HUGGING RULES FOR MEN


Corona has come with some welcome paradigm shifts. One of my favourite is the need for decreased bodily contact- which includes hugs.

I have never been fond of hugs.Not because they are inherently bad;but because most men dont know how to hug.I have also been influenced by my uncle who sneers at men who hug with an epithet like ‘maiyuria ndua’.Useless men.

To set the record straight, here are some fast rules about hugging for men:

1.DURATION
A lady to a lady hug can go on forever- its one of their few inventions anyway.But a brother to brother hug should be brief- 00.5 seconds utmost according to John Hopkins University Centre for Men Studies.Anything longer than that is invasion of a man’s privacy which is a serious offence.

2.HANDS
Most men dont know what to do with their hands when they hug.When hugging ladies,some deliberately let their uncouth fingers wander on the ladies backs.We know their aim is to pry open the bra straps.Such ne’er do wells will gnash their teeth in the same cubicle with Wanugu, Wacucu and Hitler in the hereafter.Thus saith the holy writ.

3.GLUTEUS
Cursed is the man who touches another man’s gluteus maximus( I am avoiding the word ‘ass’ here)when hugging.A mans sitting area should only be touched by his mom when applying baby ‘poda’ on it when young.Anybody who tries to touch it after that in the name of a hug commits an offence punishable by law as outlined in the Sexual Offences Act( 2006)

4.EYE CONTACT
Men shouldnt look into each others eyes when hugging.Its supposed to be one shoulder bumping to one shoulder while facing the other way.Not chest to chest kind of thing like high school sissies or Mothers’ Union mamas.

5.MUSHINESS
The rough a hug between two men is, the better it is.Thats how the world knows we got high octane testerone coursing in our veins.Men who break this rule should have their certificate of good conduct withheld.

6.FREQUENCY
Ladies can hug after every hour for all we care.But no two men should hug more than thrice a year without written permission from Director of Health.When we will pay China’s astronomical debt if all we do is hug?

7.LAUGHTER
No two men should laugh or giggle when hugging.Mens’ hugs should be accompanied by silence.Dark aristocratic silence that says their moms brought them up well.If there has to be sound,then its only some deep grunts like the Neanderthals we are.

Thats all brothers.Go forth and hug no more.

SMOKE AND ASHES

Today marks exactly 7 years since I smoked my last cigarette, never to turn back. I mark this day with more aplomb than my birthday. Which I don’t mark anyway.

Since 16th July 2013, I have never inhaled smoke-except the one from my cucu Martha’s kitchen when I visit her. But was quitting easy? Never. Stopping smoking cold turkey is one of the top ten ways to lose your sanity. I got so sick that I couldn’t concentrate at work for some days. I had these maddening hallucinations even at daytime. Due to the withdrawal of constant stimulation of nicotine, I would get so sleepy and doze off of as I served a client in office. Then I would crave a fag so badly that when I looked up the sky, I would see millions of them up there. It was hell.

If one has never smoked, one can never fathom how it is to be smoker. One doesn’t smoke because he likes it.One smokes because he is hooked. Your room reeks of smoke, like a diesel engine workshop. Over time, your eyes start looking like over ripe kamongo tomatoes. Your appetite gets bad, and by extension your breathing. You wheeze like an ancient Fiat lorry going up Kangoco-the steep hill enroute Karatina.You hate yourself. You want out, but you can’t escape from the self-inflicted bondage. Why? Because nicotine is a highly addictive substance.

Most luminary figures struggled with nicotine addiction at some point. Men who changed the world, but couldn’t change themselves.Dr.Martin Luther King Jnr had come out for a smoke at the balcony when the sniper assassinated him. Barrack Obama struggled with the habit, something he talks about in one of his books. Churchill loved his cigars, but wished he could ditch them. The late Hon Michuki struggled with the habit too. Nicotine is no respecter of personalities.

So how did I stop smoking?

I tried yoga, it didn’t work. I tried Transcendental Meditation, it failed. I prayed, not working. I gave up and resigned to the god of Nicotine. Because smoking is an illusion and the human mind loves illusions. It promises you the thrill of happiness while adding you a thousand pains. It gives you two minutes of nicotine induced high and a lifetime of bad breath and wheezing and danger of getting lung cancer. And so does most drugs.

Part of the credit goes to the young lady in my house I have named after my mother. Back when she was a chubby girl, she would tag along when I went to buy newspapers. Once I left the house, I would light up.

‘Daddy, teacher said smoking is bad’. She would always remind me.That would break my heart a hundred times-which inspired me to quit. Now you understand why every time she asks for pizza, I can even borrow money to buy her one.

