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To My Friends Whom We’ve Lost Touch Yet, I Still Think About

Had we imagined we could get this far, we would have maximized those moments. How easy was it then when we were all in one place? We were sure to see each other as frequently as possible. We didn’t anticipate much change. Even though we felt things would change but we didn’t give it a good estimate. Until it surely happened.

Now, those times are gone, those moments we took for granted and we wish we had spent more time with each other. We’ve grown apart and the times we can get to at least meet each other have slowly diminished.

But, it’s life. Sometimes it gets hectic. And in the midst of it all, priorities change. We get carried away by new things as we push away the old stuff. We’ve never been ready for these. In the midst of growth, we just shake hands with newness and discover other aspects of life. And we drift, sadly; differently.

We Innocently Dreamt

As kids, we dreamt in unison; pass exams, go to university. Become doctors, engineers, pilots, and lawyers. We didn’t see ourselves becoming teachers, accountants, writers or even worse still job seekers. As kids we knew we would wed together and ensure our kids grew together in families better than ours; where they would apply blueband (margarine) on bread for breakfast.

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Sadly; life slyly winked at us. It saw us coming into the future with so much ignorance. And we’ve discovered thinks don’t work like those fairy tales. Probably, they have met their loved ones when you are still confused in the streets of life. Maybe they have settled when you are not yet with your education. Or you’ve just gotten your dream job while they are still tarmacking. Some have moved abroad while you still don’t know “where next” for you.

Change is Inevitable

I got the cue when things started changing but I didn’t want to believe it. I was so much obsessed with the belief that; as long as we lived on this green planet, we could create room for each other. But I was wrong. Some people have simply said, ‘if someone loves and cares for you, they will create time for you.’ But it’s never this simple. Sadly; we can try but it’s never easy. Life can strike like a thunderbolt and your entire universe is changed.

Schedules aren’t ready to cooperate with our wishes, and when we try to create space, other challenges creep in: financial issues, sicknesses and bills, and a lot of uncertainties. Besides, aren’t we humans who can’t handle all of it at once?

During my moments of introspection and reflection, I wonder if we still truly matter to each other. We’ve grown so far away that life begins to look strange. Are we strangers to reality? Does it mean that all the friendships and love we once lavished each other was fake? Was it just a fleeting scene in the episode of our youth?

Memories Are Here with Me

Yet; regardless of the mute and the overcoming feeling that I now have, you can rest assured; I still think about you even if we’ve not seen for a while.

I remember childhood games. I remember the obnoxious us; making fun of crazy jokes. I remember how we studied together and competed in the class. I remember how we fought, cried and forgave. I remember our dedication in church and the memory verses. Those childhood memories are a craze in my world.

I remember the high school funkies. I remember how we exchanged contacts using our shirt collars because we didn’t have phones in school. I remember the dances. I remember academic trips. I remember getting into trouble with master on duty, and the school assembly sessions were terrible when we had committed offenses. I remember the entertainment sessions and how we watched the movies together sometimes fighting over the remote control.

 I remember on campus, we read big books and walked everywhere with T-square for engineering drawing. I remember our first meetings and liking each other on the spot. I remember we sang in the choir. We ate dinners together and made fun. I remember how we went out for dates and experimented with things we hadn’t known.

I remember the encouragement you gave me when I was falling apart. I remember your praises when I was succeeding. We loved and cared. We were excited. We thought, believed and promised to spend the rest of our lives by each other’s side. And even when I felt unloved, you showed that I was lovable.

When I reflect on whom we’ve become over time it pales in comparison with whom we were then. Incredibly, we’ve not just grown apart but we’ve grown up.

And so, I remember everything. I think about you at least; most of the time even though it feels like I don’t.

You Are My Friend Forever

I, therefore, hope to see you soon. I want to meet the new you and I want you to see who I am becoming. I believe I have made some incredible improvements in my life. And if indeed I have become better then know that you are a part of the success.

You are the reason I believe in true love and genuine friendship. You are the reason I work hard, not to compete with others but to improve myself and make the world a better place. You are the reason I still believe in myself even in the face of defeats and shortcomings. You are that person! You are the reason I still believe there are true friends. And you are the reason I never shall trade my authenticity for approval.

For so many reasons, you are the person I still count on and will keep thinking about for the rest of my life. Even if we’ve lost touch and we don’t see as often as we would want, I want you to know, I still think about you.

Papillon Lagoon Reef is an Epic Experience

It was a pretty warm evening in Diani, and the clock was striking three. The sky was blameless blue and the air was palpably moist and steamy. The refreshing air from the AC in the plane would be our last interaction with cold. I had been sweating already when we disembarked from the plane. And by the time we were taking the cab to the hotel, my skin was already dripping. She was endlessly flapping, to gather some cool air. But I reminded her that she wanted a vacation, and this was part of the package.

The sky was blameless blue

The environment at the hotel was deathly quiet. And the monkeys occasionally jumped from trees to give it a bit of activity. With a cordial welcome, the receptionists gingerly ushered us into the hotel. They demonstrated utmost professionalism—explaining every bit of their actions. Even a slight dry cough would be accompanied with, “Sorry, I just want to make things clear”—of course, including their throat.

“Oh, welcome to Lagoon. You can have a seat as our team sorts you out.”

“And please, let us take you to the dining area for your late dinner before you are taken to your room”

The receptionists clad in their blue tops and black trouser were alive to the tasks. With their shirts neatly tucked, they seemed not affected by the hot weather. Always smiled and were well-articulated.

