That Donkey On Your Back

Men don’t carry donkeys. Rather, men shouldn’t carry donkeys. It is not that donkeys have far too big jaws to be carried, or that they always look guilty-like they, and their offspring, deserve to bear burden all their natural life. It is simply that, since the beginning of time, men don’t carry donkeys. There’s a picture that comes to mind now. It’s a distant memory that’s coming to me like I saw it in another lifetime but one can, with good reason, call a childhood another lifetime. I can still see it hanging on that plain poorly lit wall. It’s actually a fading dusty caricature of a man carrying a donkey on his back. I can’t remember the house where this photo hang but I would go with one of my shags. I can’t remember, too, the caption on the photo but it must have been weighty. It certainly must have felt that way to the man. There’s a story that I remember, too, about a man, his son and a donkey.

It’s an Aesop fable, this story. The man, like all men, didn’t set out to carry the donkey. He was on his way to sell the donkey but he listened to people, and like all men who listen to people, he ended up carrying the donkey. The saddest thing about this man who carried the donkey is that he did it for a good reason. His heart, like most hearts, was in the right place. His ears weren’t. He listened to anyone who had something to say-which means everyone, really-about how to treat a donkey. Aesop meant to say that you can’t please people. You can try but in the end, you’ll only get a donkey on your back. A donkey, on your back, is no monkey.

This is about people. It’s about the observations I’ve made about people and by extension, myself. It’s true what they say, that smooth seas never made a skilled sailor. This is to say that there are a lot of things one never learns about people, and life, until tempest sets in. The tempest becomes a two-way mirror through which one can observe people. It’s interesting to say the least. I went through a patch last year, a tempestuous patch. I know that this year is halfway gone and it doesn’t make sense to talk about it now but, I guess, I was waiting for the moon to be aligned right.

Everyone is out to get theirs, every single person. Woe unto you if you come in between. You’ll be shocked by the lengths to which people will go to get you out of their way. But I learnt that there’s such a thing as schadenfreude. I learnt that there are people who will, for no particular reason, find glee in your misfortune anyway-a callous lot that will do a jig on your grave before you even get there. I learnt that until shit hit the fan, you’ll never know the real fans. I learnt that self-preservation is a most essential instinct. That, as Bunk would say, ‘One shouldn’t give a f**k when it isn’t their turn to give a f**k’. And that won’t make you less humane.

I learnt it’s good to believe in people. But that faith in people can get you in untold trouble. So it’s good to reserve your faith in people, too. I learnt that one can easily find themselves in quicksand, sinking deep with every twist and turn, right or wrong. I learnt that it’s easy to judge someone until you walk in their shoes. Then, you’ll see that ‘it ain’t as easy as it looks’, as Ted Turner would say.

I learnt that, as Aesop said, sometimes, there’s nothing that one can do that will seem right to people. That it’s wrong to even try to do something that will appease everybody because that will break you in the end. But the biggest thing I learnt is that, I, people have one mortal flaw; they are human. They can’t help doing what they do. One shouldn’t hold it against them because that will be, one might say, carrying a donkey on your back.

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Posted in People; 6 billion and counting | 5 Comments

The Maths of Blessings

The universe works in mysterious ways. This you can see every time President Kibaki makes a speech. You can tell that every time someone shares a picture of their lunch or breakfast on Twitter.  There are things we’ll never get to understand because we are but mere mortals doomed to take whatever bone the universe throws at us. Amidst the mystery of the universe is inequality; the inequality born of having and not having.

There is indeed such a thing in life as inequality. This inequality comes of a confluence of many things but mostly it comes of the very core of our existence; life. Life is an exercise in extremes. It gives to some lavishly and denies some wantonly. How life chooses who to bestow this (mis)fortune is a testament to the universe’s mystery. There is such heartbreaking poverty amongst us than you can imagine. Poverty that would make your heart bleed. But this world of poverty is an invisible one hiding in the visible one. It is only visible to those who look-those willing to look. The rest of us only see it when the media fleetingly flashes a clip of Kibera, or the impoverished West Pokot, or Mandera where they drink muddy water. Water I wouldn’t use to clean my shoes.

