Poetry

In the eyes of the Beholder

Photo courtesy / ohtoptens.com

The scorching heat of the Nairobi sun burns through my forehead as I race past students to get to my class. Galamanda Secondary School is known for its highly achieving students and students with the most polished school shoes. Kovu is waiting for me outside the classroom and we enter the room just as Mrs. Nyawanda begins to call the register.

I hate afternoon classes, everything becomes hot and sticky. The long socks on my legs start to cling to my flesh like leeches and the green sweater on my back drenches my shirt in sweat. Kovu advices I should remove the sweater but I refuse. My pink bra is not for the benefit of boys to stare or for the girls to gossip about.

Mrs. Nyawanda is now drawing a flower on the white board and it would be beautiful were it not for the weird structures she is labeling on the diagram. Stamen, anther, filament, sepal, petal. I love how red roses smell. Kovu knows these are my favorite and he always brings me some from his father’s farm in Naivasha.

Finally I can hear the school bell chime, signaling our time in this hour-long prison is over. Mrs. Nyawanda makes sure we write down the pages we must read as holiday homework before releasing the class. I am craving a juicy, on the brink of ripeness mango smothered in chilli mix! The street vendor’s chilli mix is unbeatable and cannot be matched by the homemade stuff. But I have 5 shillings left after buying that Maths text-book from Cynthia. I am adamant that Kovu will not have to pay for our treat this time. Let’s see if Lisa has some money on her.

Making my way towards my sister who is standing amongst her many admiring friends I ask her for the cash. Lisa digs into her bag and hands me a brown, crumpled fifty shilling note that has a number scrawled on it in blue Biro on one corner. ‘Don’t forget to give me back the change’, she warns as I retreat, clutching the paper in happiness.

Minutes later I am biting into a piece of mango lusciously slathered in chilli and salt like a succulent sour offering from heaven made just to tantalize me. The bite sends my taste buds into a frenzy as they decipher the fresh, clean taste of the raw mango mixed with the earthy kick of spices. The deep, dark green skin of the mango has been stripped off to reveal its lighter skinned counterpart hiding within. All eight strips of the mango still clinging onto the base after being seared by the vendor have opened up like the petals of a flower. Mrs. Nyawanda’s drawing may have been ugly, but this flower is beautiful. Kovu and I munch away as I make sure to put the thirty shillings in my pocket to give back to Lisa later on.

Today is the last day of school and after working hard the entire term it is only fair that we have some fun. Kovu and I board the matatu from school which is taking us to Thika so we can go and see the brand new mall that has opened up. I hear they have a theatre and everything. Perhaps I can buy some popcorn and go look at all the pretty dresses in the shops. Mine was just the mango, Kovu has to now treat me!

The matatu conductor bangs against the body of his red car adorned with the face of Louis Van Gaal, which brings the driver to a screeching halt. He stops smack in the middle of the busy road, overflowing with cars, motorbikes, mkokotenis and pedestrians. We hop out quickly just before the vehicle begins to move away again.

The mall is a massive construct of glass and steel, with many floors and escalators all leading up or down. I am terrified of the escalator but Kovu assures me there is nothing to worry about. As we hold hands and make our way down the escalator my heart begins to race thinking about stepping off at the end. What if I trip?! Luckily we step off just in time – how embarrassing would it have been, had I fallen?!

There are so many shops with ladies all walking around, stomping away in their high heels and smacking their glossed lips together while chatting away with friends on expensive looking cell phones. I admire one who has a long mane of dark brown hair farming her face as she walks past. Her skin is golden brown burnished to perfection with a foundation while her eyes are lovingly lined with kohl so they speak to you without her mouth uttering a word. I eye Kovu , looking to make sure he does not look at her well endowed derriere. The lipstick wearing, weave wielding, thick thighed woman walks past without even glancing at us. She is making her way to a salon called “Voovalicous!” I am envious of this woman. It’s not her admirable caked face or the cacophony she creates while walking in those shoes. It’s the hair. That hair. I want that hair.

Kovu has removed his sweater now and looks every bit as handsome as an actor on TV. He is tall and muscular with a diamond earing on one ear lobe and he gives off an air of confidence which cannot be taught. ‘Niaje ? Poa poa,’ he talks away on his cellphone to some buddy while eyeing the woman who is walking towards the salon. I bet he is admiring her hair.

Back home I am happy to hand over Lisa’s change while she sets the table for dinner.

Once we have had dinner I am staring into the mirror trying to picture myself with a crop of shiny hair hanging over my shoulder.