The other credit goes to many of my friends who, after finding me smoking, would tell me with shock: But you don’t look like a smoker! That scratched my ego-and emboldened my resolve to quitting. Finally, I take some credit-because I never gave up.

To all ye heaven bound Bible thumpers, a smoker won’t quit because you tell him that they will burn in the hottest place in hell. Actually, the Bible doesn’t have a verse to that effect. In addition, a smoker won’t be made to quit by calling him pepo nyeusi till he actually turns black. We need to look beyond the rightness or the wrongness of the act-and meet the smoker in the neutral ground that lays there between.

The war against smoking won’t be won by warning smokers that smoking causes impotence. Who wants babies nowadays anyway? I suspect it’s even a lie- I know several smokers with broods that can start a modest kindergarten. It won’t be worn by deriding cigarettes as sticks with fire in one end and a fool on the other. What works is making the smoker realize that he has the power to quit within himself.

In my instance, what worked was the appeal to my sense of being. The appeal to the ego.

Next time when you meet a smoker, don’t remind him what it’s doing to his lungs. Or that he might be shooting blanks soon. He knows all that very well-it’s written in bold on cigarette packs. With every rebuke, you sow hatred in a person who already hates himself to the level of filling his lungs with tar. Hate begets hate.

But I am not saying that smokers shouldn’t be reminded that smoking is bad. They should be-and should not take it personal. Whenever one beats a rug across a rock to clean it, the blows aren’t against the rug, but the dirt in the rug.

Appeal to the person’s sense of wellbeing. Tell him that he looks bad when he smokes. Tell him that it’s messing up his laughter lines. If it’s a lady, tell her that it masks her expensive perfume. Somehow, it might work.

Every smoker is prisoner with a key to the prison door in his hands. Thus he needs to be made aware that he carries inside himself the power to stop what he started. It’s only him who can free himself. The journey to quitting is his or hers alone. Others may walk it with him, but no one can walk it for them. Not the pastor, not a friend, not  a spouse.

Do I regret having wasted my lungs with smoke and ashes for some years? No I don’t. Instead I celebrate that I triumphed over a great obstactle.With a little help from my daughter and friends. Such triumphs tell us that we are stronger then we seem.

The experience has also made me suspicious of what I want-because it might turn out to be an addiction. This applies to money, to food, to everything.

ON GIFTS


Last week, the internet registered a seismic shift when a renown media personality gifted his wife with cheque of Ksh 1million for her birthday. I must say from the onset that the purpose of this post is not to discuss that couple. Mama brought us up well so I don’t do such things.

Ladies went gaga over the magnanimous display of love. Some lamented that since they got married, their hubbies have never as much given them Ksh 500 to have their hair done, let alone a million. Others lamented that they have never been taken for holiday, despite having been married for a quarter of a century now.

Look ladies, if you got married to a man from Murang’a who believes in saving all his money in Equity Bank, accept your choices. Expecting him to take you to Seychelles like Nyanza men do is like expecting a goat to lay eggs. Even if you fed it on layers mash for a year and gave it a chickenish nickname like Cluck it won’t. If you love someone, you are always joined with them – in their joy, in their strife, in their stinginess or in their magnanimity.

Gifts should not taken on their face value. Rather, they should be gauged on the giver’s level of sacrifice. When boda guy who earns Ksh 500 per day forgoes his daily jug of keg for a week and buys her wife a kitenge and matching kamithi,that sacrifice is bigger than a million cheque one. When a Murang’a man foregoes his monthly savings meant to buy a plot at Kenol and takes his wife to a smoky joint for choma and some Mugithi, that’s a huge sacrifice.

The Bible, a book that I hold in high esteem for its enduring moral lessons, has a say on this. It’s contained in that story of that widow who tithed all that she had. She was said to have given more than the mabwanyenye who gave gold coins because of her sacrifice.

The Gift of the Magi-a timeless short story written in the 1920s, captures this aptly too. It tells of a modest couple that was deeply in love .Each wanted to give the best he or she could to the other.

The wife wanted to give his husband a gold chain to hang his watch with so that it couldn’t get lost. On the other hand, the husband wanted to gift his wife with a hair clip to hold her beautiful hair together. It turns out that each had no money to buy what they wanted to gift the other.

The lady sold her hair (which was later sold to African women) so that she could purchase the golden chain for his husband’s watch. The husband sold his watch so that he could buy her wife the hair clip to tie her hair together.

When they met at home, each had the other’s gifts yes, but both had no use for the gift since the man had already sold his watch and the woman her hair. However, each had sacrificed the most precious things they had to purchase the gift. But it turns out that anything you lose for love comes back in another form for their love emerged stronger than ever.

