Gitonga again, he kept saying they are just about to arrive at the playground. Muthoni was already tired and her eyes were full of sleep. But they kept on walking, until they got to a certain point, Gitonga suddenly stopped.

“What is Gitonga?” Musau asked.

“I think …we are lost!” Gitonga said slowly.

“But you said you knew the way, Gitonga!”

“Yes I knew, but…I don’t know how we got lost!” Gitonga said slowly.

“I am tired, I am sleepy!” Muthoni said.

“Now what are we going to do?” Musau asked Gitonga.

Gitonga looked sadly at his siblings.

“I don’t know…maybe we ask for help from someone,” he said.

“Help from which person? Can’t you see the roads are clear? This is the silent part of the town,” Musau said.

“Let’s just walk back then. Maybe we’ll be lucky to get back to grandma’s home,” Gitonga replied.

Muthoni kept yawning and complaining that she is hungry, sleepy and tired. And now, Gitonga was getting fed up with her.

“Can’t you see are trying to find the way? Please be quiet and stop complaining. You followed us yourself!”

“But you said we’ll go to the swings…” Muthoni said sadly.

“Hey you two, stop it now! Let’s get moving,” Musau interrupted their argument.

They kept walking, holding each other’s hands tightly. They didn’t even need their torches because the street lights were well illuminating the roads. They took out their snacks and started eating them. But just suddenly, they found themselves in a narrow path. The path was muddy and the street lights weren’t there anymore.

“Where are we?” Muthoni whispered.

“We don’t know,” he said as the three of them stood still, looking at the place they were in right now.

There were many unpainted houses and huts all so close together. The path was so narrow and there was mud all over. One could barely walk comfortably in such a place. It was all smelly and dirty and there was a dumpsite nearby. This place was quite more alive than the other places. They could see some women cooking outside their homes. It was pretty dark and they all wondered how those people were living. They now removed their torches and continued walking in the muddy path.

After they had now walked past the weird neighbourhood, they got to a rather isolated path. But on the sides of the road, they could see some children crowded over something. They were all seated under a rotten roof.

“Let’s go see what is happening,” Musau suggested.

“Hey no! Can’t you see they all seem dirty and in torn rugs?” Gitonga protested.

“But maybe they will help us,” Musau continued.

Gitonga kept quiet for a moment and then nodded.

“Okay…let us go try.” They slowly walked towards them in deep fear and as they approached, they saw what they were fighting over. It was some food in a paper bag. The gang raised their eyes to look up at them.

“Hehehe…seems some good catch came over to us,” one of the older boys laughed.

“Mmmh and they seem rich kids! Look at what they wear,” another one followed.

The three were now more scared and Muthoni was already about to cry.

“Let us go!” Gitonga said quickly, leading their way back.

“Wait…wait,” the one who seemed to be the eldest said, “are you lost? Need some help?”

The three of them turned back, surprised. Still filled with fear, Gitonga spoke up.

“Yes we are lost…please help us.”

“Okay calm down. Where is your home?”

“It’s not our home, our grandma. We don’t even know where it is,” Gitonga said, already in tears.

“Don’t worry boy. Come here sit with us. We will find a way to get you home together,” the eldest boy said as he led them to where the group was. The only light available was that from the three torches. The gang no longer made fun of them. They were nearly seven children of different age. The youngest was nearly of the same age as Muthoni and he was wide awake. They continued scrambling for the food that was laid down on the floor.

“Welcome!” another young boy told them.

“Yeah, come here and eat with us,” the oldest boy said.

Gitonga, Musau and Muthoni just stared in amazement. Why were these children eating so little food together?

“By the way, my name is Bakari. I am the oldest here. This is Hassan, Omari, Fatuma, Maryam, Katana and Zena,” he said, pointing at one after another.

Gitonga and Musau just nodded, still surprised.

“And what are your names?” Bakari asked.

“I am … Gitonga. This is my brother Musau and our little sister, Muthoni.”

Bakari asked them to sit down at the pavement beside a road. The three of them were very quiet and they just watched as the gang licked their hands hungrily.

“Where are you coming from?” the youngest boy from the gang, Omari, asked.

“We are from Karen, Nairobi. We came to see our grandma who is very sick,” Musau said.

“Wow! You are from Karen! You live in a big house then!” Zena said with excitement.

“Yes it is a big house,” Musau answered.

Muthoni was already asleep on the cold floor. Bakari removed the shawl he was wearing and covered her well.