Photo courtesy / www.pinterest.com

I try on a black scarf over my head to envision the beauty I will be. Lisa walks in and catches me in the act. Oh no, this is going to be hard to explain. I am quick to lie that the scarf is to keep my shaved head warm. But my sister is no fool, and she sits me down on the bed after putting the scarf away.

I explain to her my desire, unable to meet her eyes and she listens to me carefully. All I want is to get my hair done like that beautiful woman who Kovu could not stop staring at while he was “on the phone.” My scalp seems inadequately bald and boring in comparison. If I had such hair then he would look at me the same way and not stare at any other woman. After all, I am sixteen and should be able to wear my hair as I like not how mother advises.

Lisa laughs at me and gently tells me that Kovu should like me for who I am not for my hair or my clothes and the way I walk. It is the person that I am from within which will make him stay with me. If I pretend to be something I am not how will he ever get to know the real me? My sister hands me over the thirty shillings from earlier on and tells me to buy some more mangoes tomorrow. These are the simple joys in life she says. Not the weaves or the heels. Our personality is what makes us who we are. Not the things we buy and pretend to be. I know my sister was trying to help. But she doesn’t understand.

The thirty shillings goes straight into the blue handkerchief which I stash away at the back of my cupboard. I am careful to tie each of the two opposite corners together at the top and make a knot so my coins don’t fall out. I will keep adding money till I have enough to get that weave. Then I will be beautiful. Perhaps next week I will ask Lisa for another thirty bob.

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Poetry

Ready, Set, GO

Photo courtesy / www.clker.com

Hands held out at the ready

Attack! screams the mind

All set, ready to plunge forth

Cry out in angst

As the blow is struck

Breath held

Crouch low

Avoid the jab

Strike some more

Fight on!

But no one ever wins

It is a clash of the Titans

Diabolical scheming

Elaborate mastery

Clash with the wrath of a thousand Gods

Step into the arena

Welcome to the match

Ego verses Ego

Be always at the

Ready

Set

GO

Poetry

Fly

Photo courtesy / wallpaper222.com

With hooded eyes and heavy heart,

Staring into the distance

So far apart

From the world around

Taking strides to build a future

But she sees not all the effort

It is always “you didnt do this”

Or “you never do that”

Just once in a while

Maybe a pat on the back

And a genuine smile

Perhaps bitterness and misunderstanding

Are ever hanging clouds lying on their relationship

Both expecting too much

In turn recieving nothing

Oh Dear one

How do I tell you?

Everything I am is because of you

I do look to create a world that is great

So you can be happy and safe

But oh Dear

Its time I move on

And forgive myself all the wrong

Its time I breathe and live for me

Its time I spread my wings

And experience ecstacy

But I ask –

Will you fly with me?

My Take

Spread the pages wide

I am trying to write this while drowning out the sound of engines roaring in the background. A building which neighbours my house is being torn down and fortunately for me, my room overlooks the site. To add sugar to the already sweet treat I have the pleasure of consuming, my new neighbours are having some changes done to their house and I share a wall with them. Dust, grime, noise, thumping of hammers against what appears to feel like my skull and a lot of concrete scenery is my lot. Fortune is smiling down upon me with a wide grin stretched just a tad bit too thin.

Yesterday while shopping at a new mall in Nairobi I purchased two books from a local store. Something that fascinated me however, was the fact that one of the supermarkets in the mall had a children’s book section. There was fantasy, bed time stories and the likes. Think Enid Blyton. But there was nothing by a local writer.

Upon entering a different book store which has both text books for school and other works which are more entertainment based I began my slow journey from one shelf to another. It always fascinates me to enter a book store. Each title is captivating and the colorful covers draw me in and make me want to settle my mind into the pages and fall head over heels into a new story. Will I be in Romania or Nigeria? Are there animals or concrete jungles? My love for books has been present ever since I was a little girl. From Harry Potter to Daniel Steele novels. Ranging from Khalili Gibran to Binyavanga Wainaina and throw in some Dan Brown too – I like a good read. But I cannot stand a criminal investigation novel even if my life depended on reading it.

Coming to the interesting part of my book bonanza, I was very disappointed with the lack of novels written by African authors on the shelf, save for a few Chimamanda collections. Kenyan authors deserve a space of their own, if not an entire shelf at least. I looked through another branch of the same book store in a different mall located in Nairobi. And the respect locally published novels recieved included being housed on a lonely rack somewhere, facing its back towards the display window and the books were coated heavily in dust.

Come on!

