My father was born in those days when coca cola’s ad campaign simply read ‘Drink Coca cola’; my guess is nobody gave a damn about your feelings let alone how they tasted; the mid-20th century. His father worked as a stableman for a white man named Bruce and they consequently lived in what I would best refer to as the staff quarters. Yet it really was a cluster of mud huts where the workers lived. His mother worked the fields where Bruce grew wheat upon acres that stretched far beyond the eye could see. My father has fond memories of his childhood but I cannot imagine how, all that comes to my mind is the scene from 12 Years a Slave where there are negroes working in the field as a horse mounted supervisor cracks a whip from the background.
For instance he talks about plotting a shortcut through the restricted part of the farm on his way from school together with his mates. This would not only have warranted a beating* from his mother but also being mauled to death by Mr Bruce’s six German shepherd hounds. (*Beating because spanking is bourgeoisie 21st century nonsense, kids back then used to get physically assaulted). It may sound like all fun and games but one of his friends died this way and this only taught them to give treats to the dogs and forge friendship instead of trying to outrun them. It never occurred to them to abandon the path altogether. My father went on to become among the present day less than 160 anesthetists in Kenya.
Meanwhile, my father’s auntie on the father’s side was busy playing both sides of the fence conducting oath taking ceremonies for females willing to join the freedom fighting group the Mau Mau. The Mau Mau was a politically motivated liberation group that was predominantly Kikuyu under the leadership of Dedan Kimathi. She was involved in co-ordinating the preparation and distribution of food rations to the guerrillas. She risked not only death but torture beyond comprehension, however, she was never caught and although the British claimed victory, I think 55 million pounds is a lot of money to quell a force that was out-manned and outgunned. My grandmother went on to live a fruitful life building a reputation of not taking shit from anyone. She passed on peacefully at the age of 94 in her sleep.
My point here is this; I am not a reasonable man. I come from a long line of people who stared death in the eye and offered him a cigarette. People who have weaved their lives around being useful and of service to people. That is the blood that courses through my veins; it is the reason why I never do the speed limit on the highways and foolish pride has been the force that has glued my mind and body together all these years. I hope I grow to be someone that is admired or respected by folks further down the family tree. I hope my epitaph will be written way before my blood clots in my veins. I want to die like a hero going home singing my death song.
I genuinely thought until recently that being overtaken is a sign of weakness. I love competition and I do anything and everything that gives me an edge in any competitive activity that tickles my passion. This of course means that winning is embedded in my primal instincts, it is not just an indulgence- it is a necessity. I cannot explain how many times I have raced a car on the highways after being overtaken in what I would regard a lesser car. It is serious and life threatening but it floats my boat and the car is always borrowed or hired. Just last week, I had a stomach upset that ran on for days after losing a Fifa tournament to my millennial cousin that ended with my team harnessing a miserly two points by the end of the league.
Back in high school, there were a myriad of opportunities for competition. Being an all-boys school, there was a little game that was played every Monday evening after supper. We were fed a dinner of chapattis and green-grams or ‘Ndengu’ as they are popularly known in Kenya. It was simply one of the most coveted meals of the week because it not only served as a meal but also as a trade commodity.
Anyway, I have no idea why the meal gave just about everybody a bloated stomach, and I mean everybody even the teaching staff although I have no way of verifying this. Mondays nights were characterized with methane strung classrooms that were potential fire hazards. During the Monday night prep as everybody was busy fighting their study demons, an individual would let out a fart if the deemed it fit.
Nobody would pay any mind to the inaudible ones or the shrill ones that sounded like a chocked cat. The loudest and most boisterous sounding however, got a round of applause lasting about five seconds before everybody continued with their studies. It was a mundane game but it still brings tears to my eyes in laughter because most of these characters I mention are now fathers, lawyers and other persons of repute in society. Yet, I still remember the guy who used to fart loudest. He was the Michael Schumacher of farting and in a that regard we held him in high esteem as far as farting was concerned. The only reason I remember this is because it would have mattered to me if I was the one that held that title.
This is my bone of contention; the other day as I watched re-runs of the show Top Gear from ten years ago, I watched Jeremy Clarkson tactfully weave an interview of Usain Bolt. I realized that competition mattered to him too, maybe as much as it does to me. He was among the top half of stars in a reasonably priced car and only failed because he is a big chap who weighs a lot and cars do not like that. Which drove me to thinking that Usain Bolt recently, at the IAAf championships in London 2017, let Justin Gatlin an American win. It is a despicable thing to do from my stand point despite the fact that it was very kind gesture to a lesser sportsman. Mr Bolt is indeed the bigger man, his size notwithstanding.
Margaret Atwood once said that she believed that everybody her age was an adult whereas she was merely in disguise. I share in those very woes. I am surrounded by adults who care about things, like whether the colours of their belts match with that of their shoes. Adults care about what their favourite political icon said or what he had for dinner. In my world these are trivialities, painful bores that drove me to questioning, when does one really grow up?
