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This man, Najib Balala

This Man, Najib Balala

From those early days as a young man, he stood to be conspicuous wherever he went; even as a person he has a very pleasant personality. He is handsome (what the local community called a “natural attractiveness”). From the very beginning he has never been a fundamentalist – he is seen as a moderate, educated and westernised person. Even when other Arabs were being sent to local schools his family took him to Kakamega High School. He later went to Harvard University.

At Kakamega High School, Balala related well with the institution members that were not Muslim. This is not to say that he has not been loyal to his faith. He drives his inspiration from his beads. Balala speaks fluent Luhya and loves chicken. Although his favourite food is Biriani, he has had to go slow on the dish since it is quite fattening. The former Ag. Labour Minister has special praise, almost awe when he speaks about his old school. One cannot mistake his nostalgia. “Kakamega High School taught me to be an independent thinker. To appreciate different cultures and understand that there is no difference in humanity, in diversity.”

Najib Balala is a Monday child. He was born on an early Monday morning at Kikowani in Mombasa at the Mosque.  This explains why he loves Mondays. His father died before he was born having suffered from Leukemia. He has always referred to his mother as a strong woman. “She was only 30 years and never remarried. She protected us (we were six siblings, four boys and two girls). She was a very poor woman. I am very proud of her. Her upbringing is very well cultured. Her honesty is the key to our upbringing,” he  told the writer in a past interview. Balala is the last born of his mother. Being poor and fatherless always inspired him to work hard and change society. He is a down to earth person who drives himself around even though he has access to a driver.

Balala, 45 is a family man and rather proud of his family. “After work, I sit with my children. If I don’t give them time, they will lose personal touch. My timing is unpredictable due to the nature of my political work so I spend quality time with my family,” he said.

He first cut his teeth is politics as Mombasa mayor and later as Mvita Member of Parliament and Minister for Tourism. From the start, his family was against his joining politics and he struggled alone.

His mantra is the need to start developing leadership that is honest and trustworthy and to have a mechanism to block leaders who take advantage of communities because they are more vulnerable and who think they can buy people. His greatest achievement is in the tourism sector where he introduced tourism as part of Corporate Responsibility and turned the economic sector around. He has never ceased to be a darling of the media since he always gives interviews without a fuss and always picks his calls even in the middle of a meeting.

He is highly respected within the Muslim community and never misses a function at the Mosque. Balala is accepted among Muslims who are rich, poor and middle class and by non-Muslims who are also of the same status. He is also said to be a darling with women who are the majority voters at the Coast. Before his sacking a few days ago, he was a bossom buddy of Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga until recently when they started following different political paths. He once described Raila as the only person who seemed to fight for the rights of Muslims.

Excerpt from a past interview.  Copyright Omwa Ombara.

 

 

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Marry Me

Margaret Jane was feeling very lonely. She wanted to die rather than live in this cruel, heartless, unlucky world. Both her female and male friends had rejected her. Every man she had dated had abandoned her. It was true she had gone overboard. Once she had dated a man for one week, she would ask them to marry her. Her married friends were cold to her since she had asked their husbands to marry her as a second or third wife . Men gossiped as much as women and word had gone round. She had become the laughing stock of Nairobi City, with men teasing each other with the words, “will you marry me?” and laughing loudly wherever she passed. They kept telling her they would get back to her after the proposal. But she never heard from them again. Most of their phones were either switched off or diverted to a woman, laughing cheekily at the other end. Friends and family no longer invited her for functions. Her visits to Pastor Ogjibani prayers at Nyayo Stadium had not yielded any fruits. She was frustrated to a point of no return. What did a man want?

What did they want her to do? She wished they could fit into her shoes to know how she felt. At 50, an MBA degree holder and a financial analyst with a leading bank in the country, she had reached the peak of her career. Yet her posh huge home in Gigiri, her Imprezza, her DSTv and every luxurious item in her home had not filled the yearning in her heart. To have a man to love and to hold. She had met Dan Mara, a young pilot with an international airline while attending a world conferences in the Netherlands. He had shown an interest in her, raising her hopes for a big wedding. The relationship had gone well that week and he had promised to buy her an aeroplane. Dan Mara had promised to come to Kenya in one month. They would take the new found relationship to the next level.

