Zonke..and a Guest Writer.

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Saturday I spent a whole day in Funyula, Western Kenya. World Diabetes Day. Long story. In the evening, I linked up with my cousin Farouk. Remember him, the ex-convict? He got a gig in Bunjumbura where nobody knows he spent a few years in jail. He was in shags for the weekend, to see his father, so we agreed we would meet in Kisumu and catch up. Haven’t seen the bugger in a while.

He suggested Signature club. It’s the hottest club in Kisumu now. It’s downtown, on the 4ft floor of some building. I rode the lift with some actor from Mother-in-Law. That gentleman who plays the son to the Mother-in-law. The dark one who never smiles. You should have seen him, behaving like monarchy. His highness, hotshot actor. Celebrity extraordinaire. Two-time Oscar Award nominee. Give way, ye peasants.

The elevator opened to three dark bulky chaps: boat-builders by day, bouncers by night. Palms the size of frying pan. And

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their necks, my God, their necks! Cinderblocks! The held off a chap who had this small paper bag and asked him to surrender it at the main desk. The guy moaned that it was only groundnuts (I’m not making this up, I swear) and that he wouldn’t eat it in the club. A small argument was underway as I made my way to the cashier. Entrance is Ksh 250. And Kisumu folk, unlike you, whiny Nairobians aren’t averse to forking out Ksh 250 entrance. What is money?

Signature was packed! And hot. And stuffy. And loud. The waitresses wore mismatched uniforms and they didn’t smile.

Farouk is seated near some window, sharing a table with some chap in a pink-ish polo shirt. He introduces him but the music is too loud for me to catch his name. But it starts with a P. This gentleman, I was to learn later, works for Center for Disease Control in Kisumu. He is one of those who are transferred to a small town and still haven’t learnt to adjust. You know he hasn’t adjusted because he still talks about Nairobi like old men talk about their youth; with nostalgia, some bitterness. He burns money flying back to Nairobi twice a month because he’s afraid he will “lose touch.”

It’s from this guy I learn about the Tusker Malt Lager 100 Club. He is the kind of guy who will tell you about such things. This is more like a community of Tusker Malt Consumers who also happen to love African Music, and interact with each other via some site called www.TML100.com. He later asked me if I had heard of Zonke. In order not to sound very ignorant, I said yeah, he sounded familiar. “It’s a she,” he laughed, like I was an imbecile. I was.

He said he would be in town on Wednesday for the Zonke concert in Arboretum. “Like a picnic, kind of thing?” I joked. He said it would be at night, mature crowd, great music. “I like it because of all those chicks who love that soulful beat, that acid jazz kind of thing. For a guy who is still searching like me, this is a great place to mix pleasure with pleasure.” Hmm.

“I can hook you up with tickos.” I said OK.

 

Zonke

Later, I YouTubed Zonke. Mellow. Neo-afro. Plus, there is a picture of her sporting a short hair-do like the one Toni did at some point in her career. I wonder what her star sign is, Zonke.

Away from Zonke. Meet Collins Mwai, my guest writer for today. Collins is my guest writer today because he is persistent. Always sent me his pieces for critique. Even when some went unanswered he kept on.

I pulled this piece from one of his many. It’s about Nanyuki. I like Nanyuki; it’s the only town with numerous imagery opportunities. Turns out Collins likes it too.

But Collins doesn’t want you to go to Nanyuki, we wants to know what you think of his writing. He wants to know if he should stick in his oars, or he should stick to Social work and Project Management. Remember, it’s never what you say, but how you say it.

Over to you, Gang.

***

It doesn’t matter if you arrived by air, road or a rusty train, when its time to leave Nanyuki, your eyes will fixed to the rear view mirror, lumps of emotion stuck in your throat.

You can never leave Nanyuki without looking back. It’s not because of the hookers with British and American accents. It’s not because of the Indian businessmen who can speak better Kikuyu than the locals. It’s not because of the British men and women in uniform who will forever be grateful to Nanyuki for its patience with them.