Every time I find myself in an ATM cubicle, I engage in what would best be described as momentary lunacy. One of either two things happen; I either make a crazy dance while facing the camera which is mostly mounted to the back of the ATM user or I repeatedly make obscene gestures at the same camera usually a middle finger. The dance is saved for the times when my account balance is good and the latter is used when I am displeased with my balance. It is never a something I consciously plan on doing but I cannot help myself; I do it even when I have left a line of people waiting to use the facility. Over the years I have told myself that I would quit the habit, I even included it in my new year’s resolutions in the year 2015. However nothing seems to work, I have little in the way of explanation but I do this as impulsively as African political leaders ask for votes every voting season.
I love dancing in empty elevators for no apparent reason and in the event I find myself in the same elevator as my woman, I quickly degenerate to a horny teenager. I unsuccessfully try to instigate a make out session much to her dismay and embarrassment. I remember this one time she used to work at some office that had those elevators that have mirrors all around. I would bear with the silly security checks at the ground floor just to dance my way to the seventeenth floor. One day on our journey down I tried to instigate a make out session but this time my woman was not in the mood to stomach my juvenile habit. I was ousted from the elevator and to cut the long story short I walked the stairs from the fifteenth floor. This did not hinder my habit either.
In truth, most of us are children deep under the layers of titles, weaves, professions and college degrees. Some people have perfected the art of allowing this child within them to only come out and play during certain times of day and only with the right company. However, for some of us the child is who we are, it is embedded into our very being and we can hardly downplay this. That is why we still compete with our ten year old cousins on fruit ninja and street fighter and relish beating them at their own games- literally. We row our boats down the stream of life, never gently but merrily as only a child knows how to make merry!
There is a woman in your life that comes to mind each time Sia’s hit song ‘Unstoppable’ plays on the radio. She may probably be within your circle of friends, or she sits in the pew next to yours in church. She is prim and perfect but you are smart enough to realise that nobody has it easy here on God’s green earth. She could be a celebrity or a corporate monster that exists in climes beyond your cruising altitude. One thing is certain though; whether you are male or female; some lady has cropped into your mind.
For the most part, these women are normal, they lead somewhat normal lives. They have faults like silly celebrity crushes; they might be pigeon toed or bite their nails to the cuticle. They may wear those humongous weaves that present fire hazards in restaurants or worse even not know who Kendrick Lamar is. Depending on how well you know these women, their husbands and/or boyfriends are nothing near super human much to your dismay.
They are red meat eating, beer-drinking, prostate-exam-needing average Joes. Except maybe in some cases they seem like the blokes who iron their boxers and floss their teeth. They cheat too on occasion and you know this because maybe you share a mutual friend whose mistress is his mistress’ second cousin (ha ha). Yet they seem to ride the waves of life in the same fashion a hot air balloon rides over the Maasai Mara; effortlessly in sublime grace.
The biggest problem or fault with these women is that despite the feathers they seem to ruffle in their lives, they deem themselves ordinary. They genuinely have no idea how very special they are seen from your standpoint. In my world, these women exist too- all four of them. I am not at liberty to name them because I think people like those are best admired the way stars are viewed- from the cover of a telescope in the purity of the night. However I will share the attributes that make a woman ‘cool’ to sub-zero degrees in my world.
The coolest women make being female look cool. Not in the way lesbians do, but with an outlandish yet subtle flair. They make being female look like it accords them some unknown liberty which is evident in the swing of their hips and the rasp of their voices after a day out with their girlfriends. In some backward cultures women of this sort come short of being stoned and are labelled whores or atheists. However, this neither dulls their spirit nor banishes the spring from their gait. These women are infallible- literally. Instead of flesh and blood they seem to be made from some alloy of expensive rubber and magic.
In my case, I was fortunate enough to get married last Wednesday to one such woman. It was a civil ceremony that ended with 27 carats of silver on both our ring fingers. We had spent our entire budget detailing them having our names engraved. I remember immediately after being pronounced husband and wife, I asked her where we were headed since all our money was spent… not knowing fully herself, she smiled and replied “…in the right direction”
I honestly believe that the most comparable thing to an opinion is an asshole. Everybody has one and they are all the same in that they serve the same purpose, they show us or at least give an insight as to what goes on inside us. In the case of opinions it gives an insight into our souls while the latter gives an insight into our bowel habits. That being said, I find it a tad bit primitive and utterly distasteful to flaunt your opinion because you believe in its superiority. It’s a lot like walking around bending over backwards (Naked) claiming the flawlessness of your asshole. Thus we can successfully draw the inference that opinions are like assholes, everybody has got one but none could possibly be better than the other.
It is a political year in Kenya, and opinions are a dime a dozen depending on which political preference you are skewed towards. The nullification of the presidential election did not do much in the way of easing the tension that plagued the country like a dark wind. I am politically apathetic and I rarely engage in political banter, I’d much rather have my nipples pierced as than talk politics. Unfortunately this is just but a front; I care deeply about the future of this country. I care so much that each time I switch on the TV and watch inflammatory speeches it eats me away. Each time I refrain from political discussions I secretly realize that it is the only thing I care to do even in my head. Yet I constantly lie to myself that I don’t just so I can get through the day.
