The Circle Of Life


March is the month I lost my Job. I used to bark orders in my house like a drill sergeant. My presence once I stepped through the door was like that of a senior military officer. Everything was spic and span. The way was cleared. Meal were hot. But then a little human arrived and engineered the cutest coup d’etat. And my reign came to a shrieking end. Head of the house? Who? My home is now ruled by a toothless, ear piercing shriek, ball of cuteness individual. Everyone at his beck and call as soon as he as much as sniffs. There’s a new chief in town people.

But first, newborn babies look like old people. They’re not nice and cute when they’re born. They’re pudgy and look like they have too much skin. I thought my son had Benjamin Button disease. He looked like he could be my grand pa. His face all scrunched up like a pre-NEMA ban polythene bag. The one you get from the bag collection at the bottom of your mom’s sink at home. In the polythene bag that has other polythene bags.  His head was larger than expected and had the shape of a Kinangop potato. Must be his mother’s, I thought to myself. His skin was weird too, like that of a shaved dog. And he looked Chinese for some reason.

Chinese?, I asked the doctor.

Eh..No, he said.

I said, I mean the baby, not you.

He looked at me confused.

I told him I’m ok raising another man’s kid. I’m ready to be a father. But if the kid is Chinese he needs to be raised right. There has to be a hidden temple where he can learn kung fu. From the Rocky hills of Seme I can only teach him to spot the laugh of a hyena. And how to get to kit mikayi.

He shook his head and in a bored voice said, Lemme sew your wife back together, please follow your baby.

So I followed my baby. To a table where some nurses stuck tubes in him to suck out amniotic fluid. They dried him up too and he wiggled and let out tiny yelps. Pain and confusion all over his pudgy face. I felt sorry for him, but I also wondered why he cried funny. So feebly. Not like in the movies. Or maybe we got a quiet baby? What joy (This was to be short lived, you will soon learn as we did). He was blue too. They said he needed to get oxygen into his system. He hadn’t used his nose to breathe before.

In the background, the doctor and his assistant were having light banter as they sewed up the missus. Talking about random things like traffic and the state of corruption in the country. I turned briefly to check that they’d not left her spleen on the table.

I was disappointed though the process wasn’t anything like in those medical dramas I watch. No beeping machine, no repetition of medical equipment; scalpel – scalpel. No mentioning of intubate and screaming Stat! These doctors were so bored. They sounded like women in the kitchen gossiping as they sorted rice. At least I got to where scrubs. I have the selfie to prove it.

Then I had to follow the baby some more as the doctors finished up “sorting rice”. It was off to the nursery. He was wheeled in as I followed apprehensively. As soon as we got there the nurse left. I was alone with this now well wrapped baby. Him and I. Alone in the nursery. I don’t know where the other newborns were, probably out for afternoon tea.  I looked at my watch. Or happy hour. I then sat and stared at him. The pink colour now slowly coming to his blue face with every breath he took. I stared at him in silence as he slept. For the first time, I felt true happiness. Then joy. Then panic. Then fear. Then a series of other feelings I am yet to figure out how to describe.

My phone started ringing. Interrupting that special moment. It then hit me I hadn’t updated anyone on the arrival of the junior chief. In Africa, babies are a village affair. They all wanted to know. How’s the baby? How’s the mother? Which room are you in? Can we visit now, we’re outside the maternity wing? They flocked in. Relatives. Friends. Friends of relatives. Relatives of friends.

They trooped in bearing fruit baskets, flowers and cards. And uuuuuus and aaaaahhhhs for the baby. And numerous versions of congratulations. I told them the congratulations are for the mother. She’s the one who endured hours of labour and attempts to push out an over-sized potato shaped head out of her body. And despite all that, the doctors still had to cut her open once they realised the junior chief was trying to exit using the back of his head. Stubborn and non-conformist. Just like his father. So, no congratulations for me thank you. Why are men congratulated when a baby is born anyway? I mean we don’t do much. We’re like mosquitoes. We prick and cause a swelling. That’s all.

As the night crept in, the visiting hours thinned away, and the guests began to ebb. One by one they left. Some with tears in their eyes and coos from their mouths. And then there was silence. Mother, Father and a sleeping baby. An air of trepidation set in. We felt it. The missus and I. We were too tired though. The nurse who came to check on us noticed it.

She would take away the baby to the nursery and would bring it to us as soon as he was up. As he was wheeled away, we nodded off. We would tackle this new being in the morning.

Only, we didn’t know morning would come much earlier than we thought. At 1:13 AM, we were awoken by a loud scream. We fumbled around the hospital room and saw the source of the cry. Our son had been wheeled into the room and was now being shoved towards his mother’s bossom. It was the first of many sleepless nights to come. I’d tell you all about it, but my coffee has worn off. Besides, after many months away from this blog, trust me, one post is not enough.



Three’s Company


A man’s home is his castle. His place of refuge after toiling away in the hard, harsh world. Even in cave man days, the man’s cave or lair was very important in the socialization of the times. Picture it, after a day of hunting and gathering, the man would head back to the cave, and in the illumination of the fire light he would draw on the walls images of his conquests. As a form of communication to his woman. She’d read and interpret his drawings and be happy that he has shared what his day was like. (Cave explorers today still find these illustrations on cave walls). The cave man didn’t have to give in to further interrogation by his woman. She didn’t ask him to explain in detail every illustration. She simply smiled and served him some bone soup and chunks of roast meat of the animal he had brought home earlier. But the cave woman evolved. And she invented language. And man’s life changed forever. To this day women have a monopoly on the spoken word and man forever struggles to keep up. Since then, every man has to spend hours upon getting home to describe his day in detail to his woman. Since then, man has never known peace at home.

