Celebrating East African Writing!
I’m a little confused. I know several people, alright, I’ll start again. I know a lot of people who are married or in long term relationships. I know people who are just starting out in new relationships with that guy they met the other day, or that girl they met at Church fellowship. But when a callout for East African Romance goes out, very few positive stories come through. I mean, even an internet search for Kenyan Romance stories landed me at this post.
I just loved him to a bits. But before I met him, I had a savings account, with huge bank balance. When we started dating it all got spent, he was always borrowing with a promise to pay back with interest. I believed any thing he said, I trusted him, he was my world, I was his passport to good life. I think you can tell it goes south after this point.
I had said this sometime earlier in the year:
Ideas of what romance novels should be, are marred by the Mills & Boons, Harlequins and blah blah blahs of this world. No, not one Kenyan teen girl who loved reading and who passed through high school was left ungrazed by those cheesy books with bare-chested male models on the cover. The focus of most pulp fiction romance novels is on the physical, with a little mystery, sometimes an overdose of mystery. It doesn’t feel right in the Kenyan context. Not quite.
Secondly, writers tend to over-think the ‘reality’. For the past several decades, the reputation of the Kenyan man has been pegged into the ‘not romantic, not chivalrous, not kind to women, not honest’ category. Well, I must admit, a good number of them men I have come across DO fall into this category, but there are good men out there. Wait, that’s not my topic, is it?
The Kenyan woman’s reputation has also been shredded to pieces, leaving the gold digger option vs the spoilt rich girl option. Truth is there are women out there who are strong, independent as individuals, and kind and honest as part of a couple. See it all here.
So that’s been said, let’s not go back to rehash all that. Instead, here’s something close to what I had in mind.
“The old man sits down slowly into the green sofa next to his wife. The sofa looks like it had seen the rock of ages and come back on foot. But the crotcheted seat covers actually looks pretty. The old lady scoots forward and pours thick milky tea into the kauro cup. She wipes a bead of sweat – she told me last week that she had been getting those horrid sweats since she started her chemotherapy.
The cancer was not the only thing that had gone wrong in their lives. Their only son’s wife had died in a car accident four years ago. And then a year ago, their son had been brutally murdered outside their gate by robbers. They had left behind three young children 8, 10 and 12 years old. And now they were facing a horrid take-down by a corporate force unlike any they knew. I hoped I could help them, that’s why I took on their case even though I knew full well that the chances of my earning any money from this job were next to nil.
I’ve heard the stories, I’ve been here every day of the last two weeks helping them get ready for the big court case coming up in a few weeks. Most of the times is when we totally divert from my actual reason for being here, and get lost in memory lane. I can even now reconstruct their memories in my mind, see the picture- even hope a little for myself.
She was only 20 when they met. August 21, 1971. She remembers because they were on a church trip to Naivasha after she and a group of other young women from the village had graduated from the Home Making Classes sponsored by the church. The mission called it finishing school; a year of learning how to sew, bake and cook, count money, plan crops, animal husbandry and anything in between. She had wanted to go to Tailoring school – in fact the seamstress class was one of the classes she excelled in. But the only thing her parents would allow her to do was the finishing school.
And then she met him, Njunge wa Kaniaru, the young student teacher from the next village. He stood out from among the other young men, with his hair parted in the middle in that silly way educated men liked to comb their hair. When he smiled, she was surprised at how white his teeth were; he surely had to be using the muguchwa tree everyday! He was tall, well a little taller than her, and she was tall. Her mother always made the joke that men would surely be intimidated by her because of her height. It was not a good thing if a man was intimidated by a woman, mother would say quickly.
He did not notice her immediately, and she was somewhat relieved. Surely, mother was wrong. About both things she hoped. It wasn’t until the group was lining up for prayer before heading towards the lake that his eyes first met hers…”
Don’t you just see the potential?! I want this story finished. In fact, I will hound the author to complete it. She has told me the gist of it, and it involves not just the love of this aging couple through some of the worst tragedies life can hurl, to the persona narrating this story meeting the love of her life in the course of this story.
Yes, yada yada, most stories in real life are not so rosy. And it isn’t even the issue. Here’s the issue:
Our stories tell of our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions to freedom, prosperity, even a little happiness. If we cannot begin to imagine it, then it can never become a reality. And the dream is, I am looking for a good story with some hints of romance, but with the spirit of East Africa: strong, deep, resilient.
So, another chance? Next Romance-on-the-Blog is on 21st November 2011. Please mark it in your diary, or sync your Google Calender with the one you’ll find here. You have until Friday, 18th November to send in your short Romance on the Blog firstname.lastname@example.org – it can be a complete short or an excerpt of a longer work.
Prizes to the best story in the collection as voted by you:
1. Kshs 500 in airtime and a Storymoja book.
2. An opportunity to be published in an anthology in 2012. (Storymoja reserves the right to decide what goes into the East African Love Stories Anthalogy).
Next week is An Urban-Affair-on-the-Blog. In case you are wondering what we mean by Urban Affair, please see this page. In any case, you have until Friday 21st October 2011 to send in your short urban narrative to email@example.com. If you have lingering doubts on the submission guidelines, please see them here.