Category Archives: Musings

Of Phone Thieves, and the Student who kept a Pet Snake

If you are reading this and you have ever had your phone stolen, grabbed even, in this (used-to-be) city in the sun, then you are either smiling to yourself or holding your chin. A phone is not an easy thing to lose, never has been. The Kenyan phone thief is proof that Darwin was right. First, let us agree that there are no absolutes in science, there are no facts, and there is no proof. Everything depends…

Continue reading…

Fire, Oil and the Price of Ignorance (and the story of a woman scorned)

Disaster in the city…again.

Same script, new players, same villain.

Something happened yesterday; a fire in a Nairobi slum killed tens of people in the span of a few hours. Media houses were in shock, as was the rest of the country, and they ended up showing extremely graphic pictures, disgusting the good heart of our nation, even those claiming to be tweeting to help.

As someone who has been to a human anatomy laboratory, and around the bodies of the deceased more times than I count, I can tell you for sure that you do not know how you will react until you get there. Instead of whining about our little consciences, it would have been nobler to start organizing counseling services for the hundreds of residents, rescue workers, police officers and most of all journalists who were there all day. I placed the last as the ‘most important’ for one reason, they had to take photos, and then edit them. At least police officers and rescue workers have counseling services, or an iron armor you develop when disaster strikes too often.

Sad as it is, the fire was prophesied once, two years ago by two budding journalists. They cheekily titled their story (or the editor did, I suspect) The Fire Next Time: Slum Courts Doom. Two Years later, on a rainy, cold Monday morning, doom did accept to be courted, actually it came and took away about a hundred people and ruined others. The fire next time became, well, the fire next time indeed. The government was frustrated because local MPs would not allow the forceful eviction of residents. Ignorance paid off again, as it did several borders away in Congo where it smouldered about 240 people trying to siphon fuel. Of the three disasters that plagued the Central and East Africa Region, killing over 500 people in two days, two were fuel related, and all were machine failures. Still, on the bright side, it was not terrorist-related (or self-inflicted) like the attack on the WTC 10 years ago. Now we blame God, the government and poverty.

When someone asked me why I agreed with @machariagaitho when he wrote in this opinion piece that the price of impunity (and in extension, ignorance) had been paid and yet this people were driven there by poverty, I answered using the adage that ‘Ignorance is no defense’. You cannot live on an oil pipeline and not anticipate danger. Hell, I even mumble a prayer every time I get into a matatu. The saddest thing is that we are a country, and a world, of idealists. I salute the journalist who wrote this, reading was disturbing, even for me. and by the way , just in case you are looking to buy the fuel that survived, read this first.

We want the subjective, sieved details, we want to see edited photos and talk about the disaster. We want photos of the better part, not caring that there is worse happening. We romanticize and we look at disaster subjectively. We act as if disaster is a new thing, and yet it has stuck with humanity all through. Poverty or no poverty, realism has taken a backseat and we are where we are no because we have denied ourselves the truth…

The sight of charred remains, still smoking, the remains of what used to be a human body. The disgusting photos of the half-burned bodies floating in a river, as the people standing on the riverbank hold their chins. Of a slum where one neighbor knows not the other. Where people have died with no identity. It is the greater equalizer, death.

Stalin said that the death of a million is only a statistic, as is the death of a hundred in this case. Even if only one person had died in this fire, it would and should have been a tragedy enough. But the truth is that we have too high a moral sense, unwarranted to begin with, and we sympathies and empathize, and it is a new morning, whats the news?

When I was in college, my financial accounting lecturer told a story about his near-death experience. He was a college student back when the first oil truck overturned near Banana in Kiambu County a little over half a decade ago. As he headed home, he saw the truck and the people getting pails and buckets to get fuel. He joined in; like any other good Kenyan would (I am making an assumption here). When he had his first bucket full, he ran home to get another and just as he reached a few hundred meters away, the truck exploded. Drenched as he was in oil, he did the first thing his mind told him to do, silly, as it was he ran back. What he saw still haunts him, the one memory of a woman running towards him, like a human frame of fire, screaming and wailing for help. She fell to the ground and started rolling in an attempt to put out the fire, but an oil fire can be an ass.

There is no moral to that story, except where one believes that experience is the best teacher, or the story that is retold after that. Do not misquote me; I know if another truck overturns, or a fuel pipe leaks, people will go to get free fuel.

I believe that the worst disaster is the disaster of human ignorance, that innate ability to refuse to listen to reason because we think the universe knows we are poor, or homeless, or unfed, or rich, or tall, or short, or framed, or justified, or beautiful. I have it, you have it, and it will be the death of us, and death is a good thing, living with the scars is much harder.

smouldered, a pile of ash held together by death...

ION and on somewhat of a lighter note, Walking with my friend @wambumishi yesterday, we happened upon this leaflets (read printed papers) distributed all over.

Hell Hath no Fury Indeed

Now thats a woman scorned. This I believe is a classic case of the propaganda war, slander her name using all possible jabs. A little advice to women, if he is going out with her, fight him, not her. Then again I know that hit on deaf ears, even the realist in me can not understand why this woman would choose to get this tryped, printed, and distributed.