And so I have always treasured my home as such. As my castle. My refuge. It has been so even through the years I’ve been married. The missus knows when to engage me in banter and when to maintain silence. She’ll see it on my face. I have a forthright demeanor and she has learnt to interpret it. She sees the aura of non-conversation around me and tip toes around it. And this has worked. But things changed recently. We got a nanny, (or is it Domestic Manager? I hear they’re called domestic manager these days. Not mboch, or house help. Why? Because it’s 2018. You need to season your language with the right amount of political correctness). The nanny is not for me. For the soon to be new member of our family. I was not party to the process. I was an FYI on an email. CC’d into that information. One day we were two in the house, the next we were three.

The missus called me one fine day.

I got a nanny.

Ati nani?, I replied confused.


Who is nani? You see the missus has that peculiar Kenyan habit habit of using pro-noun placeholders like nani, nini, kerea, ginene, thingamajig and such like.

No. A nanny. As in En Ay double En Y, she responded

Ohhh. I knew. I was just messing with you. I lied.

Reality began to sink in. For the first time in many years, I cannot walk naked in my own home. I cannot hang loose so to speak. For the first time I feel like a prisoner under house arrest. I walk around humming Lucky Dube’s Prisoner hit much to the chagrin of the missus. No longer can I make unclothed midnight trips to the kitchen for a snack. Or make that awkward hunched walk looking for a towel after a shower. Looking like Adam after discovering he was naked. The missus has a habit of washing towels every two days. Why? I don’t know. I mean, how can they be dirty? Aren’t they used to wipe your body AFTER you shower? And I never know where they’re stored afterwards. I really don’t understand women sometimes. Ok, most of the time.

It doesn’t matter how big your house is. An extra person in it will shrink it. Boundaries get re-defined. I feel odd poking around the kitchen for a snack, or my ritualistic peeking into the fridge for not reason in particular. I feel watched. It’s like watching porn in an empty house, you still lower the volume even though you know you’re alone. I creep around my own house like a pest trying to avoid detection.

It feels odd walking into the kitchen nowadays. I can tell the missus to make me a mini ugali. Ugali sosa. Or ugali slider. Depending on which side of Nairobi River you hail. But I can’t tell the nanny (or Domestic Manager) that.   The other day I had ordered in some super nyama fry from the local nyama choma joint. All it needed was some ugali. The missus was in a bit of a mood (hormones possibly), so I had to make the ugali myself. But the domestic manager was in the kitchen. I couldn’t tell her to make me ugali. Protocol I learnt from the Chief didn’t allow it. So I had to ask the missus to tell the domestic manager to make the ugali. Eating ugali made by foreign hands is new I tell you. I had no choice though. The take over of the castle was well under way.

And so it is. My castle has become my lodging. A tiny dwelling where I eat and sleep and grunt to myself. My snore is subdued. My roar no longer echoes along the walls. I desire the outdoors more. To hunt and explore the lands. Then come home to a meal and a place to lay my head. And to think the young one is yet to make an appearance in this world. How much smaller shall my castle be? Those more experienced tell me the young one takes over your life. I wonder, is it like those National Geographic shows on lions, where the younger lions take over the pride? Let’s wait and see.


The Case For The Male Baby Shower



I’m jealous. A couple of weeks back, the missus had a baby shower to prepare her for this journey of motherhood. How thoughtful, isn’t it? She got all this advice and lots of baby related stuff. Blankets, diapers, more blankets. Ten different shower gels so that she gives birth smelling of hibiscus flowers and not placenta. Fancy stuff like breast pumps. Apparently, the modern human lady produces excess breast milk and needs to express it lest it fills up her breasts. Bottomless breast milk I think it’s called.

You should have seen my house when she got back.  It was filled with bags, upon bags of all this fancy stuff for her and the baby. What did I get you ask? A few hugs and numerous ‘aaawwww’ s from her lady friends. That’s it. Not even a wallet. Which has to be the most purchased men’s gift ever. It’s like saying, I’ve given you a place to put money. Now go get some money.

The chief had warned me about the loneliness that comes with being a man, a husband, a father. I don’t think I’d fully comprehended that warning. Nowhere in those 25 odd bags was a cigar. A six pack. A bottle of rare scotch. A sack of money. Nothing. I secretly rummaged through the stuff in the middle of the night as the missus snored away. I only came up with fluffy stuff and disappointment.

I sat there in the room, dimly lit by the backlight of my phone. The light silently mocking me. Illuminating the gift bags around me. Then, for the first time I felt it. Barely illuminated too. The loneliness. I thought to myself. How come I didn’t have a shindig for me? In fact I’ll plan it. Not a strip club though. That probably doesn’t enhance the idea of responsibility and fatherhood. And no, it’s no place to practice spanking bottoms.

It would be a manly place. A cabin in the woods maybe. With no trimmings of modernity. No electricity, no wifi, no ‘network’. Only Kenyans say such things. ‘Hakuna network’. The network is there, it’s your reception that has a problem. Those are the same people who call transport ‘means’. ‘Pole, sikukuja. Sikuwa na means’. The full phrase is means of transport. Not means. If you wanted to shorten the phrase, why didn’t you just choose the word transport?

Where was I? Yes, a secluded place. With no network reception. Away from wives and side pieces. Lots of beers and whiskey and cigars. There would be a chef too. To barbecue steak. Chicken for those white meat aficionados. Manly food full of cholesterol and succulent sweetness. There would be an option for no chef too. To allow the men to take control of how they want their steak roasted.

It would be a place to have men just chatting, laughing and taking time away from the thing called life that has all odds stacked up against them. A chance for the soon to be father to take it easy before diving into that storm called fatherhood. A chance for the current fathers to unwind but also to lay out wisdom and experiences in weathering that storm. A mix of the old and the young should be there. For wisdom doesn’t only inhabit grey topped heads.

Gifts? Men aren’t complicated. Money, would be good. A little something to lighten the impending load. Contacts of reliable doctors or hospitals or insurance covers that can work towards the future of the little one. More importantly, a support circle to enable raise these children. When did we lose these traits as Africans? When did the family unit become so small and measured that young boys and girls feel lost in an ever changing and demanding world?

