Month: May 2011

Do We Need Validation?

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Reading the transcript of Oprah’s last show, an interesting paragraph struck me, where she said;

““I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. If I could reach through this television and sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?’”

My mind took me back to so many years back. Maybe I was 13 or 14, I don’t really remember. All I remember is that we were in Kenya; in my grandmother’s house to be more exact. We had family members over from other parts of Kenya, so the house was full of fujo (noise). I was sick that day, and I was resting on a mattress on the floor of my grandmother’s room.

Lying there, in my sick state, I was really upset because nobody had come to check up on me, as everybody was busy with the guests. And I was feeling terrible physically and emotionally. Then somebody left the fujo in the living room and actually came to me and asked about how I was feeling.

I think that’s my first experience with this need for validation; or at least, it’s one that has touched me so much that I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. And looking back, it makes me realize, that sometimes it’s the small words that make a big difference. If my brother ever becomes a president of anything, I would link it to his habit of connecting with the common folks. Like when he rides into a cab, he asks the driver, “Where are you from?” And when the driver says, “Pakistan,” he continues with, “Where in Pakistan?”

And suddenly, the two of them sit and talk about that specific region of Pakistan even though my brother’s never set foot there, but I think he’s spoken with enough Pakistanis to know the whole region.

Or when he goes to a bakery and orders something, he genuinely stops with the cashier and asks him, “How is business?”

And people end up sharing more than they’d feel comfortable sharing with a stranger they probably won’t see again. But you see, he connects with them, he validates them, tells them that their voice truly matters, because if things had been different it could have been him in their place, lonely for a person to speak with, hoping for someone to validate them…

So I guess, this is today’s message for you; remember that we all want validation. We want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?’”



Google A Heart’s Echoes

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So today I checked what are the google terms that actually lead to my blog, and here are the top results;

Among other phrases are “Feel like a loser” which leads to this, and Kenya’s Survival Guide which leads to the Kenya Studies 001 and 002. Only this morning, I received a viewer who searched for ‘Masdar Institute Blog site:’

Now someone was really exact there. But what’s interesting is that I’ve been playing with the idea of actually blogging about masdar institute. You know, mention the temperature problem (what problem??), and the occasional email problems (what email??). Also talk about how someone might be doing their defense and the alarm system goes off, ‘An Incident Has Been Detected…’

Maybe someone was using their bunsen burner to make coffee. (Just FYI, didn’t happen yet – at least as far as I know.)

But you know I figured since I have a problem with keeping my mouth shut sometimes, I don’t want to be hunted by Masdar’s extremely-hard-working marketing team since I think they’re the most efficient team around here, so I’ll leave my brutally honest review for after I leave this place.

Reminds me of a day when someone told me that I shouldn’t be so brutally honest, and my reply was, “So what shall I be? Just brutal?”

As an overview of the month, this month began with Why Do We Laugh At People’s Dreams?

I reminisced a bit about Kenya in Of Jobs and Seeking Knowledge where I spoke of the job my grandma used to give me during summers, and also in a Pinch of Swahilism.

Three of AH flavored notes came up on The Glint of light on Broken Glass, Stepping Stones and 9 Traits of Successful people who were just like you and me.

Finally, I got a little bit personal in If The Birds Don’t Sing, Do They Write? and On Why I Write?

the most popular post of the month could be found here.

And thanks for your continuous support.

On Why I Write

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So today is going to be one of those random posts where I ramble just to kick up my statistics to hit a certain target on the 31st of the month. I thought of sharing with you on why I write. Simply said, because it is very very difficult for me to stop. I’m serious. I remember a time in uni when I used to make a conscious effort to stop writing (not start writing cz I could do that subconsciously sometimes). Call me obsessed, and I was. But the downside to living in an imaginary world filled with colors that don’t exist, people that don’t exist, and sounds that don’t exist is that one day you actually wake up to realize that you’re missing out on a lot of things that’s happening in your life.

Like listening to a child laugh at the spinning of a coin on the table.

I remember once when I was really awed by one of my baby cousins, who just couldn’t stop laughing at the amusing sight of a coin spinning on the table. And every time I did it, he would laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

So much purity, so much innocence…

What happens when they grow up?

So maybe I leant more on writing about my imaginary world when I hit my teens. Maybe it was easier to understand – and control – than my real life, even though it was no secret that most – if not all – of my characters could be found in my real life.

Then I took a creative writing class and I learnt two things;

a) Universality in writing can be achieved through specificity. Until then, I used to write short stories where I didn’t always tell the whole story as it should be told, but I filled it with so many gaps “for the reader to fill” and the only thing I used to fill it in is emotion. But then hearing that advice about actually being specific, my writing took a jump and became better, because suddenly readers were tuned into my world; they could actually hear, see and smell everything that I could. Just recently, I got an email from someone who’s read a short story,

can you believe I still imagine that roofless corridor they sat at… I’m sure you didn’t describe it that way; you wrote something much nicer loool … but the image is still in my head of what I imagined when I read it 🙂 even the grass… :)”

Another comment that came earlier about the same short story,

[comment edited for typos] “abt ur story, I really like it.  its sooo good tht it doesnt only touch ur heart bt ur memory as well and bring those nice flash backs with the classic era of 1970 wth all pale colors and interesting turns. mashalla it looks like a classic painting from the 70’s. i could draw the pic of all the events in the back of my mind and still have it till now 🙂 thnx i really enjoyed reading it.”
To read the short story (5 pages) that these comments refer to, go to

b) Stop running away from what you want to really want to say. While editing one of the poems – the last draft can be found here – my professor pointed out something. While I can’t entirely quote him, but the idea was that I was trying to build fiction based on a true story, when the true story was actually better than the fiction I was trying to modify it into.

