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An ocean of maize with a romour of beans

My distaste for boiled maize and beans meal, especially if mixed with any kinds of vegetable(s) (especially carrots, cabbage  and potatoes) can be traced to my formative days  at the Remoteroute village.

My encounters with the colourless mixture, variously known as murram, pebbles and more commonly referred to as Githeri  was dramatic, abusive and  traumatic. It began at an early age, when the then no so permanent teeth could not handle the real deal, a selection of the softer bit- beans in this case,  was selected for my palate  pleasure. Those were the formative days of the  now pervasive lines in my face.

Meals pretending to be githeri

Today, when I look at the meals that pretend to be githeri, I shake my head in wonder. What, in the name of all that is edible can they describe a sea of beans and a smattering of maize as githeri?

In our days githeri was a meal and half.

First, it was an extended ocean of maize, with scattered rumours of beans. Often, and especially just before the beans matured in the farms, it was not uncommon to enjoy a clean white meal of boiled maize. The meal was often known as one – one, mimicking the winnowing like action which preceded the enjoyment as githeri sautéed with salt.

And that would be the meal of the day.

Sissy and Wimpy

Githeri was a versatile meal, eaten for supper, lunch and often as the breakfast accompaniment.  In primary school, once it was made compulsory to carry something to school for lunch rather than rush home and find githeri has just started to boil, it  was the meal of choice in those plastic containers . It was, however, sissy and wimpy to carry food to school. It was imperative therefore for the tough  fellows to get creative. The plastic food containers would be three quarters  filled  with  soil and a smattering of Githeri at the top. This was for the inspection purposes when the teachers would confirm if all students had carried something for the stomach.

nothing at lunch hour

The smart fellows would then sneak through the barbed wire and like hounds with tails on fire, rush home to eat the food their didn’t want to be seen by the peers eating. Food secrecy was a big deal then. It was an offence punishable with a fight to peep unto what your fellow pupil carried to school, especially if it was common fare like githeri or nduma. However, anyone had carried civilized food like rice or better still chapo  as lunch, one would be culinary hero.  He could crow around and show off. Only that it was an almost foregone conclusion that by lunch hour, someone would have broken into the container and disaparated ala Harry Potter  with the delicacy. What a source of tears such a misfortune produced!

Apart from chapatti snatchers, it was almost impossible to hold such food in the container up to lunch time. Ditto ugali with meat. A bite at first toilet break, a big bite at break-time and nothing at lunch hour.

Woe unto you, oh uncivilized African if you carried cassavas or yams. Worse off if you had them boiled. Surely, from what hole had you been dug up to carry such low class, unappetizing roots and tubers to school?. Sweet potatoes or  nduma also were forbidden by the unwritten rule of  civilization.

Never in history of food eating has ever been a food to foul thy stomach like undercooked Githeri. However tough we were then,  we still suffered innumerable times the pain from hurrying to eat semi cooked  murram. By  strangest  coincidence it seemed that anytime we rushed home, hungry,  sore , tired and looking forward to a good bite, we would find githeri half cooked. And all firewood to power it for just that final last boil  just finished. We would gather tiny straws to hasten the process,  which to no avail.

noisily expelled

So thirty minutes later, the food remains just half cooked and stomach growled. Since at that point one would be ready to swallow an elephant, a bit undercooked githeri seemed a fair bite. An hour later, the stomach would be rumbling. Two hours later, after having noisily  expelled all manners of odious  gases and drank  tones of water, whole undigested maize would be excreted, pushing and  scratching the unmentionable.

It no wonder that my stomach starts making strange noises whenever I encounter githeri.

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Cry! Beloved Remoteroute..

There was a time

There was a time when the Remoteroute village was a wondrous  place to be. It was a place where rivers flowed all through the year, the rains fell when expected and the crops were lush and plentiful.  It was a land of plenty and prosperity, bordered by equally prosperous neighbours.

birds would tumble

Although we never had the benefit of metrological department mentioning our village by name, we knew well when to start preparing the fields for planting . We knew the rains were almost with our when the butterflies, in their myriad and beautiful colours flew southwards. It was given that if the butterflies caught up with your shamba unploughed, it was wisdom to start digging holes to plant- the rains were neigh! And the rains  rarely failed us. When the cold July- August season kicked in, we knew that unless your literary carried fire, you will be in big trouble. Cold was so cold that it chilled us to the bones- but we made it safe and sound. Indeed, during the coldest season, birds would tumble from the branches they were perched on- cold dead.

