Where is my mind?

It is a long lovely road. I can’t place it in any location. But its familiarity gives me a delusion of grandeur. Un-tarmacked and un-lit as it is, it is probably the most beautiful pathway I have ever known. Along it, there are never crowds of people rushing anywhere. The few who use it often seem to be slow and meticulous in their walking. They take measured steps and devour the whole experience with some deep sense of passion. It’s surreal. Occasionally, a guy in his thirties jogs in the opposite direction with earphones on and a hoodie covering his brain. He is probably the only person who always seems to be headed somewhere in a hurry.
A lady in her fifties likes using it too. She walks her dog along it. Her dog is called Pola. She talks to it at times. She asks it questions like “Why didn’t you eat your dinner last night?” Because in her mind a dog should never miss out on dinner. This is why some people wish they were dogs.
And there’s the little girl. She is always headed in the same direction as I. She often sings ‘Lay my burdens down by Ellie Holcomb’. Her voice is Messianic. We talk sometimes. But mostly we meet and just walk in silence. She is ten-ish agewise, meaning there is not much to usually talk about. The last time I asked her where she was headed. She pointed North and stayed silent. I asked her what she was going to do there and she said “I am going to do some digging before the planting season begins”.
“And what are you planning to plant?” I inquired. “Wheat” she replied. I looked at her small hands and told her that “It’s a sin to dig with these hands. They are the most beautiful hands I have ever seen”. She giggled like the little girl she is and magically disappeared. I walked some further kilometers. As I edged towards a bend, I heard some familiar sounds from birds that seemed distressed. I followed the sounds and noticed the changes in the surrounding. The air became crisper and pink flowers appeared to be everywhere. I pick up one and smelled it. It smelled of serenity. That beautiful smell filled my gut and settled deep in my lungs. Then I saw a grey door ahead. It looked brighter than a meteorite falling from a clear night sky. I tried moving closer but I couldn’t. Like gravity, a force pulled me backwards and a voice told me “be patient”.
Then I woke up from my dream. Frantically, I looked at the time. 5.39 a.m.  It’s Monday. That was the third night in a row I was having that dream. For some reason I don’t quite understand, it was identical in all the three scenarios. I tried getting some meaning from it but failed.
Interpreting dreams is definitely not a talent that God blessed me with. I asked around the house to see if anyone could possibly break it down for me piece by piece and you know…help me understand whatever it means. You never know this things. It might not just be a dream. It might be a grand revelation of an idea that would impact on civilizations to come. “We all know that God always chooses underdogs for these things” I told my mum as she set the table for breakfast.
Much to my chagrin, she thought that I was crazy. Or that I was probably having cabin fever because I had not left the house in so long. From her talk, I knew she was giving me no interpretation. I don’t blame her. She has more pressing issues to deal with like going to her weekly Chama meetings at my aunt’s place.
So I tried my younger bro. Who knows? Maybe he has some hidden talent in these things like Joseph from the Bible did. As I narrated this dream that I was on a mission to decipher, he kept checking his Whatsapp thereby sending me a subliminal message that I should wrap up narrating my boring dream. I knew he wasn’t going to help when he left me midway to go serve tea.
I could have tried my dad but nobody messes with that old man in the morning. He is not a morning person. He has never said it but we all know. He is usually quiet while taking tea. If he has something bothering him, he rants about it and we listen and pretend be shaken. If it is serious of course. When he tries a joke in the morning, which is like seeing the Sun rising from the West, we force laughs. Or at least I do. It’s only moral to laugh at an old man’s jokes even if they are not funny. They need to be reassured that they still got it. The humor. So I didn’t bother him.
Breakfast was a banana bread and tea. I took a tiny fraction then headed to the bathroom. Amerix says that a cold shower has numerous benefits…blah blah blah. It is highly suicidal to take a cold shower in this place at this moment in time. The cold temperatures make it feel like torture. Luckily, I don’t feel suicidal. So whenever I can, I use some warm water. Which is almost all the time.
Dad was going to town. I say to myself “perfect”. This is a good excuse to finally go for that Telkom line that I have been procrastinating on for what seems like years now. Perhaps, it might also be a chance to meet someone like Joseph from the Bible who can lighten my dream with some reasonable meaning. If indeed it was something grand, isn’t that what God could have wanted? For me to go out there and find out.
Because I am going to town with dad, some detours and stops are imminent. Ooh and my younger brother is coming too. He is like two or three years younger than me. Almost the same height as me and certainly with bigger eyes. When we are just about to leave, dad sees a friend. That’s bad news for us. We would have to wait another thirty minutes as they do some catching up. They roar in big laughter beneath their blue masks. Moments later, he goes to some M-Pesa agent and then back to the car. He gives me the key but I tell him that I am tired and my mind is exhausted so I can’t drive. He hands over the key to my younger bro whose excitement at driving remains unwavered for the longest time I’ve known him.
Off we go. The two of them are seated on the front. They are talking about cars. I am like “these two nowadays talk about cars?” Tired of hearing them debate the differences between a Rav 4 and a Peugeot or something of the sort, I put on my earphones and my mind drifts as far away as possible. My eyes are wide open but I see things. I see darkness at some point. Then I see the blue waters of the Pacific. And then a question pops up in my mind “What makes a shark the deadliest animal in the sea?” I mull at that for a while but can’t concentrate on it because my mind is already in Tibet. All over a sudden I am there at the Himalayas practicing meditation with some Buddha I saw in a BBC documentary. While there in Tibet interacting with the Tibetan people, I get to meet the current Dalai Lama and tell him that I am a great admirer and follower of his teachings.
Because my mind can’t settle anywhere, I am now in an arts class. I can’t place the country where the class is in but I see an old professor in an admirable cravat. He has a nice frame game. Designer specs I must say. He is in an old coat. The kinds that were worn by Winston Churchill as he gave his speeches during the Second World War. Ooh, he has a hat too. This man. He is a classy professor. His beard looks profound. His wisdom around the class is unchallenged. He teaches arts but it is not the normal art. It is dark arts. He says things like “Vengeance should be absolute and profound”. His class is packed by silent people with big notebooks. I sit at the back to be invisible but his message is weary to my soul so I leave through the back door.
My father taps me on the shoulder. We have reached town. “That was fast” I exclaim. The roads are clear these days. He says. “If you desire to go back home with us, meet us in the office at 2 p.m.” he adds as they head for the office while I walk to Telkom offices.
At Telkom, there isn’t much activity going on. Some two customers walk around scouting for phones to buy. A familiar song is playing from the overhead sound system. I Shazam it. Fix You by Coldpay. Yeah, I knew it was familiar. I am directed to an agent who caters for students from UoN by a smiley young lady with kindness the size of Jupiter. On reaching his desk, no pleasantries are exchanged. He seems to in a hurry to be done with me. But I realize he is nice. So I ask him a couple of questions. Like how their plan of using balloons to provide internet is coming along. And whether he knows a thing or two about interpreting dreams. This might be the guy to help me checkmate this whole situation. Sadly, he is not. Even if he was, it would be profoundly unprofessional to discuss such things at the workplace.
I leave at a few minutes to noon, having been sorted out. I feel thirsty and suddenly I hate my mask. It hurts my ears and makes me feel dizzy. But I’d rather put up with it than spend my days at a government quarantine facility. I want to call Georgian but I decide against it. Her workplace is a few meters away but I know with certainty that if I pay her a visit, I’ll miss the drive back home. Her stories never end. One story always leads to another which gives birth to another and another. God knows how angry she would be at me if she learnt that I was in her turf but never stopped by.
I head to Urban Coffee for a quick snack or two. Shock on me when I reach there. They relocated. Ok, now I feel devastated. I feel a pang in my chest. An ache in my heart. And sadness in my body. I was so accustomed to the place. Their relocation felt like a great betrayal. So I hopped into the Indian restaurant next door. At the far end of the room, I spot an acquaintance. I go over to her and say hi as I make my order. She is doing well for herself. She graduated from campus a year ago and now has a job in Milimani Resort.
 I later find a seat at the center but it’s hard to eat. My mind is unsettled. I stare at my glazed pork ribs with some sense of sympathy. They surely deserve to be eaten and looked at the way a groom looks at his bride.
After I pay old Masnur his dues, I take a walk towards the lake. They say in the media that its waters are rising. From where I stand, it is hard to tell. It looks calm and bright. A white boat can be seen from a distance. Beyond it, lie some hills that look like sleeping lions. It’s a magnificent distraction. A wonder to marvel at.
But as I later go back to catch my ride, my mind still seem far away. Many things go on in it. The dreams of course. Distant thoughts. Wild imaginations. And a whole lot of other things.
I ask myself “where is my mind?”

