Munira Premji

IMG_0573Toronto, January 25, 2016 –  He will not accept my Facebook Friend request. He is the sergeant in the kitchen, policing everything we eat. He calls me every day to find out if I have been to the gym.  And everytime I ask him a computer-related question, he responds by asking me “what are you trying to do?”, rather than just giving me the answer.

And this son of mine, Shayne, is also extraordinarily kind, exceptionally thoughtful and incredibly loving.  Case in point:  Making my birthday so very special and planning every detail even though he is more than 12,000 kilometres away, in Nairobi, Kenya.

Shayne called me from Nairobi at midnight on January 25th to wish me Happy Birthday. Great planning on his part given that Nairobi is 8 hours ahead of Toronto.

He had Nagib give me a present that he had gift wrapped earlier in January when he came home. And it was a most thoughtful gift – a beautiful, warm grey infinity scarf.  It was a symbolic gift because he was always cold in Toronto and was looking for different accessories to keep warm.  And he wanted to share that memory with me.


Nestled in the gift bag was a card that was made by a woman in Kibera, Rose Nya Nguku. Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi and some women in Kibera make handmade cards using recycled materials to provide income for their families. Kibera is also where Sabrina and Afzal established their first Kidogo centre.  Shayne’s card made me cry. And I cried and cried some more because I was so touched by what he wrote in it.  Sometimes a heart can only hold so much love.

Throughout the day, Shayne made contact with us through WhatsApp to check in and celebrate my birthday from afar.  And when his day was over, Sabrina was on the line from New York (same time zone) to celebrate my birthday with me.  It felt very coordinated and connected!

And then at night, Nagib and Sabrina (on WhatsApp) presented me with another gift that Shayne had conceived.  It was a small hand made journal in Kenya by Amani Ya Juu, which in Swahili means, Peace from Above.  He wrote on many pages of this journal. He pasted pictures. He wrote recipes with instructions. My favourites were “Banana Chai Protein Shake” and “Homemade Tzatziki sauce”.


He included “Muni-isms” – things that I say way too often.  Like “worry is like opening your umbrella waiting for it to rain” and “you get what you Focus On”.  And then he got the family involved and had them write messages and post pictures.  A letter from my mom and sister are particularly poignant.  Nagib pasted a picture of Heinz Tomato Ketchup, 57 varieties, to remind me of my age — I seem to always forget!  Sabrina’s entries are heartwarming.  In one of her entries she writes, “a mom is a daughter’s first friend. And through life becomes her best friend”.  Shayne also got some of his friends involved in this project, which resulted in amazing stories and notes from people we know and love.  I heard from my mom that Shayne worked until 4 am on the day he was leaving Toronto to get the journal to a place where it was ready for my birthday.  I don’t think he particulary enjoys or likes doing this; he did it because he knew I would treasure it.

The three weeks that Shayne and Sabrina were home over the Christmas break were such a gift.

Shayne made us pancakes with sweet potatoes, and omelettes with green salsa.  He showed us that eating healthy did not mean sacrificing taste.


He introduced me to vanilla ice cream protein powder and skinny syrup English Toffee.  He baked Nagib a banana and chocolate birthday cake from scratch.  He listened to me without judgement; really listened to me – my fears, my hopes, my demons.  He introduced Nagib and I to the podcast “Serial” and I am hooked (I listened to all 10 episodes of season 1 in five days).  He made us promise that we would watch “Making a Murderer”, and we are hooked!

Sabrina and I spent every minute of time she was available by being together.  We talked incessantly about weddings and happily ever afters. It was a magical, joyful time!  And then 3 weeks later, just like that, both were gone, and it left a void in our home.

And today, in spite of being so many miles away, Shayne and Sabrina gave me an extraordinary birthday.  I am so touched because I know that it took time, energy and planning. I guess that’s what love and family is all about. Now if only he will accept my Friend request on Facebook!



  • Anonymous , January 28, 2016

    Love, love, love those children of yours!

  • Anonymous , January 28, 2016

    Happy Birthday Munni. You deserve the best. May Mowla bless you with lots of wonderful days.

  • Anonymous , January 27, 2016

    Happy Birthday Munira! You are so incredibly blessed to have such a loving family. But then, I can see why they love you so much!

  • Noor , January 27, 2016

    Oh and because I sometimes have cheese with holes for a brain or because I too am a 57 vintage Lol! Happy Happy Birthday and may you have a wonderful year filled with love and laughter. 🙂

  • karimahabib2012 , January 27, 2016

    Happy happy birthday!
    May the year be blessed with love and happiness!

  • Mary Gemmiti , January 27, 2016

    Children are pieces of your heart.
    Forever and always.
    (My mom told me)

  • Noor , January 27, 2016

    Oh Munira to be so blessed! You deserve it all and much more. Your words so touch me I can’t even say. I am only sad that though you were on the periphery of my world for a long time I never had a chance to know you better. Now I will discover you through your words and I am grateful my sister of a different mother! Hugs.

  • Anonymous , January 27, 2016

    Glad he spoiled you. You deserve it! ( I am hooked on Making a Murderer too! ). Like mother like son 🙂

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