Pokot

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You are miserable. You think because you carry fruits to work and you drink eight glasses of water you finally gotten your body to a state of nirvana and that brings a level of joy to you. You imagine that the group chats with your close-friends is a high acknowledgment of your social stability. Go ahead and lose one eye, or your job and see how many of them will leave the group chat. You think just because watchmen flash you salutes as you drive in you have attained supreme social capital. You found Zumba? You are still miserable. But see, you don’t know it yet because you think misery is sitting in a loo and only realising later that the toilet roll is over. This is a different kind of misery, I call it latent misery. Yes, I came up with that alone. It’s a theory I coined not long ago as my ass froze in the hills of West Pokot.

You are miserable because you are locked so far out from any reality set on this limited path of familiarity that you trod. And the only reason it continues to work is because you don’t know better. There is more out there, beyond Waiyaki Way, or Mombasa Road. Beyond your safety zone of familiarity there are people who find happiness in such tiny things that will break your heart. People who use the generosity of the earth and the acts of mankind to find fulfilment. People who don’t sweat the small stuff. People furthest from this deceptive smog of Nairobi.

And do you know what these people would say if roles were changed and they found themselves standing in your spit-shined city-shoes? They’d say to someone like me? “Biko it doesn’t matter your reasons for not blogging for two months. It doesn’t matter that you are a callous, lazy and dispiriting soul who leaves High School unattended without as much as a word.” And do you know what I’d tell them? Nothing. I’d look at my feet with the embarrassment of a village girl being seduced. And I’d be remorseful. Then these guys would say, “OK, then Biko, tell us about West Pokot.”

West Pokot is green like a co-wife. It’s also cold. Then there is the view. My God, the view! Wait, I can’t even call it a view. A view is what you see when you look out of your kitchen window and see the spot where the neighbour’s dog likes to piss on. This is a vista. A panorama. It’s rolling plains of greenery relentlessly unravelling and only disrupted, briefly, by murram roads whereupon donkeys amble by dutifully, pulling cart laden with whatever. An occasional motorbike will zoom by, carrying a goat. A group of teenage boys stroll by, walking erect, bony knees punching the air, eyes shining with something that I imagined was valour.
Teenage girls carrying jerricans on their heads also amble by avoiding our eye contact. And the kids. Cute little things with old, gaudy and dirty sweaters stand by the roadside grinning with teeth whiter than the Kim Kardashian’s knickers. They wave. I wave. Everybody waves.

When was the last time you saw a merino sheep? You will see those merino sheep in some parts of West Pokot, shuffling around looking like they are wearing expensive fur coats from Burberry. In fact, merino sheep is the only farm animal that you look at and get an overwhelming urge to hug. Ok, it’s just me. You will drive by modest tin-roofed homes that stand shivering by the foot of hills, but with such charming chimneys from which smoke curls in the air like the serpent from the book of Genesis. We drive further inside up the highest mountain at a place called Tapach where it’s so cold and windy the trees grow frozen in one direction. Like they all bend in one direction like it’s a Halloween set. And the names of these places; Kamologon, Kaibichibichi, Kiptapar, Kapsoit and Koisungur. They sound like the sound of women breaking twigs to stock a fire in a three-stoned stove.

I was there to write about dairy farming and how the two warring neighbours -the Pokot and the Marakwet – have learnt to coexist and produce milk. And I met the elders from Pokot and the elders from Marakwet and marvelled how distinctly similar they all are with their beguiling smiles. They all looked wise and crafty and regal. They all wear bad sweaters. And they never ever raise their voices. They speak like they just woke up – every syllable is an act of diplomacy.

I didn’t see one gun. Or an arrow. I didn’t see anybody smoke (it’s banned in Kaibichibichi and environ) and I didn’t see any drunkard. You know how you go to Central Kenya and after every tree you find someone talking to himself in a near drunken stupor? None of that in West Pokot, booze is banned at the border of these two tribes. But even though relative peace prevails you still sense suspicion in the air. A generational suspicion. But it’s there, suspended by good reason. You smell it. You feel it through the cold. It stays on your jacket.