I saw a man last week. But before I saw the man, I saw his house. It was a small house. I have seen bigger bathrooms. It was made using earth bricks. These are not made in some factory and then burned in a kiln to firm them and give them some colour. These bricks are made by simply mixing soil and water then putting the mud in a wooden box to shape it up. They are then left to dry in the sun. The same mud is used to hold them together the same way cement is used on stones. The house had a tin roof, at least. What caught my attention were the polythene bags. The house was covered halfway from the top by polythene bags. The polythene bags are supposed to shield this fragile structure from the rain because as you can imagine, the rain could easily reduce it to a pile of mud. And then I saw the man.

He was seated on a bed. He was old. I’d say he has lived not less than 80 years. He was seating on the edge of the bed with his door ajar. He was just seated there staring into nothing. His eyes fixated on a spot in space, like he could see eternity. He looked like he’d just woken up from a very bad dream only to find that he was not dreaming; only to find that he was living a nightmare. He looked like he was lost in his own home. It was a heartbreaking picture that stirred up some emotions in me. That image is still very clear in my head as I type this. It provoked in me some deep thoughts about this life we live. About being grateful for what we have.

Not far from man’s house is a golf club. A place where the wealthy pay the price of a Vitz to become a patron. Next to this club is the superhighway; the mother of all Kenyan roads. This is the one that will tell the world that Kenya has arrived-a testament of our wealth. 200 metres from the small soil house is a dam. Next to the dam, naturally, is land. The view is something. To own dam side property, you’ll have to cough not less than 5 millions(I know because someone is selling). There’s a club next to the dam where people come to ‘get away’ on weekends. Where they eat lots of meat and wash it down with drinks as they enjoy the cool breeze and ride boats. Immediately the small earth house, a plot fetches not less than 1 million. Wait until they finish the superhighway and that will triple. In the immediate neighbourhood there are houses worth millions-big beautiful houses with exotic tiles big emerald lawns. The small mud house doesn’t belong.

The man is an IDP. He and a few others have just recently resettled here. There was small cluster of houses that is home to some and an advertisement of poverty to others. But he is, I imagine, one of the lucky ones. I mean, he’s not living in tent now is he?

But who cares that people sleep in houses which can be washed away by the rain? Who cares whether people drink muddy water? The government? Not them. They have more pressing matters. They are busy tackling real issues. The NGOs? Those have become a cliché. One thing I’m sure of is that it’s not our job. I mean we have our lives to live and they are not exactly rosy are they?

We are willing to do anything to live the life of kings. We want a bigger everything. A Toyota today is not a car but it will do while we work on that Range. We won’t stop until we move into the giant house in Runda and we’ll go to Mombasa on holiday only because we can’t afford to go to the Barbados. This is right. It’s how we are meant to live. It’s the bone the universe threw us. But then it comes with a curse; the curse of not being satisfied until we show off the fruits of our labour. We are not content with being silently satisfied with our success until we show it to everyone, even those who don’t have. We suddenly become silent and let our money do the talking. And boy is it loud! This is the malady of capitalism.

Humanity today only lives in interstices of capitalism. We would rather complain about slow internet speeds than be thankful that we have such connections. In our blind pursuit of the dream life, we only see what we don’t have. We forget to count our blessings which are actually more than those things that we don’t have. But I guess this simple maths of counting what we have is lost on us.

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Making Lemonade

The president is dead!!” someone whispered. “What?” Jane asked. And then she wished she hadn’t.  See, the President-Jomo Kenyatta-wasn’t supposed to die or at least, one wasn’t supposed to imagine his death. It was treasonable. And yet, as if defying the expectations of his followers, he was now dead. So Jane and the other girls hurdled together in the school’s compound in Murang’a and imagined the chaos that might follow when a President who wasn’t supposed to die, dies. One could feel the gloom, the fear of what would happen next and the shock of what had happened. It was everywhere, this fear-laced uncertainty. The high school students talked about it in hushed tones as did the teachers. But the thing about life is that it never ends. Even in death. It’s a continuum. We found it here and are predestine to leave it here. The phrase larger than life is a lie because how can anything be larger than life when in the end, life stands alone? So as the old man’s life ended, Jane’s was just beginning.

