I lost a friend

“There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.”
― P.G. Wodehouse

Facebook has a feature that reminds you of the posts you made on a given day from the previous years. Some of the posts reminds us of a time when we were excitable, naïve and stupid, full of the youthful idealism that pervades our early 20s.

Some posts bring back the good memories. A picture of you in a bikini, or boxers at the Coast. Happier times. Some bring about a post of a friend who died, and induces in you a mournful countenance when you remember that your friend, young as he or she was, is no longer with us. A raw reminder of your own mortality. Then, there is that one post that your crush liked, or commented on, sending you to cloud 9, giving you false hopes. You waited for the second comment or like as a sign to go ahead. She never liked or commented on your post again. You were distraught.

It was during one of these daily trips down the memory lane recently that I came across a post I made two years ago, must have been controversial then, given the long thread of comments. In the comments section, I came across the name of a young boy that startled me. The boy, a big fan of my Retrosexual column in the Nairobian, used to comment on my every post, and often differed with me, since he held different views on various topical issues that I often address on Facebook, newspapers or in this blog.

But he disappeared.

For the longest time, I never saw his name and frankly, I had forgotten about him completely. I immediately wanted to know what happened. I went to his wall. We were no longer friends. I checked if he has been active lately. He had posted a few minutes before, still the chirpy, impulsive young man from yester years.

For a moment, I kept wondering, what might have happened. I never block, or unfriend anyone on Facebook, except those Nigerian men, masquerading as women. You know them. Those with a picture of a light skin woman, one Facebook post-mostly, a recently uploaded picture-who start their conversation with ‘hi’. And as soon as you respond, they ask for your email (so that they can tell you something about themselves.) And of course, up to until recently, I have started to block people who are hateful, homophobic, and insulting, even when not provoked. Lately, I have no patience with those.

Anyway, I came to the logical conclusion that the boy either unfriended me (because of something I said, or did.) Or he withdrew from Facebook and when he came back, I had surpassed the 5,000 capping mark of friends on Facebook. In which case he could have just followed me.

But the young man, worried me less. Another beautiful, most awesome female friend had just disappeared from my timeline. I loved the woman. Not in the romantic way. She had dated a friend. But because she was easily one of the most intelligent women I have ever dealt with in life; honest to fault, kinder as a saint, tender like corned beef. I loved her. Don’t know what transpired, and we were no longer friends on Facebook.

My guess. Mmmh, at some point I became so critical of the Jubilee government. And in Kenya, if you criticize the government of the day, it means you hate the president’s tribe. The same can be said of the opposition.Criticise the opposition or Raila, and you will branded anti-Luo.  I have since toned down my criticism. I remember the lady asking me, why had I all over sudden became such a tribal jingoist. Which was a gross exaggeration since I don’t hate anyone whatsoever. I have so many problems in my mind to accommodate hate. Even when the lady was bereaved, I didn’t know where to find her to say sorry, since I was away and I couldn’t call her. Anyway, that is one precious friend gone.

But she was not my biggest worry. Over the last six years, I lost my best campus friend. The friendship died a slow, painless, natural death.

To this, we shall return. A brief history about me and losing my friends.

***

Back in high school, I had a friend, let us call him Ricky. Ricky was a short, dark, and skinny boy. Private and guarded, he only spoke to his former school mates (those from primary school). Ricky, spoke in a low bass, then quite furiously potent since we were adolescents. I think he spotted some scrubby beard. He was boyish, and manly at the same time. He could be snobbish or dismissive, or both. But with the benefit of hindsight, he may have been just shy.

I loved Ricky. We spent all our breaks together. Went to the river down at Igare to bathe and boy, we had endless stories to tell and share. We spent half the time gossiping our classmates.

“Martin looks like a child of a single mother,” he would say of a spoilt, or entitled classmate.

“Exactly, that is what I always think when he behaves like a girl,” I would add.

“And Isaac’s parents are definitely teachers…” I would say.

“Definitely, I actually know his father. He was a deputy in some primary school near home. Was very strict. But he was chased. I think people said he was a witch…” he would add. And on and on and on. And so forth. We gossiped worse things than women in a middle-class salon in a middling neighbourhood.

One day we asked ourselves, “what will you do if you fell out with your friend?”

“If you wrong me, I will never, ever speak to you,” he said, unequivocally.

“Even me. I will never speak to a friend if we fell out.” I said. Goes to show one of the similarities that had brought us together. Little did we know that our declarations will be tested too soon.

*

On January 29, every year, I commemorate the day my mother died. It is a ritual I have kept since I was boy, 19 years on. The three days in January, 29th to 31st, I am usually pensive and reserved, thinking on what might have been had mum lived on. I will be drowning in an ocean on a January 29, and I will remember, “ooh, it’s mum’s anniversary”. I never forget the day, however busy I am.

If you have ever lost someone, a beloved brother say, a dear mother may be, or a father you are fond off, the date of the day they died becomes permanently etched on your mind, and I don’t know about other people, but many such days, often found us in foul, somber and sometimes mournful mood. You ask so many questions. No answers of course. And since we record such events on Facebook nowadays, it makes their remembrance less spontaneous, since you just see a post from three years and it triggers the memory of the day you learnt the news that your beloved one had died.

So on that January 31, a Thursday, I wore a clean white shirt, a clean trouser and throughout the day, I tried to be chilled, attending lessons, doing my homework, so as nobody could interfere with anniversary.

Now, Ricky used to sit behind me. That Thursday afternoon I remember him trying to shake his Bic pen and may have inadvertently spluttered some red ink on my clean, resplendent shirt. For some emotionally innocuous reason, that fouled my mood, and I don’t know what I may have said in the intervening 10 seconds that offended Ricky so bad, and like a joke, we were not talking.

A term went. No talking. Another term came and went. No talking. Third term. No talking. We were in Form 3. Still not talking.  We never spoke  and by Form 4, we had made peace with our swearing back in first year that if you ever fall out with anyone we will never talk to them. We were young boys. Proud as hell. It used to be awkward since we had the same circle of friends and many may have questioned why we were so childish. But a man is as good as he can keep his word. And we were men. If we ended up on the same table, during lunch hour or dinner, one of us had to switch. It was embarrassing honestly. We never spoke until we stepped out that great school in the middle of nowhere in Kisii.

Later, I run into him in Moi University, when I went to visit friends. We did say hi, quite relieved to overcome our stupidity. We did some small talk and disappeared. Later, he did start a Facebook chat, telling me that he had been employed and posted somewhere in Kapsabet as a teacher. Good for him. But we both realized that we were straining at the chat and our high school differences had taken a terrible toll on us. The chat died. And I have never heard from him.

But Ricky is not the story today.

*

My university friend, let us call him Adam, is. I met Adams in first year. A quiet, laid back guy, in the ensuing weeks we would become tighter friends, brought together by our shared love for things literary.

We loved book. We were both in the Literature class. We loved Sidney Sheldon. We read almost all his books and recited passages from the books that we thought were funny. I am still convinced that there was no greater story teller than Sidney Sheldon. Oh Man. Those cliff-hangers. The humour. The characters. Jeez, how did Sheldon do it.

Our favourite character was the obnoxious female assassin in the Windmills of the Gods, described by Sheldon as having “the body of a cow and manners of a pig”. We loved that line. Still do.

We loved magazines. Economist. Intelligent Life (now 1843). Time. Newsweek. Everything he read and he thought I would enjoy, he would pass it to me. I did the same. As we both struggled to become writers, we did support each other, although not as much as we should have. I still wished we would go a step better to peer review our articles, blogs and such.

While we shared literary pleasures, our inclinations were different. Adams to me was more of a conservative. Even in his writing, he was the austere, lean writer. On my own, I am more of a populist. I lean more towards popular, accessible (both intellectually and physically) literature. So, whereas he may have found my writing too populist for his tastes, I had no problem with his lean prose and keen eye for observation.

With Adams, we also gossiped a lot. OK, men, don’t gossip, we do Mantalk. Adams had some of the wittiest, meanest lines reserved for those crushes who used to give us problems. And man, he could describe a lady. I remember this one lady in class from Kisumu, who had a waspish waist that used to drive him nuts. He would describe it in such poetry, you would love the woman without having ever seen her. And yeah, Adams was a poet. A good one too, though he never stopped writing poetry when he realized the world no longer reads poetry.

