“Sasa Mwanamke, Utafanya Nini?”

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I like men who underestimate the power and strength of a woman. What am I saying…I don’t like them. I LOVE them!

I engaged such a man recently. We were talking about politics and somehow we ended up talking about women in relation to men. How we ended up there, I don’t really know. We started with discussing how politicians make promises during campaigns and how they get to office and could care less about fulfilling those promises. He claimed to understand where they’re coming from and tried to reason with me.

“Look here Renee, even you know that when a man courts a woman, he makes a lot of promises, some of which he doesn’t intend to keep…”

“So does it mean…” I tried to interject.

“No, no, no, let me finish. Let me finish!” he cut me short.

“You know how courtship goes. Before a girl accepts a man’s advances, the guy has to promise heaven and earth. You have to tell her you will fly her to the moon and back even if you have no cent to your name. Once ameingia box, she’s in your court, deal is sealed…basi, kwisha maneno….” he was feeling awfully smart.

To imagine that he thought that women don’t know this game!

Seeing that I was silent, he carried on as if to make me understand ‘these things’.

…kwani what do you expect, an actual trip to the moon? No! I have better things to do! And if the woman pesters me, I tell her zaa watoto kwanza and we’ll go back to the drawing board!”

At this point, I threw up my hands. Don’t even get me started! Anyway, I recovered in good time to inquire about a thing or two;

“Say you promise her the moon, right? And she really really wants that trip to the moon. And the only reason she agrees to your advances is so that she can get to take that trip … you know…to the moon? If that trip is not forthcoming, don’t you think she might quit you? Since you did not live up to your end of the bargain?

“Quit me?!” He laughed. No chortled is more like it. “Quit me and go where?”

See what I had to deal with? Am I the only one….never mind!

Sasa Tuseme ukweli. Let us be honest with ourselves here…Where will she go? To her parent’s house? She will not quit. She will stay. Eh? Sasa atafanya nini?

Sasa atafanya nini? What else can she do?

I smiled because I had heard that statement used by women a whole lot. Your husband batters you to pulp and you go, “Sasa nitafanya nini?” Then you stay put giving him the impetus to do it over and over. He cheats on you with anything in a skirt, and all you do is wonder, sasa nitafanya nini? He treats you like a doormat, but then again, utafanya nini?

Now this man was also asking “Sasa mwanamke utafanya nini?

I was thinking of a few choice words for him but I kept my cool just to see where his Neanderthal mind would take us.

“Ok. So you’ve never heard of any woman who has left her husband, no?”

“None?”

Lakini hata akienda, si unatafuta mwingine? Yeah…” he was nodding frantically. I’m sure he gave himself a mental high five and pat on the back.

Then he had a light-bulb moment “Kwanza akiwa na watoto, ataenda wapi na watoto?

I shook my head.

“Child support nayo?” I asked

“Child support what? If she chooses to leave on her own volition I will not agree to pay a single cent!”

“Wait, so you will play ping pong with your responsibility as a father? You will only provide for your children if the mother agrees to stay with you? Wow!”

WOW!

“Dude, she will sue you for child support and you will pay her every month with your payslip! Smell the coffee bwana!”

“Sue me? Hizi vitu ndogo ndogo you just have to know how to handle them. You get a good lawyer and he will make sure that you don’t pay anything.”

How does your lawyer change the paternity of your child, pray tell?

I really love men who underestimate women. Seeing a man like that, I rub my hands together and wait. Today’s woman is not that woman in that man’s mind. Today’s electorate is not the same one in his head either. You don’t get away with not keeping your word anymore.

This is how it works: You ask a girl out. She declines. I mean, look at you. Prove your worth or something! You act on your best behaviour. You promise her the world. She eventually accepts mainly because you are on your best behaviour. Then you talk to her like she really has a brain between her ears. Like she reasons. You know….like an intelligent human being as opposed to a sack of potatoes? You tell her to pardon you, that though you would like nothing more, you really can’t give her the world like you promised. Inform her that you will however make her your world. Promise her that it will be worth it in the long run. That you will use every day to try and make her the happiest woman alive. Play her Happy by Pharrell Williams for good measure. Dance to it too-but only if you’re a good dancer. Just give her your best and treat her with some level of respect. That is what every woman wants. We really can live without that trip to the moon you know!