“Once again, welcome to Papillon Lagoon Reef. This is the place you will be taking your breakfast. That is the swimming pool. There is the bar—we have two bars, one at the swimming pool and one up the other side. You will be served unlimited drinks both during mealtime and at the swimming pool. Breakfast will be served from 7:30 am to 10 am. Lunch will be served from 12:30 pm to 3 pm. There will be an evening tea/coffee from 4 to 5:30 pm. Then supper will be served from 7:30 pm to 10 pm. The pool will be closed at 5 pm and opened at 9 am every day.”

All the time Masoud was explaining the itinerary I was only nodding my head. Marie walking behind me seemed to be soaked into the beautiful reality of a place we would call home for the next four days. I was so hungry I hardly synthesized all those details at once. I quite frankly forgot much of the details and it is Marie who would later remember most of them.

With a sloppy terrain towards the ocean, it was all fine and dandy moving downward. The experience would, however, be different coming up; something that Marie came to abhor. But the landscape was pretty gentle and the well-crafted pathways made it easier to move from the room to the beach.

“Here, we offer you a buffet—diners serve themselves. Then order your drink which will be delivered to your table by one of our waiters.”

“Okay, thank you,” I said while dashing towards the counter with fried chicken and fries. My heart was spoiling for the meal. Too bad there was no ugali, so rice did the dancing.

How can you not love people who treat you with constant gentleness, and are genuinely concerned with your welfare even if you paid for it?

We quickly settled for the meal, ate then moved to our room. Apparently, we had been allotted a room on the ground floor yet we wanted a second floor. Marie couldn’t hold herself—she made it a matter of urgency to have our room reassigned. That’s who she is and that’s why I love her—she loves the upper rooms; even in life.

The sheer vastness of the ocean took my breath away. Every time I go to the beach it is like experiencing the ocean for the first time. A calm and cool breeze blew the space; caressing my skin with a nonchalant gentleness that would make your heart effortlessly surrender its trouble. After all, what brings us to Diani if not to offload all our Nairobi-problems and drain them all at once, into the ocean of serenity?

Scenic and vast

Nestled in the tropical gardens of the East Coast, Papillon Lagoon Reef is a sanctuary of serenity, heartwarming beauty, and everything epic. It is a haven of peace; suitable for relaxation. The charming scenic beach is the hallmark of this amazing vacation destination. The food is exceptionally sumptuous; the staffers are warm and professional. The rooms are breathtakingly gorgeous, clean, and meticulous. The only fault with Lagoon is that when the vacation ends, we have to vacate.

Our new room was 374, and I have already developed an uncanny relationship with those digits. For example, I have been thinking, “I’d like to have 3 kids, have 7 cars, and become the 4th richest person in the world.”

The food was amazing and from day one I felt I was at home, or even better than home. And with a thoughtful silence, I looked across the ocean, breathed in, felt a heaving in my chest then breathed out. I turned around and saw a monkey walk majesty past our window. Phew! This was to be one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

Reading slaps by the shore

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: Book Review

“When you tell a lie, you steal a man’s right to the truth.”

A jaw-dropping and equally chilling story sets in war-ridden Afghanistan; The Kite Runner exhibits several themes in a compelling and unconventional matrix. It is haunting, inviting, insightful, and an impeccable eye-opener to human insufficiencies. The friendship between two boys, Amir and Hassan, whose destinies are tied to the hips is characterized by tests, challenges, loss, betrayal, guilt, revelations, and forgiveness.

While Hassan’s father works for Amir’s family, the story later reveals the intricate relationship that Hassan has with Amir. The Soviet military intervention and the upsurge of revolts groups like the Taliban affect life in Kabul and other parts of the country. The book highlights other social lives of Afghans, social challenges like tribalism but kite-running tournaments happen to be a unifying event; it ultimately becomes the central solution to the main problem in the book.

Betrayal

As with most friendships, the story between Amir and Hassan is a classic display of how betrayal affects even the most formidable friendships. They grow together as close friends and participates competitively though warmly in the kite-running competitions in Kabul. When Hassan disappears after kite running, Amir embarks on a search to find Hassan. Only to arrive when Hassan is being raped in an alley by some bully and arrogant boy called Assef. He hides, pretends not to have noticed and he absconds his responsibility as a friend to intervene. This is the classical evidence of betrayal between the two boys which instigates a loop of tragedies, pains, and misgivings between them.

Amir lives under the guidance of his Baba Jan. He soaks in his wisdom as Baba tells him, “When you kill a man, you steal a life, you steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.”

Yet he discovers that his father himself violated his teachings. He had told him a lie and stole his right to the truth when he failed to reveal to him that Hassan was indeed his own brother. When the truth finally arrives to him, he says, “I felt like a man sliding down a steep cliff clutching at shrubs and tangles of brambles and coming up empty-handed. The room was swooping  up and down, swaying side to side,” p. 206.

War

A lot of things change in the lives of Afghans. The chief cause of decadence is the war that massively affects the lives of everyone and everything. In a chilling letter to Amir, the writer melancholically writes, “Alas the Afghanistan of your youth is long dead. Kindness is gone from the land and you cannot escape the killings. Always the killings. In Kabul, fear is everywhere, in the streets, in the stadium, in the markets, it is a part of our lives here, Amir agha.” P. 200.

Guilt

Having failed Hassan, Amir lives under a menacing spell of guilt. He finds living with Hassan under the same roof unbearable and decides that either he or Hassan should leave. His father gets livid at his actions as he tries to frame Hassan for theft. Hassan is the pliable boy who accepts to be mistreated and bears the brunt of all humiliations. The sight of Hassan taking all the dirty stuff thrown at him by Amir without initiating revenge strikes Amir with a gripping sense of guilt. Ultimately, Hassan’s family and Amir’s father separate as Amir and his father escape the Soviet invasion of America.

