Monday, November 28, 2016

Vicissitudes are life. This I promise.

Image result for ups and downI have once not paid fare in a jav. Okay, done that more than once but I’ll just tell you about this one. I was headed to the office, it was a chilly morning and not particularly interesting. You know those mornings you wake up and take forever to get ready. You rummage through stuff to wear and trip over nothing – literally. Like the carpet just goes out of its way to catch your feet and wreck your toes. That’s of course after you’re done lying flat on the bed and contemplating whether you actually need work in your life. Si after all you can just go be a nomad and eat wild fruits as you herd people’s cattle somewhere in Maralal. But then you are really not cut out to be a wild herder so you just swallow hard and drag yourself to the shower. You encourage yourself that it won’t always be like this. That things will change. Or you will change things. You know, find a career that allows you to watch movies on Monday mornings as your peers struggle to stay awake on crowded jams on their way to offices they detest where they barely make enough money.

So, in the jav, the concodi did not ask for fare until when I alighted – this is not the usual case and so my natural instinct was to insist I paid him because I genuinely thought so. And I did so in a crude way because I shouted with a distinctive tone. With finality. Making him doubt himself and assume I paid. Then barely three steps late as I crossed the road, I fumbled over my trouser pockets and alas! The forty bob I had carried as fare was still there. Mixed reactions bequeathed me in that moment.
Did I just walk away with someone’s money? And bruised their heart while at it? Or did I just earn back all those overpaid fares in different javs? To hell with that guy?  Pay next time I see him? Haidhuru?

That incident has never left me. Still haunts me. (While some dimwits steal our billions and still find a way to sleep at night! – and only me and Boniface Mwangi seem to be fighting back and Chief Kariuki too).

I have written about it because yesterday I was – kupunga hewa in English – on our rooftop. Sitting on a three-legged plastic chair. Minding my own business. Cutting down my model-ish nails. Then I raise my head and this kid is staring at me. He was not just doing a normal stare, he looked at me like he knew all my sins. Made me feel as if he knew I walked away without paying fare from a jav. I wanted to tell him I was sorry. Like explain myself and stuff. I just thought I should write about it and make you feel bad for all those times you didn’t pay fare too. Yeah, I know you have done it too. It’s not right.

Anywho, that’s beside the point. 

That kid was riding a small DMX bike, just small enough for him. And after he was done staring at me of course he went ahead to riding as if nothing happened. 

And by the way, in my moments of keeping up with kids, I have reason to believe they can decide to gaze at you with piercing eyes without flinching. They could be tapping their feet, deliberately, or solving a rubrics cube but still stare.

Picture this. You go to church on a happy Sunday in November. You sit in the middle of the congregation because you are an average believer. That means you don’t sit at the front because you want to watch the action from a distance and again you don’t sit too much far behind because you feel those seats are for people who come in just for appearances. But then, as you sit in the middle, in front of you is a family of four. A mom. A dad. A suckling boy and a girl that should be at the kindergarten age. That girl will be your nightmare for the rest of the service. She is the girl that will stare at you with a blank face all through.

So you pray and she is staring. You say words and her stare answers you back.

You: “Good lord I am grateful for the gift of life”,

Her stare: “Oh really! Are you grateful weird dude?”

You: “And I thank you for my family and friends”,

Her stare: “Yeah? Do you even call you mom anymore? And what friends? You barely talk with them.”

You: “Thank you for my country Kenya too.”

Her stare: “Ha! You didn’t even vote last time. Are you even Kenyan weird guy?”

You: “Today I repent for all my sins. Forgive me father”.

Her stare: “Sure. You better say sorry for the fare thing!”

You: “This I pray and believe”.

Her stare: “That’s it? Huh? You won’t even repent for the yogurt container you threw from the jav?”

By the time you get off church you’ll be sure to mark where the kid sits next time before settling down.

Anyway the kid on the rooftop rode in circles, then unfortunately hit on a corner and bumped his full weight on the concrete floor. I told him men don’t cry but he went ahead and cried. Which is okay because he is a little man and little men can cry.

This whole article was written because like that kid’s ride, vicissitudes are life.

It doesn’t matter the period. Day. Week. Month. Quarter. Year. Decade. It happens. One season you are on your bike. You ride fast and firm with the wind blowing over your hair making you feel good and all. You wave at us as we cheer your progress. Another season finds you fallen. Your bike hit a bump and you lost control and you’re lying head over gravel possibly writhing in pain. Crying as people try to tell you not to cry.

I hate for my posts to sound like life skill pieces off a therapist’s desk because I am no expert in life but then I can tell stories. Because stories are born from life. And stories give patterns.

