End of a Decade : Timeless Jazz in Cheap Sauce

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new year

The face of an ending year is a horrible soul tape with spritzes of happiness.  As this year comes to an end I am forced to grapple with two questions. 

Is it just the beginning of a new ? 

Or the closing of a hued decade. 

I feel like a new decade should slide in jubilantly with a slew of whatsapp notifications. Shouts and wails. Ladies and Gentlemen celebrating ten years of unusual existence. In fact one that marks liberation of our kenyannese from the stalemate of political tumors. But we are still grappling with unequal opportunity rights, corruption and a host of bankrolled governance headaches. In this decade I even heard that one’s happiest day is like the moon. In search of this one moment of satisfaction, you miss out on myriads of  little stars of happiness.

Perhaps the face of this new decade, as timeless as it seems; marks the beginning of a new era. A magical time we all expect to be perfect immediately. As I write this in the background of a fluid blur – 

I can’t help but wonder whether my grandmother  knows it. 

Does she even know this is the beginning of a new decade?

The old will be past and gone. Solid and forgotten. 

Marking the beginning of the new millennium at the start of this ending decade. Hama Tuma in “Who Cares for the New Millennium?” ; was skeptical as I am that most rural Africans would know a new year has come, let alone a new millenium. The question I would pose from Tuma’s perspective is that of a new decade. But here is the real deal that simply and clearly reveals the journey we’ve travelled those ten years. 

In the time of writing “Who Cares for the New Millenium” , Africa was a ticking clock whimsying in the hum of lucid struggles. Tribal politics, Ambitious Leaders (And in Ambitious I whatsoever not mean a positive attribute) – Kenyatta will be ambitious will he run for another term after 2022.

He will be no different from all African despots.

Allowing his presidency melt into a peaceful transition will slowly translate his name into the books of nobility. Nobility as the likes of Licoln. A time when the illiteracy level was more than 50% of the total African population.

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As of the writing of this post, the literacy level in Africa is more than 50%. Approaching the figures of 75% by mid 2020. This reveals close a 360 degrees review of reality, within ten years painting the story of Africa. So in asking that most Rural Africans would know a new decade has come -; is more likely cynist than Snowwhite’s step mom. 

Pretend that it doesn’t matter and usher this new year like you’ve done with the rest. 

Armed with a to-do list and ten annual goals you have in mind. No dear. The bitter truth is that your are repeating a tragedy. Fewer than One in ten achieve their annual goals. You know why? 

It’s because they all appropriate success with the high school timetable analogy. If need be perfom an autopsy on the past ten years of your life ; dissect your various decisions one by one through the years. Slice into the months and reveal the fragments glued into each. Fragments that have only made one out of your ten annual goals circle into childish dreams. 

I don’t mean it’s bad to have goals. 

Haven’t you heard that people want to change goals yet they don’t want to change their approach. What bigger tragedy awaits you than repeating mistakes of the past ten years; for another ten years? 

The most impoverished people? The highest infant mortality rate? The highest number of ADS victims? The most number of refugees? The highest number of illiterates? The least developed countries? Ask any such question and the answer is Africa. Wouldn’t it be better to claim that sometime in the past millennium they, whoever they may be, have conspired with our unelected leaders and stolen our next millennium and all the possibilities of our welcoming it with joy?

Hama Tuma: “Who Cares for the New Millenium?’

Hama Tuma outlined several potentially life threatening issues that were the crux of Africa’s problems.

Most Impoverished people.

Highest number of AIDS victims.

Highest number of refugees. 

Highest infant mortality rate.

Least developed nations. 

Highest number of refugees.

I mean it when I say this New Year should be celebrated with flashes of headlines. A barrel of whatsapp notifications and Twitter posts signifying ten years of remarkable achievements. It is a particular special event that Africa’s people are not the most impoverished. Syria is the country from which the highest global population of refugees come from. (I say this with slight tremors of optimism – no one is proud of political asylum). The second, third and fourth are not even African states. 

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How about our very own Zimbabwe with a remarkable adult literacy rate of ninety percent. Although we haven’t won in the literacy front, the continent has made remarkable progress. We might have Swaziland leading among countries with the highest prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS; but the mortality rate of patients has greatly improved. We don’t’ have the richest countries or many individuals with a net worth equivalent to the GDP of several African nations put together; but the economy has improved. At least 65 percent of Kenyans live beyond the international poverty line of (more than $1.99 a day). 

So Hama, you answer is a bit delayed for it comes ten years later on a Sulky 31st December afternoon. 

Come January 2, 2000, tell me, if you will, if the new millennium has relieved us of the likes of Iyadema, Kabila, of famine and AIDS, of subservience to the West and of poverty, or if it even promises to do some of that and I will eat back all my bleak words and apologize and hail the new millennium with the fervor of a Bill Gates or of any African tyrant who had been hoping to continue to dance on our backs.

