Poetry

Inadequate

Photo / angelinespeaks.com

There is so much I want to say

Too much I need to convey

Can you read my eyes today?

Do you see my lips quiver

With the excitement I restrain

Shackle and chain

Nagging every vein

A million thoughts scatter through my brain

Running a mock in disarray

How to explain what this feeling is

Inadequacy

Wrapped around my body

A skin encasing my spirit

Preventing me from being me

Roping in my heart

What can I say?

When all I hear from within

Is a little voice saying

Dont even begin

But a smaller cry rings inside

Cooing slowly

Softly

I am worthy

I am good enough

I am pretty

And I can be tough

Let me shine

Because I deserve to

Let me out into the sunshine

For everybody to admire

Today that little voice is winning slightly

And each day it glows a little more brightly

My Take

Halfway between Nairobi and Dundori by Muthoni Garland

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What a read!

Halfway between Nairobi and Dundori by Muthoni Garland is a Kenyan short story, published by Story Moja Publications. It provides a small peak into the life of Wanjeri who lives in Naivasha with her husband Murage. She has a sister – Gladys, who has been keeping the couple afloat from money she acquires from her Anglo-American lover. It is a heaping mess of a life which Wanjeri must live. The lack of rent money, jobs and a husband who has essentially dug a grave for the couple creates a tangible and reeking reality.

There are no sugar-coated gardens or lush rose plantations described. No mention of the beauty of the landscape or the weather. Tourist things.

The biting itch of working on the plantation, plucking buds without protective gloves and abysmal working conditions are nonchalantly thrown in. This serves to portray how accustomed the workers are to such conditions that they are no longer outraged.

This story is raw and real. It is a story which explores the suffering that a University graduate from the rural area can face in todays Kenya. Highlighting the drowning effect which lack of a job, squandering resources and under-the-table deals can have on the lives of local people.

There are many theme’s, unique to Kenya which have been masterfully weaved into the story which makes for an intricate cacophony of glaring truths. The themes of poverty, family, betrayal and hardship are clearly brought forth.

Wanjeri has suffered constant betrayal in her life, be it from her family or her husband. She eventually stops betraying herself and stands up to face her demons full in the face at a party in front of Anglo-American tourists and local women who accompany them.

A small gathering of people who have no way of understanding her pain. But, the local girls who have sacrificed their dignity to be in a different version of her hell are sympathetic. Somehow there is a twisted sense of unity in their shared ill fate.

Another particularly glaring motif in the story is that women need men to get by. Wanjeri marries Murage despite knowing he had a girlfriend when they met. She by passes the fact and he leaves the other girl with no comment. Wanjeri chides her husband and staves off telling him that he has sunk their ship straight up to his face. She dances around it, cajoles his ego and soothes him instead to get her way. Gladys is reliant on a “Mzungu” to attain a life of luxury. The other local girls, one of whom was also a plantation picker, latch on to the same kind of men who fulfill their needs for money in exchange for freely given physical pleasure.

None of the women in the story stand up and become self-sufficient entirely without having a man in the mix. Whether it be for monetary gain or simply to feel wanted, the women give in to men.

A callous tale of a blistered woman who has suffered innumerable hardships to the point of cynicism. She tells her tale just before meeting with an accident at the end. If you want a peak into the heart of a real story, told from the perspective of an unfortunate soul who travels through a terrain of things that construct the reality of some in Kenya – this is a must read.

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I was able to purchase the book at the Story Moja Festival held this week in Nairobi. It was a great mix of people who came together to promote reading, writing and creative expression in the country.

My Take

Hello! I am…

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Well, my name is Maalika Kazia. Not Malaika – angel in Swahili. Maalika. My uncle decided to add the extra “a” when I was born, to make it more unique. It means Queen.

I have a pimple protruding from my forehead. I guess I am a teenager. Wasn’t that all supposed to magically disappear when I turned the coveted age of 21 this year? *sighs*

I line my lids with kohl. It makes me feel beautiful. That makes me a classic human (Men can wear make up too – get over it).

My skin is brown. Fair. No I do not use fairness cream. Even if I was a darker shade of brown I would not trade it in, to look like the Indian girl on the advertisement board looking jubilant about the fact that chemically moderated lighter skin is going to get her the life she has always dreamed about.

I am a part of the Muslim community. My head is not covered in a hijab. Because I am not a Sunni Muslim – I am a Shiah Imami Ismaili Nizari Muslim and it is not compulsory for us to do so. Some may call me a “Khoji” or an “Ismaili” for short. Makes things simpler to remember I guess.

I was born in Kisumu, Kenya and have lived in this country my whole life. No, I am not a Luo or a Kikuyu. Does my skin mean I am not a Kenyan?

During my first class for a course in Broadcasting this semester, my lecturer asked me – So you are an Indian Kenyan? I nodded.

What does it mean to be an Indian Kenyan?

I was dumbfounded in all honesty. I answered – Well, I am born here and have lived here all my life so I am Kenyan. But my heritage and ancestry is Indian.

So?

He went on to ask me to elaborate but I had no words. No words.

What does it mean to be an Indian Kenyan?

Does it mean to be called a “muindi” on the streets. Does it mean that if I go to buy a pair of track pants from Ngara, the merchant will quote me a price of 2000 Kenya shillings while my darker skinned sister who does not live in Parklands will be charged 600?

Perhaps it means that people think I eat a lot of spices and have a lot of money.

Sometimes it could be assumed that I have never even stepped in an area like Kibera or heard of Ndombolo.