A night would be sufficient for this. Men can only stay cooped up so long together without the need for some sports or the entertainment of women. Questionable or otherwise. It would be a time to laugh at our problems and wives and lives. For some, those are one and the same thing. Hehe. It would be a time to kick back and reflect without the din of ever shrieking demons of bills and responsibilities. A time to escape, albeit for a moment, the pressures of business and chasing payments. Is it just a Kenyan thing? Where people obtain goods and/or services and refuse or ignore to pay thereafter? It’s grossly unethical in my opinion. In this country you’ll have more success bleeding a stone than chasing down what you’re owed.

The night would be filled with the smells of whiskey and cigars and punctuated by laughter and wisdom.  Of course, once in a while there’d be the off course tangent of discourse on sports trends and the related insults depending on the team one supports.  And war stories of women pursued. And that’s ok. There will be memories of less responsible days gone by, of youth and the folly that comes with it. And everyone will lament how time flies and stare down in silence and disbelief at how far they’ve come. Someone will break the uncomfortable silence and stand, a glass raised in hand:

Cheers guys. Here’s to progress. Here’s to the bullets we dodged and the ones that caught us. Here’s to our sons and daughters. May we ever be present for them. May they hear our roar from a distance and know that we’re men. May our spouses warm our beds…

Or not nag when we seek other warmed beds, someone will quip. There’s always that clande advocate in a group.

And everyone will shout him down. You guy be serious bana. We’re trying to make a toast. The ruccus would taper off into murmurs and soft laughter.

The toast maker would conclude, Cheers bros. Here’s to fatherhood.

Cheers. Would be the group response in acclamation followed by the clinking of glasses, murmurs and loosely coordinated swigs of drink.

Thereafter the night would proceed with a less serious agenda. Men breaking up into different groups of influence. The cars guys, the sports guys, the work and careers guys, the business guys and the random banter guys. And at various stages all these guys will gravitate towards the talk of women. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

As the new father to be, you would go home armed with wisdom, allayed fears and the courage to face your family. Also, your pockets would be slightly heavier which can’t be a bad thing. And the missus will ask,

How was your “guys” thing?

And you’ll respond as only men do.

It was ok. Plop yourself on the couch and turn on the TV. Please get me some water.

She’ll amble off to the kitchen and you’ll both smile in the collective knowledge that everything is going to be alright.


Lessons In Breathing

I don’t like hospitals. They smell of despair and sanitation. A nauseating smell that embraces you. It attaches itself to your clothing and skin, hanging around like a relative from shagz. Hospitals make me sick.

But I had to go to hospital. Not because I was ill. No. But to attend Lamaze classes. Let me explain. Dr Lamaze was a French physician. Sometime in the fifties, he got bored of treating French people and decided to head off to the Soviet Union. He must have broken up with some French girl and decided he needed some space. A cooling off period. What better place to cool off than the Soviet Union, right? Hehe. So he’s chilling in some province in the soviet, cooling his heels and hustling from clinic to clinic doing locums. Making enough money for a roof over his head, some vodka and the occasional dalliance with a soviet chick to help him forget about his French squeeze. On one of his rounds in the maternity wards, he notices something peculiar. Relative silence. There’s no screaming. No husbands receiving insults for what they’d done. Nothing. A suppressed soviet moan on occasion, but nothing more. He discovers that soviet women don’t scream and shout. They make labour look like a walk in the park. Is it the government? Are they forbidden from screaming and yelling in pain? Are they giving birth at gun point? He finds out it’s not as dramatic. Apparently, the Soviet women had discovered through breathing techniques and relaxation rituals, they are able to give birth effortlessly. It’s very different from the French girls he’d seen. So Lamaze, being the curious guy he was decided to study these practices. Ever the enthusiast, he went back to home to teach women these practices and dedicated his life to sharing this with pregnant women all over France. One of his patients was an American named Marjorie. Being American she did what Americans always do. She super-sized the Lamaze curriculum, writing a book and founding the Lamaze association turning it into an international patented curriculum. Helping women around the world pop out children with ease and a smile on their face.

This international curriculum is in Kenya too. Which makes me sceptical, because every African I know has a story of a mother going into the shamba pregnant and returning with a baby that she delivered on her own. A baby she brings home, breastfeeds, takes a nap and off she is back to the pressing matters of tilling the land. Soviet women aren’t the only bad ass women around. Lamaze should have come to Africa.

So when I decided to attend Lamaze classes, I broached the subject with the missus and she looked at me, with lack of recognition on her face.

What did you do? Are you cheating on me?

Eh? No. I just think it would be a good thing to do.

She checked my forehead and asked me if I had a terminal illness. You see, I had mocked Lamaze classes a few years back. I don’t even intend to be in the delivery room when this child lands. “Me am” an African man. They should call me when it’s done. Kwani, how did the men before us do it? When I was born, the chief wasn’t even in the country. My entrance to this world was delivered to him via telegram.


If there were emojis back then, he’d probably respond with a simple thumbs up emoji. But it was the eighties, so he just replied, via telegram;


After confirming I was not dying, I told her it was a good deal and besides, the classes serve killer samosas during breaks. At least that’s what I’d heard. (They really do serve killer samosas).

So we paid for the classes which were due to commence in a couple of weeks. It was a crash course, Friday through Sunday. Two hours on Friday evening (I couldn’t even tell the boys I was going to miss the usual Friday shindig), the whole day Saturday and the afternoon on Sunday.

On the first day, we stepped into The Aga Khan Hospital, Princess Zahra pavilion wing. That’s where the Lamaze classes were to be held. And gladly so because it doesn’t feel like you’re in a hospital. It’s like you’re on a floor at the Hilton. Wall to wall carpets that absorb your every step. Large wooden doors emblazoned with room numbers. It doesn’t even have that hospital smell. The patients are not even sick, they’re what we’d call “under the weather”. I think even the diseases there speak with a posh accent. The diarrhea patients have there isn’t even diarrhea. It’s just “involuntary constant bowel movement.” The kind you get from eating shell fish or caviar. Not from mutura or those boiled eggs from the street.

