Tribute to Kenyan Columnists Part 2

GUEST POST

By Amol Awuor

I am next in the witness stand in defense and praise of Kenya’s most outstanding columnists for their consistent output that remains a rather thankless task. But the mere fixation with columnists is like those pretensions by upper middle-class children who attend university abroad to study basket weaving or carpeting. It baffles me a lot how ridiculous the world is. Ok. I am kidding here.

Games aside, in this second installment, we shall look at other equally brilliant and candid Kenyan columnists such as Prof Trevor Ngulia, Roy Gachuhi, Godwin Murunga, and Mutuma Maathiu among others. Again, the ranking takes no particular order, but, shall begin with utmost personal preference to the indefatigable and articulate Roy Gachuhi.

11. Roy Gachuhi

Roy Gachuhi is the master in wordplay. He is the master in bringing the 70s, 80s, and 90s back in matters football. If eventually we create our Hall of Fame for excellent sports writing, I shall nominate him. His writing oozes of candour, eloquence, and extreme nostalgia that it aches you whenever you indulge in his occasional Saturday Nation column. A former sports reporter with The Standard, Roy adversely credited the late veteran Hezekiah Wepukhulu for his success in sports journalism. And he could wax philosophical. In his piece The triumph and tragedy of Francis Kadenge, he posits, albeit, with choking bitterness of reality of life:
‘In this life, we learn to accept that some of our expectations will be met and others will not. When Joe (Kadenge) spoke of the expectations he had of his first boy, which are long gone for eternity, my mind incessantly remembered Cesar Louis Menotti, the left wing intellectual who coached Argentina to victory in the 1978 World Cup.’

Though a veteran in sports journalism, Roy also writes features examining Kenya’s past political journeys that are a must read.

12. Trevor Ngulia

Trevor Ngulia like his counterparts, David Ndii, XN Iraki, and Godwin Murunga (whom we shall look at shortly), comprise of the countable academics willing to stick their neck out for the nation called Kenya. Ngulia constantly reminds us of what is wrong with our security strategies. He explains to us like standard one pupils the difference between asymmetric and symmetric warfare. The professor has proposed ways of dealing with Kenya’s ‘radicalisation of its young.’ On another occasion, he cautioned against the excessive influence of the military during these ‘jubilated’ times. In his conclusion, he posed: ‘Should we sacrifice a tradition and a universal practice of placing the security sector under civilian control in the guise of fighting terrorists and other criminals?’

13. Godwin Murunga
Murunga’s Saturday Nation column is an interesting read because it does not only challenge the Jubilee regime, but also ordinary Kenyans. His column covers diverse topics ranging from our absurd politics to the rot of the education system and how to fix it, the trials currently afflicting the civil society, and the skewed political discourse in the country. Murunga often comes out as a pained man particularly with the growing helplessness amongst Kenyans as corruption eats away the nation. He has mourned deeply for the education system because it is the root of all our problems.

14. Kamau Mutunga

If you remember the column Random Thoughts (I guess that was the name) by Kamau Mutunga, your hands up please. The hilarity and the occasional brutal honesty by the writer remains memorable. I remember in the writer’s last piece when he reminded his ardent readers of the difficulties of writing. The pain of staring at a blank screen waiting for words to come, sometimes, to no success. And the readers who use newspapers to wrap nyama in spite of the blood, tears, and sweat that go through writing newspaper stories. You know that story don’t you?

15. Mutuma Maathiu

Our man on Friday. I read Mutuma because of the way his prose dances radiantly all over his Friday column with such exquisite splendour that it makes you jealous. Every time I read him, I feel so refreshed and relaxed and relieved that I wish I could grab a prime plot somewhere in Karen and record someone Ababu style thereafter. If Mutuma mentions a book in his column, I quickly get my notebook and write it somewhere. He must have studied English and Literature this chap!

16. Ainea Ojiambo aka Bolingo
Popularly known as AJ or Snake since his acting days in Reflections (KBC) and later, Makutano Junction (by the way do you fellas remember his role as a dirty cop in Nairobi Half Life?), Ainea’s column Born City in The Nairobian is a worthy treat. No, not because AJ is a celebrity therefore he is exciting to read. He does not waste space by writing gibberish like Shaffie Weru (did) in The Star newspaper. I don’t know whether he still concoct that nonsense.

A columnist appeals to me if I can easily identify with his/her subject matter. It may not be something that happened in my life, but because it has happened to someone I know – a brother. A neighbour. A friend. That’s why I readily read Born City column. AJ transports us back to the innocent times, those golden days when parenting was parenting. Those times gone when work without play made Onyango, Mutua, Mwangi a dull and a boring boy.

