The Lake Predator

It was the thirteenth of November 1965. The afternoon breeze swept across Lake Victoria, gently bending the reeds and papyrus vegetation on the winam shoreline. Gentle waves rolled on the water surface to the beach, levelling out at the feet of the solitary figure that stood at the edge of the gulf like a tower. On that day, all the fishermen were back at the village. Waiting.

Odera Akango stood at a clearing along the forested shore of the lake. Below his tree trunk legs, his wide feet were submerged in water up to his ankles, his gorged veins were snaking across his calves and muscular arms like giant climbers. Blades of twisted mud grass peeped at the water surface at his feet. His red eyes darted across the surface of the water, monitoring every movement, assessing every ripple. His large nostrils flared as he smelt the water and the vegetation.

There was something in the lake. A monster. A ferocious subterranean creature was ravaging the endemic fish and other aquatic life in the lake to extinction.

Shaken fishermen had reported about an explosively powerful creature that had torn out of their kira with the savagery and strength of a wounded hippo. Nyabwa, a seasoned kira fisherman, had narrated how he had cornered the strange fish in his reed trap at dawn, and just after spearing the fish, it broke the spear and tore out of the kiek as if it was made of grass and disappeared into the lake in a blast water. Even the biggest kamongo could not be so powerful. And it was not mumi fish. He remembered how Nyabwas lips trembled as he narrated his encounter with the frightening predator.

He had never seen Nyabwa so afraid. From the descriptions, he knew it was not a crocodile and it was not a hippo or monitor lizard.

Odera Akango felt an itch at the injury on his big toe and he lifted it out of the water and his searchlight eyes clamped on it. Two black leeches were hooked on his wound and were gorged with blood. His blood. Leeches aided in the healing of wounds by sucking away bad blood.  He dipped his foot back in the water and looked at a shadowy section of the shoreline where thick papyrus vegetation was hanging overhead, blocking the sweltering sun above.

He swiftly lowered his muscular bulk to the water and retrieved a mudfish stuck in the mud amidst the twisted grass and then he drove the metal hook through it. He was going to use it as bait to lure the monster in the water and then spear it and drag it out of the water.

Since this monster appeared in the lake, the fishermen complained that tilapia population had dwindled and obudi and mudfish had all but disappeared. They believed that the predator must have been a monster fish with a rapacious appetite that fed on all the fish and zooplanktons, eliminating the fish and forcing the survivors to migrate elsewhere to seek food.

The village had tasked him to go and trap the monster and kill it. He was to use his hunter’s instincts and combine with his knowledge of fishing to find and kill the lake predator. He accepted the honor and relished the challenge.

He firmly tied the iron hook at the end of a sisal rope and picked up his spear then with the agility of a cat, he leapt up and perched himself on top of a heap of reeds just under the cover of overhanging papyrus. Then he gently lowered the bait and waited.

As he waited for his quarry, he witnessed a black mamba fight with a monitor lizard at the foot of the reeds and after a spirited battle, the monitor lizard chewed on the mamba, tearing off its head, then eating it up. Then it staggered off and collapsed a few metres away, overcome by the effects of the venom the mamba had injected during their battle. He remembered how he had seen many strong wrestlers lose matches after expending their energy recklessly without proper strategy and ending up losing to less worthy opponents.

He sat patiently, swatting the mosquitoes and lake flies. He waited for several hours and evening came with no sign of the predator. The seagulls started their evening cries and migration to their nests and cattle left the grazing fields. Hippos would soon start approaching the shore in readiness for their nocturnal forages. Odera sat still in the approaching dusk. As a hunter, lengthy moments of stillness was a skill he had mastered. A few feet away, a thick green mamba lay coiled quietly in the papyrus leaves, probably waiting for him to leave its nest. Man and snake faced off still like wooden statues. Each waiting. The evening breeze softly rustled the reeds and the tide was coming in.

Suddenly, there was a violent tug at the bait that threatened to cut the rope. The tug was so powerful that it threw Odera Akango into the water. The predator bit on the hook and twisted away from Odera Akango, splashing water wildly. He pulled the trapped monster toward him and thrust his spear at it with tremendous force. He pulled his spear out for another thrust but the thrashing predator broke it, and knocked him out of balance. The water was becoming red with blood as it thrashed savagely. Birds fled from their nests in this pandemonium and the green mamba fell in the water. He pulled the rope above his head and tried to fling the predator on the reeds. But it was too heavy. Its spread out dorsal fin scratched his stomach as it twisted away from him. Blood dripped from his wound and he created some distance from it and pulled the rope harder.

mbuta

He quickly darted toward the shore and started dragging it after him, his brute strength overcoming the spirited resistance the fish had mounted. After tussling with it some more, he finally managed to drag it out of the water.
The villagers would later assemble at the beach to stare at the huge monster of a silvery fish.

It was a massive fish, the size of a grown man. It was silver in color with black compound eyes with a yellow ring around them. It had a massive tunnel of a mouth that could clamp on the head of a grown man and its rows of jagged teeth had pieces of flesh and vegetation locked in them.

It was the first Nile perch caught in the Winam gulf in Nyanza region and they called it mbuta because of its massive size, disruptive reaction when trapped and its rapacious appetite.

Mbuta’s predatory behaviour would be a major ecological force that would significantly alter the biodiversity of the lake as the descendants of Odera Akango would later learn.