She was baptized by Cardinal Otunga. Ask any devout Catholic and they’ll tell you that to be baptized by a cardinal is a big deal; a very big deal. Jane is no different but it’s different for her because it’s not just a big deal but also the biggest deal in her life so far. That’s the sad part about it because Jane is 14 years old. At 14, that’s the only good thing she can say about her life. Sure she’s in high school now but do you know how she got here? Do you know what she’s doing here? Jane is a house help for a high school teacher. That was the only way Jane was going to high school. The first time she sets foot in a high school compound at 14 is on her first day of work as a house help for a high school teacher.

But Jane has a plan. Yes, she has a plan because you gotta have a plan. There some corny saying about not having a plan; apparently that’s a plan in itself. Jane’s plan was small and simple; her plan is to just live life. It’s a simple plan for a simple girl. But here is the problem with this plan so far, it’s not going well. Sure it’s a simple plan but that doesn’t mean that she has to be a house help, does it? Why not a simple doctor? OK doctor is kind of a stretch because Jane never made it past Standard 4. So she’s 14, can’t read and write properly and hasn’t learned any trade yet. Oh and she’s a woman. It’s 1978 so this sort of a setback. How did she get here?

She is the 1st born. But she is also a woman so school is optional for her. The option being her father’s because if it was Jane’s, she would have stayed in school. But it’s up to her father and so Jane can’t go on with her education. But let’s say her dad is willing, where is he going to get the money from? Sure he has coffee but those are trees not a plantation. And who doesn’t have coffee anyway and what has it done for them? In any case coffee farming now is on its’ deathbed ready to be euthanized by old greedy politicians. OK, so he gets some money from the coffee but what about his drinks? Huh? What about his boy’s education? That’s a dead end. But let’s say he is willing and with the money he makes as a carpenter working for Indians, he can see her through school because she really is a bright student. This is what he will tell you and have you believe, because he believes it himself; money from Indians can’t help you because they’ve made it so. They never give it to you by hand because then it would help you so they put in on the counter for you to pick. This is the money that could have been Jane’s school fees; money that can’t help the owner. Now do you see the superstitious odds against her schooling? She can’t beat them but she has a plan and her plan, despite the odds, has to work because it’s so simple.

Now what? That’s what everybody is asking since the president died. The answer to that is Jane’s plan; life goes on and it has to be lived. So Jane and the country go on with their lives. It’s 1982 now and Jane is a mother. She has a little girl. Jane found herself a man. Tall, dark and handsome she’ll tell you. It’s the 80s and romance is not yet dead. It hasn’t died yet but it’s in witness protection these days only accessible to the privy few. So what they live in a one room mud house in some ghetto? And so what he drinks himself silly and gets into fights and comes home without buttons on his shirt? These are the eighties man and love is all you need. Like that hit song says, that Bon Jovi song; Living on a Prayer.  Jane went and got herself a trade. She’s a tailor now. It’s a noble trade isn’t it? Clothing people is noble, covering their nakedness. See, the plane is working. It’s so simple to fail. Jane is living.

May I speak to your boss? The client asks. And Jane steps in and asks ‘How may I help you?’ It’s 1990 and Robert Ouko has just had the most gruesome of deaths. They shot him, broke his leg then burned him. Even animals get better deaths. But life has to go on. Just ask Jane. She is a boss. She has a small place in Gikomba market where she sells her clothes. School uniforms, kids clothes etc. And she employs tailors. She lives in a house with other rooms now. See, it all works out.