Jack is Back

I used to school at a place called Amani. Lore went around that it’s where Armani got his name from. You know the Armani I am talking about. Don’t you? Giorgio Armani. That Italian designer. These things are on the internet bana. You can Google and see. I rarely think about Amani. Or miss it. To some extent, I think that I was too young to make sense of most things that happened in my surrounding. Regardless, there are some little bits of memory that still linger in the deeper recesses of brain. I remember the teachers walking around with godly statuses. They had power. They could command you to pick litter or clean the compound and doing a shoddy job was out of question. The latter would be considered unruly behavior or treason and could be met with wanton shaming and punishment.

If memory serves me right, the boys gave the headmaster most headaches. This is not to say that the girls around were saintly. Certainly not. There were some who not only beat up their fellow girls but also engaged in fights with boys. Looking back, it’s comical just thinking of the things people fought about. A small quarrel could snowball into a shocking exchange of blows. But what is teenage hood without the fights, quarrels and little rebellions?  

Boys behaved like villains. Fighting was the name of the game. The winners were respected. The losers were shamed and shunned. It was the season of chaos. It was the age of rivalry. That sounds like something Charles Dickens would say. If Dickens were writing this story, he’d probably add that “We were all going to Heaven. And we were all headed to Hell”.

In these chaos of childhood, there was this young boy called Jack. Bloody brilliant boy. He always topped the charts in his class when most examination results were being released. He was the icon of genius. Looking back in retrospect, I can’t help but compare him to a young smart Lord Voldemort who mesmerized his professors at Hogwarts with sheer brilliance. Except that this was no Hogwarts. This was Amani and kids didn’t fly using broomsticks or learn charms or play Quidditch during term ends.

Jack was always the Jaguar Shark. A trait he carried to his adulthood. To which he has made good use of. There is, however, no denying that the young Jack Brian was one of the most chaotic boys I ever saw in school. Everyone knew him around. It’s hard not to know an intelligent boy who gives teachers headaches. One day he would be flagged for exemplary performance, the next day would be caught up in the fight of his life on the school pitch. With an indefatigable spirit, he colossally bestrode the school defining life for himself and charting a path less taken by many. He’d take on the big boys in arguments and expand his dominion over the small boys in equal measure.