Absolution

While in America, pursuing his writing career, Amir is persistently guilt struck; and hopes to find a way to reconcile with Hassan. He desires to confess his betrayal and seek absolution. He hopes that one day he will find Hassan alive and make amend their erstwhile broken relationship. Unfortunately, he doesn’t live to see this dream come true as Hassan and his wife Farzana are shot dead by the Taliban.

However, they leave their son Sohrab who is adopted into the orphanage. Amir embarks on an arduous effort to find Sohrab and offer justice to the boy on behalf of the deceased father. In a twist of events, the Assef—the boy who raped Hassan is the Taliban official disguising himself as a well-intentioned man trying to help him get the boy. When a fight ensues and Amir is almost being killed by the evil Assef, it is Sohrab’s intervention that helps them secure an escape.

Trauma

Though Amir finally takes the son, Sohrab, with him to America, he discovers that the boy is withdrawn and impervious to his love gestures. Amir is stressed because he can’t please Sohrab. His hope to absolve himself of his mistakes seems flimsy. He would have loved to see Sohrab happy and hopefully get rid of the burden of guilt. But the boy suffered childhood trauma and sexual abuse at the orphanage. He suffers from trauma-induced mutism.

In his final attempt; hoping for a stroke of luck and probably revive some vitality in the child, he takes Sohrab for a kite-running tournament. He recollects, “His face was a little flushed, his eyes suddenly alert. Awake. Alive. I wondered when I had forgotten that, despite everything, he was still just a child.” P.339. It’s through the kite-flying sport that Amir discovered they could cement the camaraderie between him and Sohrab. He was ready to do everything to absolve himself of his selfish actions, betrayal, and the loss of his brother and friend Hassan.

The books begin with a tragedy at the kite-running tournament; it equally ends with an emotion-evoking and heartwarming experience at a kite-running tournament. “I ran. A grown man running with a swarm of screaming children. But I didn’t care. I ran with the wind blowing in my face, and a smile as wide as the Valley of Panjsher on my lips. I ran. ”p. 400.

It’s a moving, gripping, magnetic, and compelling story of friendship, loss, betrayal, guilt, and absolution. Khaled Hosseini with his creative acumen did well to bring into life such a moving story and to do so in quite a fascinating and sublime way.

You can grab a copy of the book at Nuria Bookshop.

Paradise Lost: Extortionist Picnic and the Lost Glory

It’s a tale of once a glorious paradise that is struggling to reclaim its former enchanting glamour. And to say it’s struggling to reclaim it is to be disproportionately generous with my evaluations because there seems to be no attempt to getting better. Paradise lost charges and activities aren’t pleasant. You will pay an arm and a leg to access services and activities in this dilapidated and ramshackle type of a park. It’s a thorny experience to get massively taxed to access leisure activities in your own country.

Everything at Paradise Lost looks gloomy. Straight from the gate, you are greeted with the sight of the banana plantation that leaves you with questions as to whether it’s someone’s shamba or a public recreational place. The gate speaks less of anything important; cows can walk in through that gate and feel no shame. Everything looks sad, and the air is stale. The grass that hugs the ground is a lot like a rusted tin roof of an isolated house whose owner died many years past.

To say there is absolutely nothing beautiful right now at Paradise Lost is to be liberal with my description of it. If the name is anything to go by—the paradise is indeed lost.

Paradise-Lost Trails

You know you have been robbed when you pay an entrance fee of 500/- per person. You look at the place from the gate, and you begin to frown and wonder whether you will get a beautiful experience worth the money and time. But you want to be patient and give Paradise Lost a chance to prove you wrong—maybe there are beautiful scenes and greener grasses deep inside. Then you recollect your primary school teacher’s infamous adage, “Do not judge a book by its cover,” so you restrain yourself from judging. Only that you are about to be shocked. Folks, judge a book by its cover; it may save you a lot!

Extortionist Management

You are told zip lining is 1500/- per person for a zip line that stretches for less than 200 meters which you will gallantly enjoy for 47 seconds; if you are lucky to get stuck on the line, you can enjoy hanging for around 5 minutes as they struggle to get you out. Ladies and gentlemen, in less than 1 minute, you poop 1500/-. Kwani niko nchi ingine!

Boat riding is 400/- per person for 15 minutes, heck no. For a man from Nyanza, born and bred around the lake, paying 400/- for boat riding is one of the strangest sins I’d wish on myself. I would later be thrown into disarray when I learned that we’d pay 400/- to visit the caves and waterfalls. Caves, ladies, and gentlemen, for what reason? Archery is 1200/-, Quad bikes is 1500/- and camel rides for 300/- and camping is 1500/- Who is behind this terrorizing extortionism?

Guys getting ready for ziplining

Paradise Lost has some really terrible horses. And horse-riding is the only cheap service as they go for 300/- per person. But they are emaciated and dirty. I hate to troll horses since I do love the animals. But for heaven’s sake, why do you people persecute them like that? If you can’t feed them and take care of them, at least don’t make money from them.

Whoever is managing Paradise Lost, you are quite a terrible one at it. And you ought to probably up the game.

On their receipt, they use a tagline: 54 acres of pure fun. No, it’s 54 acres of pure boredom. At the time of writing this blog, Paradise Lost is in a shambolic state. Bring back the former glory!