Hama Tuma: “Who Cares for the New Millennium?”

The sun is hidden under pulses of tiny clouds. I have to adjust the panes on my window to stare beyond the clouds. A dissolving light that will swallow into the shattered  darkness of a dissipating year. 

Hama: 

It’s not that we don’t have the least developed nations, highest number of infant mortality rate or numbers of impoverished people. Nearby in Kenya’s Turkana we have a big number. I wouldn’t claim that any of the unelected leaders have stolen this millennium and the possibilities of us living it with joy. Neither have they bailed us out of the next decade. But remember the numbers are still numbers.

No matter least in the world, or highest in the world. These numbers represent the lives of mothers, single dads and children like your little brother at home. It is not a high number of Syrian refugees seeking asylum in Palestine but Ahmed, Fatma and 52 million others forced out of their homes. It’s not a high number of infant mortality rate but the death of your neighbour’s son to a host of life threatening diseases. 

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Meanwhile, Yes the new millennium has redeemed us the likes of Kabila, Iyadema, famine and the effect of AIDS. Mortality rate for HIV patients has reduced to less than 15% in most African countries. The 15% is however still a number. A big one. However, should all these troubles deprive us the energy to jubilantly welcome a new decade? 

Happy New Year all of You.

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A Place of Broken Beauty [Part I]

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Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.      

Confucius

In that moment, he only saw his reflection shrink into nothingness. How at first everything seemed so small while she had been part of his life. Now the very tiniest part of his soul felt big. Big in a small way. Big but empty. He might have carried this idea in his mind, that despite what they had both been through; suffice it to say the least, they would be room for another chance. Even in the disgrace of a broken relationship, stitched a thousand times, now beyond repair. Ashira was not in position to let go. 

I eyed him with disapproval at first. Amidst whatever it was that makes one hurt another, consequently, throwing all caution to the wind. I wondered how he would even lock eyes with Aisha and tell her he loved her. Deep down I knew it was possible to love again, but just how possible is it , to love the main source of your pain? Something about  broken love and trust makes people shudder at its breath , a force that pulls away the depths of your flesh, and exhales the maturity you have known; the 20 years you have been in the face of this universe. 

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Take this perspective. 

Admission day. College. HEAVY STAMP. Admitted into one of the high end universities in Kenya after hammering straight As in the University entry examination. BACHELOR OF SCIENCE (PHARMACY). You are from a staunch religious background, and in fact the village has bestowed upon you the trust of propelling its flag of progress. 

Progress for future prosperity and posterity. It doesn’t even scare your strict father that his son is going to inhale the mixed lifestyle of the city; and get adopted into ratchet gangs. Nothing could go wrong. Not if religious elders at your local church did not show up for a prayer session, lay hands on their son and command the gods. Command the gods and feel good. 

Because that’s what loving fathers do for their sons. 

Anyway.

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It’s funny how college life consumes people and what could be punctuated into an innocent tale; takes a narrow winding into the murky depths of influence. So for a few days, you are hesitant. Hesitant to talk or exchange contact with anyone. Hesitant because for the better part of the hiatus you took, after completing your high school, to your admission day; your village prepared you in advance. Those that came before you were not selfish to point out that peer pressure is the death of a village boy. Sorry.

Any boy. Any girl.

So this very word makes you tremble, despite the fact that you’re sure – nothing could shake you. Not ram, not Opium. Nothing. Not even the night birds singing out in the dark. 

But you have a roommate. Of course , a room mate, the party of your life. Nothing you’ve ever wanted in such a mongrel and you wonder how in the world you ended up being roommates. It only takes you two weeks of suffering exiles, suffocating in the cold of sacrificing for your ragged room mate; so that he can lay down any girl that lands prey of his seduction. Worse, the seniors keep stressing the story of one Moldova Kifulusi – the son of a popular pastor that ended up selling local liquor; in one of the corridor shacks within weeks of admission into campus. 

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In fact, you don’t even understand how love functions because you’ve never fell in love. Probably, somewhere in your high school days; you might have seen a girl and liked her. Sadly, it never occurred to you making a move because for 20 years your staunch father has warned you against being too close with girls. A good son listens to his father, right? However, somewhere along the way, the magnetic lifestyle of your roommate gets into you. He doesn’t say a word. Not a word of influence. In fact, he calls you ‘deity’ ; when in good moods, perhaps when he hasn’t heartbroken one of his many girlfriends, he calls you ‘high priest.’ A good roommate would never stash his roomy into careless lifestyles, because he needs him to be there when the carelessness runs out of hand. Right. For instance, when an assignment deadline is closing in and you might need a hand from the ‘high priest’.  