With football being our lives back then, we played more ball than we studied. Our class was known for talent. We dominated the school league. My brother Frank’s class, which was ahead, was known for their physicality and for the hubris that they brought in the pitch. They never won fairly. They were exasperating and their shrewdness was vexatious to the spirit. I wonder where some of those chaps went to. People like Bena and Rashid. Bena was charming outside the pitch but a terrible monster inside the pitch. Rashid never knew the rules. He aimed for people’s legs instead of the ball. He gave boys lifetime injuries.

Then there was Jack Brian’s class. They all had one thing in common. They knew nothing about football. They suffered massive defeats in the hands of everyone. There was however one thing they knew best, causing chaos. A game would be on and Jack Brian or some other rowdy boy would say “Onge Bwana!” That was always a sign that hell had broken loose and that there was never going back. You knew that things would end up in the staffroom and that there would be consequences. But who cared. We were all young and daring. Living our best childhood lives without knowing.

Taking a mental journey to those past days obviously makes me nostalgic. But then Amani was a short-lived experience. Everyone was soon moving. To another school. You don’t always understand these things until you grow up. Later on, my parents would sit us down to tell us how our new school, Blossom Education Center, would be the springboard against which we would be propelled to great heights. We were obviously against the move. It’s not like that mattered. At that age, you never won an argument against an African parent. In fact, it’s still hard to argue successfully against an African parent. Unless of course, it’s on an issue regarding technology. That is the only time they listen to us keenly with their specs lowly hanging like those of Goat Matata.

Amani was gone. But the memories lingered. Blossom was our new home. My first day was nothing but bliss. I was startled by the many old faces. I had heard the rumors around that there would be a massive exodus from our previous school to this new one but I doubted. The rumors were true. The old gangs were back together. So were the old teachers. Led by the headmaster himself, a man still revered in the land for being a very strict disciplinarian. Ooh, did I mention that Jack was part of the exodus? He was there. Emboldened like never before. Ebullient like The Binj. He still had his signature laughter. A peal of laughter I can only compare to that of Denver from Money Heist. His laugh is truly an undefeated stroke of bliss.

The year was 2010. Jack was still Jack. Not even changing schools had changed him. His ingenuity showed in every prize giving day. He didn’t need no adapting to a school. Or so it appeared. He was going places. He was the kind of student teachers talked about in the staffroom in hushed tones with great pride. Everyone knew that he was a prospect. Or ‘a national school material’ as some teachers used to say.

He was cheeky and smart. We had known each other for a while by then. We would have mundane conversations about mundane things. He tells me that my friend Jeff and I bullied him but I don’t remember that. I was never a bully. I was a darling of everyone. (You should all believe this). With age comes courage. Jack was soon hitting on girls in our class. Can you believe this audacity of this boy? We were a year ahead of them but that never deterred him. He was ahead of time in everything. Not even the class difference was a barrier to him.

He was unstoppable. Ooh, and the girl he was hitting on was the head girl of our time. Not just any girl. He caused some ruckus around when he sent her a very beautiful success card at the onset of KCPE examinations. Sometime last year, I asked this head girl, who is still a good friend of mine to date, what she thought of Jack’s move.  “I liked that. It was daring and exhibited so much confidence. Besides, the card was beautiful” she said. Jack Brian was always a wonder kid. Making moves nobody ever made and venturing into territories which everyone steered clear off. He was saving to buy success cards for girls at a time when we saved to buy Jackie Chan movies.

I left Blossom in 2011. Jack would leave it a year later in 2012. A whole world of memories was left there. A bunch of cheeky escapades. A string of endless feuds. A host of funny moments. A myriad of clashes with the teachers. A cocktail of happiness and sadness. A season of endless possibilities. We had it all. We devoured the experience like an oyster. We were sad when the end came closing in but we had no regrets. I have never met any of my former schoolmates who wished they had done anything differently. It was a full-blown experience of schooling and living with no formula.

Maseno School came in 2012 for me. I always felt that my admission there heralded the beginning of something grand. They promised to turn us into men and they did. If Blossom was the wonder then Maseno was the miracle. Fast forward to my sophomore year in high school, I found myself helping new entrants (form ones) as the norm dictated. When I saw Jack Brian coming in sandwiched between his parents and making their way through the main gate, I was like “No way. Are you spying on me?” If only I had known at the time that a similar scene would play out years later in February 2018 at the University Of Nairobi School Of Law, I would have been certain that he is a spy sent out by some dark forces to collect data on me.

Maseno was undoubtedly exhilarating for him than me. He made new friends fast. In no time, he had reconnected with Vinnie and Ian, some two chaps we studied with in primary school. Vinnie was not the same Vinnie everyone knew in ryma. Whatever happened to Vinnie only he knows. He was still nice though. At least that’s what I saw. Jack wouldn’t say the same. Ian was a different kettle of fish altogether. He seemed to have found his path. He a model student. Someone your mother could tell you to follow his footsteps or to befriend. Vinnie became the boy your parent would instruct you to stay away from by all means. Jack almost veered off to the wrong path but His Father Who Art in Heaven always brought him back to the right lane.

When we left Maseno, we were men. After years of perseverance and being part of that unique experience it was imminent. High school has low moments and high moments. One moment you’re clashing with prefects, the next moment you’re writing a letter to a girl over at Kenya High who is probably thinking of someone else. Jack knows a thing or two about this experience. God knows how many night preps he spent writing letters to a girl in Kapsabet Girls. While all that was vanity, there’s no denying that all those tiny details shaped who we all are today. Someday, Jack will tell his grandkids that he got heartbroken when he received a letter ending with “Have a nice life”. His grandkids would never understand because the coming generations will not revere men of valor, courage and honor.