The wound that was inflicted on Odera Akango got infected and would prove fatal.

Advertisements

Dark Encounters of the Third Kind

I was tired after a very long day. I felt the concrete ceiling was close to my head career wise and I had psychologically checked out at work. My new hustle needed my attention.
But the work in the office kept piling up and I was constantly on the back foot because the tidal wave of assignments and deadlines kept piling up.

I had only a few months left to get my stuff together. When was I going to circle back to it? I pondered. The TV was beaming sports news but I wasn’t watching. The images flashed unseen before my eyes.

“Daad” my attention was drawn by Trevor.

“Yes Trevor” I said, without turning to look at him.
“Can God beat Thor?” I slowly turned to look at him as I pushed away thoughts of how to enter Robert Kiyosakis fourth quadrant of financial independence.

I had struggled with the question of God in my twenties for about four years. Do I answer him honestly? I asked myself. He had been playing mortal combat and had moved from Scorpion and Subzero to Avengers fighting mortal combat characters and so on and so forth. Creations from mythical worlds clashing with creations from another mythical world.
“Yes, God can beat Thor” I answered him, matter of factly.
He stopped looking at his phone and his eyes shone as his gaze shifted to a faraway land where God and Thor were facing off in an epic battle…

“God also has a big, big hammer?” He asked, his eyes brighter with excitement.

“Yes” I said. I wasn’t gonna spoil this one for him with metaphysical naturalism.

He smiled as his eyes envisioned Gods immortal hammer clash with Thor’s hammer in that distant battlefield. In his eyes, God stepped one muscular skyscraper of a leg forward, pipelines of blood vessels snaking themselves all over his mountain-size muscles and he swung his God-size hammer at Thor and Thor also swung his giant, superhuman hammer with unparalleled force.

The clash of these two hammers caused such an explosion and bright flash of light whose incandescence started spreading. All the rocks in the area flew off and the mountains got flattened and the blast wave left a crater at that place. The impact shook distant galaxies and the sun was knocked out if its orbit. The light reached distant galaxies.

“Woooow!” Trevor said, his eyes lost in imagination of this cataclysmic battle.

I admired his innocence and his ability to immerse himself in the beauty of this fantastic world.

I was in a jewellery shop in Khalifa in Abu Dhabi. I was looking over the items on display all over the shop. Customers kept coming and leaving. It was a hot afternoon and most of the market goers stayed in the shadows.

There was a boy of about six years who was standing on a chair on one end of the glass counter. He had a tablet before him and was completely absorbed in it. I moved closer and craned my neck to see what he was looking at. He had a mortal combat fight between Rayden, the thunder god, and Quan Chi, the venomous wizard who used dark powers to destroy his opponents with gory fatalities involving melting bones and bursting organs.

I smiled.

”Rayden will win”, I declared.
“Noooooo” said the boy, looking up at me.
He had green eyes and thin lips which he snarled defiantly. His bushy brows were curled upwards as if asking me to retract what I had said.

I smiled as I looked at him. He was about the same age as Trevor.

The lady who was attending to the customers approached us and said curtly, “Salim, stop disturbing the customers, are you still playing those bad games again?”

She didn’t turn to look at us. I smiled at Salim and walked towards the center of the counter.

As I took my eyes away from Salim, I became aware of a man who was standing among the shoppers milling around.
I saw him before he saw me. It was a middle aged man, slightly built, in a blue shirt and black trousers. His hair was cut short and his cheekbones stuck out like those of an athlete or someone with low body fat. There was something about him…

death

Then he instantly turned and looked at me. His eyes were all white. I felt as if I was being looked at by a void. They locked onto mine and my cheeks instantly became ice cold. This cold feeling gripped my chest and neck and spread towards my stomach as I remained rooted where I stood. I couldn’t move a muscle. I couldn’t breathe and my throat became dry wood.

I was very sure, with every fibre in my being, which I was looking at death himself. Not an angel of death, but death himself! Death had possessed this poor man’s body to contact me!

Why?

Suddenly, his body shook as if an electric current was coursing though him and his pupils appeared in his eyes. I could see his expression in his eyes. He looked at me as if he was seeing me for the first time. Then his face took on a look of extreme terror as if he was seeing a ghost. He was utterly scared!

I was shocked by this sudden change and I regained my legs as terror flooded my being.

I stumbled out of the shop in the opposite direction and fled the scene, knocking down some jewellery on the way.
I staggered into a taxi and back into the hotel. I frantically packed my bags and rescheduled my ticket. I left in the morning flight and was shaking from the fright of meeting death face to face.

I kept asking myself what it meant. I couldn’t eat anything in the flight. My tongue tasted like sawdust in my mouth. Was it my time to go? Now? My hands gripped the seat rests as I tried to contain my horror.

Was it an optical illusion? Was my imagination going wild? I agonized over these questions? Does death even exist as a being? What was that?

I arrived safely in JKIA and after passing through immigration, where I was served by a dark lady with popping eyes and heavy make-up, I went to the gents. The nervousness kept me pressed. The toilets were strangely deserted but I did my thing and as I was leaving, someone stood in my way, I looked up to see death again.

It was the same man. Looking calm and collected. My stomach turned to stone. He looked at me like he had been waiting for me and I had finally come. He just stood and waited.

I mustered the courage I had and I looked at him straight in the eye. Looking at his eyes was like looking at a deep well and I felt sucked into them.

