Six Daughters

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In 1959, four thousand bob could afford you a plane ticket to New York. For those annoying people who like to equate everything with bags of cement, that’s five bags of cement now. [Happy?] In the 1950s, folks in the village didn’t dream of going to America. You dreamt of finally wearing shoes. Maybe, just maybe, even a tie. The biggest dream was of working as a clerk in an office, supervised by white fellows of course because you couldn’t be trusted to type a proper letter on a typewriter because, well, English. Very few spoke it. In the 50s, a necktie was a status symbol. It meant you were a different breed of African.
Jackton Isige – a boy from Vihiga – wanted to go to America. Nobody bothers to Google these things but Vihiga is 11,560kms from New York. That’s far, folks – but not as far as New York is from Kilome. It was easier to bleach your skin in the 50s than go to America, especially if you were from a small hamlet in Vihiga, like Jackton Isige. And perhaps Jackton wouldn’t have dreamt of going to America had his uncle not come back from fighting the Germans in World War 2, leaned his wooden gun against their hut and told his brother (Jackton’s father), “there are these fellows I fought with called Americans that come from America, a white man’s land. They are very progressive, I think this boy [Jackton]’s should go, he will fair well there. He is a clever boy.” Jackton’s father was a preacher, his mother was a housewife. He nodded and said with the grave tone of a village preacher, “Nyasaye nayanza.”
A seed was planted. Jackton started dreaming of America. When he finished school he came to Nairobi and got a job as a stores clerk in the Ministry of Works earning a whooping 330 bob. (Good money, in the 50s). Working in an office was something. People (other Africans) respected you. You wore a tie. And a suit. You spoke English. But you were never allowed to answer the phone, he says. That was a complicated task for a black person, you could hurt yourself lifting the receiver. Answering phones was for white people. “I remember getting in a lot of trouble with my superior, a white lady, when I answered the phone with the news that my sister had died.” he says. He went to hold many jobs in the meteorological department and much later at YMCA as a bookkeeper.
Meanwhile he wrote to several universities in American, finally he got a reply, an admission, in Wisconsin. I don’t know where Wisconsin is but it evokes sweeping farmland, wheat, a red-faced man wearing overalls and an old tracker cap, riding a tractor and occasionally spitting out tobacco.
Eyes still on Uncle Sam – Jackton saved up money. (You saved money in a post office). When it got to 4,000 bob, he started chasing the dream. He had heard through the grapevine that a plane would be taking some students to America to study. He wanted in.
He was 22-years old.
Nairobi in 1959 had an uptown where whites sat in bars and restaurants and downtown preserved for blacks. Government Road separated them from us. Oh, Government Road is now what you call Moi Avenue. Kenyatta Avenue was called Delamere Avenue. Tom Mboya street was called Victoria street. River Road was called River Road because River Road doesn’t succumb. The cars were all small saloon cars. Mostly driven by white folk.
So Jackton goes to see a big man, an African man who was in charge of the trip. His office was on Victoria Street. You took a flight of stairs, knocked on a door, whereupon a secretary with her natural hair climbing above her head, big loopy earrings dangling from her earlobes pointed at a wooden chair where you waited with the rest. He watched men in suits leave the office with big afros or hair parted on the side. When finally the secretary said, “Isige?” and pointed at the door, he got up and walked in. The office was modest. The round-faced – baby-faced man sat behind a desk, poring over a document. He was in a crisp snow white shirt, his blazer hung from a coat hanger behind him. He had two telephones on his desk. Two! He was a trade unionist, an elected member of the Legislative Council of Kenya (Legico, as our history teachers called it back in the day). His name was Joseph Odhiambo Mboya, but the world just knew him as Tom Mboya. He must have been 28; progressive, charming and sharp as a sabre.
He looked up at Jackto for a second and said, “Yes, how can I help you?”
Jackton said, “My name is Jackston Isige. I’m from Vihiga.” (Because Vihiga guys think their shags is a title.)
“Yes, Isige from Vihiga.” Tom Mboya, a natural snake oil salesman, said, his attention still focused on the document before him.
“Mr. Mboya, I’m told that you are taking some guys to America.” Jackton said.
“That is correct.” Tom Mboya said and as Jackton was about to say something one of the phones rang, a shrill ring like a fire alarm, and he held up his index finger and said “Just one moment, Mr Isige,” and picked the phone, spoke into it for a minute and replaced the receiver. “Yes, Mr Isige.”
