Some years back I met one of my close friends from secondary school. It had been a while since we had met since she is currently living out of the country. Naturally, we tried to catch up on all aspects of our lives; making up for all the time apart. It was particularly one of the hard phases in my life and as we were conversing, I broke down. For a while, we stayed quiet as I continued crying and she patted my hand comfortingly. Once I had calmed down, she looked at me with sad yet puzzled eyes and said, ‘I always thought that from our class lot, you’re the one who’d figured it all out.’ I chuckled. I was surprised but also not too surprised. I had heard similar statements before- from friends and strangers alike. Here’s the reality though- I don’t.

Who has figured it all out anyway?

I have played many roles in my life; as a daughter, sister, friend, teacher, writer, student, and employee, and I have equally interacted with so many different people and my conclusion remains to be this: we’re all, at least for the most part, just winging it 😂

One may be really good at one role but struggling in another. And even in the role that they’re really good in, they keep learning every.single.day. There’s really no end to growth and insight. A mother could have five children but they could tell you that each experience was unique and they learned something new every time. It is like that with everything else in our lives. That includes your parents and grandparents who are probably elderly by now. Life keeps presenting them with new scenarios, new opportunities, new people, and new challenges, and they have to deal with those too.

I honestly don’t think life was meant to be figured out entirely anyway. Because that would be a perfect world and there’s no such thing. Every single person you meet out there is simply trying to do their best. It might look all good externally but the backyard could be in flames.

I know social media platforms, especially Instagram (when it comes to this), make us think that there are people, including friends in our circles, who’ve made it in life and have everything in order. That is never the full picture, is it? Not the first man on earth nor the last one will ever have everything perfectly sorted out. Not me, not you, not the influencer whose life seems so magical and aesthetic.

Whenever I come across a person who seems blessed in ‘all aspects’, I think to myself, ‘what could have been taken away from this individual for them to be granted this blessing?’ ‘What are they enduring behind the scenes that none of us is seeing?’ It always lifts off some pressure from me to quickly figure out everything in my own life. Because for sure, to each their own struggles.

Here’s a reminder to you dear reader: It is okay to not have it all figured out. Life is but a series of uncertain events. The best any of us can do is put in the effort, pray, and take one step at a time like everyone else. Avoid comparing yourself to other people for their mountains could be hidden from your sight and your journey is definitely not the same as theirs. Focus. Be patient with yourself. Strive to be a better person. Strive to play a better role in whatever duties you have in life. Keep learning, keep growing. We’re all the same out here. Same uncertainties, just different circumstances.


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Adulting is reaaaallly scary. Spoken like a true human with anxiety right? 😀 You should hear my best friend and I talk about life as we see it right now. You’d think we’re the script writers of The Exorcist or the documentarians of the Ted Bundy Tapes, no in between. I admit, I’m the bad influence here; perks of being friends with a human with anxiety for too long; you start magnifying the terror too!

Is it though? Am I the only one utterly terrified about how life has turned out to be?! Is it just the magnification of my wild, wild imagination?

Absolutely not.

Okay, maybe a liiittle bit. But from what I know, every human from my age group (at least those that I interact with) are in this phase of utter daze. WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON??!! (or maybe I just hang out with very weird people, that’s a possibility too 😀 )

But here’s the thing: we now see the world as is. No curtains, no secret passage ways, no short cuts, no shades to protect us from the storms. We now understand why our parents are who they are. Why they raised us the way they did. We understand why home meals are not thaaaat bad. Why they would be so pissed when we stayed out late. Why they would lecture us endlessly about the friends we have. Why sleepovers were such a big no for them. Because truly, life is not how we perceived it. AT ALL. Because even if we had some hurtful and dark experiences in our childhood, most of us didn’t expect things to escalate this way surely ?

And maybe, our elders and teachers shouldn’t just have warned us, because at that age we see warnings as threats and unfair treatment. They should have made us understand what really awaits us too. Maybe that preparation would have helped; to know that the big, wide world is not as sweet and things are not as easy peasy as we thought. I get it, I would want to protect my children too. But hallo?! Not even a disclaimer?! 😀 Strangely, despite coming from a family that armed me with enough education, I still find myself perturbed by this age ? Or maybe no amount of understanding is enough for what really awaits us until we experience it ourselves? It could be so.