We traveled the world with Adams. He was always a good sport, a great conservationist, with a volatile sense of humour, that you had to provoke first.

I don’t what I did on my part to give our friendship the cancer that would metastasize and eventually ruining our friendship. On my part, he said long time ago, that revealed the kind of friend he was. He said in excitement and may not have considered his words. But it hurt.

But my uncle who doubles u as a father figure had once told me,

“Never fall out with any relative or friend because you never know when you will need their help. Or they will need your help. Even so, never fall out with anyone, always be in their good books.” Ever since the high school fiasco, I had come to live with that prized wisdom. Despite what he said to me, being slightly older, I knew that time would prove Adams wrong. It did. But we went on being friends, though increasingly edgy.

But, we drew apart increasingly. Now, I am not a saint. I don’t know whatever I said, or did on my part to spark the cancer that killed our friendship.

Now in psychology, we are told, there are four types of ourselves, remember that Johari Window from your first year communication or Psychology class:

  1. The Known self: what is known by the person about him or herself and is also known by others.
  2. Blind self: what is unknown by the person about him or herself but which others know.
  3. Hidden self: what the person knows about him or herself that others do not know. E.g being a closeted gay.
  4. Unknown self: what is unknown by the person about him or herself and is also unknown by others. Maybe you don’t know that the person you think is your biological dad is actually not. Or you were adopted and no one ever told you.

I am keen on the blind self. May be I have this blind spot that people know about that I don’t know. And in it, I may have said something equally offensive, or behaved like an arse#*le. I don’t know. What I know, I do have a careless tongue, sometimes I do say nasty things about myself and others. But truth be told, I have never harbored any malice towards anyone. I am the kind of person who wants everyone to succeed including my enemies, for I know, their success or how their life pans out, has no bearing on how my life will pan out. We all live our lives and write our own stories.

The reason for this loooooong blog, is that I am sure there are people out there that are baffled why they are not talking to their former best friends anymore. There are always reasons.

First, friendships die naturally because people grow old, priorities change and life happens. You have absolutely no control over this, as a good Facebook friend, told me recently.

Secondly, some friends are very competitive and can’t bear competing with you and sometimes they lose out.

Thirdly, maybe they were not your friends in the first place. Fate just brought you together and your friendship was just expedient and died when it was tested in worse times.

But it is a philosophical experience. Since, you can’t replace some of the friends. We all make our best friends when in college. Outside college, we are less trustworthy of the the people we meet, because after college they are too old and their opinions on everything about life pretty much permanent. We only become their friends too cautiously.

I am now a literary orphan. No that one bosom friend  to share my best reads. No intellectual equal (more or less) to weigh our mutual tastes against each other. It is such a painful fact of life that friendships sometimes do go to the dogs and just like a death, or a separation, you get used to it, live with it, until the end of time.

 

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Explaining Trump to Kenyans

Many Kenyans as Americans are perplexed at the now inexorable rise of Donald Trump to be Republican Party’s presidential nominee. Unless a miracle happens, he is will slug it out with Hillary Clinton— a woman idolized and vilified in equal measure— in the November elections. If he is the Republicans’ choice wins, he will become potentially the most powerful man on earth, in charge of many things, not the least, nuclear weapons.

And the world is scared shitless at the though of it. It means the end of the world to many. people. Many Americans are probably checking how fast can they drive to Canada. In 2012, my German friend, Carol Blink, warned me that there  was a renewed sense of Fascism that was slowly rising in the Western World.  I thought she was being overly paranoid and buying too much into conspiracies. Little did I know that three years later, Trump, the man I have admired deeply as an entertainer (his Comedy Central roast ranks as a work of art and Antony Jesselnik killed it for me), is now a likely  presidential nominee.

Trump rose to the top by saying some of the vilest things about Mexicans, Muslims, women and everyone he deems worthless in his quest to ‘make America Great Again’.In the meantime, he declines to acknowledge that he knows David Duke, a one-time Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

There is nothing Trump will say that will stop his voters from voting for him. He said a while ago that his supporters love him so much, that he can stand in the middle of the 5 th Avenue in Manhattan (that is like standing in the middle Kenyatta Avenue) and shoot someone and he will still not lose a single vote.

There are theories as to how we ended up with Trump. Some say, it is because the Republican party has been losing touch with reality over the last two decades. Their views on gays, reproductive health rights, immigration are at variance with what the younger generation wants. Little wonder Trump supports Planned Parenthood, even as Rubio and Cruz swear they will not support Planned Parenthood, essentially throwing the right to abort into jeopardy. The very things the republicans are resisting are the very things that endear the democrats to the people.

Some say it is the division at the top leadership of the GOP. Over the years, they have refused to attune their ideology with changing times. Over the years, blinded by either ignorance or arrogance, they did not realise that technology and globalization were eroding jobs from the American market. Over the years, they have frustrated any legislation, that was going to make governance possible, and the last six years in particular, have seen Obama use executive orders if he was to get anything done. Even younger republicans like presidential candidate Marco Rubio and House Speaker Paul Ryan seem to be stuck in the past, swinging more towards the extreme right, effectively muting any chance of the party waking up to the reality that it 2015.

Since 2008, the republican top leadership has struggled to find a credible leader. Jeb Bush was touted as a possible captain, but then, Trump happened and declared him ‘low energy’ killing his presidential dream instantaneously. John McCain was considered too old and he made it impossible for himself by electing Sarah Palin who was rejected by even moderate republicans. Credit that they were running perhaps the smartest politicians in America’s history.  Mitt Romney, while a successful businessman, avuncular, equally blundered in his private conversations that came out as racist at a time when race is thorny issue. This year has been no different. Hence the rise of Donald Trump.

Observers have noted, that his popularity stems from the fact that he says certain things that certain American families speak at their dinner tables. Since America is the land of political correctness, it helps when they find a vehicle that is so unPC. Nothing like their support to remind us that they approve of everything he says. And every insults he trades.

You see those moments when some people in Central Kenya cheer Moses Kuria when he makes circumcision jokes aimed at Raila. In CORD People  are always delighted in Johnson Muthama comes out unhinged and humiliates the president in public rallies? That is who Trump is. It is purely a matter of expediency. .

Think of Trump as someone like Mike Sonko. Or Babu Owino. If you are educated, have that degree or masters, you will wonder what makes them wildly popular in certain  parts of the population. Indeed, the numbers indicate that Trump’s big support comes from White conservative males who still think that the idea of America as a superpower is feasible and sustainable. He constantly scores about 30-40 % of the votes and drawn mostly from suburban and exurb parts of traditionally republican states. The crowds there are mostly palpably anxious white people who think, his message of ‘Make America Great Again” is a good campaign slogan.They are pining for the good old days.

But there is something these people are protesting against. And that is the corporate politics or what they have called establishment politics. Which is basically, a condemnation of career politicians whose work is to take bribes and donations from the rich so has to pass legislation that only serves their (the rich’s) interest. Otherwise, why would anyone vehemently oppose Obamacare, noble as it is? This version of politics is no longer feasible and it only leads us to the things like the Financial Crisis of 2008. And wars.

Bad politics isolates and condemns a large chunk of the population into poverty and ignorance that always comes back to bite. In Kenya for instance, we have always insisted that people need have degrees so as to serve public office. Yet, the learned elite have overseen  the looting and haemorrhaging  of our taxes, it is funny why we trust learned people so much. Take Waititu and Kidero for size. We all lined up against Waititu, thinking that Kidero will do something, but he has ended up being the worst disappointment  and he will leave Nairobi worse than when he came in, despite running the largest budget of any country.

That is why it is easy for individuals to come out next year and like joke elect Sonko. You know he is not the brightest bulb, you don’t expect much from him and the threshold of disappoint is so low. Ultimately, since corruption steals opportunities, stalls dream,  a large chunk of the population has never stepped into the university. In Kenya, since independence, the number of university graduates is less than 500,000. That means the other are over 44 million people who do not understand why corruption is terrible cancer. And the half million who knows better are so apathetic, their voice doesn’t count anymore.Besides, they help in voting the kleptocrats into power who rob from the poor.

