Loving My Brother Bob
A True Story
on Apr 2, 2023
When we were growing up in the '90s, my elder brother Bob Njinju used to be creative and innovative in the tasks he did at home. He would decorate our compound in a unique style. And I will never forget the stable and long-lasting stool he once made from blocks of wood. Oh boy, didn't I love sitting on that stool while cooking and eating in our home's sooty kitchen!
Bob could also be as tough as shoe leather. I once heard a true story about how, as he was heading home one evening, he removed his shirt and sprinted home like a night-runner. That story cracked me up. Come to think of it, the story still makes me dissolve into laughter when I remember it.
It must be due to his creativity and toughness that Bob was selected to join Kenya's military in 2002 when he was fresh from high school. Soon after joining the military, he was taken for physical training in northern Kenya for several months. We as a family had a glimpse of how strenuous the training was from the photos Bob mailed to Dad.
While Bob was away for that training, my other brothers would joke about the way Bob would become muscular. They would say that when he came back home, he would do such extraordinary feats as milking cows with one hand while the other hand held the cows' hind legs.
Upon completing the gruelling physical training, Bob was chosen to be part of the Kenya Air Force - one of the three arms of Kenya's military. Even though his desire was to become a pilot in the Air Force, he seemed content in pursuing the course he was assigned to study: a diploma in Telecommunications Engineering.
Had Bob finished that diploma course, he would most likely have been allowed to advance to a degree level under the auspices of the military. But as it happened, he left the Kenya Air Force in 2007 to try his hand at business.
Unfortunately for Bob, his business failed miserably, leaving him as broke as a church mouse. Some days in 2007, he would come to Starehe Institute where I was pursuing my education and ask me for my ATM card in a manner that clearly showed he was desperate for cash. His brush with poverty forced him to go back to our parents' home. Previously, he had been living in a rented room on the outskirts of Nairobi City.
After I broke for a long holiday in December 2007 when I was a first-year student at the university in JKUAT, I happened to stay with Bob here at home in Kiserian. And lo! Bob and I had a frosty relationship during that time. We would quarrel over trivial matters in an impassioned way that made our parents to intervene.
Bob's business picked up in 2008. As soon as he was able to support himself, he relocated back to Nairobi. And, as you would expect of any right-thinking young man, he would occasionally come back home to visit our parents.
In December 2008 when I was at a low ebb following my diagnosis with a mental illness, Bob would command me to assist our parents in domestic chores instead of lazing around all day. I felt so helpless that I had no choice but to obey his commands.
Ever the quintessential soldier, Bob would order me to do boring tasks when he came home in the previous decade. He would, for instance, ask me to collect stones and uproot weeds for feeding his rabbits. Sometimes, his commanding nature would paralyze me with fear so much that I would run away whenever he came home.
With time, I came to gather enough courage to stand up to Bob. In 2016, I declined to do some of the work he wanted done at home. And in 2017 when he implored me to see a psychiatrist, I told him I wasn't sick and that the bad days I sometimes had were part of being human. I informed him that even successful men like Barack Obama also have bad days.
One afternoon in 2017 when Bob came home and found me in high spirits, he asked me why I was happy in a tone that suggested he was about to chastise me for laughing aloud while alone in my room. And wa! Unable to stomach Bob's commands anymore, I went ballistic and said some things that I regret.
Fortunately, Bob and I reconciled shortly after my angry outburst. And I am happy to report that we have been on friendly terms for the past four years. He has in fact been sending me money for buying a few odds and ends.
Last year, I had a dream during which I dreamt in my sleep at night that we had buried my brother Bob. It was really a bad dream, the kind that makes you glad to wake up and realize it wasn't real.
Bad though the dream was, it made me appreciate my brother Bob. I believe that was God's way of teaching me to love Bob. So these days when he comes home, I feel grateful to see him alive. And in recent months, it has dawned on me that Bob is actually a humble and hard-working brother, not the commanding man that I thought he was. Long live Bob!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed the above story on my brother Bob, you might also enjoy another one on "How I Grew Up With My Siblings" that I wrote several years ago. Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
Sharing is CaringLike this story? Then share it on:
Dealing With Bullies
A True Story
on Mar 28, 2023
On the evening of last Wednesday as I was heading home from my hometown of Kiserian, I spotted a man near a certain T-junction not far from Kiserian. The man was clad in torn, dirty and filthy clothes. And he had put on three pairs of trousers, one which he had worn up to the knee. His style of dressing clearly showed he was mad.