James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time

Ill, rich, compelling, and gravely candid, James Baldwin’s Fire Next Time is timeless literature. His writing is as relevant today as it was then. Audacious in examining race relations in America of the 1960s, the book still distills wisdom and clarity about an issue that seems to be eternally stuck with us: racism. The somber mood in his writing is overwhelming as he articulates with resounding clarity the plight of a black man in a white man’s world.

“The details and the symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you,” James reflects in a letter he writes to his nephew. It is a menacing revelation. A black man doesn’t have the freedom to chart their destiny; theirs is a choreographed living.

Mr. Baldwin proceeds to point out the paranoia of white people at the possibility of a black man succeeding. It is a possibility that is unsettling to them, and they loath it. They are going to do all and sundry to deflate it. “Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar, and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations.”

The black was intended to perish in poverty, in the ghetto, and remain as hopeless as it would be possible. He was not expected nor allowed to go beyond what the white man had defined for him. It is unnerving to confront such a shaking truth, and as he writes, he hopes that black people with not engulf with fear but will accept these truths and make good use of them.

Religion

James opens this classic with a reflection on his faith and religion. Being raised in a Christian family, he couldn’t grapple with the inconsistencies in the lives of Christians. He asserts that he, at the age of 14 years, would go for a prolonged religious crisis. Because it is then that he became “afraid—afraid of the evil within me and afraid of the evil without me.” He began to hate his peers who were supposedly sinning. He thought he would fall prey to the vagabonds, and his father believed he would ultimately fall for the same vanities.

What he didn’t realize what that they were all products of the same circumstance; racism. Baldwin would later concede that the reason for his running to church was a mere gimmick—a gimmick which he had to find in order to lift himself out and start him on his way.

He reflects on the distress that he found with the Christian gospels. He felt a tinge of blackmails. “People, I felt, ought to love the Lord because they loved Him, and not because they were afraid of going to Hell.” And the erroneous teaching that all blacks were descendants of Ham, and were therefore cursed into eternal servitude, baffled him. White men wrote the Bible.

He proceeds to castigate Christianity for its unmitigated arrogance and hypocrisy to dictate morality for all human beings. He pleads that God should teach us to be more loving, freer, and larger, but if He can’t do this, then it’s better to get rid of Him.

Childhood Trauma

Humiliation and trauma by the police at a young age would leave an indelible impact on his life. “When I was ten and didn’t look, certainly, any older, two policemen amused themselves with me by frisking me, making comic (and terrifying) speculations concerning my ancestry and probable sexual prowess, and for good measure, leaving me flat on my back in one of Harlem’s empty lots.” It is one thing for the police to harass an adult, but it is certainly another for the police to harass a child.

Mr. Baldwin remembers candidly that many of his childhood friends fled to army service during the Second World War, only to be ruined there while others died. Some kids who couldn’t put with the torture fled to other states while he fled to the church for asylum. But matters were not helped by the Christian virtues. He reflects, “And those virtues preached but not practiced by the white world were merely another means of holding Negroes in subjection.”

Negroes’ Self-Image

The book talks passionately about the Negroes self-esteem, which by all conditions was squashed through circumstances created by the white man. They had a deluded sense of self-judgment. Time and anguish spent to reaffirm the self-image were all futile. “ Negroes in this country—and Negroes do not, strictly or legally speaking, exist in any other—are taught really to despise themselves from the moment their eyes open on the world.” Because this world is white and they are black, therefore the whites hold power. The black man is inferior.

James Baldwin concedes that God perhaps doesn’t love black people. This confounding reality challenges his faith. He says, “And if His love was so great, and if He loved all His children, why were we, the blacks, cast down so far? Why?” To these questions, he never found the answer even though he prayed all night.

On the issue of self-image, Baldwin concedes that “The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality—for this touchstone can be only oneself. Such a person interposes between himself and reality nothing less than a labyrinth of attitudes.”

He observes that White men in America do not behave towards the black men as they do towards each other.

No to Hate

He spends a bit of time evaluating and criticizing the Nation of Islam movement and its teaching as espoused by Prophet Elijah Muhammad. He demystifies the conspiracy theory taught by Elijah Muhammad that there was no white man in the entire universe at the very beginning of time, and the black men ruled the earth and were perfect. He observes how the followers are deluded by these false teachings and are disturbed by Elijah’s hatred towards white people. He responds to Elijah Muhammad, “I love a few people, and they love me, and some of them are white and isn’t love more important than color?”

James Baldwin observes how overwhelmingly challenging to produce good black men and women. “It demands great spiritual resilience not to hate the hater whose foot is on your neck, and an even greater miracle of perception and charity not to teach your child to hate.”

The book ends with a poignant and galvanizing clarion call for every conscious white and relatively conscious blacks to work together and end the racial nightmare and bring change. “If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, recreated from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time.”

When the Rain Stops

It was raining heavily outside. Thunder and lightning were intermittently showcasing themselves as if competing for a show. A thundering roar, rattling like an atomic weapon, could immediately be followed by blinding flashes of lightning even before the roar hit the horizon walls. Lightning was dangerous, it killed people. Thunders too, they turned people deaf.  An ice-cold storm grazed with a wide chilling girth across the earth, even as the ground leaked everywhere.

In the middle of the drama was the infamous, Rabuor. It was like nature was competing for his attention. They were calling him, cheering him, or maybe intimidating him. Unfortunately, they would never grab his attention because he was oblivious of everything.

