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.