Anyway, so my minders reckon that I needed to speak to this widowed Marakwet lady raising children from the sale of milk. We drive across the border of the two tribes and get to this very humble home where we are welcomed by this very unassuming woman. The culture there is different. The men rule. The women follow. Literally. None of this craziness of who did the dishes jana. You know how it’s getting gradually difficult to differentiate men from women because men now wear the same pants as women? There the men stand out. And they get their underwear washed for them, but only because they provide, consistently. And they protect. And they offer direction. Even if it’s the wrong one.

We sit outside in the green lawn on this makeshift bench. We are served tea. It’s myself, the PR holding my hand in this trip, our transport coordinator (ahem, driver), a Pokot elder, three villagers (one of them eating a blade of grass, found that cool) a Marakwet elder and some village kids who are here to watch, perhaps hoping that it’s a circumcision ceremony. Mine.

After my interview and the polite banter, in my eternal brilliance, I ask if I can see the cows. I mean, it’s not enough that I had been served tea, I just had to confirm where the milk came from? My gracious hostess, two gentlemen and one elder take me to the adjacent paddy next to the house where some Freisier cows were feeding. The children, all of them follow us. I take pictures.

I should have been content with just looking and taking pictures. But I just had to touch the cow, perhaps to confirm that indeed it was a cow and not a car? And I suspect that one of the cows was in her hormonal stage, having a bad hide day. Who knows? Or perhaps it didn’t like my cologne. Or my face. Or perhaps when it touched it (on the thigh) it imagined I was from Muranga because it lashed out with its right left leg and kicked me in the shoulder. I swear.

I was startled before I felt the pain. Have you been kicked by a cow? I was sure the damned cow (and I use that word as an insult in this context) had broken my shoulder. The pain! I had to look if I still had a shoulder. The kids guffawed. Kids are foolish, they will laugh at anything. The men grinned. Nobody made a move to see if I was alive.

My most immediate reaction was to kick the foolish cow back because where I come from we don’t turn the other shoulder. But you can’t kick a widow’s cow now, can you? It’s perverse. So I acted like it wasn’t even painful. I mean, I get kicked by a cow all the time, no big deal. But deep down I wanted to cry. I wanted to ask someone to look if I had broken something, but nobody did. I was where men have been shot by arrows and bullets, where men have watched their homes burnt down with their families in them, I wasn’t about to start whining about a cow’s kick.

But I don’t remember that cow fondly. I hope wherever it is its udders pain at night. I hope its udders grew so big with milk it made it develop back pain. I hope it’s getting bad dreams of it’s hoofs being boiled for dog food. But everything happens for a reason and if you want to know the truth, I think all my sins here on this blog have been absolved by that kick, even though it wasn’t to the ass.

[Photo credit: Rough Guides]

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125 Comments
  1. Finally!!! I was almost sounding the war cry from the dining hall for a riot! This is fair not good enough though.Tighten up Biko.

    1. didn’t I miss your articles!!! “some village kids who are here to watch, perhaps hoping that it’s a circumcision ceremony. Mine.” heheheh

  2. Wow! Long time no post. But hey? The mind gets tired, the soul seeks cleansing, the body refuses to cooperate. So, you take a trip to Pokot, or Ukambani; for the sweltering heat will atone your every sin. Roast you alive, ooze every single strand of wicked thought out of your pores. Your mind will get hazy, your eyes misty, your hearing drowned, and your fans will have revenge for waiting for so loooong for another piece of your witty writing. So, there….

