- “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.” Stephen R. Covey
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BintiMswahili by Aisha Ali is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at bintimswahili.wordpress.com.
(Disclaimer: This is an old post, and I have grown since I wrote this. I now proudly identify as a feminist and feminist activist. I leave this post up to remind myself of how far I have come and that I should always be open to learning and unlearning)
I was seriously done discussing this issue because I felt I had said all there needs to be said. But I came across this blog post earlier today on willpress.blogpost.com
I wanted to comment on the post but my comment was too long so decided to put it on my blog.
To the Author of that post,
First, I am not a feminist. I do not identify with any feminist movement, I don’t read any feminist books, and I can’t name a single prominent feminist to save my life. But I am pretty vocal about issues pertaining to women. Why? Because I believe that a healthy society requires healthy confident women. Sometimes I berate men like here and sometimes I talk about women. But whenever a woman is vocal about women issues, they are quickly labelled feminists so that they can be put in a box which can ridiculed, and disregarded as “those feminists making noise about nothing again.” These issues affect everybody. Why should I have to be a feminist to talk about them?
Secondly, I would like to draw your attention to an incident which occurred earlier on in the show (I can’t find the clip on their site, anyone has it?) where the said DKB and Prezzo were involved in an altercation for an hr where Prezzo repeatedly goaded him and asked him to hit him if he could. That argument ended without anybody slapping or hitting anybody. If you watch the clip you would agree that Prezzo was way more disrespectful that Zainab was. But DKB didn’t hit him. Why do you think that was. That is exactly why this isn’t simply bad tv but a “feminist” issue. DKB didn’t hit Zainab because she was all over his face. He hit her because she was a woman and he could.
Third, the reason there is a standard rule that you should not hit women because our biology is very different. Men are generally bigger and stronger than women. It’s interesting cos this is the first argument thrown at feminists isn’t it? Men and Women can’t be equaled because we’re biologically different? If a man chooses to properly beat a woman, then because of his biology, he can kill her. I know there are cases of women hitting men, women being stronger than men but those incidences are exceptions. An average man can beat an average woman to a pulp before she even lifts her hands. Physically, women (most) are weaker. Men shouldn’t take advantage of this.
If we allow for situations where it can be considered acceptable to beat a woman then we’ve lost the fight on violence against women. Who decides when it’s ok to hit a woman? How far should a woman go to provoke you before you hit her? How much should you hit her for each offence? Say if what Zainab did deserved a slap, if she had mentioned his mother, was he then allowed to kick her? Maybe the guy who slit that girl’s throat felt she had become too much. Hell, maybe she did mouth off to him. Did she deserve to die?? We live in a continent where in many parts women are still considered less than men. This isn’t a feminist issue. This is a society issue. We are either against violence on women or we’re for it for it.
Finally, there are very few situations where violence of any kind can be right (e.g. self defense). Two men using their fists to solve a problem is as bad as a man hitting a woman and vice versa. A true measure of a person is determined with how they stick to their principles when faced with a situation where they are pushed to go against them. Situations should not change who you are.
It is with horror that I find myself drawn to write a post on Valentine’s. About love. It’s especially curious because I’ve been trying to complete my holiday posts and it’s been difficult finding the right words and everything I write doesn’t feel good enough to be posted. And yet here I am with sentences rushing through my mind begging to be let out. So here goes. But be warned, this post is more rambling than anything specific so bear with me.
Never is an emotion revered, vilified, ignored, ranted at and blamed as love is during this time. The ones in love can’t gush enough about it. The heartbroken are asking why, the cynics are dressing it in sarcasm. Love is everywhere.
Most of us, especially girls, got our idea of romantic love from the Cinderella and Snow White books that we read at a very early age. We would suffer, then our prince would come rescue us, and then we’d live happily ever after. As teenagers this notion was reinforced by the Mills and Boon books we sneaked into our rooms, filling our young impressionable minds with fantasies of tall dark handsome men who will come sweep us off our feet. This mindset usually set us up for our first heartbreak. Of course nothing works out as the books had suggested. Some of us become quickly disillusioned while others continue to hold on to the idea that he was just the wrong one. The real prince will come. Years later, we get on with the business of living and the dreams we once held about happy ever after are forgotten.
