Tuesday, October 27, 2009

WHY YOU SHOULD NOT WRITE

The reason I write is because I have a number of brain cells missing. This means that I cannot get into any meaningful profession. When I say this, I am being very lenient (which is only human) with myself. I know some of you have been thinking that there is a job group ‘W’ for writers and are actually aspiring to be writers someday.

Writers are jobless people who help media houses to employ hi-tech, snotty employees who are referred to as ‘Editors’. The editors’ work is to press the spell check button on the computer. If there are no red or green wavy lines under the words of a writer, they call it a day and release the article to the press. Note: The editor did not see this.

The only advantage you have as a writer is that you don’t have to go to work at 8AM . You are usually given the time after the alarm goes off (usually 6AM for most Nairobians) to just lie on your bed and start torturing your brain to come up with a story that can fill in the gaps left by advertisers in the following day’s paper. There is coffee allowance too to activate your brain (or so the editors tell us).
Once you get to the office, you are provided with ‘working space’. The advantage of this is that you can play computer games the whole day. We also have free internet. These are the measly benefits you have been killing yourself to please an editor for. I can hear some unconvinced writers-to-be in the background asking the obvious, ‘Why then do you write?’ Here comes the ANSWER.

Writing is the only job in which you can have an excuse for unfinished assignments. There is a big scorpion-like hand-biting thing that visits writers referred to as Writer’s Block. When the editor asks for your assignment, you can tell him that the Writer’s Block struck. The block leaves them with no option but to send you on a day’s off.

Not so with other professions. Getting a day off can be reaaallllly difficult which means you have to wrack your brain hard (needs the extra brain cells that I don’t have) to come up with an acceptable excuse. This being the Kenya it has become, with two or more people eyeing your job, you do not tell those tired lies of catching the flu or killing a relative of yours every now and then. Today’s employers make sure that you have perspired their every shilling’s worth.
In the good old days, which our parents don’t tire of telling us, the D.O. walked through ridges and mountains cajoling people to go to work. Today, the D.O. is paid for sitting on a swivel chair and is promoted on the basis of how many rotations he makes for a certain period of time, and demands that people stay at home and not bother him with their joblessness.

The employees that the D.O. would round up were treated like kings. For a day off, you just called your boss and the following conversation ensued;

You: Hello.
Boss: Hello, what can I do for you? (Very polite and caring)
You: I have a headache
Boss: Take a day off. Take as long as you need to recover.

Today,

You: Hello, Sec, it’s me
Secretary directs you to this new creation of our times called the HR
You: Hello this is (your name) I am calling to request for a day off……
HR: You are fired!

Some are coping though. I have a friend who had to see a girlfriend whom he wanted to impress by passing his uncle’s office as his. The uncle would be away from the office on a certain afternoon and my friend had to be at the office since that is where he had directed the girl. His boss however, would not hear of a day’s off.
He (my friend)came up with this story of a running stomach. He walked up to his boss and before he could finish a sentence, he dashed off to the loo. He did this several times until the boss got suspicious at the frequency of his dashing out. Hoping to beat my friend in his own little lying game, he followed him to the loo. His face (boss’s) was almost breaking into a smile when he heard this sound coming from the loo. My friend has saved a ringtone in his phone that resembles the sound of his implied affliction. He got the afternoon off.

I am through with my writing assignment for the week. Isn’t that great? I mean, just burbling on the page and getting paid for it?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Swine Flu Symptoms

