Celebrating East African Writing!

The Principal’s Tragedy

“Order honorable members!, order!, I know this is an emotional issue and you all need to be heard but we can only be heard if we are willing to listen,” the booming voice of the house speaker boomeranged from wall to wall and even the most impertinent of the members cowered as the burly man in ridiculous red garb rose to continue,

“Honorable major Khalif, the floor is yours,” the speaker ended the interlude as he resumed his seat.

“Thank you chair, we all agree that this is a serious matter but we should not lose focus here, a tragedy has occurred due to the inefficiency of the security personnel attached to the…” before the whole sentence was out of the honorable member’s mouth, another shouting bout started,

“The president and the prime minster’s security are constitutional rights and no one can deny them that, traitor!” an irate MP shouted.

“These are our leaders elected by millions and they need security above all citizens, if you can’t see that, go and start raising cattle!”

“This is the work of NGOs which have no work but criticize the two principals; we shouldn’t be discussing this nonsense!”

“Someone’s family was affected, can’t you fools see that…”

“Imbecile! Sit down, you are jealous because you never got appointed as a minister, if the security of our topmost leader’s means the whole city coming to a standstill, then be it!”

“Yes, yes!” the din was threatening to bring down the house as each member tried shouting the other down. And the shouting in the honorable house went on and on as the whole nation watched. Somewhere in Imara Daima estate, a house overlooking the main gate sat silently as if listening to the incessant balderdash that the elected representatives were spewing and on the balcony railings, a piece of an electric cord hang loosely as if too tired to see another day.

***      ****             ****

The late morning sun was already warming the house after a chilly night and as Mr. Kavita sat on his favorite spot on the balcony overlooking the dusty play field, he couldn’t have been more content. the Since child hood, the sun had always amazed him with its extreme qualities; on one hand, it could thaw the night’s chill out of your bones in a minute while on the other, it could turn a family’s eagerly awaited harvest into waste in months resulting into a deadly drought. He had seen it all growing up in the arid Matuu region but all that remained now were hazy littered memories of his childhood. Life had blessed this diminutive man his fair share of misfortune and blessings as well but at times, he always thought the scales tilted more towards the bad luck. However, as the field below glowed under the sun’s rays, he couldn’t help but feel that the worst was over. The children frolicking about like little angels in the field were conjuring a bitter memory that he fought hard to suppress as he had tried many times but he knew it was in vain. The memory of his son always came up like a ghastly ghost just when he was having a good mood. The muffle of feet on the carpet in the bedroom shook his trail of thought and he quickly rose to check on his wife who was carrying their eight month girl. The doctor had recommended as much rest as possible citing complications in the pelvic area and Kavita always ensured all his free time and weekends were spent nursing her.

“Honey, where are you going, please rest, I am just outside on the balcony,” he sweetly assuaged his wife Grace. She could be stubborn at times but Kavita loved her nevertheless. She was the lodestone that guided his life and the fact that she had been able to persevere all they had gone through always amazed him.

“No, I can’t keep lying on the bed like a log, am feeling numb all over,” she was in her element now trying as hard as possible to persuade Kavita to allow her on the balcony’s rest chair. Her mellifluous voice and the round bulge were too much to refuse and Kavita found himself watching her as they sat on the balcony. As he looked at the sky, he said a silent prayer to the Lord asking for the best for the three of them. From his sitting position, he could see the bedroom table and on it lay a picture well framed with shell stones and the three smiley faces on it brought tears to his eyes,

“What is it dear, is everything alright?” her wife always worried when he turned inwards and started digging the dark memories like a child looking for its shadow in the ground. She empathized because the pain and the misplaced guilt would never fade away however much she tried to help him,

“I could have saved him Grace, if only I had come home earlier…” his eyes were now hollow like the sunken gorge of a once prosperous well.