Calm down! This phrase has been repeated several times now. Everybody in the room just needs to calm down. They are in a meeting trying to reconcile the parties. It’s 1995 and Jane has left her home with her kids. Again. Remember that tall dark guy she married? He hasn’t changed like she told herself she would. He still drinks but at least, his shirts have buttons. But her’s don’t. He beats her up. They argue invariably; arguments that last hours into the night. They argue about everything. Even about things that happened in the 80s because then, he was the man. But now he’s down on his luck and things like that, if you let them, can eat you alive. He lets them. Still, she stays because she has her business and her kids to worry about. She only leaves when it gets worse because what kind of woman let’s her family fall apart? Plus she prays about it. Prayers help. OK so this part of the plan isn’t working out as it should but the thing is, the plan is too simple to fail.

Industry. That describes what Jane is doing now. She’s in Nakuru Town now. She’s selling clothes and pots, kettles, bags, batteries and machetes. In Aussie, they call it hard yakka, hard work folks. Jane has another shop. She’s come along way, this Jane. It didn’t fall on her lap. Nothing did. Jane figured that to increase her sales, she could take the goods to the clients. So once a week, she’d pack most of her stock and get on the highway. It’s not genius really. Everyone else was doing it so it’s a survival for the fittest scenario and Jane was very fit. In time, she knew people in Nakuru and-because people are property- in time, she was a shop owner so now clients had access to clothes all the time. See how fit she is now?

This can’t be happening! She thinks to herself. Only it is happening. Right in front of her, a fire razes down her life’s work. It burns down her hopes and momentarily flattens her will to live. It’s a chilly 2001 morning. It’s one of those Gikomba fires.  It’s one of those days. Ok it’s not. How many days do you sit and watch your life’s work burn down? So Jane sits and basks in the warmth from the fire. At least, it’s not very cold the day her life as she knows it is consumed by a raging fire. The plan comes to a screeching halt. What about prayer Jane? Not right now. She’s shaken but it will pass. She’ll see God in this, you just wait.

Fly Emirates. That’s the only thing Emirates Airlines asks of you and that’s just what Jane is doing; flying Emirates. It’s 2004 now. The hostess asks what she’ll have and she says lemonade because if she can’t have it now after making it all her life, then when? Besides she’ll need lots of fluids because Dubai’s heat can eat you alive or if you don’t take fluids, suck you dry. Jane has come too far to give in to heat. Besides, she’s here to buy stock for her shop. Yes, Jane has another shop now. See there was God in that fire, just ask her. The plan is just dandy.

Let’s go. Those are the only words she needed to hear. It’s 2005 and Jane is talking to another Jane. You know where they are going? China. OK so everybody goes to China nowadays but this is 2005. These Janes board a plane and they don’t know where they going. Sure they know they are going to China but that’s like an American saying they are going to Africa. Where in Africa? The thing is, they’ve never been there and couldn’t find someone to take them so they took themselves. They’ll make it but they’ll learn valuable lessons. The plan just can’t fail.

There’s an anecdote about China and creation. They say that God created heaven and earth but everything else was made in China. That’s funny. It’s 2009 and Jane in at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport for the umpteenth time. This is the busiest airport in China. The world’s invasion of China is full throttle and that girl who was baptized by cardinal Otunga is in the invading crowd. Do you know how China markets itself? It says it’s the factory of the world. We are now living in the future and even America goes to china. That’s why everybody is here. That’s why Jane is here. That’s why she keeps coming back here, because this is the plan.

It’s all about people. That’s what Jane will tell you when you ask her why the plan is working. You’ll need people in this life, Jane will tell you that. All kinds of people, she’ll add. And because people will help you on the way, you gotta help them too. Money might be the legal tender but people are the real currency, she’ll say. What about life? There isn’t much to it, you just gotta live it. And worry? It’s useless, she’ll say and wave it off. She’ll tell you that only death kills you. The rest… well it might make you weaker or stronger but the most important thing is to learn something from each experience. Then she’ll quickly, before that point settles, add that some things you’ll never learn. That you’ll do them over and over expecting different result despite previous disappointments because that’s what human beings do.

You must agree that this is one hell of a plan; a fail-proof plan. Or maybe, it really wasn’t a plan. Maybe, it was just living life as it should be lived; one day at a time.