17. Silas Nyanchwani
Bad Boy. The Retrosexual. You have encountered his columns (in The Standard and The Nairobian) – the bare knuckle, straight-shooting, socially conscious and alert, but, soft, mild, and soothing. But he could also be hard hitting. Nyanchwani, Waga Odongo, and Frank Midega are those younger writers I read unfailingly because they challenge me. Every aspiring writer/journalist should read them.

18. Muriithi Mutiga
I envy a columnist with multiple talents especially if he dabbles exceptionally well in both fields e.g. politics and sports. Mutiga is that bloke. Kwendo Opanga, too. He has a sports and political column in the Saturday Nation and Sunday Nation respectively. In the sports column, he mostly comments on local and African football with suggestions of improving our most beloved sport. And on Sunday, he tackles the burning issues of the day through in depth and incisive political analysis. Mutiga occasionally writes for the New York Times, which is not a walk in the park.

19. Maina Kiai

Kiai is a personal friend to Barack Obama. They went to college together. Harvard. He is a tireless human rights defender. Freedom and human rights are inalienable privileges we should not beg from anyone. He is wont to remind us always. Even the name of his column is tellingly radical: Think Again. Kiai is one of the remaining voices from the civil society who has refused to be silenced by Jubilee’s onslaught on the ‘evil society.’ He often exposes the hypocrisy and deceit and lies of the present regime with fierce precision and clarity. His column is enjoyable because he does not gloss over the truth.

20. Charles Onyango-Obbo

Our man from Uganda. He is the man to read if you want to stretch your knowledge horizon beyond the geographical confines of Kenya. He is extremely knowledgeable on both African and international politics and usually offers, at times, bizarre thoughts and ideas on how to manage African affairs. Wikipedia tells me he has published a number of publications among them a short story collection: Uganda’s Poorly Kept Secrets. Is that not another challenge good people?

The above list is still not conclusive. I have not the beat the drum for Barrack Muluka for his enduring candidness and wisdom. Peter Kimani for the infectious satire. Gabriel Dolan for his social consciousness. Carol Jung’e for her gifted ability to capture ordinary days of our lives. And to Benson Riungu.


Amol Awuor is an English and Literature student at Kenyatta University. He blogs at http://sikuzijazo.blogspot.com/ and is a guest writer at http://www.magunga.com/

Tribute to Kenyan columnists

I am addicted to newspaper columns. Columns are the intellectual nerve of any newspaper. You can judge the quality of a newspaper by the intellectual merit of its columnist.

You bet that I am so disappointed that there are no awards or special ways of recognizing our country’s top columnist. Elsewhere, they are greatly celebrated and always bag awards after awards for excellency in column writing. Columnist often reissue their columns in book version. I have 20 such volumes of some of the world’s best columnists and they are a great pleasure reading them.

I enjoy reading the embattled, suspended Top Gear man Jeremy Clarkson. That man has a wickedly mean wit that I deeply admire. He can turn phrase and every single column he has ever written is guaranteed to make you laugh out loudly as you read it privately. I watch the Top Gear, not for the cars (I have never been a car person-I just know when the right time will come I will just buy a German machine and I will be home. I have not even bothered knowing how to drive) but for the language and the wit in Clarkson’s lines. His books, mostly a collection of his columns from various British newspapers, are some of my most valuable treasures.
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I enjoy the journalism of Jimmy Breslin, the veteran New York based journalist who is not only a marvelous journalist and writer, but also tremendously gifted with an extra eye to go after the underdog in the news. He is mostly remembered for two columns on the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.Journalists have this misguided tendency of going after the top dogs, but Breslin made it his mission to always focus the ‘other people’. He wrote a column on the man who dug his grave and the poor doctor given the responsibility to attend to when he was wheeled in after Oswald who had a “scrambled egg of a mind” assassinated one of the most popular presidents America has ever had.

I liked the column he wrote when John Lenon was shot dead. Especially the last paragraph. Let me quote it:

“Tony Palma (one of the policemen who drove him to hospital when he was shot) said to himself, I don’t think so. Moran shook his head. He thought about two kids who know every one of Beatles’ big tunes. And Jimmy Moran and Tony Palma, older now, cops in a world with no fun, stood in the emergency room as John Lenon, whose music they knew, whose music was known everywhere on earth became another person who died after being shot with a gun on the streets of New York.”

