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When I was studying journalism, I really looked up to John Allan Namu and Mohammed Ali for the investigative journalism they were doing. Their work was commendable! I think it is because I have a drive for solving mysteries, a keen eye for details and finding out the truth. But then I am also an anxious-wreck, and that’s just the most paradoxical combination ever. The time I realize how right I was to not pursue that adrenaline thrill is when terrorist attacks happen. I panic. People get sad. People get angry. People get frustrated. People get killed. I panic. Now I remember when the West gate attack happened, one of my classmates joked about how i’d die without being shot if I ever were in a terrorist attack. Die because of the horror rather than any other kind of harm. Maybe get a cardiac arrest then boom! I’m gone (God forbid). Now imagine if I were covering such a horrible event, I would probably end up being the journalist -not the victim-who ended up with PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). How ironic would that be? Going to a therapist all sad and petrified and she asks me gently, ‘where exactly were you when the incident happened?’
‘Oh me? I wasn’t inside the building. I was in the neighbourhood covering the story.’
‘Did you get hurt?’
‘Did you get to see any of the terrorists?’
‘Did you know anyone who was inside?’
She stops scribbling, tilts her head and looks at me from above her specs.
‘Well that doesn’t make sense.’
‘Exactly my point.’
Then we’d have a moment of awkward silence as she contemplates this journalist, really urged to ask whether she was forced into the profession.

It’s always about the thoughts though. Always. Because when a terrorist attack happens, my mind races to picture the people who are in there. I imagine a couple walking in with their travel bags, hand in hand, big smiles on their faces. The lady giggles at something the husband said as they get to the reception to check in. The receptionist asks them how long they’d be in there and they say two weeks. It won’t get to the end of the day.
I imagine a lady in an office swirling in her chair, laughing with Grace who is directly opposite her. They are gossiping about their boss who has been coming with the same clothes the entire week.
I imagine a father on the phone, telling his wife he’d be late so she has to pick the children from school. An argument starts up between them. He slams his phone on the desk.
I imagine a young man running up and down the office trying to impress his soon-to-be bosses. If he does well in his internship, they’d hire him permanently. He wanted the job so badly so he runs and pants like a dog. He will get the job at any cost. Even if it means surviving a terrorist attack.
I imagine two high school friends planning a meet-ups for ages of which they always postpone or cancel. Then one fine day they decide, today we will meet. Today we must meet. Then they start discussing the venue. Then they weigh their options. The closest place for both of them but also a nice place to hang out with a very close friend. Finally they choose their place. The place of their death.
I imagine someone having a bad day, being all grumpy and moody. He turns to his mate and says, ‘I just can’t wait for this day to end’. But the day is just about to begin.

It is strange isn’t it? That on a very random day, some people make their way to a trap, having no idea whatsoever that their lives will be changed forever. Busy working, busy talking, enjoying their meals as terrorists are seated somewhere watching them and pitying these poor people who don’t know what’s about to go down on them. But these terrorists…how do they choose venues? How do they choose the dates? How do they just decide that today, the angel of death will have a party. Do they have any remorse in them? Is there any one of them who is a bit hesitant and says ‘maybe we don’t have to kill them. We could just frighten them.’ And then the colleague asks, ‘Are you chickening out?’ Is there any part of the planning where they think of cancelling or maybe it dawns on them that it isn’t worth it? Do they ever watch the targeted place and see a pregnant woman with a young boy walking through the gates and they hesitate a bit? Or see a man carrying a bag of pampers and think ‘that’s probably a good father he doesn’t deserve to die’? Don’t tell me they are just cold blooded murderers with no emotion at all. Everyone has something that causes a pinch in the heart. Even if it something very tiny that would trigger their emotions and maybe, just maybe make them or just one of them think twice. Or maybe that’s all they are; cold blooded murderers with no affection or compassion whatsoever. Because how else do they go on a shooting spree on very random, normal people?