Jane is my mum.

Posted in C'est la vie, People; 6 billion and counting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

How my hair look, Mike?

If the plug was pulled on the Big Bang Theory today, I wouldn’t mourn. Sure I’d be sad but I wouldn’t lock myself in a room and cry like a baby about it. Don’t get me wrong, Big Bang Theory is a damn fine series. Anybody who thinks otherwise be damned. How can you not love Sheldon? How can you not laugh at Raj? What Big Bang Theory offers you is a truckload of laughter, pure comedy. But comedy shows are a dime a dozen. They are all over. They come and go as they please. The degree of funny may vary but laughter is guaranteed. And laughter is good. Laughter is very good. A world without laughter would be like…I can’t imagine such. If junkies live for the next high, then I live for the next laugh. There is nothing quite like a hearty laugh. But while comedy shows give me my laugh, they don’t have a place in my heart. Why should they, laughter is after all a passing thrill. Laughing at Raj or Alan Harper is no better than laughing at a guy falling off a Motor Bike cruising at 300km/h(You don’t think that’s funny? Watch Whacked Out Sports)

The shows that got to me offered something different, something that I could identify with or something that moved me. The first was The OC. Seth and Ryan’s Orange County. I watched it from start to finish and for some reason, I feel it ended prematurely. It started a trend for all series that I would love. They somehow all end prematurely but maybe that’s the genius of it. The OC gave me alternative rock. It gave me Death cab and The killers, Rooney and Modest Mouse and who can forget that moment when Fix You played at the prom? I remember Seth sitting in his room seemingly heartbroken and dejected when he couldn’t get Summer back with End of The Road by Boyz II Men playing in the background. I remember Seth explaining to Ryan that his eye was’ just a little bit blurry’ because Summer had poked him in the eye with her big toe when they had sex for the first time. ‘It was an accident, there were limbs everywhere, I’m lucky I can still see’, he explained when Ryan inquired why she would poke him during sex. At times, I was Seth chasing Summer and I was Ryan being a misfit when it suited me but mostly Seth because Seth was cool. But one thing from the OC that I will never get over is the sweaters; Seth’s sweaters. I wear sweaters because Seth wore sweaters. I’m vain yes but damn it I look good in them!

They could have done a better job with the ending but I’m just grateful that they didn’t stretch the plot until it became unbearable. That would have broken my heart. The shows thereafter came and went or rather, I left them when they didn’t stir anything in me. I watched House and liked it until I couldn’t anymore. The storyline became monotonous. I watched many more but none struck a chord until The Wire.

If you watch just one show about American gangsters and selling drugs on the streets, please, let it be The Wire. If you watch just one show about the effects of drugs on people’s lives let it be The Wire. If you watch just one show about City politics, let it be The Wire. If you watch just one show for nothing else but its sound bites, let it be this one. The Wire is arguably the best series ever created. It’s main character is the city of Baltimore, Maryland. The show tries it’s best to show the different facets of life in Baltimore. The Wire keeps it real. So real that they even have a convicted felon on the cast acting…..a gangster.

The title of this post is one gangster’s last words. It is one of TVs immortal lines. Mike, if you haven’t watched this show, said ‘You look good girl’ then shot her in the head. She knew he’d kill her and she knew she couldn’t convince him otherwise because she had taught him better. But a girl, even when that girl is Snoop, has to look good. Even for death. For the gangsters of The Wire, death is an everyday thing; it is part of the game and it when it comes, it won’t matter if it’s from friend or foe. Death is always lurking on the streets of The Wire. The Wire shows how violence is a way of life on the streets of Baltimore. It will show how politics is a part of everything. How politics interferes with things and why it interferes.

