If wishes were horses, we’d be thinking ponies all day. But the government would’ve found a way to tax every person with a pony so in essence, we’d still not be able to ride. Freedom is the big word of today’s world but I can’t help wondering, is there any such thing as freedom? Can one ever be free? Are you truly free?
Sally is the ‘proud’ mother of one brat. As you can see, I have used proud, mother and brat in one sentence. Let me tell you why. Sally is a kind hearted person. She does good by everyone and is always careful not to hurt anyone’s feelings. She has a soft heart too. I don’t know if I’m right but I strongly think that good people always get a raw deal. First her family banished her when they found out she was pregnant. Then her boyfriend; the father of the child disappeared when he learnt he was going to be a father. She was left with her only friend, her child who now has turned into a terrorist.
After her series of misfortunes, Sally vowed to love her child with all her soul. She swore never to beat the child however bad the mistake. She advocates for dialogue, not ‘violence’. She believes discipline on a child has to be instilled in a ‘discussion’. Now the boy child is four years and can control his mother however he wants. His threat? He will jump from the cupboards and kill himself if his mother does not yield to his demands. That is among the numerous other threats equally creative. It’s Sally’s worst nightmare that her child should take his own life. So she gives in to his every little demand. Now the boy lives on chocolate, soda and fries. He can hardly fit in his cot. Little does Sally know her ‘only boy’ will one day beat her up and eventually get killed by a mob at 17 for sodomizing a young boy. For now, she doesn’t know what to do. She is being held hostage by a 3 foot man.
It’s the third time David has woken up in the middle of the night sweating. The nightmares won’t go away. The voice of his boss is still echoing in his head telling him he has been fired. Getting fired is his worst nightmare. With his life riddled with debt and the fact that he is currently taking care of his ailing parents, David can’t afford to lose his job. He can’t enjoy a moment even at work because he has to be in ‘the right books’ with the management. He overlooks the fact that he is always receiving invitation letters from the best companies in his field. He also happens to be the only employee in the organization who has won the most awards of distinction for his work. His boss and the management treats him like trash. Any normal person would move to a better opportunity but not David. He’s being held hostage. Not by his company nor by his boss but by his fears.
Every time Leila gazes into Kamara’s eyes, she starts crying. When she does, Kamara leans forward and kisses her, holding her tight in the embrace of love. He knows she is crying because she’s in love. Her tears move him; an assurance that their love is real. He loves her deeply and would like to spend every moment of her life with her. This is the one type of woman that Kamara knows he’ll never find anywhere else. He’s right on that note but wrong on the reason why she is crying.
You see Leila is a hostage. She knows deep down that Kamara is not the one for her. She knows she may never be completely happy with him. He is not the one her heart yearns after. So she is crying because she wants to leave him. Only that it’s not as easy as one would expect. Kamara is a good man. Kind hearted and very romantic in every sense of the word. He does everything right. In the one year that they’ve been in love, they’ve hardly fought. He is level headed, caring, considerate and committed. Leila has never had any reason to doubt Kamara. He is always near. She on the other hand has had her share of life’s drama. Just when she thought she’d found true love (Kamara), she started feeling unsettled. This is not a life she can get used to. She unfortunately, thrives in chaos. It is something she has not accepted but that’s the underlying issue. She needs someone different. A rogue. Someone she can fall out with and make up every now and then. For now, she is held hostage by her conscience. She doesn’t want to hurt a good man.
Today I’m seated in court listening to the proceedings against my friend who has been charged with staging his own kidnapping and extortion. He is guilty. The police traced his cellphone only to find him transmitting from a lodging in the downtown district of the city. I can’t help asking myself why anyone would want to become or even play hostage. I’ve hated the times I’ve been held hostage by someone, something or a situation. in my view, freedom comes only when you decide it is time. What’s more, you don’t have to live on your knees if you can afford to live on your feet. Make it your ambition to free yourself today. No one and nothing should hold you hostage, not especially when you can do something about it.
Early this week I got a message from a friend I haven’t spoken to in years. They were commending me on my writing. Thank you. Here’s to the good old times.