I was going to write about Kenyatta day but I caught the flu and all my thoughts are now all flu related. I am not sure what particular strain of the flu I have- it could be the human flu or swine flu or bird flu or one that has yet to get into the baptismal pool, for example cat flu or fish flu.
With these flu-related thoughts, I remembered how a few months ago the whole world came to a complete standstill about swine flu. I got to know about it in a mat from a guy who told us that swine flu literally turned people into pigs. He also said that it had been lab manufactured by the Mexicans to export it to Kenya because our son Obama, had been elected president of the US before one of their own even though there are more Mexicans living in the US than are Kenyans worldwide. They, also according to the guy, were more likely to be a territory of the US than we are considering that they are America's neighbours while we would have to wait for the next evolution to be a territory of the US.
I went straight home to verify that 'News' tidbit and was glad I had not opened my mouth to another soul to retell the guy's story because it is the kind of story which when you repeat it, you confirm that folly has managed to wiggle its way into the 21st Century.
Our government acted swiftly then and before we knew it there were guys wearing masks, who looked more like they were harvesting honey at the airport than ensuring that the swine flu virus did not come into this country. The viruses must have laughed themselves sick, rolling on the floor right past the masked guys which explains why, months after the entire modern world has forgotten about swine flu, we are still battling it in our schools with the camera doting Minister for Public Health, Hon. Beth Mugo swearing every time the flu is spotted that 'the government is in full control of the situation'.
Other thoughts you have when you have this particular strain of flu that I have include a deep desire to applaud the government. Normally, we Kenyans love to criticize and blame the government for every woe under the Sun even if we bring it upon ourselves. We don't go looking for the government to pat it on it's back. But with the flu, I wanted to get out of bed and go look for the government and hug it for rationing water because I didn't want to take a shower and for rationing electricity because with this flu the lights are now blinding.
Fortunately, a good friend took me to the doctor and after some pills and several naps, I am back to being real Kenyan.
The first thoughts that struck me were about the several thousand cows (read tonnes of beef) the government buried after starving them. As you are well aware, the government, using our taxes, purchased cows from pastoralists, apparently to cushion them (the pastoralists) from drought and I agree (flu-free) that that was a brilliant move. Now, you would have thought that at the Ministry of Livestock or at KMC, there are trained fellows who would have known that with starving animals, you either send them straight to the gallows and can them and export them ASAP or you throw them a straw party to fatten them. But no. They drove them straight to the EA Portland Cement Company. Now, even you, who your Biology teacher would rather be kidnapped by Somali Pirates than admit you were his/her student because you left an indelible stain of shame in the school score sheet know that cows, starving or not, do not eat limestone or cement. But not the guys we have entrusted with the care of livestock in this country.
To my utter shock and surprise, when the cows started dying, the government acting traumatized through it's spokesman Dr. Alfred Mutua, who by now should have realized that he tends to know too little about nothing, and should just the hell shut up, went ahead and came up with what he considered 'another brilliant idea' which was to buy healthier cows! So that they could starve them for longer? I don't know but I sure do know that the pills are kicking in and I am on my way to recovery. Fortunately, it will be way beyond Kenyatta Day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

AS A WOMAN THINKETH, SO IS SHE

‘Thou shall not confuse a rained on lion with a cat.’ This was the sound advice the Prime Minister gave some of his colleagues in the former government who thought that he was in the political woods. Today, true to his word he is back in the limelight. I am thinking of ditching the horoscope pages once I get a direct line to him.
Lion’s stories always captivated me when I was a child. I would ask grandma to repeat them over and over. I liked the lions’ fearless side and just how they overcame all their enemies specifically by eating them.
Sometimes I fantasized about being a lion. These thoughts usually came upon me when I was involved in what my mom referred to as ‘monkey business’- which means that I came home looking like I had used sand to bathe. The result was that the business always earned me a proper spanking.
It was during such moments that I wished I had a button that I could press somewhere on my body that would convert me into a lion – not to scare my mom, but to gouge on her. I shudder at the thought of this wish having been granted.
The other person who roused these wishes was my primary school English teacher. She seemed not to have heard the popular saying about ‘English having come by ship and the fish never learning it’. She demanded that we write and speak proper English. She made us write compositions over and over until she was satisfied that the composition was not a cross breed of our mother tongue and English. These repetitive compositions almost always roused my man-eating desires.
There is one incident that I will never forget as long as I live. We were taught the names of the young of things, for example the young of a dog is a puppy. The following morning, we revised the previous day’s lesson and unfortunately the question of the young of a lion landed on me. I had the word. But such words have the tendency to disappear when you need them most. Hard as I tried I couldn’t remember the word cub. So I feigned great thought and as confidently as I could, answered ‘baby lion’. It was as if I had stabbed the teacher with a knife right through her heart. She gave a long speech on why we should speak English and not think in our mother tongue. She later gave me a punishment of writing the word cub 100 times while kneeling down. Your guess is as right as mine. This is one word I will be whispering on my death bed.
She is the same one who introduced the ‘monto’ in our school. I am not sure but probably it was meant to be a ‘monitor’. It was a dirty piece of wood that was inscribed on all its six faces ‘MONTO’ with a ballpoint pen. It also had a dirty string by which it hang from the neck. It was given by the prefect to the first person who spoke ‘mother tongue’ in the morning, and passed on successively. The culprits were rounded up in the evening and given severe beatings. Most of us became dumb in school.
We were given the monto irrespective of whether we had quoted a word. Then, we didn’t know how to quote vernacular words with the index fingers in the air.
Sheng developed around the same time and though it was vehemently opposed by language teachers in school, it became an equalizing tool because those who spoke it were looked upon as ‘high class’ while those who spoke proper language scored the marks in class. I think it was developed by Frequent Monto Handlers.