So now we have stepped into adulthood and realize that paying bills is actually a huge responsibility. That awesome grades do not necessarily guarantee success in life. That acquiring a job is very, very tricky. That hard work sometimes is not enough to get you to your goals either. That love is never enough in a marriage. That incest, rape and homosexuality is very real. That human beings are very, VERY complex, and sometimes, very cruel. That war, drought and poverty is way worse than we imagined it. That wealth does not always grant you happiness and peace of mind. That the closest people to you could harm you in very unexpected ways. That our education system is like a form of slavery. That health is a huge blessing that we really take for granted. That most connections and friendships don’t last as we’d hoped. That our parents too have their own scars and wounds that most often than not, we know nothing about. That our parents had to sacrifice a lot more than we initially thought to give us the life we have. That they’re aging very fast and the reality of their looming death haunts the mind. And not just their deaths, but the departure of all our loved ones. We now understand the depths of loss and grief. That as much as our Lord is fair and just, human beings are not. That people carry so much baggage and dark, unimaginable secrets with them; you’d neveeer guess.

Sometimes I think to myself: “Wow, someday I will bring a child to this world?!” A world where he could get shot by a stray bullet any day at any age by a reckless police officer. A world where even the religious teachers can’t fully be trusted because sodomy?! I still get very amazed by the people who say they hope to live to a hundred. Hoooooowwwww?!!! Well good luck buddy. You’re my hero!

Maybe some blame for all my terrifying thoughts is my brave old habit of watching documentaries and reading books on real life events, mostly crime. Brave because who has anxiety and still watch/read this stuff?! 😀 Yet when you interact with other people, these same terrifying stories come up. It is true; this world sometimes gets really dark.

Of course all this makes me utterly terrified, but on the flip side, it has made me very, very grateful of the seemingly small blessings. Arriving home safely, having understanding parents, slow, boring days, trustworthy and supportive friends, the ability to pay bills, the small achievements, the ability to understand the world and its people, days where no body part aches, having food daily, having goals and dreams to look forward to, meeting kind, selfless people, the ability to love oneself and push for positive growth and so many other good things.

I see human beings and realize they are much much more than what they dress, or how they look or the bright smiles they flash on social media or even how famous they are. That what is external could never define them justly. I see others struggling and putting so much effort to reach their goals and it warms my heart because I know for sure, their journey might be long, but God never abandons those who truly strive. I see those who have faced major abuse in their lives and how scarred they are, and I understand why they don’t trust other people and I pray for their healing. I understand that life is not simply black and white. There are so so many colours within. There’s still so much we could never fully comprehend.

Let’s just say, I keep being amazed by the things I learn from the universe every single day. From the horrifying stuff (Allahu Must3an) to the heart-melting ones.

Truly, adulting is like attending a major reveal party only to find out it’s a monster with so many layers that is awaiting us. But beneath all the layers of frustration, hurt, angst, and terror, there lies love, compassion, empathy and most importantly, faith. If we all look within ourselves and nurture our souls then we’d definitely have better lives and better resilience. The problems will not stop existing but we’ll have the eye that still sees the good even when all seems very ugly. We will have all it takes within us to soldier on, to still dream, to choose what battles are worth our time, to create a better world, to plant trees of hope and to fully believe in a God that never sleeps and is always watching over us!


Dear teenager reading this, pardon me if I have terrified you but I hope by the time you clock into your twenties you’d have armed yourself with over-flowing faith, empathy, gratitude and bravery. Be the ambassador of hope and love. But most importantly, don’t ever think you know better than your parents or elders. Because you don’t!!! Appreciate their input in your life while you still can 🙂


If you read my post without sending me money then you are a thief. You might as well throw a brick through my window and loot the place. Only joking, I do this for love because I have integrity. I press important issues in our society today to help you understand how other people think and work 🙂

I think one of the most shocking things I learned from my friends was how open some of them were with their own parents. It just baffled me when I would sit and listen to a friend talk about how he could express his emotions to his parents and get a ton of encouragement and support. I just had to sit there and pretend like my mind wasn’t being blown at the concept of people talking to their parents about things.

I have only a few friends who have had their own difficulties with their parents who understand the circumstances. I have a Nigerian friend who says his parents were super strict and it has really affected his social life as an adult. Even at 30 years old, he finds it extremely hard to connect (romantically) with other people. When I opened up to the woman who I thought loved me about all this, she cut me off claiming she isn’t my therapist.

