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Little Things I Miss

Little things I miss

I miss laughter.

I miss meeting and greeting people in the street.

I miss my friends at Kijiweni.

I miss the incessant chatter of baraza and utani between Yanga and Simba.

And the argument among wazee of who is older than whom.

I miss children in their uniforms walking to school.

I miss agonising over small kids disembarking from school buses

and darting to school gates oblivious of oncoming traffic.

I miss the stinking smell of the garbage truck as it passes by me on my morning walk.

I miss the elderly couple of retired army officer who never fail to wave their both hands at me with unforgettable warmth and charm you never want to miss.

I miss the rising sun on the horizon as I sit on the cement bench doing my breathing exercises.

I miss the expatriate Indian couple,

the fair lady never missing to give me a smile as she mutters under her breath ‘good morning’,

while the dark man walking beside her tries to force one without much success.

I miss going to office of my imagination at the School of Law as Emeritus Professor,

the joy of which was rudely interrupted by carnivorous corona.

I grieve at the sight of coffins on the screen as they are lowered in mass graves.

My heart bleeds as I hear the cries and agony of so many friends and relatives

who are unable to pay their last respects to their loved ones

and bury them with dignity.

I ask of myself many questions:

Is it a ritual or am I really emotional as I send messages of solidarity and hope

to friends and acquaintances

with some of whom I have not corresponded for years?

Are those messages an expression of my solitude or a declaration of solidarity with them?

Why did I not remember them before corona and remember them now?

Do I relish memory so much?

I ask myself: I talk of humanity, solidarity, togetherness,

love, hugs and much other chatter and platitude,

yet I sit here doing nothing except:

eat and wash dishes, wash dishes and eat;

sit on the couch and sweep the floor, sweep the floor and sit on the couch;

wash my hands and sanitize them, sanitize my hands and wash them.

Why? To survive? (and help others close to me survive? Perhaps).

Survive and do what?

See my forthcoming book in print,

caress and kiss it and swim in the stream of accolades that routinely follow?

Lecture on class struggle and pontificate on the plight of the poor?

Condemn the privilege of the rich while enjoying goodies of the bourgeois world?

And, yes, I read – in the washroom.

And, yes, I write little pieces of crap like this – in the washroom.

I marvel at the birds flying freely and singing soothingly which I never cared for before.

I marvel at the clear blue sky without dark clouds of smoke and pollution,

which I never noticed before.

I marvel at the doctors and nurses as they save lives,

which I never appreciated before.

I cry with the nurses as they pour out their grief and emotions

at lack of PPEs and life-saving ventilators.

I curse and abuse those who have trillions

to massacre and maim millions

but can’t spare a billion for ventilators.

I marvel at clean streets without cars and trucks

gorging life-giving oxygen while exhaling life-threatening carbon mono-oxide.

I swear at climate-change deniers.

As I write this,

I hear on the news bulletin – three people were swept away as they tried to cross the river,

the bridge over which had vanished the night before in torrential rains.

I remember some biblical saying:

to the one who has, more will be given,

and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.


Why do I write this?

To lift the boredom bothering me?

To assauge the ghost of searing solitude?

To placate my conscience?

Or solace my soul?


Prof. Issa G. Shivji (Issa Bin Mariam) is an author and academic. He is one of Africa’s leading experts on Law and Development. He is the first Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Research Chair in Pan-African Studies and a Professor Emeritus in Public Law at the University of Dar es Salaam.

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