Richa Nagar, Translated from original poem in Hindi, Sofia, 2002

A few months after I said good bye to Dar

Pareen’s letter came

her last sentence was smudged —

“I couldn’t give your salaam to Sofia;

she passed away soon after you left.

It was a case of AIDS.”


How could Sofia die?

When she wasn’t even seventeen yet?

When she trekked every day; baby in her belly

from Magomeni to Kisutu?

From the black part of the city

to the brown part of the city.


The mischievous Sofia 

who laughed loudly at my mistakes in Kiswahili

told me of secret bonds between brown and black skins

which no one else could,

who thought it the world’s most sophisticated joke

that I called my research, work


The Sofia who said she didn’t need a father

not her own, not her baby’s.

How could Sofia die?

With those fearless dreams

those ringing laughs

those continuously vibrating feet?


She wasn’t even seventeen yet.