So, just know, as long we have masses who are unhappy with the administration of learned people that takes them for a ride after every election cycle, they tend to lower their expectation and can elect anyone whom they think embodies their basest expectations.

That is the reason at certain times a section of the Kikuyus (often a substantial number ) will turn to a Moses Kuria or Kabogo for that timely circumcision joke to silence or distract the opposition. Of course there are always condemnations from the learned Kikuyu folk, or moderates, but their intervention on social media means nothing to the makanga or the man in the village. Same way for CORD. A section  of CORD will always cheer Muthama chanting (Toboa! Toboa! Toboa!) in a rally just so as to feel better about as the president is being derided. Because, after all, with all the corruption happening and nothing is being done, they can revel in the insults, for it makes them feel better.

So, the world over, whenever there is a huge chunk of a population that is dissatisfied with an administration , they have always expressed their disgust by voting people who are anti-establishment. Ala’ Sonko, Trump and (insert any populist with half-a-brain).

It also explains how some brutal murderers and dictators came to rule the world.

30 throwbacks to savour (Part II)

Jared (a really terrible name) was crying uncontrollably. He twitched and wheezed on the bed in a feverish way, but no so alarming. It was cry of acceptance. Submission to fate.

I stood in the middle of the room, not knowing exactly what to do. Or what to say. It is not what I expected when I decided to go home.  Here was a man crying. The cry had a dreadful tune to it signaling a deep personal loss, certainly not death.

“What is it Jared?”

More sobs. More crying. More involuntary twitching. I stood there, rooted for nearly ten minutes, waiting for him to compose himself.

Jared was a young man I was housing several years ago. He had moved to my place temporarily after his brother told him to stay with me for a weekend before he found a place of his own. This was like the sixth month he was living with me. He was young. 20 or 21. Muscular. Quiet. Humble. Averagely tall, and well built. Spoke a voice that ranged from an average tenor to an average alto. He was attending the University of Nairobi’s Lower Kabete.

He left the house in the morning and came back late at night. But here we were, around 6 p.m, the sun about to have dinner and sleep. And Jared was crying.

“What is it?” I asked much more authoritatively, with a whiff of impatience.

Sobs. More sobs.

“It is my girlfriend,” he muttered, even as he exploded into another tearful twitching.

“What about her?” I asked, disapprovingly.  I hate men who cry. The only exceptions is when they are cutting those onions from Ukambani…

“She is pregnant.” He said with a doubtful voice.

“Is that why you are crying?” I asked, trying to be level-headed. “That we can handle, it is a very small problem. Every man will at one time ‘accidentally’ impregnate a woman. Unless her father is the head of CID, or an OCS…” I started rambling…

“No. That is not the problem.” He said firmly, even as he sobbed more violently.

“What is?”

“The pregnancy is not mine!” He proclaimed.

“Oh Noooo….” Is that why you are crying, I asked now really being empathetic of his situation.

There was a brief moment where he entered a monologue about how he loved the girl.

I wore my relationship expert hat and specs and launched into ‘unsolicited advice mode’, sounding like Sigmund himself speaking in Dr Phil’s voice.

“Look, Jared. That is not the end of the world. A woman will betray you at least once. You should be happy, that it has happened when you are young, not quite 21. Now, stop crying, we need to go have a beer.”

“No Silas. That is not the problem!”

Now I was honestly lost. What can be probably worse than what Jared had told me…

“Hiyo mimba mwanaume alimpea ako positive.” (The man who gave her the pregnancy is a HIV-positive.)

In one sentence, Jared had revealed to me that he had been tapping the lady raw. He feared the worst. I feared the worst. But I knew this phase of life.

Every sexually active man I know has been in this situation. You are scared shitless about your overnight indiscretion. May be it is a chips funga. May be it is a woman you met in a matatu. May be it is your neighbor.

It mostly happens with a woman you don’t have her sexual history whatsoever or somewhere you can dig it up (not that there is a woman you can 100% know her sexual history.  but at least those you meet in the right places, you get to ask around and have a picture however skewed.).

So you meet this woman. You barely know her well. Not even her second name. You take her to bed. May be you are drunk. May be she is good in bed. May be you are thirst. May be the two of you are too thirsty. May be you went to fast, too strong the condom burst in your furious and ruthless work.  Bottom line, you end up chewing the stuff raw. After you reach the climax, you sleep and the morning after, you wake up, and reality hits you so hard like frozen stone.

Usually you wake up, your mind overheats, something more powerful than the sun illuminates on your eyes. You lose your appetite. And you start thinking about life deeply.

“If she gave it to me raw. How many men has she met this way and slept with raw? I swear to God, I am positive.”You tell yourself, convincingly.  You look up to God and think of the 13 places where you would were supposed to have been before you made the stupid move.

Your whole life flashes in front of you. You think of the castles you would have built, the happy family you would have made with your official girlfriend. Your loving mother and aloof father. Your cousins. And your friends. It used to be worse, before ARVs came to offer dying HIV victims some modicum of dignity. In the past, you saw your own body, wasted to the last bone, skin darkened, and reduced to a mass of shrunken bones that people have to squint their eyes, and lean lower in order to see you in the blanket. You become hysterical.

Somehow, I have never seen women bothered by such. More often than not, as long as there is a chemist on her way to the stage, or in town, they are cool. It is like women never bother with HIV. But two women very close to me have ever called me out of nowhere-do you know those Tuesday or Thursday 10.37 a.m calls? Yes. Those. These women called me and ululated that they had passed an HIV test. I could feel the relief in their hearts. It is not easy going to the V.C.T when you know you have not been a good boy or girl recently. .

So I knew Jared’s predicament. Anyway, Jared did go to the hospital, several weeks later after we advised him as men. He was negative. He joined a church and I am happy he is serving the Lord, and hope he never strays again.

  1. Do you work at the Norfolk? The day a woman asked me, when I wanted to take her there for a date.

I have told this story before, so I will be brief. Back in the day, along Standard Street, there used to be a Club Soundd on the 3rd floor of Hamilton House, just opposite Trattoria Restaurant.

Now, there are only three types of people who drink alcohol in town. People without cars, university of Nairobi students and visiting students from other universities. Those from other univeristies will throng Moi Avenue and below. UoN kids are cool and will go to the decent, up urbane clubs in the CBD, where beer is sold at Sh 250. Only UoN, Strath, USIU and  Catho and  could afford that.

Soundd was one such club thronged by men in their late 20s and 30s who wanted a more mature crowd of women who will not puke after insisting on a cocktail they had no idea about its limit. Or the young, horny boys who visit the dance floor with evil intentions: stealing phones and dancing and getting off female backs, really disgusting.

So we happen there. It is a random Saturday night. These women come in a group and they sit across our table and I am smitten by the hottest in the group. She looked like a younger Cece Winans. Despite the weave, she had one of those fresh and smoothest, natural skins that pulls you in her direction like gravity. We exchanged eye contact for so long. Being shy to make the first move and since I can’t dance, we sat there eye-balling each other. When she stood to dance, she seemed to me too rigid, to dance, She tried a couple of moves but she went back to sit. She was a tad heavy, but in a tremendously desirable way. My boy Joe, did get me her number. A 0724 or a a shadier 0726 (for some reason I loathe any number between 0726 to 0729 and I never call them at all).

Her name was Margret. I should have read the signs that she was trouble. I called on Sunday, she was busy. On Monday, since I stutter over the phone when making important phone calls, I gave my man Plato the phone to call her. I wanted to play that stupid card where you want to impress a woman by wowing her. I could afford a cup of tea at Norfolk, even though that meant starving the rest of the semester.

So Plato calls the woman and she picks and we ask her if she could come to Norfolk hotel…

“Kwani you work there?”

As in all her estimation, the only connection to Norfolk I could have was only if I was a waiter there.

Ile madharau nimepitia hii dunia. Acha tu.

30 Throwbacks to savour

I almost died in February 2008. We had just opened campus after the post-election-violence and I was chasing after this girl I was nuts crazy about. It was the most overpowering crush in the history of humanity. I was hurriedly crossing University Way, determined to overcome my shyness and fear and tell her that if she accepted me as her boyfriend my job on earth would be over.