Boys on grazing missions knew that they had to carry fire in a tin can – with would a loose string /metallic wire attached to swing it to and fro- as a  mobile source of warmth. On foggy days, a thick blanket of mist would envelope the village, so dense that it was not unusual for animals to collide at noon. And the sun would disappear , not to be seen for days, when it was the season to be so.

We knew which thunder- depending on the direction it sounded from- would  harbinger an approaching storm- and which was a farewell to the rainy season.

Avian diversity

We had all kinds of trees which attracted all kinds of avian diversity, each in its due season. Huge trees marked the boundaries and scattered in the village  with their diverse uses. There were no caves in the RemoteRoute village but the tall trees, thick and overgrown with branches provided perfect cover for hundreds of bats. In their due season, in the evening, we would watch, mesmerized as hundreds of the flying mammals, at times silhouetted against the rising moon would swoop and fly away, filling the night with their ghostly squeaks and cries. On almost every homestead, a lone tree on the grass would be the home to tens of weaver birds who would congregate, and with noisy abandon build tens of nests. And boys would feast on the tens of eggs and bird chicks.

Although feared and revered in equal measure, no two seasons would be complete with the  ghoulish hoot of the owl. Believed to foreshadow death near the place where it would set camp, men would chase it at night as soon as it’s hoot was heard. But a season or two later it would be back- louder and carefree. Yet no one ever saw  its young ones nor its nest.

Competing with the domestic birds to scavenge on the remains of the cereal crops, the finger sized ‘birds of the compound’ which  decorated the compounds in their tens, and boys would set traps and learn to defeather birds early.

To catch the little  birds alive, boys would learn early which trees sap produced the most sticky stuff. And which tree branches easily peeled to form a container to hold the sticky goo.

Every homestead was surrounded by a dense grove of banana plants. As the banana produced shoots, the groove would expand outwards often forming a cozy canopy. Further afield, but near the homesteads, the king of the tubers, the yam would be grown. The rough perennial would be staked, forming a dry, shaded grove. More often than not, chickens would lay eggs and hatch chickens without the owner of the homestead having a clue. Imagine her surprise when a chicken suddenly appeared with brood of  twenty chicks in tow!

calculated risk and decisivenes

These sheltered places offered a perfect hiding place for the chicks when eagles come calling. A study of patience, calculated risk and decisiveness, these birds of prey would swoop and grab a chick literally in your hands. And soar away to enjoy the chicken meal at a tree top far away. Woe betide a farmer  whose chick hatched simultaneously with the eagles- it would be a terror to the chicks  to the end.

The rivers flowed deep, with dark clear waters. Reeds , ferns and other marshy plants abounded. In as much as could get submerged in the marshes, it was rare to get carried away by  floods nor would pieces of land suddenly decide to go visit its neighbour.

Dark, fat   fish abounded in the waters and fishing it required the patience of a saint. With a string and a sturdy stick, not  to thick and light enough to be easily snatched from the waters. Several earthworms would be thread together and tied to the stick. This was the bait which would be thrown in to the river. Experience taught one to know which nibble signified a fair bit. An abrupt snatch at the stick would throw the firm to the riverside. A waiting partner in crime would pounce on the fish and careful not to let the slipperly delicacy to swim back to the river, he would hook it up by the gills, to join the rest of the catch to be turned into soup later.

despair!

Whenever I look at the village today, one despairs.  The huge trees are no more. The compounds are denuded, with no vegetation of any kind. Whereas the buildings have improved, all the life therein has moved on. There is hardly any fish in the waters, with the few remaining having been poisoned out of existence in mass fishing strategy.

It has been years since bats overflew the Remoteroute. The ‘birds of the compound’, the little friend of boys no longer decorate the compounds. The chicks have all been hidden in cages and barns, effectively chasing away the majestic eagles.

The rivers no longer flow but a mere trickle. The muddy drains now roar to life in the rainy season but barely last a day. The roaring rivers now carry anything and everything in their path- children, women, chicken and at times whole building.

Cry, beloved Remote route..