I raised both hands.

“Ok you’ve got me” I said.

“Is it my time?” I asked.

He nodded. “But before I go, let me ask you a question”

He nodded. “Why did you look terrified when you saw me in Abu Dhabi?” I asked.

“Because I was supposed to come and take you in Nairobi.” He said, his voice sounding like stones dropping in water. “I was there for someone else, the little boy you were speaking to.”

“So, he is dead?” I asked. This was a surprise.

“A lorry lost control and ploughed into the shop”
“Oh no!” I said “He reminded me of my son” I said, feeling distraught.

He then suddenly reached out and touched my left shoulder. My world went dark instantly and I felt my body falling and falling into a bottomless pit. I struggled buy the pit pulled me faster and faster into it.

Then I started hearing Trevors voice. Again and again.

“Daaad…Daaad”

I opened my eyes.

“Dad, you are sleeping?” he asked.

I was sitting next to him in the living room. Aljazeera on the TV was announcing Donald Trump had recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

I was drenched in sweat. Relieved that it was just a dream, I kissed Trevor goodnight and went to the bedroom.

Dont Laugh at the Living

About twenty years ago, a woman in shredded, ill fitting clothes was bent over her farm at the lakeside scratching the dirt for arrow roots for her hungry children back home. She had modified a strip of cloth which she used as an improvised belt to stop her skirt from falling. She paused, tightened her ever loosening belt, spit in her palms for a better grip on her hoe, and continued ploughing.

She swung her hoe over her head slowly, hitting the soil weakly as she ploughed her small farm. She did so patiently and doggedly, her arms were not strong and her core and back were weak. But her will was not. Many village women, accustomed to working in the farms, could quickly execute her task in a few minutes. But she would take the whole day to complete a days work. The unforgiving sun baked her relentlessly in the tropical heat but what she lacked in strength, she made up for in patience and perseverance.

They looked at her slowness and gentleness with disdain and spoke disparagingly behind her back. They spoke of how she had had an easy life in Nairobi with her late husband ‘eating Blue Band’ thinking that she was so blessed and that the rest of them were not. Bah! Lets see! They spat.

She kept her head down and toiled, slowly and placidly, like a tortoise that had no concept of what it was to be fast, her empty stomach rumbled, and her heart ached for her nine children back home and she was filled with worry for her children. But she had no confidante, she had resigned herself to her fate as a widow in a new world and embraced it with everything that came with it.

She went by her drudgery, paying no concern to the snide remarks and mocking double entendres women folk in the village threw at her, couched in clever aphorisms and demeaning metaphors. Occasionally, she threw a stray arrowroot that remained behind from the harvesting of the previous season into her nylon-rope basket.
She would later collect these remnants of arrow roots as the sun set, and would painstakingly place them in her discolored, ragged basket, then slowly lift the basket and place it onto her head.

She would then pick her hoe and start the slow walk back home with the basket balanced on her head. She walked slowly, as if a force was pulling her back. Her cracked feet were never lifted far off the ground and she sort of dragged her feet as she trudged along. As she passed villagers, they would greet her while referring to her as ‘nya boma’ meaning, daughter of the city, as if to emphasize that she did not belong there. That she was in the wrong place.

Beads of sweat snaked down her creased face as she smiled pleasantly and returned the greetings. But anyone who bothered to look closely would see that behind the shy smile was a cornered woman who didn’t know what else to do to improve her circumstances. But nobody was interested. She was a cautionary tale. Not a person to be understood and aided.

In village meetings and at farms, grazing fields and water wells, people spoke of this woman’s sufferings and how much she was the epitome of poverty and how lack of toughness, lack of quickness and love of an easy life could lead one into the midst of poverty.

Since she had eight sons, childless people, or people who only had daughters, disdainfully retorted that the mother of so many boys was so dirt poor and had no pot to piss in so they did not consider themselves unlucky because she was worse off despite the fact that she had so many sons. Having so many sons didn’t mean squat.

During the days when she went hungry with her sons in her mud house with a rusty tin roof, the villagers knew and spoke over it during dinner. They knew because she often asked her neighbours for flour to make porridge for her kids. Many times, instead of giving her, they used those encounters to probe how desperate her plight was, then they would update each other on how pathetic she was. Many nights, she sat in the darkness with her children as their stomachs rumbled. They had no money to buy kerosene for the tim lamp and no food to eat. So they sat and encouraged each other.

Lazy children would be chided, ‘If you dont work hard, you will be like Nya boma!’

She was renown for her gentleness and never quarreled with anyone. Even when a deranged teacher made one of her sons kneel on molten soil resulting in thirs degree burns, she never even raised her voice. She just nursed her sons wounds and took care of him.

That woman would later live comfortably in a well furnished stone house, with a cemented floor and solar powered television. A fenced compound with a gate, and several heads of cattle and several healthy grandchildren.

Some of the women who mocked her passed on and never lived to see what her children ended up doing to better her life.

Some of them now come to her for assistance and advice when they are stuck. They seek her help when their children are sick or lack school fees. And they seek her contribution when money is required for whatever purpose. When they hear someone talk of a huge television screen, they ask whether it is as big as the one belonging to this woman.

That woman is my mum.

It is because of the life we went through with her, and the odds that we beat that I am fearless. We emerged from the depths of hopelessness and darkness that most can only imagine.