“Then you eat all that good food we see in the supermarkets?” Fatuma asked, her eyes popped out.

“Yes,” Gitonga said.

“You are so lucky then!” Omari said sadly.

Musau and Gitonga looked at each other in surprise.

“Why?” they both asked.

“We have no place to call home,” Omari said slowly.

“Where do you live then?” Musau asked.

“Here, at the streets,” Bakari answered.

“Here?!” Gitonga asked, very shocked. He looked around the dark and dirty place. The floor was cold and there was nothing to protect them from the sun and rain, apart from the old rotten roof above them.

“Yes, we have no other place to go,” Zena said, looking at the two brothers.

“Why? Where are your parents?” Gitonga asked.

“We have no parents, no home, no school, no food…we are just alone. This is our family,” Bakari said slowly.

“Some of us don’t even know who our parents are,” Omari said.

“Omari was born in the street so he doesn’t know anything about his family,” Bakari explained.

Musau and Gitonga sat silently listening. They had never imagined that there were children with no homes and no family.

“What about you Bakari?” Gitonga asked.

“I used to live with my old grandma. My parents died while I was very young. At the age of twelve, grandma died as well. I had to stop going to school… no one to take care of my studies or life. I was in class six by then.”

“Oh so sorry Bakari,” Musau said.

“What happened to your home?” Gitonga asked.

“I lived there for some time. I used to work here and there to get food… but one day a big rain came and swept it completely. I was left with no other place to go except here.”

The two were now even more shocked. They felt sad for them. It was getting darker now and Omari was already asleep.

“What about the others?” Musau asked.

“We all met here at the streets…and we became like a family. Each one of us has their own sad story. Some of us had their parents living in the streets as well, but they died just like Fatuma’s parents. Others had no other place to go after their parents’ death, like me. While others are like Omari, who were abandoned by their parents,” Bakari explained.

“We all had difficult times but Omari suffered a lot more,” Bakari continued.

“How?” Gitonga asked.

“He is always asking about his mother. He is always sad. He wishes he could know his family and ask them why they abandoned him,” Zena joined in.

No one spoke for a moment. They looked at the small boy Omari who was sound asleep.

“You should be grateful that you have parents and a home,” Hassan said.

Musau and Gitonga nodded slowly.

“None of us could go on with studies. I wanted to become a pilot… but that can never happen,” Bkari said slowly.

“And I wanted to become a nurse,” Zena murmured.

Silence filled the air once more.

“Let us all sleep now. It’s getting very late,” Bakari said suddenly.

“Are we going to sleep here?” Gitonga asked.

“Yes… sorry we don’t have a better place for you to sleep but we can’t help you in this darkness. We have to wait till sunrise,” Bakari told him.

“Okay… but will you help us find our grandma’s home?”

“Yes of course. All of us will help you tomorrow. Let us sleep now. We have a long day to come!” Bakari said as he lay on the floor and covered himself with a rug.

Both Musau and Gitonga were given old blankets and they all went to sleep.

The sunrise at the coast was marvelous. The rays are what awoke the children, one after the other. Bakari was already awake, earlier than anyone else. He was carrying two buckets and was tapping Omari lightly to wake up.

“Where are you going?” Gitonga asked as he sat upright.

“To fetch some water,” Bakari said.

“But where?” Musau asked, concerned.

“There is a lady who sells water, some distance away but she gives it to us for free,” Zena answered.

Muthoni now woke up. She looked around like she couldn’t remember where they were. Then she sat up and looked at Gitonga.

“You didn’t find grandma’s home?” she asked sadly.

“No dear, we are just going to fetch water then Bakari promised to help us out,” Musau told her.

Bakari asked Zena and Fatuma to stay behind while the rest went to fetch water. Each one of them carried an old bucket, half broken. Both Musau and Gitonga looked at the young boy Omari pitifully. He was also going to carry a bucket of water. The children started walking all together. The paths were real muddy and narrow. Bakari started explaining to them how difficult it is to acquire food for them. Sometimes they have to search in thrown away foods outside hotels and restaurants and sometimes they even had to steal. When they got sick, they either went to public hospitals, get medical care then run away so that they don’t pay.

“Many times we tell lies like ‘my mother is also sick at home, she couldn’t come with me’ to the doctors and nurses so that they may treat us. But most of the times, the doctors don’t agree to treat a child, dirty looking as we are and who just came alone to hospital. The nurses would sometimes pity us and handle us for free,” Bakari explained.

