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Defiance

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It started off simple, I went to the hair salon, I got my hair done, I looked fabulous. As I prepared to exit there was a crowd of men in suits, I am not quite sure if there were any women, I came to learn later that these folk were county officials. They were hovering around the site of the collapsed building. Since they were in the way; they were like bees swarming at the entrance, I politely asked them to move their meeting to a different position. Some apologized and moved.

I further requested that they move their meeting away from the Salon door. Come on! It is a business! They are blocking customers from entry. And considering how fretful a people we Kenyans are, when people see people in suits and clipboards outside an establishment, what do we do in this country? We run, or walk away because we just don’t want to be caught up in someone else’s drama with the ‘law’. Again some individuals apologized and moved without a fuss except one diminutive figure.

“I am the MCA of this area….” (Cue to roll your eyes) the man continues. “And what you have done is wrong, we are doing very important work here……” At this point I mentally tuned out of this conversation fighting my urge to bark at him and pick my battles. Was he really worth it, he is already unreasonable in his response and clearly is obsessed with exerting his ballot assigned authority?

Then when I checked back in to his ramblings, “what you have done is wrong, I am done!” He said as he flicked his hand at me and walked away. Like an angry irrational parent he barked at me unwarranted and acted like I, his constituent, was his indisciplined child who ‘questioned’ his authority. I took that as simple bullying, I can go on a tirade commencing with, “Who does he think he is…?” But I won’t why? Because he is a reflection of the society we live in.

Because, logic and critical thinking and general debate aka questioning has been beaten out of us. We have been indoctrinated to believe that anyone in power is above questioning. I have chewed out doctors for ‘shoving’ me around and expecting me to ‘obey’ them when they whip out a prescription without telling me what the results of the tests mean and why I was getting that specific prescription. Security guards who act like they are Angel Michael at the gates of Heaven, and the insecure lecturer and High School teacher who I took to task with their general absence of logic.

You even see it in touts. It is such a ‘Uta-do’? attitude. I become untouchable when I perceive I have some form of clout over you, even if it as simple as charging you bloody bus fare? Come on! That MCA reminded me of how much work we need to put in a general re-indoctrination of the crap that we do to each other. Questioning is what makes society and humanity better, because when we question we open room to evaluate ourselves and improve. Sigh!

It is one battle at a time. Just not taking crap from people around you and find a cordial way to logic it out, without bludgeoning each other to death.

First published on http://blog.storymojafestival.com

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God’s Grace?

One of my lecturers once said in class that in this country, Kenya, we operate by the “grace of God”. I laughed rolled my eyes and partially lied to myself that it can’t be that bad. I knew better, two years ago I crashed after just two years of reporting on things that I witnessed in this country. I was made very aware that, in all honesty, with all the brilliance and potential in this country, we are living on a rotten foundation as a country.

I have interviewed people who were huddled up in to concentration camps in the North of Kenya and lived in a state of emergency for 3 decades. Deprived, tortured and children murdered. I met a 6 year old raped and the perpetrator walk away scot-free. I have seen the constant regression of the Kenyan medical system and even personally been deprived healthcare when I did not have a cent.

I have met teen prostitutes who chose their profession to take care of their jobless parents and raise their siblings. Spent afternoons with Transgenders and empathised with their confusions and frustrations. Watched doctors grovel to give basic healthcare in villages that have shells for health facilities.

And most recently over the last few years watched Kenyans die because of the lack of coordination amongst security agencies. I can go on till the cows come home. You catch my drift; the constant African narrative of poverty, disease, war and corruption. Yes it is frustrating, yes the greed is pornographic, but there is hope. Because we belong in a generation where people have chosen to be and make the difference.

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Boniface, Sham Patel and Ory are the constant reminder to me why I should care and act to make a positive difference with what I have. And most of all stay at it, because let’s be honest if we don’t, this country will happily sail into utter destruction. God’s Grace can only last so long when good people do nothing!

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An Anthology of Diary Entries About Nocturnal Escapades

As I said in my previous post, I have a new found respect for anyone who has and continues to author novels. It takes time, discipline and lot of internal wrestling to get the job done. I know it is only fair to review at least one book from the Authors of the festival. I will try my best.

Let’s be honest here, as long as you can read, you can have your opinion about a book. Case in point, a friend of mine defined Ben Okri’s novels as overzealously full of agonizing spirits. And another friend was in love with the depth of African spirituality he exudes, taking us back to our roots. Have I read Ben Okri? Crucify me if you want. No, I haven’t. I won’t pretend to be deep and profound about it either.

Since I read slower than ‘Turbo’, I am wrapping up, yes after a month, less than 150 pages of Tony Mochama’s Nairobi: A Night Guide Through The City-In-The- Sun.  The name says it all, it is Tony Mochama alias Smitta Smitten the pseudonym he uses in his column in Kenya’s Standard Newspaper’s Pulse; Entertainment pullout.

It is a night guide, self explanatory; the end  – enough said. I should have figured that one out when I picked it up.

I just honestly thought that I would get a different flare of Tony’s writing. I felt that it was an anthology of diary entries over a few years of nocturnal escapades. It is interesting nights out in a city he loves; Nairobi, as the Night Runner, laced with escapades in his Russian, wider European and American trips.