The proverb that says never laugh at a man when he is still alive is so true.

FROM THE MOUTH OF BABES

People are saying Goldalyne Kakuya, Oooh, Goldalyne aah. Mara she lectured university students, mara the parents should keep her away from the media spotlight, mara this, mara that.

She is not the first to be thrust in an untimely fashion to speak before her seniors because of her accomplishments and she is not the last and it is not particularly unusual. Let me take you down memory lane. Stay close.

Decades ago, our KCPE results were released on a day when I was busy digging our lake side shamba in Kamser Osika in Kendu Bay.
I had on a wide sisal hat that covered my head up to my shoulders. I was wearing torn grey trousers cut at the knee and a faded red TShirt. If it were up to me, I would’ve been in Nairobi sprawled on a sofa with a glass of juice on one hand watching the Fresh Prince of Bel Air with my curled feet well oiled and resting on a soft cushion. But alack, alas, fortune had it that I would be toiling hard in that obscure farm in a remote, far-flung corner of the world in close proximity with weeds, caterpillars, lizards and some occasional snakes and rats.

The noonday sun was hot and I was doing everything I could to survive the scorching heat while at the same time doing my best to expose the roots of the weeds on our farm for the sun to have a go at them. I was swinging the jembe over my shoulder, cutting the soil and pulling off lumps of soil and dumping them at my feet. In my mind, I pictured myself as one of those starring Chinese characters in Karate movies who farmed for a living but were deadly fighters. Outside, am tattered and poor but inside and packed with talent and capable of unimaginable things, I fantasized.

I didn’t have a deadly fist of fury or whispering sword, but my Jembe knew I could swing it. Digging was my martial art. My stoic mindset had helped me surmount obstacles and in my own small way, I had renounced the worlds pleasures and committed myself to that farm. I emptied my mind of all thought and got lost in the digging. Teenage boy, his hands, his dusty feet, his sweating brow, his straining back and his jembe were all fused into one digging system, kik, kak, pup, ha. Kik, kak, pup, ha. Kik, kak, pup, ha. Kik, kak, pup, ha … on and on we went, exposing the roots of the weeds.

goldalyne

Startled snakes fled to seek new homes, blisters formed in my palms and exploded, ants found themselves suddenly exposed to direct sunlight and crept away, sweat dripped from my brow to the soil. Thirsty cattle mowed for water in the distance. This digging apparatus of man and jembe continued unperturbed, like clockwork. Kik, kak, pup, ha. Kik, kak, pup, ha.

Footsteps approached me and someone called my name. I ignored and continued in my labour of love. Someone touched my back. I looked up and my back screamed in pain as I straightened up. It was my uncle Anjila, beaming like the cat that ate the canary. He loved his drink and at that particular time time, he was not completely sober. I smell it right away. Was he here to waste my time again? I thought.
“Your results have come” he said excitedly.

I looked at the ground I had covered and what I still had to cover. He stepped forward and snatched the jembe from my hand, unable to contain himself. By that action, he risked incurring my wrath. Anger fluttered like a butterfly in the pit of my stomach and there was a flash in my eyes. I let it pass.

“I understand you have passed highly” he said. “Let us go to school” he was already leading the way.

I went home, showered, scratched my hair with an ogwaro (do those things have a name – because they don’t comb hair), smeared soap on my face and legs and left for school. Alego Primary school was sprawling over about ten acres fenced by euphorbia hedge and the classrooms, which comprised about four blocks, were on one end of the compound. The walkway to the staff-room had flowers planted on either side, flowers we had watered over the years. We would carry books with water, a jembe and a slasher, everyday to school. The water and slashers were for the euphorbia hedge and these flowers. We weeded them religiously. We saw to it that no weed would compete with them for survival.

As I approached the staffroom, the headmaster, my piera appeared at the door. He was a large man with a hanging potbelly. He was always impeccably dressed. Sharply ironed trousers and shirts. He never dyed his gray hair, as usual, he had two walking sticks and beady eyes that he used to bore straight into the eyes of the people he was interacting with. He had lost his legs in a road accident in the past and now walked with the two sticks.

My piera (translated to mean my buttocks) had been our headmaster for the previous two years. In that period, he had instilled the fear of God in the students. He was an indefatigable disciplinarian and enjoyed messing with our minds. He was called my pierra because he would use the expression “my pierra” when he was excited, whether in jest or anger. Those that thought he would be unable to cope because he was a cripple were proved wrong. He was a consummate administrator, and a thorough teacher with an eye for talent. He torched through the teenage rebellion the older boys had erected like fire through dry grass. The expelled ones threatened to waylay him and beat him but nobody ever dared. Initially, parents were outraged that he would casually use such obscenity as “my piera” in front of students and they secretly complained but after they realized his seriousness and hard work, they let it pass.

But the nick name my piera stuck. To date, I do not even know his real name.

At any rate, I approached my Piera and stood before him, like a rat in front of a towering cobra.
He trained his beady eyes on me, making me squirm. I looked back at him between the eyes. His forehead and nose had beads of sweat. His lips were dancing in a smile. His eyes were lit with joy. He transferred his right walking stick to his right hand and extended his right hand for a handshake.

I stepped forward and shook his hand.

“Congratulations” he said. “Congratulations” he repeated. I could see that he was truly pleased.

“Thank you Mwalimu” I said, smiling warily. Prepared for anything.

