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Bidding a Friend Farewell

On the left side of this photo is my fatherly father, who is still alive and kicking today, bidding farewell to a friend after their high school years came to an end in the 1960s. When I recently shared the photo with my siblings in a Whatsapp group of ours, my eldest brother Joe Kagigite apprised us the Dad's friend is one Baba Mungai who's also alive today. In the '90s I will tell you about in the story of mine below, Baba Mungai operated in downtown Nairobi a studio we occasionally visited for photo shoots long before the now ubiquitous smart-phone cameras came along.


Who was your best friend when you were a child? Mine was one neighbour's kid named Stephen Kamau. He calls himself Steve Wanyee these days on Facebook, and that's his actual name which I didn't know back in the '90s when we bonded while grazing cattle on a piece of land my father bought some time in 1993. He was a true friend, in every sense of the word.

I recall most vividly and fondly two school holidays in the '90s we spent most of our daytime together on that piece of land. The first was the December of 1993.

Steve Wanyee came regularly during that holiday to join me as well as my siblings Paddy and Symo as we grazed cattle. Being the innovative kids that we were, we ventured into building dainty huts using the tall grass that sprouted and flourished on the piece of land back then, perhaps to keep us from getting bored with staring at the cattle as they feasted on their favourite meal: grass, that is.

Paddy, the eldest member of the gang, led us by instructing us on which kind of grass to cut and how to fix them into a hut. And that must be where he acquired some of the leadership skills that compelled Dr. Geoffrey Griffin, the respected founding director of Starehe Boys' Centre, to appoint him a decade later as the '04 captain of the school's Kirkley House.

By the way, it's like someone bewitched that piece of land that was the theatre of our fun back in 1993 because it is full of useless weeds these days; useless in the sense that no cow can eat them and live to see the next day. My brother Bob Njinju has been trying to galvanize us into reclaiming it to profitable purposes but it's like everybody has his own business to attend to.

The other holiday I vividly and fondly recall bonding with Steve Wanyee was the April of 1997. Those of us who were alive and kicking back then remember that to be the year the witty, charismatic and beautiful Princess Diana was killed in a road accident somewhere in Europe.

Like in December of 1993, we also spent much of the daytime of that 1997 April holiday grazing cattle on our father's piece of land. But I can't ever remember Paddy being part of the gang; maybe he had realized he was too old to keep company with such little kids as Steve Wanyee, Symo and I.

What comes to my mind when I think of that holiday were the heavy rains that pounded incessantly. Later on (and I didn't know why), I often felt that no other April holiday had as much rain as we had in 1997. Or maybe it's due to the global warming that has been the talk of the town.

I also recall one evening on that holiday when I accompanied Steve Wanyee to his parent's home which is a stone's throw away from where we grazed cattle. When we reached their home, we happened to pass by a clothes line that had underclothes hang on it. Steve Wanyee confided to me that they belonged to his elder sisters, and when he noted my eyes fixed on the underwear, he cautioned me, "Don't look at them for too long!"

That was vintage us back in the '90s. We are still friends with Steve Wanyee who occasionally likes these blog's stories of mine when I share them on Facebook. But we no longer spend time together which I think is why the other day he slowed a sedan he was driving to a halt so as to greet me. He requested me to pay him a visit one of these fine days, then accelerated the car to wherever he was headed.

Yesterday evening as I was doing something productive and enjoyable in my room, which I once contemplated of christening "War Room" but now sounds silly and stupid, my mother called out my name and asked, "Thuita, do you know Muchene?"

"Yes, that's [Steve Wanyee's] dad." I replied, alarmed at what she might say next.

Then my mother blurted out what I expected, "He's dead."

"Doooodo!" I exclaimed, mindful not to use the Lord's name in vain.

And since yesterday, I have harboured a myriad of thoughts on death. All I can now say is that I have believed what I have always thought of life as a series of partings. Steve Wanyee's dad has parted us and I wonder who's next in my circle of friends.

For the time being, I will pay Steve Wanyee a visit some time this week, God-willing and weather-permitting, to give him solace as he prepares to bury his also fatherly father. Adieu!

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Childhood Memories



A few years ago, I decided to ransack my father's collection of books in an old wooden house at our beautifully rustic home here in Kiserian where I live. And alas! I unexpectedly came across the photo above of me holding a Yamaha piano keyboard taken back in the '90s at my hometown's Catholic Parish where I was first tutored the rudiments of Music theory by a dedicated and brilliant seminarian named Br. Peter Assenga.