“I would like to be on that plane.”
Tom Mboya looked up at him for the first time. He was slightly amused and perhaps slightly intrigued at how confident this young man in a slightly rumbled suit before him was. “I’m afraid that plane is full, Mr. Isige. The plane can only take 80 students and we already have the 80 students”
“How can I get into that plane,” Jackton asked. “I really need to go to America.”
“I’m sure you do. And you can get to America, just not in this plane. It’s full, I’m sorry.” The phone rang again and he said, “Let him in,” then looked at Isige with a remorseful look to imply that he had to kick him out for his next meeting. The following year he – together with others – would co-found KANU, then feature on the cover of TIME magazine, three years later he’d be made minister for Economic Planning and Development in a new Kenya, and nine years from the time Jackton stood in his office Tom Mboya would be shot dead outside a pharmacy on Government Road. (Moi Avenue). Then shit would really hit the fan.
“So I left his office.” Jackton Isige tells me as we sit at the lounge of United Kenya Club. He’s 84 years old now, but looks 70s. He’s wearing a grey checked suit and a mask. It’s 10am and the Club is almost empty. The Club – founded in 1946- is nearly as old as Isige. It smells old. The furniture is historic. Maybe it’s because of our masks, the social distancing between us, or his age, that I often have to repeat a question for him to hear.
“How was he like?” I say, not believing he’s talking about Tom Mboya so casually like you would, I don’t know, Othorongongo.
“What, 1959?”
“No, Tom Mboya.” I say leaning forward and speaking directly into my mask. “How was he like?”
“Oh, you know. Exceptional. Very intelligent and very eloquent. He was a bit arrogant, but not the type that puts you off, just the one that makes you curious about him. He definitely had a personality, a big personality.”
“It filled a room.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“It fill-then what happened after you left his office?”
After leaving Tom Mboya’s office he went to a library and found this organisation called the African American Institute in Washington DC which sponsored African students in the US. “I wrote them a telegram asking for financial help.”
“How did that work?” I asked. “How did you guys write telegrams?”
For a moment he looked at me like I was mad, then perhaps realised that I never sent a telegram in my life. “You went to the post office, GPO.” he said, amused. “There, a telegrapher gave you a form and you filled it with your details and the message. He would send it using a Morse Code, I think I must have paid 30 cents.”
“Then you went home to wait.”
“Yes. You would come back the following day to see if you got a message.”
“How much was receiving?”
“It was free.”
I imagined you working in Mombasa at the port in 1961 and your wife back in the village (wives remained back in the village) sending you an urgent telegram from shags saying, “Pregnant. Haul ass back home asap!”
And you sending another. “Yes Jesus! How many months?”
Her: “Can’t see toes.”
And you sending another. “ Don’t worry, toes overrated.”
Her: “Come. Don’t push it!”
You: “No. You don’t push. Yet. I’m coming!”
The African American Institute in Washington DC wrote back with a phone number. He plugged his other ear with his finger and spoke to them from a landline. The line was rubbish. The voice from America sounded disjointed, like they were speaking through a scratchy cough. They said they couldn’t help him with financing but that there was a plane chartered for Kenyan students by some three sponsors.
“It has sponsors like William Scheinman, former baseball star Jackie Robinson, singer Harry Belafonte.” He says. The call cost him 45bob a minute. To illustrate how expensive that is; “a cow cost 30 bob in 1959.” He says.
“So what do I do? I telegram William Schinman who tells me to talk to Tom Mboya.” he says. “So I go back to Tom Mboya’s office and I tell him that I spoke to William who asked me to talk to you. He was both surprised and angry. Surprised that I had done his due diligence and managed to reach someone like Schinman!” He chuckles. “ He couldn’t believe it. And he was angry. He said, ‘I told you there is no more space left!” He even removed the list of the students from his drawer and showed me the names. I looked at it
and returned it. So I left and the following weekend I went to the Abaluhya Association meeting at Akamba Hall in Starehe.”
Akamba Hall is where all the Abaluhya Association frequently had their meetings. He was given five minutes and he respectfully stood before them and told them that Tom Mboya had refused to get him on a plane to America to go study.
“Why?” the chairman, a thick-named man from Butere, thundered.
“He says the plane is full.” He said.