I remember an Iftar event that I attended some years back and I happened to sit with a lady who was a victim at the Garissa university attack. Well I didn’t know this until a riot started right outside where the iftar was taking place. I could see how uneasy she got. Of course everyone was restless but she was terrified. And then she told me that she was at the university when the attack happened and somehow she survived. By then, quite some months had passed after the attack, but there she was, re-living the nightmare. I can’t imagine how disturbing and horrifying it is for anyone who has experienced such incidents. It is true some heal and move on, but some will forever be looking behind them whenever they walk. Put three locks on their doors. Avoid going outside unless necessary. Avoid popular places. Avoid public places entirely. Never take taxis or ubers. And it is so so sad how a piece of someone’s life and peace of mind will forever be gone.

What’s more sad is when innocent Muslims and Somalis have to pay the price of others’ wrongdoings. The issue of Islamophobia has been going on for quite a while now and just when we think we are making progress in killing the stereotype, terrorists surprise with another heart-breaking event. It is so unfair that other people have to continue to prove their innocence and justify their existence as if they are ‘natural criminals’.

Sincere condolences to all those who lost their loved ones (May their souls rest in peace), and praying a quick recovery to all those who were injured during the recent Riverside attack in Nairobi, Kenya. We shouldn’t forget to thank and pray for all those who helped in any way during the attack; the police, the ambulance personell, Red cross, blood donors and all other unnamed heroes who assisted in any way. Indeed it is only God who can repay them for their bravery and courage.

May God protect our country and our people. May God turn away any human being with evil intentions for us or our people. May we all stay safe. Ameen.

Photo Courtesy: Bloggers Association of Kenya

You know the expression people give you when you say you haven’t been to Nairobi? ?? ‘Like are you for real? Who doesn’t go to Nairobi?’ They make it seem like you haven’t gone for the life-changing pilgrimage. They never even react like that when you say you never go to church or the mosque. So this time round I went, for the first time, to Nairobi. Well I once passed by as transit to Nakuru for a journalism competition but that was it.

Going to Nairobi for a paranoid person is not all that a fun trip. In my entire journey I thought of how I should have perhaps carried my ‘war kit’…you know, just in case, especially with all these scary theories about Nairobi and it’s residents. I should have carried a dagger, a knife, a poisonous spray, rat poison and a rope just in case I meet one of the robbers or psychopathetics. I would first spray into his eyes, followed by stabbing with the dagger, forcing the rat poison down his throat, hang him if all that doesn’t work then finally cut him down into into pretty pieces of what could make a delicious meal for the cats back home. This would be my souvenir from Nairobi because getting the BAKE trophy seems quite impossible at this stage. Having Biko and Magunga as fellow competitors is like jogging like Mr Bean then go on a race with Usain Bolt and David Rudisha. So perhaps having some fresh meat would at least make a few fellas happy in my neighbourhood. Okay people, relax, i’m no murderer. Just precautionary measures you know ?

On alighting at Nairobi; River road, all I could see are these very many people moving across back and forth in very quick steps. As I walked fast, I just realized that the place was rather scary. I mean, when was the last time I saw such large numbers of people in the streets of Mombasa? Perhaps it was during a charity walk or a political rally? Where do all these people come from anyway? It’s like God dropped a handful of people on the land of Nairobi and said ‘Go!’ then the crowd spread about like tiny termites each on their own agenda. Everyone busy. Everyone in a hurry. Later on I went to the loo of a certain mall and even there, the place was crowded. Too much chaos. In Mombasa you could go to a loo and dance in front of the mirror, record an entire song, apply make up and still no one appears to interrupt your peace ?

As I walked around town I kept greeting people then I just turned to my cousin, “oh I forgot…people don’t say hi here right?” What a life. I was totally confused which street is OK to receive phone calls and which taxi driver could take you safely to your destination without kidnapping you. I barely trust the tuktuks in Mombasa so what about taxis here?! And these people earn money wah! And that is without mentioning that there is no ‘near’place. No walking distance. Oh God bless Mombasa for it’s easy life?