Those who know anything about John Lenon, will agree he was the kind of person to be shot dead just like that. Just because the killer was envious of his fame. Breslin is one of the people largely opposed to gun violence and the easy access of guns in the States.

I have read other columns from UK, Australia, South Africa and I’m grateful that I have had access to them. I like peering into the mind of a columnist. Columnists’ minds are at times; eccentric, weird, controversial, brilliant, wise, enthralling and enriching.

Locally, I am equally addicted to columns. They are my favourite part of the newspaper. I’m not a big fun of reportage, mainly because ethical and editorial demands neutrality when reporting, yet it is practically impossible for an average journalist not to be biased. It is only human. But columnists are entitled to their opinion, at times uncensored. When you read a columnist, you are peeking into their mind and how it works. Columnist actually sells newspapers.

As a teenager, I grew up reading Wahome Mutahi. Wahome Mutahi was and will remain the funniest Kenyan who ever lived. His wit and humour will forever remain unmatched. Often I go to the library, fish a random column of his his Whispers column and savour it, as if it I’m reliving 1996, all over again. And shockingly, some of the things he wrote about, still pervade us, which bespeaks the prophetic role of writers in the world. Given the historical context of the columns, the humour might elude younger readers, but he was the greatest. If we ever had a Hall of Fame of journalism, Wahome Mutahi will be the first entrant.

When I was in high school, Wahome Mutaahi died, after slipping into a coma after he checked in for a minor surgery. The whole country was left poorer and he was truly irreplaceable.

Around that time, I remember bumping into my elder male cousins whom I looked up to discussing about women. Then my clever cousin Patrick, who had just finished high school referred to a column by Oyunga Pala. I liked the name. Oyunga Pala. I don’t remember the exact thing they were discussing, except that when I went to read the paper afterwards, Oyunga proved rather complex for me.

But later, he would become my best writer from that decade (2003-10). More about him later. Over time, I discovered other brilliant writers. Barack Muluka, the evergreen Kwamtchesi Makokha, Mutuma Mathiu, Sunny Bindra, Mutahi Ngunyi, Gitau Warigi, Kipkoech Tanui among others. I remember Waithaka Waihenya’s Sunday Essays in the Standard, where we went to be humbled by his mastery of the Queen’s language. Throw in Philip Ochieng as well. Prof Mazrui’s column in the Sunday Standard became my weekly source knowledge.

Female columnist are a hard to come by. But Kate Getao had an unusual humour for a Kenyan woman. She still dazzles me, with her with and sardonic observations and refreshing wit. Betty Caplan (who died last year in Turkey) was a brilliant writer and always had something to say. And said it more powerfully. I always regret never having met her. She was one of my idols, even though she might not necessarily have approved the things I have written about women.

Rasnah Warah does a superb job. So does Nancy Roxanne, who writes for the Nairobian. I like opinionated people. And Roxanne has a razor sharp wit that can scare some men away, but she is intelligent, all the same. Julie Masiga, who lately shares a page with me is an equally talented writer, perhaps one of the best in the country. But the country can do with more no-nonsense female writers to moderate some of these male writers.

So what do I like most about the columns? Three things: The quality of the language, the quality of the prose and the quality of the thought process when writing. I do not have to agree with what the writer says, as long I enjoy reading them. I like moments of brilliance, that new phrase, that revealing thing that I learn every day. Above all, I like it when such writers adopt a philosophical attitude and say something profound. Something original.

So who are my best columnists? Those that I must read their columns every week? Well, in no specific order, here I go.

1. Tony Mochama

No doubt, one of a kind in our generation. I don’t think there is anyone more prodigious than him. He is proficient and gifted with spontaneous wit. He is also extraordinarily consistent. I envy him for that. Tony has three columns, ‘The Wannabes’ in The Nairobian (one of the best columns in the country), ‘Men Only’, in the Eve Woman (Saturday Standard) and Smitta Smitten in the Friday’s Standard’s Pulse. I enjoy reading his columns, if not for nothing, then their sheer poetic brilliance. Something that seems to come naturally for him.

Tony also is a man I owe a lot, for where I am today. He is also my clansman. A good one, while at it.

2. Clay Muganda

I recently read about his life in India on bikozulu.co.ke and wow! Does he write? Clay is not only intelligent, he has a tremendous ability of satire and a wit that is startling. He suffers no fools and a true curmudgeon. Add to this his superb writing skills and you become grateful that we have him in our country. Clay wrote for the Daily Nation on Fridays before being transferred to Tuesdays and now Clay Court is perched somewhere in in the Sunday Standard. He has retained the keen eye on the idiosyncrasies that define Kenyans. Give it up to him.