The last lines are the kind that ‘send a chilly feeling up and down the culprit’s spine’

This is the Beggining


Now my friend and I are arguing about whether Maraya in this case is the woman’s name, nickname, or an insult misplaced. Whichever the case, the four exclamation marks place emphasis on the point.

The Bar Stool

Carrier of man’s problems, pervasive and persuasive

A place of peace in the midst of insanity and noise

For a breather where none exists

To wallow in life’s problems and listen to one’s own conscience

To plan and pan, to feel alive

To stare at the barman

Or at the one woman who will serve a pint without throwing a fit

The bar Stool

Raised, higher than all other seats

A place where the lone wolf can sit and wish he had friends

Where he can make new friends and pay his own bill

Some sit on it because it makes them taller

For the first time in a whole day, they feel bigger than they really are

Because hot girls seem to sit there when they are lonely

Because unlike the noise in the background

The drugs, the ruined lives, and liver cirrhosis

The gout and throat cancer

The addictions and pervasions in the background

The happiness in the midst of ruin

Unlike the riches burnt in the background

The school fees not paid and battered spouses

The abandoned families and lost jobs

The choking and yet tempting cigarette smoke

The death and despair, the dance floor

The madness that seems like hell

Where people of different world’s can meet and meat

Where deals have been made and governments brought down

Where independence has been won and history made

Where Prohibition and taxation can do no harm

Where everyone is here to enjoy and make merry

Some to make a living

Some to steal it

Some to forget the problems that life has blessed them with

To forget if only for an hour

Sacrifice for a moment of happiness they will want to enjoy on the morrow

To meet new people

Dance away life’s problems and scream like the voice box has no knob

To kiss and love away at strangers

People life would never have brought them close to

To run away from the darkness that is their lives

And yet, a different man and woman sit on the bar stool

A man who would readily give up his high sit to be on the background with friends

A woman waiting for someone, or waiting to forget another

An old man on the prowl, for women or for amnesia

A young man waiting for his meal

An old maid staring at the barman’s abs

A little high chair, staring at the pints in their bottles

Wondering whether everyone else has a story of their own

Some sit on it to run away from the madness, to ponder, stare, glare

Some sit on the bar stool, alone, because it is the only place quiet enough

Quiet enough to read the paper, noisy enough to be in on all of it.

The Boy, the Frog and the Blow Job

The blank page stares back…

I have told some morbid tales in my time…

Every writer knows that a good story is one that he or she can write about over and over again, in a hundred ways, and never tire of. It is a bit of an over-stretch, I know, because even I cannot bring myself to read stories I have written….all am saying is, I have written this story before, but I doubt you have read it.

Where to start?

1997: Kenya is facing the worst rains in recorded history, the torrential El Nino rains are causing mudslides and flash floods in almost all areas where it normally rains. In a public primary school in a simple village in Central Province, the rain pounds the buildings and erodes the ridges. In the middle of the night, the entire girl’s washroom’s block gives way, or rather, sinks within itself, and is swallowed in, well, that stuff that is under a long haul latrine…

The Board meets the next day, officials from the Ministry are all over the place. Should they close the school? They decide against it and instead, get the ground covered, and convert one line of boy’s washrooms for use by the ladies. No one complains, who would dare, no one has foreseen the complications of a girl peeing on one side, and on the other, a cheeky boy is peeping through the wooden partition, get images that will probably haunt him, in a nice way, for the entirety of his life…

A new trend emerges in the two years before a new ultra-modern line of washrooms are built, boys tend to avoid their urinals and washrooms unless it is an utter necessity, girl’s hold it in (This always sounds so wrong, like its an army one should let out) and everyone gets an education…

All is well, until one day, something extraordinary happens…

During a break/recess (whatever the children call it these days), a group of boys plays football (its not really round, but it once was, and a rose is a rose even in Russia) made of string and paper, and probably sponge. They are divided into two teams, sweaters and shirts, and the battle will go on until the thirty minute break is cut short by the sound of a bell ringing from the Class Seven East, 100 metres away.

All is well, until one boy needs to take a piss, should he go all the way to the washrooms, all the way across the field, towards the classes, through the hallway, down towards the toilets? And pee at the risk of a girl peeping through the partition at his privates? The humiliation… Its far, and his little class Four legs will take the entire fifteen minutes left on the clock to get there and back even if he runs like a madman, or more correctly, boy.

What is this little boy to do?

Then *bulb* above head…

He walks to the edge of the field, near a shallow ditch that is used for short jump, and when filled with grass, flipping (dislocated shoulders and arms, story for another day.). He lies down on the grass, like he is planking, then looks around him. Everyone is busy making the best of the time they have left, some girls are playing volleyball fifty metres away from him, but they are too engrossed in their game to notice him. The Class Eight pupils have the entire football field, and his friends are playing on without him… there are the lazy ones just lying on the grass, basking like lizards, flirting, sleeping…but no one seems to be paying attention to him.

