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Harold's dream and the rich man of Gitegi's tales

Sunday Magazine

There is a famous narrative passed down from generation to generation in Gitegi.

The story goes that a rich man, llived on a hilltop where a grove now thrives.  He was surrounded by poor families who kept on knocking on his door to borrow this and that, the little things we always share in the village.

He was rich and generous, which is a rare combination, and he embraced his needy neighbours with a smile on his face. Those whose shame had evaporated due to penury were always at his gate, which was always open.

Some claim he uprooted his gate and, like Samson, carried it to the mountains so the neighbours would have easy access to his house.

The rich man ferried to his house basic goods that he knew the people would come looking for. Salt, flour, grain, milk and drums of muratina, which was the fuel that ran the place.

Whether he was married is a non-issue, but educated people believe that one of the reasons Harold left both Clarissa and Sue was to follow the example of this legendary man, with the hope wealth would confuse him with our rich ancestor.

But the rich man, shrewd unlike my uncle and yours truly, knew that some men hobbled away shamefaced as they felt they had lost their dignity by having to beg to feed their families.

“So he devised a way to make everyone feel comfortable - err, add me some soup if you want to hear the rest of the story,” Harold tells me, forgetting I have been told this story since I was in my mother’s womb.

The rich man started to intermittently go out (to the same families that came asking for help from him) to borrow some things.

A cooking pot - his had suddenly started leaking, a pinch of salt on a bad day, or a rooster that was needed for his hens that were all over the place. “And you know what that did?” Harold will ask, digging his huge hands into the fourth plate of his breakfast ugali.

The people, somehow felt like the rich man’s equals. There he was, not a charity organisation but an equal who gave and borrowed. They were no longer intimidated. He was truly one of them.

He was no longer the powerful man, alone. In their minds, they sat at the same table. And, like in every other hare, hyena and everything in between stories you have probably heard, they lived happily ever after.

This is a story Harold fancies, now that he is not in power but wishes to Sue shares some of her privileges with him. Sue should behave like that rich man, Harold thinks.

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