My favourite part of the movie ‘In pursuit of Happyness’ is when Will Smith — playing Chris Gardener — is walking down the streets in his baggy suit and he meets this gentleman in a red Ferrari, who’s just stopped getting ready to go to his office. Will stops him and says, “I have two questions for you: what do you do and how do you do it?”
He’s born in 1972 while Kenyatta is president. They are poor, the kind of poverty that doesn’t need an adjective to describe. But poverty was a common denominator in the village then, the rich were the odd ones out. His Mom is a dynamite. She’s the reason “when mama prays’ was written.
Soon, he’s supposed to start school. It’s the 20th century, there’s no kindergarten and sijui baby class and pre-primary. You just arc your hand over your head and touch the other ear. If your fingers don’t reach the ears, you’re not old enough to go draw on the sand and make chapati with mud. When his tiny chubby fingers touch his ears, he’s enrolled into nursery school. School is fun because it’s all play, dance and making pick-up trucks from wires and spectacle frames from maize stalks. There’s no homework and they go home at midday. He likes it.
Remember that photograph of a child on the brink of death from malnutrition and a vulture standing by like a chef who has just garnished their meal waiting for the feast? That photo still breaks my heart, probably because I’m a mom now and motherhood turns your heart into a dollop of emotions.
Do you sometimes write something and when you read it aloud, it just feels malnourished? Chances are there’s a heap of articles in your draft box that you haven’t dared post because you’re scared of the vulture. Every time you want to click ‘Publish’, you see the vulture, sinister, waiting to devour your little writing even before the netizens read. You even wish they’d troll you, since it’d mean someone took time to read your work. You close your laptop and go cut onions instead.
One of life’s greatest errors is to look at a child and imagine that they will amount to nothing – especially a child submerged in poverty. Poverty is one of the most convincing costumes; when a person is dressed in poverty, it masks any other attribute that they may have. You can’t even be wise and poor, it’s assumed that if you don’t have a mind to make money, you simply don’t have a mind. But a child is like a dormant volcano, you should expect anything.
You see a man, maybe a lawyer, sharp like a brand new razor and feisty like Bongo, the honey badger. He cuts his hair in those classy barbershops, which have got women hyperventilating every time their husbands go for a shave. But they are so good with the razor, he emerges from under their hot towels and silky hands looking like Michelangelo himself sculpted him.
He’s eloquent, shoots straight, and his life is straight like type 2A hair. He has already removed all the kinks from his life. He’s the kind of guy you’d think has no cares in the world. Even such a man, with his Armani suits, struggles with the imposter syndrome.
There’s a writer in you, buried in there somewhere. If you rearrange the furniture in your head, throw out the low-esteem couch, shake up the laziness carpet, and sort through the box of inconsistency and self-doubt, you’ll find them. They are probably buried right beneath the writer’s block pillow, suffocating, and getting mouldy.
They met at a prayer center. She always loved breaking her fasts at prayer centers, it felt like they had a higher concentration of heaven. We’ll call her Jojo.
Peter* was the kind of person who greeted people with “Praise the Lord!” He’d just exclaim ‘Hallelujah’ in a normal conversation. He was among the dying breed of people who don’t say “shit!” after every sentence. His showers always turned into full-blown Pentecost moments when he started singing.