HOME IS A CASTLE OF STORIES

WHAT IT TAKES


When you prowl Nairobi streets, you do see crippled women curled up in the streets. Some have toddlers rolling beside them. And you want to ask, “Who is the father?” But you don’t. You never have. Whenever that malnourished woman stretches her sinewy, dirty and almost disfigured arms towards you, you increase your pace. And say to your friends if you’re in a clique. “Huyu ni conman.” 

Then you walk on briskly, your eyes firmly focused ahead, ignoring the grit in that beggar’s eyes. You want to get home or that new restaurant and meet your date. Or get into the wifi zone and see the latest meme on your friend's accounts. You need to post that new shoe on Instagram or your phone might malfunction.

Think of this woman. She is a single mother of two. Walked out of her third marriage in a decade. The man was abusive. Instead of braving the beatings and saving face like most women, she left. She wasn’t sure how her children would eat or where they would stay, but she packed up anyway. For her, better live free with meagre resources than a pained life in the high castes.

All her life, it has been a continuous soundtrack of suffering. Her father was a celebrated drunk in a village deep in the harsh Kamba frontier. Selling away family land to fund his encounters with the bottle. After her first period, shit hit the fan. Her father was deep in depth, her mom, a housewife without employment or formal education. One afternoon, members of the Chama come and carry away everything. Even tearing away iron sheets from their house. That same evening, her father doesn’t return home. She’s never heard from him. He went with the wind. Disappearing in the darkened embrace of the shadows.

She never experienced formal education. As her teenage years cloaked, she started working as a nanny. Days she spent alone in affluent neighborhoods nursing toddlers, she filled them with music. Listening to gospel songs. They calmed her turbulent soul, warmed her icy heart. Music was this companion that kept her going. Bringing comfort even when her employers tried abusing her, some trying to take advantage of her. She survived the darkness, keeping her honour against the odds.

What is good story a without a boy? In her early twenties, working in a posh neighbourhood. She strikes friendship with the driver who took kids of the boss to school. She’s young, na├»ve, never felt the touch of a man. One of her previous employers had grabbed her plump buttocks, she screamed and slapped his hands away. But now, with womanhood panting on her, she craved the touch of a man. She had seen it on TV, how lips of Mexican folks met. She wanted that, it turned her insides to jelly. The driver, a young guy with raging blood, has his way with her. It pains her the first time but she craves for it more and more.
One evening, her employer asks her.


“Are you by any chance pregnant? You’ve grown plumpy of late?”

With that, the trajectory of her life changes. Ten years later, here she is prowling Nairobi streets. Three marriages down the drain.Two kids to make her wake up every morning.

The straw she is clinging on, a shaky music career.

A week ago, I stepped into Nairobi’s mini winter.  I had been holed up in Kisii for some time now. Avoiding anything to do with this concrete jungle. But Nairobi is Kenya’s heartbeat, it all goes down here. And whether I like it or not, this city is where I make it or fail. I don’t like Nairobi, never have, never will. People bumping into you in streets, a stranger is always trying to sell you something. Someone in a suit wants to sign you up an insurance plan or sell you cups. Come on! If I needed cups, I’ll go buy them. And look at me, I am a freaking university student, can I afford a damned insurance plan for Christ’s sake?

But then, everybody wants to survive. Everyone needs to make a living. He is a father with two kids, waiting for him to buy supper. His wife usually washes clothes to supplement his hawking income, but now, she’s due again. The little he makes in the unforgiving streets holds the fate of his family.

Anyway, I needed to attend some issues before I kissed the city goodbye. Because I am on holiday, and enjoying every moment in the misty, rain-soaked Kisii highlands. After I had done my thing, I loitered around Nairobi. Taking in the sights, seeing what was new. This weather is good for walking. Thus, with no particular goal in mind, I took in the city. With the hunger and spirit of a white explorer, I plunged into the alleys of this metropolis.

I was approaching the Hilton hotel, from Kimathi street, when this woman stopped me. I can’t forget the tired look plastered in her face. She was light skinned, naturally, not a product of mercury creams. Her hair was folded in braids, which stretched over her shoulder and some tied in a knot at the back of her head. A black dress covered the length of her body to her legs, where a pair of flats lay. She wore a dark green sweater over the dress.

She looked like someone’s mother, she resembled someone’s wife.  She stretched her right arm toward me, on it a CD. She had produced a collection of gospel songs and she wanted folks to buy it. I did not look at it for more than two seconds, I shook my head and sauntered away. A few metres, I turned and looked at her. She rolled on with the routine, stopping folks and showing them a CD of her music. And folks, just like me, would ignore her and walk on. Some would shake their heads and skip away. Others did not even bother to see what she was selling, they just waved her away before she approached.
I felt sorry for her.

I don’t listen to gospel, but should I have bought her CD? Oh yes, I could have bought it. Because as an artist, I understand what it takes to ground yourself and produce a work of art. It might not be a masterpiece to be revered by generations but the selflessness to give up everything. To believe in your own dream and produce art is something worthy. And how many people are courageous enough to walk in streets selling their art???

I could have bought her CD to encourage her that she was on the right path. And even though nobody believed in her dream, she did. And that alone, was enough to make her reach for the stars.  But I did not buy it, I was terribly broke and going through a rough patch personally. So, I watched from a distance as she did her thing and hoped that all goes well for her. Because in the field of art, nothing is guaranteed.  You will write yourself sick, or produce music, but then you might die unknown, uncelebrated. Your art might never be discovered. I hope she makes it in her music odyssey.


That interaction did not change me as a person, that would be so corny. It made me look at myself as an artist, inside out. It made me realise that as a writer, readers don’t owe me shit. One morning they can wake up and decide.

“You know what, that KINASISI guy, his stories are full of shit, I am not reading them anymore.”

And that would be it.

P.S.
We are sharing woman stories on the blog. Send in a word document, of between 1200-1700 words and we’ll publish you. On your terms that is, anonymity and privacy all in play.




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