“Honey, we have talked about it over and over again, you couldn’t control it, you can’t control everything that happens please be strong for our baby, please promise me. In any case, your mum is coming and you should even call her to check how far she is”

“Okay, I will be there for you and our child, I will never leave your side…” he vowed vehemently. The ghosts of that hazy past were now buried but she knew it was only for a time before his guilt started gnawing him alive like a buzzard gorging a putrid carcass. The sky was serene and the cool breeze was so soothing that Kavita started gallivanting in and out of slumber land as his beautiful wife watched with a sweet smile that seemed etched on her face like an imprint on a marble plate. As the afternoon sped by, Kavita thought he could hear a voice groaning calling for him and he tried placing it in his dreamy state. It took only a minute for his mind to register it wasn’t a dream. As he jerked from his seat, he watched in horror at his wife sprawled on the floor writhing like a salamander on a hot rock. She was trying to call his name, yes; it wasn’t a dream after all. He rushed over as his body shook all over and his joints felt so rigid that he thought he might also faint,

“Grace, Grace dear! Please what happened? Grace…” he was delirious and his thoughts were jumbled up into a labyrinth. Before he realized a medic was required another minute had passed. He called James his butcher friend who also happened to own a car. The wait for the car was interminable and the hapless man didn’t know what to do. At one point, he tried fanning his wife, at the other he felt her bulge just to confirm that a mischievous demon had not flown away with their girl. At last, all he could do was kneel and cry as he held her hand. When James arrived, the relief was more than he had felt in his life, not even when he bumped into Grace bathing at their village river fifteen years earlier. Within no time, the car was blazing out of the gated estate towards the ever busy Mombasa Highway. For them to get to the road to town, they had to drive in the opposite direction for five hundred meters before turning back towards St. Mark Hospital where their special gynecologist had his clinic. Just before the loop to the main road, Kavita heard an unfamiliar siren and all of a sudden, the traffic piled up as police emerged from every corner stopping the traffic. The scenario seemed familiar but he couldn’t dig into his mind to realize the president was being driven from the airport and hence every other motorist had to give way both ways,

“James, what do we do, God, what do we do, she will die, Please Grace don’t die, please God don’t take this one away…” he was now wailing and all attempts by James to calm him were fruitless. At last, he couldn’t take any more. Like a mad man, he opened the door and rushed towards one of the cops manning the blocked road but before there, the warning was already in the air,

“Stop where you are and raise your hands, I said stop now!” the policeman shouted but Kavita wasn’t himself anymore,

“Sir, sir, my wife is in the car…she…she is dying and she is carrying our baby…” his words were hoarse and the punch that met his face when the police man got to him switched off his lights. James couldn’t stand it, Grace was moaning like a wounded buffalo. He opened the driver’s door and started shouting to the policeman as he ran towards him,

“She is dying, she is dying, please…” before the words were fully out of his mouth, he saw the ground suddenly race towards him as an excruciating pain scudded through his left leg. Before he realized he had been shot, he had already fainted.

***     ***     ***

The prime minister was through with his tour of the mega highway along Thika road. The ambitious project had been the talk of the region and as he addressed the crowd that had gathered along the road, his security personnel blockaded around six lanes of the eight lane highway to avoid any risks. The traffic snarl up that followed was massive but from the pedestal, the prime minister was oblivious of the situation as he savored the ululations from the crowds that always gathered wherever he went.

***     ***     ***

Kavita was in a dark world again; the images of burning houses were flowing and the cracking of the flames as they ate away anything they could reach played like an evil sound track. Scenes of children running helter-skelter followed by adults who clumsy held anything they could salvage started trickling back in his mind. He was now in a government land rover driven by his friend Hassan a District Officer who had earlier assured him that all would be well in the urban areas as the post- election violence was concentrated in the rural areas. He remembered picking Grace from their shop and commencing on the search for Mark their five year old boy. He had sneaked away from the watchful eye of the mother to play and now as the land rover went around the burning estate, all hope was lost. At last, they saw a figure dangling from a tree and there he was; their dear son had become another victim of post-election violence at an age where even spelling the word ‘violence’ was impossible for him. Hassan was insisting that they had to rush out of the area as war cries rang the air and more screams filled the already dense atmosphere. As the car sped off, Kavita could not bring himself to turn away from the corpse and as he help his wife who was wailing loudly, he had known the image was never to leave his mind. He had to call his mum…