We navigated the posh corridors and finally got to a room with the door ajar. Within the room were four couples seated. The women were slouched awkwardly in their seats, their bellies protruding before them like inflated balloons. We were obviously in the right place. The men were at their sides sitting proud (or guilty?) of their handy work. Their hands clasped in love and support. We dithered for a moment, peering in awkwardly and acted typically Kenyan by asking an obvious question.

Is this the Lamaze class?

We took our seats and after introductions we realised there were 2 doctors in the group. Now, either medical school is a joke or this birth thing is serious business. Even doctors! I mean I was there because I didn’t know what to expect of this process. I was in search for answers but what answers do doctors need? I soon found out it’s worse for them. They know too much about all the bad things that can happen with child birth and need reassurance.

The classes were enlightening though. We learnt how to breathe. Through the nose. Imagine that. And how to sit on large medicine balls and maternity stools. What’s a maternity stool? It’s a horseshoe shaped…urrrm..stool. The top of which looks like a toilet seat. It relieves the pressure on the pelvis and helps guide the baby through the birth canal. Yes, I’ll be getting my medical degree after this. I didn’t know, let alone care, what a pelvis was until now.

We also learnt how to massage your spouse while she’s in the throes of labour. Not as sexy as you might think. Lamaze did one thing wrong though. It killed boobs for me. Never has the sexiness of breasts been taken away as it happens in a Lamaze class. It was all biology. Did you know there are breasts without nipples? Depressed nipples I think they’re called. Go figure. I felt like a kid finally learning that Santa Claus isn’t real.

Would I recommend Lamaze to anyone? If its your first baby. Maybe. It’s good. You learn alot. But if you tell the chief I attended Lamaze, I will deny your existence.

Flying Blind

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The chief didn’t prepare me to be a father. To be a chief. He didn’t tell me what would happen when I’d be expecting a little one. What it would feel like. The seemingly eternal and mind numbing internal battles. The responsibilities after the orgasm so to speak. After the conception. I now get why he always had a permanent scowl for a face. Like he’d taken a shot of Camino tequila. (Never take Camino tequila by the way. That is the devil’s piss – dabble in Jose Cuervo if you can. Or if your wallet is on the heavier side, Don Julio)

So, what brought me to this realisation? Well, some time last year I found out I’m going to be a father. Thankfully,legally and not from stolen fruit. Hehe. It was shocking at first, for the sole reason that it wasn’t planned. A story I shall delve into one day.

It was a pleasant shocker. Sort of like if you’re home alone, and bored and hungry and you hear the doorbell ring. You open it and a KFC delivery guy is before you. The Brown bag in his hand barely sealing the pleasant smell of the Colonel’s deep-fried chicken. Then he asks:

Hapa ni kwa Joyce. You say no.

He retrieves his mobile phone from his large black leather biker jacket, dials a number and puts it on speaker. The dial tone rings thrice and a sultry voice answers.


Habari Joyce, the delivery guy replies. Huyu ni Karanja wa KFC. Niko kwa mlango yako.

Eh Mlango gani? Her voice sounds like lavender. Like she drinks hot lemon ginger tea daily and her tongues rests on velvet.

Ya nyumba yako. A6 Sijui kama huyu ni Bwana wako hapa?

You look at him confused.

She replies that she’s not married but she’s looking.

My last boyfriend was about as exciting as a minji samosa, she replies. The disdain in her voice filters through Karanja’s phone.

As Karanja looks confused, you smile and wonder who should be killed first. The person who discovered minjis or the one who put them in a samosa.

Then she asks if her husband is hot?

The KFC delivery guy taken aback says, Eeeh. Sijui. Anakaa mwanamume tu. Kitambi sio kubwa sana so I think ako na pesa kiasi.

You suck in your gut and wonder if this is a prank?

She asks to talk to you.

Karanja gives you his phone and you do that awkward thing when you handle someone else’s phone. You don’t really grab it but hold it lightly at your finger tips. Like it was a handkerchief.


Hi. I’m Joyce. I hear you’re my husband?

Urrm. So I gather, you reply

Uuu..Polished too. Who uses the word gather in normal conversation?

You both laugh. Karanja shifts his feet impatiently.

Anyway, I gather, she sniggers as she says it, that my KFC order has come to you. I used to live there, and forgot to change my location for delivery on this delivery app. Since it’s a wife’s duty to feed her husband, I’ll let you have it. 

You’re taken aback. Not because of the free offer of food, but because you don’t hear many people talk about traditional duties like that anymore.

You utter an Awwww. Thank you dear. I had some minji stew in the fridge I was to heat up, but this will certainly do the trick.

Haha. Minjis are good. Just not in a samosa. Anyway, enjoy the meal hubby.

Urrrm. You too, you respond embarrassingly.

She laughs and hangs up.

You hand back the phone to the delivery guy and take the package. You give him a hundred bob tip and he walks away shaking his head. Muttering to himself, Hii Nairobi kweli ina mambo.

So there you are with unsolicited deep-fried chicken. That’s how it feels like when you get a baby that you’re not expecting. You experience varying degrees of apprehension and happiness. And sometimes doubt.

A good friend of mine told me about his fatherhood experience about a year ago. The moods (of the mother to be, not his). The lack of understanding (His not the mother to be) and the general mixture of emotions through the journey.

He said, My guy, you know these women are like tong’ gweno. Now having a pregnant wife is like being on a roller coaster with a tong’ gweno.

By the way, tong’ gweno is Latin for “chicken egg”.