Musau and Gitonga were listening keenly. It was as if they were being told a story tale. Bakari continued narrating the challenges of living in the streets while others joined in at times to explain other things. The sun was getting pretty hot and the walk was quite long. Musau and Gitonga wondered how much longer they were going to take on the way. They didn’t dare complain, on seeing that the small boy Omari wasn’t complaining.

It was nearly midday when they finally arrived at the lady’s place. But what was worse, the tap was crowded with customers buying the water.

“You are quite late today boys!” the lady called to them.

“We slept very late yesterday,” Hassan said as they all approached the lady.

“And what were you doing till you slept that late?” she asked.

“We had some visitors,” Bakari said.

“Oh, I hadn’t noticed them! What are your good names?” the lady asked politely, looking at Musau and Gitonga.

“I am Gitonga and this is my younger brother Musau.”

“Okay and I am mama Asha,” she said with a big smile before she turned to Bakari.

“Take your friends into the house. Let me request my neighbour to attend to the customers then I’ll be right back!” she said.

Bakari led the whole group into the house. It was a fairly big house but of course not bigger than Gitonga’s home. It seemed very old and the walls had cracks all over. It was dark inside and one couldn’t see clearly. They all sat down at the torn mat before mama Asha rushed into the kitchen.

“So…where are the visitors from?” she asked from the kitchen.

“They are lost from their grandma’s home. They are new here. They just arrived from Nairobi the other day,” Bakari explained.

Mama Asha then went to them with a loaf of bread and some juice.

“This is all I have to give you today,” she said sadly.

“No thank you…we really appreciate,” Hassan said.

“I am very hungry!” Omari said as he quickly began to eat.

“But where is Zena and the remaining others today?” she asked, very concerned.

“We left them with the visitors’ younger sister. She would have gotten tired walking to this place,” Bakari said.

“Do they have something to eat?” she asked.

“Yes, I left Zena with some few coins that I had from yesterday.”

Mama Asha went back to the kitchen and was humming a song beautifully as she washed her utensils.

“So…Bakari, what were you planning to do to help your visitors?” mama Asha suddenly asked.

“Mmmh, I don’t know for sure. Maybe we’ll take them to Nyali and walk around, maybe luckily they might spot the place,” he answered as he went on eating.

“Why don’t we go to the police station? By now their parents must have noticed their absence and they would surely report it to the police,” mama Asha said.

Yes indeed, Gitonga’s parents were already awake by then. They had woken up very early so as to go see the grandma in the hospital but when Mrs. Kimathi went to wake up the kids, they were nowhere to be seen.

They searched all over the house, at the garden outside, everywhere! But the children could not be found. Mr. and Mrs. Kimathi got worried now. Where could the children have gone so early? They asked the house girl, the watchmen, the neighbours but no one had seen them since the previous night. Mrs. Kimathi was already in tears.

“We have to go and report to the police!” she said.

“Let us be patient a bit more. They couldn’t have gone so far in a new town. They might be back soon,” Mr. Kimathi said.

Mr. and Mrs. Kimathi no longer went to the hospital after the doctor called to inform them that grandma was progressing very well. They waited and waited, wondering where they had disappeared to.

“It must be Gitonga’ mischief and he took his siblings along!” Mrs. Kimathi said angrily.

“Calm down, we have to think where they could have probably gone,” Mr. Kimathi said.

“We have no more time to think! Let us go report to the police!” she insisted. They soon left for the police station.

Meanwhile, the young Omari gave a very good suggestion.

“What if we take them to the swings and maybe they will remember the way to their grandma’s home?” he said.

“Oh yes!” Hassan said, “It will be much easier that way. Didn’t you say your grandma’s home is not very far from the swing park?”

Both Gitonga and Musau nodded.

“Then let us go there first. If we don’t succeed I will take you to the police station to get help okay?” mama Asha asked.

“Will you come with us?” Musau asked.

“Yes of course! I can’t let you go to the police station alone. They might as well ignore you,” she said as she wore her head scarf and buibui, the traditional coast veil.

By that time, the crowd at the tap had cleared. They all filled their buckets and started the long walk. Mama Asha helped Omari and Musau carry the buckets.

When they finally arrived to where Muthoni and the rest were, it was quite hot. Maryam and the others were busy selling groundnuts for another woman who had employed them. Muthoni was seated aside, looking at them work.

Mama Asha was introduced to Muthoni and she confirmed whether they had eaten. Zena told her that they had eaten some mahamri and some black tea which they shared. Some of the children disappeared into the nearby bushes to wash up, while others helped Zena and the others sell the groundnuts and other snacks in turns.