First off, this is simply ridiculous because if we do not promote our own talent and move it forward how can we hope for the world to do the same. It saddens me to think of how much effort it takes to write, edit and publish an entire book, just to have it sitting all lonesome on a dusty rack watching its European counterparts sitting comfortably on polished wooden stands wrapped lovingly in clear plastic to prevent wear and tear.

It has come to my attention that the reading culture in Kenya is not what it should be. The youth, let alone my fellow college mates, would rather watch a video online or read tweets churned by KOT as opposed to engaging their minds in a good book. I will admit, that in order to get to this particular audience e-books need to be made available so that they are easily accessible. That is the next logical chapter in Kenyan publishing. And an exciting one indeed. However, I believe that if the mainstream media were to promote reading within the Kenyan youth especially with regards to works produced locally, it would do a world of good for the consumer and the producer.

I learnt things about Kenya from Binyavanga’s “Discovering Home” published by the Kwani Trust, which I would have never been able to learn from a video on YouTube.

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It would be better to inculcate a reading culture in the youth from a young age. Books can open up a world of new possibilities and foster so many qualities within young readers. Kenya is growing economically but so is the gap between the “have’s” and “have not’s”. There is a vibant and thriving middle class here which is drawing in international investors and companies looking to expand their business after identifying the existence of a market which is willing to indulge. From fast food chains to make up stores, there are booming businesses which have a global presence that are looking to come into (and many already are) the East African region.

But if the world is coming to us, we must consider – What are we taking out into the world? That is a broad question, but looking at the publishing industry specifically we must sit up and pay attention to what is in our hands. Those screens and fancy gadgets are affordable for the middle class readers who can buy e-books online. A great big chunk of local society is then left out. Print books still have a place here in Kenya. Let us spread the pages of local works wide and let everyone come have a read and keep with them the lessons and pass on the book to another brother or sister. Let it include everyone.

After all, that is what a good book does. It opens itself up to the reader, allowing one to nestle deep into its bosom and resurface nourished with some knowledge regardless of who the reader is and what hand life has dealt him or her so far.

Poetry

Weave away through the moonlit way

That night was a beautiful one indeed. The stars were shining bright and the moon was winking down at the boy and girl as they strode off. Nobody would come for a walk this late at night. Nobody but these two young people. The watchmen up ahead at the gate did not know what to think of it when the car pulled into the complex. The area had a hall where functions were held, some offices, a library and a big field surrounded by a walking track which was free of grass.

It was certainly chilly that October night in Nairobi. Kenya has long rain and short rain seasons, but around August and thereafter it gets extremely cold and temperatures can lower to almost twelve degrees on some nights.

This weather made her shiver as she walked ahead of the boy. She was elated however, as the cold wind swept through her freshly chopped locks. He wasn’t very pleased she had decided to cut her long hair into a boyish bob. He loved how she smiled and her laugh made him giddy with pleasure. With so much energy just waiting to seep out, she took to the track and walked fast. He called for her to slow down and enjoy the moment as he brought up the rear. She waited for him to catch up as a tingle of excitement rose within her heart.

Photo courtesy / fineartamerica.com

Together they went on and she was hoping he would take her hand. He was too nervous to come any closer. Suddenly the clouds parted and a spot light shone down upon the world, bathing the entire field in a silver glow. The moon had come to say hello. They walked towards a bench and he instructed her to stand atop the structure and look up at the white orb hanging in the sky above them, nestled comfortably in a blanket of stars. It was the most romantic experience she had ever had.

Yet, Jason did not make a move. He was watchful of her. Protective. At the same time he did not want to scare her off or frighten her by moving in too fast. There was much respect, admiration and love that he fostered in his heart for Maya. She was just too nervous to think about the moon much and so she decided to continue walking.

Halfway down the track Jason told Maya to kneel beside him as he showed her a building which resembled a captain’s hat from that angle. He was sure to kiss her now, she thought! But up they rose and on they went until they came back to the beginning of the track after going around full circle. They decided to stay a while and sit on some benches. Jason attempted to try and put his arm around her. As soon as he raised his arm slightly Maya’s cell phone began to buzz. Mother was calling. It was time to leave the romantic night behind and head on home.

My Take

Thank you

This Monday morning I decided to write about something which I believe I need to improve on. You see, the human race in general is fascinating particularly when it comes to the concept of gratitude.

Photo courtesy /www.miravalresorts.com

We have heard about “the secret” of life being held in an attitude of gratitude and the law of attraction making our lives a manifestation of what we envision and consciously or subconsciously attract. There is much irony in the fact that we are told to be grateful for what we have through a selfish motive of gaining what we want in return.