3. Waga Odongo

I can only imagine what went on in the mind of the editor who saw Waga Odongo’s first submission. Waga looks the type of a writer the editor calls immediately when they receive his piece, hoping that he is an expert locked in some corner office.

Waga writes intelligently. While I differ with his religious beliefs, I admire the sheer amount of Knowledge he possesses. I go to his pieces for knowledge, but while at it, I get tremendously thrilled by his opinionated mind and it is a treasure to have people like him around.

4. Ted Malanda

Presently, I rank him as the funniest writer in the country. But there is more to him than just humour. If you read his Monday column in the Crazy Monday, his Snapshots column in the Nairobian and his bizarre Facebook posts you will notice someone gifted with an eye to observe the unusual in the country. He is in that category of men who do not necessarily believe or subscribe to conventional knowledge. Some of the things he has said or written are unorthodox. The better that he uses humour to drive some of his crazy (but by no means dismissible) ideas. It is true he is deeply inspired by the wisdom and ways of his Royal Wanga clan.

5. XN Iraki

In my book, I have classified him as a thinker. I regret that he never taught me at the University of Nairobi-he teaches at the school of Business. My aforesaid cousin Patrick, who was at Lower Kabete is full of praise for Iraki. My missus who also attended his MBA class is full of praise for his progressive ideas. Iraki writes for the Business Beat and I think his column is one of the best in the country. He has occasionally chastised me for writing things that are not based on research or facts. I agree, if only data on some of the sociological issues that I write about was readily available in Kenya?

6. David Ndii

His column in the Saturday Nation has become the talking point in the country. He is equally a thinker. While I do not agree with everything he writes, I like the volume of knowledge he possesses and his readiness to share with us. I know many otherwise bright lecturers who are not interested in sharing their knowledge. This is a typically African problem. Knowledge is only useful when it is shared. And thanks to people like Ndii, the common man can get to understand some of the complex issues in the field of economics.

7. Bitange Ndemo

He is my grandfather. Cousin to my grand dad-also called Bitange, but that is neither here nor there. Bitange’s recent writings in the Nation Blogs and the Business Daily have revealed that as a country we have the right brains to take us forward. But it hurts to here his name mentioned in corruption scandals. Which is another of Africa’s biggest undoing. But he is great, one of those people you read for knowledge.

8. Jackson Biko

When I was first published, I was an avid reader of Oyunga Pala. Women always interested me. I would go around looking for men who wrote about women. Some time in 2009, I stumbled upon a copy of True Love in my sister’s handbag. Don’t ask me, what I was doing there. On getting to the end, I saw his Last Word column and I instantly fell in love.

Biko’s writing was crisp, clean and witty. His sentences, snapped away with admirable brevity, measured and delivered with a punch. I thought he was South African, given back then True Love was owned or co-owned by some South African Media magnet, or the other. When I later learnt that he is Kenyan, I was a little disappointed. But I have retained immense respect for him. He also deserves an honour at Hall of Fame, should we ever establish one.

9. Stephen Partington

Stephen is a great contemporary poet. I had read his literary criticism in the local dailies but I never knew that he one of the best satirical writers in the country. His ‘Random Blues’ column in The Nairobian ranks as one of my best reads. The column reeks of certain degree of honesty but also the best social critique on the Kenyan way of doing things from an outsider’s point of view.

10. Oyunga Pala

Oyunga Pala. His Man Talk column was like a church. Everyone checked in Saturday to read his absolute last word on virtually everything. I still believed when he walked away, five years ago, he should have done a collection of columns and autographed for a legion of his fans who would have readily bought it.

I have enjoyed reading Oyunga, to date. Mainly I admire him because of his ability to say things truthfully (truth being relative) but most of the time, I tend to agree with his observations. In other parts of the world, Oyunga would make a good teacher at university, teaching not just Writing, but also dispensing knowledge based on what he has observed or learned in his career spanning more than 15 years.

Would you go down on me, baby?

NB: THIS IS AN ESSAY ON SEXUAL ACTS AND HOW THEY EVOLVE WITH TIME. IT SHOULD BE READ AS SUCH.

