Life is a journey!

Life is not short, life is now. So today at 7.45a.m in my small bungalow in Umoja, I woke up to think through my schedule for the day. I lay on my bed, my mind on the diary in my head. There was a meeting to attend at exactly 10a.m. I imagined through the meeting. My boss’ voice and colleagues chipping in.  I heard words like motivation, teamwork, excellence, image, competitor buzzing in my head. Then I visualized working after the meeting, sometimes a little more psyched up than before, depending on the meeting.

My mind wandered to my small bro, Aubrey, who will be joining campus in a while. I imagined myself back then. I had been ecstatic. All I had wanted was to leave for campus and live campus life. I am talking crazy life. I am talking booze at 7a.m. I am talking money and women. I am talking come-we-stays that no one judges you; and going back home to a mother who so believes in your innocence. I am talking going to class when you want to. I am talking freedom. I am talking freedom that our forefathers must have had in mind when they fought for our independence. I am talking doing what you want to do when you want to do it. That is at least what my seniors who had been to campus before had told me about campus life.

I pondered over what to do for Aubrey as he starts this long journey. I thought about what back then I needed when I got to Moi University main campus. I remembered how entertainment was everything at campus. I recalled how as a fresher (man) I lost out on a girl I liked to another guy because she could watch movies at his place and yet I had no computer. Campus was no place for the kind of love grandma taught you, I learnt. I remembered how I had to step up and be a man to get myself a computer (I still have it to date).

My alarm clock rang. It was already 8.00am. I was behind schedule. I rushed to the shower. I imagined how as a kid I had dreaded cold water in the morning. Now I didn’t mind it despite the hot shower being available. As water dripped down my dark skin (and please don’t imagine Sudanese), I wallowed in the moment. I felt fresh and focused on the meeting I was going to have shortly afterwards. I reviewed my career in journalism and was grateful that I was doing what I always wanted to do even when I was hydrophobic.

“Beep, beep,” my phone buzzed from the bedroom signaling an incoming text message.

“I know the meeting is at 10a.m, somebody doesn’t need to remind me!” I told myself, still in the shower.

Then there was a call and another, and another. But I let them go. The call-rings interrupted the flow of my thoughts so I found myself just concentrating on my body. I looked at myself in the big mirror in the bathroom. I didn’t like the small swelling that had been on my eye for the last few days. In my village it is believed that you develop such when you deny a dog food. I had no dog, and being in the city, dogs were a rare sight. My villagers must be liars. I reached for the eye-drop medication that a doctor had given me. Life is about trust and confidence, which are brought about by credibility. Yeah, I walked into a hospital and a white-robe-clad stranger who is introduced to me as an eye specialist gives me some small bottle with a prescription to follow for my eye situation. And here I was, doing exactly as he had recommended.

“2*3 drops for 5 days,” the doctor had written. I asked myself what if he decided to put there pepper or sulphuric acid or whatever substance that would turn me blind in a second! I shuddered at the thought of it.

The phone rang again. I ignored. I left the bathroom to dress up but decided to switch on the TV to see what my colleagues on KTN Morning Breakfast were doing.

“BREAKING NEWS…ACCIDENT AT MTINDWA, UMOJA,” the news ID read.

My kikoy dropped (you are allowed to think wild). Mtindwa is a few hundred metres from where I was standing, my day to day route. I turned to my phone and it struck me that the many messages and phone calls I received were actually from friends, family and colleagues concerned about me. I smiled at the thought. Somehow it felt nice. Not the accident, the calls and messages.

Sophia Wanuna, the beautiful Morning Breakfast Show host, finally broke it down. The accident was between a bus and a train. I could have been on that bus. To the passengers who perished in the accident, that was the end of their journey. As I walked out of the house for the morning meeting, I reminded myself that life is a journey, and it’s a journey that can only be enjoyed now. Just like the passengers on that bus and train did a moment before the accident occurred.

Lest we forget…we are HUMAN!

Some things happen to remind us what we are. Today, I was late for work, so I hoped on the next matatu that stopped by the bus station. And drama it carried.

A lady passenger seated next to me asked the conductor for her change. The conductor vehemently denied having her money saying that he had returned it already. The lady insisted and the conductor said “no”. She was in her forty’s, a huge lady with sunken sad eyes, an indicator that she was from the side of social status that should not be rhymed with state house.  She spoke with pain of how the conductor had raised the fare from thirty bob to forty then now held on to her ten bob balance. At some stage she went berserk saying she won’t alight until given her dues.

