There is nothing as tragic as the sight of an ageing man watching years removed from his prime. Cast off somewhere, watching the time he has left ebb away.
We have very little patience for older people as it is. We treat anyone born before 2000 like they were cavemen. Those Gen Z kids are especially disrespectful; one of them once asked me why my earphones were connected by a string.
We are even more dismissive of wazee, especially if they have managed to cling to society late into their sunset years. And so we push them into retirement, lying to them that it is now time to ‘relax’ and enjoy quality time with their families.
But it is a lie. Retirement is not relaxation, but a polite neutering. It is a soft pat on the head accompanied by a patronising “baas, baas”.
Try and picture it. You were a vibrant teenager, then a chaotic young adult, and finally, a spirited but sensible adult. You had a busy social life, a demanding job and a noisy family. You had no time for anything because you were always running around chasing more money, more titles, more pleasure. And then, suddenly, you get to a certain age, and everyone expects you to just go away quietly.
They hint that you should troop back to the village, the leafy patch of land your father managed to hold on to despite the family wrangles, and just… chill.
Presumably, in the time you have been slaving for some ungrateful employer, you have also been throwing a few coins back home, so you have a respectable house with a verandah, which looks out into the shamba you’re now supposed to turn into a major exporter.
Your days now involve bold, noisy chickens and cows, which eat everything and shit everywhere, random joint pains and the odd trip to the local drinking den. If you’re lucky, you strike up a tentative ‘friendship’ with a local barmaid who starts to look like Tems after four beers. If you’re not so lucky, the best thing you can now do with your time is volunteer it for dispute resolutions. You now help determine who is at fault for Nafula’s pregnancy, whether Kizito has a right to marry a second wife after the first refused to give him children (she gave him four daughters) or the evergreen arguments about which chunk of land should go to whom.
It is this realisation, more than anything else, that has inspired my deep sympathy for our latest retiree; the man who in a few days will be checking out of State House and getting WiFi installed in Ichaweri.
I feel for Bwana Rais. I cannot imagine the cows and chickens of his village will appreciate the versatility and pomp of his shirts. Who will witness that hearty chuckle of his, when his nearest neighbours are going to be miles away? Which microphones is he going to grab, lean down to adjust, and then cradle like a rapper about to deliver a disstrack? I have a feeling this business of sitting in a wicker chair and watching sunsets is going to get old very fast.
I can almost picture him throwing his hands in the air after the second week of cheeky afternoon snacks and 30-minute naps.
He will probably get bored, gather an impromptu crowd made up primarily of CBC kids on holiday yet again, and regale them with stories of that time he met Obama.
I imagine he will find himself shooting texts to his drinking buddies asking them, “Form?” by the second week. By the end of the month, he will be demanding to see his grandchildren just to have some noise back in his life.
It is therefore my patriotic duty as a citizen to extend an open invitation to the big man. I know retirement can be rough, sir. Hit me up when the going gets tough; I will provide the form.