Men of my generation received their first fellatio (blow-job) at about the age of 20 or 21. It was mostly in our first year in college. And mostly came as a surprise. How one reacted, when the young woman reached for the male member and planted it in her mouth, depended on a number of factors: a) How exposed he was to pornography or at least his knowledge of foreplay, b) his hygiene status-the success of oral sex is purely dependent on hygiene-or perceived hygiene status, c) how conservative one is-if too conservative, he will be unduly concerned that she might develop some mental problem and bite you off…

You hardly enjoy that first blow job. Fear, anxiety, confusion, unbelief, all conspire to rob you the pleasure. As a man, you lay there wondering how many members she has sucked even as you reel in excitement and bewilderment that she does not bite you, and holding back your load, if you are a fast comer. The mind is never more alert. But with time, you become more confident.

Now the fear of oral sex going awry is rife among men of a certain age. How will you explain to people that a woman bit you off? While overplayed, I have men slightly older male friends me who cannot entertain the idea of oral sex-whether giving or receiving. And that is what I want to talk about this afternoon.

Blow-jobs are now a sanctioned as part of the foreplay, at least in Nairobi and major towns. Every man, even those born in Mukurwe-ini and Yimbo have come to accept it as part of the sexual practice, once a woman goes down on the knees. How we got here is beyond me. Even girls born in Kitale and somewhere in Luanda have developed specialized skills of blowing men, they can blow your mind off. How they learn or how a woman convinces her mind to make that leap of faith as to give her first blow job is something that puzzles me and I’m willing to invest millions in research, just to know what goes on their mind. And what if, on reaching down there, they find the man is not clean… What gives?

I knew blow-jobs have become standard practice in our bedrooms when I gathered that as a man I should not eat sausages while looking at another man in the eye. And while at it, I need to cut the sausage into smaller shards and eat from beneath the table. In the same way, I’m not allowed to eat a banana in the normal way. I will attract ridicule, and men will instantly question my orientation. It is crazy.

My buddy Teddy Fischer tells me that you can learn a lot about a woman’s oral sex skills by how she sucks the lollipop or how she bites that banana. Or the sausage. It is subconscious. A woman used to giving head, often will forget and do it in a very suggestive way. Teddy, crazy Teddy.

Men have at last embraced blow jobs. In fact it has become a right that men demand or expect even from a chips funga. And I bet, many pay attention to hygiene nowadays when they are going for a date. I can only imagine the horror for woman trying to suck it when all cocktails of pubic and anal smells emanate. Lately, I have discovered that even prostitutes, have a special package for blowjobs and I have friends who have paid to be blown in their car. Some of these things were only imaginable in Las Vegas or a rotten strip joint in the backstreets of Hong Kong.

Women have taken it a notch higher. I gather there is something called tea-bagging-planting your wrinkly scrotum into a willing sexual partner. Well, if we keep on going like this, in ten years, BDSM will be standard practice. I know in some places like Kilimani, it is already.

After a decade of men receiving blow jobs, I can authoritatively say that, I am part of the generations that first received blow jobs as a standard foreplay exercise. Our predecessors only caressed each other and the man, may be suckled her a bit. And may be tickling the woman was as crazy in the bedroom as it could get. Even in our generation, we were less adventurous. Women started blowing us. But there was an unwritten rule that as men, we would not return the favour. You were sucked, and you got on to the job. Along the way, fewer bold women would ask the man to stimulate them with their tongue, but I am sure they were met with stern refusals and it can be heartbreaking. Good sex is steeped in mutually sharing fantasies. On the aspect of oral sex, as men we have continuously short-changed women, but women were pioneers and early adapters of new sexual phenomena arriving from the western or oriental shores. And the women opened a way so that their younger sisters and daughters will enjoy such sexual fantasies that men denied them. And that time has come.

A while ago, I was WhatsApping with this extremely beautiful and delightful young girl. She is only 20, let us call her Njeri. She is in one of the more exclusive and respected private universities in town. She had been reading my blog and newspaper columns. She is extremely shrewd and razor sharp. Out of the blues, she asked me, ‘do you go down on a women?’.

I was profoundly taken aback. It is like when a child asks you that terrible question for the first time in the presence of people. Do you know that cloud of silence that engulfs the room? I was left blank. I had not yet met her, but she was so confident-in every sexual sense of the word- I had to pretend a bit not getting her question to make her put it in black and white. She did. And I find the most politically correct way of answering her.

I have asked nearly all my male friends who are on the bad side of their 20s, or older and 99% of them have said, they have never and will never give a woman some oral stimulation. The 0.2 % of the remaining one per cent has mostly given once and swore never to do it again. O.3 % have given and would give it again-if they meet a woman who certify certain hygienic condition.Trust me these are the most perverted of the lot.The remaining 0.5% only joke they can only do it to specific female celebrities.