Well, since this roller coaster began, that tong’ gweno talk has rung true. I’ve had to be careful of everything I do, say or even think. Even how I smell. My favourite cologne went missing a few months ago. I dare not ask where it is. For I had been warned not to wear it and I did. Justice was swiftly meted out.

What about the cravings? Those are real apparently. My boy says his wife craved KFC and Art Cafe prawns. As in really? Kwani that child is how uptown? The requests would come in at 11:30 pm and the nearest Art Cafe is in Lavington and closes at midnight. He doesn’t live anywhere near Lavington.

Thankfully my missus just craves ice lollies, mangoes and lime cordial. My job is to make sure the house is stocked with those items. I’m a man though, so I forget sometimes. Because we can only keep so much information in our heads. But we’ll remember the scores of the 2003 Rugby World Cup final. Damn that Johnny Wilkinson and his perfect boot.

Now, here’s the thing, men are built to be problem solvers. The light is out, no problem. Put in a new bulb. The trash bag is full, take out the trash. So, the good thing with those missions we’re sent out on, it feels like we’re doing something. Solving a problem. We’d carry the baby for her if we could, but where would we put the beer?

We can’t make her less sleepy. Or less hungry. Or balance out her hormones. But we can take a trip to get food. To look for that mama mboga in Kawangware with the ‘best mangoes. That we can do. In fact, we consider it an adventure. Some sort of covert mission. We even reward ourselves with a beer afterwards.

So much goes through our minds during these times though. One of them being trying to figure out the difference between being a father and a dad. Or what if we mess up and the kid becomes a stripper or a robber or a drunk? How do you deal with this concept of a new family? How do you prepare for a future you have never experienced?

I don’t have the answers to those questions. But I guess, one just needs to navigate and enjoy the journey. To use the tools one has to get to the destination. At least it’s what we’ve got in the here and now. Till then, let’s hope we land this thing safely.

Ticking The Box

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At the precipice of the 2007 General Election, right before the winds of hatred and mindless pursuit of tribal hegemony hurled us over the cliff; I got a call from a friend. A female friend. We weren’t in a relationship but the thought had been marinating within us. We were flirting along that line that divides friendship and relationship. Tossing back and forth between friendship and relationship. Like a metronome. The politics of the day was, as always, divided along tribal lines and when I’d meet this friend we’d have friendly but sometimes almost toxic political banter. We represented different tribal persuasions as it were. I was Luo. She was Kikuyu.

It’s time for baba to get this thing, I’d say. He’s suffered enough for his country.

Aiiii..The prince of poverty. You guys are so blind. Look how poor Kibera is. And Kisumu? He’s just a war monger. 

She’d hurl the singed response back like a fireball.

On it would go. But we’d make merry and kiss enjoy our date. Little did we know that the seeds we were sowing in our hearts, in the air and the country were feeding off this. And were now sprouting menacingly above the surface.

Fast forward to Election Day and the country was invariably painted orange and blue depending on which section of the country it was. Less than a day into the ballots being cast and as initial tallying results started trickling in, the country inched closer to that infamous precipice. The weeds of hatred and war started to sprout all over choking out reason and love. That was when I got the phone call from my on and off friend.


Hey. Do you see what you’re people are doing?

Eh? Which people?

Si you’re relatives. I hear they’re killing and raping people.

I looked around the room to the relatives in sight. The chief had blacked out on the couch, snoring up a storm. Mom had the papers in her hand. Her eyes were closed. My brothers and cousins were outside telling jokes and laughing up the night.

Well, unless they’re doing it in their sleep I don’t know. I replied. You could smell the sarcasm.

Then I heard the gun shots. A cacophony of pop sounds ripping up the distant darkness. You see, we lived not far from Kibera (or is it now Kibra?) and so we were not far from one of the sites of the fracas that had begun to ensue. Soon a Breaking News banner was strewn across the television screen and news of violence erupting across the nation started streaming through.

That’s when I, and probably most of the country, realised the dark depths to which our ethnic alliances had sunk. When brother and friend turned enemy and foe. When neighbour turned stranger. Where the spilling of beer and happiness was replaced by the spilling of blood and animosity. Lives were lost and homes broken. Damage beyond the physical. A most unfortunate time that I hope never replays itself.

It’s now many years later. The country has moved on (and accepted. Hopefully), and so have I.

As fate would have it, yet another Kikuyu captured this Luo man’s heart. So much so, I decided to adorn her finger with expensive jewellery in an act of betrothal. That’s Luo for we got engaged.

In my family, this wasn’t the first inter-cultural marriage. In her’s it was.

To say that the process leading up to the wedding was smooth would be dishonest of me. It wasn’t. There were cultural misunderstandings, suspicions on both sides, anger and sometimes mindless posturing.

They’re the ones who want the girl. Let them figure out what to do. Her relatives would intimate.

The chief and his cohorts would tell me, My friend, there are many girls from the lake side we can choose from if this one is too much trouble.

But the heart wants what the heart wants they say. Or something like that. And so, the son of those rocky hills in Seme and the daughter of those drearily cold fields of Kinangop came together in holy matrimony. Everyone danced and laughed at the wedding. The struggles of earlier months buried under cake and cliché Kayamba Africa wedding jingles.

And now here’s another election cycle. Ten years from that eventful one. When voting lines were along tribal affiliations. Nothing much has changed. I am asked strange questions still. In 2017. Just imagine. Allow me to use that Kenyan colloquialism.

So now how will you vote in your house? Please don’t let us down.

Or people who wonder if I discuss politics with my wife. Or others who think I’m undercover to destroy the so called ‘tyranny of numbers’. Tupatie kura ata kama mama atakuwa Jubilee.

And when I tell them I just may vote for an independent because there’s no difference between the front runners I’m deemed to be lost and wasting my vote. That as the man of the house I should make sure my household votes the right way. My heart sinks at these times, realising that we have progressed in time but our minds not so much.