He quickly opens his zip, reaches for it and pulls it out and then lies on his stomach. Just before he starts the hose, he feels a hole right on the spot where he is about to do his thing.


He can pee and pretend he is doing that thing adults (and some Class Seven kids) do at night…is this not his lucky day?

So he *inserts* it (you cringe) into the hole he just felt on the ground and opens the hose…..

In the hole, a different story is brewing…

A frog was just minding his own business, doing what frogs do in the late morning, in their holes-cum-homes. It is a pretty boring day, nothing much happening in the frog world except the noisy kids again…

Then something interesting happened in the frog’s world…darkness!Where did the sun go, all of a sudden…the frog wonders, then a small snake (which you know is not a snake, right?) touches him (or her, am not sure) and then starts throwing water (which you know is not really water, right?). OH NO! you can see where this is going…a frog has to defend himself, or herself, or themselves?

Above the ground, the little boy’s little soldier rubs against something that feels like the ground, its shallower than he thought. Then he opens the hosepipe, and rolls his eyes…

Under the ground, the frog’s instinct’s go into high gear, this is his holiday home, his playground where he entertains his frogs…he has no weapons, none at webbed hand really, what is he to use against this monster of a thing (its actually pretty small, but who is to tell the frog that)….oh wait, he has his mouth!!!So he attacks…

Above the ground, the boy feels a little pinch, then his little soldier feels weirdly warm, then pain, as if something is sucking it in…


The little boy tries to pull it out, the frog pulls it back in as it sinks its frog teeth in this bad bad spitting snake…

The boy screams, in a field full of screaming children…he screams as loud as a scream can be, but no one hears him, or rather no one thinks he is screaming for help…is he? Is it, maybe, delight??

What is a little boy, who’s little soldier is in the mouth of a frog in a hole, in a field full of screaming children to do?

Then the bell rings and the children, all of them but our little-boy-who’s-soldier-is-in-a-frog’s-mouth, run towards their respective classrooms.

He is screaming his head off now, the pain is taking over.

Then someone hears the screams and runs back, another one follows, and another one follows the one who followed first…

They ask him what the matter is, but he cant talk. He is crying, his whole face cringed like he just saw the devil get raped. In the middle of his cries, they make out the words help-me-up. They try to pull him out, but he is in pain, and the frog won’t let go. They try again, and they succeed. They turn him over, and his little thingy is all bloody and swollen, sticking out of his dirty khaki shorts.

A few centimeters away, a frog hops out of a hole, and runs for his frog life, traumatized, in dire need of frog therapy.

Traumatised, hurt, all its innocence taken away…

Our little-boy-who’s-soldier-was-just-in-a-frog’s-mouth is rushed to hospital, where the doctors decide that they might as well circumcise him, make him a man, as they remove the frog venom, or saliva, whichever works for you. They are traumatized too, but its funny in a way, a morbid mortician-I-like-to-be-sucked-by-a-frog-kind-of-way.

He comes back to school destroyed, in need of therapy and amnesia. The girls stare at him in sympathy, the boys in jealousy at the boy who got his first blow job from an actual frog and the teachers, experienced in life and harboring sexual fantasies of their own, in awe that he lives…

The story, as the new washrooms come up and a new big thing happens in the little primary school, slowly becomes a legend, and is soon forgotten by many….almost forgotten, until one day many many years later, a boy who witnessed the last part and then filled in the other parts as the story spread through school, now a man with morbid experiences of his own but none matching that one, writes about in his blog…


I killed Myself Today

I stood at the cliff and looked at the setting sun.

I hurled myself to the hull and let the wind guide my flight.

I drove off the cliff with everything I had.

I stood at the brink of life and death, and held mine in my hands.

I drove the dagger of pain through my own heart and let the blood drip down.

I swore I would never let life show me where, but I did.

I killed myself today, so many times that I could die no more.

I took the gun and shot myself through the mouth.

I pulled the trigger and felt the impact.

I left my own body, and looked at it.

I looked down to my own lifeless self, a mass of nothing but what was.

I enjoyed the sensation, the border between the living and the dead.

I killed myself and looked for a white light, but I saw none.

I ended my life with despair and hanged myself with ropes of failure.

I took success and shit on it.

I took religion and pissed on it.

I took everything I ever believed in and buried it with the dead and dying.

I unplugged my own life support, looked at the white hospital ceiling and waited for the darkness.

It never came.

I killed myself in the hope that humanity would recognize me.

I wanted the world to be less of one person’s problems.

I wanted to free my friends from their penance.

I wanted to make my enemies happy, so I pilloried myself first.

I tied the sturdy rope on my shivering neck and stood on a stool.

I kicked my own life away and got a little hard.

I spit on my own vanity and drank the poison.

I felt despair, I felt failure and I hated the world.

I felt the cold air strike my face as I flew down the tall cliff.

It made my cheeks hard and frozen; I flew like a bird and hoped to be free.

I knew I would relish the opportunity to meet death, but would I like him?

What if it was a she?

Would she like me? Why would she, I had given myself to her, like a fool.

I am dead because I killed myself, but I have been waiting, and there is still no white light….just a dark cloudy and gloomy sky…