WHY MZEE OJWANG’ WAS NOT PART OF MY CHILDHOOD

FB_IMG_1437307970660…………………It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again  – Wizkid ft. Charlie Puth

This is one of my most favourite sentimental songs for 2015. Incidentally its one sad of a song. It invokes memories of Fast Furious 7 and the car crash that claimed celebrated, leading actor, Paul Walker. Its terribly emotional.

That Mzee Ojwang’ has officially wrapped his time here on earth and that we won’t see him again, reminds me of this song. Even after dying at 78, you realise life is damn short. Let’s appreciate some facts here,

Born in Nyeri District, at some point he dropped out of school due to financial constraints. He worked in Mater Hospital for four years as a theatre technician before joining KBC formerly Voice of Kenya. He stuck here for 44 years. Lived in Mbotela estate, a neighborhood in Eastlands, Nairobi associated with lower class people. Terminated together with other cast members of Vitimbi from KBC about two years ago in what the management called ‘old age’. Died in Kenyatta National Hospital from pneumonia. After 44 years of dedication and commitment to one employer, he didn’t even get a golden handshake! His unrivalled passion in bringing comic to our living rooms since the 70’s shouldn’t have gone unnoticed by the presidents’ handlers to befit him with a Presidential Commemoration, at least.

Sorry, I just lied that I was part of this generation that had their childhood patched with unparalleled comic and laughter for several decades from this legend. I wasn’t. Not that we didn’t have a television. No.  We had one, with a conspicuous, orange colour. This must have been my dad’s first asset, soon after he got his debut job. How my dad settled on an orange background colour is something I wish I asked him. If he was alive, this would have been an interesting conversation. What our household and many others in my village lacked, was electricity. It was very expensive, bureaucratic and took ages for one to qualify for a connection. In fact, in a village of about 50 homes, only two enjoyed ‘power’. One such belonged to a veteran athlete in the 90’s named Eric Wainaina. Not the musician though. Google is your friend. The other envious one was and still is a home to a brilliant guy who works in a government institution. Luckily, power came through in the last decade.

So this explains why I wasn’t lucky enough to watch Mzee Ojwang’. Actually many of my childhood friends share the same story only that they wouldn’t publicly admit. I don’t blame my late dad. He was phenomenal and in fact set the bar too high for me. Had he been alive today, I’d engage him with questions like; How he managed to have bought a car (VW car was the in thing then), several acres of land, constructed a nice house and had Friesian cows grazing by, before he hit 30. Dear readers, please ask these questions to your dads. Like what was their greatest achievement at 30. And what were their goals then. This will help you big time, in restructuring your life especially in the financial angle. Many fathers then, saved more and spent less unlike our times; where you are judged by the size of your phone or your loaned car that you’ll pay for 15 years.

Where was I. Mzee Ojwang’ is the Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya, Jaramogi Oginga, Harry Thuku and Nelson Mandela of the Art industry in Kenya. He was an epitome of a rare group of Kenyans, whose embodiment was not defined by tribal caucuses. In fact somebody said, Mzee Ojwang’ will be the first Luo to be buried in Central Kenya. That’s how far he was from his native tribe. How I wish we can use our talents for the betterment of others far away from parochial trappings of tribal mindsets. ( It disturbs me when learned Kenyans make fun and continue to cheer the like of Moses Kuria and company).

It’s sad that Mzee’s death was shrouded and shadowed by many low moments. Am sure at some point he felt unappreciated after more than 44 years of unconventional hard work and dedication to this nation. How do you perform for four presidents during national holidays in a span of 4 decades and die a pauper. Art has for long time been neglected in this country. Over the last few years though, the script has been changing. I know of friends who work full time in this industry and are doing very well. It’s politically correct to say the Mau Mau fighters of every noble course die empty handed, sadly.

Though Mzee Ojwang’ was never part of my childhood, his exemplary service to this nation penetrated beyond the TV screens to the villages deep in the rural areas. Kids of those times craved to watch him even when connection to electricity was an impossible dream, then. You’ve left an indelible mark sir. Safiri salama, salimia Molana, tutaonana baadaye! 

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WILL OUR DEEDS BE ‘BEATIFIED’ WHEN WE’LL BE LONG GONE?

ssteSr.Irene Stefani was born in 1891, the period around when Britain opened fertile highlands of Kenya to white settlers. She had 12 siblings, 7 of whom would die in their infancy. Her mother passed away when she was only 16, and ostensibly a young Irene was left with the task of taking care of her younger 4 siblings. On 29th January 1914 she consecrated her life to God by taking the Religious vows and on 28th December of the same year she left for Kenya. She would heed to every call in the night to serve the sick and baptise those in the blink of death. She would naturally speak to people she encountered, about God with joy and conviction. On 20th October 1930, she opted to visit a sick teacher who previously had spoken badly about her and her way of teaching. 10 days later, Sr.Irene died at the age of 39 after inhaling this teacher’s breath which probably caused her infection.