I left Maseno for law school after my father miraculously convinced me that Law is better than Software Engineering. It would be great deception on my end to say that I grew up with a burning desire to be a lawyer like my friend Masiga. When Masiga was born, his grandfather held him on his arms and said “Behold, my grandson would be an advocate. He would be the voice of the voiceless.” A part of that magnificent prophecy might never come to fruition because Masiga is astronomically headed for the corporate world. Somebody else in that family will have to be the voice of the voiceless.

A year later while in Parklands, Jack showed up. Even his parents had known me then. They know me as the guy who has schooled with their son everywhere. Interestingly, we come from the same place.

Schooling aside, Jack is a very decent human being. A brother and friend of the highest class. His domineering spirit is still visible in many aspects of his life. When he puts his mind to something, he can work magic. He is the guy who will any day save a drowning friend in stormy waters instead of heading for the safety of the dock. He drinks though. A little. For the love of fine wine and to appreciate the artistry of brewing.  He is not the kind who goes home wasted to his parents and says things like “You guys look familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?” Above all, he is a responsible firstborn. Or rather being a firstborn has instilled some sense of responsibility in him. I know that if it were up to him, he’d have chosen the comfort of being the last born. But what is that saying about what to do when life gives you lemons? He has made the best lemonade there is with the lemon he was given.

Ooh. Did I mention that God gave him an angel in the form of Tracie Minik Larmoi? His girlfriend is a truly kind and genuine person. She’s become family. And they say that family is everything.
The boy who used to carry mandazis in his pockets and eat boiled maize by the roadside is now a fine gentleman. He isn’t as successful as he desires yet. But he is chasing success like a hound in the wild chases a deer. We all know there’s only one outcome.

I don’t know what inspired this title Jack is Back. Some things we can’t just explain in this life.

PS: I want to tell my grandfather Michael Okungu that he was a great man, wherever he is.

Melody in a Cage.

Her eyes were hazy. She felt her neck twitching. Her body lay there still and spent. Her mind was so far away. She thought about Monica. Where could she be right now? She thought about the Dance of the Full Moon. Was it still the peak of youth life in Lisby? Suddenly she remembered Ricky and her smile faded away. Her mind raced through the years and her heart skipped. She stared deep into the horizon at the ray-less sun that was headed for a well-deserved rest after a whole day of gliding through the blue sky. She marveled at the ingenuity of nature.

She thought of all the days she had wanted to be a Planetary Scientist and how it had all faded into oblivion after a deep conversation with her drunk father. What kind of Planetary Scientist could she have been? She was certain she would have loved studying stars. She loved watching stars. She had read books about them. She knew about Sirius and how it shone brightly on clear nights. She could spot Polaris from their little farmhouse in Lisby. Why had she let go of that burning desire to unearth the mysteries and beauties of the skies above?

There were noises around but they seemed so distant. Her mind was still miles away. The sun had now sunk and given way for darkness that was slowly taking stage. She would still leave the window open as she did every day. She loved the fresh air that came with the cold nights. The window was her most prized possession. She’d not live a single day without it. She used it not just to see the Sun retire but also as a special connection to humanity. Her rule was to never close it at all costs. She had had bad dreams about that window. Of course there were good ones too. There are days when she had premonitions of her window being sealed forever by some unknown forces. She would proceed to get bad dreams then wake up to find it still there. She’d clean the sweat out of her face and stay awake to the small hours of the morning then go back to sleep.

Her father was long gone. Hit and run. It happened nine years ago but the memory still lingered like a threatening auctioneer. It was as fresh as the tulips that bloom their way from March to May. She cursed the idiot who ran over her father. As distant as they were, he was still her father. As wasted as he often got, he was still her blood. He had not always been that way.

The doom in his life started when his wife Shirley abandoned him for a wealthy gold merchant years ago. It was a blow he never recovered from. How dare her, he would mumble in the house. How dare she left him with a little girl to single handedly take care of. How could she abandon them? He had loved her with all his heart. He had cherished her. He loved her body. He had said all the right words. He had told her of how her skin was so smooth and flawless that he could plant roses on them. He had taken her to The Mist, a karaoke spot, and sang to her from the depths of his lungs and heart. He had taken her for hikes and conquered altitudes with her. They had risen in love both emotionally and physically. Or so he thought. Then a wealthy gold merchant with an ugly face and a broken smile wrecked all that apart. She hadn’t even thought about her little daughter.

On his last day, the day of the accident, he shed tears of regret. As drunk as he was, he knew that it was the end. But that’s not what scared him. He had died the day Shirley left. He had regrets about not being the father he should have been for Melody. He had turned to the bottle with shameless abandon and drunk his sorrows away at the expense of her sweet little princess. At that point, there wasn’t a single thing he could do. He hoped that her aunt Monica would keep taking care of her and showering her with immeasurable love. He had then mumbled a prayer for her and passed on.

For some reason she couldn’t understand, Melody thought so much about her father lately. In one of her good dreams, she saw him dressed in a Pal Ziler suit. He walked and smiled with an air of importance. He smelled fresh and nice. He wore Aventus Creed, a perfume he had once loved so much. They held hands savouring their father-daughter moment. Then he told her “There’s something I need to tell you Melody.” She had woken up all sweaty from the dream. She burst into tears and let them flow undisturbed. She said to herself “Damn you father!! Did you have to die to be close to me? Why are you present in my dreams now but you couldn’t be in my life?”

She sobbed more as she stared through her window. She then thought about her daughter and for a moment she froze. Lindsey was her name. She had named her after Lindsey Stirling, the famous violinist who did powerful choreographed violin performances. She missed her Little Lin, as she called her. Would she be able to ever see her again? Had she even recovered? Would she be affected by what happened to her when she grew up or would it miraculously be etched in the bad pages of her history and be forgotten? Little Lin now stayed with her aging Auntie Monica. Poor Monica. She had taken care of Melody all those years after her mother left and father turned into a lazy drunk. And now she was taking care of Melody’s daughter.

