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BINDRA: If you love bookstores, buy books to help them retain their special place

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By SUNNY BINDRA
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When I was a young boy, I would regularly gather my pocket money and take a bus into Nairobi’s central district to buy books.

My perambulations would begin at the famous second-hand shop, Toddlers Bazaar, just off Koinange Street. This ever-busy shop was a prime place to find unusual, affordable novels.

From there I would walk to Bookpoint, on Moi Avenue; double back to the small bookstore under the New Stanley Hotel; then on to Book Corner on Mama Ngina Street. I would always end up in Prestige Bookshop, right next to what was then the 20th Century cinema.

Here’s the thing: Of that group, only Prestige survives today. Most of Nairobi’s treasured, venerable bookshops are gone, replaced mostly by the purveyors of paraphernalia for the modern life — mobile phones, airtime, gadgetry and the like.

Prestige, which has been in existence for as long as I can remember, has always been a favourite. It is a proper bookshop, selling little else other than a wide selection of books, crowded into a small space and stacked up to the ceiling. It always provided a little bookmark with every book purchased there. It still does. Over the years, I gathered a huge collection of them.

CLASSIC BOOKS
It is one of the few places in Nairobi where you can find books beyond the norm; not just the pulpy bestsellers, but proper books, esoteric books, classic books.

Across town, deep in the Yaya Centre mall, sits another proper bookshop. Bookstop has also been going for decades now, selling an enormous range of tomes. This shop prides itself on going far beyond the books on the bestseller charts; this is where you are likely to find books in your area of expertise, books you never imagined existed, books that are a serendipitous delight.

Bookstop has a fiercely loyal clientele, with buyers from beyond these borders regularly making their pilgrimage to stock up their bookshelves.

Hats off to these two shops, their owners, managers and assistants. They have a bigger deal going on. If they were interested in smaller deals, they would have followed the money and changed their lines of business. But there is a purpose at play here: a purpose centred on love of the world of books.

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SPECIAL WORLD
It’s a special world, a world in which thoughts and ideas and arguments and imaginations are put to paper. That paper is then packaged and marketed and arranged for sharing. Bookshops and libraries are the cathedrals of that world — musty places run by bohemian types, full of mystery and discovery.

Is it enough, though, to just doff our hats at bookshops for doing a good job? No, we must support them. If you love books, you must buy them. If you love bookshops, you must go to them, encourage them, keep them going. It’s not enough to praise them or wish them well from afar. If you are a committed bibliophile, buy books. Books will survive if today’s customers love them; not as relics of a bygone era.

Don’t buy books just for the romance of it; that isn’t sustainable. Do it because in the world of reading, we need as many options as possible.

It’s great that we have Amazon and we have e-books, make no mistake; they are useful and convenient things. But if we allow them to dominate the book trade all over the world while amassing ever more gargantuan profits, we shall all be the poorer.

INTRINSIC BENEFITS
Books will survive because they have intrinsic benefits over competing options. Bookshops will also survive for as long as customers regard them as useful and enjoyable experiences.

The people at Bookstop and Prestige know this. They continue to survive and thrive not just because they love their trade; they also work hard to keep the right stocks; they offer knowledge and advice; and they build long-standing relationships with customers.

The wider lesson is this: Your wallet is a set of votes, and votes have power. Use your votes judiciously in this world, not just in selecting leaders to represent you, but in selecting products and services that mean something special to you.

We should not just follow herds and be swayed by our peers when spending hard-earned dollars and shillings. We should also use our money to make a point. If you appreciate quality or passion or dedication or idiosyncrasy, reward it. That way those things may be around for generations to come.

Sunny Bindra’s new book, The Bigger Deal, is now on sale. www.sunwords.com



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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