Mid this year I went to Aga Khan to seek medical treatment. Sore throat. You know how they embarrassingly call out your name loudly for you to get into the atrium to see the nurse? I hate that shit by the way. They should just call a number, that way patients won’t struggle not to giggle when they learn your name is Omusakhulu Wepukhulu Wafula Jnr. Anyway, so they call out my name and I go see the nurse then I come out and go straight to that water dispenser near the window to get some warm water for my throat.
When I turn there is this guy standing in my way with a lopsided grin. He looks early 40’s, or very late 30’s. “I’m sorry, man,” he says then asks if I’m the Biko who writes. Now, there is Soko Analyst, Steve Biko, who writes about finance and business and I didn’t want to be presumptuous and steal his glory just in case the chap was referring to him. So I asked him what this Biko writes about and he said, “Bikozulu?” I said that’s me. And here is what he did. I swear I’m not making this up. He stepped forward and hugged me. A man. A stranger. Hugged me. Both hands. Around me. I stood there, wondering if I should hold him with the free hand not holding the plastic cup, or I should just pretend this is not happening to me. So I reluctantly held him with the left free hand. People stared. Thankfully, he didn’t cry. I almost did, though. Suffice it to say, he said he was a big fan. Then he said, “I’m sorry about your mom.” Then I felt like maybe I needed another hug.
Here is why this for me was the biggest fan moment for me this year; it’s because men generally don’t gush. They will hardly ever show emotion. They will mention something you wrote and laugh and say you write well. But that’s it. Hard chins; “what are you drinking? Have a double on me.” They will never ask for a picture. They will never look at you the way some women will, that distinct look I have to come learn: “My goodness, you don’t look anything like you write,” which is not always a compliment as any writer will tell you. And so to Fredrick M. Pleasure meeting you.
By and large it’s been a brilliant year. Quite fruitful. No hernias to report. And so here are some of the special moments that stick out.
Best Event: Kim is born
An arrow in my quiver. In my head I’m the godfather, Don Vito Corleone, and Kim is Michael Corleone. He will carry the torch and continue my narrative when I’m gone. Folk say babies are babies, and they are right, but having a son makes you restful. Suddenly you are sure you will never be forgotten by the world. It’s like when a ship wrecks on an isolated and uninhabited island one day and when the occupants gingerly step on the beach, they are surprised to see human footprints, your footprints. That’s just how it is. A daughter says many beautiful things but a son says you were here, which means you don’t have to scratch those words on the walls of a loo anymore.
My Best Article
Forget Visa Denied. The best story I ever wrote this year, on all the platforms I write on, is Today My Mom Will Die. I wrote it at dawn, because that’s when it came to me and I knew if I waited longer I would lose the rhythm in me. I wrote it before the household woke up, and like a needy cat the emotions curled around my feet as I wrote it. The tears hang close, but Tamms was going to wake up any moment and I didn’t want her to see me that vulnerable. So I finished the first draft quickly and went for my run. I loved it because I invested so much emotion in it and it moved most readers, it still felt like it still retained its privacy.
My second favourite article was in my column in Msafiri, a fictitious piece about raising teenagers. [Read it here, pg 28]
I was experimenting on writing about something I know nothing about. It was so vivid that my editor in the UK emailed me and asked, “Biko, I didn’t know you have a teenage kid!” Moral of story: You can bullshit your way through life if you want to.
My Best Interview of 2014
Ahmednasir Abdullahi- The Grand Mullah. Because I expected to really chase him for an interview instead the phone conversation went something like this:
Me: Hi, my name is Jackson Biko from the Business Daily.
Me: I would like to interest you to an interview.
Him: About what?
Me: There is a Friday column I contribute to called BD Profile where we remove CEOs from their desk and ask them who they really are.
Me: OK? Uhm…are you keen?
Him: Come to my office tomorrow at 11.
And that was it. That’s how easy it was. I expected him to try and bully or intimidate me during the interview instead he was very accommodating and gracious and laidback and we had a laugh. Plus he didn’t have his shoes on during the interview. Read it here.