To Melody, her whole life was a mistake. In retrospect, she reflected at the cards life had dealt her and concluded that the world could have been much better had her family not graced it in the first place. Her whorish mother was long gone. Probably drinking some fine ale in a bathtub right now, she thought. Her father had reclined deep inside the seat of misery. She wasn’t any better. That family was a terrible mistake, she said to herself as she got up her bed for the first time in what seemed like ages.

Four walls surrounded her. The space inside was small. Thank God she was not claustrophobic. She reached for a pen as she tossed aside the novel she had been reading into the pile beside the reading table. It was HARRY POTTER AND DEATHLY HALLOWS by JK Rowling. She looked at it a while longer. There was a sudden rush of joy inside her that didn’t last long. She loved the ending. It was definitely her best of the series of seven books. If she were to choose her favorite character she would choose Neville Longbottom for reasons best known to her. Generally, she loved anything Gryffindor.

As she held the pen to her hand, she got a piece of paper and started writing the letter she had so much dreaded.

Dear Little Lin, 
I love you so much. You are my first child. And the only one I will ever have. I hope that by the time you will be reading this letter, you will be big enough to understand why I did what I did.

I don’t intend to write so many words. So let me get straight to the point. The reason I am away from you is because I shot a man. I took a shotgun and aimed at him then blew his brains out. I was not born a murderer. Circumstances forced me to be a murderer. The man was called Ricky. He was a fairly successful man with a wife and a job. He defiled you and your young cousin Sameen. Unlike you, Sameen passed on. You survived but with a lot of injuries. To say my heart was broken is a big understatement. It literally shattered to pieces and I knew I’d never pick the pieces back.

A court trial ensued after we reported the matter to the authorities. Despite your Auntie Monica catching Ricky red handed in the act, he somehow managed to manoeuvre his way through the criminal justice system and get out. I remember being in the courtroom and staring at the defense attorney, a cold hearted man, flaunting legal principles and Latin words while dismissing the prosecutor as having no case. I lost it when the case was dismissed and Ricky walked out free.

I had to get justice for you and Sameen. I bought a shotgun and like I told you, I sent him to hell.

Lin my dear. Everything I did was for love. My love for you. Also I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing that animal Ricky walking scot free. My heart could never have lived with that. I have no regret at all. I could do it all over again.

With love,
Melody, Your mum.

Melody fought back her tears as she folded the letter. She later slipped it to one of the friendly guards to mail it to her aunt Monica. She stood straight and felt her back ache. She dressed up and gave the place one last long look. She walked over to her beloved window and closed her eyes then inhaled the fresh airs from the low lying hills. She could tell that Spring was ushering in the Summer. There was a knock on her door. It was time. The Grim Reaper had come.

The walk along the corridors seemed endless. A group gathered in the yard. A bell rang and everyone was now staring in her direction. She could see sorrow written all over their foreheads. Some waved. She saw Edna in the crowd. Ed looked tired. Weighed down by prison life. She’d miss her, she thought. Edna nodded and she nodded back.

The guards around led her inside the prison’s most dreaded room. Quickly, they removed her chains. She sat carefully. She closed her eyes. Her father was once again on her mind. This time round he seemed to be calling her. The Pal Ziler suit was gone. He now wore a fitting Dormeuil Vanquish. His face was expressionless. He was also motionless. She thought about Little Lin. Tears swelled her eyes as the voices in the room got distant and distant.

The electric chair came to life.

A chilling and excruciating pain populated her body as she breathed her last.

The Storm is On: Life in the age of Coronavirus

 A virus from the city of Wuhan in China has somehow managed to find its way to all corners of the world. You gotta give credit to globalization for this. When Nicholas Tesla told us ages ago that the world would become a global village, he probably meant it on a more positive note. Years later, in 2020, we find ourselves in a global crisis. The novel Coronavirus is ravaging the world like a kite in a stormy weather. It’s putting all the previous pandemics to shame, towering above them like a behemoth.

Had everything been normal, most people in countries around the world be in the middle of Spring reeling from the best that the season has to offer. They’d probably be enjoying flowers bloom across landscapes and savouring the more hours of daylight. All these have now been hampered by necessary lock downs, curfews, restrictions and the stay at home orders in various places. Things get worse each day. They’ll probably be like that for a while.

The whole universe seems to be at a standstill. From the US in the West to Tulavu in the East. From the Arctic in the North to the Cape of Good Hope in the South. As I write this, “India is travelling home”. On 24th March, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a lock down that sent the country with its one billion population into an unexpected frenzy. People have been walking literally from the Capital of New Delhi to their rural homes (miles away) in places like Madras and West Bengal. They can’t access any means of transport because of the lock down. That leaves them with no choice but to trek hundreds of miles. Some journalists have described their mass migrations from the capital as similar to the “Biblical mass exodus of the Israelites from Egypt to the promised land.”

My heart goes out to Italy and Spain. These countries with their elderly populace have suffered most from the pandemic. Record figures of the number of deaths keep streaming in from the two countries. It’s painful to watch.  A few days ago, the image of a middle aged man solely attending the funeral of his mother shattered our hearts. It was just him, a priest and his dead mother. My mum shed a tear for him. My father mumbled a prayer for him. I stared at the screen helpless. It is depressing.