But the high priest craves attention. The village boy sees beautiful girls and he notices them. Even as he suffers disappointment at the sight of his friends boasting about the women they have laid; he doesn’t stop wondering why in the world will these good-for-nothing brats not boast about their grades. Didn’t he score a clean 28 out of 30 in the Biochemistry CAT? None of them feels good or bad for their grades.

Grades are just there, like the wind, to compliment the sun or the rain. But the girls, the women, opposite sex forms the basis of their life. It’s their beer. 

Such was Ashira’s life in his pursuit for high education. By the end of the third week, he’d attended three birthday parties, one sex party and a lavish visit to BAT 44, a stripper’s club in Westlands. Occasionally, his room mate Misheni would pull him and few others to the epicentre of it all, Juja or Thika. They would smoke opium and sometimes drink their lives away. Assignments and missed CATS piled up the table, missed classes plus mixed examinations, nothing could bail them out of the mound of dirt they had put themselves; From the look of things, there was no going back for Ashira. 

Deity turned hombre. A catchy headline to say the least. 

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However, it is while walking beneath the shadows of his careless infection , that he met another one like him. An adorable calf, with the eyes of the moon. A flower that shines, while it blooms. A beautiful cherry that went by the name, Aisha. While he’d consumed all his hope as the once adorable son of his father, he now mashed up his hopes on this one girl. He wanted to impress her. And because the goon in him had turned romantic, and there is something about hooligans that makes good girls  fall for them; she fell for his charm. Just like Ashira, Aisha had never tasted love. They were both Asian calves dropped in the middle of an African nowhere. And for the life of them, a path would just curve itself and hopefully the world would not fall above their love. 

Another perspective. 

At this point of time. The village boy in you has been washed away by life in the city. A once standing ovation has been inhaled into an emotionally unavailable rehab. You can’t fight for your education and its the kind of pursuit  that has been your heart. But the city knows no heart. Campus life reaps apart your sanity. Father calls, everything is alright, the going is tight but am still trying. Father sends shots through M-pesa. Mother prays for you and you keep telling your friends how with your mom’s prayers ; not even Juju  can stand in your way. Your mother loves you. Your parents love you and they are playing their part. They are not absent parents. 

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But you don’t love them. If you loved them, you’d actually listen and abide by your father’s hundreds of pieces of advice; Advice that only ends with you saying, am good dad, I’m now grown and can take good care of myself. Sadly, you Chose friends over family, your drinking mates over books and somewhere this deeply explicit life gladly chooses you. It finds a home in you and you become the life of the party. The life of your friends, you become their hero. 

A little difference to this perspective however, is you have found love at last. She gives you goosebumps and her charm manages to keep the African man in you – at bay. You don’t choose another one. You are loyal to death. You would rather die than watch yourself cheat the relationship. It’s not bondage, you say. Its love and love is meant to be for two. Not three. Not four. No third parties. You and her. Aisha and Ashira.

By the sixth month of being in a relationship, Ashira and Aisha had lost count of the times they had slept together. What good is a relationship without ‘Lungula.’ An affair without sex is just like a ship without a captain. Both of them were 19 years and for those six months had stripped each other’s virginity to the core. Then star ships began to shoot their way into the affair. A moment in time for every relationship, where partners deem sacrifices worth to save a sinking ship. You become strangers, fighters and deadly lovers. She becomes your worst mistake and you become her pain in the ass. It’s life. 

Within no time, Aisha began to notice the imperfections. However, slight they seemed, she borrowed a magnifying glass from the depths of her soul and sunk into a hard to impress queen. 

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She had seen Ashira and what he was capable of. He wasn’t someone she was ready to stake her life with. Although Ashira did almost anything to his abilities to prove his love and trust to Aisha. There was nothing. Nothing beyond a one night stand leading to another. Nothing beyond daily parties, sex and times spent behind smoking and drinking dens. No future. No plans. No progress. What kind of life was that ? Boring, right? Not really. 

It wasn’t boring, only that Aisha had realized earlier on that they were in a sinking ship. A looming fall. But she didn’t know how to say it, but one thing kept coming back to her mind. Her mother’s words, ‘in any situation, put yourself and your own first.’ Above all, she did not feel the thrill of being with someone she knew in and out. Aisha craved the chase and she was surely going to find it. Bathing in momentarily  thoughts, and fumes of finding herself; and finding more love than what was at the table; Aisha decided to break her silence that night.

*****************Watch this space for the next and final part, Part II******************

I haven’t been posting for quite a while, its been two weeks and I’m really sorry to my readers. I have no excuse, Its not pure writers block since I have been pursuing other writing projects. I won’t provide a lame excuse – Just know it won’t happen again.

The above piece, I will admit diverts away from my normal writing style – its a long form flash fiction, which I rimmed down into two parts, to fit a word count that favours my Friday readers.