How Drug Abuse Can Ruin
A True Story
on Nov 16, 2020
There is a music skill that I missed learning when I was being taught piano in the late '90s by a brilliant seminarian named Br. Peter Assenga. That was how to compose songs with a counterpoint harmony. It's a skill that my immediate elder Paddy acquired with admirable proficiency. (If you don't know what a counterpoint harmony is, don't worry; neither did I back in the '90s.)
When I was in Starehe Institute in 2006, I developed a desire to know how to compose songs with a counterpoint harmony. So I approached a guy by the name Kamau to teach me. He readily agreed to tutor me. And soon afterwards, on a warm Sunday afternoon, he sat me down in an empty church for a lesson in music theory.
As Kamau began to teach me that Sunday afternoon, I expected words to flow from his mouth with fluidity - the way Br. Assenga used to speak while teaching us music theory in the late '90s. But guess what! After Kamau uttered his first two or three sentences, he was totally clueless on what to say next. He had to cut the music lesson short. And never again did he sit me down for another music lesson.
Kamau was a fairly gifted pianist. I had known him since the late '90s when he was in high school at Kiserian Junior Seminary. Some time in the year 2000 when I met him on a street in our hometown of Kiserian, I enthusiastically greeted him by his name. I don't know in what tone I greeted him because before I was able to say anything else to him, he pinched me on my face and instructed me to address him with respect. He embarrassed me by pinching me in front of passers-by but I took his reproach in my stride.
After Kamau finished his high school career at Kiserian Junior Seminary, he was admitted at the Apostles of Jesus Major Seminary in Nairobi to pursue priesthood studies. I once heard that he was inspired to become a priest after he narrowly missed being trampled by a moving bus on a highway in Nairobi - a story I have never corroborated whether it was true.
While studying for priesthood, Kamau began messing up with drugs. The drugs altered his behaviour to a point of making him fall out with a certain priest called Fr. Charles Nyamiti who used to offer music lessons to seminarians at the Apostles of Jesus Major Seminary. Fr. Nyamiti was so perturbed by Kamau's behavior that when my friends and I visited him on one Sunday evening, he cajoled us to stay away from drugs so that we wouldn't end up being like Kamau.
With such kind of substance abuse and behavior change, it's no wonder that Kamau eventually dropped out of his priesthood studies. After dropping out, he landed an opportunity to fly to the United States - the so-called land of freedom and opportunity. I gathered that it was his sister who organized for him to live in America where she resided. And I don't know what happened to Kamau in America because after a while, he was back in Kiserian. My brother Bob Njinju informed me that he was deported to Kenya for messing up with drugs - a side of the story which I tend to believe is true.
On settling back in Kenya, Kamau opened a music school in Kiserian. But the school never flourished either because he was too much into drugs or folks in Kiserian weren't just interested in learning music.
Due to his continued substance abuse, Kamau started exhibiting strange behaviour in my hometown Catholic church - the kind of behaviour that would leave any normal person reeling with guilt. Because I have long since ceased attending mass in the Catholic church, I don't know how the church authorities dealt with Kamau's antics.
One Sunday morning in 2013 or 2014 when I dropped by Kiserian Catholic Church to catch up with old friends, I found Kamau playing a piano keyboard just before a mass was about to begin. I approached him and struck up a conversation with him, in the course of which we had a discourse on drugs. He strongly advised me never to indulge in drugs, especially bhang. And from the way he was speaking with feeling, I could tell he was talking from experience. I took his advice to heart.
Over the past several years, I have been meeting with Kamau in Kiserian every now and then. What I find impressive about him is the way he always greets me warmly, sometimes by my name. He seems to have given up the pride and arrogance that made him pinch me sometime in 2000 as I have narrated to you. Once when I met him walking to Kiserian, I asked him how he found California when he was living in America. "It's very beautiful!" he replied in Kikuyu.
Sometime in 2017 or 2018, I observed Kamau eke out a living by hawking sweets in Kiserian. On one or two occasions, he has begged me for money. Earlier on this year, I spotted him carrying a pile of firewood on his shoulders. And then last Saturday, I saw him talking to himself while throwing his arms in the air as if he was fighting an invisible ghost. Judging by such kind of behaviour, you didn't need to be a genius to figure out that all was not okay with his head.
