Celebrating East African Writing!

Outside Looking In

Written By Nyairo T. Maina

Ondieki sighed, leaned back in his seat and looked out the window. Glancing at the terminal, he wondered when they would be taking off. He hadn’t planned on leaving so soon; he’d only arrived two days ago.

As always, his father had been overjoyed to see him, but it wasn’t long before the usual subject resurfaced. A tear-filled, “Oh mtoto, you have come home to your baba! You must tell me of your journeys”, shortly became a stern, “When are you going to stop playing around and build your house? An old man deserves grandchildren. My friends wonder why there are no little ones, clambering over each other to see their sokoro.  At heart we are simple villagers; we must follow our traditions.”


Simple villagers. That was his father’s favorite refrain. So much so, that it became the crux of his slogan when he ran for Parliament; he was not a typical politician, he was but a simple villager, steeped in the traditions of the people. Ondieki had found it inspiring when he was younger, but now it just grated. His father was far from a simple villager. One of the best educated of his generation, having attended schools in both the US and the UK, he’d spent decades in politics, working for the betterment of his country. “Get your education and then go home and help your people.” Those were the words his father lived by.

Ondieki felt very much the same, actually, but his notion of kinship went beyond genetics and geography; his ‘people’ encompassed the world. Ironically, it was the lessons he’d learned from his father that led him to found an international rights organization. Be it fighting for girls’ education in Afghanistan, campaigning for gay rights in Uganda, or even doing relief work for the homeless in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, his organization was dedicated to working with others to provide the help they needed.


Though his work had garnered much recognition – earning the gratitude of strangers and the respect of enemies – his father refused to see it. For him it always came back to familial duty. The world would save itself; Ondieki had his own obligations. He was supposed to come home to help his people. Maybe his baba was just a simple villager.

He sighed again and returned his focus to the terminal. Was his father there, like a simple villager yearning for his child, filled with regret and searching the small windows to find the son he had pushed away? He was surprised at how badly he wished it were so. As he turned from the window and closed the blind, the plane turned from the terminal and headed towards the runway.


© Nyairo T. Maina 2012


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