So I’m at the dog pound having my fur and claws done when I overhear a conversation that sounds quite interesting. These two customers are having an interesting discussion on life. Why are Africans the most volatile people on earth. Where the hell do our problems come from? Just what is wrong with us? Is there a solution? So the conversation draws mixed reactions from both dogs and eventually the whole pound sounds like a bar in a mental hospital. I choose to keep quiet and ignore the whole conversation. I refuse to engage in such discussions that don’t bear solutions. However being in privileged position of a writer, I can jot down my thoughts; a better chance that my pups will read them when they’re older. I have a feeling that they will listen and follow my dogvise. I have quite a few provoking thoughts that I would like to share with you bark to bark. So you can either choose to fetch my bone or go pee in another bush outside my territory.
Ever wondered why men are hesitant when it comes to the commitment of marriage? Have you ever stopped to think why he keeps you around but hasn’t yet made ‘the move’? Well I’ll tell you one simple reason. It is COMPLICATED! Meet my Joe who’s been in a relationship for five years. He is a good guy and he loves his girl to death. Unfortunately, he hasn’t yet proposed to her. Her name is Joy. Stunningly beautiful and smart, she is every man’s dream. She is a home maker and a tiger. A rare combo. Infact, Joe would be a stupid dog if he ever lost her because even his best friend wouldn’t mind risking a 15 year friendship for this woman.
Joe works as a junior clerk in a shoe factory in downtown Nairobi. He works hard as he has to support his ailing parents and siblings who are still in high school. Joy works as a sales person in a Chinese owned health products outlet. She also sends money home every now and then as she also comes from a very humble background. Their salaries are meagre, but they still manage to get by. They are hopeful that everything will get better. Joe and Joy have lived together for three years and now plan to start a family together.
Bark to Joe. They say romance happens only between two people who love each other unconditionally. How blissful. Let me tell you what the future holds for poor Joe. At that time when he thinks he is ready, he will propose and Joy will say yes. Then the determining period that we call engagement will begin, and they will realize that they were actually meant to be together. So Joe will take Joy to meet his parents and they will definitely love her. Next, they will plan to meet Joy’s parents just to inform them that they are the ones in possession of this ‘lost goat’. How lovely. Two young people with a great future following customs to the satisfaction of society. So this particular meeting will go well and they will leave the girl’s home feeling like conquerors. So the negotiations will start and for a while everything will seem to look orderly and exciting.
Exit bliss enter reality
Being a good guy, Joe believes that the world revolves around good will so he will be eager to round up his elders, who will be act as representatives in the negotiations. On the other hand, Joy’s parents will start preparing for a ngurario and will name their negotiation line up like a soccer team. D-day will begin in confusion because Joe’s parents will appear with ‘uncles’ and ‘grandfathers’ that he has never met. Picture a group of shabbily dressed old men in dominantly brown-checked-double breasted suits, screaming colored ties and red muddy running shoes. It will be the same on Joy’s home as she and her family wait for the boy’s ‘people’.
When Joe’s party enters Joy’s parents’ compound, they will be chased back because it’s the women who are supposed to enter first with four crates of soda as a gesture of good will. And so the games will begin. Joe will be told to appease the girl’s parents since they have taken the ‘extraordinary’ pains of bringing her up well and schooling her up to university… 100,000. Next, Joe will be told of Joy’s great uncles who require blankets because the world has changed and the nights are ‘colder’. Being an intelligent young man, Joe will be confident that he has it all covered. Initial budget, 150,000. He will now think the process is just about over. He will be wrong. All this time, they will still have negotiated on the actual dowry. That is, the goats and cows. A goat costs Kshs. 4,500 on average. A cow, Kshs. 15,000 minimum. Two cows, Twenty goats. How good is your math? And so on will the negotiations go downhill.
All through while the negotiations are going on, Joe will not be allowed to utter a word. Custom dictates that the young man and his parents are not to speak at the negotiating table. Their opinions do not count. Secondly, the boy’s family should cover the seating fees and transportation costs of the elders. By early afternoon, Joe will be in debt and Joy will be crying in her room. All this because a bunch of ‘elders’ that they never saw while growing up made some selfish decisions. Let’s give joe a noose to tighten on his neck. Minus Kshs. 100,000. He is also supposed to remember they had given friends and relatives a tentative wedding date. 6 months. Great. These two puppies Joe and Joy had wanted to finance their own wedding with the money they could raise by themselves. A small but lovely wedding. Now, they will be forced to turn to the society to help out.
