Wednesday 24th July 2013 might have been an ordinary one for most people like all Wednesdays usually are. Not for me. I felt that there was something special about that day. My sister, Georgian, gave birth to a girl who many people have since mistaken to be my little sister. We kind of look alike but not so like. I have a gap between my upper front teeth and she has one in her lower front teeth. Mine is bigger while hers is small. Her name is Joy Mela. She’s as joyous as her name. From the day she came into this world, she captured our hearts with her infectious smile and her composure. She was like an angel’s child. One could sniff the beauty of her heart and soul from miles away.
On that day she was born, her breath was as slow as the Mombasa Road traffic on Friday evenings. Her first cry was unusual. She cried in swagger. Most babies usually cry immediately they come out of the womb. Not Joy. She took her time. And when she did it. She did it shortly and sweetly. One could tell that she had a natural sense of importance within her. It’s like she knew that she was a Lakeside Princess and that someday she would be the Queen of the Lake Region (Kisumu should have been monarchy. I would have loved to live through Queen Joy’s reign). She had the calm of a master Chess player. And she looked confident. There is a way in which you can tell that a baby has confident personality. (If you know, you know- I hate this phrase by the way. If you are my friend please stop using it).
Ooh and did I mention that Joy is cute. She truly is. A stranger once told me that her eyes are prettier and shinier than the morning sunshine. It was a weird encounter that won’t evade my mind anytime soon. I still remember that afternoon when Joy and I went for a walk in Victoria Park. Victoria Park is one of the nicest parks in Kenya. It’s in Milimani in Kisumu. If you ever go to Kisumu just pass by and let loose yourself. It’s green and cool. It’s also quiet and has birds that sing like the Hillsong United band. And it has good people. The first thing you smell when you enter this park is the smell of good people. You know how good people smell? They smell of Peirce by Abercrombie or Nautica Voyage by Nautica for Men. (These are undoubtedly some of the best colognes in the world)
” Your sister is very pretty. She must either be Luo or Eritrean or Portuguese ” said the stranger. I giggled like a little girl. I found that funny. Why would she ask that? Where would I have possibly found a little Portuguese girl to walk around with? This is exactly one of the reasons why I never went for walks with Joy. She made me feel like a fraud because of her cuteness. (We all know I am cute but not that cute)
“She is neither of those. She is a Brazilian from Belo Horizonte. ” I replied with a straight face while trying out my hand in sarcasm.
” Are you serious? “
” Of course not. She’s my niece. Not sister. And she is Luo.” I told her and laughed loudly as we walked away.
In the following years, Joy would grow up to be an ambitious and conflicted young girl. At times she could be so hungry but couldn’t quite decide on what to eat. Such were the conflicts within her. And she was in a hurry to do things. She learnt how to walk in record time. Then she tried out dancing to any music she heard playing in the house. She fell down most of the times but she is Joy and she is no quitter. It’s like life for her was a race against time. She was and is always still in a hurry to know things ahead of her time.
She would later join school after hounding her parents for quite a while about it. She may not appreciate it now but maybe someday in future, she’ll thank her parents for taking her to Aga Khan Nursery School. Most of my free days, I give her a ride to the school and I can attest that the kids who go to that nursery school know things. A lot of things. They know that Mike Pence is the Vice President of the US. They even understand what self-care is. They talk and recite poems about self-awareness with a very high level of decorum. Recently I was surprised when Joy explained to me why she thinks Black Lives Matter.
A week ago, Joy’s mum told me that she’s almost graduating. Yes, you heard that right. Kids nowadays graduate from nursery schools. And they wear graduation gowns. It’s funny. Isn’t it? I know that quite a number of readers here didn’t have any graduation or such kind of fanfare when they completed nursery school. Some never even went to those nursery schools. They went directly to class one and just did fine (These lads deserve to be honored on Mashujaa Day). The world has changed indeed. If only Martin Luther King Jr could resurrect and learn that graduation for kids are nowadays taken more seriously than those for university students, he would for sure silently return to his grave and tell the tales to his other buddies. Imagine the stories he could have for the likes of Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey about the changes in the world.
Now Joy is undoubtedly one of my best friends ( I know Ian Keganda and Jeff Paul will be jealous when they read this. Don’t worry guys. You two are still among my best of friends)I never thought in my wildest dreams that a kid could capture my heart like she’s done. It’s funny how for the longest time she thought of me as her brother and not her uncle. Anyway, as she nears the completion of her nursery school, I would wish to write her a letter on some of the things she should expect ahead and also express my hopes and desires for her.
Dear Joy Mela,
I know that you may not read this letter anytime soon but I’ll still write it anyway. I owe it to you.In a few months’ time, you begin a long journey. This journey marks the end of nursery school and the beginning of primary school. And it’s a tough one. I hope that in the course of this journey you will nurture your talents. You are good at drama and in art. You should nourish them. Art is fun. I’ve been to your school’s art room by the way and I was impressed. What I saw is avant-garde remodelled and redefined.
I know you love swimming too and that it’s one of your talents. I hope that you never stop training. It may help you one day if you go for a vacation in Diani. I know you fear the deep end but with more practice, you’ll conquer it. By the way, I have three friends who know how to swim at the deep end with much prowess. Let me tell you something small about each of them. Jerry Mageto is one of them. He’s quite good at it. He is a normal guy. And he prefers flights to trains. He went to Alliance. I know you only love people who went to Maseno School but this one you’d love. He’s a nice person. Besides, he’s SDA just like you.