She looked at her four German Shepherd dogs and six Persian cats playing lovingly around her. She had bought them rather expensively and their meals cost her upto Kshs150,000 a month. But this was nothing compared to the Kshs 1.5 million she earned every month.

Initially she had loved her pets and talked to them daily, took them for a walk and ensured they visited the Veterinary Clinic next to the UN offices regularly. But none of her boyfriends had loved her pets and one had complained that she loved one of her cat Doughnut more than she loved him. Doughnut seemed jealous of her boyfriends and would sit on her laps, everytime she had a male guest. Margaret Jane walked around her huge quiet house, desolate. She went into her  shoe room and stared at her 200 pairs of shoes. She often went to the shoe room and tried one pair of shoe after the other. It excited her. But today not  even trying her new pair of high heels she had bought in the Netherlands brought her any joy. Netherlands had sad memories. She had lost her chance to get a husband at the Schippol Airport. Dan Mara had seen her off to the Departures Lounge and kissed her goodbye, promising to be with her in Kenya after a month. But after the kiss, she raised her voice at Dan Mara and asked him, “will you marry me?” “What?” Dan Mara had stopped dead in his track, surprised at this sudden proposal. “We have only known each other for a week. It would be inappropriate at this point.” Margaret Jane knew she was behaving badly, but something seemed to drive her on. She insisted, her voice getting louder. “Haven’t you heard of love at first sight?” She taunted him. “Why do you need time? Marry me now. Marry me!” Her desperate high pitched voice seemed to attract other passengers who milled around. He had suddenly turned and walked away, never turning back.

Two months had passed since her trip from the Netherlands and not a word from Dan Mara. It was as if he had changed his telephone lines. She had made several inquiries through various agents at the KLM and Kenya Airways offices but no one seemed to have even heard the name. Dan Mara, she had loved him very much, even if she had known him for only one week. Why had he refused to marry her? When Doughnut walked into the room and rubbed herself against her feet, Margaret Jane kicked her so hard that she mewed loudly in a terrified, surprised voice and ran out. After a few minutes, her cat donut was back in the room. She looked at Dan Mara sadly then rubbed her feet against her mistress. Feeling guilty and unfair to the cat, Margaret Jane picked the cat, stroked it lovingly and told Doughnut,” marry me, pussy cat. Humans don’t love me. Marry me!” “Meow.” Doughnut replied, snugging closer to her new ‘husband’ Margaret Jane.


Happy Comes Home tra la la la la

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Happy came home last night. I am just so excited I do not know how to tell this story. One minute please, I need to breathe slowly. In…out…in…out. Phew! I have screamed and danced and cried till I cannot dance any more. I am happy once more. Happy is back home. He sniffed his way back after he disappeared from home three weeks ago. It has been a torturous time, with sleepless nights and nightmares. I have heard neighbourhood dogs bark and ran to the window, thinking, hoping that it was Happy Dog, but no.

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Happy came home looking dirty and starved. He had been bitten all over the body by some stray dogs, I guess. Someone had taken away his collar and chain. He sneaked in at 3 am and came to my bedroom window. He did not bark, but kept scratching the window sill. It was as if his return was a secret between us and he did not want anybody to know about it. I was fast asleep and I thought I had been attacked by thugs. It was Happy. Oh, how we hugged in joy. If he could talk, Happy could have told me what happened. It does not matter, though. The important thing is that Happy is back home, safe and sound. Happy gobbled all the milk and all the food it could get hold of. For one moment I though Happy had turned into a greedy Hyena.

