OF BOYS AND MEN

I miss those days as a boy when holiday was holiday. I mean, if you made your own jerrycan pickup/lorry, built a house on a tree, played cha mama cha baba in the bushes, fished tadpoles and of course went swimming in the river when you had been told not to, then you know what am speaking about. Oh by the way, did you trap birds using basins? That is what am speaking about. Those days.

Today, such things don’t exist, at least from where I come from. All I see is young boys sitting infront of a tv screen, spending a lot of time on the social media and well, being sent to holiday tuition joints even though Matiang’i is against it. I see boys who are not boys, but are somewhere in the middle.

Growing up as a village boy, I knew there were some things boys did and could not do. Since I come from a true African family, by this I mean a large one, we used to look forward to family meetings where as boys we would be taught how to slaughter a goat or any other animal and spend evenings with our grandfather as he enlightened us on manliness.

Turning from a boy to a man was something mystical. There were so many stories as a boy you heard of that made one really want to be a man. To cross over and see what it’s like. Those who crossed to the other side stopped associating with you and changed completely. What made them change? There was something manly about them that no one could dispute.

Being a father was also something else. You became an elder and you had to change your behaviors. Did you ever hear of something like soda ya wazee? They had their own cups, plates and spoons, not to mention chairs. They also carried themselves with what is called Nyathi or honor. Never did I see my fathers and by fathers I mean anyone old enough to be called a father go to the honorable room. This was a top secret mission.

Well, those were the days. Today……

‘Parasite Renting’ in Nairobi

Whatever Ruto calls hustling and what I know as hustling I guess are two things like Uhuru and Joho. When my mother decided to visit his ‘city son’ last year to stay for a week, my blood-pressure was at an all time high.  If she had said two months earlier, I would have gladly welcomed her, but that is not how she works. Two weeks are enough to panga yourself and I couldn’t refuse. I mean, what do you tell your mother who believes you are the best son, a hard-working boy who ‘runs’ Nairobi since you send her a few coins when the good lord blesses your month? The guy who dresses like those ‘Afrosinema’ Ogas‘ she watches whenever the sun is too hot to go to that small shamba of hers?

I have been living in Nairobi through parasite renting. Now, if you don’t know what parasite renting is, here is how it operates. You see, as a shagz guy wanting to live in Nairobi, you don’t just come and settle. You are first introduced to your uncle who came to Nairobi and is ‘living well’. After 3-4 months you start ‘growing horns’ and your uncle decides you part ways before the clan is called to solve your dispute. This is where you look for that cousin of yours who is a hustler. He accommodates you and teaches you some in’s and outs of Nairobi. The only problem is after ‘working’ together, you realise he is taking the bigger share and you are doing the donkey’s work.

If you are smart enough, by now you know a few people and you stay with them for a month or two in the name looking for a job. By the time this stops working, you have a ‘place of your own’ paying a whooping ksh. 4000 in a place you cant take someone else apart from yourself. Since you are doing all sorts of jobs to make it, you need a small place to act as an office to see clients. To rent an office, in Nairobi is no easy job. If you need to see a serious client who is ready to pay your rent for the next three months, you need to meet them somewhere in uptown where you can be able to give them all the lies you know to convince them.

This is where you call that classmate of yours who is doing well, or knows that you can’t let them down if they introduce you to someone else. You borrow the office for one hour and you have to tell your clients to keep time since you have a very tight schedule. If the client is not as official, then you contact someone in down-town, let them know you have a client and you want to see. Good thing is, if these guys are your guys, they know you need to survive in Nairobi and they will gladly let you use their space, occasionally adding some business terms here and there to let your client know you are a ‘big guy’ in the industry.

So when the first lady of the county where I am the the third in command decided to pay me a visit, it took the intervention of friends and partners to be able to pull off. I ‘rented’ a friends house in Ruaka for a week, and kept mysef very busy that she never actually visited ‘my office.’ The ‘damage’ she left me will take some months to recover but I feel I did what every good son would do.