“How many people can that plane carry?!” A guy from Sabatia asked. He had an old hat with a hole at the front.
“Eighty.” He said.
“Why can’t they just add one more person surely!” Someone else asked, while pouring tea in a metallic cup with flowers.
“Because a plane is not a bus, bwana Nafula.” The chairman said, turning in his seat to glare at Nafula who was now busy blowing his hot tea.
“I then told them that I had looked at the list,” Mzee Isige tells me. “And it only had the names of Luos and Kikuyus. Of course it wasn’t entirely true, there were many names of people from different tribes. But I was desperate. But what that did is that it incessed the chaps at the Abaluhya Association who wrote a strong letter of complaint to the African American Institute in Washington DC. What then happened was that when Tom Mboya attended a meeting in Ghana he ran into Scheinman who must have brought up my name and pressured him to find a way to get me on that plane. I had become a nuisance to Tom Mboya.” he says chuckling. “So, he summoned me to his office and when we met he was livid. He felt like I was pushing his hand. He was so angry he left me sitting in his office and walked out. As I waited at the reception, listening to the radio, I heard him on the radio in Mombasa. He had flown out.”
After a few days, Tom Mboya sent two of his burly bodyguards with dark knuckles to pick him up and they met in Bahati Estate where he asked Isige, “Look, why are you doing this?”He was seated at a table, drinking from a glass of water. The room seemed to lean in on him as most rooms he sat in would do. “Why are you causing trouble? You have been a complete thorn in my flesh, you realise, sending telegrams to my partners in America, shaking this kart. I already told you that I have 80 people and I can’t remove anybody in that list. What do you want me to do? Do you want to stand in the plane all the way to New York?”
“I said, sure. I will stand. If I can stand in a train from Kisumu to Nairobi, I will stand in a plane to New York.”
Tom Mboya looked at him and shook his head. He then stared at him intently before saying, “Okay then.” And just like that his Jackton Asige’s name was added on the list and he became the 81st passenger in the famous first Kennedy Airlift of 1959 that would continue to 1963, sending almost 800 African students to study in the US, Wangari Maathai being one of them. (No, Barack Obama senior, was not part of the airlift). He sat on the stewardess jumpseat the whole way – those seats they sit on during takeoff or landing, when they are trying to avoid the eyes of a wine-soaked passenger winking at them. He didn’t even want a drink or food. America had called the boy from Vihiga.
On Sept 11th 1959, the plane landed at JFK Airport in New York. He had on a brown winter coat, a hand-me-down by a Mr Brown of WMCA. From New York he took another flight to Wisconsin.
“Life in America in the 60s wasn’t easy because I had no money after paying fees but I had to wait a year before I could work. I painted houses, shovelled snow, worked in construction.” He says. “Being black wasn’t easy because of racism; there were people who would not sit in a bar with a black person. Being called a nigga wasn’t uncommon. I would get a job at a construction site and every worker would down their tools in strike; now way they were going to work with a nigga. Winters were terribly cold but I had to work through them. I had fought to get to America, winter and racism wasn’t going to stop me, I was determined. There were many good white people who offered me jobs and who sometimes on important holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving would let me stay with them. I did important work as a foreign student, I started and ran foregin student organisations, I introduced football in my university. I was very hardworking.”
“Did racism change you in any way?”
“It didn’t.” He says. “I used to see how Nigerians would get very angry at being discriminated upon, so much that they were ready to fight. I don’t think they were used to it, they resisted it. Personally I didn’t affect me in any way. My thinking was I was in their country, this was not home for me. I was a visitor. I knew what took me there; to get an education and go back home to my people, so it didn’t matter if you called me a monkey. I looked at it as a temporary thing because I was not trying to make it home, I was passing by and soon I would leave them with that ignorance.”
He then met and fell in love with a white woman just before he graduated in 1963. “One Monday her father took me to a park and for two hours he tried to convince me not to marry her daughter.”
“How did he do that?”
“He said that his daughter wouldn’t be able to survive in the jungles of Africa. ‘What water will she drink? How would she survive without electricity? How will she be able to go to the toilet in the bush?That’s just something she can be able to do, I know her, so please don’t put her through this,’ he told him.”
