Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How journeys across the world become journeys into oneself

Shadows. 1000 Cups, Buganda Road

It is the penultimate day of my stay in Kampala. It rains. A slanted shower that makes walls weep. Thunder rumbles and I find myself wondering who stole the lightening. The city is smudged, but is pulses, still. People worship, I hear their prayer. The guesthouse sleeps. I sit very quietly, close my eyes and listen. A year from now, Kampala will be blurred memory and I don’t want this to happen. I don’t want it to be time-smudged.

Evergreen stabbing sky.
From the guesthouse balcony

 I want it to be whole because this is where I learnt to be a Saaleha. I want to remember what it felt like to be, a Saaleha, just, a Saaleha. Not Imraan’s wife or Moosa, Ismaeel, Maseeha, Zainab or Hamza’s mother. I want to remember what it felt like to be another African in a sprawling African city; what it felt like to be a writer and meet other writers.

 I want to remember that not all writers are jaded narcissists and that maybe, just maybe, not all Nigerians hustle. I want to remember that. Especially that. Because it becomes so easy sometimes to put people into boxes inside our heads. They’re easier to carry that way. 

I want to remember that I have stories to tell. That I should tell those stories because I will have added something to the world in doing so.

I want to remember, while I make long lines of school lunches, or wrap sponge cakes in fondant, that somewhere in East Africa, there is a needle of a man who believes that too. Who believed it enough to bring me halfway across Africa, so he could tell me so. My knight in shiny shoes, who saved me from losing my cell phone to a thief with bone white eyes.

From left: NoViolet Bulawayo; Jennifer Makumbi; Nii Parkes, Zukiswa Wanner


It is my first day back home. Yesterday, at the airport, I was greeted by loving arms and sincere joy. We bought Nando’s for the kids and I came home to tea that wasn't gingery. My shower was a previously ignored joy, rediscovered, as was my bed.

 In some ways it feels like I never left, while in others, like I've been gone a long, long time. The stove is new and foreign because Imraan thought it would be a special surprise for me to return to. He was right.

They want to take me out for supper tonight because Ramadhaan is starting soon and we’ll all be housebound for its entire duration.  They suggest sushi. I find, it doesn't really matter.

I've been catching up on admin, while nursing the novel ideas that swirl around in my head, a mist.

Everything feels so strange though. But I think that is because I see it all now through new eyes. The me that returned is a different woman from the one who left South Africa a week ago. Maybe the world doesn't change, really. Our eyes do.  



Saaleha Idrees Bamjee said...

You have said it all and so much more. I love you my soul-sister.

Saaleha said...

Saaleha, Kampala was all that it was because you were there to share it with me. Some Ethiopian food soon, I should hope.

Love you too

Sydney Mugerwa said...

I always dream of Africa without borders and it was great to experience that even for four days. I will cherish these memories for years to come!

Saaleha said...

Sydney, the most cherished gift that returned with me, was yours. Thank you.