I couldn’t ask for my results because it could have been met with an insult. So I smiled and waited for him to show me my results. He was unpredictable. He could ask someone to lie in the dust for a thorough punishment, only to tell them to get up and walk away. He could punish one for hours for a minor mistake. You could ask him a question and he could respond by asking you if you thought he was your mother. He could insult you and your parents for being genetic aberrations if you demonstrated spectacular ignorance in class. And he didn’t shy away from vulgarity and any body part and its owner were fair game. He particularly drove the spear of insult where it hurt most; our mothers. So the safest thing to do was to let him take the initiative and act friendly and compliant. One day, during his demented moments, he made my younger brother kneel on molten dust and he suffered third degree burns on his knees.

But he liked me. He liked that I could speak fluent English. He liked that I could compete academically despite my size and infirmities – I was often sick. And I was not often in trouble like the bigger boys. When I was in standard seven, he often used me to humiliate the bigger boys in class eight by calling me into his class and having me answer questions they could not. He would then insult them, call them goats, say their mothers gave birth to goats and cane all of them after I had left the class.

He told me to follow him. He walked away from the staffroom, from his office straight to a classroom where a meeting of village and church elders was in progress.
But my piera didn’t care. He walked right in, his hips swaying with his walking sticks. His ample body had a presence and he stood before them with me next to him. He straightened up and they stopped to acknowledge our presence. He looked at me and laughed softly like he was witnessing a very wonderful and funny event.

“This is the boy who has given us these wonderful results” he declared without looking at them, like he was revealing a secret that had troubled them for a long time.
Several pairs of eyes looked at me. I saw several grey heads, oversized coats, dusty shoes and bibles. They were eyes that had seen a lot, from great harvests to great famines, to the second world war, to colonialism. They were eyes that had seen geniuses and seen madmen alike. They smiled benevolently at the little boy cowering before them. They had both approval and sympathy in their encouraging eyes. I lowered my gaze and waited for the moment to pass.

“Aliet” my Piera called me, beaming like a boy with a new toy.

“Talk to the elders” He said.

And just like that, without any rehearsal, without any preparation, no playbook, no prepared speech, I straightened myself up, mustered courage and addressed the attentive elders. When I later met some of them, they said I did alright. From that day, addressing a sea of faces has never been a problem for me.

So the prospect Goldalyne addressing Masinde Muliro University Students should not get your pants in a twist.

After all, Psalms 8:2 says, and I quote; “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength”.

Of Traders and Mongers

We are just past Delamere in Naivasha and I notice the same sacrilege is taking place at the roadside in broad daylight. I see this every time I pass Naivasha. I don’t particularly like seeing any form of abuse so I decide to pull over and understand who the abusers are and probably why they abuse beautiful creatures so wantonly.

They approach the car, holding some fish aloft. Three pairs of prying eyes are looking over the small gap above the car window that I have rolled down, necks craned and heads swiveling like searchlights into my car. I ignore this display of lack of focus.

From the back of the car, between sips of Strawberry yogurt, my son asks why we are stopping but I hold up a firm hand. He goes silent.

I roll down the window. They rush forward like hungry animals in a stampede, rasping and clawing their way. No order, no pride, no honour, no finesse. Leading the pack is a teenage boy with a round face and dark skin who smells like a goat herder. He is wearing stained and crumpled oversized khaki clothes and is barefooted. It is unclear whether he is wearing one big sack or several clothes. He wipes some mucus off his nose so as to make himself more presentable to his customer. After grooming himself this way with the sleeve of his hand, he blinks at me as he musters some dignity. I notice him trying to block me from seeing his unwashed bare feet.

fish

A hefty woman with thin lips and hairy ears elbows him out of the way and presents me some five or six pieces of fish. Her ample frame blocks the others from my view. Her fingers are thick like sausages. Her bosom appears like a sack of clothes and I gather its serving as her wallet, her store, her wardrobe and probably her arsenal. She looks inquisitive as she makes eye contact. As she moves closer, I can see her dry skin and her creased brow and sad eyes. Sad, sad eyes, like a woman who has buried her husband and some of her children and experienced the pain that comes with such tragedy, or a woman who has seen some dark stuff in her life, like her husband running off with her sister.

There is a man approaching in half sprint, with more fish. Two more men are shuffling behind him. I gather they are the chase pack. They probably have poor cardio and slow reflexes. I turn to the kid who has been shoved aside, and to the fish who find themselves in the unfortunate situation of being handled by an unrefined goat-herder and being sold without dignity or respect, like they are some bunch of potatoes or some other kind of tuber.

I look at the fish. They are tilapia relatives. Rather than appear silvery gray towards the dorsal fin and white towards the stomach, they are maroon toward the top and pink toward the belly. I feel anger welling up in me. Who allowed these people to breed fish in small, overcrowded fishponds where they are fed manufactured feed and harvested like potatoes then brazenly sold at the dusty roadside like mtura?

The fish are twitching and are still alive. This incenses me further. What these guys are doing is brutally rip off the gills of the fish by passing some rough and dirty sisal rope and then kill them through exposure to dust, exhaust fumes and direct sunlight. They were literally making them toxic. No dignity even in death! From their sad looks, I felt as if the fish were asking me to save them from the torture and humiliation they were being subjected to and my anger was turning to guilt. I felt a strong urge to intervene. My mind is filled with flashes of me walking out of the car in fury, unleashing my leather belt and whipping them thoroughly like Jesus did with the moneychangers in the temple. I felt as if I was watching my starved, enslaved relatives being molested. The guilt was killing me. I felt like a sell out.