He slept in the pool on the sidewalk, tired and deflated like a broken promise. Water entered his mouth and left at their own volition, almost suffocating his lungs. The cold kept sending its seismic bouts of chills through his skin. And the sky kept screaming at him. But Rabuor was lost into the world of indifference. He slept because his system was full of drugs and devoid of fear.

Rabuor had been a household name in his country, a hero at the sport he loved so much. Boxing. He was celebrated for his gusto, swift, and thrift when fighting in the ring. He was not only accustomed to winning; he was also entertaining to watch. A 6 feet 3 tall boxer, with a high speed and sharpness, it became an uphill task for the opponents to go against him and win.

It was his infamous signature punch that distinguished him. It could make an opponent run wild. Whenever he was in the ring, everyone waited for the moment he would unleash the Rabuor-left-hook punch. The media talked about him. People, out of curiosity, churned out conspiracy theories about its magic. He was the talk of showbiz and sport. Graffiti on the street, billboards, caps, and t-shirts bore his defining image.

Clout and fame followed him with grace, and he loved it. He was at the pick of his glorious life and the world had opened its doors into the room of charm, wealth, and celebrity. He had entered it and sat right on the high table. Money became his maiden name. He shook hands with the high and the mighty of his country. The president knew him, while other politicians adored and respected him. Traveling around the world was so frequent that it seemed places were screaming to meet him.

Now, aged 33 years, he had fought so many fights and won all of them. The only fight that people could consider his loss was a fight where he took six rounds before he floored the opponents. All the boxers who dared challenged him couldn’t muster any courage for a re-match. They had given him the respect because he had earned it.

But Rabuor couldn’t stay for long until he was challenged to fight by a young upcoming and little known boxer, Ong’wen. Ong’wen grew up watching Rabuor throwing his opponents to the floor in the second or third round of a fight. If an opponent sustained a fight with Rabuor to the fifth round, that opponent would receive acclamation not only from the commentators but also Rabuor himself. He was such a vicious boxer who never allowed an opponent to stay longer on his feet.

Ong’wen loved boxing; he was in fact, inspired by Rabuor to become a boxer. Importantly, he was craving for the fame and clout that Rabuor enjoyed. So he knew exactly what to do. He challenged himself to train and take the challenge to Rabuor’s doorstep. Of course, he began fighting other novice boxers of his cadre, and he reigned on them but those victories didn’t excite him as much. He was 6 feet 5, he ate well, and built huge arm muscles; and was only 21–full of vitality.

When Rabuor learned about a young man who wanted to take on him, he thought that would be his last chance to show his country that he was the king of boxing. In his grand plan, he wanted to retire thereafter. “I’ll floor the little boy, and call it to quit to the world of boxing,” he told the media. “I’ve made so much money and have carved my name with metals on the pages of history. This will be my last moment to append my grand signature on the blue skies, that I am the greatest.”

***

The day came, Rabuor entered the ring, looked Ongwen into the eyes, and felt something sneaky and strange. But he gathered courage and made up his mind to take him down quickly. So he started throwing vicious punches, all of which were blocked by Ong’wen. The fight went on to the third round, and Ong’wen remained on the defensive side as Rabuor came in with rains of punches. Ong’wen threw a few left punches, only he ensured Rabuor’s signature punch never caught him.

It was the ninth round and Ong’wen hadn’t shown any sign of fatigue or injuries, he was still full of strength. Unfortunately, Rabuor had never fought that long and people were waiting to see what could happen. It was evident that he had become fatigued. And the match entered the tenth round when the unthinkable happened.

For the first time, Ong’wen came to the offensive, attacked Rabuor with a left hook, landing right on his face, and made him go dizzy. He then gave him a straight-up strong right punch on his head. The king of boxing was thrown to the floor. He fainted. He was quickly attended to by the paramedics who rushed him to a hospital. And while the boxing king was being rushed to the hospital, that night, the little-known Ongwen tasted victory for the first time.

Days later, a revelation would follow that Rabuor suffered a serious concussion that interfered with his brain. It was only a matter of whether he would fully recover from it. Unfortunately, the hero’s mental health was gravely affected that he had to be admitted to the mental health hospital. Many fans from all walks of life came to visit him, but the person they met was different from Rabuor they knew. His mind and personality had totally changed.

After a few months in the hospital, he began to stabilize and demanded to be released. His wish was granted only for him to go out and throw himself into the rut of recklessness and misdemeanor. He would be in and out of police custody for reckless and drunk driving. He started using cocaine and became a truant. Rabuor entrapped himself into drugs and sex life and plunged his money into the sex spree.

The boxing association having learned of his recent lifestyle, stripped off his titles and Rabuor became a nobody to the world that knew and revered him so much. He started experiencing episodes of mental health problems, depression broke his door and took rein of his life. He became broke. He couldn’t earn anymore but he kept on spending on drugs and prostitutes until he was flat broke and sent out of his rented apartment.

Unfortunately, Rabuor had never invested any money, so when he lost, he lost it all at once. He was lonely. He was homeless and the friends he once had all departed with him. His life had been to the youths of his country, a noontide at twilight; and his youthful zest had given them dreams to dream. But a hero in the ring, a victor at the sport, was now losing his golden belt in the ring of life.

***

One evening after stuffing his body with so much cocaine, he laid in the trenches to blissfully sleep through his sorrow. It started raining, and in the lonely road, the boxer was rained on like a rug. He was tired and looked defeated. He could hear the thunder roar and the wailing storm though from a distance.