After two hours he convinced him that Nairobi was a city with electricity and toilets. It was not a jungle with marauding lions, biting a chunk of your ass if you dared drop your pants in the bush. Besides he was educated, he had a job waiting for him back home when he landed. (IBM). His daughter would be good. Then he experienced another problem; there was no priest or judge willing to marry them. “Eventually we got one rogue one and we tied the knot.” a few months later, they were in Nairobi, in a bedsit along Ngong Road. “I was earning 3,000, driving a Fiat.” He says. “My new wife was very adaptable as I had noticed while we were still in America, even though she found our culture a bit different.”
“Like what?” I inquired.
“Like my mom would come from Vihiga with a live chicken and she was not used to being handed a chicken as a gift, let alone to slaughter.” He laughs. “It was a small house at the beginning and so my mom would be sleeping in the kitchen with that chicken the first night. She must have found it peculiar.”
I can hear them murmuring in bed that night.
Her: Jackton, how can you sleep through all this?
Him: Through all what? What’s the matter?
Her: Your mother!
Him: What about her?
Her: Is she gonna be okay?
Him: Yeah, why? She has a good mattress and beddings.
Her: I mean the chicken…she’s in the kitchen with a chicken!
Him: [Laughing] It won’t harm her; it’s just food. Food never harmed anyone.
Her: You are sure she will be okay?
Him: Yeah, chicken is our friend in my culture. Now sleep.
He went and held many important jobs in trade and commerce as a diplomat. He worked all over Western Europe, introducing Kenyan coffee, tea, sisal, pyrethrum, flowers, canned fruits to that part of the world. He lost a son and got a daughter in Paris. He says. “When we came back to Kenya, I told her that I needed a son.”
“Why did you suddenly want a son?” I ask.
“Because of inheritance issues; we had ancestral land.” He says. “Back then the law didn’t allow girls to inherit ancestral land.”
“So you told her, ‘I have to get another wife who can bear me a son because of this land thing?” I asked.
“Yes.” He says glumly.
“How did she take it?”
“She agreed.”
“Wow.” I say.
So he married his current wife. “Did you get more sons?” I ask him.
“Yes, and she also gave me three more daughters.”
I chuckle.
“Lovely girls.” He smirks.
[It’s Anita, one of the daughters, who had emailed me and said her father would make a great story.] His American wife, after 25- years of marriage, eventually left for America with the girls. [The first one is 56 the youngest 45-years old). “They came to the wedding of one of my daughters here.” He says. “One is trying to come back and settle down here. We are still friends.”
To his current wife he has been married for 31- years, so collectively he has been married for 56 years. I asked him what he has learnt about being married for 56 years to two different women.
“This morning when I was preparing to come meet you my wife walked into the room and said, ‘those trousers look baggy on you.’ He says. “She wanted me to remove them. I didn’t see any need to. Besides, I had already won them. I could have argued with her, but I didn’t. So I simply walked into another room.” He chuckles. “Silence is the golden in marriage, let things slide, don’t argue with your wife because you will never win an argument with your wife and even if you win you still lose. Let her feel she has won, women hate losing arguments. Also,” he leans forward, warmed up. “There is no place in a happy home when you insist on putting your foot down and saying things like, ‘I’m the man in this house.’ You need not to if you are the man. When you are in the middle of an impasse always stop and ask yourself; where are they coming from with that argument? Why are they taking that position? Compromise.”
“What about money and finances? What have you learnt?”
“I’m currently still working at 84-years of age. I go to work everyday” He says. “I do printing. I have travelled to 65 countries in the world and held some really enviable jobs here and abroad. I was one the the first black people to buy a house in Lavington. I had three houses – two in Lavington and one in Kilimani, but I lost all of them because of bad business decisions after retirement in 1991. Now I’m paying rent. I’m a great diplomat but a bad businessman. I’m working everyday because I need to leave a house for my family.”
“What would you do differently?”
“I’d buy property and invest in places that I thought were below my class. When my friends were investing in such areas, I wouldn’t be bothered. I thought; buy land in Kahawa? That was beneath my class. Invest now. Don’t be caught in class, it’s shortsighted and it can be temporary. Don’t bother with what people think of you now. And don’t wait to make lots of money to invest. Start now.”
“Are you happy with your life?”
“Absolutely. I have a wonderful family.”