So maybe my writings have been online since 2007 as facebook notes at first, but nobody can really compare between what can be seen here and the previous 2007 ramblings which mainly revolved around three topics;

1) Complaining about AUS

2) Complaining about AUS and…


3) Complaining about AUS

So the question that many people are wondering about; when am I actually planning to take my writing seriously (i.e. quit engineering for it)?

Just for the records, my Blogspot blog was born in 2008, and my wordpress blog was born in 2009 – complete with the my brand name ‘A Heart’s Echoes.’ And to be honest with you I’m planning to give myself six years ensha’Allah to actually make something big of this, and someone might say that’s a long time especially since I’ve been actually penning down words for myself since 2000. But I  want to take my time developing this craft; slow and steady. I don’t want to shoot to success only to find myself falling down hard because I know I wouldn’t be able to handle that.

Until then, this blog will continue spreading the way it is, one person at a time reading one word at a time….

Thanks for dropping by.


PS once I read this interesting tweet about a person who knows two writers and discovered that one had finished two manuscripts before getting published, and the other finished five manuscripts (if I recall the numbers correctly), and that’s a definition of persistence

A Pinch of Swahilism

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If you’ve been following this blog since Ignore Inc (2008), then you probably recall that I’m a self-proclaimed Kemeni – Yemeni roots, Kenyan trunk, UAE branch and don’t know where the leaves would fall. Some people argue that since I have mostly Yemeni blood then it is not necessary to even mention the Kenyan part, since I don’t live there – but I do carry its passport. The thing is, Kemenies are not entirely Kenyan and they’re not entirely Yemeni for me to omit the Kenyan part, but they’re a unique mixture of both.

1) Kemeni people don’t necessarily speak Arabic in Kenya. Our mother tongue is Swahili. Arabic is limited to the grandparent generation and the madrasa-going children, and of course, when they speak Arabic, they go classical. My mother knows a family where the parent (grandparent generation) used to speak Arabic, and his own children spoke Swahili – how they communicated , it remained a mystery. We learnt Arabic because we lived in the UAE. However, the Arabic that’s spoken by the grandparent generation can be quite fascinating because they mix a bit of the two, so you see people talking like this, “Mimi sawweit ilanguka…” (I fell…)

Or  “Nimimambiya yi9’rib ilpass.” (ati apiga passi, or to iron clothes).

2) The “Me I” phenomenon. I don’t know why, but Kenyans love saying, “Me, I went to…”6ab the ‘I’ explains you’re talking about you, why waste the energy to mention the ‘me’?

3) Nicknames can stick forever and ever and ever. You hear people who are called Saeed Mbuzi (Saeed sheep), maybe because he is unfortunate enough to sell sheep, or Khaled Kibonge (Fat Khaled) even if he’s lost all the extra weight. Some people are more famously known by their nicknames than their family names especially if you live in Mombasa.

4) Lighthouse on Sundays. Half of the Mombasa population spends Sunday evening in an area called Lighthouse (or Mama Ngina Drive –picture below). It’s a place where one tends to make their latest announcements. If they get married, they drive down there with their new wives to make the announcements. Or if they get new cars, they drive there to show them off. Once I saw a Toyota car with the Lexus ‘L’ stuck to it. Ya3ni, who are they trying to fool seriously?

5) They social network is so intact, it’s really annoying. Apparently neighbours care about each other so much that one ear is always tuned to what the neighbors are doing -sometimes literally, like in areas such as Kidogobasi or Kaloleni, where the houses are so close, if you take the wrong corner you might end up in your neighbor’s kitchen instead of your own house.

This naturally leads to…

6) The Grapevine is amazingly efficient they can put Aljazeera and CNN to shame. Especially now that Facebook and twitter are becoming popular. I knew some people who would gather together every evening to spread the latest news; the men get news from work, and the women get news from the Hodi rounds.

7) The Hodi rounds. You know how when you want to visit your friend, you call them? At least that’s what normal people do. Kemeni women go on Hodi rounds (since the houses are so close to each other), so if Woman A wants to show her latest dress to her friend in House 9, she will first pass her neighbour in House 2 and call out, “Hodi?” (figuratively stands for, ‘Is anybody home’?) and the person inside says, “Karibu,” (You’re welcome) {In the old days when security was not as big an issue as it is now, people used to keep the doors open for each other)…so woman A says, “I was just going to (house 9) so I thought of passing by since I was in the way…”

Same thing applies to House 3, 4, 5,6, 7 and 8.

8.) A lot of Hodi rounds happens in Wedding season since cards have to be given by hand to the guests, and seriously let’s not get into that. That’s a story for another day.

9) When women meet in a ga3da, it’s very easy for woman A to ask woman B, “How are you? How is your sister?” (Please note that the sister, woman C is sitting right next to woman B)….

Then woman B turns to sister C and says, “How are you? How is your sister? How is your [list just about every member of the family who might be sitting in the same place]…so the person ends up saying, “Alhamdullilah x 100.” Then the list of questions is repeated to the next person.

10) If you’re a girl, then you have to know how to cook, or your net worth goes to zero.

*There goes my net worth*

11) Never mind about this…

12) Last but not least, when a rich person is mentioned in front of the typical Kemeni, he has a tendency to state, “Pesa za drugs hizo” (It’s drug money)

What other things make you a Kemeni?Share below.

And tweet this if you’re proud to be a Kemeni.

view from Mama Ngina Drive aka Lighthouse
view from Mama Ngina Drive aka Lighthouse
Somewhere in Mombasa, Kenya
Somewhere in Mombasa, Kenya