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this Thing Koro(n)ra

 

When romours started swirling in and about the RemoteRoute hamlet that a strange,  unknown illness was frightening the socks  off the white folks, we were not unduly worried.  The unverified reports claimed that the madness had gripped the white man’s land and was sending them to the world after in droves. That despite of their ability to soar above clouds like birds, the manufacturers of guns and bullets were unable to decimate the disease which was mercilessly slaughtering them in thousands.

We were  not worried because, in the length and breadth  of the near do well village, there isn’t a white skin. The nearest approximation to a ghostly fellow was an old retired priest who after toiling for years to bring the good word and light to the dark village, just  as the good friends at the Kenya Power and Lighting  had tried recently, he got tired and went back to Italia to rest.  (I will in a moment explain how the attempt to bring light to our good village by Kenya power hit a brick wall).

Now, as I was saying, there isn’t a Caucasian around , so we were not unduly worried.  We went on doing our usual stuff just normally, a sigh escaping our lips as more stories, stranger and more vivid continued to stream in. One story stated that the sickness had a special affinity to the old. The old ones, it was told, had a certain attraction to the virus which the villagers christened Korora.  This was easy to nickname   given that coughing was one of symptoms of the affliction.

A while later, we were told that the all planes had been stopped from coming to or going from the country. We smiled  slyly. The only relationship we the villagers had with planes was seeing  a small fast dot overflying the village.  Sources close to the sources had indicated that there was a ‘flight road’ over our village. That was the reason why once in a week, a plane would overfly us on that ‘road’ and disappear further than our eyes could see. We therefore put our worries to rest.

A few days, nay, weeks later, it was announced that all roads, earthly this time, to the city with many lights, had also been closed. Now, apart from yours truly, the bearded white haired fellow who, due to his clumsiness and daring had once, many moons back dared  travel to that god forsaken noisy and frightening metropolis, few of us in the village had business there. And the little  business involved visiting the sons and daughters in the city to celebrate the birth of yet another brat who could or would not be brought to the village as the good parents claimed it would be too cold for the gentle soul. The elder siblings of the sons and daughters of RemoteRoute who fell into things and emigrated to the big city neither knew us nor our ways. Or our language. Their visit to the village were limited to once a year when they came to the ‘shagz’  to say hi to sosh and attempt  to teach us poor villagers the civilized tongues  instead of them learning the our dialect. So we still were not unduly worried.

The good fellow  with a receding hairline who had been speaking to us in a good, deep growl English everyday on television threatened us that if we continued treating the disease normally, it was bound to treat us abnormally.   We thought long and hard and didn’t see how the Korora thing would be make us abnormal. So we sat back, relaxed  and waited.

It was then that the big man, from the biggest house in the land,  whom people in the village refer to as the young one, arose one day and ordered several things.

One,  every body  was to be packed at home from the setting of the sun to the rising of the same. Thiswas to be a practice until he changed his mind! We were shook. It was ordered, and the chief and his enforcers were told to ensure that not only we not to venture outside during the dark hours but also that our mouths and noses were covered with pieces of cloth.

Now it has bite on itself.

We were told, the people of the SharpSecret had declared that failure to be inside during  the dark hours or to wear torn and sewn  pieces of cloth across our mouths and noses was a crime which  would cost us up to twenty ngiris. This was really tough.

The chief, this young man whom we were just but recently  doing harambees to educate , simply because he had hat with a crown was threatening us with all kinds of disaster if we didn’t do as it was ordered. We were almost wishing for the big belled former retired  chief who, despite being only half literate presented the government well. However, on remembering the number of  chickens he had eaten in the name of law and order, we preferred the young one. At least we could invoke our harambee cents if the worst came to the worst.

Now, my fellow villagers have a certain  style and flair in clearing their noses. They don’t do handkerchiefs, thank you very much. They have no time for methodical, lyrical way as is being advertised. They process of clearing the nose is messy, noisy and dramatic. Having blocked one nostril, the unwanteds are evicted forcibly, landing a few metres away. How, in the name of all that is good, are we supposed to do this with clothes over our noses?

Then there is this small matter of not meeting kin or kith. That as our family neighbourhood or clan, we can not meet just to pass time and gossip. Now that Kenya power came, installed some lights which were on for a month and they disappeared- they came for  a few villagers measuring devices recently- how shall we know who is who in the village? How shall matters of village importance reach everyone? How shall we plan the nuptials of my aunt’s grandson who has already broken the catechist’s daughter leg? How shall we avoid the shame ? how shall we accept the blessing honourably?