It seemed like nature was summoning him to cheer up, something that humans couldn’t. And water entered into his lungs, he sneezed and got up. The rain had stopped. He was in a pool of water, drenched. Out of the blue, a small Toyota car approached at a slow speed and the driver noticed a man dumped in the pool. He couldn’t figure out whether it was Rabuor, the famous boxer. However, he knew he was a human being who deserved help.

“Hello, are you okay?”

“Yes. I’m very very okay. Mind your motherf*cking business, son of a bitch!!”

The man wanted to drive off, but there was a female voice in the car who insisted that they should check on him. So they got out to attend to Rabuor. He had emaciated, lost strength, and his mind was so weak. They pleaded with him to go with them.

Rabuor was taken to a hospital by the family of Karanja, where they monitored his health. When the family discovered that the person they had picked on the road was the famous Rabuor, their hearts were sorely hurt. They intentionally took it upon themselves to get him back to himself.

Rabuor would spend several months in a rehabilitation center. He would hold a me-verses-me conversation and came to understand life better. And there, in the silent chambers of his heart, he discovered a priceless truth: that victory is not in the boxing ring, victory is not in the number of opponents you take to the floor. True victory is in conquering one’s self and laying reins on the passions.

His entire life, he had mastered the art of victory but not so well. He had known that a victor is someone he never fears nor shrinks from challenges. But near the periphery of his glorious days, he would discover that the strong man begins first by conquering self.

He had also learned how success creates a bubble of clout, fame, and friends from high places, as well as foes of equal measure. But he’d discover that when the bubble bursts, you remain alone at the hands of fate. And so that day, when the rain stopped, he discovered that his reign as the former self was over and he was to start afresh.

END.

BOOK REVIEW: THE POWER OF NOW

By: Eckhart Tolle

Hey there, I know it’s (N)January, and budgeting for a book is an option probably not on your table. But you can squeeze yourself a little and get a book. My first read this year is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I’ll not pretend that I am writing the review for this book, in part, because I am not adept at writing reviews. Still, even if I was good at it, I don’t think I would have the literary wherewithal to write a review that is commensurate to the potency of this book. My intention, therefore, is to urge you to get the book and read it.

Eckhart Tolle poses that NOW is all that we have. Which indeed is a cardinal truth. So we should live in the NOW, embrace and shake hands with the NOWs. That could help us really enjoy the Being. The fulfillment of life is in being and that can only be tapped when we acknowledge, welcome, and embrace the NOW. Hence you don’t need to think and ram your mind with details about the future, it is an illusion, you don’t have it. You don’t need to be drawn into your past, that too is an illusion. All there is and there will be is NOW.

The book helps us to free ourselves from the burden of overthinking, using our minds. He says our minds are our slave masters. We don’t have control over any other thing apart from NOW, and we need to enter it and find the peace that is everlasting. Entering that peace is consciousness. Refusing to embrace NOW, and to think about the future is unconsciousness. Eckhart points out that unconsciousness is why we have so much crime, hatred, anger, jealousy, intolerance, etc in the world today. So many people in the world are unconscious and the world can only get better if everyone became conscious of their Being and got enlightened.

One fundamental aspect of this book that is so relevant today is the idea of compulsive thinking. Compulsive thinking is the reason we have so many people stressed and depressed, and this book comes in handy to cure the problem. Eckhart establishes that people are riled up, mad, stressed, angry because they allow their mind to control their lives; they refuse to embrace the NOW. These people are basically unconscious of the present life, they strive to overthink their future and their pasts. They refuse to enter the bliss of letting go of all that is not within their control.

Compulsive thinking triggers negative energies, and one wonders why humans are the cruelest of all God’s creation. Humans killed over one hundred million other humans in the twentieth century, alone. That’s crazy. Eckhart establishes that the world is full of negative energy because people we have refused to embrace the Now. The beginning of a liberating spiritual journey is to embrace the NOW. Free yourself of the burden of worrying, overthinking, negative energies, and enter into the bliss of a fulfilling life. NOW.

My Best Reads 2020

Here are the books that I read during the tumultuous year, 2020:

Autobiographies and Biographies

  1. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
  2. Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump
  5. Cristiano Ronaldo by Guillem Balaque
  6. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis by Donald Spoto
  7. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
  8. Wings of Fire by A.P.J Abdul Kalam
  9. Diary of Miaha by Verah Omwocha

Leadership and Management

10. The Way of The Superior Man by David Deida

11. The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Swartz

Personal Development and Self-Help

12. Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill

13. Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

14. Ordering Your Private Life by Gordon McDonald

15. The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma

16. The Game of Life by Florence Scovel Shinn

17. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

18. Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

19. Option B by Sheryl Sandberg

Spiritual and Theological

20. The Pilgrim Progress by John Bunyan

21. Living in the Light by Shakti Gawain

22. Soul Print by Mark Batterson

Novels and Fictional Works

23. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi

24. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi

25. Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe

26. Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

27. The Man Who Rode Thunder by William H. Rankin

28. Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

29. Death of Salesman by Arthur Miller

Poetry

30. Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson

31. Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barret Browning

32. King Leah by W. Shakespeare

History and Politics

33. Land of Fetish by Alfred Burdon

34. Kenya: Looters and Grabbers by Joe Khamisi

35. American Democracy in Peril by William E. Hudson

36. The Footprints of Jesuits by Richard Thompson

37. Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence

38. European History by Robert Libbon

Philosophy and Sociology

39. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

40. Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

41. The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene

42. Everything is an Argument by Andrea Lunford

43. Hermeneutics by John D. Caputo

44. Critical Masses by George Moffett

Why Rural Girls Still Need to be Empowered: The Story of Truphena

This happened many years ago, when I was in class six but it is vivid in my mind as though it happened yesterday. Fun fact: I had my first crush in class six but I was too shy to tell her. She was a pastor’s kid. Pastor’s kids will be the end of me.

