Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Pascal Masila Mailu
I struggle to sleep tonight. The sudden rains are literally raiding the iron sheets overhead. I scroll through my limited TV channels, barely hearing what they are saying about our new pope. I like him already. He looks cool and more relaxed than the last one. I like being led by guys who look calm and composed especially in these troubled seasons.
However, I feel cheated by the meteorological guys. A few weeks ago they gave a very elaborate projection of the rain patterns we should expect in March as well as respective time-lines for different zones – I expected their data to be much more accurate than the political opinion polls then. The rains were scheduled to hit the city late next week, yet here they are, disrupting my sleep and very being.
Mama Caro is yet to reopen her shop by the bus stop. They say it has nothing to do with her fear of post election violence. That most of us in the plot are yet to settle their bills, so she can’t restock until we do so. I fathom I shall settle my bit when I return to my seasonal job at the Light Industries next week. All said and done, I think Dandora is becoming a tricky place for me to continue live in – my rent has gone up thrice in three years and the food prices are just impossible. I might have to cross over to Ngomongo where rent and food are cheaper, although I will have to endure the gangs over there, and it will take me longer to walk to work. Anyway, like my dad always says, let’s wait and see. Wait and see. I love that phrase. It makes me feel like a dangerous predator in the jungle, lying in wait for the perfect opportunity to ambush some unsuspecting prey. Yet for now, I feel like life preys on me from all sides. But I shall still wait and see.
I get up and walk outside to my narrow balcony and stand facing our ever expanding garbage dumping site – the phenomenal man-made feature separating us from Korogocho and Ngomongo. I like posing there on hot and humid nights, shirtless, my weary, overtaxed muscles enjoying the freshness of the night’s wind as I reflect on life.
It is very quiet and still. The world is asleep. The meaning and impact of returning to normalcy is slowly sinking in. I realize the extent to which my serene hermitage had been invaded by politicians, their rag tag armies of loud, sweaty supporters and half baked musicians performing colorless pieces in the name of peace..and how for once in what seems like an eon, my small black and white TV doesn’t have a herd of bow tied, bespectacled political analysts confusing my lot with acres and acres of complicated grammar. However, the constant noise still haunts me, echoes of the various promises resounding over and over in my tired eardrums. I had become so used to the omnipresent clusters of earthlings huddled together in various spots of the estate from morning to dusk, engaged in endless discourse on the multiple pre and post election scenarios that we faced as a nation. In a funny way, I miss it all. In some strange way, I feel like this is such an anti-climax. We all wanted the election to come and go. Yet now I feel somehow displaced or left behind by the unfolding processes. Like many of my neighbors, I probably didn’t know the kind of aftermath to expect, and how to deal with it.
Though glad that external peace prevails, the turbulence within my heart, mind and body have outlived the elections. My personal battles still assail my balding head as the world hurries on. I know my aging dad will call from the village tomorrow like he did today, yesterday and the day before, pouring out litanies of issues emerging from the village and the need for more support from me.
The violent cough from my burning chest wake me to the reality that I need to shield my fragile self from the now chilly wind. I walk back to my room, lie on my floor mat – shirtless still, wondering whether the ravaging virus will be overtaken by my persistent hunger in their constant and literally breath-taking bids for my life. As I watch the new pope waving to the ecstatic crowds, the vanity of the current transitions bring a sardonic smile to my ashen face. …of having a new spiritual leader in a distant dome in Rome; a new president elect whose mandate is being challenged in its infancy; an incumbent president whose date of departure from State House hangs within the corridors of a new Supreme Court; and a newly retired dad who though physically in the village, remains in denial, mentally hanging in-between between Nairobi and Kitui.
I feel crowded in an inexplicable way; there is too much going on for me to focus on my life and just move on. Maybe I should start by retracing my spiritual steps to the comforting and predictable motions of my old church at St Peter’s Clavers reciting Vespers on quiet evenings like days of yore. I just need enough faith to avoid wondering how the tallying process was undertaken by the conclave’s returning officers in the Holy See before they unleashed the white smoke. And I should not forget to pray for the new pope before taking my ARVs keeping vigil for tomorrow’s unknown battles.
Now, I shall muster more faith and maintain the peace for although my grumbling stomach hints that all is not well with me tonight, it shall be well tomorrow.
Evita: The Woman With The Whip by Mary Main
The book revolves around the life of Eva Peron (1919 – 1952), the first lady of Argentina during the country’s arguably most turbulent period in her political history. From very humble beginnings, she overcame abject poverty and a very difficult childhood to become the most powerful woman in Argentina (and probably Latin America) during and long after Juan Peron’s two administrations.
In the book, Eva helps Juan Peron to consolidate his political power mainly through her emotional, rhetorical speeches to the masses of Argentine workers (whom she refers to as the shirtless ones). Despite displaying many excesses in abusing her power to get whatever she wants (including advancing her acting career), she appeals to a majority of the poor in Argentina by providing them with shoes, cooking pots and sewing machines.
Eva’s story highlights the personal attributes that enabled her to succeed in projecting such a strong voice in the then male dominated Argentine politics and society, attributes that are prevalent in some of the Kenyan women who have fought to occupy our social, economic and political platforms over the years. The book makes me appreciate the structural and systemic barriers that our sisters face In pursuit of leadership, while also reflecting on the value of resilience, strength of character and oratory (among others) that they need to cultivate if they are to make a significant mark in our still male dominated society.
©Pascal Masila Mailu 2013
This is Pascal Mailu’s story of life and reading. What is yours? Comment about what living and reading has meant to you in the past three months.