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142 Comments
    1. Great story. At the beginning I almost forgot it was about men and marriage.

      On another note, let go of your editor and give me the job. Haha. I would do it like it will get me on a plane to America in 1959.

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  1. “Invest now! dont be caught in class, its shortsighted and it can be temporary! Such powerful advice for our current lifestyles.

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  2. Wisdom… Don’t be caught in class, it’s shortsighted and it can be temporary. Don’t bother with what people think of you now. And don’t wait to make lots of money to invest. Start now.”

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  3. Awesome. These Wazee from the airlift are a treasure. I met Professor Frederick Okatcha at United Kenya Club. His story was also inspiring. When I told him I was from Muranga, he told me how his friend Mr Matiba bought him 3 crates of beer on his wedding day.
    However, today is about Mr Isige. His determination is enviable.

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  4. I read this week that in 1950 the whole population of Kenya would not fill Kasarani stadium.

    Good story Biko. I just feel like those people who got airlifted were fed with mzungu selfishness. They had the balls to mold Kenya into a jewel of a country but they enriched themselves and saw Kenyans as the niggas they were perceived to be in the U.S. as a head of tea and coffee we could have negotiated better prices. Most of them have gone to be with moles and left the country on its knees.

    The chicken pillow talk is hilarious.

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  5. “Why can’t they just add one more person surely!” well this was hilarious and sounded stupid to my suprise Jackto travelling as 81st passenger on a 80 passenger plain.There couldn’t have been any better read during this period especially when everyone is staying home. Felt like i was watching a movie,the daughter was right,his father for sure made an awesome read.

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  6. “Don’t be caught in class”. That is quite a take home.
    I love it too when you make up conversations that never happened.

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  7. Love his determination… being a pain in the ass for tom mboya landed him abroad! Moral? Its good to be a pain in the ass sometimes

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  8. This courage …“I said, sure. I will stand. If I can stand in a train from Kisumu to Nairobi, I will stand in a plane to New York….
    And don’t wait to make lots of money to invest. Start now

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  9. That’s a remarkable struggle to amount to something. Odds were so impossible against him but persistence and a pulsating desire to go to USA won the day.

    It’s not random to be lucky. You work. You put yourself in the path of luck by doing things that creates an impression you deserve help and a reward.

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  10. Quite an awesome one.

    I had to google the distance from Kilome to New York (11,914 kms) for comparison with Vihiga to New York.

    And telegrams, my only interaction with them was primary school maths when we would calculate the cost of telegrams.

    Also Isige is a very persistent man. Kudos to that.

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  11. I loved Mr. Isige’s story, his determination, tenacity, resilience! Overcome the roadblock! Loved it so much I found myself giggling
    I really do love ‘old people stories’.

    And then they always go wrong with the relationship and the wife – I need another wife, because I need a son?! Silly! Sounds a lot like our story, complete with six daughters

    I guess it is what it is!

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  12. . Ahem…….Silence is the golden in marriage, let things slide, don’t argue with your wife because you will never win an argument with your wife and even if you win you still lose. Let her feel she has won, women hate losing arguments…..

    ……….Don’t be caught in class, it’s shortsighted and it can be temporary…….

    Gems of advice……… Lovely piece

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  13. This is a very interesting and motivating read. Being the 81st passenger surely paid off for Mr Isige.

    And the marriage advice works. I am not married but then, you don’t make progress in life trying to win all arguments.

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  14. The first search result that pops up when you google Jackton Isige is a young man’s profile on linkedin ( a student at Masinde Muliro University). Kid is about to start wondering what all the sudden profile views are all about!

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  15. “I’d buy property and invest in places that I thought were below my class.” This is so deep, and exactly what my dad told me last December, let development find you there, don’t follow development coz you will always pay a price for it. Wise words Biko or is it Jackton Isige.

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  16. Wow, i wanna live to give a great story too and end it like that man…”i am absolutely happy with my wonderful life”. Deep!

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  17. Beautiful piece! don’t wait to make lots of money to invest. Start now.”

