I was enrolled in the Aga Khan Nursery School, an exclusive school where my brother Raheel was a student. At home, Anna looked after Raheel and me. She was a sturdy, Kikuyu lady in her thirties. She had dark brown, almost black skin, and was always ready to pick me up to sit on her lap or tell me a story in Kiswahili. She smelled different from us, a warm, musky smell I always associated with love. I liked to sit on the ground with her, outside her small room when she had chai from her enamel mug and a thick slice of bread. She let me have some of the milky tea.
One day when I was five, Dad told me to say goodbye to Anna as she was leaving.
“Kwaheri Shaza,” Anna said as she hugged me and tried to put me down, but as my family tells it, I refused to let go, and started screaming. “Anna, Anna. I want Anna.” Mum had to pry me away from her, and Anna had tears in her eyes as I watched her walk out of the gate in the fariyo with a small, cardboard suitcase.
“Why did you make her go?” I angrily asked Dad.
“She did chori, she stole something with her boyfriend,” he told me.
“I don’t care. Let her do chori. Bring her back,” I said, stamping my foot in anger. “We have so many things; she can do chori if she wants to.”
I cried for three days and was inconsolable after she left. I couldn’t understand why her theft of some jewelry and money was so important.
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