It is a trying time this, because I know of relationships that have been strained and ties that have been severed courtesy of the political stand-off in the country. Kenyans living abroad have all these idealistic opinions about how the country should be governed and they too care enough to share. Those within the country are divided into the candidates with whom their allegiance is tied.
I completely understand those Kenyans fasting and praying for a peaceful election because I feel the same way too. I feel that we as a people are losing interest in what is really important. We do not care how each other’s day was or which group of people we are waging meaningless 140-character warfare on Twitter. People are not showing much interest in conversations other than politics. People are slowly backing out of living and it breaks my heart because there is nothing you can do but keep smiling politely and pretending you do not notice.
The most critical thing to appreciate is even if we cannot agree politically; we are inevitably part of each other’s lives. Remember that your opinion is the asshole of your mind, please refrain from thinking that it is superior to any other that is divergent from your own! Be smart. Be Kenyan.
When you are greedy, poor and unemployed, and you are unfortunate enough to hail from a third world country such as me, you struggle with everything. You fret over trivialities as well, like whether you can cross the road safely the following day. In this regard, you do anything and everything it takes to get ahead and occasionally it bears fruit; you manage to buy a few things and upgrade your living quarters. In my case you purchase a second hand refrigerator to store primarily your vegetables as well as produce some ice cubes to go with your bargain alcohol. You buy a couch, a two-seater because that is all that the room fits and the previous owner has to be an acquaintance in case he had fleas. You proceed to use hand sanitizer to remove any visible stains and disinfect it because you have no idea how many house parties it has survived.
You proceed to purchase a carpet since combating the cold is a real struggle courtesy of global warming. The carpet you desire costs as much as your house rent but you manage to get it for a third of the price from your local second-hand shop. You choose the latter since after a thorough scrub it attains its original colour which you discover was maroon and not grey as in my case. You get a friend to sketch a picture of you and the missus for free under a gentleman’s agreement of positive reciprocity. The crown jewel of your space though is the television, a flat screen 32 inch LED monitor that sits precariously on a chipboard and cast iron TV stand that could fall apart at the slightest whim. Most important is that you acquire it brand new. It may not be much to some but in a bed-sitter it dwarfs everything. It sets you apart from your fellow poor neighbours and gives the false impression that you may be doing better- attention you secretly relish abundantly. You love your television because it allows for an escape to a world much better than your own and this is the primary purpose of having it in the first place.
The timeline for these upgrades of living space takes months if not years for some depending on how smart one works. Now imagine the horror of walking into your house one day and finding that television gone! That was what happened to me last week.
I am not one much given to the ways of violence in solving a feud. In fact I was skewed towards forwarding burglars to the police when caught in the act instead of lynching them in what is popularly known to Kenyans as mob justice. However, once my TV was pinched I have progressively become more open minded. I have had fantasies in my head severally about things I would wish to do to the goons who robbed me. My consolation lies in the fact that whoever pinched it probably needed it much more than I ever will; that I am a better man moving on to a bigger TV!
There are two things that my father absolutely dislikes about me; the first is my high school mathematics grades. If he had it his way I would have remained in high school till I mastered that crap. The second is my asthma, I think he cannot bear the thought of having sired a son who cannot solve algebraic problems and is constantly out of breath as well. I used to beat myself up about it in my early twenties when I found this out for certain. As life would have it I developed a sense of humour as I found people who had fetched worse traits from their parents’ gene pools than me. Like laziness or animal protein food allergies. I am of the opinion that having protein intolerance in Africa is like having a pork fetish and you reside in the middle-east.
Anyway, while most people walk around minding their business, we in the asthma team do too albeit with more caution. In truth an asthmatic person is normal in most ways, except when they are exposed to their asthma triggers. In my case, exposure to cold temperatures, cigarettes and dust will pretty much get my allergy going. Contrary to urban myth, asthmatic people do not collapse from shortness of breath gasping for air like those big breasted bimbos in porn. It is more of a gradual process that may take anywhere between a couple of minutes to a couple of days.
Asthma is for the most part a private condition, like gonorrhoea or a monthly period. It gets in the way of your mood and triggers spectacular migraines but you are not in any way required expected to complain. This strikes me odd because on the other hand smokers get breaks in between working hours to indulge in their habit. It is very rare to find an asthmatic individual brandishing their inhaler or using it visibly. The stigma is so strong that I have had friends who confess that they would not date an asthmatic man for the fear that they- and I quote- ‘could die on them’. I do not blame them because very little in the way of asthma is knowledge is available to the general population. Like I said, it is like gonorrhoea or menses- nature’s very own private mean joke. Talking about your misery would be frowned upon by the society that we so much seek validation from.
Countless times I have had to seek the refuge of a dingy washroom to puff on my inhaler. This one time I was even approached by a drug peddler who asked me what product I was inhaling from my canister and whether it produces a high. Asthma has allowed me to appreciate the little pleasures that life accords me every day, like going a whole week having not used any medication. For me every breath counts, I do not need to snort cocaine or ingest copious amounts of alcoholic beverage to attain a respectable high. Best of all, it has granted me the serenity to stroll through life without losing the proverbial ability to smell the flowers.