    Women hate losing arguments! I loved this hahaha

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  18. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Mr Isiges’ story. It’s like watching a movie.Read it slowly taking everything in.Wow and still working at 84yrs old.So many lessons to learn from this incredible story.

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  19. Amazing, Great adventure. Travel 65 countries. I think my aim first is to travel all the counties of Kenya well before I venture global map.

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  20. Heart-warming! While not comparing this with others’ stories before Mzee Isige’s, he has had his fair share of challenges and hardships!
    Come to think of it, everybody has a story, only different. To Mr. Biko, everything or perhaps, everyone, is a story. It feels like he (Mr. Biko) can make a story out of literally everyone, not just everything! I hope you (Mr. Biko) never lack for people willing to to tell you their story!
    Thanks.

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  21. those seats they sit on during takeoff or landing, when they are trying to avoid the eyes of a wine-soaked passenger winking at them…

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  22. Well, I think I like equating things to bags of cement. How many bags of cement would be fare of train from Kisumu to Nairobi? (Assuming you’re standing all the way) haahaa

  23. “River Road was called River Road because River Road doesn’t succumb.” Interesting too that the tribal card was a powerful weapon even in the 1950s!

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  24. . That was a complicated task for a black person, you could hurt yourself lifting the receiver…. This gave me a good laugh.

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  25. Silence is golden in marriage, let things slide, don’t argue with your wife because you will never win an argument with your wife and even if you win you still lose.

    Another gem!

  26. ‘She’s sleeping in the kitchen with a chicken!’

    Petition to bring back the first wife she sounds wonderful.

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  27. Wow! Persistency and Perseverance. This virtues have good return in the long run. Keep asking and keeping knocking, doors will be opened for you.
    This story is of endurance. Have your focus on the right perspective and surely you shall overcome the challenges at hand.
    Am inspired and challenged positively.

    Good work Biko.

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  28. Beautiful piece. I was back in my history class. I enjoyed following Jackton around. Too bad with everything cool h has done he now doesn’t have a home. But he will get one, in Shaa Allah.

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  29. Wow! Wow!wow!…A real pot of wisdom.I picked a few lessons regarding marriage and finances.Incredible story.

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  30. Good story. I know you don’t read your articles after you have written them but the editing has been getting worse by the post. I even feel like there are a few sentences missing in this one.

    Still a good read.

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  31. This is lovely. I loved every bit of the story…..and I want to learn how to perfect my article writing just like you.

  32. “Silence is the golden in marriage, let things slide, don’t argue with your wife because you will never win an argument with your wife and even if you win you still lose. Let her feel she has won, women hate losing arguments. Also,”
    I’m still reading that.

  33. Should see how my friends laughted at me for buying land in Lusigetti (is that in Kenya?) “Yes Kikuyu to be presice nwai good advice for young people❤❤

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  34. Great article from a wise old man. The first wife’s willingness to accept a second wife is very interesting, considering polygamy was not in line with her own culture. The notion that marrying many women will result in the conception of a son is quite amusing, considering that it is the man who determines the baby’s gender . To each his own I guess.

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  35. Yes i agree silence does wonders…Thanks Biko for giving us a snippet of 1959/60 etc. Funny how those days a cow could cost kes.30/- and an international call kes. 45/- per min.Like the Abaluhya association would say vindu vi…..!

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  36. “In 1959, four thousand bob could afford you a plane ticket to New York. For those annoying people who like to equate everything with bags of cement, that’s five bags of cement now….”

    Awesome intro

    ……Are you happy with your life?”
    “Absolutely. I have a wonderful family.”

    The key takeaway words that are profound..
    Look at what is LEFT, not what is LOST!

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  37. Wow oh wow. This is very beautiful and inspiring. I m married and it hurts to not win those wifey arguments.

  38. Wow. 56 years of marriage with sound advice. Thank you for the lovely story. I’d love to spell check your work for you for free sir. There are some flaws here and there which greatly diminish your brilliant prose.