The United States, with all its might, is also fumbling its way through COVID-19. A $ 2 trillion dollar economic stimulus package approved by Congress recently might get them out of a looming recession but they still have Donald Trump to contend with. Ratings and stock markets are so dear to that man more than the lives of  the Americans he lead. They just have to deal with him though. He was their electoral choice. As Makau Mutua says “Democracy is sometimes garbage”. Through democracy you can get such sinister leaders. Just like the Third Reich did with Adolf Hitler, the killer of six million Jews.

Here at home in Kenya, we silently know that the worst is yet to come. We are optimistic though. Optimism is a good thing. Hope is not something new around especially now that our country has experienced evils of governance worse than the current pandemic. We are always hoping for better days. Our health system was overstretched way before the virus found its way into the country. If the British NHS is crumbling in the face of this novel virus, how deep will ours sink once we start experiencing surges in the number of positive cases?

Away from how the situation has exposed the governance systems of different countries, there’s an obvious personal toll that it has on everyone in their individual capacities. Just weeks ago, everything seemed so normal and everyone looked so invincible. Or at least they thought. The seismic shift must be felt. At least for a while. Not so long ago, I was bracing myself for a CAT I had not read for. My mind was preoccupied with things like compiling assignments and organizing group meetings. I now look back in retrospect not with amazement but with some serious form of disbelief. Those things now seem so small within the spectrum of this crisis. As I reflect on them, it feels like they happened ages ago now.

With the curfews and the stay at home guidelines in place, more days are spent indoors than ever. Physical isolation is the new normal. It leaves people grappling with what they can do to keep their days lively and anxiety-free.

I have never had a problem isolating myself. But the idea of having the whole family in isolation is new and terrific. Especially now that it will go on for days which appear to be endless. As scary as it is, I have to admit that it has its own fun moments. Before the plague, I couldn’t think of any single time when my father sat still in the house from morning to evening. Now, he buries himself in newspapers and sometimes convene us for boring stories that we have no option but to listen to. There’s nowhere to run to. His sense of humor is straight from the Paleolithic period. So archaic. None of us get his jokes. He makes jokes that don’t make people laugh. Even my mother struggles to catch humor in his jokes after all these years.

When I am not listening to my parents’ unfunny stories, I read the New York Times to get a glimpse of what is going on around the world. I also read the local dailies for some dose of the how the situation is unfolding in the country. The virus has never felt so close home. Somehow, it found its way to Siaya which is neighboring our beloved Kisumu County. Siaya and Kisumu are like twin sisters with, of course, Kisumu being the beautiful twin. It’s probably just a matter of time before a case is confirmed around here.

There is no sign of normalcy returning any soon. We will all just have to find ways to deal with anxiety and to keep our synapses firing. In some recent piece I read from the Times, a clinical psychologist recommends some daily social interactions with friends over social media or calls to help maintain some outside connection to the world. This works. I’ve tested it. I do get occasional calls and text messages from a few friends and family members. We chat over days past and tell plans of the future, in case we survive. 

David Perell, one of my best philosophers ever, has this to say about friends “Trusted friends magnify the shine of life. In turbulent times, they smoothen the ride. And in moments of joy an ecstasy, they make the world a richer and more saturated place. In that way, friends are like a trampoline. They soften the fall, so we jump like a Marvel Superhero.” We’ll all need those friends during this crisis. For the connection and to know that we are in this together. (Are you getting me loud over there at the back Michael Kutu?)

Yesternight, I fell asleep reading the book of Nehemiah. Then I woke up today at 3 am to finish it. A day before that I had been on phone with Josh asking him what 12 year old kids like him are doing while staying at home. Well, it turns out that young Josh is the kid who is taking time to read Bible stories. In the course of our small Bible chat he told me that Nehemiah is his hero. I asked him why because ordinarily you would expect a little boy like him to be a huge fan of King David.  He refused to tell me why. He told me to read the Book of Nehemiah for myself. Kids of these days got plenty of guts. I couldn’t argue. After all, I got free days like never before. Moreover, there wouldn’t be any harm improving my Bible knowledge.

So I read the book of Nehemiah. I didn’t even know that it was the last of the Historical Books in the Bible. Nehemiah’s father was called Hacaliah (If you knew this, raise your hands in my inbox).  As I turned the chapters, I realized that the guy is one of the underrated heroes in the Bible. During his time, a king lived called King Artaxerxes I Longimanus. That sounds like the name of someone who can be hired to be an Arsenal manager. Like all kings in the Bible, Artaxerxes was a very powerful man. So powerful that Nehemiah himself was his cup bearer. I googled what that meant and found that it was a position of very high rank in the past. For one to have been a cup bearer during those ancient times, he must have been very trustworthy. His primary duty was to serve drinks at the royal table.

As I read the words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah, I learnt that he got so much heartbroken on hearing from his brother Hanani that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the gates destroyed by fire. These are the kind of things that broke the hearts of men in the Bible. Nehemiah is probably turning in his grave because of the things that break the hearts of men in this era. Reading on, I saw how Nehemiah asked for the King’s permission to go and rebuild the walls. That must have taken some courage considering how kings were powerful during that time. Actually they still are. (Oooh and now that we’re talking of kings. The King of Thailand is currently self-isolating with some 600 concubines at a hotel in Germany).

Rebuilding the walls was not easy for Nehemiah. He met some fierce opposition from people with names like Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite. Nehemiah must have seen it all. As strong as the opposition was and as terrific as the names of the opposers were, he somehow managed to “stop their reggae.” He gave an arousing speech to the Jews on how the Hand of God was upon him till he somehow managed to convince them to rebuild the walls within 52 days.  As I progressed my reading, I reached a point where Ezra and Nehemiah became the dynamic duo and started reestablishing religious order in Jerusalem. They cast out all the foreign influences and purified the city as they awaited the return of the Jews from exile.