Truly as the mister minister said, this Korora is treating us abnormally.

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dad… Mzee Kithinji

 

Wake up! The firm, deep voice would roar as the hazy sun rose. “You are not a sultan to be asleep when the sun has risen’’.

This was our regular wake-up call which I nostalgically keep remember. Mzee, as we fondly refer to him today, then an alert and energetic middle-aged father, would scold us for oversleeping.

My father Kithinji Mutura was an early riser, and most days he would be up long before the sun had risen, even after spending half the night at a local tea collection centre.

The morning chill was nothing as he cut Napier grass and hefted the heavy load on his shoulder – tying it with ropes was too feminine for him.

Today, as a father too, I reflect on the lessons learnt and celebrate my old and now sickly father. He is a shadow of his former self but I will still sing his praises.

This is what I want to tell him today.

 

NEVER LAZY

Mzee, you abhorred laziness. You would milk, sell milk, gather fodder for animals and still join the rest of us in the tea bushes for harvesting when not engaged in your masonry work.

You told us about the time you were imprisoned by the colonialists for fighting for freedom, and there you learnt masonry. It shows that something good can come out of any trying moment one is undergoing. You taught us to never give up and to see the silver lining in every cloud. Dad, I salute you.

The callouses on your hands, almost 10 years after you stopped erecting buildings, are a testament of your hard work. You gladly undertook difficult, punishing work so you could provide for us. Not once did I see you ‘relax’ or just sit down during the day and do nothing.

Over and above, you managed to invest in several acres of land for your retirement and posterity. You are amazing.

I will never understand – and can never attempt to replicate – how you took care of and raised 10 plus of us. With no formal education or steady source of income, you managed to feed, educate and house us all.

You were passionate about education and you have seen several of your children graduate. And although a number of us failed to proceed beyond primary school, it wasn’t your fault – you were willing to sacrifice for us and never abandoned your duty.

Although we walked barefoot in our primary school years, although we lived in a mud-walled house with a corrugated iron sheet roof, we never slept hungry. Our tin oil lamps and, later, our lanterns never lacked paraffin – we saw, we read and here we are celebrating you. Mzee, you are in a class of your own.

HONEST AND CALM

You were honest when honesty was not the norm. You would always rather be cheated that cheat. You never ‘ate’ anyone’s coin and to date, I have never heard anyone accuse you of any wrongdoing or dishonest deed.

You were a model fundi who never stole his clients’ materials or overcharged them. Your quality works stand strong to date and most of them are as good as new. If only the thieves and tenderpreneurs of today had a dad like you…

Mzee, on reflection, you were and still are calm and collected. I can count the number of times I have heard you shout out. Despite the heat of the moment, despite the level of irritation and despite the cheekiness, you hardly raised your voice or a finger.

Mother would tell you not to let us grow horns or be cheeky but we knew you were our haven.

Mzee, today I’m surprised that lifestyle diseases caught up with you. I don’t understand how diabetes and blood pressure have managed to put you down. I know it was never about lifestyle choices.

Our choice food, githeri, was plain and simple; and it was always available, marinated with traditional vegetables.

I’m sure the nyama choma you ate in your whole life is equivalent of what I eat every month. The number of kilometres you have walked is the equivalent of what the 10 of us have walked in our lifetime. Yet these diseases are here.

Mzee, you walked with us when we were young. You were there during all the moments that mattered. When we were undergoing the rites of passage, you never lectured me on how to be a man, you simply set an example – of courage, of compassion, honesty and providing for one’s family. You never blew your horn, but everybody recognised and appreciated you for who you are.

Mzee Evans Kithinji Mutura, you are our superstar.

Mzee Evans Kithinji Mutura. PHOTO | COURTESY

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This marriage business

I have been around this  marriage institution for a while.. I’ve survived for a decade in it and learnt a few things which I would like to share.

I’ve come to learn that marriage is as communal as it is private. There are some Kenyans who have made it their life goal to pair people.

You will be shocked (or not ) by the suggestions, innuendos and outright match-making by people in some social circles. Beware, my friend. Be yourself and make a deliberate choice.

If they choose for you, they will want to run your marriage. Be wary, confident and consult mainly your heart. Many marriages have failed because of overcrowding.