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  39. “I’d buy property and invest in places that I thought were below my class. When my friends were investing in such areas, I wouldn’t be bothered. I thought; buy land in Kahawa? That was beneath my class. Invest now. Don’t be caught in class, it’s shortsighted and it can be temporary. Don’t bother with what people think of you now. And don’t wait to make lots of money to invest. Start now

  40. Honestly,why did you have to talk to me that directly?

    I come from Kilome which is 80km away from Njekeiyee..or JKIA as us Kambas call the perching land…and I live in Kahawa.

    Let us take tea or whisky. I can write too. Half like you…

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  41. That is one hell of a determined man, a fine line between grit and nuisance. But Biko that was a high tackle on ‘us’ from Vihiga thinking coming from the place is a title…. Come on, who isn’t proud of their home, even if it is a village called Mogobich in the rift.

    Feels like the story could be longer… Interesting how life happens to everyone even at 84, I just sighed and nodded in approval when he says he is happy. That is all that matters afterall.

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  42. This is a brilliant piece, thank you. Old people’s stories have a way of giving me perspective.

    Which is why I request that you do a series with old people, Biko. We’d like to hear their 70,80 year-old life experiences. On whatever: politics, religion, parenting, finances, marriage, friendship, art, sports…anything.
    It would make for a good compilation of ideas and pieces of advice we young people may need to navigate through this life.

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  43. Haha the irony of my mother being from Vihiga, making me a ‘Vihiga girl with big dreams that keep her up, makes my heart smile . This is an amazing read!! Sough wisdom to pick out. You’ve girlven me a crazy idea to put my father’s life in writing. He was born in 1932 and witnesses second world war.
    And yes people is Kahawa are the Don’s now. Haha
    I love it.

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  44. Wow! This is really an amazing an inspirational story. I enjoyed the history part of it. The guy is a legend. He actually convinced Tom Mboya to let him go on the plane sponsored by the late JFK. Looking forward to such stories involving historical figures in our country.

  45. Very intriguing, the resilience is just on another level,am proud to be his niece he taught us integrity is key in any oneslife too he made bad decisions in business….but all in all we love you..

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  46. People with alternate currencies do exist, there are those you will tell the cost of your suit they will go quiet for some time then their faces light up then they’ll hi five you whilst saying, “that’s 10 crates of beer my fren you are moving up!” Then the most annoying ones are those that equate everything to bread, how now?

  47. ‘If I can stand in a train from Kisumu to Nairobi, I can stand in a plane to NewYork”. Asige is my kind of person, nothing stood in his way! Big up Biko

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  48. Nice story. Impactful. My take home, don’t be caught in class, it’s short-sighted and it can be temporary.

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  49. Great piece…this part got me….After two hours he convinced him that Nairobi was a city with electricity and toilets. It was not a jungle with marauding lions, biting a chunk of your ass if you dared drop your pants in the bush

  50. Oh my goodness. JACKIE ROBINSON?? HARRY BELAFONTE? I wonder if this guy knows just how rare that was.. sheesh!!!!!!!!!!
    Also glad to know black americans used to help Africans get opportunities, I have always held the thought that they hated us.
    This man has lived a full life I tell ya..
    Also, low key people use tribe in this country to pit against each other. Tribalism isn’t going anywhere.

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  51. Oh my goodness. JACKIE ROBINSON?? HARRY BELAFONTE? I wonder if this guy knows just how rare that was.. sheesh!!!!!!!!!! Africans had access to huge celebrities easy like this?????
    Also glad to know black americans used to help Africans get opportunities, I have always held the thought that they hated us.
    This man has lived a full life I tell ya..
    Also, low key people use tribe in this country to pit against each other. Tribalism isn’t going anywhere. That man lied through his nose, ati lous and kikuyus, , haha

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  52. Interesting story with great lessons,……. When you are in the middle of an impasse always stop and ask yourself; where are they coming from with that argument? Why are they taking that position?

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  53. And my name is M.A. IAM from Vihiga too. Biko yes , Vihiga is a title and in our culture chicken is food. Food has never harmed anyone hmmmm( wait until you meet mother hen who has just hatched). How about standing I n a plane from Kenya to New York, Mr. Isige was quite persistent. And then avoid class, yes stick to your lane. Kudos Biko, nice read.

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  54. Oddly enough in Malawi we still have to this day Delamere House and it is right on Victoria Avenue.

    Great Story Man!