The Wire will show you Bubbles, a coke addict at his worst saying that ‘it’s a thin line between heaven and here’. It will show you his fight against addiction, his relapse and his subsequent victory against it. The Wire will show you Omar Little; a gangsters’ gangster; a gangster with a code; a gangster who only steals from gangsters. Omar will tell you that money has no owners, just spenders. You will love Omar until he is shot by an Eight year old boy. The Wire will show you, through the rise and fall of the ‘Gangsters of The Wire’, that nothing lasts forever. In The Wire, you’ll meet Jimmy McNulty a man so hell-bent on self destruction, he makes Don Draper look like a saint. You’ll see people undo themselves with their greed. You will see that nothing is as simple in life as you always thought.

‘A life, Jimmy, you know what that is? It’s the shit that happens while you are waiting for moments that never come.’ This was Freamon’s advice to McNulty. The Wire is full of these sound bites and moments. One standout poignant moment is Avon and Stringer’s last moment together. They stood on a roof top and recalled their old days and how far they’d come. They were brothers by the streets codes yet fate had come in between them. They stood in each other’s way and each wanted the other gone. Each a betrayer of the other but none knew but for that moment, they were just Avon and Stringer.  Trying to recapture the intimacy of the past but the poison of betray seeped through the surface. It stung their hearts for that short moment but what had to be done had to be done. The scene of betrayal ends with a hug because what act of betrayal would it be without a hug?  Then there is Stringer’s death. McNulty was crestfallen at the sight of Stringer’s body lying on the ground. He had finally caught him and yet Stringer, now dead, would never know.

The Wire is raw. The language is uncensored and the acting is top-notch. Like all good shows, it ended too soon. But boy wasn’t good while it lasted!

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Somewhere Between Now and Down That Aisle

A friend of recently sent me a text that said ‘We broke up! Imagine!’ She had been dating this big guy who, as it turned out, was just full of himself. But I didn’t immediately assume that they’d broken up because this girl has a warped sense of humour and could have been referring to her hairdresser who when we first met, I had advised her to sue(we became friends when she didn’t acknowledge that compliment with hot water). Her hairdresser was hadn’t gone anywhere she confirmed but the guy had. I called her some to see if she was ok and to ask what happened because the turn of events was unexpected. She was obviously heartbroken but mostly, she insisted, she was disappointed.

They’d been going out for Seven months. Not enough to warrant a spot on the Guinness Book of Records but seven months of anybody’s life is a long time. What I didn’t get was why she was disappointed. I couldn’t get it because at the very beginning, she had doubts but eventually she decided to take a chance on a brother. Now it’s over and she is disappointed. Disappointed because she believed that it was headed somewhere and that somewhere, if I can take a wild guess, a very wild guess, would be down the aisle. That got me thinking(something I should do less) about relationships. I realize that this post should have been a letter addressed to June. June, to jog your memory, used to be Prof. Pogrey Fox Kiogothe’s neighbour at Young Nation back in the day. She was like a pen pal only she knew stuff; a pen therapist. A teenage boy would write to her saying he was worried about his beards and she would calmly tell him to relax because with time, they’d grow on him. So I figure June would have some equally smart answers to some of my queries.

My main query was about that hope. What makes someone hope there is more to it than what it is? What gives them that idea that the relationship is headed somewhere? I have been in relationships and I know that one question that men dread, apart from ‘Do I look fat in these jeans?’ of course, is ‘where is this heading?’ A smart chap immediately pulls out a pen and paper and proceeds to show, with the help of diagrams, where ‘it’ is headed. A map with the exact aisle is even better. But who is talking about smart? But at what point does a guy decide that It is headed somewhere? Do you wait until she can complete your sentences? Do you wait until you both give the same answers in unison like a choir? Do you wait till she moves in and re-arranges your things such that if she is not around, you have to go to the office in you pyjamas? Do you wait till her brother is comfortable enough to ask you for a loan? Do you wait till she knows where you buried the body? Or do you just hope, believe and trust? Is there a formula with a lot of Xs and Ys that shows why it is headed somewhere? Or why you should make her an ex? Or do you go with what your gut is feeling at the time?

I then wondered whether people whose relationships are shorter than the London marathon see that it is not heading somewhere and check out early before disappointment sets in. I asked a few people and everyone gave a vague answer. No one had it down to a science. In fact, it was pretty much rocket science to most people. But any one worth their salt knows that the jury is out there so I’m putting this one out there; At what point is it headed somewhere?

