By Ted Mulanda
But they all have one uniting denominator: They are — to use a phrase borrowed from my mother tongue — ‘just there’.
So you bump into a friend who has just come from honeymoon and ask, “How are you?”
You expect him to regale you with tales about how awesome it was, how a bun must be ‘cooking’ in the oven. But what you get instead is, “Tuko tu!” — we are just there! Just there? But you got married last week!
You bump into an ‘A’ student and ask, “How is school?” And you know what the young fellow answers? “Not bad!” Not bad, yet he or she just hammered six straight ‘A’s!
The pessimism is worse in business. You stroll into a shop where merchandise is flying off the shelves like madness. But when you ask how business is, the shop owner’s wife lifts a bored eyebrow, yawns and says, “Tunajaribu tu or tunasukuma tu, ni kujikaza tu…” — we are trying, we are barely getting by, it is a struggle. A struggle? But the cash till is overflowing with bank notes!
It seems like Kenyans believe only the worst can happen. The exams will be stolen. The rains will fail. The election will be a sham. The police will not come on time. Power will go off. Water will not flow in the pipes. Husbands cheat. Politicians are liars. Teachers are hopeless. Civil servants do nothing. And pastors are thieves.
That is why, in the backdrop of a lavish wedding reception, as the newly wedded couple kiss and dance to isukuti, someone leans and whispers into another’s ear, “This marriage will not last a year.”
Equally, when a man retires to the village after a long sojourn in the city, the people seated on a shop bench, and with whom he has just shared hearty greetings, stare at his departing back for long seconds.
“That one is used to money. You noticed how his hands are soft? His skin is like that of a baby. His stomach does not see vegetables. His throat only knows Tusker. But here, life is tough. He will not survive beyond five years…” one says.
His colleague grunts and says, “Five? One year is too long.”