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I just genuinely didn’t like the texture of his writing; it threw me off more than it kept me engaged. Not just the shift from first to third person, the story felt like it was jerking. From Good times, Sanford and Sons to Russian escapades, then prostitutes in a bar, to European Premier League football matches, expat parties, the World Cup. Each chapter revealed something new, but like I said earlier it was more like each chapter was a standalone scenario and not necessarily connected to a fluid story.

You know what? Maybe I don’t get it, but to each his own, I guess.

There are few moments that will make you smile and reminisce what Nairobi nights and streets and joints were like in the early nineties, but that’s it. The Sundowner Show on VOK then KBC to the Sunday’s watching “KTN Classics” took me down memory lane, taking you to a world of innocence away from the drunken dens of these cities, he spoke a lot about. Well duh! It is a night guide right? But there really wasn’t any oomph that made me want to keep turning the pages.

First published on http://blog.storymojafestival.com

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Kenyan?

My intention was to attend the ‘Guerilla marketing for writers’ session at the 2014 Storymoja Festival. But unfortunately that went sideways when the tents changed. I was at the dome already and ‘Kenyan to the Kore’ was the discussion. It was fireworks and I couldn’t leave.

There were so many sober and pertinent things that people said, trying to coin and figure what being Kenyan is really all about. But what really slapped me in the face was this, “Before we get to the ‘we’, we need to be conscious of the ‘I’”. Profound!

There were several consensuses; first, what brings us together is our differences and second, it was time that we as citizens of our great republic, Kenya, should no longer rely on government or politics to determine what being Kenyan is. We need to define what that is and means by ourselves.

Another pretty interesting scope at understanding who we are, was what really makes us who we are ethnically. This part of the argument got me tickled watching people fumble over themselves. Think about it, just because your parents are a certain ethnicity, you speak the language and your rural home is in a certain region in the country, does that really constitute who you are ethnically? Think about it for a minute before you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

That is up for debate, but that really got me thinking especially when Morris Kiruga pointed out what kind of culture and traditional practices our great grandparents and grandparents went through. There is a lot that has been lost over the years through urbanization. So who then are we really?

Like Kibali Mureithi concluded, “we need to allow ourselves to interrogate who we really are and what does it mean?”

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Plagued by Author Envy

Writing your debut novel? Here are ten points on how to get started. That is a typical motivational speaker introduction. So if that is what you are waiting for, sorry to disappoint you but I have no pointers. I have just been wondering what makes a good story. I Google searched, watched YouTube videos, and I discovered…drum rolls please…that what makes a great story is not the genre, size of the book or the author’s fancy exotic name. It is just being able to transport your reader into the world and life of your story; imagination.

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I have been reading stories, and exploring authors and I felt bad when I saw some of the names in this year’s Storymoja Festival authors list. Why? I recall speaking to Ciku Kimeria at an ATM and she rambled on about not being able to stop writing.  I encouraged her to keep at it and took the liberty to share that I was working on a manuscript. And I had a blog as well, typical lazy Rose lip service.  Ciku sent me her work to read, guilty, I didn’t, and then on 1st January 2014 I got an SMS.

“You can now get my book on Amazon.” I was having a blast in Mombasa with friends and family when that bombshell was dropped. I hadn’t finished my manuscript and I was all over the place with it. And after an ATM visit encouragement she took my advice and got published? It took a while to shake off the shame, self hate and guilt for my laziness. It was like salt on an open wound and then rubbed in my eyes when I saw Ciku, a 2014 Storymoja Hay Festival author, I wanted to die.

I am slightly jealous but most of all, feel guilty for not being more disciplined in writing a book. Ciku kudos! You know what? She loved it, she wrote her heart out and it’s all about being consistent and getting it done. I have learned my lesson and I have maaaad respect for her.

So what is the point here? I don’t actually recall it just went out the window, I guess I feel ashamed actually. I know I am not the only one. I started another manuscript, but every time I write I keep feeling like the story isn’t good enough, no one will ever read it, save for my supportive mother. But I keep forcing myself to do it.

I keep thinking of Ciku, it is all about consistency, putting it all down. I keep reminding myself it is all about being able to imagine a world and transport the reader there. Then a voice yells out, “don’t do it!” And then a mental WWE match erupts and then I pause to calm down. I guess at times the real fear is rejection and inadequacy. Investing all that time and energy and seeing a publisher shred it to bits.

But hey Chimamanda, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Beatrice Lemwaka, Ben Okri, drew us in to their worlds, and they didn’t have fancy vocabulary. They just wrote, I will keep at it and take my time to write. Boy do I now have a new found respect for ANYONE who has ever authored a book.

First published on http://blog.storymojafestival.com

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Do I Have To?

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by goinswriter.com

I feel like writing the title of this post as “Writer’s Block” and leaving it blank. This week has been a dry spell. I normally know I need my creative batteries charged when I become verbally inarticulate and I grunt when I think of writing. That has been the situation for most of this week. The last time I felt this way earlier in the year a friend of mine lent me his book, “Writers on Writing”, as the name suggests it is a collection of writers insights on you guessed it, writing. I started reading it then I got bored.