The questions are; Does our childhood affect our adulthood? Is it easier to love and nurture a child than to ‘fix’ an adult with attachment issues? Is opening up a sign of weakness? 

There have been studies that show how a traumatic childhood (parental divorce, child abuse, death of one or both parents) can literally change neural pathways of a child’s brain forever. The attachment theory argues that the attachment patterns we experience as children impact us in powerful ways throughout our lives. Many of us who experienced an insecure attachment will go on to create strained, hurtful or painful experience in later relationships. The good news is, as adults, it’s possible to develop earned secure attachment. Blaming your parents or yourself will not change anything. We can only learn as much as we can from our past and try to move forward positively, learn how to actively work against actions that show broken attachment. At some point, others may even be quite interested to know how we became so loving and caring. If all fails we can always seek professional help. 

Another opinion is that it is the fault of society, that as Plato said, “people don’t mean to hate each other.” It happens because they are poor or desperate or really thirsty or in need of a vacation or struggling to pay for their second homes. Everyone has issues, it’s only that one person’s issues are different from the others.

You know I would love to continue with this but i have to go and appeal for money since I don’t get any funding. ? My closing statement: You who hold children dear, look after the little ones or forever in the world they will feel lost. Their happiness lies in your hands. 

Attachment theory is a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory concerning relationships between humans. The most important tenet of attachment theory is that a young child needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally.

This article (edited version) was first published on ‘Travel Log Magazine’ an insert of Standard Newspaper on 5/3/2020

With Muslims, everything works in a very organized, systematic way. There is a manual for everything; how to do it, when to do it, where to do it. Very detailed and straight forward. Now the struggle comes when you are out and about and applying your way of life sometimes seems like an impossible task.

There are common struggles every Muslim explorer (even just hanging out in your own locality) will relate to, whether they are from across the globe from us or just your next door neighbour. Here are a few:

  • The empty-bottle carriers: One of the biggest struggles Muslims face while traveling, is having to walk around with an empty bottle because there is no water in the toilets. Thus, one of the essentials during packing is that empty bottle that you’ll use to fill in water at the toilet sinks, sometimes back and forth, to use for clean-up after the call of nature. It is quite amusing though. Don’t these hotels (and sometimes airports) know that Muslims are quite a majority as well? How then have they never thought of making it a better experience for Muslims?

Side note: Empty bottles because airports don’t allow passengers to have full water bottles. Otherwise, we travel with our small filled up bottles quite often.

  • A little yoga: It is time for prayers so you go take ablution. In your mind though, you know too, it’s time for a little yoga. There is no proper area to take ablution except the sink and thus when it is time to clean your feet, you have to raise them up into the sink to wash them. This is in between staring at the door hoping that no worker will walk in and see you in what seems to be quite an uncivilized manner, at the same time hoping you do not hurt your hip while your leg being that high up. The struggle is real.
  • Prayer room you ask? What’s that? : Ironically, even in Mombasa where we have majority Muslims, many hotels never think of providing this. Now Muslims mostly have to arrange their picnic times post prayers or in between prayer times because ‘we won’t get a private room or a clean place to pray.’ The only other options are: Either we go for the picnic and not pray the entire day or not go for the picnic altogether. Such a shame!
  • Sometimes you get the advantage of having booked your own room and can pray in it. But because you can only afford a cheap hotel, the only space you have to pray is on top of your bed. Yes. There is not even enough space to place your small prayer mat on the floor. So you climb on your bed and now start thinking of which is the ‘qiblah’ (the direction Muslims face during prayers). You have no internet bundles to check a compass so you run about the place asking for any Muslim who can show you the qiblah or ask anyone who knows where North is (because North is the direction we face). You remind yourself to download the ‘Muslim-Pro’ app during your next adventure. Or perhaps should we call them misadventures?

Side note: Muslim Pro is an app that alerts the Muslim on prayer time, shows them the qiblah amongst other things.