After everyone had washed up and dressed in their normal rugs, mama Asha sent Bakari for two plates of coconut rice and stew from a nearby ‘kibanda’. Gitonga gave out the money he had carried so they may buy some juice to eat with. The children were so happy to eat once more. They all ate together the delicious meal and they soon set off to the swings.

At that time, Mr. and Mrs. Kimathi had already reported to the police and they had promised to call them if they got any news for them. They then decided to go to the hospital while they waited for information from the police. Mr. Kimathi went into the doctor’s office to talk more on his mother’s condition while Mrs. Kimathi waited outside. She was very worried and couldn’t stop crying. She kept thinking where the children could have gone. Just suddenly, she had an idea and couldn’t wait for her husband to come out from the office.

Mama Asha and the children were already checking the road path keenly. They stood outside the swings park, trying to figure out where the house could be.

“I remember we passed with the car, we went straight ahead…” Gitonga said.

“Just straight ahead? Are you sure?”Mama Asha asked.

Gitonga was quiet for a moment.

“There is a corner somewhere I think,” Musau said as he looked ahead.

Mr. Kimathi now came out from the office. His wife rushed to him and said, “I think I know where the children went!”

“Where?” he asked quickly.

“To the swings! Remember how much Gitonga kept asking about the swings and when they could go there?” she asked.

“Yes, I remember. Let us go try! Maybe they are still there,” Mr. Kimathi said as he quickly went out of the hospital door. Just as they drove away to the swings, Mrs. Kimathi called her husband.

“Kimathi?” she said.

“Yes, what is it?” he asked.

“When we finally find our children and go back home Nairobi, we will have to find more time to spend with them. I realized we had very little time with them, they still need our attention,” she said slowly.

Mr. Kimathi kept quiet for a moment.

“Yes, it is very true. We must make time for our children,” he replied as they got nearer to the swings.

Mama Asha and all the children were now seated outside the swings. They were all tired.

“Think well boys. Try to remember the colour of your grandma’s house, any shopping center nearby?” Mama Asha told Gitonga and Musau.

“I can’t remember anything like that. When we came to Mombasa we were already so tired. I didn’t notice anything except the swings,” Gitonga said sadly.

“But I think Grandma’s house is red-bricked,” Musau said.

“There are a lot of red-bricked houses. You must think of another sign or thing to lead us,” Bakari said.

Just then, Muthoni started crying out excitedly, “That’s mummy and daddy!”

They all looked up to the direction Muthoni was pointing at. And yes indeed, it was their parents in their grand car. Musau and Gitonga stood up, surprised but very happy. They couldn’t believe their eyes. They quickly rushed to the direction of the car, with mama Asha and the children behind them. Mr. and Mrs. Kimathi had already seen their children and they were overjoyed as well. Mr. Kimathi quickly packed the car and rushed to hug their children.

Mrs. Kimathi was filled with tears of joy as she hugged her children. Mama Asha and the group stood at a distance watching the happy family.

“Are you alright? Did something happen to you?” Mr. Kimathi asked them.

“We are okay dad,” Musau said, very happy.

“Mum and dad…I am very sorry…I won’t do such a mistake again,” Gitonga started saying before his mother interrupted him.

“Don’t worry son, we all learn from our mistakes. You will tell us later on what happened. For now, tell us, who are those children and the lady?” she asked.

“Oh yeah! They helped us throughout. You should hear their stories! They are now our new friends… but they live in the streets,” Gitonga said as they approached the street children.

Musau introduced them one by one to their parents. Mr. and Mrs. Kimathi were very grateful and thanked them so much. They were all sad that the three now had to leave. Just before they did, he gave the remaining money he had to Bakari together with the torches. He told Bakari, the torches were going to help them see at night and in the dark. Mrs. Kimathi hugged each of the children and gave them some coins she had. She then showed her great gratitude to Mama Asha for her help.

Soon enough, Mr. and Mrs. Kimathi drove away, with their children at the back seat of the car. They all talked excitedly explaining what happened and how kind the street children and Mama Asha had been to them. Mr. Kimathi called the police to inform them that they had found their children. He then thanked the police officer and hung up. The parents then promised to bring them to the swings before they left back to Nairobi.