    Meanwhile, I can only attribute the conflict between the two communities to one Zuri. Here goes:

    Zuri

    In the utter nothingness and darkness of untime, arose a great quarrel among the gods. That is what the Inte tribe of Everyplace tell. They say that the gods were three, equal in power: Lovarr, Minte and Winsky. Being equal in power, yet each saw himself as being above the others. They quarrelled and quarrelled and quarrelled- nothing was solved. Till at last, they resolved upon a scheme to determine who was superior.
    Firstly, they deigned to create the universe, the sky, the earth and the elements. They created the sun, the moon and the stars. They created the birds that fly the sky and the fishes that swim the seas. They made animals to roam the earth. Darkness and light, seasons and tides, they willed and it was so. All that is to be found in being was it their work. In all equality did they do this.
    As instruments to praise and appreciate their creation, they moulded three young men. This, they also did so in all equality. Hence are all men borne equal. Afterwards, accordingly, each god was assigned to a young man. The young men would be used to determine which god was the most powerful.
    Lovarr chose Enti as his representation while Minte chanced on Umod. Moch was assigned to Winsky. The young men were then placed here on earth.
    This being so, the gods held further counsel. Now, what object or being could they use to trial the young men? The birds would not do- as soon as they were startled, they would fly away. Animals no. The men already had dominion over them. The fishes and other creatures of the sea would merely be fished out or cause the young men to drown- though the gods were yet to work on the modalities of this (death).
    The gods wondered and wondered. It was then that they saw a way out. They would create another being similar to the young men. Almost. Therefore, they drew and sculpted. Excellent artists, these gods, for where the sketch did not fit in, they erased and redrew. This they did, such that when this being was complete, she was perfect. Her contours and curves were symmetrical and well balanced; proportionate. For it was a she. They called her woman and gave her a name. Zuri. They sent her out to the earth.
    Now, the young men lived in harmony. They hunted and fished and roved the earth together, for they were brothers. With each other was it affection and understanding through and through. Until Zuri.
    Zuri had been placed a few ridges away from the abode of the young men. Them, they dwelled in a cave near way from where Zuri had been placed. Morning was she deposited and noon did they arrive. Laughing and playful and generally being happy did they set upon her.
    They saw her all at once. Stopped dead-struck in their tracks; mouths agape, smitten. Her face- a thousand beauties. Her skin- glowing copper bronze. Her breasts- round, firm and heaving deliriously. Her hair- black, silken and flowing. Long they gazed at her and with each gaze did they experience strange emotions.
    Soon, they ventured to talk to her, for they had the use of language. Delighted were they when she talked back; for the gods, too, had favoured her with speech. Her voice- gentle, lilting and soft like the whistling of pine trees in a gentle breeze. They took her to their homes.
    Meanwhile, in the heavens high above, the gods separated. Now, it was upon each of them to show to the others his mettle. As a precaution to avoid looking and seeing what the others were doing, spying, they separated. Lovarr was left in the sky while Winsky traversed the earth and the sea. Minte took his place under the earth.
    Thus was Zuri the beginning of politics, religion and strife.

    http://www.zurikiki.com/stories/zuri/

  3. “You know how you go to Central Kenya
    and after every tree you find
    someone talking to himself in a near
    drunken stupor?” Now that’s mean! Literary genius you are. This post made me leave the sick bay. Withdrawal symptoms.

  4. Hey Biks,

    Care to share the pics you took in Pokot? Include them in the above mentioned post, perhaps. Or post them as a new entry, Yes? Will totally appreciate it 🙂

    This was a good read nontheless. Thank you, ever so much for sharing!

  5. This, “with teeth whiter than the Kim Kardashian knickers,”
    and this,
    “infact, merino sheep is the only farm animal that you look at and you have an overwhelming urge to hug,” made me laugh.
    Fair piece, I’d say. I expected a piece that I’d ponder over for the whole week.

  6. Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude!!!!!!

    You deserve to be kicked again…and then fed 25litres of milkat once!!! The post be short omera.

  7. came back just in time to quell a riot. Now the next time you go on holiday for next month, get a Deputy Principle to make your speech on assembly.
    Of course it was a nice read this one, no need to remind you, but hey, its been two months.

  8. Hahaha i like this

    “My most immediate reaction was to kick the
    foolish cow back because where I come
    from we don’t turn the other shoulder.”