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Happy is sick. I took him to the Veterinary doctor down the road, next to Donna. The doctor knows Happy’s history and Happy knows him too so he will be happy to be near someone he knows. He vaccinated Happy against rabbies a while back. So Happy will stay at the clinic for a few days as he undergoes treatment. But I will be visiting him. I have to take some time off work. Lucky has bad wounds so I will not take his pictures. It would be violation of his privacy and a little cruel and insensitive on my part. So the pictures I have posted above are older ones of Happy’s taken in January and February 2012. I showed him the pictures and he liked them, well at least he licked the laptop.

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Happy is a great grandchild of the group of police sniffer dogs. He came home five years ago when he was only one week old. A lady family friend brought him to give me company as I could not get over my father’s death long after he was gone. We were talking about my father, who died in a car crash in 1998, when I burst into tears and everyone realised how raw the pain still was to me. Happy became my constant companion, always there for me, always so faithful and true. Through all life’s ups and downs, Happy stayed on. It hurt me deeply when he went missing. Happy knows how to climb high walls too and I believe he must have inherited this trait from his parents. So he climbed his way up the walls and into his kennel.

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What a happy day. The sun seems much brighter today, the coffee tastes sweeter and everything seems happy. Thanks to all friends and family who gave me their support through phone calls, text messages, posts. Welcome Home Happy Dog. Welcome Home. I love you!

 


Dumped for her thin mosquito legs

Sarah had always had thin legs but she had never thought her man would dump her for her legs. She was aware that her legs were very thin but she loved them and had never equated them with a mosquito. So it came as a shock to her that Freddie, her love did not love her legs at all. They had dated for the last six months and he had never mentioned her beloved legs at all. How could a man claim to love you and hate some parts of your body? She was slim and tall and had a small frame when she met him, yet that had not stopped her from loving him. Now she was expecting his baby. What was she going to do? Deep down in her heart, she knew he still loved her. Where had this ill wind come from and carried  Freddie’s love for her in a totally different direction? Whirlwinds came fast and furious and carried everything along its path, left a wave of destruction behind. How come no one had ever told her that love was a whirlwind?

Sarah could not remember exactly when Freddie started hating her legs. But she did recall it had all started with the visit home to his parents in Saola Village up the mountains. Sarah was already 33 and still in search of a husband when she met Freddie, 47, a Banker at her friend Jerusa’s Birthday Party in Eastleigh Section Three. Freddie looked into her eyes during dinner and shouted in front of everybody, “I don’t know you much Lady Sarah, but I am going to marry you!” Everyone at the party had been embarassed for a minute. Then everyone burst out laughing. Sarah, a Secretary with a Law Firm was amused too and took it as a joke, bust she soon realised he was serious. He wanted her to meet his mother.

“I know mum. She loves weddings. She has been nagging me to marry, so she will be quite excited to meet you,” Freddie had said, his dark eyes shining in joy. No one had proposed to Sarah all her life and she decided to grasp this opportunity for a husband with both arms. Men had come and gone in her past but none had even joked about wanting to marry her.

The visit home had been pathetic. Freddie’s mother and her four huge, tall, plump sisters had burst out laughing, the moment she arrived. It was not the usual laughter, it was evil and taunting…laughter that did not come from the heart. “Is this the woman you want to marry?” Freddie’s mother had asked him sadly, contemptuously. “Yes, this is Sarah, a beautiful lady with a wonderful heart,” Freddie said happily.

Then Freddie’s aunt Rita had summed it all up. “No, no, no. What joke is this, Fred? This girl cannot fit into this home. Look at her mosquito legs. Her legs do not deserve to walk in this important home. You cannot marry her. You will have sickly children with very thin legs and you do know that our family is endowed with nice, plump, healthy bodies.” Sarah looked between Freddie’s aunts and his mother and back to Freddie. Freddie looked down, never saying a word as the aunts taunted her.

They had left immediately without even taking lunch. The six-hour journey back to the city was quiet with no one saying anything or eating any food along the way. Usually, they would have gone to his place. He dropped her at her house in Buru Buru Phase Four as he headed to his house in Fedha Estate. “I will call you!” Was all he said.