I thought I had killed and buried those man eating thoughts in a part of my brain that bears the epitaph ‘Childhood Escapism’. The problem is that things buried in the mind resurrect at the slightest provocation.
These thoughts are now directed towards my editor. My editor is a good person and non-threatening. She is the opposite of my former perceived ‘prey’. You can imagine my confusion when I first thought of eating her. This got me real scared and I went to see a Psychologist. She called my condition a Same Sex Seniors’ Predatory Instincts Syndrome which she said is common in lions. She says it can only be cured by my spending more time with the editor. I want to trust her treatment but if you don’t see this column next week, guess what, the worst will have happened.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Revisiting Moi Day

When I was growing up, I had a few relationship problems with Moi day and every holiday that was made to remind me that I am Kenyan. Not that I hate being Kenyan, no. I am 'Proud to be Kenyan'. But in Primary school, preparing for Moi day two months ahead was a real pain. We had to practice all these patriotic songs such as Tawala Kenya and another that went Eh Moi Eh.... for more than two months every year for the 5 years that I was in upper primary.
At first the whole exercise was fun since it meant that you had outgrown lower primary until I reached Std 6 and there arose some more important things to worry about like puberty, a bulging chest, That Time of the Month and GHC.
For those of you who need a background of the Nyayo Era, the president used to dish out 5 acre lands as if they were the complimentary mints you are given by big hotels when you attend workshops. This was especially if you could sing his praise like a parrot.
So the teacher who was in charge of Music in our school would recruit us into the music club by force if she had to. She was not going to miss the 5 acre gravy train because we refused to sing. The most amazing thing about it all is that she thought I could actually sing. So I was recruited into the music club. I don't know why but we had to don white ribbons on our heads when we sang and so we had to maintain a minimum length of hair that could hold the hundreds of pins used to hold the ribbon.
When I got bored with all that Tawala Kenya thing, I thought that the only escape route I had was to cut my hair. You would have thought I had murdered one of my fellow pupils! The teacher used Sellotape to hold the ribbon on my head. After Moi day, when she finally removed the Sellotape plus ribbon from my head, it came off with my hair and left me with a 'hairless cross' on my scalp.The next time I was sure if I pulled off something as stupid as cutting my hair she would literally staple the ribbons on my scalp.
I did finally (thank God) graduate into Secondary school where I avoided the music Club like the plague. I now realize what a wrong move that was because today I would be a celebrity.
In college, we hated patriotism. I can't remember why but it the in-thing. So on National holidays we would borrow all the books from the library and spend the day locked up with books in our rooms. It didn't matter what we read but we did. I remember there is a time I borrowed a book titled 'The farm implements of Kyrgyzstan'. Those are the kinds of books you find in most college libraries which are usually donations from other international colleges.
Today, I enjoy Moi day because it gives me an opportunity to stay at home and rip-off my employer coz he has to pay me for not working. It is the only way to get back at ya boss and I hope we can continue to slug on with the Constitution review so that we can keep Moi day.
Good luck this Moi day and help someone.