Later on as I talked to Josh again, I asked him the same question. Why Nehemiah? I still wondered why the little boy admired a King’s cup bearer. Besides, I wondered how he was able to understand the message in the book. The language gave me a rough time.  It turns out he has a Children’s Bible with simple language and clear illustrations and drawings. It appears that he also watched a pastor on television recently urging Kenyans to take their cares to God in prayer especially during this time of Coronavirus. The pastor categorically said that God will answer your prayers like he did those of Nehemiah.  I still wasn’t convinced by his reason but just decided to let the matter rest. Well, that’s quarantine life. It shows you things. Josh’s hero is Nehemiah. Lovely indeed. All hail the King’s cup bearer.

Coronavirus will go away soon. With guys like Dr. Anthony Fauci working on a vaccine, all we can do is HOPE. But for now, take the health directives seriously.

When it all ends, let’s convene here and sing ‘The Storm’s Over by R. Kelly’ (It’s too bad R. Kelly is facing a possible a life sentence of 104 years for sexually assaulting a minor)

Stay safe people. Good luck and Godspeed. To all of us.

This man, Sam Ogendo

Sam Ogendo is my homie. We come from the same neighborhood. I know their place. He knows our place. If I sling a stone with my full might, there’s a very high chance that it might land in their home. I know his siblings and he knows mine. My dad and his dad are buddies. Sometimes when my dad calls, he asks me how “Wuod Ogendo is doing in campus”. Each time I remind him that Sam wuod Ogendo finished campus long ago. He keeps forgetting. I can bet on anything that the next time I go home he will still ask me about Sam. And of course remind me how close he is to the father.

Sam Ogendo and I were in the same primary school. I might have little recollection of that period but there are still some few memories that linger occasionally. I remember him as this boy who was calling the shots around and commanding the masses to his will. I know his aura intimidated even some of the teachers. He was many classes ahead of me at the time. Unlike today, back then we just had occasional chats. I was a silent lone kid and he was the ebullient Sam who everyone knew in school. Those two extremes rarely meet. And of course he was a football star. Being a football star was a great deal back then. It earned you the respect of your peers and adoration from the girls around. 

Football was life back then. Of course it still is for Sam. Sam was and is still a respectable footballer in the neighborhood. He is fanatically in love Manchester United. For him, Man U is a religion with a delightful history never seen before in any other team. He sees them as the Rulers of English Football.  During holidays, when everyone is at home, we usually gather at some hall to enjoy peaceful weekends of watching The Premier League and telling tales of the past. That's how kinship is strengthened over there. 

At the moment, Sam is on his journey towards becoming an advocate. He has finished the Kenya School of Law and is doing his pupillage. He does many other things too. He was once the president of Nyakach University Students Association. He recently founded the Ogendo Foundation which to me is an idea whose time has come. Sam and I had one of our little many chats from which he agreed to show the world a glimpse of his perspectives on a number of issues.

Hello Sam. We’re in February. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt on the first month of 2020?

I define myself. I choose who to be. It’s only me who can dust myself off and above all, God’s timing rests on all our intentions and plans.

If you had to pick a heading for your life, what phrase would you go for?

On To The Next. The phrase keeps me going despite the few challenges.

What fears do you have at age 25?

I’d say trusting anyone with my plans. I fear betrayal. Most times I just soldier alone because of this.

Have you been betrayed in recent times?

Yes (mild laughter).

How does that feel like?

The worst feeling ever.

We went to the same primary school remember? Do you have any recollection of my life as a kid there?

Yeah. Of course I do. You were that silent kid who’d smile at anything and everything.

What would you tell to your younger primary school self if you had the chance?

Stop being cheeky. Stop making a lot of noise in class. Don’t be rude to teachers.

Did you see yourself becoming a lawyer back then?

Yes I did.

Do you love it being a fourth born ?

Absolutely. This is my second victory after winning the sperm race mazee. (chuckles)

Your love for your sister is something I’ve always admired. How do you think we as brothers should strive to provide the best growth environment possible for our sisters?

Be the best friend that she needs. Be her cheerleader. And at any point encourage her during the low moments. Give her a pat on the back for small victories and remind her that you’re always there to protect if all goes South.

Tell me about The Ogendo Foundation. What do you guys do over there?

Well, it’s at the lactating stage. I’m still ironing out some issues to do with compliance. But generally, the foundation strives on improving lives. Education, gender based violence and mentorship programs are some of the core issues that revolve around its conception.

What was the inspiration behind its formation?

The idea came after I’d served as the NUSA chairperson. I kept asking myself how I could keep serving and impacting on people’s lives beyond NUSA. The foundation was the answer.

Keep up the good work

Thank you.

What goes on in your mind at the end of each day while lying on your bed right before sleep sets in?

I count my wins and losses for the day. I also pray for Man United. Then I ask the Lord for a better tomorrow.

Talking of football, where does your love for soccer spring from? How did it all start?

In 2005, while in primary school, I had a desk mate called Frank Njoga. He would tell me stories about Man United. Everything. He had this magazine that seemed to have everything about the team. He profoundly spoke of the team’s greatness. Those were the golden days of George Best and the like of Ruud Van Nistelrooy as well as the great David Beckham. He also kinda flattered me that I played like Rooney. Ever since that period, I fell in love with football and with Man United.

That’s quite some story. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Managing my Law firm and coaching some team. I want to enroll for a coaching course. I also know that I’ll be someone’s father. I just don’t who the mother of that person will be. I’ll know very soon though.

Do you usually make plans or you just let things unfold in life?