The story’s title-The Gift of the Magi-is borrowed from the three wise wazee who came to see baby Jesus after his birth. They didn’t bring him Pampers or mbocoris because it was winter or toys because it was a baby boy. Instead they brought him gold, myrrh and frankincense. These three gifts were informed by wisdom and their value lay not in their commercial worth, but in their timeless symbolism.

And so should gifts couples give to each other.

MOMBASA BY 3

My village has very colourful characters. Unsung people who took part in unsung events in unsung times. One such person is Bruno Macharia-a retired bus tout from back in the day.

The term retired bus tout is a misnomer. Once a tout, always a tout. In spite of his age, Bruno still retains the rough edges of a tout. You can see it in his gait which says he has seen more brawls than a WWF wrestler. He walks with his fists almost closed-as if he expects a fight to break out anytime. He is like the old dancer is known by the tremble of his shoulders.

The other day, Bruno popped into our compound and made himself comfortable on a folding chair under the ancient avocado tree. He was the guest of my uncle-the one who is always sharpening a sharp panga.But I made him my guest too-and placed beside him an offer he could not refuse-some fiery single malt which had remained over from the previous day. By and by, we started reminiscing about the old days.

You remember that day in 1982 when we drove the bus from Nairobi to Mombasa in under 3 hours? Bruno asked my uncle. He has this tarty tangled hair with a look of anarchy. Years of swinging from bus doors made his hair tangled for life-and no comb could undo that.

My antennae for a good story went up. My uncle stuck his panga upright into the wet loam, poured himself two quarts of the drink and hopped into the bus story too.

The year was 1982.For all of you millennials, ‘82 is a long long time ago. They hadn’t discovered pizza then so folks used to make do with Elliot’s bread. Kenya by then was ruled by a tough mzae called Moi who walked around with a swanky ivory knobkerrie (you guys call it mathiokore in street speak).Kenya then had only one TV station that opened at noon and closed after lights out at midnight so that folks could make babies instead of watch Afrosinema. In short, those were very boring times.

But not so for my relative Bruno and his crew. Bruno by then was a debonair city dandy in a silk shirt, bell bottoms and sideburns thick enough to hide an Infinix phone. His Afro was wide enough to cause an eclipse. And he did cause eclipses in many a girl’s heart-if the number of young people in the village now in their 20s who look like him are anything to go by. But I won’t delve there-this post isn’t about Bruno’s glorious endings. Huh!

Bruno worked as a tout for Gathanga Bus Company. All day, he was holed in the loaf shaped bus collecting coins from passengers. By then Michuki was a dashing middle aged man at the helm of KCB and he had not come up with those famous rules that streamlined the matatu industry. Thus, the transport industry was chaos itself.

The bus crew consisted one driver and three touts. Real men who had to leave the top three buttons of their silk shirts open to cool their chests which throbbed with real testesterone.The drivers’ major task was to find out how fast his loaf shaped Leyland bus could go without killing all on board. He was the Knight Templar of the road-always hurtling down some dusty village road as if headed to a mandatory crusade. By then they hadn’t started growing muguka in Embu-so bus crews weren’t judged by how many kilos of muguka they could munch in day. They were judged by their sheer brawn-and daredevilry. And Bruno had tonnes of that. Still has.

Likewise, each of the three touts had very specific roles. One was a fellow who was always perched on the bus roof top like a bird of carrion. In his hands was lethal whip whose work to discipline other touts when they arrived at any bus stage. The second one was always at the door-cajoling travellers to get in to the bus. Most of the time, half of his body was flying in the air-like the flag of a rebellious country that wanted to secede from the mainland. The third and the most important tout was the one inside the bus. His work was to collect coins-and sometimes buttons-that the villagers paid him with.

After he was done with his job, he was entitled to lighting up a pungent Nyota ciggie right within the bus. Sometimes the travellers would gather courage to tell him to put the darn thing of. But going by his red eyes and his face that looked like a rough map to every dirty sheeben in the city, they decided it was better to withstand the cigarette smoke that his jabs. Bruno was such a tout.

Now, in 1982, Kenya had a vibrant football scene.Instead of English Premier League, folks followed African Cup Qualifiers religiously. Of course they didn’t do this over flat screens in some swanky sports bar-but over hissing radios in some busaa or kaluvu dens. But all in all, they still enjoyed the beautiful game.

After telling the story so far, Bruno peered into the horizon, his eyes ringed with nostalgia. Then he took a swig from his glass to summon more muses before wiping his silver beard with the back of his hand. Then he went on with the story.

 A team called Mufulira Wanderers from Zambia had come to play AFC Leopards for a critical qualifier match. AFC Leopards were at the top of the rankings in Africa then while Mufulira Wanderers was a nondescript team from a nondescript country.AFC Leopards were sure they would thrash them like burukenge.

