On being a hijabi in Lagos – Part II.

One of the amazing things about starting this blog is that I get to interact with people from different walks of life. Having the opportunity to hear first-hand life experiences is something I do not take for granted. A few months ago, Hamdallah and I were having a chat about what life is like in Lagos, Nigeria as a young Muslim woman. With every experience she recounted, I was in stitches.

I’m sure that by now you’re used to me talking about how I want to connect women through shared experiences; so I encouraged her to share some of her hilarious experiences on the blog. Read ‘On being a hijabi in Lagos – Part I’ here.

To help ease your mid-week tension, here’s Part II. I laughed and cried so much while editing this.

As a Muslim hijabi[1], there were certain things I thought were going to stop happening when I decided to start covering fully. A few things did stop happening, but there’s that one thing that I assumed would stop that hasn’t. Drumroll please… catcalling!

See, I’ve always suffered from this thing. Now I always like to give people the benefit of doubt, so that if you do attempt to make conversation with me, I will indulge you. As long as I don’t feel threatened and I’m not in a rush, I’d stop and hear you out, because sometimes people just need help; it could be that they need directions or need to know the time.

Infuriatingly, eight out of ten times when I get stopped, I find myself in awkward “I just want to be your friend” situations. If you factor in the fact that I’m married but I do not wear a wedding ring, you can understand just how insufferable some people can be. So, I’m here to give you gist about some of my weird encounters.

Yaba: if you know Yaba well, you’d know that there’s this kiosk in phase 1 where snacks are sold—hot puff puff, eggroll, buns, that “sausage fried in flour” thing. There was a point in my life where I stopped there every morning to buy hot puff puff. (Yes I’m lazy, and I never make breakfast for myself).

Anyway, I noticed one of the attendants was just overly nice to me in general. He’d smile, ask about my night and wish me a good day. In my mind I thought he was just being nice to his customer o[2]. Normal something—I do it with my customers too. That’s how one day, this uncle started to tell me that he’d like to marry a Muslim. Lol. Okay, but how is that my concern? Next thing, he started asking me for my number, telling me I’m a “fine Hajia[3]”. I’m like uncle first of all, no Alhaja will marry you. Let me just help you pour sand in that garri[4]. Secondly, I’m already married. That’s when wahala[5] burst. He went on and on about how I wasn’t saying the truth, that where is my ring? Egbami[6], on top of my own marriage? Who died and made you ring police? That’s when I gave up. I collected my hot puff puff and never returned.

Adekunle stalker: Anytime you hear me say the phrase “I’ve suffered”, it’s days like this I’m talking about. I don’t know who I offended, but at least a week’s worth of suffering was crammed into this day. It was during that time when bikes got banned, and on this horrible day, I was trying to get home from my job at Dolphin estate. It was getting dark and I was already frustrated because the traffic on Herbert Macaulay was crazy. So, I decided it was logical to get down at Adekunle and request an Uber home. Mistake… No, MISTAKE! When I tried to request a ride, my Uber app replied me with ela oju kan[7]—“no cars available”. Nothing spoil; we all know the second option is Bolt. I tried to request a ride but their app just kept on acting weird and shutting down. Turns out something spoil after all. Picture the scenario—it’s already pretty dark, I’m at Adekunle, there are no bikes, and it would be absolutely foolish to get into a bus when the traffic wasn’t moving.

And that, my dears, is when I decided to just start walking. In my mind, I’m like Oyingbo isn’t far. Any progress is better than no progress. There would be Uber when I get to post office. Or maybe I’d be lucky and find a bike. See me rationalising, giving myself pep talk. I sha[8] started my Israelite walk and did unlooking[9] for the ache in my calves. Not ten minutes passed before I noticed someone following me. My pace switched from 2 feet steps to 3 feet steps and the step speed increased. My heart was already doing gbimgbim[10]. Shebi[11] I’d have just jeje[12] sat down in the traffic where other people were? Suddenly I started hearing “Hajia, I just want to talk to you. Hello Alhaja[13], I just want to be your friend. Alhaja, please give me your phone number”. My paranoia switched to irritation in a split second. Like after all the frustration of trying to get a bus from Obalende and being stuck in traffic plus this nonsensical trekking, you have the nerve to ask for my number inside this middle of the night? (Yes, inside the night. I said what I said). I stopped, turned around and said in my loudest angry voice, “WHY ARE YOU FOLLOWING ME?!” Best believe he let me be and I continued in my struggle to reach home. Also, I never got that Uber o. Na[14] trek I trek reach house.

Keke[15] Questionnaire: Now this day was nothing like the one I just described. I was in a good mood because it was barely 5:30pm and I was almost home. No traffic wahala, just pure rare bliss. I was already anticipating the nap I’d have before making dinner. So, when the man beside me said, “Salaam alaykum[16], may I ask you a question?”, I was like, “yes, you may”. Such courtesy. He went on about how he wasn’t all that religious but there was this really religious girl he was interested in and he was scared and didn’t know how to go about it. Now this isn’t new to me. Sometimes strangers ask me personal questions for reasons I do not know. In my mumu[17] mind, I was thinking I was helping this man’s life, telling him maybe he could speak with someone she’s close to first to help convince her. Like I was literally giving off points. Brethren, that’s how I said goodbye and got down at my stop and this man got down and started following me. In my head I was like, “maybe this is his stop too?” Baba’s pace quickened and levelled up with mine and I heard “it’s you I’ve been talking about since. I usually see you every morning. Please where’s your address let me come and see you.”

My thoughts were just everywhere. Is this how they will finally kidnap me in this Lagos? How many mornings has this man seen me? Shey[18] this is not a good time to relocate bayi[19]?#CanadaHereICome #CanadianInTheDiasporaWoes.

Eventually I said “sorry I can’t give you my address. I don’t live alone. I live with my husband” and I sharply crossed the road and didn’t look back. The truth is, whether you wear a hijab or a blanket, you’d still get catcalled; it might just be less intense. The only thing that can save us is an invisibility cloak, and that only exists in Harry Potter.

Which is to say, we die here.

I am Hamdallah; an architect who enjoys writing poetry, taking photos of buildings and making fashion illustrations. I am a creative who believes design is not rigid; hence less can be more or bore depending on various variables.

[1] A woman or a girl who wears the Islamic head-covering.

[2] A common Nigerian interjection.

[3] A honorific title given to a muslim who has successfully completed the Hajj to Mecca.

[4] Flour made from the roots of the cassava plant.

[5] Trouble.

[6] Help me.

[7] A snub.

[8] Anyway.

[9] Acting unbothered

[10] Heartbeat thuds.

[11] Well.

[12] Quietly.

[13] See Hajia.

[14] It is.

[15] Commercial tricycle.

[16] Arabic greeting that means peace be unto you.

[17] A derogatory term for a slow person.

[18] Is.

[19] Like this.

2 thoughts on “On being a hijabi in Lagos – Part II.

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