 

 

 

 

Posted in C'est la vie, Its always fun until... | 11 Comments

The Company

I came across this old post in my laptop yesterday and decided to post. Four months later.

****

Someone is out to get me! I know it. I am gonna die a slow painful death when they find me. The person or persons, have means. They could be a Corporation incorporated in a country like Luxembourg or the Cayman Islands. Either way, I’m screwed. So you will have to understand when I ignore you because you are in a black suit. I can’t tell who is on their payroll, you see.  One thing is for sure though; Lexy is in with the fix. Lexy is my pirate, my movie guy. He scours the internet late at night so that I and other Nairobians can get cheap movies, nice chap. Anyway the Corporation, or the company, got to Lexy.

Now I’m a simple guy, which is to say I don’t run around naked at night or wear capes and fly halfway around the world at night. Also, I don’t turn into a vampire or a wolf. I’m just skin and bones really. And I love movies. Good movies; which means I don’t watch Nigerian and Indian movies. You can’t blame me for that. Nigerians are hell-bent on turning people into…small people and putting them into bottles, or turning them into snakes. That scares me. The Indians on the other hand, break into song at every opportunity. A guy gets hacked to death with a machete and everyone breaks into song. I mean everyone. The dead guy’s family, assorted domestic animals ,his debtors and creditors, the killer’s mother-in-law, the killer himself, the beggar…..everyone. And this happens before they even pick the body. It’s a party after that. I’m sorry but I can’t trust people who sing and dance when a guy dies. I fear that I might catch the habit. To cut a long story short, I love Hollywood movies, the good ones anyway. But you’d be shocked at what passes for movies these days. So to avoid the agony of bad movies, I have strict preferences which I made known to Lexy. I also gave him some threats to go with the preferences. They go well those two, threats and preferences. But it appears that the company came in heavy with threats because Lexy now doesn’t fear me. He just hangs me out to dry in front of my own TV. After all, he’s got black suits protecting him now.

On Thursday, I passed by Lexy’s to get me the weekend’s stash. But first, I called him so that he could get me Mad Men season 4. I swing by his place at around 3 in the afternoon. Just before I enter the building, I meet Lexy on his way out. He tells me everything is set except for the Mad Men. “But don’t worry, Said is bringing it from Westlands” He assures me. So I take the stairs up and find Lexy’s assistant. She has tattoos all over and is a looker. Not to be confused with a hooker who is also a looker but who doesn’t sell movies. I easily pick out 7 good flicks out of the intended 10. She tells me to take A Secret Handshake and before she can say another word I say “Gay!” That settles that. She suggests I take Assassin in Love and I shoot it down. “Why would I want to watch a movie about an Assassin in love?” I ask her. ‘Assassins, the real ones, don’t fall in love. What they love is killing people and getting paid to do that’, I explain to her. Before she can respond, two guys come in and ask for, rather desperately, the Assassin in love. “Please, give it to me first. I was here first. Remember?” I immediately plead with her. I hate myself for being easily influenced. Two more movies to go. The guys ask for A Secret Handshake and I follow suit. I’m hot on their heels now. Anything they take, I’ll take too. Who do they think they are? But that’s it for the guys, they up and leave. I don’t know those guys, but I hate them. They ruined my life. Ok, they just ruined one day. I wish I never met them. One movie to go now. I am now running out of time and out of choice so I ask little Miss Thang to recommend one. She gives me a movie called Assault Girls. Sounds like a good flick, so I pick, pay and dash to have some lunch with this lady who was running late(more like crawling but who’s asking).

Fast forward to Sunday morning; I have watched all but two of the ten movies and these were; A Secret Handshake and Assault girls. I didn’t have much to do on Sunday having missed church (but I at least went to the barber for a shave).  So after no deliberation, I slot in A Secret Handshake and sit back to enjoy. I see some couple having issues(very original) then in another scene, the guy is tied to a bed. He then comes back to find he went on a trip and he can’t remember. This happens again and….25 minutes into the movie and nothing new. The acting sucks, the plot sucks, it’s a series of sucks ….but I laboured on like our coalition government, like a soldier. Five more minutes and it’s in the trash can. I just couldn’t stand it.