“Mzee utashukua gapi?” I heard one of the men yell. But I was too angry to even look at him.

These guys were molesting these poor fish and selling them under unhygienic and dishonorable conditions! Where the F is Kenya wildlife Service when you need them? Fish should be carefully placed on their side in dignity on manila sacks and people who want to buy fish then approach the fish seller and look at the fish thoughtfully. If necessary, and if they have clean hands and know what they are doing, they can gently turn over the fish and engage the seller in gentle negotiation without humiliating the fish and making it feel like potatoes.

You do not approach buyers with hanging and brazenly exposed fish as if the fish are roasted maize! Who allowed these people to breed fish? I wondered. Don’t they know that fish have rights too? Don’t they know that stellar minds like Tom Mboya, Robert Ouko and Obama Sr. were bred on a staple of fresh-water fish? Don’t these guys grasp the unlocked brain potential in every single fish? Don’t they know that fish hold the history of how advanced life evolved from Precambrian era and that, unlike humans who eat minji minji and waru haphazardly, the fish eat planktons in a systematic and orderly fashion while observing color, temperature and pH?

“Mzee unashukua ama haushukui?” It was the boy this time. He asked sharply, conveying his impatience. Flecks of saliva from his unwashed mouth sprayed me. His breath smelt of roast meat. Disappointment was welling in me. Even their sales lingo was not the lingo of fish sellers, who are gentle and know they are handling valuable packages. Fish mongering was a delicate trade that was handed down from master to apprentice through a rigorous, painstaking program that took decades and only after demonstrating proper temperament, good hands, thoughtfulness and mastery of the biology of fish and its nexus with mercantile activities, could an apprentice be allowed to become a recognized fishmonger to carry fish in the market and convert them to cash. And even then, they would work under close scrutiny by their master. But these Naivasha guys were rough, impatient, indelicate and ill-mannered. I had had it!

Tyres screeching and dust particles getting thrown off by spinning tyres, I drove off in a cloud of dust, leaving them cursing and hurling goat-herd grade insults at me.

Kenyans, why don’t we have exchange programs to help our brothers to handle fish properly?

THE DAY MIGUNA PULVERIZED NAIROBI’S CLAY GODS

The day finally came. The first Nairobi gubernatorial debate took place on third of July 2017 in KTN News.

It turned out to be one of the most spectacular display in the history of television, of how to clinically take apart ones political opponents through the deployment of full frontal disclosure and hard hitting criticism.

On the one hand, we had Mike Sonko, the current Nairobi senator, Peter Kenneth, former MP for Gatanga, and Evans Kidero, the current Nairobi governor. Sonko and Kidero are both known to be rich and Sonko is an ex-convict rumored to be making his monies through illicit sources. Kidero is surrounded by accusations of fraud and embezzlement. Peter Kenneth is also associated with the mismanagement and bankrupting of Kenya Re, at the time he was at the helm.

These three faced off against Miguna Miguna, an eloquent lawyer with a thriving law firm in Canada known for being, a bare-knuckled, no-nonsense towering hulk of a man with zero tolerance for slothfulness, mediocrity and corrupt practices.

debate

Leading up to the debate, Miguna had been hosted in a number of television interviews where he correctly slammed the Kenyan media for mainstreaming thuggery and glorifying the corrupt accumulation of wealth by people of questionable integrity and for lacking standards, professionalism and generally being complicit as Kenyans continuously got scammed by known looters and criminals.

But on the fourth of July, he was finally face to face with the people he calls the cartels. The day for dismantling the cartels had finally come! Would he cower before their shining suits and expensive accessories and kiss the gold rings on their manicured hands?

Or would he proceed to drag them out of the shadows unceremoniously, kicking and screaming, into the daylight for everyone to see their bloodied fangs and scraps of flesh beneath their claws? Wait, would he actually dare undress the stern-looking billionaire governor who slapped the Nairobi women rep to oblivion in front of cameras? And would he dismantle the greatly popular handout-dishing Nairobi senator who had recently discovered suits and decent haircuts?

The three candidates walked in on one end, acknowledging the applause of the audience who were enthralled by them. They greeted Miguna and stared him down as if daring him to try anything foolish.

They had woefully under estimated Migunas commitment to dismantle cartels and their figureheads to fine dust.

Miguna was not only prepared. He had packed his delivery to unleash simultaneous attacks on the three of them. He proceeded to systematically unpluck their feathers the way a seasoned chicken farmer would, leaving them deflated, bewildered, distraught and frustrated to no end.

The audience and the Nation watched in rapt attention as Miguna chronicled the criminal records of his competitors and their history of ineptitude and corruption. Their stiff shirt collars became soaked in sweat as they blinked in the lights like lost deers. Peter Kenneth’s confident demeanour visibly collapsed and it was clear he was not handling the expose very well. Sonko was suffering the signs of a nervous breakdown and became more incoherent. He resorted to insulting Migunas head and blathering unintelligible things like” Thailand in Bangkok”. He had to be told by the moderator to step back when he menacingly stepped towards Miguna with some items in his hand. Kidero smiled foolishly and waited for the uncomfortable moment to pass quickly.