  9. happy new year to you too biko.what you need is a serious ass kicking for forgetting high school for two months…nice piece though

  10. Biko. First you scold us, and once we have hung our heads in shame, you dazzle us with your gorgeous descriptions and finally leave us feeling sorry for your (or your shoulder at least). We are wise to your ways.

    Great to have you back.

  11. Well, misery loves company coz that was waaay too short and waaay too abrupt an end. We want more…maybe footage of the shoulder kiss-ass?!?

  12. Great great piece. I especially like the unexpected humor. like the motorcycle carrying a goat. Or refraining from kicking a widow’s cow. My withdrawal symptoms are over.

  13. Some of us here at highschool were beginning to think that our Principal, Biko, had been abducted. We are relieved to know that he was only getting kicked by cows in Pokot!
    Nice piece . I say this because i paused a movie just to read this and i dont regret. Quick healing on that shoulder. Next time don’t leave highschool for too long.

    1. The movie was Lawless. Its stars Tom Hardy as Forest Bondurant. I guess you have watched it. The plot starts in 1931 in Franklin county as some roughnecks sell moonshine whisky………This was what i was watching when i got an email with your February address to high school Gang.

      1. Not a bad movie. I remember a line there, by one of the characters that went: It’s not the level of violence that sets men apart, it’s the distance they are willing to go. 

  14. Good on you. No really, that cow did what so many of us wanted to do. Now get off your ass and get back to writing, regularly …for free. High school keeps you sharpened, admit it! And I think you gain some sense of self importance when you are given feedback…

    That said, Do you take notice of valentines day? Rather, does the missus demand you take notice of the day?

  15. Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiko!! Dunno who to pity, you or the cow?lol. Great read though. Your pieces make the world a happier place to be:-)

  16. You had to pre-empt the whining part, its been 2 months really….and you want me to sympathise with your broken shoulder…………..and that part for Central Kenya and the drunks is on point I no longer count.

  17. Good read as usual. Two months is a long time to leave your readers without a piece .Probably the reason why you got your shoulder kicked !

  18. Am sorry – is it just me who cant control the laughter at the image of you getting kicked by a cow (and your urge to kick it right back)? I have tried – twice, and i still cant keep a straight face. Good one Biko, and bless that cow!

  19. I would want to believe that our principal was waiting for the form ones to start reporting so that he’d give the first speech of the year! Nice read Biko!

  20. Am I the only one who seems to ask how you are doing after you were whopped by a cow? Welcome back Biko and we hope to get weekly pen outs broken,twisted or dislocated shoulder not withstanding.

  21. Usiseme ng’ombe…sema ndrama. That’s a golden cow, i’m fighting this overwhelming urge to hug it! Ok, i’m sorry Biko, really!

  22. How dare you leave HIGHSCHOOL high and dry after a looooong and unexplained silence? That cow deserves a full trough of nappier grass for kicking your damn (insult) shoulder.
    Hahahaha, ‘teeth whiter than Kardashian knickers’ was vintage Biko though. Happy New Year.

    1. In these last 2 months, whenever I checked high school for a story and didn’t find one ready, I was tempted to go check in Sabina Joy.

  23. You are a good storyteller, stop cursing the cow, you must have touched it in a manner to suggest that you would take it to the ninth heaven, hehehe and leave Murang’a peeps alone, I thought they are your inlaws, but the issue of drunks is true but sad.

  24. Haha! Merino sheep hugs! I like the general penitent undertone in this post. Cow kick was deserved but I hope you feel better.

  25. Kudos to the cow for kicking you. “Men who provide consistently and give direction….even if its the wrong one” that got my attention.

  26. I would be happy even with one paragraph…thank you for finally posting….!! What are the odds that your piece comes out just about the same time Toni Braxton is back with her amazing album with Babyface- Love, Marriage & Divorce….?? I digress….

  27. There is a Kamba saying “As silent as a fool who has been kicked by a donkey.” I don’t comment on this blog but today I could not help myself.

  28. The master does not need to explain himself. It’s your highschool, we got free admissions here so if you decide to vamoose we’ll just light a fire and wait for your return. Welcome back.