Toby Olaibon is the other one. He’s tall. So tall. I bet he can even comfortably walk in the deep end. A very cool guy he is. And when he jumps into the pool he causes a seismic splash that is quite irritating. Esther Chihaavi is the last of them. She is a skilled swimmer. You’d love her too. I think she loves kids (Do you Esther?). I’m sure she’d even teach you how to pose for pictures naturally and effortlessly. Her life is one hell of a pose. Am sure your pictures too would look stunning if you learn from the sensei. And she does Instagram Challenges. Maybe if your life compass leads you to her direction someday, you’d get lucky and win some 500 bob airtime for just following her on Instagram.You see how I have connections? A reason why you should treat me nicely Joy. I could connect you with any of these people. By the way, I also have some other twelve friends who can only swim in the shallow end just like you. You once asked me what you and campus students have in common. I think this is the answer you’ve been looking for. Now that we are talking about primary school, I should tell you about Emily Abong’o. She was the head girl during our time in primary school. How could I forget her? Her integrity was beyond reproach. She was like Julius Ceaser’s wife. She had the focus of a PhD student. She had the confidence of a dragon. She walked with her head high. Higher than those skyscrapers in Upper Hill. She connected the teachers to the souls of the students in the most fashionable way possible. She had charm, beauty and brilliance. She was like a high priestess who did her duties with the exactness of a Jewish prophetess. Such is the natural leader she was. She was like Margaret Thatcher at Blossom Education Center ( I often wonder why our school was referred to as an education centre). I hope you be like her someday. She is a true testament that young ladies can be strong leaders too and that they can inspire change in both small and big ways.
Your mum is the other lady you should emulate. She has been a wonderful sister to me. She is undoubtedly the vice-mother to my mother. Her character is dominated with resilience, creativity and courage. She has the heart of Jesus in her chest. So kind and philanthropic like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. There are days that I look at her and the things she does and resolve to myself that her heart is filled with love and not blood. I suspect that love is pumped from her heart through her arteries which supply it to the rest of her body. Her strength, I can only equate to that of steel ( In Spanish they say SOY TU DUENA). I call her steel because steel is an alloy. And she is an alloy too. She is an alloy of my mum and my dad. Just like steel is an alloy of iron and carbon. And she is talented. She is one of the few Kenyan artists I listen to. She sings like the birds of the sky. Her voice is beautiful like that of a young Japanese singer. She is a normal person who helps people in paranormal ways. Never leave your mum’s side Joy. She will be the bedrock of your life just as she has been my strength. Her love is unconditional. Her advises are cherishable and her wisdom is unfathomed. You have to emulate this woman. You just have to.Your grandmother is the other lady I would expect you to be like. I won’t tell you much about her because she is just a refined version of your mother. You should however know that she loves you and that she prays for you every single day. She’s a prayerful lady. A staunch Seventh Day Adventist. She’s quite inspirational and emotional at the same time. She cries a lot. Crying is a not a sign of weakness by the way. For people like my mum (your grandma), it’s a way of healing. It’s her way of letting go. Just like some people seek the healing power of catharsis by writing out their problems.On leadership. If you ever decide to be a leader at some point, I hope you take a cue from Theresa May. I might seem biased but I think she is a strong lady with great leadership skills. She has beautiful legs. Just like yours. I like the way she withstands the strong criticisms that come from the Britain opposition. For you to be like her, you will have to study. She went to Oxford. But you do not have to go to Oxford to be like her. The University of Nairobi can do just fine for you. You will learn quite a lot especially the virtue of patience. You will be subjected to torturous long holidays that will reduce your urge to finish school in a hurry.I know that at some point you will experience a heartbreak in your life and you’ll rush to Google to find out ‘ How to get over a heartbreak?’ Google will tell you lies like ‘Take more water’ and ‘Exercise a lot’. But do not despair. It’s a phase of life. And sometimes bad things happen to us for reasons that defy our human understanding. When such a time comes, the best thing to do is go easy on yourself. And don’t have too many expectations in people. They disappoint a lot. People are strange. Love is even stranger. If you find it at some point don’t hesitate to give it a try. If you fail to find it you should know that it’s still okay. Being true to yourself is one of the best ways to achieve inner peace.I know that you’ll be a responsible member of the society and that you will be proactive in making the society a better place for all people. You don’t have to do it in big ways. You can do it in the smallest of ways. But if you get a chance to sit on those meetings or seminars whose themes are like “Entrenching the values of professionalism within the healthcare sector as a means of achieving Sustainable Development Goals in Kenya by 2060” or “Analyzing gender equality gaps within the Kenyan Society” please make sure you give your best input. And be different. Don’t be like most people who go to such seminars to take selfies, sleep in the course of the meetings and claim allowances at the end of the day. Please dare to be different.As I end this letter without delving in so many verbal gymnastics, I just want to say THANK YOU to you for being in our lives. I hope that you maintain a high regard for your family members throughout. Your family will be your therapy in the coming days. May you look up to your dad. You have a very good dad. He has a soft heart and he is so kind (Tony if you are reading this, I want to tell you that you are one of the kindest people I have ever met). And always be close to your brother Josh. He loves you. I know you love him too. You will need each other so much in future.I will close with some simple remarks that can act as your basic guidelines of life. Life is so much unfair. You should know this and get used to it. Always be nice to everyone. You can never tell what people go through within them. Treat people with respect and dignity. Pursue your dreams and passions and never stop at anything before you achieve them. A father once told his daughter who was graduating from Harvard University that “ Success is measured by how you contribute to making someone else’s life better.” I can’t add more to that.
With all my love,