  • You crave meat. But can you afford to crave it? : You are at the restaurant. It’s a whole new environment for you. You don’t know the cultures of these people, so you ask, “Is this meat halaal?” The first waiter doesn’t know so they call another waiter. “Is this meat halaal?” You ask again, but no one seems to be sure. Or perhaps they don’t really understand what halaal is and why you want halaal meat so badly. After several attempts of trying to find out, you decide to order another meal altogether. So much for craving meat huh?!

Side note: Halaal means permissible according to Islamic law. Some meat is forbidden such as pork or birds of prey with claws. There is also laws on how the slaughtering should be done and what kind of animals to avoid entirely.

To be fair, we do have some locations that are religious-friendly and they try to make the experience as wholesome as possible. Meanwhile, we are enjoying our misadventures amidst our great explorations. When we finally get our perfect destinations, it’s over for you guys haha!

Photo Courtesy: https://pixabay.com/

I am running. Both literally and metaphorically. It’s two minutes to time and it is raining heavily. I don’t want to be late, I hate being late so I jog faster letting my sweat mix freely with the rain drops. It doesn’t bother me; the rain that is. I let it flow on me like it would wash away all the grief within, perhaps then many more people wouldn’t mind the rain. Or me. I have been running away from my life too; wanting so desperately to detach myself from it. So that’s why I am here, knocking restlessly at my therapist’s door…This right here is not a love story. It is a story of love.

My therapist opens the door for me before settling on her king-size chair. She checks her watch and smiles. ‘Never late,’ she says. I smile back. ‘I’m proud,’ I chuckle.
‘How have you been since our last session?’ she asks, gesturing me to sit down at another king-sized chair opposite her.
‘Umm,not sure yet.’
‘Understandably, this is just the second session. Don’t worry we will work it through together.’
I nod lamely.
‘So I want us to pick up from where we left last time. You told me you’ve been running. You told me you’ve been struggling. Is that correct?’
‘So tell me, how would you describe your life in three words?’

The question catches me off guard. My life? In three words? That would be like measuring the ocean by one droplet. I stare into nothingness for a while, scratching my head.
‘I’d say…overwhelming…confusing…’
‘Aha and?’
I remain silent. How would I describe this third feeling. The one that bites you irregardless of whether it is 2 a.m. or 2 p.m. This feeling that makes one feel like they are drowning.
‘Yes sad. I think Sad is probably my real first name.’

She looks into my eyes. Are therapists psychic too? Or why else would she stare at me like she’s reading something from the veins behind my eye sockets?

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‘Alright let’s go back to the running. What are you running from?’
‘People, situations, connections…people mostly’
‘Why would you run away from people?’
I feel a burn and some wetness falling on my cheeks.
‘Because people leave. All the time. They come into your life and give you hope and make you a big part of their lives. They make you happy…so you invest on them. But I invest too much on them. Too much such that whenever one of them leaves, a part of me is gone forever…’

I stop to cry. She sits there silently, watching me in scrutiny. She hands me a tissue.
‘I’m listening,’ she reassures.
‘I think I’ve loved people more than they ever deserved and now…and now, I have nothing left within me. It is empty in here. And every time I make a new friendship, a new connection, a new acquaintance, I am already preparing my safe exit plan before they plan theirs. I’m being too cautious I can’t breathe freely. I am building high walls I can’t see the sunshine. I am running…from everyone and everything…”

I take another tissue and blow my nose. She is still quiet. I hope she is not pitying me. Then she interrupts my thoughts.
‘Do you think that is the way to live?’
‘I know its not…’
‘Have you perhaps thought of how many beautiful people, moments, events you are probably missing on by caging yourself in this darkness?’

The darkness is familiar. Sometimes it is the safe place you can always return to; that cage, that high wall.

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I am running. Both literally and metaphorically. This time it is on my way back home. It has stopped raining. I see my home ahead but I decide to take a corner. I let the sweat wet my shirt as I listen to my own heavy breathing. This is not a love story. It is a story of love given and never returned. Shared but never to last.

‘How were you ever going to be happy if you gave all the love within you and left nothing for yourself?’ she had asked me. And I remained silent because self-love was unrelatable. ‘You need to find yourself first. Love yourself first before anything or anyone else. It should be YOU first. Always.’

I let the words sink in. It gives me a good feeling. Makes me anticipate the next session. I stop on my tracks, bend down to hold my knees as I breathe. Running, the literal one, is not bad after all.


Photo Courtesy: https://img0.etsystatic.com\



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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