So why are men, not giving women blow jobs? I have a several theories that might be disagreeable. For starters, there is what we call generational limitations. Men of our generation, grew up knowing that you just caressed a lady, touched her boobs, sucked them a bit and you got on with it. We later learn several other styles or places that add to the thrill. By sharing with friends and from porn, we also picked certain acts that we thought were worth pursuing. But cunnilingus is not one of them. We grew up thinking that sex is a dirty thing (physically and figuratively) and this greatly affects our perception of the female genitalia. In the course of youthful sexual expeditions you will encounter a dozen women who are not clean enough and it cements the idea permanently.

Remember, as women grow older, they get exposed to soaps, detergents and other means of cleaning up their bodies to ensure a perfect body odor, but by then the damage had been done.

But nowadays, more and more young women understand the essence of perfect body hygiene and they are confident in asking men to lick them. It is a generational thing. Men their age equally are finding the experience thrilling. A woman recently told me that, it is a secret many women harbour even though some are not entirely ready, for they fear that they might disappoint the man and offend him. We all have these sexual anxieties and we all hope we can be the man or the woman who gave their lover the best sexual experience. Even so, not many women of our generation are psychologically ready for the same, mainly from the mental conditioning society has given them. But more importantly, in life, invariably there comes a person that you are sexually comfortable with, you do all sorts of crazy things that you will never forget all the way to the grave. You experiment all sorts of things, often with disastrous results, but mesmerizing all the same.

I know there are older women, may be after 34, who will not even think of giving a blow job. It is the same way. They will find it dirty and unnatural. It is the same thing for men. Sex is an evolutionary act. There are some societies such as in Sudan where I learnt that their sex is purely for procreation. The idea that you can have sex with a condom, or without and take a pill afterwards is several decades away. I bet at Independence, sex for pleasure was still alien. But afterwards, pornography and books such as the Mills and Boons and those James Hardly Chase novels, changed the sexual landscape in our bedrooms. Locally, David Mailu, Charles Mangua and other popular fiction writers helped transform sex from the base, procreational purpose to the pleasurable acts that it has become, for the ‘civilized’ societies.

And that syllabus is now changing. Starting from the 2000s, sex has evolved now we have newer preoccupations such as homosexuality, lesbianism and BDSM. And given 50 Shades of Grey is the latest sexual handbook, it goes to show how sex evolves. Ten years from now, I bet there will more acceptance of gays in our midst and more adventurous sexual acts. Expect more people to die from strangling while dabbling with dangerous sexual acts in the privacy of their bedrooms. Men will orally stimulate women with ease without the fears or considerations that we had in the past. Perversion will be more and more normalized.

For the conservative types, like yours truly, we can hope that we will be contented with the normal way of doing things that served our generation. We live in interesting times, where sex-what ideally takes less than 20 minutes to be conducted and done with has been elevated to the centre stage of life, it occupies every sphere of our life.

Every time I walk down the streets, I wonder what kind of perversion each individual has ever tried, even as we pretend to be normal people in the streets. Everyone subscribes to a certain perversion. I look at ladies and wonder what horrors have they ever suffered in different bedroom in the city. I have been conducting some small surveys and a number have admitted that men have asked them to try anal!

In my book, if a man can go anal with a woman, he can go anal with a man. Period. May be these NGOs know a thing or two about how many gays and bisexuals exist in our midst. Scary.

Don’t get too comfortable in that flat

This past Saturday, my best friend Henry got kicked out of the flat he has shared with his cousin Ryan in South B. They had been accused of among other things; smoking weed, playing music at unacceptably higher volume (Henry’s fault’s mostly) and carrying different women for a lay in different days of the week (Ryan’s fault mostly.)

Henry had mentioned that they were having difficulty getting along with the chairlady (South B neighbourhoods have chairladies, elsewhere we have caretakers). But I did expect that it was such a big problem, until I paid them an impromptu visit on Saturday.

Arriving in the house, it looked like a place hit by a vicious hurricane. Things were scattered, I wondered aloud, ‘what the hell was happening?’

“We moving,” Henry said in that pensive but thoughtful tone a man resorts to when he fails to reason with the illogical part of the female brain, which is most of the time.
“That happened too fast, you got a place you moving to?”

“We moving things to our friend’s place, pack with a friend as we adjust in the course of the month and move out.” Henry said, picking a pail, full of papers and a folded carpet and took them downstairs.

