The stigma surrounding small cities

Zamena Manekia Manji

(Bujumbura, Burundi)

Skyscrapers, lavish malls and fancy restaurants adorn the very beauty of most countries; at least according to a lot of peoples’ perceptions. Needless to say, such countries thrive as people’s most preferred places to live in, and that’s okay for development comes with a bucketload of career opportunities for many. The society at large will mostly encourage their children to strive for a better future at such places which is fine yet, should someone choose to live in a less urbanized area, the World of Critics erupts into a frenzy of lewd comments.

I firmly believe it is the little things in life that pave way towards happiness, the ability to observe, marvel and appreciate the little joys is what keeps us going. Beyond a shadow of doubt,  the west is where a lot of opportunities lie – filled with numerous career options to choose from and resulting to many professionalizing themselves into various fields, but why do we raise our eyebrows in exasperation when we come across someone who hails or lives in a smaller town?

Born and bred in Dar es Salaam, a somewhat modern city compared to most of its African neighbors, I know what it was like when I moved to Bujumbura, Burundi – a rather small ,war – torn village like city ; at least according to a lot of people. One laughed at my face while another sighed ‘oh maskini(poor you). Additionally, some people that lived here even feigned pity, making me wonder how others measure happiness.

I’m okay with people asking me how have I settled here or how this place really is. It’s okay to be curious, but to downright insult and look down upon one who lives in a smaller town in comparison to yours is wrong which is what led me to write about this city I have grown to love over the years and by doing so, I hope to shatter the stigma that surrounds small towns.

There’s no denial to the fact that Burundi has been ravaged by war, it sadly is one of the poorest countries in the world and  it is way smaller than my hometown – Dar es Salaam. Yet, it’s perhaps one of the most scenic, lush and hilliest of cities I have ever seen. With a huge portion of lake Tanganikya encircling most of the region, this city is blessed with the finest of beaches, the edges of the water bodies surrounded by breathtaking hills, resulting into the finest of landscapes. The neighboring towns that are mostly uphill have views that are Instagram perfect. The fog that encapsulates the long trees, the cool breeze of the wind, the Fresh strawberries and the cheerful people are enough to relax the mind and fill one’s heart with joy. The food is a blend of local and french, from the roadside brochette (mishkaki), to the finest of Baguettes, it’s sure the kind to take your taste buds on an adventure. The people despite the striking poverty are one of the friendliest. Just like any country, Burundi too – is unique and so are it’s people.

I, for example could further explore my passion for writing in this ‘small town’. The chirping of the birds, the pleasant weather and the matchless scenery enabled me to flow away with words – and unleashing the talent I probably never quite believed in back then. All it takes is a slight shift in how we perceive life and the opportunites will surface regardless of where we live.

 However, the harsh reality glooms over this country like a dark cloud. But that doesn’t allow one look down upon the capabilities of the country’s citizens/residents. I’m all for traveling the world to explore our options and broaden our horizons, which is what led me to see this little country from a different perspective. Perhaps it’s about time we open our minds too and realize people who live in small towns are also as smart, talented and hardworking. I’ve seen many flourish and reach heights either through booming businesses, successful careers and/or coming up with innovative ways to help the less fortunate. 

Hence, let us learn to respect people’s choices and shift our focus towards empowering and uplifting one another, let us try to see the beauty beyond the glitter and appreciate the God given nature and most importantly, we need to realize that over fame, status and nationality; empathy, optimism and kindness is what truly defines us as good human beings. 

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About the author

Zamena Manekia Manji was born and raised in Dar es Salaam, a bookworm with a passion for writing that cemented at the age of 13. She served the community alongside her studies through the years and upon moving to Bujumbra , Burundi - continued doing the same. Over time her writings have evolved from fiction to Islamic, contemporary and historical writings. She has also worked on a number of scripts, ad writings, essays, personal statements for universities, and beyond as with each task, she tries to improve her writing skills. Through her words she hopes to shed some light into Islamic History, Islamic concepts and contemporary issues, slowly doing her part towards building a better and stronger society.

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