But there’s something I’ve noticed about my age group as far as love, especially romantic love, is concerned. We don’t like admitting it’s a big part of us. When in a relationship, we try hard not to appear too in love. When we break up, we pretend it didn’t matter. Tuck it in out of sight. No one likes to see love’s disappointments . Better go get drunk. We seem to be a generation scared of our feelings. My apprehension at writing this post shows how much we avoid expressing or talking about love. Don’t wear your heart on your sleeves, it’s unseemly
What am I on about? I guess I’m just lamenting the loss of love. These days people love in bits, always with an exit plan. We’re disillusioned and cynical. And afraid. That’s why the men walking with flowers today are behaving like they’re committing a capital offense. Yet I know of someone who married her first love, years after they broke up and lost contact. 2 people in fact. Then there’s also the couple that dated for 10 yrs. There were so many obstacles in their way, it always looked like they will never end up together but finally got married. Stuff that romantic books are made of.
So maybe there’s still hope for us. Maybe love actually does exist.
I’ve always wanted to travel. The idea of going to far-away places, meeting different kinds of people, experiencing different types of cultures has a certain appeal. I always say that if I got really rich, instead of acquiring material stuff like most people would do, the money for me would mean freedom to go anywhere I want to. Live a year in Brazil, 6 months in Nepal , 2 years in Egypt (may they get peace and stability soon). Different places, different people.
Last year I finally decided to actually do some traveling rather than just fantasize about it. Even if it’s on a low-budget. So in December when my friend told me we should visit our other who lives in Dubai it was the perfect opportunity. The three of us have been friends since we were like 10. The friend who lives in Dubai has been asking us to visit her for a while but it’s never come through. So it was pretty exciting for us to finally get a chance for the three to hang out. At first we weren’t sure we’d make it this time either, and we almost cancelled a couple of times, but luckily we managed to get our stuff together and set the date for end of January. Due to logistics we ended up traveling on different dates with me travelling a day earlier and my other friend travelling the next day.
My trip was uneventful, thank God. Since this was my very first time venturing beyond our East African borders I was a bit apprehensive and my mum gave me enough warnings of “”don’t help people with babies, they hide drugs in their diapers!’ My flight was for 1640 and I arrived at around 11.pm Dubai time. Dubai airport is pretty simple cos everything is clearly marked and I went through immigration ok, though the guys there were rather unfriendly. Guess they didn’t like working at that time of the night. But I was happy that I was out of the airport in a short time.
I managed to get a taxi and direct it to where I was staying. My first view of Dubai was at night and it was amazing. Lots of lit up sky scrapers decorated the skyline.
The taxi managed to get me to my friend’s house with her giving directions. One thing I noticed is driving is complicated. If you miss a turning, you have to go quite a distance to get back on the right road. There’s no U-turning on random places and you can’t go up pavements. Someone said as much as fuel is cheap, they do a lot more driving for short distance. Oh, also the driver stopped at a red light at an empty road until it turned green. I imagined what our Kenyan drivers would have done. lol.But the roads are amazing. Super highways and complicated networks. Hopefully this is what the Chinese have in mind for our roads.
I spent the first day doing some mild sight-seeing while waiting for my friend who was arriving at 2am. I feel asleep at around 9 and was woken up by her “We’re in Dubai” screams. She had arrived safely.
Finally the 3 musketeers were reunited!
Next: The Traveller: Confessions of a Shopaholic
For some reason I had an urge to write a final blog post for the year 2011. Ironic because I wasn’t much of a blogger in 2011. As someone likes pointing out, the term underfeeder has described me perfectly this year.
As far as my writing is concerned the second part of 2011 was hard. I simply couldn’t write. Not just on the blog but anywhere else. There’s nothing in my drafts, my laptop or scribbled in notebooks.