Even though I was delighted to be re-united with this precious photo, I was a bit crestfallen that some mischievous ants had scratched and eaten the part of the photo showing my face. I have wished for a time that the ants had chosen to scratch another part of the photo other than the one showing the face but I have now comforted myself with the hope that God will in His own way punish those mischievous ants for tampering with the photo.

Coming back to the photo, let me inform you that the lad partly captured on the right is my brother Paddy who was respected in the parish for his musical talent. Later on when he was at Starehe Boys' Centre which I was also fortunate to join, I noted that a conscientious elderly priest from Canada named Fr. Joseph Carreire also recognized his musical talent which compelled him to award Paddy with an autographed copy of the Starehe Boys' hymnal.

Back in the late '90s when the photo above was captured, Paddy had grown into a fashion-conscious teenager. Like at around that time, he scribbled the price of every piece of clothing, from the hat to belt to shoes, on the picture of a handsome hunk holding a matchbox in an advert promoting a certain brand of matchsticks that someone had glued on the wall of the room I shared with him.

So as I look at the Paddy of that time in the photo above, I am of the opinion that he must have been thinking, "This younger brother of mine named Thuita is boasting of holding someone else's piano keyboard not knowing his audience is pitying his poverty revealed by the unpolished shoes he is clad on. A little fool he is!"

And all this reminds me of all other funny stuff and nonsense we had in our childhood days. You see, in those days, we weren't wealthy by modern standards but we were rich in all the important aspects of life like health and human companionship.

Of human companionship, I talk of our parents, our other siblings (Joe Kagigite, Bob Njinju & Symo Noru) and our relatives who visited us on a regular basis as well as the wonderful neighbours and their kids we befriended in our home area of Kiserian.

Like I remember my brother Bob Njinju resolving one daytime that he would sleep at night of that day with his legs pointing upwards. Now that I understand life better, that feat can only be achieved in movie tricks.

Then I recall my eldest brother Joe Kagigite asking my younger brother Symo and I whether we liked God or Satan. Symo and I were then too young to understand who God and Satan are, more so in English. I don't even think Symo had began her nursery school education. One of us replied that he liked Satan.

And than I recall of myself complaining one day that I had never seen a thief. Apparently, I must have had the idea that thieves had a particular look like the way police clad in recognizable uniform.

What I didn't know back then was that a thief is anyone who takes someone else's property, no matter how trivial, without permission. So if your son, nephew or some other small boy ever complains to you he has never seen a thief, tell him he is one of them if he has ever eaten your apple or chocolate bar without your permission.

But perhaps the funniest remark I ever had uttered in my childhood days was on money by some schoolmates at Naru-Moru where my siblings and I had much of our primary school education. It was of a theory conceived by some curious pupils and propagated with interest that the people employed to print paper currencies do the printing while naked so that they cannot carry some of the money away.

I am imagining a male and female staff of nude servants locked in a room with sophisticated money printing machines. And then wondering what else they might be tempted to do as they shuffle past one another in an effort to print genuine paper currencies ready for circulation in a market flooded with some counterfeit money.

But let me stop such kind of imagining because St. Paul advises us in Phillipians 4:8 to think only that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

So let me instead tell you of a sticker that someone glued in the living room of our home back in the '90s which had this quote printed on it:
God made man.
Man made money.
Money made man mad.
Uncle Ndonga, who added to the mix of human companionship we had in the '90s after he offered to stay with us with regular pay from our parents, was fond of that quote. I surmise he must have been the one who glued that sticker in the living room.

And when I ponder on that quote, I am of the opinion that the people we should be wary of stealing money are not the ones who do the actual printing but the folks out there who engage in all sorts of theft. The timid ones who pick-pocket passengers in public service vehicles. The brave ones who break into shops. The intelligent ones who defraud banks. And the powerful ones who embezzle public funds for personal use.

Recently, I heard in the news of a new breed of thieves who dug a 150-metre tunnel into a bank in Thika Town here in Kenya and made away with 50,000,000.00/-. I have displayed that amount in digits to emphasize the huge eight-figure sum of money stolen.

Now tell me, under which category would you classify that gang of thieves who dug the tunnel to commit that eye-popping theft? Were they timid, brave, intelligent or powerful? Me, I think they were all of the above.

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