She was a fine thing. Born and raised in Nairobi. Attended a national school. Middle-class, refined, and snobbish if you will. I was from the village, tall, annoyingly slender, wore a peevish grin on my face, with a rustic sense of fashion, think of choir member in your village church. I inspired nothing. I had gone to a provincial school tucked somewhere in the pubic part of Kisii that Google maps can’t locate even in 2016. My spoken English was so bad and fully of direct translations. Still is. She had been on my radar for two months since we joined campus and this day, I had said kama mbaya, mbaya!

So when I saw her leaving campus, through the University Way gate, I started after her until some arsehole stopped and engaged me in some stupid conversation. By the time it was done, she had crossed over to Koinange Street. Now I was running after her. And when crossing the side of the road headed to Moi Avenue, this car nearly hit me, he had to apply emergency breaks, before shouting an expletive at me. I still suspect he called me a gorilla in his language. I will never forget the face of that woman we were crossing with. She asked me if I was alright,  before cursing the mad Nairobian drivers. She was just being motherly. I was crossing the road unfocused like a drunk gorilla.

It would have been a stupid death. Nobody would have known why I was run over. That was a sign from God that I should stop chasing after the girl. I stopped.

Sings and dances to Mercy Masika’s Mwema to this.

***

Life is a series of memories. Some profound (shocking deaths that alter life your life for good-spouse, lover, family member, best friend-the deaths that brings you to cold, frozen fact about our mortality. Deaths you will think about every day of your life). Some memories are underwhelming (the maths and chemistry lessons in high school, all the bad sex you have had, or that bad road trip.).

Some memories are overwhelming, in this case for men, it is your first blow job (you are probably a few days shy of your 21st birthday, she is a few months shy of her 20th birthday. She yanks the coffee table out of the way, and you don’t know what she is up to. She unzips your trouser, goes down on you and you take the biggest leap of faith a man can ever take-trusting your entire life inside a toothed creature. Not even the Wright brothers had the faith when they decided to fly. Or the person who flew the first Trans-Atlantic flight. Or when Yuri Gagarin-first man to journey to the outer space. Or Armstrong &co in their aimless trip to the moon. Your first blow job, tests your nerves…You never quite enjoy it. You are in a chaotic, nervous breakdown thinking, ‘ she is only 19, where did she learn this, from sucking lollipops? Is she going to kiss me after this? ‘I hope I don’t meet any of her exes she has performed this on…).

Plays Nonini feat Lady Bee Kumbuka

Memories. We all have them. Good or bad. The brain is constantly playing back flashes of these memories. The past soon becomes crystallised into tiny snippets of memories that play back on your head, depending on prevailing circumstances. Like when you make a stupid decision and pick on the wrong side of the matatu and sun bakes you so bad that you start smelling the onion from the lunch time Kachumbari. The matatu is playing bad music and your phone is dead, so you have to think, all the way to Rongai.

Or in the bank. Why is everyone sulky, bored and peeved to the bone in the bank. You are in the queue, and the man behind keeps moving closer to you until you have stepped out of the line and this annoying watchie keeps coming to you telling you to step back into the line. Your phone is dead. Out of the 11 tellers, only 4 are in their station, and one of them seems to be having a bout of diarrhoea, she keeps leaving her desk and coming back in a worse mood. The TV screens are all tuned to the confused local TV stations, all playing those gospel songs, all shot in the same forests in Ngong’. All have these women dancing badly…You have no option but watch the women dancing on the screen. Barclays is usually tuned to CNN that is in permanent BREAKING NEWS MODE.

I mean you all know these moments. When in the loo, and nothing seems to come out of your bowels so you have to wait. You have to think of something. Anything. Or those insomniac nights. You lie on your bed. Build castles in the air, become a president, date and marry Kelly Rowland, divorce her, date and marry Keri Hilson, divorce her. Live happily ever after with Scarlet Johansson. But then, you soon banish these fantasies and you are back to the memories. Or throwbacks.

#Throwbacks:

  1. My first lunch date.

I went through first year without seducing a single girl. Our class had like 500 of them. Good boy. That near-death experience planted the fear of God in me. In second year, I met this Teso chick, beautiful, chocolaty skin, great voice, exciting company. I go after her and she buys my vibe. She has this Ugandan friend, beautiful, but frigid after a fashion. I decide we go lunch, joined by my cousin Pato, who every single girl describes as a hunk. He is a handsome chap, razor-sharp and then he was a baller and a player. He decided to keep us company, wingman to contain the Ugandan babe. We go Kenchic. The one that used to be at KTDA plaza, of Ronald Ngala and Tom Mboya. It was one of those Kenchics with a deeper shade of yellow, and some sitting space. Not bad for a chips and chicken date.

Now, I am a stupidly fast eater. I like my food hot. And I eat unconsciously fast. So scarcely had we ordered food than I was through with my first serving. My cousin realised the unfolding blunder. My total and shocking lack of table etiquette.  Once a villager always a villager. I finished my chips and chicken before they could barely touch theirs. Then I went after the soda.  I can’t help with a cold drink on a sunny, November in Nairobi. A 300 ml, usually takes me slightly less than 9 seconds to gulp down. So I plant the straw inside the bottle and like a horror movie, my cousin looks at me, and goes like…

“Silasiae! Silasiae!…”

I look up at him. He goes like…

“Chezea chezea hapo.”

I don’t understand what he is saying, so I continue to drink the soda at a lightning speed…

“Silasiae…chezea chezea hapo…”

Still I’m too slow… I can’t get it. He is getting hysterical. And I am just pulling the last drops of the soda and my girl had just returned from washing her hands.

The girls figured out and laughed at my naiveté. Pato had to make an excuse for my poor table manners. Afterwards,  he taught me a very important lesson in life.

ALWAYS EAT AT THE SAME SPEED AS THAT OF YOUR DATE.

This went on to become an inside joke in my circle. Whenever I am in a restaurant with friends and we have ordered food, it always comes up.

“Silasiae chezea chezea hapo.”

  1. Bobby Mapesa drops the best verse in Kenyan hip-hop in Nonini’s Mtoto Mzuri Remix (second verse)

It was-is-will be the greatest rap verse in the history Kenyan music. PERIOD. There will be no other greater verse than this whatsoever. It proved Bobby Mapesa supreme lyrical skills, and his cheeky soprano, and sleek rapping was the icing on the cake. He outshone Nonini in his song and with just this verse he entered in our memory books as the greatest lyricist of all time in Kenya. When my son inevitably asks me about it, I can’t wait to break it down to him explain it… Too bad he faded, afterwards. His last year comeback was not what it was cracked up to be.Just play the song and sample the verse…

“shida yenu madame wataka tuwe same
mkilemewa na shame/sheng wataka kutu-blame
hii ni kama game, hatuwezi kuwa same
sitakutaja name, unanipenda juu ya fame
kama wewe ni wa kusalimiana na watu kwa barabara wee ni wa swara
kama wewe ni wa kuchekesha makonkodi usilipe kodi wee ni kugwara
hapana itisha mimi thao ya saloon
shika mbao nyoa kichwa saf ka baloon
za lunch za noon,See you soon
usiwe kula kula kama baboon
siwezi do kama hujaiva, na pia
siwezi do kama sijaiva
kwanza make list ya watu washaku-feast
nasikia ushachafua mpaka kwetu east kwa ma-beast

And the other smaller part afterwards…

na usiwe wa kifalafala
kukaa tu ndee kimalamala
zako ni ku-flash na kungoja hala
kwa ma-boys wa ki-white collar
jua kusaka dollar

Beat those rhymes, the lyrical fusion, the urban-ghetto context of the song, the African expectations bestowed upon a woman in a city like Nairobi. Everyone with with an IQ of about 100 will in deed understand why this verse is such a big deal.

Uprooting billboards and breaking street lights for fun at UoN

In Kenya, the best university you can ever go to is the University of Nairobi. And by University of Nairobi, I mean Main Campus. That encompasses School of Engineering, ADD (Arts, Architecture, Design, surveying, real estate etc), Medicine and other Chiromo kids, before they relocate to Chiromo or Kenyatta. The farmers in Kabete and the teachers in Kikuyu have only a slight advantage over those in universities like Moi and that other one in Nakuru.