That’s Sister Irene for you. Her love and mercy transcended races, continents and people who disliked her work. Its on that note that this weekend, the entire world, catholic or non catholic zoom their lenses to a typical sleepy village of Gikondi, in Mukurweini, Nyeri County to witness a historical moment of their lives. Gikondi, will be trending globally as a mammoth of Christians congregate for a night vigil to commence the beatification process of Sister Irene. She died in this very village but not before walking miles, far and beyond, in her boots of glory to spend much of her time in sick peoples’ bed sides. People of Gikondi had nick named her Nyaatha, meaning Nyina wa Tha (Mother of mercy and love), for her rare sense of mercy. Sorry for telling you what you already know.

Sister Irene was phenomenal. She had a big heart. A merciful heart that touched legions far away from her country and family. Close to a century later, her deeds still captures the world’s headlines. Her rich impact still trembles the world’s sophistication and contemporary life. To me that’s beautiful and humbling. Thank God, social media was not invented then, and if it was, she wouldn’t care a thing. Her heart bled for the people. She cared less about basking in her glory. She was empathetic, noble and compassionate. Picture this, while your agemates, join campus and others venture into businesses while some start up families, Stefani harboured a different dream. A dream of carrying the emotional burden of people in a different continent, poorer and uncivilised, then.

Unlike Sr.Stefani, our lives are spent on social media where we exhibit any new dress, car or house. That flight trip that was 100% footed by your employer is flaunted on instagram for days. Our generation is obsessed with frivolous gratification of our naive excitement. We pose this demeanor of living large which is all but a life lived in denial. We live for others, while we auction our minds to them. We are too feeble to stand naysayers. We parade our spouses sent from heaven, our beautiful kids and the last escapade to the coastal beaches or hiking in Hell’s Gate just to make news. We badly crave to be worshiped or perceived in awe.

If Sister Irene was to resurrect today, she would be overwhelmed by the self – centered mentality in us. We no longer hear of good samaritan stories anymore. Do we ever raise an alarm when a neighbour’s house is broken into? When families lose their son or daughter whom they struggled to school, in a University attack, do we sympathise with them? Do such news bother us or what we only care about, is our very close relatives? Why is it hard for school going kids to come up with a list of role models? Sister Irene would be defeated by news of Presidents clinging onto power as their countries bleed with riots and melee. Would she come to terms with news of people killing comrades for the mere reason of them belonging from another country.

Its all waste of national resources and our time if we’ll spend an entire weekend glued to the TV screens or rather blazing the sweltering sun to witness this historical moment if it’ll not turnaround our lives. Beatification of Sister Irene should serve a purpose to us. It should trigger a sense of self interrogation and evaluation. We should have a moment with ourselves, mirroring our past mistakes, achievements and pondering on times we’ve set aside(if any) to help the disadvantaged communities around us. How many times, have you given way in traffic voluntarily? Or assisted a grandma carry her luggage home? When was the last time you were involved in your church’s development project or do you always look away when such announcements arise.

Your life’s footsteps will be judged harshly or otherwise when you pass away.Sooner or later. What will your eulogy read? Will tales of your generosity and kindness be told? Will humans who are not necessary your relatives or close friends be overcome by emotions by the reality of you being no more? Will you have touched lives by the time you meet your death? Or will your family be left with the burden of filling the voids and gaps of your pale or dull life as they bury you six feets under? We have no business being alive if we don’t make faces smile, give a hand and create time for loved ones. We have no business being alive if we don’t aid in wiping tears of a society.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
― Leo Buscaglia

DAD, ITS BEEN 15 YEARS…..

DDDOn that Wednesday, 5th day of April, the year 2000, you were pronounced dead in a hospital bed. That short illness had overwhelmed your soul. I was too young to comprehend the magnitude of that loss. I didn’t foresee the tough impact beforehand. Forgive me for my age then. I was only in class 5. 10 days later, we would bury you on that rainy afternoon. I fondly remember carrying your portrait throughout the burial service. Even before you passed away, relatives and friends spoke of how we resembled each other. As you would expect, I cried profusely for nature robbing my only daddy at such a young age. I seethed with anger and experienced long thoughts about you dad. Images of your last days in this world still remain vivid in my mind. Though from the onset you were the most courageous man I had known in my entire life, you seemed inundated. The illness had taken a heavy toll on your health. You looked disturbed. Few days later, trooping back from school one evening, we learnt you were admitted in hospital. It wouldn’t be for long, before the good Lord took your soul.