I felt pain and bile rising very fast to my throat. My volatile Kisii blood was turned on. I could not imagine a transgression big enough as to inconvenience two young men who are sweating to make it work in Nairobi, where landlords exploit us with abandon. Last Thursday, Henry poignantly pointed out that ‘affording a flat in Nairobi has proved ‘an herculean task’ to which we rapturously laughed, not knowing how premonitory that was.

As they carried their stuff from the flat, in resigned exasperation, on the hot Saturday afternoon, I could not help but empathize with the two young men.

Henry, only moved out of his uncle’s place a couple of months ago, at 26, after being housed by the uncle for the last three years since we moved out of campus. Being a creative, he is not on a regular salary. He earns big bucks periodically from his industry. While younger than me, Henry exhibits a certain work ethic that I envy so much. He is the only man I know who passionately follows his dream, obsessively. For long, it did not pay dividends, but in recent times, he has pocketed some big checks which herald a great future as his career picks.

When he moved out, his uncle, a gracious man who served in the military for long threw him a party, to which we were invited and we did warn Henry that life can be tricky, when one is starting. Personally, I told him that taking that leap of faith is the single most significant step; a man can take in his 20. And there is nothing like paying rent to liberate you, but also teach you how to be responsible. For shelter is the single most important basic need. And in Nairobi, we are housed by devils, unsympathetic and callous, at best.

Those initial months can be rough. I remember being kicked out of my house and my boy Eric housing me in Emba as I tried figured out where the rain had started beating me.I still owe Eric one.

Of course, for those of us who eke a living on our own, the vagaries of Nairobi living occasionally dictate falling out with your landlord, exchanging nasty words with a silly neighbor and occasionally moving out suddenly. Often, the rent proves too much. Often, you disagree with the caretaker or the landlord and being sensible, you leave him alone. At times, the caretaker is a thief who relieves you your hard earned electronics and sympathizes with you the most when you arrive. Moving out under such circumstances can be taxing, given you will not be given your deposit and Murphy’s Law dictate that it happens when you don’t have money.

Now, Henry had barely settled in the house. He was on course to furnish it when they were kicked out. He revealed to me that ever since he moved to the house, he has been at his most productive, given his sitting room doubles up as the office.

Now, he has to hang with a friend as he sorts out his finances and start all over again. Mostly, such a new start is always for the better. I can vouch for that. Being kicked out opens your eyes at the depravity of human beings and the shocking reality of adults who are so petty as to be concerned by the sexual activities of the young men living and paying their rent.

Now, I will not defend bad neighbors. Personally, I try to be as reasonable a neighbor as possible. That means I rarely interact with my neighbors. The lady on left side of my house is a single mother who I recently learnt works for the government. Nice lady, she always says ‘hi?’. The gentleman on the right on the other hand earned my contempt recently when he complained that some of the clothes my cleaning lady had unknowingly aired in the rails facing our main doors had spilled some color near his door.

He annoyed me, because men cannot be that petty. And secondly, it was a mistake, a first in the three months I have stayed there. Besides, the floor is washed every day and the ‘dirt’ would not last 24 hours there. But I recently saw the man for the first time. He is in his late 30s, and he looked spooky. The type that if you confront can piss himself, despite being tall. I will return to this.

So, as I stood with Griffins in the balcony of Henry’s flat, overlooking Mombasa road, we pondered on what moving out meant for young Henry. The door to the balcony was closed. We had a knock and on opening, there stood an absolutely gorgeous woman in a flowing kitenge dress that emphasized her buttocks. They were nice, the type you want to grab when they serving you chapatti-ndengu on a Sunday night. But she was in a foul mood. She asked where the owners of the house were.

“We are visitors; they are taking their stuff out.” We answered in that calm, measured way that only tall men are capable.

“Why are they making noise for everyone?” she wondered, giving the house such a disdainful look, you would think her child ever died there. Or she was just hating on the little world possessions the two young men had. The visceral attitude belied a certain unnecessary frustration, informed by something beyond our knowledge.
“May be you wait for them and you ask, we are only guests.”

She left.

I knew she was the problem. To call the music playing on the radio loud would be an exaggeration of hyperbolic proportions. Even us in the balcony of the same house would hardly make out the song singing in the background. Yet she stays two floors up. She seemed to have something personal against the two young men.

I loathe adults who are petty. The woman is probably sexually frustrated. Given she is in her 30s, I can vouch for this. What makes full grown-adults in middle-class estates such as South B so irritable? The fact that she is the chairlady for a flat implies certain flaws. For it is people with personal flaws who like taking up leadership responsibilities they have no clue about whatsoever. I am not even talking about Kidero.