Miguna literally reduced the Nairobi lords to ash and he knew it. They lacked both the eloquence and brilliance to effectively counter Migunas criticism and they limped off the podium devastated and unable to face their devotees. Social media was awash with many Nairobians saying, wait a minute, this guys has made good points, and he has a plan for Nairobi. I think I will vote for him. In the aftermath of the debate, the wealthy losers have since funded and published two opinion polls to sway the public opinion to their favour.

Some say Miguna was arrogant and rough. But that is missing the whole point. Miguna is very respectful and polite. But when he is confronted by people who embody corruption, mediocrity and impunity, his hackles rise and he gets very concerned. The very same way you would when your meet someone who has swindled you of your hard earned cash. It is not arrogance; it is a natural survival instinct that has not been tamed or brainwashed down through repeated advertising of the corrupt practices by the media as noble and acceptance.

Miguna represents the Kenyan spirit in its purest form: resolute, bold, unflinching, steady and clear sighted.

Many Kenyans have died from corruption when we find medicine missing in public hospitals, injustice in courts, road accidents and so on. Why would we then expect Miguna to be respectful and warm towards people whose public record clearly indicates they have engaged in and benefited from corrupt and criminal practices?

Nairobians, this is a watershed moment for us.

Let us not squander it by mindlessly following tribal politics or toeing party lines while we know our that our political parties, which are mainly personality cults or vehicles for pursuing our narrow tribal interests, are ideologically bankrupt. We cannot use the same variables when making our choice for the governor of Nairobi: Nairobi is a cosmopolitan city, Nairobi needs our best, Nairobi needs a man of integrity and Nairobi needs a clear and ambitious plan for transport, waste management, education, water and sanitation among other things.

Let us give the job of managing this great city to an untainted man of integrity with a clear track record who is ambitious, hardworking, clean and incorruptible.

Without question, that man, ladies and gentlemen, is Miguna Miguna.

jacobaliet@yahoo.com

7th July 2017

Dark Uber

About ten years ago, a sprightly young man with big dreams, some muscle, a six pack, a little education and truckloads of emotions met an Italian woman in Mombasa.

Like what happens when boy meets girl, they got tangled in a relationship. He even fell in love with her. But she only wanted to enjoy his youth and surging primitive energy that dripped off his native genes like honey off a honeycomb. He didn’t know this. He was young and full of shit as Ving Rhames would say.

As predictable as day follows night, she got pregnant. Anyway, how could she not have?

She delivered a bouncing baby girl. He was a proud father of a pointie. This kids blue eyes and curly hair made his face crack into a wide grin of pride whenever he cradled her in his hands. He would make sure she gets the best in life. His Italian girlfriend lingered around with him for a few months then her jungle fever evaporated and she took off and disappeared in Europe, probably after figuring out there was no future with this brother. He was left shattered, heartbroken and confused. He didn’t even have a passport or a bank account so there was no question of going to look for her.

He cried himself to oblivion, took buckets of alcohol and smoked anything he could get to drown his pain.

uberx

As he was walking along the beach one day and staring at the sand to get the meaning of life, he bumped into a vivacious, voluptuous Congolese woman whole laughter and beautiful eyes melted his heart and dried his tears.

Their relationship was steamy, energetic and they both plunged into each other with abandon, swearing they were lovers for life. They were two young, healthy Africans with big dreams, hot blood flowing in their veins and exploding fertility. They were probably both on massive rebounds.

He was ready to die for her. She made him believe in love again. He forgot about Mrs Italiano and dove into the relationship with Madam Congolese with both feet. She soon got pregnant and delivered a beautiful baby girl. He was ready to be a perfect father and they settled down and he started hustling to feed his family.

But she also left soon after and he was left mentally and emotionally shredded. He contemplated suicide and spent some time thinking dark thoughts about women and then he made a decision.

He would never ever love another woman again.

After spending some time as a single man talking shit about women at every opportunity and snacking on occasional one night stands, he decided ef it!

He got a simple Kenyan girl and settled down with her and started a family. His heart had turned to a ball of ice towards women and he had made a pact with himself to never love a woman again. His wife was for giving him the kids he lost and some stability.

Unknown to me, the acts of madam Congolese and madam Italiano set in motion a chain of events that would have my stars cross with that of their boyfriend in dramatic, violent fashion.

This guy, let’s call him John, later bought a car and registered it under Uber. And he became an uber driver, carrying along his baggage of hate for women, boiling anger and some lunacy.

At any rate, yesterday I call for an Uber and John happened to be the nearest Uber guy. It was about 10PM. Mombasa road from Jomvu to Saba Saba was a parking yard of grunting stationery trailers and overlapping cars and frustrated drivers on the verge of tears. Helpless cops looked on at the soul-destroying hall of fame jam, their reflective jackets announcing that the government had visibility on the suffering of its people.

After telling me he couldn’t understand where I was, I decided to have him pick me at a simple place next to the road. The Safaricom network wasn’t state of the art so everyone was on edge and our initial conversation wasn’t smooth so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

I was speaking to him on the phone and I could see him approaching. He was shouting at me on the phone that he was already there and he couldn’t see me.

He finally arrived and as soon as I got in his car, I told his dusty ass that he had harassed me on the phone and I could see he was saying he had arrived at the meeting point and yet he had not. I made it clear that I didn’t appreciate being harassed and treated shabbily. I came short of telling him I can pop him and slash his goddamned tyres because that is how I deal with sack-of-shit drivers like him. But I didn’t.