I have realised something though. Most people speak from their own reality. I know rice and spaghetti are snacks. Because that’s how I was raised. That ugali is the definition of having had a meal. I can however open my mind to other realities and experience a wholesome life. Those black beans, njahi, aren’t half bad for example. Or that you can have objective political discussions like I do with my father in law even; candidly over a glass of whisky. Not caring that our ethnic backgrounds put us into a pre-determined box.

Yes, I feel privileged to enjoy different world views, different foods and different culture. The world needs more of that. This country needs more of that. Our differences make the whole so much more meaningful. This is why I think we should more than just tick a box at the polls. We are one after all. And after that box is ticked, we shall remain one.


Stepping Out


I took the missus out of town over Easter. It was a chance to get away. Out of the city and into the wild to do what animals do. Eat,sleep and procreate. Just to remind myself that in all this living and chasing of dreams, the life of an animal is still part of us.

I was to have planned this trip months ago. But I relied on my brain to remember and was greatly disappointed in it’s performance. So a couple of days before Easter the missus drops me a Whatsapp message:

So we’re still travelling right?

I didn’t reply. Because in marriage we don’t lie. Ok, we do. So I responded.

Sure. I’m in a meeting. Will give you the details when I get home.

The truth is, I had nothing planned. Heck, I didn’t even know Easter was coming up. If I was a Roman soldier I sure would have messed up Jesus’ timetable. He’d be waiting in the garden, saying goodbye to his disciples and I wouldn’t show up with my legion. Then the disciples would wonder what that supper was about. And Judas would be as fidgety as a toddler.

So there I was,seated at my desk wondering how to pull an Easter plan out of my ass. I grab nothing but air. I’d have better luck getting a bunny to hatch an egg. So I do what any desperate man would do. I log into my laptop and head over to Google. I get inundated with so many possible trips my head starts buzzing. Then an email comes in. Alas, the good chaps from Ticketsasa have heard my cry. They have a bunch of offers for tour packages to various destinations, local and international. I sit up in my chair and open up the offers in separate browser tabs. Comparing, contrasting while simultaneously consulting my bank account. The options don’t add up. Too pricey, too cheap, too far, too near, too cliché. Young Luo man problems. So I switch to the Kikuyu in me. I know it there because the missus has been secretly brainwashing me with meals of warus and dhania. I search for the most cost effective option. Samburu it is. Ashnil Samburu. The pictures look great and the reviews are terrific.

I send the missus an email.

Si we go to this place? It’s not too far and there are some elephants. Si you like elephants?

She responds in 174 seconds in the affirmative.

Phew. We were in business.

The Ticketsasa guys make it easy. You book online in three easy clicks, pay via mpesa and complete your transaction. In no less than ten minutes they send you an email with booking confirmation and a trip itinerary. Just like that. You could kiss technology.

The pickup was an early one. At Serena hotel by 6:30 am.  Now the internet likes my company in the night. So I had a late night. I’m a heavy sleeper. Knowing this I once again employed technology and scheduled an Uber pickup​ for 6 in the morning. Yaani you can schedule an Uber trip. Po! Yawa!

Predictably my Uber woke me up. I didn’t hear my alarm clock. But I heard my ringtone. I’m attuned to it. It could be work or one of my crazy exes. It was Ben. My Uber. I groggily and in a confused state got up, answered the phone and told Ben I’d be right outside. Then I really woke up and saw the missus curled away in her corner of the bed, a fistful of half the blankets in a death grip. She looked so warm and peaceful. No wonder my ass was cold. At some point in the night I thought the blanket had shrunk. I smiled as an evil thought took root. Revenge is best served cold they say. I wasn’t going to be the only cold assed person in the room. I grabbed the end of the blanket that yet wasn’t in her grip and tugged with all my might. She was exposed. And now awake. And angry. The only thing that interrupted my laughter was the pillow missile from her that met me squarely on my face.

Get up. I said stifling a giggle. The cab is here and we’re late. Don’t wash with all those bath products of yours. Just use water like normal people.

She mumbled something at me as she slammed the bathroom door. I dashed into the guest bathroom for a quick ‘passport’ shower. If you don’t know what a ‘passport’ shower is, you either didn’t go to boarding school or you haven’t lived in Nairobi during water rationing.

In a record seven minutes, I was dry, dressed and hauling my luggage to the door. The missus was now dressing. I could smell the peach flavoured shower gel in the air. She didn’t just use water like I asked her. We’d be lucky if the Uber doesn’t cancel. A call came through my cell phone. Bah! It must be Ben.


Habari? Nimekutumia pesa kimakosa. Please nirudishie kwa hii namba.

I looked at my phone in confusion. It wasn’t Ben. It was those Kamiti conmen again. Clearly the hustle never sleeps.

I disconnected the call, leaving the incensed conman speaking to the ether.

I dashed down the apartment stairs, almost missing a step and a heartbeat.

I get down to the parking lot and see the Uber waiting. By the way, does the word ‘Uber’ refer to the driver or the car? Or both? I never know. Anyway, I get to the car and can’t see the driver in it. I peer in and notice he’s reclined his seat flat and is happily snoring away, eighties music seeping soothingly out of the car stereo. I rap at the car window and the guy groggily gets up and smiles. He’s apologetic and flicks at the central control, opening the doors.

I get into the car and as he’s about to start it up, I ask his indulgence.

Please wait a few minutes. Bibi bado hajamaliza. Si unajua wanawake vile wanakua?

He laughs and I can tell he understands. He turns off the ignition and the eighties music keeps us company as we wait for the missus. She appears about ten minutes later with her backpack and in her hands a polythene bag with chapatis and fruits. I’m embarrassed. I was preparing a lecture on time keeping and here she was looking out for our welfare. These women. They sure know how to calm our hearts.

She gets in and shares the chapatis out and gives Ben a few to take home or have as breakfast.

I munched moodily as I stared out the window, observing the waking houses we passed as he hurtled towards Serena Hotel. My stomach spoke to my mind to be calm and with that I knew it would be a good long weekend ahead.

