The Interview

I got a message from Biko, late last week, “How are things?”

Kenyans have this unique ability to minimize issues. A man could be calling to deliver the tragic news of his own mother’s passing but that won’t stop him from starting the conversation with “Sema, how are things?”

I knew something was up so I asked him to cut to the chase.  Biko wanted me for an interview and it had to be the next day. Biko has been having these anxiety attacks over turning 40 and had launched into an introspective journey, talking to people who had crossed into their 40s in search of his version of the 48 ways to manage your 40s without the midlife crisis.

The Blind Boda Boda Biker

Tambo could hear two voices speaking loudly from the direction of the kitchen. He reached for his phone.  It was 8 am. He had slept like a drunk. Tambo was an early riser, a go-getter, a disciplined man but whenever he retreated back home to the village, the pace of things, sedated his sense of urgency. Whenever he returned to the rugged green hills and valleys of Marenyo, he slipped back to the true pace of life, where there was time to experience its essence.

He sat his tall lean frame up on his bed, determined to not succumb to the temptation of lazing in bed and listening to the orchestra of natural sounds ushering the morning sun. He looked around the room, the same room he had been sleeping in since he was a child. It had a fresh coat of paint and a new ceiling board to replace the previous one that was stained by a large brown patch from a roof leakage. Throughout his teens and twenties, the patch had served as a contemplation spot whilst lying in bed.

Tambo was as old as the house. The house was in much better shape. This was what 34 years of constant improvement looked like. A mature bungalow with character, warmth and rooted in history. Tambo on the other hand felt drained by his success and he wore the exhaustion on his face.

Life Can Feel Like A Boxing Match

My older brother John Otieno aka Oti was shipped off to university in India in 1978. He was only 18, on his maiden plane ride to the jarringly chaotic Asian sub-continent. His port of arrival was Panjab University in Chandigarh, one of the oldest institutions in India.

It was a reputable university that was affordable for Kenyans seeking overseas education and a financial breather from the prohibitive costs of British and American universities.

Chandigarh attracted a large contingent of African students, mainly drawn from Nigeria and East Africa. My parents had 5 other children and an extended family to support in different stages of schooling. Money was tight.

Of Jail Birds And Freedom

While I was away from social media, 6 MPs accused of hate-mongering had emerged from a remand holding sparkling and reformed as the Pangani 6. The 3 days in holding appeared to have been such an enlightening experience, they had all turned into motivational speakers. 3 days was all it took to get hostilities straightened out. It was noted by keen observers that Pangani police station should be elevated to a rehab centre.

Jail therapy has shown remarkable results with the hate speech detainees. I was hearing such flowery statements about former bad boy Moses Kuria’s newfound maturity. Ferdinand Waititu smile had broadened and he seemed so at peace with himself. Junet Muhammad was thinking of leading prison reforms. Johnstone Muthama was making capital of 3 days of imprisonment drawing parallels to the Kapenguria 6.  Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri who had fainted in court had a Saul to Paul transformation and gave such a touching confession about his rogue past, I almost reached for the tissue box.