Three months later and he had not called. He did not pick her calls either. His friends had gone out of circulation. But she still hoped. That one day he would show up at her door, with the beautiful flowers he used to bring her. She knew he would show up with her favourite red wine. Love did not just disappear into the blues, without a reason. Surely, her mosquito legs  could not kill the love between her and Freddie. She still loved him. She knew he loved her too…despite her small legs.


Where are your hospital manners?

We have at one time or the other been patients. Close family members, friends, relatives,  colleagues and those dear to our hearts have been hospitalised too. When a patient is in hospital and especially when one’s condition is not stable, relatives and family tend to be overcome by anxiety, tension and stress.

Patients dearly cherish hospital visits which give them an opportunity for encouragement, moral and physical support. Unfortunately, not everyone always has goodwill towards the patients or their families. Some hospital visits are abusive and depressing rather than exhilarating. Some visitors even silently or verbally wish for patients to die.

Do your hospital visits make the patient better or worse? When you visit a patient, it is important to carry your hospital manners along with you. Commenting within the patient’s hearing that he or she has only 24 hours to live and will not make it, can be distressing to the patient. This is purely bad manners. Careless, reckless and insensitive talk must be discouraged by all means.

Grudges

Patients tend to feel that relatives and friends owe them a visit. Do not promise a patient a visit unless you are sure to come because patients tend to hold grudges when you do not turn up. They are already vulnerable and may feel rejected , abandoned or even deserted. This may result in self-pity.

‘Get Well’ card

One should not celebrate over a patient’s illness or hospitalisation. Avoid malicious and negative remarks around the hospital as these thoughtless comments may worsen the patient’s condition when they get to hear of them. Telling a patient they look as thin as a rake and then bursting into tears is not in the patient’s best interest. Telling them off over their illness is extremely unkind. If you have no words of encouragement for the patience then silence may be very good for you. Better still would be a ‘Get Well’ card.

Some visitors carry other medicine to the patient and convince them to take them thus interfering with the patient’s regimen. Giving the patient charms or any other medicine can cause serious repercussions as the patient is already on prescribed medicine.

Visiting during meals, not because you want to assist feed the patient but to take advantage of the patient’s poor appetite is bad manners indeed. Gobbling up fruits from the patient’s fruit basket  and drinking all the juice as if they will never recover is poor manners.

A genuine smile

Give the patient a genuine smile. There is no point going to visit a patient you do not like and then laughing very loudly during the visit, especially when you know the patience has extreme headaches.  Body language experts can easily identify wrong body language. A lopsided smile may in fact mean you disapprove of the patient’s condition. Others take great lengths to investigate the patient’s personal life. They move around the hospital making friends with nurses and patients’ relatives to get background for gossip.

Family space

Please give the patient and his or her family personal space. Use wisdom to discern whether your visit may not be suitable for the patient. Kindly avoid distressing the patient with unusually long prayers or trying to push the patient to accept the Lord as their personal saviour when all they need to do is to sleep. Along with your manners, you could carry with you fresh flowers, an assortment of fruits, bottled water and of course a great and genuine smile.  One can carry a range of toiletry like toothbrush, toothpaste, face towels, a comb, bathroom slippers and a change of underclothes.

The don’ts

Do not carry alcohol, cigarettes, charms or any other form of drugs to your patient, They will cause more damage than you could ever conceive. Happy visit!

 

 

 


Love me, please

“Love me please,” she begged him as she hang on to his knee, tightly.”Love me, please darling, I beg you, love me.” Instead of the hug she expected from him, he roughly shoved her off , shouting, “get off me, leave me alone!”

What had happened that such a man who once loved her with all his heart and would have done anything for her, had suddenly changed and no longer wanted anything to do with her.

“I love you, darling, please don’t do this to me!” She begged, tears flowing endlessly down her face. He sneered at her, showing complete indifference and contempt. What was the world coming to? Jude, her Jude, the man who has once literally walked on the grounds she treaded on had become a complete stranger! She could no longer recognise him.