The night before the match, the teams’ management met in Nairobi to celebrate their imminent victory over the little known team from Zambia. We had no Mututho laws then and clubs used to operate round the clock. The party raged on into the night like a savannah fire at Club Hole in the Wall. Bob Marley shouted ‘Africans a liberate Zimbabwe’ from the speakers. With such great music, the club management raved on till the small hours of the following day. Which was the day of the match.

Wafula the club manager had hardly slept for a few hours-or so he thought-when his bedside phone rang.

Wafula,wapi tikiti ya ndege ya wachezaji?

The team was to fly to Mombasa that morning to play Mufulira Wanderers FC at 3 pm.It was now 10 am and the team was still in Nairobi since he had forgotten to book flight for them to Mombasa.

At that juncture, my uncle ran his panga sharply over the sharpening stone. His way of showing excitement. Bruno continued on with the story.

By then, we had no SGR. Or these Jambojet or Jetways airlines which hop across our skies daily. We only had Kenya Airways which had scheduled flights to Mombasa. You miss a flight today, you wait till next week. What to do?

At around eleven, Wafula went to Hamza shops for some cigarattes.As he tried to cool his frayed nerves with nicotine, he shared his predicament with a fellow smoker-a thin man with a high cheekbones and brown teeth. The man listened keenly as Wafula told him how desperately he wanted someone who could drive a football team from Nairobi to Mombasa within the next four hours.

 We can do it in less than three hours. The smoker told him in a wheezy voice hardened by cheap liquor and smoke.

Who do you mean by ‘we’?  Wafula asked.

Gathanga Bus Services. That’s our work.

The man with brown teeth answered back as he killed his cigarette with the sharp end of his tony red Travolta boots. Then he casually pointed to the bus revving at the bus stop. He was its driver. They had stopped for a smoke fix at Hamza bus stage.

When Wafula was convinced that the man could take the boys to Mombasa in time for the match, he went back to his house and put a call to his team captain:

Tell the boys to get ready. We meet at Machakos Bus Station in 20 minutes!

At noon, Wafula was doing roll call of the players. The footballers’ hearts sank when they learnt that they were to go to Mombasa by road in an ugly bus that looked like giant loaf.

Are you sure you can take us to Mombasa in four hours?

Wafula once again asked the driver.

We handle the difficult. The impossible takes us just a little longer. The bus owner who had just come in answered back. He had noted Wafula’s desperation and wanted to milk maximum profit from it.Thus he   insisted that each passenger would pay bus fare equivalent to the cost of a flight to Mombasa. When the deal was sealed the bus owner promised the bus crew double pay that month if they hacked that job in time.

With that, at exactly twelve noon, the driver ascended to his throne and fired the bus. The door conductor removed the large boulders that used to be placed at the rear wheels to prevent the bus from drifting. Then he closed the door and slipped the keys into his boots. Then, like an angry metal dragon, Gathanga bus KUU 273 eased out of Machakos country bus station to go to Mombasa in under three hours in an epic battle between man, machine and time.

Shortly, the bus was hurtling down Mombasa road and the boys were impressed. At Mlolongo they started complaining that it was going too fast. The driver pointed a brutal finger at them and they kept quiet.

The bus hissed and whined like a wounded buffalo is it charged down that steep incline at Salama-gobbling the miles by the minute. Several of the football players wanted to take a leak at Emali-not because they had any pee, but to see if they could sneak out of the bus which was headed for a sure crash. The driver was smarter than them and ignored their many pleas to stop.

The boys then demanded to be dropped at Mtito wa Ndei.When Mtito came into sight, the driver double clutched then eased the bus into high gear .The bus lifted its nose then charged at the road ahead with the brutal force never seen on that road since the times of the Man Easters of Tsavo.

At around half past two, traffic police officers at Changamwe saw a bus that was hurtling towards them chaotically like a ship whose crew mutinied.

Mpishe aende zake! Shouted Abdalla the traffic boss. His hawk eyed juniors didn’t even pick the name of the bus due to its speed.

When the bus finally reared its belligerent chin at Mombasa stadium, aching and creaking like an ancient ship at sea, it was 3 hours flat since it had left Nairobi. And just in time for that crucial match between AFC Leopards and Mufulira Wanderers FC of Zambia. The welcome at the stadium was nothing but heroic.

When Bruno had given us enough time to absorb the depth of the story, I asked him:

Now, were you paid your double salary that month by your boss as he had promised?

No.Instead we were sacked instead. Bruno answered back.

Why? I pressed on with concern.

Because the bus’s engine knocked, never to wake up again. Bruno answered me with a forlon face, roughened by time, labour and worry.

Then he took one last swig of his drink-like one drinking to the thrills of his youth.