While the mad-man was crossing to the other side of the T-junction, there emerged a young man of my age who began bullying him. The young man commanded the mad-man to go back to wherever he had come from. Even though I didn't say anything, I didn't like the way the young man was lording it over the mad-man. I thought to myself, "Why can't people sit down and read books and be nice to each other?"
Seeing the young man bully the mad-man has reminded me of another bullying incident involving dogs that I witnessed at one time in 2008 when I was heading to church at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi. During that incident, several dogs were barking menacingly at a timid dog. Given the intensity with which they were barking, they seemed poised to maul the timid dog to death.
I was curious to see whether the barking dogs would harm the timid dog. So I paused to observe what would happen next in the riveting dog drama. Guess what! The timid dog stayed put. It didn't run away. It didn't bark at the furious dogs. Instead, it silently stayed where it was until the charging dogs got tired of their barking and melted away from the scene one by one.
As I reflect on those two incidents (of the dogs that barked at a timid dog and of the young man I saw bully a mad-man last Wednesday), I now fully realize that this world is full of bullies, both in the animal kingdom and in the human race. I don't know what motivates animals to bully each other. But for humans, I know it's because bullies get satisfaction from seeing those weaker than themselves suffer.
I have personally been a victim of bullying a number of times. Back in 2005 when I was in high school at Starehe Boys' Centre for instance, a schoolmate once punched me on my face as we were heading for a morning parade. And he punched me for no reason at all. Being the timid boy I was back then, I didn't retaliate. I just walked on as if nothing had happened.
Then in 2015 when I was teaching piano at a certain music school in Nairobi, I worked alongside a teacher who treated me in a manner that bordered on bullying. He would silence me when I was talking, command me to go clean my shoes and accuse me of taking the school's music books.
During one lunch break, the teacher called me to the room he was in. He asked me to sit down. And when I took my seat, he said to me matter-of-factly, "There is a complaint about you."
To be honest, I had done nothing wrong to the best of my knowledge. So I wasn't worried in the slightest about what the complaint could be. And when I inquired from the teacher what others were complaining about me, he kept mum. I think he was just trying to scare and intimidate me.
Later on, I pointed out to the teacher that he was routinely acting too tough on me, something I didn't see him do to other teachers in the music school. In his response to my comment, he said that he was just straightening me out to make me a better person. I didn't respond to his reply.
But a few weeks later when I got fed up with his bullying, I called him aside on one afternoon and informed him that I would no longer tolerate his never-ending commands. While admitting I was imperfect, I told him I didn't like the way 90% of his words to me were commands. So I asked him to share stories with me instead of issuing me with commands all the time. I finished my talk by warning him that I could erupt like a volcano if he continued treating me in an overbearing manner.
As it happened, I quit teaching at the music school a week after my heart-to-heart talk with the teacher. I therefore didn't stay long enough to observe if his attitude towards me had changed. He however seemed humbled by the bold and gentle manner in which I had confronted him. Truly, Abraham Lincoln had it right when he quipped that bullies are the easiest to lick.
By the way, a month before I quit teaching piano at the music school, I had heard complaints that that teacher who was fond of bullying me was not tutoring some primary school pupils. It therefore turned out that he, too, was imperfect. He was just looking at the speck of sawdust in my eye and not paying attention to the plank in his own eye.
My beloved reader, this world is full of bullies for shizzle. And they are everywhere: in church, at school, in the workplace and even in the streets. I therefore strongly advise you to stand up for yourself and speak against those trying to intimidate you. Don't let anyone get too comfortable in disrespecting you. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed the above story about dealing with bullies, you might also enjoy another one on "Part 1: Appreciating Mothers" in which I narrated how my mother saved me from a certain bully when I was a boy. Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.