A Safe Place
Langata Prison, Nairobi, December 2008
Kay slept on a thin mattress with a torn blanket to cover her. In the corner of her cell was a steel bucket and a brown sponge for wiping both her body and the rough walls finished with gloss grey. The bulb hanging from the corrugated iron roof was never turned on. The only light coming in was through the barbed wire in the narrow ventilation gap between the roof and walls. Her cell, at the end of a long, wide corridor, had a small internal window with bars which overlooked the passageway lined with other cells on either side. These were shared by five or six women. Once a day, before they were marched out to the fields, they ate together in the passage seated on low stools. Kay slept and ate on her own.
‘Oi,’ she shouted, ‘there’s a cockroach in here.’
‘Marry me Nuru,’ Jaffer said in his precise, measured tone, ‘and together we’ll build our future in this new independent Republic.’
He was standing opposite Nurbanu’s typewriter and she was sitting at her desk at the Chambers where she worked. She’d met him several months earlier when he’d come in to meet one of the lawyers and they’d struck up a friendship. Nuru had a Pitman’s Secretarial Diploma and a driver’s licence from the first Ladies Driving School in Nairobi. She felt with her natural beauty and qualifications she deserved the care of a man who would cherish her. Jaffer was a self-made, successful business man. He was short, dark and stocky and less educated than Nuru, but she accepted his proposal because he was someone who appreciated her; why else would he speak about her and Kenyan politics in the same sentence?
The Tabla Player
Saam – The First Clap
I whistle raag Bhairavi and rap both tablas, and check the tautness of the rough leather straps, and tap the tablas once and twice, and listen to their tone and echo, separately and together, and using a small hammer I strike the straps and edges of each drum, one at a time, rotating and knocking at the pegs until every stroke gives off an even tone, and with the heel of my hand I apply pressure to the drums in a rapping, sliding motion so that the pitch changes and matches that of the tanpura humming in the background, and I adjust the wooden block between the drum and the leather strips and move it up and down and along the side to regulate the tension of the drums…
This One’s Not For Us
I rolled down my window and watched the street vendors stroll between the stationary cars, tankers, matatus and buses. I had a strange impulse to drive straight into the car in front, just for the satisfaction of knowing I’d made an impact for once. I gripped the steering wheel.
Dilip and I were stuck on Mombasa Road driving to the city center of Nairobi from our offices near the Jomo Kenyatta Airport. We’d just passed the golf course on our left and the old East African railway station on our right. I fiddled with the knobs for the indicator lights and switched off the engine.
A street seller sidled up to the car carrying Kenyan flags of all sizes, the black, red and white fabric flapping around his face.
“Madam, do you need flags, sunglasses or a photo of the president?” he asked…
No One Can Save Anyone
Short story, No One Can Save Anyone, shortlisted for 8th annual Creative Future Writers’ Award (CFWA).
Thirty-six writers from a wide range of working class, LGTBQIA+, Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds were today (13th July 2021) shortlisted for the 8th annual Creative Future Writers’ Award (CFWA).
The UK’s only national writing competition and development programme for all underrepresented writers, the Award celebrates exceptional writing from people who traditionally lack opportunities due to mental health issues, disability, identity, health or social circumstance.
Review of Kuzhali Manickavel’s Whore. Published in Out of Print, India.
There are many reasons why I enjoy Kuzhali Manickavel’s writing; most of all for its humanity but also for her experimentation with tense, point of view, and irrealism. In her work, the reader slips in and out of different versions reality, one moment feeling intensely connected to the characters or narrator and the events taking place, but at the very next, estranged and bereft…
This one’s not for us
Short story in Dress You Up Anthology. New Lit Salon Press.
Dress You Up is an anthology like no other. The twelve diverse stories in this collection speak to the multiple ways in which fashion is more than just the clothes we wear. There will be no frivolous yarns about fashion here—those tales can be found in other closets. This Capsule Collection of Fashionable Fiction illustrates how the clothing and accessories we wear or covet often reflect past memories, present challenges, or future hopes and dreams. The stories focus on themes such as trauma and healing, perception and identity, love and loss, hopes and dreams…
No Time To Sleep: A Theatre Experience
In 2019, according to Amnesty, there were at least 2,307 deaths from capital punishment and 27,000 facing the death sentence in 56 countries. This number is considered to be artificially low because of the unavailability of reliable information. 60% of the world’s population live in states where capital punishment is legal…
My Personal Anthology
I live in the heart of Bloomsbury which is home to many squares and monuments. During this last lockdown, the cherry blossom tree in the far right corner of Tavistock Square burst into bloom and covered the park bench in soft, pink petals, while blackbirds trilled away on the boughs. Gandhi sits in the middle of the square, presiding over empty benches, squirrels, cat sized rats, and rough sleepers camping under over-grown bushes…