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  55. Really great advice here from Mr Isige and Biko as always I love the imagination,, ‘no you don’t push. Yet. Am coming’. Could have a different meaning depending on the recipient.

  56. This >>>“Like my mom would come from Vihiga with a live chicken and she was not used to being handed a chicken as a gift, let alone to slaughter.” 🙂

    And this >>>Invest now. Don’t be caught in class, it’s shortsighted and it can be temporary. Don’t bother with what people think of you now. And don’t wait to make lots of money to invest. Start now.<<<

    Thank you Biko! Great story, nice landing.

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  57. The reason I write like a mad man is because Biko Zulu and his landing strip forehead are both mad. Don’t get me wrong, Biko is a stand up guy. He is also a family man, almost single handedly raised Tamms, if he ever tells you that he is lying. His wife did most of the lifting, and pushing when it came to his children. See, Biko is a real one, he is also mad. That would put him at REALLY MAD. They have a whole dormitory for his kind in Mathare. People there are not mad, they are just sick, real madness is on the streets of Nairobi. A lot more reside in government offices, thats a story for another day…..

    So, here is the madness, this title reads six daughters. The story focused on their father, not THE SIX DAUGHTERS. And he still found space for Tom Mboya. I read Biko every week, not always on Tuesday, I have other things to do on a Monday evening(based on my location).
    Thank you Biko for infecting me with madness, even as you social distance. If you ever have time, I just might fill you in on my old man too. He is a military veteran and only has one wife

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  58. Biko, I love your work, I enjoyed this piece, as I go thru the paragraphs its like I was there, eaves dropping on your conversation with this great man. A take home for me, remain true to yourself and your goals, do not be hung up with all the other issues(racism, trends, class, winning an argument) they will distract, if not change you. Kindly pay attention to the grammatical errors. I still love your work, errors or not! Story telling should be the future in our children’s education, I support your campaign. lol!

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  59. Don’t be caught in class, it’s shortsighted and it can be temporary. Don’t bother with what people think of you now. And don’t wait to make lots of money to invest. Start now.”

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  60. I’d buy property and invest in places that I thought were below my class. When my friends were investing in such areas, I wouldn’t be bothered. I thought; buy land in Kahawa? That was beneath my class. Invest now. Don’t be caught in class, it’s shortsighted and it can be temporary. Don’t bother with what people think of you now

    Always is a pleasure❤️❤️❤️

  61. I love how you include your imagined conversations. Kudos to the dreamers who go after their dreams at all costs.

  62. The typos….won trouser..editor wachana na sausage na beer mbili…great story though..let me share with hubs

  63. Good Mzee Isige I like the story and the way you brought. I know you personally as your pastor but I never knew you have this rich information. Be blessed

  64. You are a great writer!!!!!
    And the determination of Jackton Isige…..
    I almost saw myself in the 50s as the fly in his pocket..
    I like like

  65. Hi Biko,
    Loved this story. I’m a beneficiary of a scholarship program started by Dr. Susan Mboya as she followed in her father’s footsteps so I’m always inspired by such stories! Maybe you can create a series on some of the other 80 students?:)

  66. Great read. Just wanted to mention that the 1959 4,000 bob isn’t really 5 bags of cement now, it’s many more bags. You haven’t adjusted for inflation.

  67. Silence is the golden in marriage, let things slide, don’t argue with your wife because you will never win an argument with your wife and even if you win you still lose. Let her feel she has won, women hate losing arguments.

  68. Good read…I always enjoy reading your articles…the sense of humour, history advice etc comes in handy…thanks…

  69. “…it didn’t matter if you called me a monkey. I looked at it as a temporary thing because I was not trying to make it home, I was passing by and soon I would leave them with that ignorance.”

  70. I laughed so hard (internally of course) where you described the roads. River Road was called River Road because it doesn’t succumb. Hahahaha that was really funny.
    I cried (not internally) at the part where you wrote, the plane landed on September 11th 1959 in New York ( this one brought back all the emotions I had locked away since landing abroad. Fear and happiness). I was in public and didn’t want people to see my tears so I had to turn off my phone to pull back my tears before I continued reading.
    I really need to stop reading your posts in public. I need to allow myself to feel all the emotions openly hahaha. Because I’m one of those people who think that crying in public makes me look weak lol.