That pretty much is where I am now, struggling to finish books, and the reason why this post isn’t a book review post. My hope is that as I continue to drum the keyboard, some inspiration will emerge and I will blow your mind with this post. Well cursor blinking and Ray Charles in the background, I wish “Georgia was on my mind” as well.

You know there was a time I sat down and asked myself, irrespective of how chewy this nasty bubble gum music generation is. How is it that these Pop artists still churn out their crap? Ok, let me be kinder, churn out their sounds. Happy now? Because let’s be honest, your so called passion is like a human relationship. You go through the phase of attraction and curiosity, romance, friendship then apathy, because you feel like you know all there is to know. So what wakes you up in the morning when all you want to do is caress that pillow even tighter?

I just talk in to the pillow and it holds me. I stay in bed. I think my mind has chosen to stay in bed when the rest of me awakes! At times what concerns me; I am not sure whether it is plain old insecurity, self esteem issues or what not. But when you look at your area of passion, calling or whatever you want to term what you may feel you were born to do, that there are a gazillion people on the planet who have been there, and are doing exactly what you do. And you may never receive the recognition you deserve?

I was watching Jack Ryan: Shadow recruit and it was fascinating seeing Kevin Costner in more movie roles. Now he is everywhere, Draft Day, Three Days to Kill, Jack Ryan and others in the pipeline. He has won 2 academy awards and has 40 years of acting to his name. But a younger, actually 20 years younger, Leonardo DiCaprio has been nominated for 5 academy awards and is yet to win any. DiCaprio has won other awards, but just not the Academy Awards, but he keeps at it.

As I work on my manuscript I try to stay focused on enjoying the process of writing the story. It would be great if I won an award and my novel gets critically acclaimed and is a number one bestseller. But there is a reality…that that won’t happen, and I need to be OK with that. There is always someone smarter than me, a better writer and similarly I am 100 times better than others out there. So whether I feel like it or not, I need to keep at it.

What do you know? I managed to write something after all!

First published on http://blog.storymojafestival.com

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Beans, Toothpaste and Blood Ties

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“Ketna Oganda!”

Aaah! The routine never changes does it? Aunt Sue was demanding for beans, not the kind to eat, the kind you watched. Rowan Atkinson was at it again as Mr. Bean, and my aunt was in desperate need to watch him. She was nice; she never had any qualms with people. She wasn’t the Aunt you would confide in, she was the Aunt you wouldn’t mind letting do all the house chores. Well, she liked it!

She was always in the kitchen willing to cook and clean, she never liked letting us work, she always said that we were children and shouldn’t bother with adult things like cleaning the house. Who was going to complain? Any teenager’s dream is to get a chance to skive house chores.  My siblings and I came up with a schedule that would avoid us getting caught by our parents for ‘lazing’ around and using our Aunt.

We would play and an hour before our parents rocked in we would be in the kitchen helping Aunt Sue out. It worked well for a few months, up until one Saturday in July. I made the lethal mistake of choosing to delegate cooking Chapatis to Aunt Sue. In my defense, she offered. She had these beautiful light brown eyes accentuated by her puffy and kinky jet black Afro. How can you say no to that? Huh?

I whipped out the packets of flour and placed them on the counter, she began to tap on the counter in excitement. “I will. I will. I WILL!!!!”

“You will what Aunty?”

“I WIIIILLLL” She said, eyes closed, feet marching off beat and enthusiastically as she pointed at the packets of flour. Who was I to say ‘no’? That behaviour should have given something away. But when you have, Beatle Juice, Little Shop of Horrors and Aladdin from the video library lined up for a great night of movies. Why say ‘no’? An early start to leisure was a plan. My siblings and I left cool Aunt Sue to enjoy what she loves doing best, cook. And cook she did.

About an hour before Mum and Dad returned, my brother and I quickly stewed the green grams. It didn’t cross our minds to check the outcome of the savoury Chapatis we could smell from the living room.  Like clockwork, Mum and Dad waltzed through the door, changed and came down stairs to a sumptuous meal.

“For Health and strength and daily food we praise thy name Oh! Lord! Amen!” We all chorused wrapping up grace and opened the serving bowls. To our surprise out of the 4kg flour, which normally made close to 50 delicious Chapatis, five emerged. That wasn’t enough for one per person. And these five Chapatis were like elephant ears and as thick as a 50 page novella.

“Akinyi!” My mum called out from across the table. “What did I tell you about cooking?” Before I could respond, “give your brother your share.” And like that, I was left to drink my green gram stew and wash it down with water watching my Aunt wolf down her share of elephant ear Chapati. When she finished Aunt Sue stood up with a smile of satisfaction, the rest of the family eye-balling her and me.

I really should have paid more attention; when you bust your Aunt eating toothpaste like a bar of chocolate, maybe, just maybe, that should trigger something if not her occasional psychotic bursts and strip teases around the house. Needless to say my butt was whopped, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, Aunt Sue was such a gem.

First published on http://blog.storymojafestival.com