In my mind I wondered why she was bringing about so much drama over a ten shilling coin.Then she ransacked every pocket she had and turned upside down the bag she was carrying; in search of ten shillings the conductor was insisting had given her. She said she had only fifty three shillings, and showed the remaining three shillings to the conductor as proof that the said change had not been given back. When she broke down saying the sh.10 was her fare for the last bit of her journey, everyone looked back, at her. Tears were now freely flowing down her cheeks. Nobody said a word. For a minute or so it was just the sound of the lady sobbing…and perhaps each of us soul-searching themselves just how the society came to this.

In my mind was a picture of a mother, a grown woman crying. Then it struck me that she was probably crying because she had sweat so much to get that sh.50 note she had given out to the conductor. She must have been crying because she was thinking about her children who probably had nothing to bite and yet the sh.10 was enough for what she called a meal. She was crying because the world is cruel. She was crying because she had been reminded by the conductor that she is a woman; I doubt that kind of treatment would befall a male passenger her age and size. She was crying because no one seemed to care about the other. We were all quiet as she was being tormented.

As if we had all been meditating over it, everyone sprung up!The sound of papers rubbing and silver coins hitting each other filled the matatu. But this was money being sought. The first to take out his was a young man of Somali origin who spoke neither Swahili nor English. He spread out a sh.100 note to the lady. Then there was sh.50 and 50,,,20,,,50,,,20,,,100,,,200,,,and in total was sh.1150 for the lady!Even the conductor, out of shame and embarrassment, gave back the alleged sh.10!The lady wanted to return all the money and just take the sh. 10 but we all said “No.” And it reminded us of who we are, regardless of the languages we spoke, the social status we were from, the genes we carried…just the one thing we all shared; humanity!

Our choices are in the mind!

I have been observing the craze on social media about Andrew Kenneth, the son of Kenya National Congress Presidential aspirant Peter Kenneth with, well, triviality. I must say, I happened to be at the launch of PK’s candidature and even managed to interview the lad and yes, he’s some piece of work.  At 19, it is commendable that he spoke in the manner he did even as he defended his father’s run for the top seat. This is a first in Kenyan politics where the son of a presidential candidate takes to the podium at a national public forum to sell his father to the electorate.

My concern, however, is not about AK or PK, that’s a story for another day. My issue has to do with the choices we make in life. If the many tweets and face book updates that came to fore after PK’s launch are anything to go by, we all know what we want in life. Many ladies have been “aaaaawing” at the younger Kenneth’s phenotypic genetic make-up, while many Kenyans who listened to PK, agree that we need a change of leadership. Life gives us an opportunity to make choices for what we want. Men, generally, are not groupies, but on this occasion, I saw one or two face book updates about Andrea Kenneth, PK’s daughter, whose face could not evade TV cameras.

Then I realized that a majority of us are living lives that they would rather not live. My friend, Victor Moguche, wrote “many men I’ve met this November don’t know that they are alive.” Every man dreams of a trophy lady. A woman he sees as delicate and beautiful. A woman he can’t imagine clenching a fist to hit anything (what’s been happening in Nyeri for the better part of the year?). A woman who breaks ogling necks when he walks with her. A woman, who when she says she’ll beat someone, he laughs it off because the image doesn’t fill up in his mind. She has to be tall and pretty. She has to have everything in its correct size in its place. Every man wants a woman who can make him feel like a man. Despite her subtleness, she should show that she can handle his masculinity. She should demonstrate that she can handle him. It’s every man’s dream. I guess I shouldn’t speak for the ladies what they saw in AK that tantalized them, but I must reiterate that we all know what we want, and more often than not, in PK’s words, “we face the same problems” and therefore we need the same “solutions.”

So, why is it that we don’t get these things that we want? Another friend once wrote me, “Kenyans know what they need but they choose what they want,” and I should add, “… what they need and what they want is not the same thing.” Is it because we don’t measure up to those standards we’ve set? Is it because we compromise so much or is it that they don’t exist? Obviously, it’s nothing to do with existence. AKs are there. Every man knows the one woman who makes him drool. A few are lucky to have that woman. But billions of others in the world have short when their wish woman is tall, have dark when they lose sight staring at a light lady, have fist-masters when they would rather dream the Beyonces, have 0 sizes when their ideal shape is number 8. Women on the other hand, have for a long time believed in the sage line, “tall, dark and handsome.”