Leaving alone the ironic factor in this equation my focus is on the concept of gratitude itself. It is so very common for me to take things I have for granted. My mother will always be there when I need advice. My father can drop me off to a said destination if needed. My brother can – well, I can do my brothers chores! But do I realise the value of these simple yet profound bounties? It is our nature I believe to get bored very easily. This then leads us to glaze over the things that are so common around us untill we do not notice anything special happening, despite there being something of this nature in our environment.

For instance, let us take the concept of breathing. Air molecules travel through our windpipe down into our lungs where tiny sacs called alveoli are responsible for transmitting oxygen into the blood which is pumped throughout our body. The same sacs are responsible for extinguishing the carbon dioxide picked up along the way and this process carries on and on forever as long as we are alive. Do we say, thank you alveoli? No. But someone with lung cancer would crave such healthy responses from their body.

Why do we need to feel the lack of something, in order to appreciate what we have? Truly, there is no lack of irony in the universe. This thought dawned upon me while speaking to a woman who was telling me about her sister’s daughter, who is getting married soon. The groom is a wealthy man with a stable job and the couple has been together for a long time now. But she seemed just so bitter about sharing her nieces joyous news with me. Her own daughter is a degree holder with a scientific background and she is starting a new job soon. I believe the comparison factor taints our thankfulness. Had she perhaps not been comparing what she would’ve liked for her daughter with what her niece was experiencing, then there would be no cause for bitterness.

It is a large pill for anyone to swallow. To think that I am constantly unappreciative of the things I have untill I see someone who doesn’t have what I do, makes me question my philosophy on life. I have realised the joy and freedom which saying thank you can bring. When you begin to count your blessings (not literally!) then a feeling of euphoria actually developes within your heart. This can then lead to a more positive attitude and state of mind which does lead to better things and more fulfilling experiences.

It is the start of a brand new week. With that, I do promise to say a thank you every time I receive something from the universe. Not because I want to gain something in return. But because I simply am grateful.

Photo courtesy / www.themindfulword.org

My Take

Thoughts on: Jodhaa Akbar (movie)

Photo Courtesy / www.rediff.com 

To be dipped in the essence of history through visual poetry is a decadent treat tantalizing for all the senses. Jodhaa Akbar is a three and a half hour-long Bollywood movie which was released in 2008, starring Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan, which has been directed by Ashutosh Gowariker. It is set in 16th century Mughal India, with a historical story line that is based on characters which are assumed to have existed during that period in time.

On Friday night I decided to indulge in some Bollywood and watched the film in its entirety, something which I had not yet done. Following this experience, I decided to write a “review” on the movie. A disclaimer! I am not a professional critic and my opinion is solely my own.

Well then, let’s get started!

To begin with, the narrative voice of Amitabh Bachan lays the land for us as the political dynamics of India during that time are explained in the opening shots of the film. A special note of thanks was accredited to Mr.Bachan during the beginning credits of the film, of which he is absolutely deserving. His powerful voice captures your attention immediately and although the first half an hour felt a tad bit like a history lesson, his bass keeps your attention. As do the powerful visuals that show armies of men fighting in a war zone, some with arrows and others riding elephants, each wanting to claim victory for their rulers. Perhaps it is my love for history that enticed me and led me to sit through this entire narrative patiently.

The love story which blossoms between Jodhaa (a Rajput princess) and Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar (a Mughal emperor) is the central focus of the film. I am in awe of how effortlessly the two actors are able to portray their characters, laden in heavy clothing and I am sure the hot weather and arid climate of the location was no help. The most enjoyable part of the movie for me was when the two were slowly falling in love, which concluded with a happy marriage. Yes, you could say I am a bit of a sappy creature for really thoroughly enjoying this bit of Bollywood fodder but do be kind! Such epic love stories are much more enticing than the express dating we have today. Tinder, Facebook, Twitter and the likes are platforms for choosing a potential mate and Skype dates with your long distance lover is deemed romantic! Not in my book.

Albeit, the two characters were brought together due to a strategic alliance for the Mughal emperor to extend his rule and the Rajput King to protect his Kingdom. This marriage of compulsory alliance, forced by the hand of political gains and strategies turned out to work much more favorably then it would ever have a chance to in today’s time. The marriage between a Hindu and Muslim who overcome the dogma of their religious ways to come together in a communion of love and trust is endearing.

The film is a worth a watch if you have three hours to kill and a love for history, romance and best of all, classic, clear and captivating cinematography.