“There are so many men in the world. I don’t understand why you are clinging on me! I am giving you the freedom to go out and marry them. I do not love you anymore! You can even leave now if you want!”

The words hurt. “What have I done? What is it that is so unforgivable? I have been faithful to you. I have been submissive, I have never hurt you!”

“I don’t want to hear any of this!” He said as he put on his coat and walked out of the house.

What had happened? Was this her man Jude or this was someone else? Why was he doing this to her.

She got up from the floor and ran after him, begging him to love her. He ignored her, turned on the engine and drove off. She stood in the rain, numbed, feeling nothing but pain deep inside her heart. “He doesn’t love me. He doesn’t love me any more. As if the pounding rains agreed with her, they washed away her tears in sympathy at her plight. The plight of a love lost.

She woke up with a start to find Jude embracing her, holding her tightly inside their warm bed. “You were screaming in your sleep. Had a nightmare?” He asked gently. “Just a bad dream, I guess!” She responded, still feeling dazed. “Do you want to discuss it?” “No, oh no. I don’t even remember anything,” she lied.

She hugged him ever so tightly as if she would never let go. She felt lucky that it was only a dream and he was right here with her, ever so warm, ever so loving. This charming sweet man lying next to her was the real Jude, the Jude she knew and loved. “I love you,” she whispered and bit his ear playfully. He kissed her back. Soon, she was fast asleep.


Surviving Crisis

Everyone has gone through one crisis or another. It is never easy. It is so difficult to face life when the worst happens, when your worst fears are confirmed.

Crisis comes when least expected. It sneaks into one’s life like a thief in the night. No warning, no preparation, no time to make amends. It could be the loss of a loved one, an accident that leaves one paralysed for life. You could just walk into hospital for a normal check up and there it is right on the screen, you have been diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, hypertension and God knows what else. You have been trying to get pregnant for the last ten years and when you finally succeed you lose your child in labour. Or you have tried to get a child for the last 20 years and your marriage is about to break up and women are being brought to your bed to give birth on your behalf.  When someone you had really trusted and confided in betrays you or someone just creates a big lie about you and jeopardises your love, family and career. For someone else it could be such a simple thing but when crisis strikes my friends, it is never easy to deal with.

It is a crisis when your partner abandons you because you have been diagnosed with cancer, HIV or a mental illness, when you need a kidney transplant or a dialysis. When that brilliant child you thought would bring the prize home is caught up with a drug cartel and no amount of rehabilitation will change the situation. Then you get a call to go and pick his body.

Crisis, how does one survive? When you lose your job at a time you really need it, when you get retrenched yet it is not your fault, when you commit adultery and the only person you have ever truly loves abandons you or you commit a crime and have to go to to jail.  When you look back at the poor relatives you brought up, educated and gave your best turn their back on you and talk ill of you now that they have made their wealth.

When you fail your exams abroad and you are expected back home and you have to move out of the University and play hide and seek with the police, washing cars, babysitting and then this College girl you fell in love with gets pregnant! When you look around and your love clock ticks but there is nobody to marry you or even ask you out for a drink.

Crisis happens my dear friends. Crisis visited me my friends when I got that call that changed my life forever. Dad and mum and sis involved in a car accident. They fell into the river. Dad died on the spot, mum was in a coma and we could not trace my sis anywhere. She was admitted in a hospital somewhere with broken ribs and legs. It was a crisis,. How could we bury dad without mum, her only love for 54 years?

But we survived the crisis, You can survive. We hang on to hope. Friends supported us. The Church prayed and visited. Relatives and neighbours condoled with us and consoled us. The bill was so high and we sold the property but we survived. You will survive my friends. Just hang in there. Take courage. Do not give up especially when it is too much. Troubles may gang up against you like the Dogs of Winter and maul you into unrecognisable pieces but you will survive. There is no night so long that the day will not break. And one day you will look back and wonder how you did it. You will survive. You will survive.