I was the tiniest and the youngest in the class. In spite of my size, I was the class prefect. This lady, Truphena was my classmate, though she was older than most girls in the class. She sat on the desk that was right in front of mine.

One day, when the bell for lunch had rang, as usual everyone left quickly because pupils used to suffer from incurable hunger by noon. But as the leader I had to linger on a little longer and leave only when all the students had vacated the room. Truphena looked different that day. She didn’t want to leave her desk which was unusual of her. She used to leave fast because she stayed very far away from school and trekking home was the only option for all pupils. I thought she wasn’t planning to home for lunch that day.

Ultimately, she summoned some courage to rise up. And I saw something I had never seen before, the image of which is still scarred in my memory. She had a wide patch of blood at the back of her school uniform. I wanted to know whether she was okay. Well, I had learnt about menstruation in the textbooks but I hadn’t imagined it could be that messy.

Pupils that were still hanging around gathered at the scene. She was at the center of everyone’s attention. Truphena’s face was charred with hot coals of shame as pupils talked about and boys laughed out the incident. She picked some scrambles of confidence she might have had, and tried to walk home though with a deflated demeanor. I watched as tears flooded her innocent eyes. I then asked some lady to lend her a sweater so that she covers her shame. That day, Truphena went home for lunch but she never showed up for the evening classes.

Days that followed had Truphena be the gossip item in the entire school. Everyone knew that she had “gone to the moon” while in class. I watched as this girl dissolved in perpetual humiliation that dented her self-esteem and brutalized her personality. She was bereft of her usual vitality and greenness. She withered. She couldn’t perform well in class anymore and by the end of the year, she had failed enough to repeat the class.

When I finally graduated from primary school, I left Truphena in class seven. I don’t know whether she managed to complete her primary education. I have never heard of her since then, but her story has stuck with me. She is probably married by now to an abusive husband, with three or more kids. I say married to an abusive husband because I have observed that most girls who go through trauma in their early lives have the proclivity of settling for wrong men.

Truphena’s novice and brilliant dream of becoming ‘somebody’ died because the society didn’t provide her an environment where she could deal with her challenges as a girl. Menstruation is a natural biological phenomenon that strains young girls, and it summons our collective effort to help the girls cope up. As a matter of fact, girls whose self-esteemed have been squashed and their confidence dashed don’t do well in class much less in life.

I am certain there were so many girls in class then as there are today, who experience menstruation and use unhygienic materials because they can’t afford sanitary pads. These things still happen today. My visit to the rural home during the holiday woke me up to this reality. We say girls have been extensively empowered, but have you gone to the village? For Truphena’s dream that collapsed, I have vowed to ensure that 200 girls in the rural areas get sanitary pads this year.

Happy New Year, 2021!

The Opis Mutiny Speech by Alexander The Great

Alexander III of Macedon

What I am about to say is not meant to stop you from returning home. As far as I came, go wherever you wish. But I want you to know how you’ve behaved towards me. And how I have treated you.

I will begin, as is right, with my father Philip. When he found you, you were mere peasants; wearing hides, tending a few sheep on the mountain slope. And you could barely defend them from your neighbors

Under him you begun living in cities; with good laws and customs. And he turned you from slaves into rulers over these barbarians who used to plunder your land. He conquered most of Thrace, taking the best harbors so there was trade and prosperity, and put the mind to steady work.

The Thessalians; they used to terrify you. Well, we rule them now. The Athenians and Thebians, always looking for a chance to attack Macedonia, were so humbled. Myself playing my small part in the war, but they no longer take tribute for Macedonia. But instead, depend upon us for their protection.

My father went to Peloponnese and put their house in order. Then he was declared supreme commander of all the Greeks for the campaign against the Persians; an honor not just for himself but for all the Macedonians. This is what my father Philip did for you. Great enough on its own but small compared to what you’ve gained from me.

I crossed the Hellespont even though back then the Persians still commanded the sea. I defeated the satraps of the great kingdom Dorayas, and made you rulers of Ionia, Aeolis, Phrygia, and Lydia. And took Miletus by siege. The rest of the land surrendered willingly and their wealth became yours.

All riches of Egypt and Cyrene which a won without you are yours now. Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Babylonia; all belong to you. The wealth of Lydia, the treasures of Persia, the jewels of India, the outer sea; you are now satraps. You are generals and captains. What have I held back for myself apart from this purple cloak and diadem? Nothing!

No man can point to my riches, only the things I hold in trust for you all. And what would I do with them, anyway? I eat what you eat, I get no more rest than you. Many times I have spent the night on watch so you can sleep soundly. Who among you believes he has worked harder for me than I have for him? Common!

If you’ve got scars, strip and show them to me. I’ll show you mine. There isn’t one part of my body; the front at least that doesn’t bare a wound. My body is covered in scars from every weapon you can think of; swords, arrows, stones, clubs…all for the sake of your lives, your glory and your wealth.

And yet here I still am, leading you as conqueror of land and seas, rivers, mountains and plains. We’ve celebrated our weddings together. Many of your children will be cousins of my own. I have paid off your debts without asking how you got them, even though you are paid well enough and pillage every city we take.

Many of you wear golden crowns, badges of courage and honor, given you by me. Any one of us who was killed, who met a glorious end, we buried with full honors. Many now stand immortalized by bronze statues in Macedonia. Their families are honored and pay no taxes.