Although I concede that I need some need help in that department, it’s more often than not a poisoned chalice.

NOT A RACE

Secondly, marriage is not a race to be won nor is it a competition.

Take it at your pace. It’s not a catwalk or a relay. It’s also not a marathon. You are not competing with your age-mates to see who will land the village belle.

So what if you are unmarried at 32?

Don’t live to outsmart your partner. You are not competing but complementing each other. Don’t be a nag but don’t be mat. Determine what you want. Go for it but within the certain constraints of the good institution.

It’s an unfortunate truth that women carry the burden of making a marriage successful. Biological, cultural and social factors dictate this.  So as the good book says, do not be deceived. You will manage, direct, dictate and often be blamed for the good, the ugly and everything else in between. So have a big heart, firm you shoulders and move on!

In this sexualized and sensualised world, bedroom matters are somewhat an anti-climax. Boredom often sets in. In case of problems, you know we African men never share. Or say die. Or seek help.

But we find our own rhythm, set the pace and experiment. But please be mindful of each other’s needs. This is a small sentence which merits be repeating and emphasising. Be mindful of your partner’s needs.

I have also learnt that a good number of people are nursing injuries and pain which could have been avoided if they had courage to seek help or by  just walking away.

Others are tied up in bad marriages simply because they want to create a certain perfect picture of an imaginary ideal family. Some think that to be angry or upset with your partner is to break the vows. It’s never that serious guys. It’s just life!

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Worn, shorn or tied, shoes have been a thorn in my flesh

Shoe- Shoo

Whenever matters shoes are mentioned, a flood of nostalgic memories of  life and times when shoes were a foreign subject in remote land recur. It was a rare object; an object of beauty, of envy, a wonder to behold  but also an object and subject of constant  suffering. One was damned with them and damned without them.

The trials and tribulations that this Assistant Junior Clan Elder(AJCE), that is yours truly, he who is domiciled in the Remoteroute land,  has gone through as it concerns this articles and artifices worn, shorn, tied and at times affixed on our soles have and continue to be so many that at times it feels as if our souls will be damned  hereto as a result.

As a Remoteroute mohine, that is tough guy, yours truly didn’t encounter these blessed articles of clothing till when he had completed what was 1st phase of the then a zero system of education (or what does  eight less four less four result to?) at the Remoteroute primary school.

In those days, the so called academies which are the bane of today’s parent pockets didn’t exist. The most advanced of the elites in the Remote village(the clergy and the teachers) would take their kids to boarding schools.

Primary schools (that meant day schools ) were not for the faint hearted. Especially matters urinal and latrines- no ablution blocks then- but we survived barefoot.

We were tough guys then from the start. Unlike today’s digital babies who have to be mollycoddled with mother’s milk for a whole half year, we never had such luxury. We were in a big hurry to be seen and to see the world, so at the earliest convenience we started chewing what our toothless gums could handle. The process was as analogue as we were.  Our tougher mothers, who would have delivered the same day  they had spend in the farm, would select a good sized and well matured green banana. There was a specific kind of ‘child banana’ which would be roasted nice, brown and sweet while buried in hot ash. The good mother would then refine it by chewing thoroughly. When nicely chewed, fluid and tender, using the forefinger, the resultant paste would be  forced into our mouths until our stomachs would be full, round and tender.

By the time six, nine and twelve moths elapsed, we would be such sturdy, agile and tough tohines that we would run in the rain bare chest and not even a whisper of cold would be heard. Despite all the energy and plant carbohydrate our old pals buffeted us with, once in a while, a challenge would occur- the sturdy round stomach would continue to elongate, the arms and leg would thin and red firely crown would be erected in our heads where once black hair stood.

On spotting such a dare, our innovative parents would spring to action- ‘animal protein’ was required pronto. In the remote land, animals were plenty in all shapes, sizes and habitats. The above symptoms pointed only one direction for cure- our underground furry friend to the rescue. So the fathers then would mount an operation restore black hair. Armed with a hollowed out small stem with a few holes bored at intervals, a rope strung and a flexible pole, the old fellows would scout the land for moulds made by the burrowing underground animal protein carriers aka moles. Within a week, with several catches of juicy sharp teethed little furry friends, the hair colour would be restored, the legs and arms enriched and the mohine better than ever. Unlike today when cat meat   big deal, nobody raised a finger then on such succulent feeding.