Rise – Part 1

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It was the month of drought. The heavens had held back and the sun raged on scorching the cracked ground like fire from a blast furnace . Even the medicine men had been rendered useless. The ground ceased to produce the special herbs and secret tubers that were needed to cure the ill. The head medicine man, who doubled as the Royal Medicine man was prudent and had these in storage but he was under strict instructions from the Chief and the Royal Court not to waste the herbs lest a member of the Chief’s family or those loyal to him were to fall ill. Save a peasant for a ruler? Never.

Needless to point out that in times of abundance those around the Chief and members of the Royal Court would seek diviners and healers from distant lands trading their sacks of wheat and maize and the vast salt rations of the chiefdom for the prized foreign healing . They still could, but these were times of drought.

The chief was losing support from key clans he had neglected in his reign and under advise from his council, could not have himself or members of his court away for long periods from the chiefdom. He had sent scores of the medicine men clan on sojourns to far off lands in order to seek herbs and tubers. Some of the medicine men had revolted and refused to go on the journey that would bring certain death. They were detained for their defiance. It was a well known fact that a rising tide of discontent had found in itself a potential leader who would dethrone him. The charismatic farmers leader of the Jopuodh clan. Aptly named Pidho, he was vocal and was growing in influence.

In the council court, the Chief sat patiently. His fingers interlocked except for his index fingers which were pressed against his lips. His young but trusted adviser, Kony,  speaking as the council listened intently. Seven old men seated on stools clutched their canes as they listened.

‘We must appease the people good Chief. The more they are unhappy, the more they shall turn to that farmers leader. He is gathering the other clans to his side and that can be bad for us’

He got more animated and offered solutions to the Chief.

‘Distribute some of the food from the royal stores. Let the royal medicine man see a few of the sick. The death of the young boy two sunsets ago has caused some discontent. People are wagging their tongues in the darkness. And as we know, tongues wagged in darkness become spears hurled in the daytime’

‘Are you talking a revolution?’ one of the old men spoke. It was Lweny. He spoke with a hoarse yet solid voice. A deep scar run the length of the side of his face. His left eye teared and he had a handkerchief on hand to dab the dribble. He had fought many enemies who had tried to take apart the chiefdom and had been on the right side of history so far.

‘We need to be ready for anything’,replied the young adviser.

The other old men nodded in agreement. It wasn’t the first time a Chief had been deposed. The father of the current Chief had had two attempts at his chiefdom, many years ago. Lweny had been on hand to thwart those attempts. The chief after him had not been so lucky and Lweny had the scar to prove it. Years later, the current Chief had rode on a wave of popularity and promise. The clans had elected him unanimously to lead them. But the promise and hope had dwindled over the years. A revolution was not out of the question. Wagging tongues were threatening to lead to hurling spears.

‘There is a health problem especially with the lack of drinking water. The wells for farming are being used for domestic purposes. The people are diseased and with medicine man available….’

Kony didn’t finish his statement. The chief glared at him. Was he about to blame him for what had happened to the medicine men? Everyone knew they had betrayed the chiefdom.

‘Enough’! The chief roared. The council walls reverberating as if in submission. The old men shifted in their stools.

‘Reach out to the clan heads. Find out their position as regards my leadership. If they are opposed to it, find a way to sway them and their people. Pay them. Entice them with a position in the Royal Court. Coerce them. Threaten them if you must. This is no way to treat their leader. A leader they elected willingly. A leader of promise and hope. For those that comply, tell them I will visit them personally. I will bring food and healing to their families. Those who shall not,well let it be known that they have failed their clan.’

‘Yes. Chief. Right away chief….But, what about the farmer leader. He’s meeting with a few clan leaders as we speak. The smaller clans, but the loudest ones. You know that even a mosquito in an empty room…’

‘Can be deathly troublesome?…I know the saying you fool.’ The chief barked.

He rose from his seat and continued, ‘You take care of the clan leaders. I will deal with that hoe carrying buffoon. He will not destroy all that I….that We….All that we have worked for.  For now, setup the entertainment for the people. Bring out the brew and distribute some of the grain and meat. Declare it a festival. To bring the rain or something. Ensure the clan leaders get some brew in them. Then determine their allegiance once they are well inebriated.’

As the council rose, the chief beckoned the old man with the scar to remain behind.

‘Uncle, we must talk about this farmer…’

‘Yes.’ We must the old man replied.

The rest of the council rose and shut the council door behind them as the Chief discussed his next moves with Lweny.

Someday Fathers

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I met him in a bar. One of those Nairobi one’s in the middle of a residential area. Upmarket. Somewhat. Where the waiters and waitresses speak in English and the hangout is what used to be a really large bungalow with acres of real estate for what must have been a large kitchen garden but is now dotted with wooden tables straddled by high chairs.

He’s at the bar, knocking back what’s left of what looks like his third glass of whiskey. He looks at it first as if reading it it’s last rights, then tosses the contents into his welcoming mouth. I can tell it’s his third because he doesn’t grimace as he swallows. He licks his lips as if trying to feel them. The numbness has started checking in.

He’d wanted to talk. That’s what he’d said in his text earlier. Ok, not in those words. More of, ‘Let’s catch up you guy. Been a long day and I hear there’s no elec at my digz. Si we meet at Explorer?’

I pulled a chair next to him and got on with the usual pleasantries as I ordered for a bottle of water. I had to hydrate after battling Nairobi traffic that was thicker than uji that day.

Sema my guy? How’s the going? I broke the ice

I’m ok my guy. He responded as he dumped two ice cubes in his now refilled glass.

Clearly you’re ok. Is that like your twenty fifth double?

Haha. He guffawed sarcastically. It’s my third. Si you know I’ve become a light weight these days. Twenty five doubles I’d be outside parking myself in the parking lot like a moti.

We laughed. I wouldn’t put that past him.

