Thursday, May 20, 2010


Life has a way of disappointing us but it seems solely interested in me, most of the time. Just when I am thinking that I have covered enough ground in many aspects of it (life), it springs a new surprise. The surprise that I had the other day was of a disease called kleptomania which, if you have read the last two columns, makes me want to sue some people because they punished me for being sick. I hate to check words in the dictionary but kleptomania, as hard as I tried to figure it out of context was like trying to locate and swim in the Mississippi river in Kenya. As I have written in this column before, I don't like to use a word and later, when I check out its meaning, feel like an utter fool. This is how my dictionary defines it - 'illness that gives a strong desire to steal'. I immediately checked the calendar to ascertain that it was not April 1 or if you don't mind Fools Day. Several other dictionaries and Thesauruses claimed the same.

The next action I took was to call the WHO offices to inquire whether they were aware of this important disease and whether the UN has a World Kleptomania Day. Nothing. The lady who answered the phone was very nice and she said she would get back to me. She didn't because another one thought, and told me so, that that was the single most stupid question that one has asked since she started working with the UN and that if I called their offices again she would call the police! (I didn't know it was a crime to ask ignorant UN staff questions).

I decided to carry out the research myself, who knows, I might win a Nobel Prize for highlighting Kleptomania. I found out that it was a real disease and there was a recent case right here in Nairobi. Can you believe how close it is to you? I am sure you were hoping it probably is in the US because Americans seem beset with all sorts of ills, both imagined and real.

The guy who suffered from Kleptomania would have his lunch worth Kshs 1500 in a Five Star hotel in town after which he would head for the bathroom and come out with his pockets bulging. After observation by the hotel's security team, they realized that the guy would leave with two rolls of tissue paper worth Kshs. 18. Yes.There is a time tissue used to cost 9 bob. The hotel management had him arrested but later realized that their sales had gone down by Kshs. 1500 daily. They did what astute businessmen do. They 'forgave' him and asked the judge to release him. They increased the price of his lunch by 20 bob. He still stole the tissue.

The second case is of another lady who would buy her mother every latest design of tablecloths and then steal them and buy her mother more. The mother was comfortable with the arrangement coz she got all the latest designs and her house looked superb but she never had more than one set coz the daughter stole the last one she had brought as soon as she brought the new set. These two stories convinced me that even though I share my genetic code with the biblical Thomas, that there might be a probability that kleptomania is real. The concept could as well have been invented by habitual thieves to avoid the long arm of the law.

I remember developing signs of kleptomania in my younger days. You realize that these people have a line of specialization - tissue, tablecloths. My line of specialization would have been mangoes. I went to the market with mom and after buying some, I kleptomaniacked one more. My mom saw me putting it in the basket.

"How many mangoes did we buy?" She asked

"Eight," I answered.

"Count them," she said

"Nine," I answered with every ounce of enthusiasm that I could master.

She asked me to return the one I had stolen to the seller and apologize. I was so ashamed and was hoping that I would turn into a wisp of smoke and disappear before facing the seller who often sold me mangoes at a discount.

We passed at Cosma's shop. (Cosma was the guy who sold belts in our town) and mom Hire Purchased one. Whenever a belt fell into my mother's hands you could literally see it coiling itself into doom. She sent me straight to the bedroom to drive out the demon of petty theft that had entered me. That is the day I was healed of kleptomania. I am not sure how to cure chronic kleptomania (habitual theft in adults) but can you imagine how many Kenyans are rotting in prisons because they suffer from this sickness? It is time human rights activists stopped wasting time on murderous goons and make a case for these these patients.

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