One of the challenges I have encountered ever since, is of friends sharing stories about their dads. It always affects me to date. I feel disadvantaged to some extent anytime those stories are told to me. I find myself prodding,” what if daddy you were alive?” Nevertheless, I have learnt to accept what happened, over the years. As they say, time is the best remedy. Frankly, it has really helped me heal. It’s now 15 years since you passed away.15 years marked by harsh challenges, disturbance, victimization, lack of mentorship and father figure and barrage of questions. All this is courtesy of the enormous vacuum you left to your very young family. In retrospect; I count many successes too, over the period. I have made mistakes and achieved quite, as well. Your absence triggered a rather unusual mental strength and self-drive. It has never been easy though.

I fondly remember the rich legacy you left behind. To me, Christmas occasions have never been the same again. During your time, it meant, embarking on nostalgic visits to our grandma. Not once did we miss to surprise her with a ram to mark the occasion. Every evening you’d never fail to bring home a newspaper and a paper bag of bread and a half kilogram of meet. Speaking of newspapers, you exposed me to the world of reading newspapers at a very young age. In fact, my writing has everything to do with reading newspapers. I wish you were around, to give you a pat on the back. I remember your dark suits, brown shoes and red ties. My siblings and I would smell you from a distance.

Your authority in that house was visible. Your soft side would surprise us in many occasions. Not once did we tour Nakuru at the popular Uchumi Supermarket, then, for shopping. This was a really big deal to us. You stopped at nothing in making our lives comfortable. You also had this chemistry with your cows. You consistently ensured they were in great shape and sound. I recall you putting on your navy blue overall coat, and juggling across the shamba to cut napier – grass for the livestock after a long day in the office. We would do grazing together on weekends. You nurtured me to love this skill. I still do it to date, whenever I visit home. To my brother and I, you inculcated major responsibilities in us at a very young age. Fast forward now, I thank you for that wisdom.

You were a big fan of Country music especially on that sunny Sunday afternoon. You’d also listen to BBC news every weekday in your bedroom. In fact, I remember this radio that was not just handled by anybody else apart from you. You were also a very generous man. A good number of my relatives benefitted from your kindness by paying for their school fees and even uplifting them. You’d invite my cousins in many occasions and share a meal together. We revered and adored you dad. To us, you were a source of pride, entitlement and hope. You were an inspirer, a mentor and a bundle of joy.

On 15th April (10 days later) we buried your remains. Customarily, we shoved soil and wished you to rest in peace. Tears freely dropped down our cheeks. No one would fathom how wrenched our hearts were. You died with big dreams and many nuggets of wisdom. To this day, my objective is to protect that legacy you worked so hard for and probably improve on it. Rest in God’s love and peace DAD!

MAYA ANGELOU; SURMOUNTING FLAWS

maya

“…The caged bird sings, with a fearful trill, of things unknown, but longed for still, and his tune is heard, on the distant hill, for the caged bird, sings of freedom.” A transcript of the last paragraph of Maya Angelou’s popular autobiography, ‘I Know Why Caged Birds Sing’ best captures the depth of creativity and life experiences of this legendary woman. Caged by poverty, childhood abuse, firsthand racial prejudice and discrimination from an early age, really sharpened Maya to a strong woman who dared to confront and surmount her insecurities in the thick of things.

Her parents divorced when she was only 3 years, later living with her paternal grandma together with her brother, raped at 7 years, her uncles killed the said perpetrator, and a traumatised Maya went mute for close to 5 years. Her subconscious mind made her believe her voice heard killed the man and she thought she would never speak again as her voice would kill anyone. Relationships came calling during her teenage life and at 16 she was pregnant, by 17 she was already a single mother. 

Am amazed by the fact that Maya did all sorts of odd jobs to put food on the table, not even life challenges would overwhelm her. And before delving into writing and poetry, she was an actress, singer and a dancer. Having started by putting pen to paper on her life story, she fell in love with her new passion and this can be attested by her numerous laurels she received through writing. Did you know in 1968 she stopped celebrating her birthday as it coincided with the assassination of her close friend, Martin Luther King Junior. She would instead send flowers to Luther King’s wife, Coretta for 26 years until she passed away in 2006.

Maya was a typical woman brought up by a struggling family, faced a myriad of challenges just like many African girls from poor backgrounds go through. She made mistakes like everybody else, ultimately she conquered her flaws, she was no longer a ‘caged bird’, she had tasted freedom, nothing from then could be an impediment between her and her dreams. In a world that craves for perfection from bleaching the skin to appear lighter, dying our hair to conceal any grey hair, Maya was a simple woman who used her tough past life to inspire and glow hope to many a people across the globe. May her soul rest in peace