You can never leave Nanyuki without looking back because of the snowing mountain in view, the snowing mountain with flowing streams that Nanyuki drinks from. You look back to see the same view that God enjoys and concludes that despite all of man’s destruction and degradation of the Earth, there is still some beauty left for him to gaze at on a lazy Sunday afternoon. You look back because of the masses of the prettiest girls you have ever seen –products of a blend of two races (whites and Africans). Their colored faces, their flowing hair, their curves, their manners and carefree attitudes.

Masses of different races, cultures, backgrounds, tastes, dreams and ambitions move to Nanyuki. They move there in search of work and money, they move there ii pursuit of fun and adventure, they move there to get a life and spice in it. Some stay, others leave but none forgets of the moments and experiences. Their lives and lifestyles introduce and re-define the town. Its no-longer a quiet town that the Equator cuts across. Nanyuki is alive and on the map because of those who breathe life into it; some who reside in the town and others half way across the world but are part of its structure. Nanyuki is alive because of the left-handed sculptor who can carve and mould anything he imagines. Nanyuki is kicking because of the British soldier in Afghanistan who spent six months in Nanyuki and dreams of returning once he leaves the Arab desert.

Nanyuki is because the Indian businessman who moved to Kenya in 1987 with his entire inheritance to open a bookshop that generation have read from. Nanyuki is Nanyuki because of the chain-smoking white childless widow who runs a ranch left to her by her late husband who was related to the royal family. Nanyuki is alive because of the hooker who speaks in a flawless British accent and can quickly change to Kikuyu and kikamba. Nanyuki is the souls at the feet of the leeward side of Mt Kenya and what they built, brought down and rebuilt.

It’s exotic. You can see and feel the exoticness in tiny coffee houses where everyone looks like a writer, poet or artist. You can feel the exoticness in smoky bars where most men appear to be travelers following their destinies however unreal they seem. The exoticness is in the sweaty horse riding cowboys with hunting knives holstered and giggling girls in tow; looks like a cast and scene of a Texas movie. Nanyuki’s exoticness is in hotels and lodges built not from architects designs but from creativity and imagination of ordinary men. Ordinary men who wanted life at their own pace, lane and design.

Nanyuki is less of trends and fashion and more of comfort. You can see it in the Maasai man who despite of his Cambridge degree and slight British accent, sits wrapped in a red ‘shuka’ sipping beer. Choice for comfort and lack of concern for trends is evident in the young men who for ages have worn khaki cargo pants and leather sandals or army boots and do not feel inferior or ancient among skinny jeans wearing ‘visitors’.

Many find themselves, their souls, purposes and destinies in the town along the equator. An equal number loose themselves and their futures there too. But whatever anyone finds in Nanyuki seems embraceable.

Rain pours, the sun shines, the wind purrs and the moon comes and goes with the seasons live every where else but Nanyuki’s feels different. You can call it whatever you like; ‘Little England’, ‘end of the rail’, it will always amaze you if not surprise you by a somewhat reckless confidence and admirable ignorance of the world outside it.

It may have a few littered streets, a few dark thug prone alleys or one or two poverty stricken slums but what work of art doesn’t have a tiny flaw?

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84 Comments
  1. Not bad Collins. Like Biko said, the imagery is very good and you made Nanyuki sound like a town worth visiting. It’s also clear that you are a big fun of Biko’s writing because one can see some of his style in your article. But other than one or two or three typos, not bad at all.

  2. He writes in monotone, this Collins, this one – there wasn’t a scream or a whisper throughout the entire text. He pens with a stiff back and a straight face. Neat and proper.
    The imagery neither jumped on my back nor tickled me in my sides to get a reaction – it didn’t grab me by the hand and drag me to ‘scene of the crime’ screaming ‘Look at that!#’ – actually, nothing within me was stirred. I sat and read to the end.
    The coffee and cigarette smoke, I could not smell it or hear the giggling gyals or think of the tattered books in that dusty bookstore. It was quiet in there. A gentleman’s manuscript.

    The prose and pithy was exceptional though!

    I’d say dip the pen in the ink bottle further, don’t shelve it just yet.

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    1. @Fra
      Sadly I agree with you.