***               ****              ****

“Sir, sir, your mum is not here, we tried to save your wife but it was too late, do you want to call your mum?” the voice seemed to come from a far away valley but Kavita never missed a word. With trembling hands, he took his phone from his pocket and dialed his mother’s number. “It’s just a dream, it’s a dream, he assured himself”. When he heard his mother’s voice, the reality sunk in fast; this was no dream, his mother was on Thika road on her way from upcountry just as they had arranged. When he broke the news, a shrill scream followed and then a still moment followed. The frenetic voice that came later was that of a man,

“What did you tell her, she has collapsed, she is down, oh God! The roads are blocked…” Kavita was now desolate, as he looked at the worried faces looking down at him, he remembered James but just then, the sirens of an ambulance sounded from afar. When he awoke later, he was in a hospital and a doctor was hovering over him,

“Oh, thank God, I thought you won’t come back. Luckily, the blow you got never gave you a concussion as we had feared,” the doctor crooned. It was obvious he was hiding something, as he turned, he saw James lying on the next bed with a heavy bandage swathing his left leg.  As soon as their eyes met, his friend turned away and started heaving. The weight of the day’s events started sinking in and Kavita suddenly jumped and held the doctor’s coat lapels.

“Where is my mum, where is my mother?” his splitting voice made a few nurses to rush in with worried looks.

“Mr. Kavita, I can’t comment on that, I am not authorized to…”  Kavita shoved the doctor against the table spilling equipments and the frightened doctor had no option but to blurt it all out,

“ Stop, stop please, we received a call from a hospital along Thika road, your mum, she…your mum was pronounced dead on arrival, they said it was too late  but the driver had no option due to the traffic jam along the highway, am sorry sir, am really sorry…” Kavita did not even hear the last words, the weight was too heavy and as he leaned on his bed, he knew his whole life was gone. “It is all my fault, it is all my fault!” he shouted, “it is all my fault, my whole family is gone…” the doctor and nurses watched him as he drained his tear wells while tearing away his hair. No one tried to stop him.

***   **** ***

The silent crowd outside the house looked on solemnly with faces furrowed with sorrow. They couldn’t fathom why it had to happen. They  knew it could have happened to them but above all they knew it wasn’t fair to any human being.

The reporter behind the crowd rambled on about the tragedy house as the media had christened Kavita’s house,

“It is here that it all started and ended, so much sorrow for one man to take, too much shenanigans and blame game with no one willing to take responsibility. The question is; are we ready to tolerate this again and again?” she asked rhetorically.

The parliamentary debate on the issue continued as many members rose to defend the principals against any blame. The noise from the house was akin to that of a mad men’s market,

“Not even in Europe do we have this kind of negligence…these are lives that could have been saved…”

“Then go to Europe! We are in Kenya and our leaders deserve this kind of respect!” On and on went the debate but it was obvious these people were there to earn their allowances for the day and move on with their lives insulated against the pain of the ordinary citizen.

In state house, the president’s aides were organizing another trip outside the country and the traffic commandants were being advised on the importance of a freeway for the leader. The same was happening in the prime minister’s office who wanted to make a trip to the central part of Kenya where his popularity was at its career low.

On the balcony of the tragedy house, a piece of the electric cord that Kavita had used to take his life still dangled helplessly but ominously as if watching on everything that was going on below and beyond. Was it a warning to the excesses that had caused all this pain? No one could tell, not even the parliament that knows it all.

© Chrispus Kimaru 2011


One comment on “The Principal’s Tragedy

  1. Mary
    November 11, 2011

    I’m very impressed with the plot…and the dialogues sound real. Ur narration could improve though.


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