Imagine peeing on Uhuru Highway… Imagine uprooting the KEMU billboards and going with it to school. Imagine partying in the CBD, and within Nairobi. Now for us, this was a normal experience. KU guys used to envy us. JKUAT guys used to cry. That university in Njoro, Nakuru I keep forgetting, Maseno and the rest could trade their right lung to transfer to THE UNIVERSITY/.  We ran the town. Damn, wish I can roll back the hand of time.

No doubt the best thing that can happen to any Kenyan is to go through main campus as a regular student, or if self-sponsored live in the hostels. Anyone who never went through Main Campus sadly missed out on this lifetime opportunity. You can make up for it, by ensuring all the relatives in your next generations go there.

  1. Gets dumped professionally on my birthday!

Ever been dumped on your birthday, after having a great day with the most beautiful woman you wanted to marry? Imagine being dumped on your 25th birthday. You don’t turn 25 every day. Not that you did anything wrong. I swear I took a shower that day. I brushed. I did everything right.  The devil just interfered. I was expecting a good night text and KABOOM… “This won’t work, maybe we be just friends”…

Damn, that was cold.

  1. Kibaki’s re-election 2007

I will only would love to meet the genius who saw things were going south and said,

“Look, let us withhold the results from Tharaka Nithi, and rig at the tallying stage.”

That was an evil genius. In the same league as Einstein. As in us in guys in ODM, we were so sure, we went to sleep knowing we are going to State House the following day…those pricks. I hope the deaths will never give them a peace of mind. It should haunt them to their graves.

  1. Sanaipei Tande & Sheila Mwanyiga: MILFs of my generation

In the 2007 Sawa Sawa festivals at arboretum, I stood next to Sanaipei Tande. She was in a yellow top, and blue jeans and those Sh 10 bob shoes. She was so plain, so unremarkable, you will ignore her at any house party. But let us agree, that Sana has the most seductive smile in Kenya. And in videos she possesses this sexy charm that drives men nuts.

As for Sheila Mwanyiga, there is no disputing that she was the most desirable woman in Kenya in 2000s, anyone disputing this will have to state their sexual orientation first. She ever hugged me when my heart was broken, and it was cured.

Being beaten by the police at KBC

When at ‘the University’ we would go drinking at KBC. KBC is government property, manned by the no-nonsense, kick ass GSU chaps. Ever since that 1982 scare by Ochuka (what was that Sonofabitch trying), they never take their chances. So, at KBC, beer is sold cheaply, used to be like 70 bob and about 85 by the time we left. So the drill was you pay Sh 50 bob at the gate, to drink the untaxed beer.

The form used to be; we go there around 6.30 p.m, drink until 10 or 11 p.m and then hit the club stoned, to save on the drinks. Beer in club was Sh 150, and if the club had white lounge chairs, it was Sh 200. So you go drunk and then met your girlfriend there later.

At KBC, comfort in the words of Uhunye was a non-issue. We sat on stones, beer crates or even down and drunk the warm beer as if it is the reason we chased the Britons from Kenya. Warm beer makes you high and stupid quickly.

Back then I was experimenting with Guinness because of that advertised macho bullshit. I had downed like 6 and stolen one from my boy Flex. I was floating. My brain was full of piss. I started abusing anyone, in that comrade camaraderie. I stood at the exit and started insulting anyone walking out. I was later joined by my boy Kevin.

Now, if a woman passed with a man, I would stop them and start talking to the woman,

“See, your man, be careful with him. He is am p***y robber. Be careful…!!!”

And I would turn to the man and say,

“See, you woman here, I know her, she used to mess with my boy. Boy she can rob d**k…”

This went on for some time. Until this seemingly short man in his 30s with a beautiful woman-in her 30s too passed and I tried that joke. He looked at me, stunned and the woman totally flabbergasted. They went away. 47 seconds later they came back and they found us rooted in the same place, still abusing everyone, jolly good fellows.

“What did you just say,” he asked us. The tone was so cold, steely, and dangerous I could smell death coming our way. We started apologizing immediately, saying we may have mistaken him as one of the a comrade. We got to the gate and there were  like 8 cops. Menacing.

“What did you just say?”

Before I could answer, a heavy slap landed on my cheek. I felt warm liquid involuntarily irrigate my thighs. All that beer. The infuriated guy planted hot slaps like he was possessed. All along the woman was trying to persuade him to leave us, but she was really persuading him to beat the crap out of us. Picture a short plump man jumping up to slap the tallest man in Westlands constituency.  And they asked questions and they answered with slaps. They took turns slapping the piss out of my head. The slaps came thick and fast. And Kevin who was innocent in this case received some for me. Kevo, I still owe you that drink.

The following day, my left cheek looked it had been stung by seven ants befre a swarm of bees carresed it. My left eye, looked like someone had rubbed the small red-pepper inside it.

Since that day, I stopped drinking. As in I will never get drunk enough to start insult everyone in a club. I have maintained my sobriety.  All I do is what you call social drinking.

  1. Living in the Rift Valley-Part One

When I was in Form 4, anytime we closed school, I would go to my brother’s place who was working as nurse in Fort Tenan in Kericho county. Fort Tenan is where one of those hominids was discovered-was it Zinjanthropus?

Fort Tenan is this cool, luxuriant place. I loved the place. If would choose my home in Kenya, it would be Fort Tenan. Green and mountainous just how I like my retirement home environment. But that is not why I loved Fort Tenan.

My brother had a stash of every Saturday and Sunday Nation, I think it is here I decided I will become a writer. I would read all those newspaper from page to page, while enjoying good R&B.

And there was this girl next-door. Must have been 23. I was 18. She was a light skin, with legs I would eat without salt. She was beautiful, those Kalenjin beauties who make us want to be proud of being Kenya

But I was young and I could only fantasize. She would come and ask me to write her the words of the songs, “I am all out of love” by Air Supply. Or “Invisible Man” by 98 degrees. My heart would beat at 320 beats a second as she sat near me on the bed as I wrote the lyrics down.

9. Living in the Rift Valley-part 2

After high school, the same brother was transferred to Koru-famous for being the home of Robert Ouko-and this is where I went to cool my heels and read some more newspapers. It was the stupid two years you spend waiting to join campus. Rich kids get a head start here by starting CPAs and or some inconsequential course with a fancy name like BBIT at Strathmore.

I was in the hillside village  of Koru. Beautiful place. I loved it. Then I saw this village queen. Nice Luo woman with all that a Luo woman possesses. By then I had balls and I went after her. But I was sliced. I left the place and cursed it and in deed it was one of the most affected places after post-election violence.

10. On opening day-high school

There was that shitty part when joining high school they asked you what you wanted to become when you grew up. I said president. Everyone had a good chuckle. But the teacher told me to be serious. I said I wanted to be a teacher.

But on the last day, I remember the principal-who I never got along with-said,

“Who knows, maybe one day  Nyanchwani may be president of this country.”

I hope so. Even if it being the president of my household.

To be continued…

 

1178: Governor Joel Evans #RIP

“He who has knowledge, has the whole world on his arms”

-Governor Joel Evans to me

I first fell in love with his Facebook profile picture. It looked like a cartoon distortion of his face, something similar to his facial features. It had a yellow background,  which made it warm and welcoming. There was a subtly cheeky thing about the profile picture. Yet it had that sunny disposition, sober mien and a youthful optimism of the world that lay ahead of him. An optimism that reflected his Facebook posts. At some point, I ever wanted to ask him, how can make a facial cartoon of myself for my Facebook profile. But I never had the courage, or the time to ask.

I imagined him as an averagely tall, light-skinned Luo boy, intelligent and sober. But I have since seen his photo, he was young, not quite tall-or the pictures are misleading me. But he was incredibly handsome, had an infectious smile and from all the tributes that poured on his wall, you can tell he was a man of the people.

Since he was political, I knew his type. I could picture his academic and career trajectory. He would dabble with student politics, get suspended once or twice, go back to and win a political post or become a busy body.But wait. Joel had the intellect and the smarts to be be better. To do better than a busy body. So he will try and finish school, use the political connections garnered from student leadership to land a job that will propel him further into politics or diplomacy.