Under my command, not one man has been killed fleeing the enemy. And now I want you to send back home some of you who have been wounded or crippled, who have grown old to be welcomed back home as heroes. But since you all wish to go, then, all of you, GO!

Go home and tell them that your king Alexander, conqueror of the Persians, Medes, Bactrians, and Scythians, who now rule over the Parthians, Corasmians, and Hyrcanians as far as the Caspian Sea, who has marched over the mountains of Hindu Kush, crossed the Oxus Tania rivers, even the Indus, first to cross it since Dionysus himself (I would have crossed the Hyphasis too if you hadn’t cowed in fear), who sailed into the great sea from the mouth of Indus, who crossed the desert of Betrosia where no one had ever led an army. Who took Carmenia, where my fleet sailed the Persian Gulf.

When you get home, you tell them that when you made it back to Suzza, you abandoned him and went home. Leaving him under the protection of the foreigners you’d conquered. Perhaps, this report of yours will seem glorious in the eyes of men and worthy in the eyes of the gods.

BE GONE!

Daddy Days: Missing Our Fathers

It must have been the sixth stairs, though my right foot was already resting on the seventh. There, was a beggar seated on the step with a cup scantily filled with coins. The footbridge at Ngara was choked with people; descending and ascending in quick succession. It was in the evening, the sun was ogling from the horizon, and the curfew hour was fast approaching. So I had to speedily squeeze myself among the flux of humans so that I would make it home before I landed on the wrong side of the law. Nowadays, it’s easy to offend the government and our men in uniform lose their heads whenever they find a civilian on the wrong side. I guess those who shall have made it through this corona pandemic without being arrested should as well be pronounced or pronounce themselves as heroes. Maaanh, it’s so easy to get arrested in Kenya during this uncanny period of the world’s history.

A senior man passes next to me, and the waft he leaves on my face throws me down the memory lane. The smell is a concoction of mature sweat and a faint old cologne; exactly how dad used to smell whenever he came home in the evenings after a long tireless day in his hustle. As I climbed the remaining stairs to cross over, my mind travels back and gets occupied by the fragments of memory about daddy. It’s eight-strong years since he passed.

Things that make us miss our dads! If it’s not rhumba music, Kolela, Dolla Kabari, or Okatch Dolla music being played by a roadside shop or over the local vernacular radio station, then it is the twisti dance by mzee Nzenze or Daudi Kabaka’s hilarious lyrics with a sweetly grotesque melody. Sometimes the fatherless children see someone with a jacket like their dad’s along the road and their memories are awakened. They dream about their fathers.

Sometimes, it’s their old emotionless photo, hanging on the living room, sometimes it’s their favorite seat that remains unoccupied in the house. These are some of the mundane stuff that makes us wish we had a dad. And now that on Father’s day, people will hopefully be appreciating their dads, orphans will be watching and saying, “We miss our dads.”

Yet that may not be the crux of the matter until we realize that those to whom, grace has permitted to still have a father in their lives, do the very least in appreciating them. Fathers receive the very least of attention when people are being prized.

Naturally, children tend to love and bond with their mothers more than with their fathers. To be a father, therefore, is to be thrown on the unfavorable side of nature; too much expectation, a little sympathy, and little appreciation even when you’ve done your best.

Other Voices

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” Sigmund Freud.

“The father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty with the son who neglects them.” Confucius

“It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.” Anne Sexton.

Many boys are going without fathers hence they are not getting the skills of how to be husbands to girls who perhaps also grew up without fathers. Too many girls growing without their fathers into mothers with little knowledge on how to handle a man who perhaps grew without a father and is lost in his eternal search to be a father. A lot many relationships are today in bad shape because there was a missing link: fatherhood. Always taken slightingly, yet Fatherhood, to this end, has proven to be very important.

So today, as we appreciate our fathers, having lost my dad during my teenage, I can only reminisce upon those old days; the daddy days. And I have, in my recollection enlisted some of the few lessons have deduced:

  • Daddy days remind me of how fickle time is and how it passes so fast. It is now clear that my childhood with its drama, complexities, and challenges, has now varnished. And despite the tragic death of my dad, I have learned to cope up, man up, and trying to grow up into the man he never was but would want to be.
  • Daddy days remind of that a man must always work hard and provide for the family.
  • That to father a child, one needs not only the material resources but also enough emotional and spiritual preparations; a great deal of it.
  • That while I may not have had a great childhood with a perfect father, yet I may still just be a great father to my children. For indeed, even the seemingly great parents also failed at some point.
  • That being authentic and true to self is imperative. It implies; creating exorbitant time for yourself to grow without hurrying into fatherhood.
  • That being able to spread sperms doesn’t make one a father, even those who can’t bear children can still be fathers. Fatherhood is more than just making a woman pregnant.
  • That a man must Pray! And love his children as His Father loves him. Faith is indeed the reservoir of courage, hope, and purpose.

My memory with my dad is a lot more to me like the Northern star, through his mistakes I learn to mend, through his success I set a formidable grounding. While I, as most fatherless children, always searching for a mentor in my life, before I get one, I use my dad’s recollections to forge my path. So, to the boys with dads, the girls with dads, how I wish you knew we strongly crave for those old bearded, face-wrinkled, stubborn, sometimes autocratic, nagging, overly possessive, full of mistakes, sometimes negligent, and what-have-you type of human beings in our lives. Fathers are incredible humans!

HAPPY FATHERS DAY TO FATHERS AND POTENTIAL FATHERS

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