I grew up somewhere I the rift. A place called Timboroa. I wrote about it some time ago. A quiet town, few people, vast forests and events for days. Every village has its elites and so did Timboroa. Not that elites there mean more than owning a car and affording daily meat bites but then it was the 90s and those were a big deal when the rest of us could barely travel more than once a month to the big town of Eldoret with public means. My father is a teacher and so like the rest of the middle class working citizens he would up and go to the town on paydays and once in a while if we needed something not within the confines of Timboroa. Or when my teeth raised hell for all the sweets I ate and we had to see Mr Dentist at Barng'etuny Plaza.  Which was rare anyway. So again elites were elites because they owned a car, a shop, a wholesale shop, a ‘god papa’ hat – whatever than name meant – which is similar to the one every Kikuyu musician wears to a video shoot. And because they went to the town perhaps thrice a week. Too often.

One such guy was known as Gakere – not sure of the name juu it’s been years. He owned a wholesale and retail store. A number of cars. The 90s sedans. A truck and had more money than a whole village could borrow in a month. Gakere was a supermarket cum bank for us. He kept a borrowing book at the counter where people’s names lay besides owned money for Kimbo, Kiberiti za Rhino, Unga, Sukari ya kupimwa and what not. 

I still picture that guy with his big belly trotting around the hood with his arrogance trying to keep up behind him. Yani he was arrogant enough to throw your order right at you. Like you order salt and he throws a packet at your face just because he could.

But then karma caught up with him.

He got broke. Not fast. Slowly. Like a migraine happening. His wealth wafted off with the winds.
He was left with nothing but tales of riches. Tales that we heard over and over again. Tales that will break hearts of his children.

His downturn of fortune was bitter.

Of course there are time when mutuality happens for good. Like our neighbor who lived in abject lack. Her son, Kimani, in his grind he got a way into the UN. Went to the infamous Somalia. His fortunes grew. Riches begged him to let them in and he did. He bought his mama a car. Then built a house. And in equal measure his wealth grew slowly and firmly.

Men will tell tales of success and of failure and will boast of their conquests as they hide their wounds and make it look easy. They will want to wipe off the blood and keep the smile. But entrenched within these tales are vicissitudes that you may never hear of. Or see.

The only consolation is that we pray to the good Lord that when it is our turn to be moved by the twisting kaleidoscope of life, we shall end up with lives flashy enough for social media. And in time we embrace stoicism and resign to the higi haga’s of life as they come through from the divine world.

The wise men, the Greek philosophers say, live in harmony with the divine. With the vicissitudes of life.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The beard Gang
Last week I was to write about no shave November. I was excited because, first, beard is life – even small beard –, and writing, for me, is an escape. Something that soothes my soul. Something that opens up as art, as a hobby and maybe a passion. A high. So I love times when I pick up my PC in the wee hours of the night, in dead silence, brew hot coffee, get the music going and sail away with words. But then I got caught up in a tornado of other urgent things like traveling the world, fundraising for my foundation, you know, getting people to write me contribution cheques they probably will later regret because they got consumed by the moment. And the beautiful girls who I sent to ask for the kind donations. More like the light dimpled charming faces at the loans desk at KCB that can easily make you think you’re getting a free pass on the loan.

Something like, “Shika hii pesa mkubwa. Enda ujijenge nayo. Ata usirudishe. Ni free”. 

They are really smooth. And they speak eloquently. As they bounce words back and forth and point – with nails manicured in heaven – at blank spaces for you to sign you’d easily contemplate leaving them with half the loan money and a kidney for their trouble.

But it is usually a loan which, believe me, if you default on, you’ll meet different faces altogether, scary ones.

Actually not really, I was not doing any of the above things. Not even taking a ka-soft loan to keep me afloat in this economy. Rather, I have been trying to make my transcript not suck this semester. So I have been, and I hate to say this, a bookworm. Yeah, I have been one of those. And I know I tell my friends we need to YOLO a lot but then a brother go to make his village proud at least.

And then I caught a flu before the weekend and it has been rough. Those bottled dawas you see staring at you from chemist shelves are no joke. I got a prescription and taking them gets me all drowsy. Too drowsy to write anything that makes sense anyway. Then there is this dosage that I was given and I know it is supposed to be, as the guy said, 3 times 3 (morning, afternoon and after supper and an episode of The Wire – amazing TV series by the way), but I am not sure how much of it. It is liquid and he said 10 ml but I have no measuring apparatus – those beaker things we used in high school chemistry, who does anyway? – in my house. So I estimated that one ka-bottle cap would be 5 ml and that means I take two – God forbid should I be wrong. But again, I am doing just fine so far. I will let you know how it goes or if I stop writing then you’ll kinda figure out what went down.

So beard.

First off, this beard thing is pretty rigged I should say. There are guys I know that had a head start on this. Way too much head start. Some like the infamous Owour-the-Prophet haven’t even shaved from November last year; they’re rigging. 

Ok, maybe we leave Owuor out of this and deal with regular folks. 