The same thing applies in politics. PK launched his campaign and he was highly acclaimed by many. In one national TV station poll on whether viewers thought he was the solution to Kenya’s problem, he got a record 85% nod. What then happens at the ballot box? We need to change our mentality. We need to start driving our destiny, making choices that we believe in. We need to free our minds or as Ngugi wa Thiong’o would put it, we need to “decolonize” our minds. If we liberated our minds, we will not only see the AKs but also have them for ourselves. We’ll also have a conviction in what we believe in beyond the borders of tribe, race or other social constrictions. If PK’s mother and PK himself had allowed such narrowness to influence their destiny, we would never have had a chance to see the leader in PK nor the generosity that nature has bestowed in the AKs.

The irony of the conversation hailing the Kenneths would be if the protagonists on the social media were victim to the unfortunate debacle of narrow-mindedness that characterizes Kenyan politics. If you are still bound by tribe, race, religion etc., you have no point barraging praises on the Kenneths.

Dream on…

When you have a surgeon-father who works in a faraway country in Europe and a doctor-mother, both of who care and love you incredibly, you settle in your mind knowing that in life nothing is impossible. You know you can get average grades and still get to the best university in the world, but you cannot do that. Your father is a surgeon. Your mother is a doctor.  Where did you get the average brains? “They” will ask.

It’s another story when one day you wake up at your pre-university college class (you are an international person, so foreign languages are an accepted reality), and you get a call from that distant relative you have never heard from for a long time asking about your whereabouts. Then she suddenly delves into an unexpected conversation about taking heart and being strong. Before you digest these new pieces of advice, the bomb whose clock had all the while been ticking, explodes. Your parents are no more. A fire inferno consumed them in the deep of the night. The medics could not save themselves.

Meanwhile, nothing from their palatial home was salvaged. Your certificates are gone too. Your extended family is rather dysfunctional in terms of relationships. Your only family is your four siblings. Your two elder sisters are studying in the diaspora; you and your younger sibling were in tow to join them, until the unexpected happened. Your dreams seem to be dashing away at an alarming speed.

Indeed nothing is impossible. Of course the saying has changed meaning; or is it you who has changed the way you understand it? You wonder.

But dreams are said to cater for what lies ahead; not what is behind you. The past gives you what to dream. So, you embrace the new life and optimism to writhe any challenges that come between you and your dreams.

You realize that nowadays there’s a disconnection between your real dreams in your sleep and your mental dreams.  You no longer long for the nightfall; because your giant mental dreams will keep you awake as you try to chase after them. Dreams in your sleep are those of rats that remind you of nights. Of sad nights that could change lives.

Then you appreciate the gift of life. No one hascertainty for tomorrow. Today is what you have. Today is what you are sure of. Today of this minute, today of this second. Even today of the next second you do not know.

So, you cuddle life like mama used to cuddle you. You spoil life like papa used to spoil you. Life is to living, not existing.  Your dreams are not deserted.Life has taught you that dreams that can be fulfilled today are better kept for today. That “spoiling you” doesn’t mean going to the Hilton’s or Java or Trattoria. It’s getting that smile on your cheek. It’s getting your adrenaline rushing in ecstasy.It’s doing what you want to do when you want to do it.

Life is precious, but it is unpredictably short. You hope mama and papa enjoyed theirs and realized a great deal of their dreams. Most importantly, you dream on and hope your dreams will come of age. That the pre-university foreign languages you undertook will be of use someday, just like papa’s and mama’s.

Gone too soon! By Namwene Mukabwa

The area MP’s presence was proof that she was indeed a big person. It was pay time. Dad’s eyes were cluttered with tears. So did my aunts’. Mum whisked Sixtus, my younger brother, away from the podium. Her eyes were red with sleep.

I remembered grandma had talked to me just a day before she was pronounced dead. She had talked softly and lovingly. She had been exceptionally happy. It was like she had won a fight. Her speech was deliberate. Her eyes showed the kind of love and resilience that I would greatly miss.