They will eventually get married. On their wedding day, Joe will be expressionless while Joy will cry the whole time. Everyone will say they are crying because of the love. They will have guessed right. Such is the cost of love in Africa. The previously unknown relatives will disappear right after the pilau just as mysteriously as they had appeared. And the newly weds will be left with a huge amount of trash to clear up. The caterers will burst their phones the first week and threaten legal action. Did I also mention that they will have to lie that they are on honeymoon? Yep. Truth is, they will be in the house sleeping and not talking to each other. Outside the door will be the landlord. It’s always the middle of the month.
A month later, they will have their first major fight. They can’t make ends meet. Yes they are still two people but for some reason, the budget will have shot through the roof. Joy will start missing her salon appointments on purpose. Joe will grow an ugly beard and forget there was ever an invention called deodorant. 6 months later, Joy will start coming home late and Joy will start having an affair with the boss. Let me stop before I get more creative. Wag your tail if you can fetch what I am trying to say.
My fears are every African man’s whether wealthy or starting up. I would like to salute our African women, who have chosen to stick with us through thick and thin. Most of our parents met when they had nothing to call their own. I believe it would have been easier on them had customs been lenient. most of our fathers are still paying bride price decades later. Debt is carried down for generations. If not for us, let’s look at ways how we can change the lives of our children. Let’s give them the ultimate freedom. These are my paws for thought.
I have no words to explain how beautifully Flo Mwangi has put everything into perspective. I literally feed from her words. She has mastered the art of making sense out of the melee that has become the tipping point of many a relationship. I believe that if she’s not careful, she could end up as an undisputed best seller or with me. I present to you my Final Jack.
By Flo Mwangi
Every time I speak to her over the phone or pay her a visit, I am left reeling in laughter and with plenty of food for thought. This is why I cannot wait to see her over my vacation, plus she made me promise to anyway seeing as how she is in her grace years as she likes to call them; kind of like extra time where that whistle can go off any minute. And this she says with a hint of laughter. I tell her she’ll be around for quite a while. She is a tough nut.
My grandma; I don’t even know where to begin with the phenomenal that is this woman. I am overcome with emotion whenever I think of her; this woman who raised me and to whom I remain forever indebted, who shaped my ideals, who I feel a deep and profound love and adoration for. I am in awe of her sheer strength, her unshakeable Faith, her compassionate nature, her wit and wisdom and her charm. She has lived to see four generations; now that’s a fit and all generations through we appreciate and hold her in high regard. She has touched each of our lives in a special way. We all have a tale to tell as far as this wonderful woman is concerned.
For me it’s the first few years of my life which I spent with her. When my mum was off completing her undergrad studies, my grandma nurtured me. I applaud my mother; having me young did not stop her from pursuing her dreams, and achieving them, she made no excuses, expected no sympathy nor loved me any less. She took it all in stride and pressed on. I am truly proud of her. Those are some wonderful memories -me and my grandma- I still fondly remember this lovely little basket she kept in the living room, especially for me, filled with juicy oranges freshly picked from the garden by her, which I was treated to after a long day at school, and we all know school can be pure torture for a kid. I remember her dressing me up for church every Sunday and me sitting up next to her at the front pew. She has always played an active role in church; I admire her Faith evident in all she does and passionately stands for. She is an astute believer in God’s overall role in every aspect of our lives from creation, to our daily existence.
Her Faith inspires and rouses all around her and has remained unmoved by the changing tides of time and circumstance. And it has been tested no doubt. She was not bitter at the passing of Grandpa -if anything we all drew strength from her- and as he lay in hospital, those last painful days, no one needed to tell her he was gone. She knew the exact moment he had breathed his last. How many of us can boast of such a connection with their spouse? The love those two shared I’ll be forever in awe of. They were inseparable and in an age where expressions of love or treating each other as equals was not too common, I have to commend those two.
Submission as I have observed through her is not losing oneself rather it is appreciating each other’s role in a relationship and having mutual respect for each other. It’s not about yelling matches but learning to listen -difficult as it maybe- while the other is talking and then stating your case as you would to a friend and finding a middle ground, compromise. And of all else a lifetime partner should first be a friend, because for such a commitment there’s a lot more at play beyond all the temporary fiery passions. It’s not about who ‘wears the pants’ in a relationship it’s about recognizing each other’s strengths and building on them and collectively applying them to build something of value. It’s not about finding fault and playing on each other’s weaknesses but rather compromise; there’s what initially attracts you to your partner, the mistake we make over time is averting our eyes from these wonderful things and focusing instead on each other’s shortcomings and before we know it we no longer feel the same, we become revolted by the sight of each other, we begin to fall out of love. You need to revert your focus back to what drew you to that person in the first place, it’s all still there you just became blinded to it over time. In doing this you will begin to cherish each other more and rekindle the flame once again. We easily loose those that we love because we never take time to make it work.