Most Elusive Interview
Donald Kipkorir. I have called. I have emailed. I have in-boxed him on Facebook. I have tried using proxies. Nothing. This is the dull part of the job, seducing subjects. But it’s necessary evil. So you take breaks. You change tact. You keep your humour. And you keep trying.
If you know how I can nail this chap next year, please let me know.
Best Bikozulu Moment
Definitely winning the Best Creative Writing (second year running) and Best Blog of 2014 in the Bloggers Association of Kenya award ceremony mid this year. Ahsanteni sana those who voted and those who thought of voting but forgot.
The Biggest Interview to Chase in 2015
Uhuru Kenyatta. The President of the Republic. Once I write about Uhuru Kenyatta, it will go up as one of those articles that upcoming journalists refer to and lecturers’ use in their Creative Non-fiction classes. I intend not to write about Uhuru, I intend to create a profile template. And next year I will dedicate the year to chasing for this interview.
Most Read Article 2014
Visa Denied. Well, what more can I say about this? I leave the onus on you.
Best Books 2014
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusac. Because it’s narrated by death and death is ironic. Then there is One Day, by David Nichols. Because you manage to find beauty in the ruins that tragedy leaves behind.
My Weird Moment 2014
This happened not too long ago. I rock up home at 2am to find the gate locked from inside. I call the Missus, all her phones are off. I call the Househelp a million times, but her phone is on silent. Next door neighbours are having a party so I meekly knock on their gate and ask them to allow me to climb to my balcony. So they prop this ladder up against the wall and I climb up to the balcony. Don’t forget I’m tipsy like hell. But it’s breezy and the air is sweet with some flowers.
Now the balcony door, I find out, is closed from the inside, which means I’m still locked out. I start rapping on the window, but not too loudly because I’m afraid to wake up my landlady. My landlady is a very sweet ageing lady who I respect greatly. My worst fear is her waking up because of my commotion to find me knocking on the window, locked out of my own house like a stray cat. I dread to imagine how that conversation would go with her looking up at me from the bottom, clutching her night-dress tightly against the chill. “It’s OK, ma’am, I’m just taking some breeze. It’s a beautiful night, isn’t it?”
She never came out. I gained access after 20mins and I remember thinking how cold the tip of one’s nose can get when you stand in the cold for too long.
And now, about that Kick-Ass Logo.
The kick-ass logo has turned into a long running joke. The search for the kick-ass logo has been long, ardours and marred with men with grand promises, women who looked on disinterestedly, their hands thrust in their pockets. The kick-ass logo became a myth. Then I sought for help, and some creatives came on the wall and said, “nyet, we aren’t going to be a part of this wastage of talent.” I think they called it group sourcing or something. Apparently it’s the death of the graphic designer. I honestly don’t know what the fuss was all about. The chaps who sent their designs, thanks a lot. Ian Arunga, thanks for pitching in. (By the way, Ian, your comment system in your blog is limiting). To the one chap who came so close to nailing it, Gabantu, thanks bro. I have a token for you.
Which brings me to the picture of that gentleman.
That chap is called Chris Bitti. He’s the CEO of DB Agency. He lives in the penthouse suite of International Life House. Like the guy from the movie Wall Street, Money Never Sleeps, Gordon Gekko. Him who says, “Lunch is for whimps.”
Through my friend Vicky, Chris heard that I was looking for a kick-ass logo. I had interviewed him some time ago (read it here) and he told me he’d have his designers submit something and if I liked it and decided to use it I wouldn’t need to pay a red cent. I know. For free.
So he put a small army of his designers on it. The first design they sent to me – the one above – I liked immediately. Sometimes you see something and you just know it. And I just knew it.
This is going to be the new kick-ass logo. Some of you might not feel it, but one day you will.
Chris, thank you.
Lastly, Best Crowd 2014; Gang.
This goes out to you. For coming here always. For sharing these stories. For commenting. For suggesting. For complimenting. For criticizing. For the support. Thank you. Let’s roll this dice again, in 2015.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.