I did the next logical thing, I slotted in Assault girls. I figured nothing could go wrong with a movie of that title. It starts playing. There is some fella talking. Some monologue about people and reality. He is speaking in a hushed tone like he is hiding from a blood thirsty serial killer, or like he just woke up with a killer hangover. There are Japanese subtitles. Nothing is happening but talk. The guy carries on his soliloquy; he is now onto religion, philosophy and that whole shebang. 5 minutes into the movie and nothing. I doze off for a couple of minutes. When I wake up, I find some dude walking alone in some desert like land……..

The movie was…..rotten. It’s highlight was when some giant snake appeared and ate the guy. And even then, he lived to fight another day. I was livid. I remember that I wanted Lexy’s liver on a platter; steamed. I still do. Shel, can I call in that favour?

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The fire he lit

Sometimes, I talk politics. Depending on your take on the subject, this might be a big deal. But politics, even to the apolitical, is always a big deal. Politics is a big deal enough to determine what sound you wake up to; it could be your alarm clock or the sound of guns. Our former president, Daniel Arap Moi, had a maxim; Siasa mbaya maisha mbaya! If you never believed anything he said, please believe those four words. Moi would know. The IDPs would know. Those who died in post-election violence know. And I want to believe that we Kenyans, in all our naivety, know this. Still, my interest in politics doesn’t go beyond this because Kenyan politics are designed to break the hearts of those who believe that some good can come out of politics. So I choose to watch the circus, because it is that if nothing else, from a distance. However look at the news and you’ll see that it is the same everywhere else. Only the degree of madness varies. But there’s been a story that has momentarily captured the hearts of humanity the world over; a story that has set wheels of ‘democracy’ in motion; the story of Mohammed Bouazizi.

Here he is; Mohamed Bouazizi, a man, just a man, a 26-year-old unemployed man trying to make something of his life by hawking fruits because what kind of man would he be if he didn’t try? And then here he is, a man on our TV screens, a dead man; the victim of bad politics. Here he is; a struggling fruit vendor without a licence and then here he is; dejected and crestfallen. His wares confiscated by a police force used by the regime not to serve and protect the citizenry but rather to protect the regime from the people. Here he is; a man, a man whose spirit has been broken. A man mad at a system out to get him. Out to keep him on his knees. And then here he is, a man soaked with petroleum, holding a matchbox, a man about to light a fire that will spread far and wide; a fire that will cause heads to roll. Here he is, a man with a cart, a man with a university degree and a cart, a man trying to sell vegetables in a nowhere town and then here he is, the thorn in Ben Ali’s side, Mubarak’s headache, a man causing despots to have many sleepless nights.

He wasn’t trying to a billion dollar empire or start a series of revolutions, he was seeking to better his life, to make lemonade from the lemons life had given him. It wasn’t too much to ask right? He should have been allowed to sell the fruits right? They should have let him make his lemonade right? He should have able to go back home feeling that he had done something that day right?

Right?

How can you not empathize with Bouazizi? How can you not imagine his frustrations? The injustice occasioned to him? The mountain he was up against? How can you not see the bitterness that he harboured at a regime that wouldn’t allow a graduate to vend fruits and vegetables on a cart?

Granted, burning himself was on the extreme end but what was he going to do? Call them names? Get on his knees and beg them? Ask Allah to strike them with lightning? Show them the middle finger? I imagine that these were Police with darkened souls, so used to breaking down grown men till they cried like little babies. Bouazizi wouldn’t give them that. He refused to let their faces lighten up at the sight of another citizen on his knees begging for their mercy. He refused to let the system win.

Bouazizi went and set himself on fire in protest. And now the despots of the Arab world cry, ‘Oh Bouazizi, What have you done?’

But the question they should be asking is,’What have we done?’

 

 

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