      Your comment, however is relatively beautiful and you should think of being a writer. Or do u have a blog we can visit and assess you work?

      @Collins
      Spelling mistakes are easy to spot and hard to forgive especially if they hit one just in the first paragraph.

      Your work gets a 70% score. (I wouldn’t mind reading another of your articles)

    2. @Collins. Am definitely revisiting Nanyuki with the mindset you’ve given me. Good stuff. Nice informative read. Spice it up & give it sum more edge though.

      @fra, one word: Profound. Or captivating. Take a pick!

  3. Collins is a good writer, not bad at all.
    I too want to hear more about Farouk. Has he been getting laid? What is he doing in Burundi? I hope he is not driving an oil truck…

  4. i want to once again side with fra on this one. He writes well but it feels flat with no moments where my heart races or when i even feel the need to read a section again just to experience the feeling again…or maybe its a well shot movie with a weak plot…maybe…or maybe i am tired. Will try it again when im fresh and see if my heart is moved.

  5. Loved your piece better than his…..not that i’m biased or anything:) Collins is a good writer but me thinks he should loosen up a bit,incorporate humour,sarcasm,blond moments(like the one you had) et al !!!

  6. Biko,you are always missed n thanks for the brief shout.
    Collins is good but the typos were undoings that stood out in stubborn ways.
    @Fra…do you write? Coz if you don’t then shauri yako

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  7. Collins, not bad ….keep being persistent. it will be perfect soon and dont worry too much about being told you sound like biko because reallly there is no patented way of writing. jus write!

  8. A good read.Don’t ditch the pen yet.A few lessons from the great scribe Biko and your writing may soon be able to capture the imagination of the well meaning high school pundits.

  9. I’v lived in Naromoru for 2 months now and clearly u’ve given me a new mindset about Nanyuki.Anyway your writing is simple which is nice and i wouldn’t mind reading more stuff from you.Just a little bit rough around the edges but there’s potential here.
    Now EXIT collins ‘ENTER Jackie Ndinda..
    .Ndinda(kwata vandu )

  10. Team Fra,

    Collins, at first sight,we see a nicely outlined silhouette and as we await to see its glamorous features that will leave us in awe and amazement, it then disappoints us as there is no illumination on the silhouette.

    You write well friend,just short of vigor.
    Adapt “breathing life into my writing.” style

  11. biko my heart only beats for you haha. js kiddin. more from u please. as for collins twas okay bt not capturing enough to finish reading.

  12. Nice one Collins…but I’d have preferred a little craftiness on your part..its a 68% from mi…
    And Biko..tell us more about Farouk…dont let us beg…

  13. Fra…i think you make a brilliant writer!

    Now, Collins…hmmm….he still has a number of fans here so i guess he aint so bad. But FRA…where is your work?

    1. thank you umm fra-is-good {that’s slightly disturbing} Can I call you Person X? Person X works, yes?
      Okay, Person X.

      I like the sound of that: ‘your work’
      I am yet to build a nest that shall hold my Golden Eggs, but until then its troll and spew. Troll and spew.

  14. this chap aint bad at all. Biko you’ve set the bar too high such that you are the bench mark even if its a first time write.Cut the guy some slack.He is there….Well, almost

  15. no “Tod” learns the language without mumbling what seem like obscenities to those of us that don’t understand their language, but that doesn’t stop them from growing into their own, strong and distinct in the world.

    Collins writes well, he really does, at some point it feels that he has been reading a lot of Biko but he still carves his own. His reading isn’t very fast paced and doesn’t need you to move swiftly for the lusting of more but it does not leave you behind, feeling like you got lost in the city. He does a good job and would surely do even better, ride along pal.

    Hi Biko,

  16. Collins, your thoughts flow without pauses. I didn’t stop at some point to smile or sign. I just read like a school boy picking notes. The prose is good.

    A gentleman’s piece.

    Biko, did Farouk get drunk?

  17. Collins, there is light at the end of the tunnel for your writing, and its not an oncoming train from Syokimau but its a ray of Bikoizm. Work at it!