She was always meek with grandpa; she let him hold the fort while she was run the show behind the scene. He adored her; his respect for her was evident. She was forever at his side, never behind him. He valued her insight. They’d claw at each other sometimes but the love was never lost and in no time they’d be laughing over a joke either of them cracked. They were a vision of happiness those two. Never did they keep in silence or let the sun go down on an argument. And when he was taken ill, she was by his side till the very end.
She is appalled at the sham we have turned the marriage institution into. Women no longer appreciate their role in marriage –we feel so liberated now we want to steer the family ship in complete disregard of the men. Men on the other hand appear to have lost sight of what their role is exactly. A marriage is a partnership, a union, not a power struggle, going about it as such beats the whole point of getting into one in the first place.
Dear enlightened woman -not all men are evil and they do like to be in charge and that’s unlikely to change. Let him reign, play up his ego once in a while. So what if you are more educated? Or make more money than he does? It doesn’t make him any less of a man and there really is no point in rubbing it in, making him feel inferior in the process, that is cold and uncalled for.
Dear man – excessive control over your woman is not how you assert authority, neither is aggression. Take care of your own, always, evading responsibility is a sign of weakness and just plain unacceptable. Applaud your woman’s achievements, complement her, support and protect her and please work in some romance while you’re at it, we dig that. Companionship is human nature. It is possible for two people to share a happy and fulfilling life together so long as they keep their pride and ego in check, and learn not to blow up trivialities. If there’s a problem, nip it in the bud; keeping it in only yields more problems that are even harder to resolve.
They upheld the value of hard work, respect for self and others, discipline, were virtues that were engrained into us from the minute one could walk. I remember we’d all get up early, my cousins and I, and join them as they set out to pick flowers, we just loved running in the endless beautiful fields; picking and laughing and playing our way through. Whatever the tasks we did them together making them less daunting. We might have been up to our necks with chores -that’s inevitable when you’re living on a farm- but we were all content because we understood what needed to be done and everyone’s role in all of it and the whooping one got if they failed to do what was assigned to them. I had quite an early start on all matters work. At the end of the day when we were all done we ran around in the grass (my grandma’s yard has the softest, forget carpeted) and played in the moonlight till she called us back to the house when it got late. One thing I admired about them is how they treated their workers; feeding them -on a daily- paying them well and on time. It was a valuable relationship they had, one of mutual respect and beneficial to all.
She is a fiery one my grandma, despite her diminutive nature. She needs no amplifier when she needs to be heard. She speaks her mind. She, just like many who watched as the country fought for and attain independence knows the true price of freedom. We should not take democracy for granted; we just need to look at other oppressed states and the turmoil they’re in to appreciate its worth. Allowing ourselves be influenced by our selfish so-called leaders who most times don’t see beyond their noses is truly a sad affair. Stay informed; knowledge is power. Love thy neighbor and seek divine guidance in all you do. On a lighter note she doesn’t get the logic of my prancing around in 7-inch heels which in her view are uncomfortable and worse still might leave me with a damaged ankle. I of course promptly remind her of the sky-high platforms that they rocked in their hey days 🙂
She still went and got me the loveliest boots though, and what do you know, they were high heeled -how sweet. She misses the point in walking around in clothes that are barely there, we might as well walk around naked “oh how times have changed” she mourns. “Didn’t they rock them shorter in the 60’s and 70’s?” I argue, “Well back in those days people were definitely not as blatant or half as wild as the lot of you is today, running around like all the blood done rushed to your heads” she quips. She’s not overly cynical, she appreciates that times have changed, yes, what she can’t stand is how our values have become eroded over time. And I don’t blame her, a shameful lot we have become indeed; self-centered, egotistic. It’s all about self-interest, the age we’re living in; success at whatever cost, self-gain in relationships. Whatever happened to extending a hand to one in need? Most of us have lost sense of direction we live as though we are of no purpose and are more of a burden than of value to those around us. Spirituality has become fourth nature to us; no wonder we’re lost. “God save us all” she pleads.
She is loved and cherished by her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. To live to see 83 and make light of the challenges that come with old age is a reflection of a self-assurance one can only hope for, an amiable strength.
She is blessed. In my eyes she is a legacy and I am proud to bear her name.