The children were taken home, showered and ate before they left to see their grandma at the hospital. Grandma had now woken up and she no longer had as many pipes as before. The children were so happy to see her talk once more. The doctor told Mr. and Mrs. Kimathi that she was still very weak but much better than before. She has to stay in hospital for some few more days. The family spent the entire day at the hospital because they were going back to Nairobi the next morning.

Gitonga, Musau and Muthoni were still excited and they kept narrating what happened to them. They glorified how good the street children were and how sad their stories were. When dawn came, the family gave farewell to the grandma because Mr. and Mrs. Kimathi had to go back to their jobs. Gitonga, Musau and Muthoni had to go back to school too. They all knelt down and prayed for grandma before they left.

The children were taken to the swings as promised and when it got to nine p.m. they all left for home. The next early morning, they got set for their long journey back home. The children were sad that they couldn’t stay longer in Mombasa. They had all loved the place very much. They hoped they would come back someday soon.

It was now one month after the visit to Mombasa. Gitonga, Musau and Muthoni had very much changed after that. They had told all their friends at school on what had happened during their journey to Mombasa and the adventure they had. All in all, they were now obedient to their parents, they didn’t disturb the house girls anymore, and they didn’t play and waste water like before. They had learnt to appreciate what they had, for they realized not everyone had what they have.

Mr. and Mrs. Kimathi changed as well. They no longer went to job on weekends and they spent more time with their children. They took them to interesting places and had good family time.

One night, Mr. and Mrs. Kimathi called their children into their room. Mr. Kimathi cleared his throat and said, “As you all know, April holidays are coming…and we have decided to go to Mombasa again!”

The children were so happy. They jumped up and down with excitement.

“And we have some more good news for you,” their mother said.

“Do you remember my friend Mr. Okoko?” Mr. Kimathi asked.

“Yes!” they all answered.

“He had been planning to open up an orphanage for quite some time…and I thought of the street children in Mombasa. They will be sponsored for education, they will have a home now and people they can call parents and food is provided as well! I suggested my friend to take them and he agreed,” Mr. Kimathi said.

The children looked at each other in disbelief. They were now more excited than ever! They all hugged their father and kept on thanking him.

That night as they all went to sleep; Musau and Gitonga lay on their beds, imagining the glow on the faces of the street children when they tell them the news. They remembered Bakari and his dream of becoming a pilot, Zena, who wanted to be a nurse…and all the rest who had their own dreams. They couldn’t wait to meet them again. They couldn’t wait for the April holidays!”

I sat down silently for a minute and I could feel my eyes dropping tears to the blank paper that I was holding. The children looked at me strangely and in deep silence before a tiny boy stood up and said,

“How are you reading the story madam? The paper you are reading from is blank?!”

There was complete silence again and I couldn’t even utter a word.

The smallest girl from the class came to where I was seated and she sat next to me, just staring at my oily face.

“Are you the same madam Zena they mentioned in the story??” another boy asked loudly. The rest of the class all looked at me at once, as if waiting for an answer from me for that question.

“Yes…I am the Zena from the story and I was telling the story from my head. I am just like you; I lived in the streets.”

All the children looked at me in surprise and were busy murmuring to each other.

“Madam, continue with the story…what happened next??” they pleaded.

“The April holidays finally came and our three friends came back to Mombasa with their parents and their father’s friends, Mr. Okoko. We were all taken to school and had a place to call home finally. Bakari became the pilot he wanted to be. Omari was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Kimathi, Fatuma is currently a doctor, Hassan is studying law and Maryam is happily married and now she has got two children…each one of them studied with a lot of hard work and I am proud of all of them.”

“Why didn’t you become a nurse anymore?” they asked anxiously.

“I decided I wanted to do something better.”

“And what is that?” the small girl next to me asked.

“To be here with you; I want you all to know how to read and write and to have a home like any other children. That is why I am here teaching you. I want you to have a bright future like the way I am having mine now.”

Before I realized it, all the children were surrounding me and they hugged me all at once.

“Thank you madam.”

“We love you teacher.”

I could smell their deep stench of glue right into my nose but I decided that is what I am here for; to help rehabilitate these children and give them a future worth living for.

That evening as I set to sleep on my mat next to grandma, I looked deeply at the candle lighting up the hut and then at grandma who was already asleep. I was so glad that Mr. and Mrs. Kimathi searched for my grandma for a long time and they ensured that they found her for me. I was happy that my dreams had come true and now, it was my turn to make the children’s dreams come true. I looked at the candle again like it was my ray of hope. I slowly blew it off and turned comfortably on the mat for a good night sleep.