It could be thought too, that I do not eat sima or omena and I know how to bob my head in rhythm when listening to Bollywood songs.

It can also mean that people around me may speak about me in Swahili not realizing that I may speak it too and understand their words. Words, which are hurtful at times. (Sasa, uta-serve kwasababu ako Muindi? Ata ngoja tu)

Oh how we love #Stereotypes.

I have been to India once in my life. I have no family there. My extended family lives here and in Tanzania. Some of us have scattered to other places like Canada and the USA after being born and raised in Kenya.

When I travel away from home I miss the weather. The greenery. The ugali and sukuma wiki which I can eat with chicken curry. I miss eating the roasted maize slathered in chilli mix. Okay, I am a foodie.

Definitions are molds which we try to pour ourselves into in order to fit a construct that can be easily understood and categorized by society. To be a 21 year old Indian Kenyan, studying Journalism at a local university and working part time at a radio station every weekday morning is a basic definition.

There is so much more.

I like icing cakes for my house help to take for his son on his birthday because his 10 year old travelled all the way from Kisii alone to see his father. Some of my friends who look more classically Kenyan have large houses in Runda and drive around in cars too big to fit through most gates. Most of them would never dream of sitting in a matatu. I have brown friends who travel to tao every day by matatu and work 9-5 jobs.

I listen to Sauti Sol and wear kikoi pants. I wear saris when I attend Indian weddings. “The Man Died” by Wole Soyinka is a book I have reserved at the school library and I have 50 shades of Grey on my shelf.

My brother is a part of Team Kenya representing this country at the All Africa Championships in Brazzaville this year. I cannot begin to measure the pride I feel.

I cannot speak Swahili sanifu nor can I hack shudh hindi.

What does it mean to be an Indian Kenyan?

It means to be Kenyan by heart. It means to feel like you belong here. It means to feel pride when you look at the flag raised high up, while you sing Eh Mungu Nguvu Yetu…

I am me.

Not a definition or a label based on what you see.

My Take

Thoughts on: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Photo Courtesy / thestudentreview.co.uk

I like books.

But somewhere along the way I stopped reading as much. Perhaps it was the assignments, the addiction to TV shows or simply not finding a book as exciting as Harry Potter. But, this year I began to read again. When I read a book, I will not put it down till I have completed the entire thing or at least a substantial part of it! It is just so satisfying to curl up in a blanket wearing my most comfortable (and most ragged) pajama’s and dive head first into a good book.

Personally, a good book has to be one which is fantasy based or part fiction at least. I can read fiction and fantasy, with some adventure and never feel boredom creep up on me.

Now that I am loving my reading time again I would like to share my thoughts with you! In this section called “My Book Bag” I will write about some of the books I have completed reading. So, my first pick of the lot is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, which I finished reading this morning.

Funnily enough, I have always come across books by this author in almost every library and book store. Despite looking at these books often I have never read one. That is, until yesterday when my sister suggested The Alchemist. After nestling in to my blanket, warm and cozy as ever, I set foot into the world of a boy named Santiago.

I admire how Coelho can make the life of a simple shepherd boy immensely engaging from the word go. The protagonist is a young man who has a recurring dream about a child leading him to the Egyptian Pyramids, and she tells him that he will find great treasure here. Santiago ends up at the house of a Gypsy woman who can interpret dreams. The woman predicts that this means he will find a treasure at the Egyptian Pyramids which will make him a very rich man. Pessimistically he turns away but shortly meets a man who claims to be a King.

The King tells the boy of his destiny and the universe which we inhibit. After advising the boy to sell of his sheep and set out on a journey to Egypt, he hands the boy two stones called Urim and Thummim which answer yes and no to objective questions they are asked. Upon arrival in Egypt, the boy is robbed and left with nothing – not even enough money to find his way home, or buy back his sheep. The tale goes on to depict his journey and how he ultimately meets an Alchemist along the way who leads him to fulfilling his destiny and finding the treasure.

The ease with which life lessons and philosophical messages are embedded within the story is incredible. In my opinion, Coelho is a writer who has grasped the concept of teaching his readers without preaching at them.

For instance, Santiago has to believe entirely in his destiny till the absolute end of his journey in order to find his treasure. He meets many people along the way including a crystal merchant. This merchant remains in his comfort zone for so long that his dreams take a back seat. Until eventually he has no desire to fulfill them. Or rather, he lacks the courage and destiny has passed him by. I can name many people whom I know personally who wish to be leading different lives. They possess dreams that never came to fruition. Or perhaps they put them on the back burner until those dreams became nothing but ash.

Coelho clearly demonstrates that for our dreams to be achieved, a lot of courage, perseverance and hard work are required. And of course, faith. It is never a simple deal. No short cut. Furthermore, when we lose something it serves a purpose. We will regain much more soon enough. Perhaps it is an idealistic thought and much practice is needed to entirely adopt this ideology. However, it is better than wallowing in negativity. At least optimism feels better on the inside.

The supernatural phenomena is stretched slightly too far when Santiago begins to converse with the wind, sun and sand. He then goes on to decipher their purpose and calling, ultimately unraveling the idea that our Universe (The Soul of the World) is imperfect.

All in all, The Alchemist has many more lessons to teach a great deal of readers from all walks of life. Its universal appeal rests on the fact that you can be 20 or 70 and still be intrigued by a story of fantasy, philosophy, discovery, adventure and ones undying need to fulfill their destiny.