But I don’t want to write about not being able to write today. I usually do my resolutions and recap of my year on my birthday, but 2011 was a year of lessons so I thought I’d share those here.
- Friendship is a two way street. You give some you get some
- You can’t be there for everyone.
- Not everyone will understand No. 2
- And people won’t be there for you sometimes. Don’t judge them too harshly
- Dreams require work to be actualized. Hard work.
- There is no end to growing up. Just when you think you’re finally there, you find that you still have more to go
- There is no end to making mistakes. And doing things you thought you’d never do.
- Relationships take work. And patience. And pride swallowing. And ego-beating.
- You can make good friendships from the internet. But I already knew this from the last batch of friends I made back in 2004.
- If you don’t take your talent and your work seriously, then don’t expect others to.
- Opportunities rarely come back a second time. Grab them the first time
- Manchester United can make me cry. I don’t know what that makes me
- Love can eff you up. It will also jack your thug and you’ll start awwwing at cute kittens. SMH
- You can’t tell your boss what you think of them and expect no repercussions. No matter how right you are
- I am still stunted by my fears
- Everything has a lesson in it. Be open minded enough to learn
- I really don’t know anything about this life
- Surround yourself with people who inspire you to be better. Strive to be that to others too
- God knows best. All the time.
Ok. That’s all for now. I’ll do a proper post in April Inshallah.
Be true to yourselves. Stay blessed.
like the breath that’s trapped beneath your tongue
the breath that spoke my name
scented with memories of our tomorrow
memories I try to capture between our entwined fingers;
i should have seen it in the way your hands claimed mine
that first time we touched
an extension of mine, trembling.
your smile pierces through my chest
stops to marvel at how well your rib holds my heart
dissolves into the butterflies in my stomach
and melts into the liquid holding my weak knees
i try to stand upright.
stubborn in my quest to remain unmoved, unaffected
a quest I lost when my heart answered your call
you came to me on a sunny day
took me by surprise
i was looking for you in the shadows
whispers against the dark clouds
steady, your light was shining
showing me the way,
guiding me to you
i trace the lines of your lips
as if they hold a secret
i memorize their shape
when you say my name
i commit them to my eyelids
because when it finally rains
i’ll harvest my tears in their grooves
The rain had finally stopped.
She walked out of the house, closing the door behind her. She was careful, dragging it slowly so that the rusted hinge didn’t make a sound to announce her departure. She stood still for a few seconds, listening, making sure no one heard her leave. Once certain, she continued across the yard, slowly making her way to the edge of the cliff. When she got there, she allowed herself to breathe in the cool air. It was always crispy for a short while after it rained, a relief from its normal hot and sticky. She was free, even though it was just for a few moments.
She looked out at the sea below, in the fading light of early evening. When she first came to this house, her first glimpse of it gave her the one ray of hope from the darkness that her life had become. In the early morning it was a soft grey, waiting for the sun to wake from its slumber and illuminate it. During the day, in the height of Mombasa’s unbearable heat it was a bright blinding blue throwing shards of lights. It was difficult to look directly at it. When it was raining it turned an angry metallic grey. Right now, in the aftermath, it was a darker blue. By night fall it will be an inky black, deep and mysterious and a bit daunting. She loved how it changed colour at different times of the day. In the distance the sun was in its final descent, almost touching the water; a liquid ball of orange fire. Birds dotted the sky, returning home from a hard day’s work. It was quiet now. In a few minutes the calls for prayer will signal the beginning of night.
She walked around the small garden, looking at her flowers. The viluas were ready to be picked. She absently plucked a rose. But her favourite were the yasmini flowers. They were 5 bushes at the edge of the garden, next to the fence made of old mabatis. The green leaves were dotted by the white flowers. Their scent filled the whole garden. I should pick them she thought. But she liked seeing them on the tree first, a reminder of their fragile beauty. If not plucked as soon as they opened, they started to die, turning brown at the edges. It was bitter-sweet; how beautiful they were and how short their lifespan. Some were scattered on the ground, discarded and already turning brown. She felt like that sometimes. Then there were the young ones, not yet opened. They live to die another day. Her youngest daughter, Shadia liked picking them so she’ll call her later. But not now. She needed some time alone first.