  18. Some of the comments from the gang are honest ones,others are to be ignored -you know even Soyinka has his critics. And you have balls ( grin) to agree to write here!
    You write well Colllins. Keep writing ! And visit our blog 🙂

  19. fra, interesting how only weeks ago high school was baying for your blood…they love you now. Want your autograph, and want to see more of you. How i love the twists here..!

  20. Collins, not bad. Question, do you proof read your work before submitting it? Make a point of doing so, it kills the reader’s flow when your enjoying a piece and the spelling mistakes just jump out at you. Good work though, I really liked the imagery and the simplicity of your words.

    @ Biko, more, more, give me more!

  21. I don’t know much about writing but I know a lot more about reading and Collins, that was a good read…felt like being in the “public enemies” era, only in an African setting and without the violence.

  22. Hello Biko,

    I think you should introduce the guest at the end of the story. I already judged the article before i read it because i knew it wouldn’t be as good. @Collins typos are a sin in writing, it is a turn off. All in all you tried

  23. @ Collins Mwai,welcome to the high school.
    as a T.P(teacher in practice) be advised as follows,

    the white chalk box is in the top drawer of the cupboard.
    the duster is worn out-you have to use tissue.
    Satan is around-he usually puts pepper in the duster for all new Tps.-ku-sneeze nayo?
    there are no Monto-s for those speaking vernacular,English came by sheep.

    @Biko,can we have Farouk-The Bunjumbura edition?

    am done

    its 12.45.

    DH captain is ringing the bell for lunch.leo ni Ugali-Dondo

  24. This Collins can write, its good that he has someone to look up to. Keep looking out for upcoming writers Biko.

    By any chance, does he have a blog?

  25. Collins,
    You are doing well so far. Your writing though is too proper.. Too gentlemanly :-). Breathe a little life into it.
    I have however been to Nanyuki and it sort of clams you down.. you slow down and relax, its serene (at least where i stayed). So in a sense i understand you.

    Biko,
    Farouk, Farouk, Farouk.. Looking forward to the post!

  26. i like this post,they r typos n all,but alot of hope…now how o y’all find out about a post?is there a way mtu can pata an alert or something, this posting business of twp weeks later is embarrassing,makes it look like Tigoni hakiuna net!

  27. Farouk…! Biko, this class is banging on the desks asking for more about the cousin. The opening bit was great.

    Collins, a good read and a piece about Nanyuki is a piece after part of my heart.

  28. Good stuff, Collins, it also is quietly referred to by the neighboring locals as ‘Heaven on earth’ those pointies point you to why…

  29. Biko high school will go on strike if we dont hear more about cousin Farouk, has he been laid lately, hows Bujumbura for him?

    About Collins thats the way to go!

  30. That’s a gud one but he forgets that nanyuki is alive because of the changaa brewed in likia slums,and the increasing muslims.

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  32. Beautiful piece. Though quite frankly I’d rather Collins found his own style rather than copy Biko’s. He’s got the stuff

  33. I couldn’t finish the Nanyuki piece. Good imagery and descriptions but they sounded rather hollow and twee by the middle of the story.The fellow has potential. Next time less waffle and more meat. Keep at it Collins – persistence pays.

  34. I am with Biko_Fan on this. I found myself skipping thru the writting to get to the end. And even then, I found myself reading what seemed like the same paragraph over and over. Overall a very good start. Don’t quit your PM gig, just not yet. But you are on your way ….

  35. I studied in Nanyuki 30 years ago. Collins, you have brought back fond memories. You are a good writer – keep it up!

  36. @Collins,Good! Keep writing,you’ll get to better and fantastic. You’ve aroused in me a desire to visit Nanyuki.

    @Biko,I’m looking forward to the blog about Farouk…..but ‘Room with a view’ meeeen-fantastic! reminds me of ‘Looking for a rain God and other short stories”

  37. i was born in kisumu and raised in nanyuki. i couldn’t have described it any better! its timeless, beautiful, breaths life in to weary souls trust me you will not want to leave this haven. it’s my little escape when the fumes and traffic in Nairobi wear me out!