So such a tough fellow never needed to hide his hide under hideskins in the name of footwear. However, as the influence of foreign gods and men began to be felt, yours truly started his continuing battle with footwear. After watching and praying, and especially for the sake of visiting the good Lord’s house on Sundays- a day when he would meet, nay clash with water over his entire breadth, width and height- and only on Sunday, he would be obliged to put on a pair of shoes.

The trouble with this exercise was twofold. First, in the wisdom of his parents, a fit shoe was a no no. It had to be  two sizes bigger so as to serve longer. So yours truly would have to stuff all manner of foreign objects to fill the spacious shoe. And then fit his feet.  The second challenge was that other shoes were always too small. This was a result of inheriting the retired but better  off shoes which would be a size or two too small for him. In either case, the wearer suffered but  as a rule, we persevered.  And got blisters. And hated shoes. This meant that as soon as we returned home from Sunday school, we would throw the shoes as far as we could- and exhaled in the freedom.

At the remote route, we love and cherished our animals. As earlier alluded, animal protein was a precious part of our curative therapy. Since our affection for all kinds of animals was  well established, it was rude and uneconomical to build separate dwellings for animals. Indeed, animal rights brigade opened first post at Remoteroute. So the boys would be bundled together with goats, dogs and chicken. In part, I suppose it was for heat/warmth transfer and retention. Our residential house –floor, wall- were  earthen and water was a  scarce resource. It therefore followed that  not only did we wake up smelling like billy goats but we become natural habitats for all kinds of small borrowing and biting  insects. Chief among the insects were fleas and lice. Since in a way we had to keep the food chain unbroken, fleas would graduate to jiggers as a halo of white covered our head.

When it came to shoe-craft, a white head was preferable any day to swollen toes. Worse suffering would be in store if in the process of mitigating against  jigger infestation, by use of thorns and safety  pins, half if your toes would be torn and shred. Any kind of footwear would be pure torture but as tough fellows bravely persevered and smiled.

At that time, certain not so scrupulous traders brought plastic shoes which would change shape and size depending on the temperature. In the morning they would refuse to fit. In the afternoon, they have enlarged such that they simply didn’t fit. Between dragging them and carrying then aloft, it was a choice between two evils.

Concomitant with the above tribulations, removing shoes was an environmental disaster which would have required an impact assessment report before it happened. Wiser heads when on a  visit would happily let you step in with the shoes rather than risk the pungent smell tainting their houses for days later.  Even the introduction of socks later on didn’t abate the menace.

Today, whenever I visit my better off friends and relatives and find pairs and pairs of shoes outside their doors, am always forced to do a quick calculation. Will my visit add any value to them? Do I have to expose my malformed smelly footwear and force smiles of anguish on my host? Next time i decline your visit invitation, look no further than my feet.

The passing of many moons, floods and droughts has not changed much.. Despite having slaughtered  several goats to be inducted as a Assistant Junior Elder, my shoes still tend to get an academic angle after wearing them for a short while.

Despite all the fights and struggles, my shoe tribulations and trials of this wearer persist.

I need an urgent intervention.

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Life

closedMinds closedGates

The wise ones in the far off cold and lonely land of the white men who are not white, in his eloquence and fore sight- or at whatever level, decreed that  an English man’s house is his castle. It is his to rule, fortify and trouble. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the fort haunts the owner (English or not) to his detriment and dismay.

After the scaly skinned, ice bitten long nosed fellows (seems to be the most flattering description of them who partitioned Africa) came and saw the open, uncluttered and free flowing African way of life, they (the fellows, not Africans) decided that it was too primitive and decided to partition the continent, the communities, families and individuals.

Among the legacies of that blissful period when a black skin was synonymous with foolishness, sub human and distasteful being was the urge to build walls, restrictions and impede free flow of  people, good and thought.

In his pursuit of being as whiter as snow, the African has adopted and maintained a healthy dose of individualism, selfishness and me-me only attitude typical of the capitalistic lifestyle blindly adopted with such vigour and shamelessness, worshiping at the altar of self aggrandizement to the detriment of our social, spiritual and moral parts.

Due to various fears and an exclusionist primitive weath accumulation culture adopted by those who have had a chance, a number of Africans are becoming richer and richer as a majority plod on in poverty.

And as the wealth has increased so has the urge to build walls.

