I was alone in the apartment, sitting in a fancy chair that my roommate had bought for himself. I was browsing online, with my ancient laptop on top of this handsome wooden table that belongs to my other roommate, while good music filled the room, courtesy of a solid music system that wasn’t mine (in case you’re wondering, I do own something in this house 🙂 ). All my muscles were in a state of rebellion. Such was the pain that I had to sit in a special position that cannot be described using words. Taking a selfie was not an option. Phone barely had a back camera to write home about in the first place. I had spent the last two hours ferrying water in 20 liter Jerry cans to my apartment on the fifth floor. There were two 210 liter drums in the house, and filling them with water was my birthday present.
I am small (and young) for my age, and have been told many times by different people that I look more like a 15 yr old more than a 22 yr old. Which is good or bad, depending on which side you’re coming from. I have never taken body building seriously, which means that my arms resemble electric wires instead of meaty appendages that we’re supposed to believe make girls go wild with excitement. As such, carrying one Jerry can (mtungi) full of water could only be equated with attempting an assault on Mt. Everest. But it was either that or spending one week without water. The men and women who monitor the flow of water in my estate have forgotten that we are human beings, much to our collective chagrin.
I sat there, listening to good music as my body groaned and ached, happy that I had two weeks supply of water, glad to be free of the whims of the county council of Nairobi, if only temporarily. I thought about how it must feel like to be a slave, working all day and sometimes all night, without respite. I couldn’t wrap my head around it, for the work I had done must be a small fraction of what an ordinary laborer must do. Imagine doing that kind of work every day without ceasing, for years on end, without any light at the end of the tunnel. I thought about the old women who flock our apartment blocks, looking for work. Some of them wash clothes in such quantities that I would have broken my back a long time ago, had I been in their position.
These are some of the thoughts that occupied my mind on my 22nd birthday. However, there was a persistent refrain that connected all those weird thoughts in one beautiful strand: kill the boy. Kill the boy Karani, and let the man live.
Searching for the Hidden Justice
It is one thing to have a dream, a hope for the future that awaits you. It is quite another to actualize those dreams and hopes that you have. If you thought that the world would gladly open up like a flower and give you what you desire most, then you’re in for a rude shock. I got my first shock a long time ago, and they haven’t stopped coming since.
I have no idea what will happen to me in the next few weeks, when everything will be at stake. I have encountered setback after setback, and at times I have been close to giving up. Surely life cannot be this hard throughout? To my disbelief, I have discovered that I have it better than most. There are migrants right now on the shores of Italy and France, being treated like unwanted merchandise. There are people who worry about finding the next meal, day in day out. A countless number are fighting for their lives in hospital everyday, and some do not know where to get the money to pay for their medical bills. There are people living in conflict filled countries like Syria and Iraq, with death all around them. Burundi is in the middle of a political storm. America is reeling from another racially motivated attack, which is an act of terrorism (let’s call a spade a spade and not a big spoon, shall we?), which sounds similar to events back home. Large swathes of the human population would happily exchange my problems and circumstances for theirs.
All this has led me to see how insignificant my problems are. How ordinary I am. That the world, and indeed the universe, does not revolve around me. In fact, the earth is not that important in the grand scheme of things, and it was here years before I was conceived. String theory suggests that there we are a multiverse, a collection of different universes with different properties and possibly different lifeforms.
There are people who have put some serious thought about the presence of other lifeforms in the universe.
We are a tiny speck in the Milky Way galaxy, and our Sun is tiny compared to other giant stars that can be observed. There are wonders to behold that are beyond anything that we could ever imagine. 94-95 % of the universe is a mystery to us, hence why we have the terms ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’.
There are scientists thinking about the death of the sun, solar system and the universe (heat death) and what it could mean for life on earth. People make life changing decisions everyday, not because they like it, but because they have to.
And yet here I am, thinking that my problems are so big, so challenging that I should wrap myself up in a cocoon and yield. That is the boy thinking. That is the boy that must die. The man searches for that regulating factor that governs his life, that gives him his condition. The man uses the circumstances in his life to make himself and those around him better, stronger, more capable to adapt and thrive. This has been a sobering lesson. A never ending journey that has only just began.
On Friends, Society and Farming
The boy was naive, trusting and quick to warm up to people with hidden motives and agendas. Numerous interactions with humans of all shapes and shades have killed that boy. This man is more cautious. Still open, still honest, still forgiving, but more skeptical. Friends that added no significant value have been relegated to another level. The boy would have cut off all contact. The man realizes that one cannot survive in society without having connections, without having bridges that connect you to the rest of the world. Do not burn bridges, just don’t use them for some time.
The boy will hold on to the idea of loving that one girl who made his heart ‘stop’ when he first laid eyes on her. The boy will warm up to any girl who shows any sign of interest, curious to know what this love thing is, and how it would feel to enjoy it with someone ‘special’.
The man is different. He knows that men will always find women wherever they go, whatever they do. He is a patient farmer, carefully selecting his seed. He plants it in good soil, pours water on it and shields it from the elements as it germinates. He tends the flower that erupts, weeding and pruning it as is required. He deprives it of his attention when necessary, so that the flower can be strong without him, and still recognize his worth. The man knows that all this energy and work should only be given to the seeds that show great promise, even though they look like tiny mustard seeds.
Kill the boy and let the man live, and in the words of the school where this death started, natulenge juu (aim high).