Why would a woman in her 30s, walk into someone’s house with such an air of condescending entitlement? Pray, tell me, why? When Henry and Ryan came back and we told them, they exploded in fury. I thanked God she had not found them. They would have slapped all the stupidity out of her head. They are Kisiis, and I know a Kisii man can only take stupidity from a woman up to a certain point before he goes bananas. And I call the woman stupid for the reasons I’m about to enumerate.

For starters, I know Henry and Ryan well enough to consider them pricks even for a moment. They are rarely in the house. They are level headed, and if there was any problem, they would have readily agreed to sort it out in the most amicable way possible. But apparently, no sooner they moved into the flat than the lady started digging on them.

At one point, they were late paying their water bills and their water was cut. Like able men they are, before they could pay they decided to connect the water themselves to get some to drink and scrub their armpits with after a long day in the sun. The woman, the bitch she is, called the police and Nairobi water and made a tempest out that minor transgression.

At one point, they delayed paying their security fee by one second; she called the entire neighborhood, fuming at the slackness of the two boys. She formed a tribunal to investigate what the two young men did for a living. Never mind, that at times we have all been caught up that we forgot paying the lesser utility bills but we always pay them later, don’t we?

So they have been having problems. At one point, Henry had to confront the husband and ask him to rein in on the wife, but the husband sided with the woman. I wonder why he even tried. If there is a class of men that really makes my blood boil it has to be the henpecked men. Henry had to insult the man who threatened that he will beat him up into pulp, but since he can’t even control his woman, Henry was not overly worried. May be he is a kept man. Flex has even gathered the child the woman has is not his. Goes to show…

At some points, Ryan and the woman had an exchange of text messages and the woman insulted or questioned Ryan’s morals, as to why he brings home ‘hoes’ from the nearby bar every weekend? How idle is she as to notice that Ryan changes his women as she changes her panties-hoping she does. Or she wanted Ryan to lay her, you know, she could be envious. Ryan is a bubbly, energetic man who plays rugby, thus most women are likely to fantasize what kind of energy he oozes between the sheets.

This woman is part of Nairobians who have personalized the houses in flats that they do not own. We don’t own anything in this world, either way. But there are people you walk into their fifth floor apartment and they have stuffed every fancy electronic and furniture in the house, half of which s/he never uses. They have hung up photos of their families ( five generations, that is) on the walls, including that one of their kitten that died in July 2001.

While it is within their right to create a home out of the miserable flat, I hate when people get too familiar or too personal with what they do not own. You know the type that has personalized even clothing lines? You know the type that washes clothes every day and air them in all the existing clothing lines? The type that has noisome visitors from January to January. And I’m talking about annoying visitors who laugh so loudly at 1 a.m on a Sunday night.

I loathe entitled people. The spoiled brats. Petty adults and people with cats in flats. There used to be a cat that used to tamper with my garbage on the balcony every day and often shit there. I moved before I poisoned it.

My advice to everyone living in a flat is to try and be less personal. Mind your personal space. Be courteous. If there is a problem, find the most polite way to address it. Human beings are less complex than we at times imagine. Remember we will always have obnoxious neighbors.

You know…Those Kisiis who eat sugarcane, right of the cane, chewing the bark like a dog dealing with a particularly tough tendon. Those Luos who smoke omena unapologetically. Those Kambas or Luhyias who seem to be a big family you cannot figure out how the 25 of them fit into the two-bedroom house. Those Somalis who play their disagreeable music at maximum volume to your chagrin. That bachelor who seems to ooze libido the size of River Nile; he beds different women in different days of the week. That single woman who has male visitors, you will never figure out whether they are uncles, cousins, brothers, lovers, potential husbands…you get it.

Save for the times one is an extreme nuisance, some of these things are highly tolerable. I look at flats as temporary means of accommodation as we seek a more permanent home-mostly our graves- away from the cacophony of this earth. Those lucky to build their houses in more spacious and better neighborhoods can enjoy all the peace and tranquility they want. And that is what that woman should go after. Not who Ryan is shagging.

But getting too comfortable in a flat as to be its chairperson in the facility is a little bit foolish. What do you even benefit? Do you get a rental discount? Or are you exempted from paying some of those utility bills that measure in hundred shillings?

As for my boy, Henry, look at this as minor upset. A reminder that most adults are quite fucked up. Next time, choose your flat, and neighbors more cautiously. Not that you have too much choice either way.