And gates.

As the gates have closed, so has our minds.

We have become more adept at building stronger and fancier fences, restricting view of our accumulated wealth from our less fortunate neighbours. In this we are hoping to hold on to what we have, hopefully add more and be better.

What delusional grandstanding!

We have become better at building stronger fortresses, sturdier houses, steel doors and reinforced windows.

We are also building more beautiful coffins and grander hearses.

In as much as the walled compounds keep the undesirables away from us, they also keep the undesirables from us in the compounds.

As we entomb ourselves in better walled compounds, we are also restricting our world view. Closed gates are reflective often of our closed minds, where we restrict the flow of divergent human beings  with divergent ideas which would  re invigorate our thinking, world view and perceptions.

Our closed minds more often than not, starved of the sunshine of humanity. Inside our walls see the less fortunate as lacking in merit, thought or values. Just like plants starved of sunshine that  grow fast, they unfortunately  lack in strength. In  seeking the joy of apricity, they grow tall and crooked, lacking in muscle and good for nothing.

Often, the compounded people will drive to equally exclusive everything under one roof shopping malls in private vehicles. Their children will go to exclusive schools and meet other exclusive scholars. This inbreeding leads to single unrealistic world view.

Far be it, good people that denigrating success or romanticizing poverty. However, we need to a certain level confront our fears and seek to level our prosperity model such that we don’t leave behind a large portion of our population in extreme poverty as a slice of the population prospers.

And builds castles.

And walls.

And gates.

For this failure, we have become poorer as human beings, and live a life devoid of joy  we were intended to have.

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Tying the Knot

Kentia, our lower primary tutor taught us, could tie a tie.  If this gentleman (if I could be allowed to so describe him) whom I suspect today was from one of the communities described by a jaundiced colonial minded anthropologist as ‘warlike’, well ,if this war like community member could twist and turn that blessed strip of material in a failed attempt to commit suicide, well everyone else should. Or precisely, should be able to.

Now that I where my fight with the tie commenced.

Since I possessed just a bit too little  hot blood in me- together the (in)famous Tusker, the faithful sidekick of the famous cartoon character Juha Kalulu- RIP BW. Gitau, the towering patriach of cartoonist in Kenya-well, well, as we both -Tuska and I, not Kalulu nor Gitau) would take off at the maximum allowable speed at the slightest scent of a confrontation, I dared not match the enviable acumen of Bw. Kentai in tying the loose ends of the cloth.

Actually, the capability of correctly, nicely or flamboyantly twisting the neck piece, was and is a dexterous combination of a science and an art. Whereas some nimble fingered  fellows would do it in a jiff,  for the life of me I could tie. There would always be a loose middle, with the not being unwilling to compact or properly align to the rest of the cloth.

For all our affectations of the western culture, and specifically clothing, I think the tie ranks as the most rancid. For all am worth, am unable to see, hear or feel the goodness or the smartness of this piece of cloth. Its constrictive nature not only makes the mostly male species who adorn it lack adequate air in their system but also doesn’t improve their temper. Whenever I see my mdosi in a tie in the morning am forewarned- it will be a long day- with long faces.

The tie conjures the image of a western correct bureaucrat who is more concern about the dotting of the Is and the crossing of the Ts rather than the sense in the action. It has become a favourite hiding ground for the thiefs and scoundrels- unfortunately both inside the previously venerated institutions of the government and the church.

As we celebrate International Necktie Day is on October 18th, maybe we can do it differently- by burning it.

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Life

Magical Monday

Monday is a magical day. It’s the day when the week magically pops, a day when the week egg breaks bringing forth a new creature- a new week.

Is a day full of expectations and brimming with hope. It’s a day for a new beginning- a day ones feels energized, bursting with optimum good feeling – ready to tackle whatever the week may have in store.

On Monday, many expectations are intact. The promise of a new dawn holds. It’s a day of renewed hope, rejuvenation and expectation.

On Mondays, flowers unfurl. Sweetly held nectar brightly wafts aloft as plants seek new life. Papery soft petals unfold to the world, adding colourful sheen to the dull world.

All bright children – those that score aids without being aided by their tutors- surely were born on a Monday. Their strategic forward looking mothers knew- and the kids concurred-  that being born on any other day just can’t be like being born on a Monday.

At big toast to magical Monday!

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