He was a guy in his early forties or late thirties. He wore a white TShirt and blue jeans, some gold chain and an ostentatious black watch. He was clear shaven, had a flat forehead and the way he moved his hands when he spoke indicated that he clearly wanted to have a certain image.

He laughed uncomfortably and tried to give me a pep talk about how important it to be chap chap.

I waved him on. I had no time for his nonsense. About five vehicles had already passed us as he was flapping his jaws trying to cover his rudeness.

The car was a silver decent axio with tinted windows and it was the first Uber I ever rode in that was pimped with sub woofers, sound amplifiers and a screen for playing music video. The music bass was pretty good.

uber5

He remembered his manners and lowered the volume as he asked me if I was okay with the music, pointing at the video of gyrating, scantily clad women.

I said I didn’t mind.

To assuage his guilt, he filled the silence with conversation about how a cop had just harassed him and he spoke to me as he did because he was under pressure. He was basically trying to present himself as a victim.

I looked at the traffic jam on Kibarani and pitied people who had flights or had planned to arrive in Nairobi at dawn.

My wife called me. We spoke and I wished her goodnight and told her that I love her.

This set him off and he flew of the handle. He was an unhinged SOB.

He started by telling me that women have to be handled carefully because they are dangerous and can destroy a man.

He obviously saw nothing wrong in eavesdropping on a private conversation a client is having with his wife and proceeding to contribute to the conversation.

Women are really bad, he went on.

I have seen so many of my friends who have lost their lives because of women. He continued. Instead of drinking nicely to relax, they drink to drown stress then they end up driving their cars off the road and dying in accidents, he explained.

Women are terrible. He added, his hands gripping the steering tightly.

He almost lost the turn at the Makupa roundabout. He swung the car back on our route hastily.

He then told me how women have destroyed him and how he can never put his heart in a woman and then he told me about his Italian and Congolese women.

Why did they do that to me, he asked me, on the verge of tears.

I just kept quiet. This guy really had a lot of growing up to do. Mountains of it.

Cops on Nyali bridge flagged us down. They were about four armed cops in their overcoats. They had about three cars they had pulled aside.

Sasa hawa wajinga wanataka kutusumbulia nini? Hawa mashoga…he started.

One cop stepped forward and waved his flashlight at us frantically. Making it clear he was meaning for us to pull over.

Mimi napita, he said, making no move to pull over.

Just pull over, I told him. These guys are trying to keep us safe.

He pulled over, lowered all windows and put on the interior lights of the car and looked away angrily, like the cop was too annoying to look at.

I looked at the cop and greeted him.  He looked at us and waved us on. I think he had seen too many drivers throwing tantrums to be bothered by mister women are terrible.

John continued his attack on women and how they were bad to him and took his kids and the unfairness of it all.

He was driving fast and now his eyes held a pained, distant look. He went on ranting. I was busy thinking of how much of a loose cannon he is.

The car picked up speed. His ranting went a notch higher.

I wanted to tell him he should not withhold his love for his wife because she had nothing to do with Madam Congolese or Madam Italiano but I felt he was too looney to waste my words on.

As we passed Nyali bridge he remarked how people get thrown over the bridge and some also jump over to commit suicide. We were about to become a mixture of blood, bent metal and torn flesh.

Chunga, Chunga, Chungaa!!!! I yelled at him.

Then he saw it.

A black Nissan matatu was right in front of us, with about six odd men pushing it slowly at snails pace.

John’s eyes widened in shock and surprise and braked as he swerved away from it and just managed to not ram into it.

As soon as we had ducked the accident, his anger flooded back and he swerved right back to its path and flung his head outside with his hand slamming the drivers door angrily as he shouted insults at them.

Nyinyi mashoga, hamuwezi washa hazard! They murmured something inaudible.

Hamuwezi washa hazard! He repeated in a voice that could dent a car.

They murmured their kwenda uko dismissively as they continued pushing the mat at a snail’s pace.

He shouted at them about the genitals of their mothers, hitting his door again with his open palm in anger and acting like he was going to explode out of the car and attack them.

Nitawachapa risasi, mashoga nyinyi! He shouted, the veins in his neck dilated, eyed bulging.

We Twende, I told him as I slowly came to terms with the fact that I almost got into a terrible accident.

In an uber!

He didn’t take responsibility or apologize to me, his client, for almost killing me.

As he drove on, he continued lamenting how he almost just got into an accident and kept saying he is dropping me and going home. Self-pity again, I thought. He said he is not okay and that he needs to go home.

I even began to wonder. What if mister victim has a gun?

We arrived at my hotel without incident and when he was updating the Uber app and closing the trip, he told me that I was a good customer and he had given me five stars and showed me. Like I cared. He told me to also give him five stars.

Fat chance, I thought. But I didn’t want to mess his career.

I needed to pay 700KShs. I gave him a K. He gave me 200KShs back and apologized for not having any more cash. He did not suggest paying me the balance via MPESA or anything.

I didn’t mind tipping him the balance so I told him it is okay, he can keep it.

He told me he can pick me in the morning for the airport.

I told him I would call him in the morning.

Of course I didn’t.

As I walked to my room, I thought maybe Uber drivers should undergo psych evaluations before they are signed up.