I know it ain’t no competition but some regular guys (Goddy I am not giving names) stopped shaving nauko July and now you’d have to search for their face amid the facial hair. 

But then it’s still alright because we all are in the same team here ama? In support of the war against cancer. Lakini I have learnt my lesson; next time imma circle my 2017 calendar on 1st of August just so I get prepared to amaze y’all with the ‘Mr Steal your girlfriend’ beard.

For this to make sense I have to go back a bit;

So a couple of weeks ago, I was doing my usual evening trip from town – in my route’s kawaida Jav that is usually eventless. Routine stuff. I sat – for lack of an alternative – at the very hind. Beside me a mother with two younglings and one of those big Adidas bags stuffed with clothes I guess. Between us was supposed to be two seats but then the younger boy perched on one of them close to her awaiting to move if need be. One my right side was a potbellied man who annoyingly sat like he had a jiko between his legs (please buy your own car if you get a kitambi). Then came this middle aged man all craggy and a bit clumsy. (Haha he had the popular Kale jacket). A city dweller from the suburbs I presume. He sat next to me, pausing as if to catch his breath for a minute. He looked at the boy, then at me, then at the mom, then out of the blues he insists that the little guy be allowed to have the seat and that he would pay for it. A kind act from the heart. 

“Asante sana na mungu akubariki”, quipped the mom as the stranger and his cheget alighted and went on their way. 

It was actually hard to believe that all he wanted was to give the young guy a comfortable trip for the half hour that we would be on the road. Because fisi is a life outchea and we all know it.

On a different day, still in the city, and on my way to the city centre I sat almost next to a guy with a baby. Yes, a baby. A guy with human baby in a jav! No, mum around. I guess it was his turn to go out with the baby out or just left the house saying “nafika kwa duka” only for his friends to text him about a very tight plan going down and he decided to just go ahead and take the baby for a choma-graced afternoon at Kwa Njuguna’s in Westy. Either way, he had a baby with him – a year old I guess. Wait, what if he had stolen someone’s baby? I actually never thought of that. But, well, since the ka-cute soul never cried I would imagine they were at least friends. If not relatives. That’s my consolation if at all he had stolen the baby.

The interesting bit is how the baby somehow kept staring at the guy. I bet he was wondering what the guy did wrong for hair to grow on his chin. Was it a curse? Did he urinate on the door of a minister of the gospel? Did he refuse to pray as often as his mother taught him to? Did he refuse to ‘type amen’ on one of those Facebook posts? At some point the baby was trying to grab the beard as the guy fiddled with his phone scrolling through Whatsapp conversations. They were both at ease.

Let’s hang that one there for a minute.

You know Pastor Julian Kyula? The one with a church on Mombasa Road? The Purpose Centre Church? Well, I went there a while back. I was there to seek audience with God because as much as I can do that from anywhere sometimes being in a church helps than being in a house full of unwatched movies and beckoning snacks. And screaming kids (neighbour’s kids not mine).

So I sat there. At the back. I said short earnest prayers about me and stuff I like. Told God I want a better life and his help so that I can buy only those Avocados that are nice on the inside and to give me a good bae someday. Legit things. But other times I just watched people delve into moments of supplication as the band sang gloriously. Saw a couple of celebrities and Njugush of K-Krew finding peace with God. And I heard the prayer of a Congolese guy. Never understood it. Okay, I understood the little English parts but that’s it.

I remember the Congolese guy – figured that out from his prayer – because he sat just a row in front of me. He sang with an unfathomable level of indulgence. With one hand on the chest, fist clenched and the other one raised up to his maker. He arched his head up with closed eyes. He really sang along with a lot of passion. I bet he saw heaven. His beard sang along too. And as he cried – he teared a lot for a guy – his beard worked equally hard to catch all the balls of tears as they made way down his cheeks. 

I do know men cry but his was different. It was a cry of brokenness. Of surrender. He sought guidance. Direction. And mercy maybe.

I prayed some more too; prayed for people who cook samosas with waru to see the evil in their actions and repent.

So here is why these incidences are about beard gang.

For a couple of men I know, actually all men, the essence of a manhood is in the masculinity. The beard being part of this. It is like a gauge. The more the beard the manlier someone is. Good point if you ask me. Lakini it does not stop there. A man is more than the facial hair. A man is defined by the depth of character. I think the guy in the Jav who paid for a seat just to get a boy to be comfortable is more of a man than elves who think it’s manly to stagger home at 3 am in a drunken stupor. I think the guy finding the strength to carry around his baby all day is more of a man than the run-away father pretending to be a corporate guru. I also think the Congolese chap seeking supernatural intervention is more of a man than the know-it-all fellas who would rather swallow a whole coconut than seek help even when they are caving in.

So as we let the beards run loose and trend hashtags about it, it would only be fair to follow up the beard with character.

Have a beardy end-month, won’t you?