I remembered when my family shifted base from her compound. I was a little boy in class one. She didn’t want us to move. She loved dad. She wanted him to protect her when grandpa would chase after her. I remembered that evening dad opened the backdoor for her to enter while grandpa raised his cane. I remembered dad’s words;

“Fifty years and you are yet to know each other? Fifty years?” dad had shouted.

Grandpa would then tarry and call my name. He would hand over his cane to me. We would then slaughter chicken and grandma would dutifully prepare it.

Grandma didn’t want us to move because she was worried about me. School would be way far for me.

I recalled the day grandma intercepted me on my first day to our new home for lunch. She couldn’t bear me walking a kilometre to and from school just for lunch. I remembered how her white head-gear fell, displaying her greying hair, as she tried to catch me while I ran away. She outdid me.

I remembered how for eight years every morning grandma went for her Legio meetings at Eregi Catholic Church Parish and still got home in time to make us lunch. Sometimes she left something sizzling on her three-stone fireplace if she suspected she would be late. Her roasted meat was always salivating. We would look forward to the day the milk in the guard would become sour.

Then there was that day a wire along grandma’s fence pierced through my thigh. I remembered we were playing football barefoot while we awaited her lunch. Grandma was in the kitchen; delicacies were forthcoming. Perhaps the permanent scar I acquired was to remind me of her selflessness.

The day she sat us all at a table and told us her expectations was a memory to keep. I remembered how she would bid me bye on my way to high school. I remembered her scolding my cousin for scooping at fried, dried, fermented millet flour she had reserved for me.

Grandma knew that I would succeed in life. She asked me to pass my KCSE exams for her. She wanted me to make her proud.

As she lay there mute, I wanted to show her my result slip. She had gone too soon. Couldn’t she wait to see my name in the newspapers?

Amidst all these, I heard the priest call out her name;

“Lucia Ariamuka,” he uttered.

Then I saw mum standing next to me. She fondled me. She wiped away tears that were now flowing freely down my cheeks.

Grandma’s beautiful casket was marched away. A choir sang sad songs that heightened the sombre mood. I couldn’t fathom it. Her beautiful wrinkled smile ran lucidly in my head. Her last words reverberated in my mind.

“Grandson, go to university. Get an education. Get a job. Look for a good woman. Get tested and bear me a great-granddaughter. Call her Ariamuka,” she had said.

As soil placed her six feet under, I felt she was alive. She was only resting. A deep sense of responsibility engulfed me. I had to grant her wish.

I gazed at the encryption on the cemented cross of the grave adjoining her next home. Maybe grandpa was happy to have his wife next to him.

 

Robbed Innocence

She aced everything

Her classmates were green with envy

She was bright

She beat them all; boys and girls

She was the teacher’s pet

She was the class prefect

She was dark and lean

She had the tallness of the Cushite

Her hair was from Mogadishu

Her face smooth

Her eyes harboured hope

Her smile so inviting

But…she was just a kid.

 

She must have dreamt of being a doctor

Or maybe she could be a lawyer

She pronounced words like a newscaster

Her future was the size of Himalaya

 

It hurt a tad when she pinched me

Asking how affordable a district day school was

When she was an Alliance girl

She knew where she belonged

 

Her fears came real

She had aced it like always

Yet her dream was unforthcoming

She couldn’t fathom another generation

Carrying the yardstick of attrition

 

Her heart was broken

Her ego was shattered

Her self-esteem degenerated

She turned to the big city

No skills, no age, no way…

She’d only be a maid

And pray her boss wouldn’t prey

 

In a crude world she found solace

Finally someone who understood

Mr. Comfort invited her in

But…she was just a kid.

 

Three years and there were four kids

Three that have suckled the biggest kid

Mr. Comfort was beginning to rare

Soon the cat was out; there was another mouse!

 

Her firm breasts had been suckled away

Her pretty eyes filled with depression

Her load was way too big

Her mother was deathbed-ridden

Her father had never been in her story

Mr. Comfort could have been her father after all!

 

There had to be a way

Rat and Rat; NO!

Her faith did not die with her trust

Her hopeful eyes still lingered with hope

God must be watching

 

In her virgin raped mind she wondered,

What if there was a fairer world?

Would she be a doctor?

But…She is a woman!