What I know he was set for a public career, which I have no doubt, he would have been the sober and the diligent type that both political divides would have loved to have. For while CORDED, he was a moderate. His views were never extreme.

I don’t know who sent the other a Facebook friend request.But we were Facebook friends. He was the type of a virtual friend you grow to like, read their posts, occasionally like, sometimes comment. It goes on and on until you get accustomed to each other. At some point, you will inbox each other. Share notes on current and political issues that you can’t dare share in the public domain.

About three months ago, I saw on Facebook that he had been diagnosed with cancer. At the time, the country was in a fundraising frenzy for Jadudi and other cancer patients. I thought I saw him call for one and there was some mobilization to that effect.

Tucked away in New York, as a broke student, there was little I could do, but I did say prayer that may he break through it all. Since then, I have occasionally checked his Facebook posts, reading his political analyses from time to time, while watching his recovery. At times, there was hope that he would survive. He would go a whole week without mentioning his medical condition.

Joel was a unique young man. You know he was unique, since he numbered his posts.  And he stopped at post number 1178. I have tried numbering my posts, and I have failed. And signed off his posts as #GJE. Governor Joel Evans. He called himself governor, not in the cocky, arrogant sense, for there was no arrogance in his posts. It was more an aspiration, and harmless at best.

It takes so much dedication, discipline to keep up with numbering your posts all the way to 1178. But such was Joel. He updated his status regularly, feeding us with political observation, some casual, some pedestrian, some evocative, some wise, some intelligent. All in all, a tireless crusader. Always insightful, and where he erred, we can only forgive him for being young and naive. At 21, we all are.  But he was going to be one of the sharpest knives. That we can be sure.

Ironically, in his last post, he had invited friends to visit him and see how he had recovered from the cancer.

There was a day he posted on how unaffordable cancer treatment is.

sgeScreenshot_2015-12-19-12-19-42.png

There was a day he told us that his body was tired and he could no longer withstand it. That was a month ago. A month to his death. 11 more posts to go.

Post 1167-“I am suffering, and frankly, am tired.  Am worn out. The physical body can’t have it anymore. Nimechoka.”

That day, my heart skipped a bit. I almost cried. For it was a premonition. More than 100 people urged him to hang in there. We hoped that he will hang in and emerge stronger. He did. But for a very short while.

All along, we had never corresponded. Until December 9th. He must have updated his post, and I liked or commented when he started a chat.

“The Retrosexual…” he started.

I was happy that I was talking to him finally. We chatted briefly and he assured me, that he will overcome; he said he was young and influential and he had so much hope that God is on his side, as you can see from the screenshot below. Only, sometimes, God has different plans for us.

GJE IMG-20151220-WA0031

On Saturday, I woke up at around 11 a.m, which makes it 7 p.m in Kenya. As checked on Facebook, digging through the Facebook posts, everything seemed normal. After like 40 minutes, I saw some post in the lines of, “Governor Joel Evans called on us to go visit him today, what is this I am reading…could it be true?”

I immediately went to his Facebook post, and my heart sunk immediately. How could death be so cruel? Hundreds of tributes pouring in. Poems, messages, notes, everything, were all flooding his wall thick and fast. So many people who wanted to show up at his home in Embakasi, felt cheated by Joel. It was sad and heartbreaking.

Everyone was talking about the Ubuntu philosophy that Joel preached and people had come to identify him with. I cried despite the fact that we have never met. Or maybe we have, but ever since I quit student politics in 2011,  I have never done any bit of it, so quite unlikely. I felt so bad and cancelled an appointment just to reflect on the fickleness of life and why we toil so much, if in the end death comes in such a distasteful fashion.

From the posts I gathered that Joel touched the lives of all those he interacted with. Everyone remembered the moments he shared with them. I realized from his student activism that he had been suspended from Moi University and had spent a night or two in a jail cell. He was still under suspension, and was hoping to join the University of Nairobi.

Allow me to detour a bit and talk about student politics.

At times when students leaders have become overblown with their own importance, it is easier to dismiss student leadership that it has gone to the dogs. When people look at Babu Owino they see him as a lost person, misguided and annoying. When students stone cars every time they strike, or go on rampage, there is the usual cheap talk that they should not be employed, they should style up,and the usual bla bla bla middle-class nonsense that the likes Carol Mutoko spew from the comfort of their offices.

What most people don’t know is that by the time students take to the streets, they have tried every possible channel to air their grievances, and most administrations rarely listen to the plight of students. It is when cars have been stoned and students caused some untold damage, that they usually come to their senses. Students like Kenyans sometimes are left with no option. Think of our frustration with corruption, don’t you think that violence is justified because no institution is capable of fighting the vice anymore?

Most student leaders do a thankless job. Not many people will ever understand. Not the least, parallel student who pay dearly and would rather not question anything at the fear of delaying their graduation. Yet their appalling silence is what morphs into the annoying silence, apathy and conformity in their adult life even as corruption makes life impossible for the ordinary Kenyan.

Student leaders often put their lives in line to question authorities who only see money from the self-sponsored students, often forgetting and ignoring the poor students sponsored by HELB.

Now that education minister, Fred Matiang’i wants to increase the university fees,  which is wrong, it will take a Babu Owino to stop the nonsense. Both parallel students and regular can benefit from the protest. But sometimes it is the student leaders who are suspended, sometimes their lives that are ruined so that the Silas Nyanchwanis of the poor widows can afford higher education.

At 21, Governor Joel Evans had been suspended for fighting for a worthy cause. His posts were illuminating and we all learnt something every day he put up something different. He infected us with his optimism. Made us all believe in something. He fought a good fight. But lost in the end. Now he is gone, to the land where no one comes back. Taken down by cancer.

May be if he afforded to go India, he would have bought more days on earth. May be if our systems worked, he would have find treatment in Kenya, in time and lived to see another day.

What his death means, is that for us young people, we need to think of how we can elect a good government that is constantly in tune with the needs of the people. Where money for Cancer does not have to be played with, or a minister of health, bribed so that a cancer center can be built.

A top radiologist in Kenya told me that with one billion, we can build a cancer center from scratch, train the necessary personnel and buy medicine that can run the center, up from scratch. With 5 billion, we can have five centres within three years and even send our brightest kids to learn about cancer abroad and come back to help the thousands cancer patients.

But with so much theft going on the government, with all the greed, they are too blind to see many families losing their loved ones because of the cost. Many families impoverished by the sick family members.

My wish is that our generation will change things for the better. We will manage our greed, so that it will never get the better of us. That one day we can all afford quality education and medical care without calling the entire clan to fundraise, stripping ourselves off any dignity. That one day, another young man, or young woman does not have to die because of something that is preventable.

Kisii Women

My friend Boni declared in February 2011, that he WILL NEVER EVER date or bed a Kisii woman again. He had tried like 3 of them. The first one was disastrous, the second catastrophic and the third, calamitous. One of them was temperamental, the second was bad in bed (can’t risk to describe in his exact words) and the other I can’t remember the exact charge. But that was it for him.

Back then, I was an idealist and I had barely dated a Kisii girl. In fact, I have scarcely dated two or three of them. I had this belief that will probably marry from Central or Western Kenya. Or Coast. Some Taita lasses used to excite me, wacha tu! Heck, I ever wanted to marry from Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria, African-American. Everywhere, but my clanswomen.

I have never had any specific problem with Kisii ladies, expect maybe the amount of dowry I will pay in the event she is university educated. I have always held that Kisii women make the best contenders for good wives. They are not overly or crassly materialistic, for one. At least they never used to be.

As a boorishly patriarchal community, our ladies were fairly tamed and I believed if you married one, provided for her and made her feel that she is the best thing after the first sip of beer, she would raise the healthiest and brightest kids you can dream off as a man. And Kisii women are generally good keepers, if they are not corrupted or distracted.  Also if you trust them with a business and believe in their abilities, they tend to be fiercely loyal and can build you an empire. They are decent homemakers, and the best to give you the freedom to chase paper.Often, as Kisii men, we take these attributes for granted, and I hate it. Most Kisii men are terrible players, and it hurts me seeing some good, beautiful and decent ladies being cheated on and their lives being ruined pretty unnecessarily.