I make plans. I have a plan for my life.

What does home mean to you?

Home means Happiness, Peace of mind and love. It’s the first place I always want to be when I’m low, frustrated and drained. Home is the centre of my being. It calms all my nerves.
Other than that, I also consider home to be a person. Someone who lights me up. Someone who sees the best in me and corrects me blatantly. That’s my HOME.

What keeps you waking up each morning, even on those roughest of days?

The urge of winning. And the idea of one day not telling my daughter/son that “your dad gave up on life or that your dad quit when things got tough”. I always want to strive and soldier on regardless of how challenging life gets.

Is love something you want to pursue this year?

I would say yes and no. Wacha ikuje venye itakuja. (Chuckles)

Do you have any last words for you reader as we wind up?


Go right ahead then. They are all ears.

You’re the queen on your chessboard of life. You’re the most powerful and when taken out, the king’s chances of surviving are close to zero. Define and command your chessboard. Above all, trust in the Lord.

Thank you Sam.

Pleasure is all mine.

Dear ATP Class of 2020

By Scola Aoko

Dear you,

Congratulations on your graduation and subsequent admission to the Kenya School of Law. You’re about to begin quite an exciting and challenging journey.

Having been there myself, I thought it wise to give you a few insights through a letter, and I hope you will find this a useful guide as you go through the year.

Getting a complete pass is doable and you should go for the win from the word go. In this letter, I also include prayers and good wishes amongst the many things you need to align this year.

Here are 30 guideposts that you can refer to during your training:-

1.      Many ways will be postulated to you, but, whatever happens, make the Advocates Training Program your own experience.

2.      Guard your mind jealously. The Kenya School of Law battle has to be won in the mind first.

3.      Believe in something higher than you.

4.      Read FAM, Read! Please do yourself this favor. Hata tuition ikibidi enda.

5.      Begin early. Shida ya ATP ni lots of information to process within a short period of time. It will end faster than you think.

6.      Be open to learning. Some quotas have said that there is nothing ATP will teach you, but I say drop your prejudices and open yourself to learning, the whole mix (unlearning, learning and relearning)

7.      I wish you teachability, always remain teachable.

8.      I pray that you get a good class, with good lecturers. Because contrary to popular belief, it matters the class you are in and the lecturers that teach you.

9.      Trust me on this; there are certain classes not worth attending. (Yes, I said it!!) Prepare to teach yourself most things and begin early.

10.  If Mr. Kimwele teaches you LPM, Ms. Anastacia Probate don’t even bother showing up. (I was only in one class, I wish I had a full list LOL!! But these two are notoriously a pure waste of time)

11.  Still on classes; do yourself a favor and attend Mr. Crispin’s, Mr. Simiyu’s and Ms. Kungu’s classes from the onset. Alternatively slot some time to catch up.

12.  Haya, then there is that presumption that you understand Probate and Administration from your Law of Succession in campus. Leave that at the gate please. Be humble and find where Ms. Rose Ruto teaches and religiously attend her classes.

13.  I pray that you get a good firm, because FAM, you need a good firm. Desperately so.

14.  In your firms, begin to identify the patterns of the people you are working with early enough and start cutting your losses if need be. Unless you want to be compiling minutes on the last day of project submissions.

15.  It is often said that the Bar exam is passed at Kenya School of Law. Good orals and project marks will give you better leverage. They may not guarantee a pass, but I still say just score highly from the word go.

16.  TBVVH orals is sheer luck. What you need is a good panel, which will ask you doable questions that bring the best of your knowledge LOL! And how is this not luck?

17.  Get a group discussion and begin revisiting past papers early enough. Si mumewahi sikia Iron sharpens Iron? Go for the win and pair up with the best in the variety. Try as many pairings as you can until you settle.

18.  Make friends, not networking. I mean organic friendships. Take a genuine interest in people and their lives.

19.  ATP has a way of reinforcing cliché principles, things like practice, consistency, trying and discipline. Pay attention to the little things, kwanza I think this is the point I should say LWD is petty.

20.  Practice! Practice! Practice! Especially for the drafting units, draft all possible things there are to draft in the 9 units.

21.  I pray you get a good place to stay, make rent in time, not lack for food and transport to get to school. And as for family and friends I hope they will accord you the most important love language you need this year UNDERSTANDING.

22.  I wish you immense peace of mind. Nothing short of it.

23.  Be a student, enjoy the student life with its burdens and privileges. Live in the moment, find things to relish in, in the routine. Just open yourself to feeling.

24.  Cry. Give integrity to your healthy feels.

25.  There are days you will wake up and not feel like moving. First, it will be normal, don’t fight the feeling. But don’t dwell either. After you are done feeling awful, wake up, shower, dress up and show up.

26.  Rest. Rest is really underrated these days and in a world where people pride in not sleeping enough.  Please sleep. A well-rested mind is a productive mind.

27.  Laugh often, a good laugh.  Then don’t forget play. This school can be grim some days.

28.  Begin looking for Pupilage early. My god, the rat-race may make you reconsider law school altogether and being a stripper may seem a good idea after all.

29.  Don’t pride in looking prepared, it’s not over until it’s over darling. Never stop wanting to be sure, don’t stop.

30.  In the end, let be that you fought, and even if things don’t go your way, because sometimes they just fail to, learn to be kind to yourself.

All the best as you begin your training at Kenya School Law.

Just a day at a time no? Cheers to new beginnings!!

Warmest regards,

Scola Aoko

Where is my mind?

It is a long lovely road. I can’t place it in any location. But its familiarity gives me a delusion of grandeur. Un-tarmacked and un-l...