Chances are, she will give you the benefit of the doubt. She will stick around. Not because her lungs will stop functioning or her heart will stop pumping blood if she doesn’t. No. She will actually choose to stay with you, you undeserving moron!

Something happens when you are the source of your woman’s happiness. You won’t know how it happens but that happiness radiates back to you. GIGO kinda thing.Try the Neanderthal’s way and you will be miserable to a point of despair. Are you miserable? Is your woman happy? Told ya!

The 21st Century woman does not ask “Sasa nitafanya nini?” She only thinks it for a while. Then she answers that question as she comes up with a plan. This woman quits men and she does just fine after that gentlemen! She does ok. She does not go back to her parents’ home. She buys her parents land and builds them a home. She furnishes it. Don’t get it twisted! She will leave you and you will pay her your share of child support. She knows her worth – make no mistakes about that.

Use all the flowery language you can master. Pick up lines and all. But get this. At some point, you will have to put your money where your mouth is.

You want a family? Close knit, intact, whole, hunky-dory? Treat your woman with some level of decency and respect. You want a broken family? Well, I just gave you the Neanderthal’s manual. Go ahead and use it. Soon you’ll be talking divorce, child support, court hearings, single parenting, wayward children…etc. All thanks to your chest. Yeah, the thumping of your chest! And when the days are long gone, you sit alone, and you think to yourself; “IF only I had treated that woman right. If only I could get a second chance…”

Men who underestimate women get their lesson sooner rather than later. I like the look on their faces when they realize that these creatures are smart as hell. I love it when they finally see how a home is bare and empty without her touch. I enjoy it when he finally understands that she sees it all. That she knows. That she has a plan. I really do get emotional when that chest-thumping know-it-all comes to the realization, albeit belatedly, that this woman can actually make it without him. I even get teary (give me a break!) when he finally appreciates her.

Ha! The politician too.

First published on the Storymoja Festival blog

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To Hell With Mother Tongue?

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Photo courtesy of decisivemagazine.com
Photo courtesy of decisivemagazine.com

“And at what point in their lives will their mother tongue come in handy?” she asked cynically. She spoke in her mother tongue. Ironically, the above translation to English does not begin to capture the true essence of the words she used.

Someone had asked her if she had already started teaching mother tongue to her one and a half year old. To which she gave the above reply. Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to say so much that you in fact end up saying nothing? That is what happened to me.

In her mind her children will grow up and learn other ‘useful’ languages. Languages that will come in handy like English. Maybe some French, German, Spanish. A bit of Italian perhaps? Mother tongue is pointless.

With the other languages, they will explore the world. Traverse the globe. They might even go ahead and live among the Germans, or the French. They will roll their tongues efficiently to whisper “Au revoir” to Mother Africa and her mother tongue. To hell with mother tongue, they don’t need it.

With that statement, she declared to everyone in the room that she is inferior. She frowned upon her identity and therein frowned upon herself. She denied her children an identity – with that one statement.

She assumed that the path she already drew up in her head was the very path her children would follow. That she will always be here to make sure that they don’t grow up and stray to veer off the beaten path. She would ensure that there doesn’t come a point in her children’s lives that they will need to use their mother tongue. That they will never interact with kin who only speak mother tongue, and feel shortchanged.

She is a young mother. And the problem with our generation of young mothers is that we are not so smart. Since we are not smart, we tend to pass our ‘not so smartness’ to our offspring. We are obsessed with trends. We are maniacs who wait to be told who we are, how to dress and what to eat. We are too timid to live our lives and so we end up living someone else’s life. We dread being unique, doing what has never been done, exploring the unexplored. We huddle up and undertake to be a replica of each other. Oh, she wears a long weave; I think I will get me a long weave too, is our mantra.

We want to be who we are not. Can a Kalenjin be more English than the English? Can a Kikuyu be more French than the French? But we will still try to be just a little bit French. Just a teeny bit English. If we can be allowed to forgo our mother tongue, we promise.