Kamau is now a walking example of how drugs and substance abuse can ruin our lives. Wonderful opportunities came his way (learning to play the piano, getting admitted at a respected seminary, being granted a visa to live in America) but drugs spoilt him. What a pity!
By the way, I have never learnt how to compose songs with a counterpoint harmony, but I am now content with not possessing the skill since I don't compose music for choir. My focus now is on coming up with songs for solo singing.
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A True Story
on Nov 11, 2020
Back in the '90s when my siblings and I were growing up, our Dad used to encourage us to read novels. He bought for us plenty of novels which he probably thought would help us fare well in school. Despite his efforts to have us read novels, only my eldest brother Joe Kagigite became an avid reader of novels. I would observe Joe exchanging novels with his friends who visited him at home in those days.
One afternoon in 1997, I passed by Joe's room at home and found him with one of those big novels that he read. I picked the novel up, opened it and then burst into excitement after I recognized several words in it. So much did I feel excited at being able to recognize words in the thick novel that I boasted about it to my other siblings that day. Little did I know that there is more to reading novels than recognizing words; we have to understand the story that the author is narrating.
In spite of Joe having been an avid reader of novels when he was in high school in the late '90s, he didn't manage to score an 'A' or an 'A-' in English in the final high school exams known as KCSE. That makes me wonder if he really ever understood the novels he read. Later on in the year 2010 when Joe offered me a lift in his car as we headed to his house, he told me the novels he read in the '90s have made him more creative in his work. So it appears they were never a waste of time for him.
As for me, I didn't start reading novels till 1998 when I was in Standard 5. But unlike Joe, I only went for the thin novels such as Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe which made me fancy being stranded in an island like Robinson Crusoe. I continued reading those thin novels occasionally as my primary school years rolled by. Looking back, I find it was wise of me to have only read the thin novels when I was in primary school as I was still too young to understand the thick ones.
When I joined Starehe Boys' Centre in 2002 for my high school education, I read medium-sized novels by African writers but only over school holidays because I was too focussed on excelling in academics to read novels at school. Furthermore, it was an offence at Starehe to read novels in class. I remember during one night prep in 2002, Gilbert Kimani - the then school captain of Starehe - came into our class to check if there was anyone with novels. He didn't find any.
You know what? During my final two years in high school at Starehe, I stopped reading novels apart from Chinua Achebe's A Man of the People which I studied because it was a set book for our 2005 KCSE exams. I only read that novel as I feared reading other novels would take up space in my memory that I wanted to reserve for the academic knowledge I needed to excel in school. Sometime in 2004 when Dad urged me to read novels, I pleaded with him to let me read only academic books. I almost cried while pleading with him to leave me alone to study what I thought was fit for my memory.
It seems to me now that my fear that reading novels would take up space in my memory was unfounded because when we were sitting for our KCSE exams in 2005, I spotted my classmate Brian Nalyanya reading a novel during a night prep. Nalyanya went ahead to emerge among the top 10 students in the country in the KCSE exams. He scored an 'A' in all the subjects he sat for, including English which I got an 'A-' in despite having applied myself to studying only the set books. When I was in Starehe Institute in 2006, a female teacher informed us during one lesson that Nalyanya wrote some of the best KCSE compositions. And she was quick to tell us she didn't know who that Nalyanya was.
After I finished high school in 2005, I never became an avid reader of novels like the way my brother Joe Kagigite was when he was in high school. Imagine between 2006 and 2019, I only read about five novels which I regrettably never kept in my room for future re-reading. Boy, how I would have loved to have those novels in my room just to take pride in knowing I have read them!
This year, I have started reading novels avidly - the novels that Dad used to buy for us when we were growing up here at home. Unlike before, I am now reading even the thick novels and keeping in my room the ones which I find spell-binding. Why, you may ask, have I chosen to read novels avidly? Because I believe reading novels improves our thinking and communication skills, and ultimately the quality of our lives. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on reading novels, you might also enjoy another one I wrote earlier this year on "How a Trip Helped Me". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.