I had heard of the pretty cold weather of Nairobi but when I arrived it was almost like Mombasa cold days. No big deal really. So I sarcastically started questioning ‘sasa hii ndiyo baridi nnayoskia?!’ (now is this the cold I hear of?!’ Going to bed, I wore a very light dress and a sweater then just as it became darker I started feeling the cold in my veins. I started shivering. Like literally shaking. Like what we used to write in our inshas ‘nilitetemeka tem tem falau ya kifaranga katika baridi ya kipupwe’ Is the saying like this? Lol. I don’t remember anymore. The house girl had her rib cracking laughter looking at me shiver at the middle of the bed, seated, unable to stretch my hands to my bag beside the bed to get something else to wear on top. Or perhaps that was panic and anticipation for the next day’s event? Maybe. Maybe not. The next day I decided that I had learnt my lesson and wore pretty heavy and that was the day the sun was shining like no other. That was Nairobi weather for me ?

I’ve never really been an event/party person. People means chaos for me. It means dressing up for the occasion. It means calculating how to respond when men give you their hands to shake. It means turning into an extrovert overnight. It means ladies looking at you and wondering why you didn’t put on make up. Oh and some ask you by the way ? It’s like a body feature is missing. Okay thanks to mum for ensuring I wore a cinderella dress that she made herself with so much love. Well of course she also made sure to get me heels lest I wore sneakers to the event. Trust me I would have but by then, I would be dead ? Well fortunately, most men nowadays know about the issue of shaking hands and Muslim ladies so they just smile and respect that. It gets pretty awkward sometimes but well, they are learning ?

Just when I got to Radisson Blu hotel, I was welcomed by the ushers who were in ‘sare’. What is sare in English by the way? Similar outfits will do I guess ? I went all alone, sat alone at the back, hoping no one tries talking to me. But then I decided to find out where my fellow Mombasian competitor was and joined the family somewhere in the middle. I still sat alone. To avoid awkward conversations like:
“So are you a nominee?”
“Which one?”
“Strokes of my pen? Lubnah?”
“Oh no I’ve never heard of that. Which is that? Is it a travel blog?”
“Lol. It’s creative writing.”
“Oh the one when mentioned no one cheered?” ?
“Yeah. That same one.”
“Oh you mean with kina Biko!”
“Yes. Biko.”
They say you are not a blogger until you know Biko. Oh man he deserves it really. So now that has become my biggest weapon to get the masters to talk to me. After the event I went round talking to a few people here and there plus James of BAKE made sure I met people I should know as a writer. And whenever I mentioned my blog no one knew of it. They heard it first time at the event. But then just when I mentioned that I was in creative writing category with ‘akina Biko’ I could see how suddenly people’s eyes grew bigger and were looking at me with keener interest. I recollected all my courage and spoke like am about to drop a grenade of wisdom. Oh well, with the masters, you must show them that you are worth listening to.

And you know the worst part of it is that Biko himself never showed up. How does someone win two awards and not show up? This guy is such a man and a half. Like a boss. Such style lol. Hehe that is how good writers can use suspense and be mysterious in such a cool way. Had he come, I would perhaps have shared my plate with him and thanked him for ‘allowing’ me to use his name to create my own ? But then I met Magunga which is also a great gain. The masters of writing and art. I just hope I meet Wanja Kavengi soon. I want to thank her for making me laugh whenever I read her posts ??

Well honestly this a great experience for me alhamdulilah. I just wished we had more Coastal nominees and Muslims as well. From the attendants I just saw around 5 Muslims and from the Coast. Where are all the rest whom I keep reading their work and marvel at their greatness??! I just hope next year we have not less than 10 Muslim and/or Coasterians being nominated. We have all it takes and all that is needed. We just have to stop sleeping on our talents. So if you got your blog filled with internet cobwebs and dust please clean it up and start afresh. If I could get there I don’t see why anyone else can’t. So best wishes to all the upcoming writers. Congratulations to all the BAKE winners and nominees and thanks again to all those who voted for me, those who read my blog, those who believe in me and inspire me to keep inspiring. Let’s meet next year in shaa Allah!