Why are we ready to forgo something so profoundly unique about us? Take this quote from Ishmael Beah for example “My mother tongue, Mende, is very expressive, very figurative, and when I write, I always struggle to find the English equivalent of things that I really want to say in Mende. For example, in Mende, you wouldn’t say ‘Night came suddenly’; you would say, ‘The sky rolled over and changed its sides’” Tell me, how beautiful is that!

Is there anything worse than walking around the world without an identity? Not knowing who you really are? There is no greater travesty if you ask me.

At what point do you deem yourself so worthless? At what point do you consider yourself a second-rate human being who needs to emulate other cultures to feel worthy?

It is sad. I was irked by her sentiments that I wanted to call her to a corner, away from prying ears and tell her that what she just said was not only disturbing, but also the shallowest, stupidest statement I had heard in a long long time.

I wanted to educate her that the mother tongue is the language of heart and mind, as intimated by Fountainmagazine.com. That when a person speaks their mother tongue, a direct connection establishes between heart, brain and tongue. That our personality, character, modesty, shyness, defects, our skills, and all other hidden characteristics become truly revealed through the mother tongue because the sound of the mother tongue in the ear and its meaning in the heart give us trust and confidence.

I wanted to quote Nelson Mandela, the same way the website did. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”

I wanted to scold her for shunning our mother tongue. For treating it with distaste like it was a plague she would like to rid her children from. I wanted to inform her that doing so only helped to alienate her brood.

I wanted to warn her that children, who are unaware of their language or culture for that matter, will lose confidence in themselves.

I wanted to rain on her with memories of our childhood. How stories were told to us in mother tongue. How those memories are priceless and can never be replicated anywhere in the world. How mother tongue connects us to our mother; the one constant, truest and strongest anchor of our lives. I wanted to look her in the face and ask, “How dare you?!” I wanted to slap her across the same face and ask her to end the stupidity. To end the self-loathing. To accept who she is. I wanted to shout at her to most of all, remember who she is.

“Our mother tongue is the language we use to think, dream and feel emotion,” Proverbio said. Why would you deny your children that?!” I wanted to yell.

I wanted to say so much but from the above, I am sure that you can tell that it wouldn’t have ended well. So I opted to blog about it instead. Hopefully, she will come across this article and read it. Or not. Whatever.

 

First published on the Storymoja Festival Blog

 

Book Review: Of Goats and Poisoned Oranges By Ciku Kimeria

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Of Goats and Poisoned Oranges
Of Goats and Poisoned Oranges

I read this book in one sitting as I travelled from Nairobi to Sotik town in South Rift Kenya, and still had the time to enjoy the spectacular scenery on the way. It tells a story about the tumultuous marriage of a middle aged couple – Wambui and Njogu – living in Nairobi. Wambui is a graduate with a Bachelor of commerce degree from the University of Nairobi. Njogu on the other hand – a cobbler’s son who dropped out of school at standard three – is a driver turned businessman. The disparity in their backgrounds soon becomes a problem in how they relate to each other, and with their relatives. They soon have to deal with infidelity and its consequences, which they both try to work through quite determinedly.

The story is told from each spouse’s perspective and from the perspective of the different people in their lives who include; Nyambura (Njogu’s mistress), King’ori (Njogu and Wambui’s son), Muriungi (Nyambura’s brother) among others. This style of narration greatly affects the flow of the story as it jumps from year to year giving the impression that the whole book is a summary of events. For this, I felt shortchanged.

For a story on marriage, love, hate and betrayal, the story fell short of eliciting any emotions from me. It is a bland narration that does not bring out the emotions of the characters. I felt nothing for Wambui and Njogu throughout their marital journey. I did not feel their love. Betrayal is just a word in the book with no feelings attached to it. This book does a great injustice to the storytelling mantra of “Show, don’t tell” as the story is simply narrated with words carrying no emotion.

I however liked that it is written in a simple style with common Nairobi jargon cleverly thrown into the plot. This left me with a sense of familiarity to what the author is writing about.

For that, and because I am a sucker for love, and for the unforeseeable twist at the end, I rate it a 2 out of 5.