We got into the usual banter. Work, family, traffic, politics and how we should check our voter details lest we find we’ve been registered in Moyale. Not that it mattered anyway, because our salaries would remain the same and we’d still have to buy bread for breakfast no matter who got into power. And the sun will rise and set and form a day.

He was stressed he said. He dove straight into it. Must have been the liquid courage he’d been sipping. He’d been happily married for four years now but he had no kids. Not for lack of trying. The doctors said they were fine. Three opinions they’d sought. It was the same thing. Nothing is wrong. Just eat healthy, pray and keep trying.

I mean, It’s not that it’s not fun trying. He still had his sense of humour.

But sometimes you just wish someone could call you daddy you know. Not uncle so-and-so. Someone in your image that you can hold, and nurture and care for and take to rugby matches and teach them about life and girls or boys. Someone who thinks you’re the strongest, smartest person alive. Someone you’d die for a thousand times. You know what I mean?

I didn’t know what he meant. Not exactly. But his watery eyes told it all. I sincerely hoped it was the seesha smoke from the obnoxious group next to us. A grown man in tears is not a comfortable scene to behold. Unless his favourite team has lost. He seemed to notice the emotions in him bubbling under and quickly put them in check by ordering for another double.

I didn’t even know what to say. You hear of childless women craving the need for motherhood and going on about that ‘biological clock’. I guess I was never ready, or even knew, there was a man’s perspective to all this.

Si you just sow your seeds everywhere and anywhere. At least that’s what those before us have always done. Then you discover your half brother at your father’s funeral. And you don’t object because you have the same orange sized nose.

As if on ironic cue, Boys to Men’s A Song for Mama filtered through the speakers. The seesha crowd sang along with incongruent precision. Frogs in a creek sounded better. I had to break the awkward silence as well as distract my mind from the seesha crooners.

How come there are no songs about fathers?

Good question my guy. Who knows? I guess people have thought that fathers need no songs. They just need to be fathers.

Yeah. You’re probably right. I agreed and ordered myself a double.

We sat in silence. Him thinking about why fatherhood had eluded him. Me, thinking about how many fathers couldn’t care less about raising children. Such is the world I guess. Some fathers are on a road seeking children while some children are on a road seeking fathers yet they do not meet.

The tone deaf seesha crooners had stopped their torturous din. I turned to him, looked him in the eye and raised my glass.

You’ll be a father one day my guy. Just as long as you don’t raise children who sing like those blokes.

We laughed and clinked glasses.

To someday fathers. 


Be The Best Man You Can Be

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I spent part of my December holidays in Uganda. My pal was getting married. Actually, he’s more than a pal. He was my best man in my wedding. Since it was his time to  bite the marital dust, I was returning the favour. This was probably the highlight of an otherwise tepid 2016.

You see, this pal of mine lives in Canada. That’s where he met his Ugandan babe. This love knows no boundaries I tell you. He’s what you may call my best friend. My boy. We’ve done all manner of stuff together. Had good times, bad times, ish ish times. I’d missed him, no lie. So it was good to hang out together. To try and relive those old days when we were young and silly. Don’t judge me, it’s just man love. Yes. There is such a thing.

We tried to go to a strip club in Nairobi, like back in the day. When we were young and unencumbered by life. This strip club was different though. More refined than the places we’d frequent in our youth. We realised we’d caught on on age, when all we could do was stare at the women do their thing on the poles and we’d be cringing like new parents watching their child on the monkey bars. Some of those stunts were impressive I must say. We got a raw deal in our time. The strippers were not as athletic. Needless to say that night sojourn failed, and all we ended up doing was sipping whiskey and reminiscing the good old days.

Uganda was awesome though. Apart from spending time with my boy, the experience was wonderful. That thing they say about Ugandan women? The kneeling, the kindness, the child bearing hips? All true. I experienced it. Well I didn’t ‘experience’ the child bearing hips.  Not that I wanted to. I should probably stop talking about the hips. Yes, every single thing I’d heard was true.

Worst part about Uganda, the heat. You can fry an egg. No. An omlette in that heat. Your car bonnet will suffice as a pan. I sweated litres on this trip. I mean I ordinarily sweat like a pig. I can’t stand heat. I’m the guy at the gym who has to wipe off every piece of equipment I use. And disinfect it too, before I get dirty looks. Even when I eat spicy food (which I love), I get a wet patch on my now balding head. I sweat. Alot. So heat is definitely trying for me. My pal converted to Islam to marry this wonderful Baganda girl. And so, we had to dress up in Kanzus for the wedding. If anyone is interested, I have baked internal organs to donate when this world spits me out. It was like some practical joke.  But it was a blessed one all the same.

I learnt a few things on that trip that December. Simple lessons for an otherwise tough year.

Sometimes in life you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

We traversed Kampala buying cooking oil, flour, copious amounts of juice and sodas and water as gifts for the bride’s family. We braved the heat and the stress and the traffic. We partied hard in the night and were up early to carry out various tasks leading up to the day.  All because we had to get this guy married. And such is life. Sometimes you just have to get up and show up.

People matter.

Forget your problems and your pains sometimes. Look out for people. Help them and be there for them. Where a coat and Kanzu in the blistering heat. You’ll sweat but you won’t die. And even if you do, at least you were there. We focus so much on fickle achievements and selfish goals but sometimes you just need to be there for people. That’s enough.

At the end, it’s all fun.

Many times in life there’ll be tough days. There’ll be days you don’t want to get up. There’ll be days you don’t want to show up. But in the end it’s all worth it. And you can laugh and toast to having come out alive on the other side. Savour that moment and enjoy the bliss. Then wake up the next day to take on the next challenge.

On that note, I hope to live those lessons. It won’t be easy, but a hand towel would have no purpose if there was no sweat. I don’t know about you, but I’ll try to be the best man I can be. To myself, to those around me. Or just simply to be.

Here’s to an awesome 2017.