When the first of the long rains of May 1994 hit the ground in Kinangop, Central Kenya, everybody ran to their houses for shelter. One man and his wife did not just take cover from the rains. Nine months later a baby boy was born. They called him Thuku wa Muthui, and he called them Baba na Mami (Father and mother). That boy was me. As I grew, I was intrigued by my environment, which apart from being cold and peaceful, seemingly held something in the air. Abruptly, someone would die, the next day a child was born, a couple would fight today and tomorrow another would get married. I went to school and the thing in the air only intensified blindingly. Before long I understood what was in the air, it was a story.
So I fell in love with both stories and girls. The small girls in school who giggled gibberish and the big girls in the form of teachers of English who wore Shirley May perfumes and short skirts. I loved the stories more. During lesson breaks I played dangerous games with the boys. At times we would turn our eyelids inside out and run around like black devils scaring little children away. My mother didn’t approve it though.
“Inyui! You will lose your eyesight soon,” she threatened and we would play another not very good game.
The rains in Kinangop fall for many months. The children are forced to stay indoors to escape catching cold or being hit by lightning. Haha.
“Mutitige guthaka mburaini kana munyite buroko kana mugothwo ni ruheni!” It was never a request.
My parents shaped our literacy world at a very tender age by investing in books. Well, they were government teachers at the local primary school hence they could get some books for a home library. In the books, I found characters like Njamba Nene, Moses and Mildred, Tom and Mary, Mejjah Mwangi’s Kariuki and the Little White Man. They became my heroes, I stopped playing out more and escaped into my subtle world of warm African Tales. Life got encrypted in my mind as one big jungle full of adventures. If my characters stayed in one place for so long, I would peruse through the pages quickly to a setting of itinerancy. Growing up, I’ve come to appreciate that life’s important lessons are learned on the go.
Occasionally we would go to our city, Nairobi. This was when my father needed to fetch stock for his clothes shop from Eastleigh or when my mother’s sisters got married in the city. I hated the city. It was devoid of open skies and fields, the boys I saw were fat and wore glasses. Glasses were a sign of weakness. Only white men wore glasses and they looked weak from the skin inwards. Between 2001 and 2004 when our Great-wall television worked, we would watch Vitimbi, Vioja Mahakamani, WWE and Texas Ranger. My sister would sleep late watching The Promise or The Long Wait and sometimes I would join her. In 2005 it ceased working and we went back to the bookshelves. From my room as I slept in late reading my books, I would hear father and younger sister recite poems from his special book.
The early bird upon a tree,,, sees the worm… ( I cannot recall the lyrics send me if you do sister)
And also Peter Piper.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
As you can see, I might have read books of a higher level at a very young age. Koigi Wa Wamwere’s A Woman Reborn was a book that shaped my view of Kenyan and especially African literature long before I met Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thion’go. These men- Ngugi, Mejjah, Koigi, Achebe and my father- automatically became my heroes. They were from another age and as a young boy, I began seeing the world through their eyes. I wanted to be like them, to enjoy the love of a woman like they made the characters in their stories do. I also wanted to write like them. My eyes became lenses that captured stories from every dimension of life.
In Kagumo High School I wrote a book they denied publishing. For once I hated stories. I ran away from them by seeking asylum in Biochemistry. I just wanted to tell the stories that loomed in the air. It was my fate. My destiny. I attended university without wholly being there. At least mentally. I felt like a person walking through exhibition stands who only touches and admires the merchandise without acquiring it. I knew I had to graduate though. I prepared well for exams, I would remember how words were aligned in the notebook and I would paste them similarly on the answer booklet. I liked simpler units like biotechnology of how one would create different organisms using the same starter sample. It was similar to the life stories that played in my mind.
In 2016, I visited Kilifi on a community program. As I stood on the shore-the periphery of Africa- I felt it. The push to go out and see what lies beyond. But feeling closely, I was the insatiable urge to go into Africa that created the false illusion that I should venture out. My purpose, my life and my world view changed then. If I ever wanted to go out of Africa it would be because Africa’s problems were pushing me to look for their solutions outside; temporarily. I became a rolling stone that gathers moss. At the moment I am on a journey of self-discovery in Malawi. When I am not writing, I am riding a bicycle through nature to a place I can capture a story being told. Between eight and five, I address causes of juvenile delinquency by training young offenders skills needed for entrepreneurship. One day I hope to work as a Biochemist.
I founded this blog to tell you of the stories that envelop us and also work with my fate and not against it. Ndeto Zetu are stories- candid heart-warming and instigating stories. Stories that aren’t told before since they are captured as they develop. When Ndeto are being told, people huddle and huddle together because Ndeto are raw tales. Like any other writer, I am broke and sulky for the better part of the month. When the shilling shakes the wallet, I love my whiskey on the rocks,my music slow and deep and my women shy. Perfect harmony. I dream of getting lost in an island where I can listen to Abba and Don Williams as I read Kwani?. Did I tell you Queen of Katwe is my favourite movie?
We will tread the globe and keep telling you what we see. You are free to hang around for as long as possible. We won’t promise that we will keep the fire burning. We are above that. But we will stick together and create the warmth.
Thuku Wa Muthui.