She makes her way to the bench near the trees. She had asked her husband to put it up for her, after she was done planning the garden. It was the early years of their marriage and he was still eager to please her. It was nothing elaborate, just 2 pieces of wood erected on the ground and a board nailed on it. But it was enough to sit on and look at the ocean. And it had been a victory against her mother in law. May God rest her soul in peace. She sat down and finally allowed herself to think of what had brought her here.
She had seen him today.
She had been in the market accompanied by Hamida, her house girl. She was examining the coconuts. You have to be careful when choosing them so that you don’t end up with one too young. Or an overly mature one. She shook it to make sure it was full of juice then tapped it with a small stone listening for the hollow sound. She then told Hamida to break it just to be certain. “Ikiwa ni mbaya ujue sikulipi” she told the vendor. “Mama usijali, nazi zangu zote nzuri” he responded in the sing-song Mombasa accent. She looked around her absent-mindedly planning in her mind what she would make for dinner. Cassavas in coconut milk and fried fish. Or maybe some mahamri. She was lost in thought and at first didn’t notice him. He was standing at Mzee Abdallah’s gahwa stall, a small coffee cup in his hands. At first she didn’t recognize him. He was taller than she remembered. And she could see by the way the kanzu he was wearing fit him his skinny frame had filled out. But it was his stance that gave him away; slightly leaning on the leg he had broken as a child. His face was half turned away from her and she could see he had grown a beard. She almost turned away, thinking it was one of her false sightings. In the beginning she had looked out for him everywhere she walked. Those days her husband didn’t let her out of the house alone. He accompanied her everywhere. So she had been discreet about looking. But she had searched every face. It was torture, those days; His smile in someone else’s lips or someone with exact shape of his eyes. But never the real person.
But just then he turned as if sensing that someone was watching him and there was no mistaking that face. Her breath caught and the gasp that came out was masked by the crack of the coconut breaking. Their gazes held. It must have been just a few seconds but it felt like hours. She stared at this man, almost a stranger, with the face of the boy she once knew. His eyes crunched as if puzzled, and then he looked away. He hadn’t recognized her. But how could he? She was one of the many buibui clad women moving in the market. Her face was hidden by her niqab, just revealing her kohl lined eyes. She could be anyone. And yet she couldn’t avoid that pang of disappointment that settled in her stomach. She doesn’t remember the rest of her shopping trip only that it felt like her heart was pounding in her mouth.
To be continued…
I look at the face in the mirror.
A face I’ve seen a million times
I look at this strange face
I feel like there should be some change on it,
Some sort of mark that will signify my life.
But this calm face stares back, emotionless
This face that hides the scars
A face I’ve seen a million times…
I don’t know how long I stood like this.
Don’t really remember…
It feels like a lifetime ago; it should be a lifetime,
I’m struggling hard to remember that girl that I was yesterday
Who was I? And who am I now?
I stare hard at the mirror,
Hoping the girl on the other side would answer
The one who has my face, challenging…
How can that person represent me now…
How can I feel so different, so detached to that face?
This stranger I’ve seen a million times?
I walk, I learn, I run.
I dream, I write, I lament.
I lose, I wait, I stagger.
I leave, I cry.
I put down my thoughts
I create, these fruits of my failures
I turn back and regret
And reach out to empty
I breathe, the dying gasps of love
I aim to please but please don’t try
The sky is the limit, beyond my reach
I write my truth, my simple words
I write in blood, my fears laid bare
i don’t understand the emptiness in the pit of my stomach,
this constant humming
when the laughter feels like it’s coming from the sea
the bottomless sea of loneliness
i don’t understand when nothing made his home in me
he held my hand and forged my fingerprints in his
pain of my pain,
i don’t understand how the light in my eyes
was replaced by shadows
shadows the shape of my desires
I don’t understand this taste in my tongue
The tangy taste of loss
I wonder when the pot that held my waters
became a hollow cave now brimming with wanting