But I love their humility and their belief in making a marriage or a relationship work. Only Meru chicks can be better at keeping a man. I would recommend a Kisii woman to any man, anywhere. Besides, for them, they are marriageable to any tribe. We have a higher compatibility to all tribes than most. We can swing both the Nilotic and Bantu axis, without the stereotype that encumber our GEMA sisters.

Even though, I have advised them in the past to stop dating Luo men. They always take the kindness of our women for dumbness. I have like 27 cases to back up my case. I have advised some to pass on the romantic nonsense that Luo men sell.  They never listen. Often they so are taken in with the flowers and cards, and fancy dinners until they realise, there are other women being treated to the same. Then they resent the Luo folks so much, they even end up voting for Jubilee. And I don’t want that us losing votes on this basis. And at this stage, I will ask the Omondis and Otienos, to treat my sisters with some dignity and decency to rescue a few votes for Tinga.

Anyway, Kisii ladies are usually not ranked among the hottest in Kenya. Which is bullshit. For I know as many beautiful, curvy women from my motherland as like from any other part of Kenya. They just tend to be invisible. But try find an Embu chick. Did you know that the first ever socialite-was her name Toxic-was Kisii. She was some decent pair of goods, light-skin, beautiful and curvy. Her ass was and probably still is the SI units of those things in Nairobi.  I mean, like her name, she was ‘toxically’ beautiful. .Where is she by the way? Anyone…Hit my inbox. She burst into the scene a couple of years ago. Sheila Kwambokas, Angela Angwenyis, Corazon Kwambokas, anywhere you look, there are no shortage of hot Kisii mamas. Go to the main SDA churches in Nairobi and you will be confused. Even at universities, some of the really hot ones were and still are Kisiis.

It so happens that the most beautiful Kisii women are always out of my league. The ones I ever desired were so out of my league, I have never even been worth to drink their bath water. I have seen a number taken by men, simply because the men drove better cars than my two shoes. Simply because the men held better jobs that writing this stupid, absurdly stereotypical blogs. I may have said that Kisii women are not materialistic, but show me a woman who will not fall for a man with a good job and a good car, and I will show an intelligent politician.

People accuse Kisii women of being temperamental. But scientists did establish long time ago that prolonged eating (and exposure) of bananas, can predispose individuals to a lot of potassium and sodium, the two ions that power the our nervous system. So the more potassium and sodium you have in the blood, the more temperamental you become. That is why countries that are permanently at war mostly have bananas as the staple diet. Just sample all the unstable countries in the sub-Saharan Africa..

I know, some Kisii women can be volatile and violent when exposed to male bullshit. Just don’t cheat and avoid going home drunk. If you married a Kisii woman toe the line. Generally, I don’t rate Kisii women higher on the Sobriety Index among Kenyan women. Women from Western Kenya score poorly here. Mess them and they will paint your white shirts with tomato sauce and deflating car tyres is still good sport to them. Some like the sound of the windscreen reacting to a heavy stone. Some know many ways of using a wife. And some are good in walking away, leaving you to eat your bullshit.

Kikuyu women to me are the most sober, and aware of their rights in a relationship. Truth be told, Kikuyu women are hardworking, and less dependent on their men. They are always in some chama or investment group, and one day you may discover she is a millionaire without your knowledge. That kind of hard work has taken longer than necessary for our sisters from Western Kenyan to catch on. But they are not entirely to blame, since our societies did some serious trampling on them, it is now they emerging.

My only beef with Kisii women is that they never want to speak our mother tongue. There are some stupid Kisii men raised in towns too who think that not knowing mother tongue is the embodiment of civilisation, the pinnacle of coolness and ultimate marker of intelligence. But their heads are emptier than a politician of questionable sexual orientation, interested in foreskins.  But men are fewer and far between.

Kisii women once they step in Nairobi or any 19th century town like Nakuru for that matter, have this annoying habit of pretending that they don’t speak our noble and royal language: Ekegusii, hitherto the foremost and purest Bantu language in Kenya. Yet, we know they went to some primary SDA boarding school in Kisii, even worse in Nyamira before proceeding to Nyabururu or Kereri Girls. Of course they all join small universities in Eldoret, outskirts of Kisumu or the small one along Thika Road that Obama visited recently (cue: named after our first president).

So you can understand my frustrations when I meet them, and they insist on speaking in Swahili, or even more boringly some insist in English. It makes me sick. It gives me Malaria. Can some Kisii woman tell me why they hate our precious mother tongue so much? Some Kenyans think that we speak in some shrill, irritating, high-pitched soprano that can disrupt ancestors from their sleep, but our women should know that those are our enemies, and they don’t like the economic progress and milestone we are making as a community and they will find ways of putting us down. E.g: saying that we are witches, we are thieves, we are conmen or we have a bad language. But really, don’t listen to them. Every language sounds strange, weird and unfunny to non-speakers.

I mean, ever listened to a beautiful Meru chick talk in Meru? Or those Kiuk women you meet in a club in Outering, you agree you are taking them home, and in the back of the car they start talking in mother tongue and all over sudden you think they are conspiring to kill you. All those on a Matatu to Wangige who erupt into mother thngue when the conductor overcharges them. They speak so fiercely, they give you an idea who Wangu wa Makeri was? Kalenjin when spoken by a woman is just as bad. Kamba is playfully annoying. How is spoken Kamba better than Kisii. You get the point. Just about the only language that sounds right is Luo and coastal tribes. So, Kisii women, just speak your mother tongue and be proud of your roots.

There refusal to speak Ekegusii made the Esaga Saga night lose a potential customer. Even if you gave me all the Eurobond money to attend Esaga saga, I wont. As long Kisii women insist in Swahili and English, I will stay away.

Another thing with Kisii women is that once exposed to the cities, they tend to abandon their humility and the wifable qualities. Nothing is more distressing than a Kisii woman who has been exposed to money, higher education or these thing they call rights.

Granted, I am down for equal and fair treatment of women, but I like a society where men are men, and women still retain their feminine allure. As in learn to make those damn chapattis, they are the bedrock of any marriage. I will always fix the electronics in the house (OK-I am crap with electronics, but men generally should handle the masculine tasks around the house. I am also an A student in Physics. Just goes to show).

A Kisii woman who is properly educated can be a handful and I have met some who thought the idea of washing their husbands’ clothes, somewhat condescending, backward, barbaric, chauvinistic, masochistic, misogynist, retrogressive, and abusive. You name it. And that is why I’m seeing many not marrying Kisii men anymore. They run away from us, and five years down the line, they are regretting.

Kisii women in Nairobi and even abroad are a source of so much pain to may Kisii men. They abandon our pristine and best culture and they buy this equality business and they have ended up ruining families, killing their men, sending some to jail only to discover it was not worth it when it is too late.

I urge my sisters, come back home. We are still your best bet. I personally love all of you. And all your best in your dreams.

Ni hayo tu kwa leo. Hadi wakati mwingine.

Why You Should You Never listen to a Book Critic or a Literature Professor!

Only Paul Graham, the English programmer, essayist and venture capitalist would explain Evan Mwangi’s attack on Tony Mochama’s book, Nairobi: A Night Through the City in the Sun. It was totally uncalled for. Today, I would like to defend Mochama and other men and women of his ilk who write what academics usually dismiss as populist fiction/writings. But first, have a look at this hierarchy. If not clear, just google, it: Paul Graham Hierarchy of Disagreement.

                                                          Graham's_Hierarchy_of_Disagreement-en.svgPaul Graham’s hierachy of disagreement.

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Jackson Biko, The Nation columnist, is easily one of the most celebrated writers in the country currently.  Whereas, he is necessarily restrained in his newspaper articles owing to the moralistic sensibilities that national newspapers must honour, in his blog, he is unchained and commands a huge following.

He has won the Kenyan Bloggers’ Award (BAKE) for creative writing for three consecutive years, since its inception in 2012. Although the awards come with a lot of self-promotion, there is no overstating of Biko’s ability. He charms our dreary lives weekly or as frequently as possible with wit, humour and a remarkable eye for observing what drives Kenyans, especially Nairobians. The blog is one of the most read, most shared on social media.