    1. …Is that Biko talking soft? ‘But i love Highschool and i like everyone here…’ damn! It must be the shoulder…Can i take that cow to blankets and wine?

  29. A great piece…I would quote so many phrases in here.
    I can’t imagine what you would write about Nandi Hills.Just been there last week and man, its a version of yout pokot.

  30. i visited highschool while u were away,checked myself in n was beginning to wonder if i had gotten the wrong place.good ur back though.but when u leave like u had unannounced,its like leaving ur woman unattended
    to for 2 mnths..check with the missus hw that wuld impact on u

  31. MAN!!! i am disappointed at the length of this script… i like fairly long things and this one was short of fairly long!!!!

    MORE!!! (Not what the cow said after it kicked you) but more on this lovely edit…

    😛 😛

  32. Ahem!!
    You came back too soon, I wish you crossed down to Kongelai from West Pokot (read: real contrast, the former is too hot while the latter cold).

  33. you talk about the cow in 5 paragraphs!!!5 paragraphs of cow ‘stuff’ is not good enough after two months hiatus…you started so well very dissapointed.

  34. its been too long biko!and Kim Kardashian is one person so not “the kim karadashian’s knickers” unless u meant the whole lot of sisters?
    Good read as always..and how green is a co-wife lol!

  35. Your description of the scenery in West Pokot reminded me of how basic life is out there. I worked in West Pokot and Lodwar and I remember I was in heaven whenever I came across a flashing toilet, how I spent hours staring at the starts at night because there was no electricity or television to watch. How I would dream of running on manicured grass since all I was used to were shrubs.But you know what life was simpler and I was more centered. At times I miss those days.

    Now get to writing more pieces. The waiting is unbearable.

  36. Biko, one word: consistency. I hope some rubbed off on you while in pokot. Anyway, that was a dope post. Hillarious too! Good one na get your shoulder back.

  37. I think all my sins here on this blog have been absolved by that kick, even though it wasn’t to the ass.

    Iwould really,, really want to absolve you from your sins, I just cant…but from this piece its a step towards right direction

  38. hi biko? first time i’m reading your post and i’m so tickled. your grammar inspires me to be better in my own blog. 🙂

  39. Reading articles like these keeps one grounded, I always admire your world outlook, Reminds me of a french movie THE UNTOUCHABLES …. depth, wit, simple yet very controlled.

  40. You could sue 🙂 in Nairobi county should your Labrador or Rottweiler dare look at ‘badly’ the KPLC or NWS dude reading your meter…teren teren!!!………..I’m kidding, who sues a widow!

  41. “you think you carry fruits to work and you drink 8 glasses of water you finally gotten your body to a state of nirvana”

    I look at the mango on my desk and my ever full water bottle,its 1500ml,( I swear I take down 3 of this everyday). I frown.

    You speak to me Biko, excellent writing:)

  42. with its right left leg and kicked me in the shoulder. I
    swear. If I understand correctly the right left leg ought to be the tail hanging courageously for dear life; an ever ferocious guard against flies and thigh hugging men.

  43. Good piece as always…..the description of Pokot reminds me of the feeling i always get when i go to shagz; sitting on one of the big rocks in river Gura-unbeatable! Keep them coming!

  44. I feel like you have left me hanging . . . wanted to know more about the widow and her cows . . . more about pokot, the view, the people . . . just more

  45. Hehehe, this just made me happy 🙂 Marakwet = my home 🙂
    “I met the elders from Pokot and the elders from Marakwet and marvelled
    how distinctly similar they all are with their beguiling smiles. They
    all looked wise and crafty and regal. They all wear bad sweaters. And
    they never ever raise their voices. They speak like they just woke up –
    every syllable is an act of diplomacy.”

  46. Is Nairobi really that drastically different from Pokot? The narrative reads more like how a “foreigner” would perceive rural Kenya.

  47. In a place where men live with arrow heads, what’s a kick from a cow? Should have kicked it back hehehehe despite being a widow’s