Twice in recent times, Biko has thrust himself into the national arena because of his blog. In September 16th last year, he wrote a blog titled ‘Visa Denied’ that went viral, exposing the usually  insulting procedures that as Kenyans and many Africans are subjected to various consulates, before we travel to their countries in the West (and South Africa, annoyingly). The piece provoked national ire that even saw the British envoy write what read like an apology to Biko. With just that, he brought home one of the uglier aspects modern immigration that we are often forced to put up.

To underscore Biko’s sphere of influence, he recently helped raise Sh 6.4 million within just 48 hours to help Emanuel Otieno (famously known as Jadudi)  undergo his fourth brain surgery in India. The money was more than the Sh 1 million requested by Jadudi. The 22-year old is back in the country and recently thanked Kenyans for their generous contributions that have given him another shot at life.  With a single blog post, Biko helped the young university student, exposed the rot in our health system, the defective and ineffective health insurance that has made Kenyan rely more on fundraisers and going abroad for treatment.

Some of Biko’s blogs are masterpieces that can be taught in any literature class in the world. The comments in his blogs tell as much. Yet, in Kenya, no literature professor will pick them for a creative writing class. The blogs carry style, technique and a unique voice all of which are essentials taught in class. Except the professors in the Kenyan class rooms are still stuck up with colonial days’s writers and 20th century European and American poets. God forbid. Some literary critics will shun him and dismiss the blog in its entirety. If he was white, may be, they will take him seriously.

I write this because a fortnight or so ago, Professor Evan Mwangi, opened an unwarranted attack on Tony Mochama and his book, Nairobi: A Night Runner’s Guide Through A City In The Sun. By subjecting the book to literary criticism,  Prof Mwangi behaved like a cricket umpire refereeing a football match. For Mochama’s book was supposed to be an entertaining guide around Nairobi, not necessarily a literary gem. Mochama, who has used the moniker ‘Night Runner’ since the early 2000s, is well known for his nightly exploits that he often shares in newspaper columns.

The book under attack, if read objectively is part an encyclopaedia of the Nairobi social scene, a criticism of what is wrong and right about our society, the enduring entrepreneurial spirit of Kenya-regardless of the choice of business, pointers to poverty, desperation, disillusionment, our shared humanity-such as Mochama running into a homeless tramp in a first world country (Montreal-Canada), who he gives a two dollar coin, and concludes that he is going to buy liquor instead of medication. A better critic will try and discern if Mochama’s observations a re a true reflection of the Kenyan society.

Mochama and Biko are the Charles Dickens and William Thackerays of our time, recording the anxieties, tensions and the decadences of our time. Often, good writers are usually celebrated in retrospect. It used to be this way and for long we were stuck with Shakespeare as the best thing that ever happened to literature. But now, younger generation know what is good for them, and will soon pick a popular novel than be stuck with an awarding winning abstract novel that you need pain killers to read from cover to cover.

Critics play no role in our lives whatsoever

Critically acclaimed and commercially successful writers are always in agreement that critics serve no useful purpose, whatsoever. Ken Follett, the British thriller novelist in a 2001, New York Times interview, told the interviewer,

“I am so focused on pleasing the reader that any good criticism is important to me. I admit I know best. The decision to take the advice remains with me.”

Most critics are spoilt brats, favoured by institutions and privilege who try to dictate tastes, yet their literary gourmet is not universally acceptable. It is never accessible (physically and literary). The critic or the professor bearing theory, ready to kill your dream is mostly in the confines of the university walls, still teaching Shakespeare and Chekhov. From these ivory towers, they pontificate but nobody cares really. How many Literature Nobel laureates do you know?

A typically respected critic comes from a reputable institution in the country, highly intoxicated on Literary Theory, that act as a lens from which he views the world. Very few African critics have even come up with any discernible theory. To a writer and a reader, you do not need a theory to write or read every book. If anything theory ruins the pleasure of reading.

Some of the books, art, and music usually spurned by critics, end up getting the best reception from the real, thinking crowds.  They end up raking millions, leaving critics with eggs on their faces. Literary tastes, are highly subjective. And your PhD in Literature does not mean that your tastes are better than an accountant savouring a Stephen King book. Bottom line, are you enjoying whatever that you are reading. If Rihanna has more fans on YouTube and you don’t necessarily like her music, that does not make the millions who listen or dance to her dunderheads.

And the difference between traditional critics and the direction the world is headed was best brought home by William Deresiewicz, writing in The Atlantic in the January/February issue of this year. The illuminating article titled, ‘The Death of the Artist—and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur’ is a must read for critics and artists alike.

Deresiewicz, argued that the web has democratised tastes and has made everyone an artist, they ever wanted to be. Think of bloggers, Instagram photographers, YouTube artists and their ilk. If they listened to critics,  some of the innocuous and childish things that we share on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter that make our days, will not exist.

Despite their perishability, they do earn some of creators good publicity and money. Even better, they are better social critics for creating material that is accessible to the common man, than the obfuscate academic papers that the critics write and shelve in their departmental libraries. A clever satirical tweet, sardonic cartoon, or a telling meme about Moses Kuria or Trump portraying their shenanigans,  is worth a thousand academic papers written by the critic that no one will read.

“Another word for gatekeepers is experts,” wrote Deresiewicz, pointing out that when the Modern Library asked its editorial board to select the 100 best novels of the 20th century, the top choice was (James Joyce’s) Ulysses. In a companion poll of readers, it was (Ayn Rand’s)  Atlas Shrugged…Prizes belong to the age of professionals. All we’ll need to measure merit soon is the best-seller list.

Makes perfect sense. How many books by Nobel laureates have you read? But you have probably read and enjoyed books by the popular fiction writers flood the market. Mario Puzo’s Godfather will remain a classic for long time yet, it will never be approved into a class of literature even as some out of tune, grey-haired professor who has never heard of Facebook selects for the umpteenth time another Shakespeare book for a class read. For heaven sake, try Ferdinand Oyono’s Houseboy. A swear word, does not make a book any less readable or desirable. Such kind of Victorian puritanism is what killed the reading culture in Kenya. For books deemed literary-worth can be a painful read, you need pain killers to finish them.

And that is the road, Prof Evan Mwangi and literature professors want to take us. Even as they look to the West for direction, they should try and see some of the writers who went off the tangent such as William S Burroughs, Hunter S Thompson, Jack Kerouac among other Beat Generation writers,are studied in American Universities. They produced a literature that defined their generation that was characterised  by defiance and what came to be known as the counterculture movement.

Mochama and a host of new writers in Kenya are trying to disrupt the old models of telling stories that never worked. We can’t keep killing their dreams by subjecting their material to this kind of destructive criticism that Mwangi thrives in. It never helped anyone.

No writer has made critics more irrelevant than the novelist American novelist James Patterson who the Vanity Fair has dubbed the Henry Ford of Books. The former ad man turned novelist is now one of the bestselling authors fetching millions and living a life, no critic will ever dream about much less live. He is doing things (starting the ReadKiddoRead website, for parents looking for good books for their children, setting up the James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarship in the schools of education in two universities in the states and a college scholarship program) that no critic can even try.

Lisa Scottonline, famous for her legal thrillers, has previously praised Patterson in the Washington Post review of his Kill Alex Cross novel, saying his tens of millions fans can’t be wrong.

“They used to say 50 million Elvis Presley fans couldn’t be wrong, and James Patterson makes 50 million fans look like a good start, he has sold more than 230 million books, and his fans aren’t wrong, either.”

That is what it is. Fans, if they are happy, then write for them. Ignore the critic. Create for them to criticise. By creating, you are being charitable enough, giving them a job that gives them relevance and bread.

One last thing, critics sometimes are failed writers. Their books or attempts at creative writing never worked and you can never rule out the aspect of sour grapes when critiquing award-winning writers. Just a polite reminder to them: There is no monopoly for taste.

Mochama is an award winning writer. We love him and we don’t need to be taught on how to read him.

I’m currently pursuing my Masters in Science in Journalism at Columbia University, New York.

Email: son2107@columbia.edu.