It’s Bettina’s birthday today. And Masiga’s birthday tomorrow. I take this chance join many others in celebrating them. I am doing this on behalf of Keganda and Mike too, even though they didn’t ask me. My words alone maybe inadequate in paying tribute to their greatness but I will just proceed and rumble about and be hopeful that I get it right.
A party today or tomorrow, with the whole gang present, could have been more sentimental to the both of them but I am a thousand leagues away in Kisumu. Masiga is the Bungoma’s suburbs, tweeting geopolitics all the time from their lonely cluster of mansions. Mike is probably taking servile oranges in Kajiado and walking bare chest in their big house while enjoying his time at home alone. Or maybe he is hosting a hashtag on Twitter? What day is it today? Or he could just be being Mike, perfecting his art of trading memes.
Bettina, I bet, is busying herself with corporate stuff in Nairobi, making swift daily moves between Lenana and Ngong Road or somewhere close. In her typical fashion, I am sure she’s attended more meetings than I will ever do collectively this year. She’s the archetypical modern day independent lady with a magical propensity for hard work and ingenuity.
Keganda, as usual, is on the move traversing the country like a tourist with a checklist of places to visit. He could be dancing at a wedding as I write this, who knows. He could also be fixated to a Labyrinth song or to a black-themed movie like ‘The Hate You Give’.
And so here I am, doing the best I can to make it up to Bettina and Masiga. I am giving the world a glimpse of their greatness. Brandishing them with the honors they deserve and lauding their commitment to authenticity.
These two birthdays usually go unnoticed, like most January birthdays, but not this year. Things have to be different this year. Personally, BETTER is my buzzword for 2020. To strive as much as possible to be a better person. For myself, for everyone and especially for my friends. This is the year we recognize and appreciate our friends for being around us at our lowest and highest. They have to be acknowledged. We have to not only thank them for the past years but also assure them that we will always be around for them in the coming years and to steadfastly stand by them during their dark days.
I know Masiga is new to this but ooh well, don’t we all have the responsibility of taking out the Bungoma in our friends?
Bettina is a Kenyan Jessica Pearson. Tall, hardworking and elegant. I’d best describe her with the magical trinity of bold, brave and brilliant. She’s sassy and audacious too, two traits rare in most people her age.
In those early days of campus, I didn’t know her until Keganda introduced her one early morning at the mess. With his exuberance, Keganda was always buzzing with friends. Bettina was one of those friends. Initially, I thought she was a Kisii. Actually, she conspired with Keganda to feed me that lie.
If someone could have asked me that day if Bettina and I were going to remain friends years later, I could have said NO. I was a top-notch introvert determined to reduce the number of extroverts in my life. I was more drawn to silence and serenity than the verbal combats that often characterized Keganda-Bettina conversations.
Over time, Bettina has demonstrated to us her authenticity and strength. We’ve seen her stay true to these qualities even when she had numerous chances of caving in to the fakeness that runs deep among most people in this city.
A few days ago, I was reading an interview Bradley Cooper did with a journalist from The New York Times. The journalist asks Bradley Cooper to describe himself in a few words. Cooper stays silent for a while before muttering that he doesn’t know how to answer that. The journalist insists and Cooper tells him that ‘sometimes the best way to know a person is to get to spend time around them, watch them and have conversations with them on various topics for a long period of time.’ He adds that you can never truly know a person by asking them to describe themself or by asking other people. For somebody like Bettina, you never get to know her till you be her friend and experience her kindness, loyalty and industry. You wouldn’t know her by asking her or by asking a third party.
As you turn a year older told today, I want to wish you a blissful year ahead. You are the great friend we all admire and look up to in most areas. We are grateful for every single one of those moments that you graced us with your presence. From those tea parties in your room to the dancing at live band performances in Alliance Francaise (Mike enjoyed the latter most).
Your hard work is something we all marvel at. Your busy schedules inspire us to also do worthwhile things with our lives. You have set the limits so high leaving us looking for ladders to catch up. May you always maintain that passion in everything that you do. I can only urge maintain more balance in your life and to keep your authenticity as high as it is now. Cast aside all negativity and flourish like an Arctic Wolf.
You’re the Don Juan of the squad, a serial negotiator endowed with wit. As you use your hypnotizing charm to cruise through life, I hope that you also use it to live truthfully and to make an impact on other people’s lives.
You have done great things to us that sometimes make me think that we don’t deserve you. We are so lucky to have you. Oscar is lucky to have you. Claire, Whitney, Brian and all your family members are even luckier to have you.
You have already exceeded our highest expectations and hopes.
The world is your oyster. Or your stage. Seize it. We are your audience. We are seated quietly and patiently in the hall of life with angst waiting for your performance. Mesmerize us with a pulsating show.
Cheers to life.
May you have a happy, beautiful and blessed birthday today!
I met Masiga in the early months of 2012 at Maseno School. We were in the same house, the great Jaramogi House. Between 2012 and 2020, so much has changed. So many things have happened.
In 2012, he had a delicate surgery in the head. I remember him disappearing from school some days to the surgery and coming back months after it was done. When he came back, not much had changed except the fact that he was now exempted from those annoying high school antics like running in the compound. He’d walk around school at his own pace as if he was the eminence grice of the place. Despite spending those months out of class, he still was among the top in exams. His natural brilliance always remains unquestionable.
I don’t remember much about Masiga in 2013. Other than being this lad who was unusually close to the class supervisor, he was the guy known in school for being a maestro in Business Studies. He was already the grand master of the subject when his peers were still learning the basics. He’d register ridiculously great scores in exams within the range of 98-100 percent. I never did Business but I knew that he made balancing sheets look like child’s play. At Form Two, he had earned his seat at the high table of the School’s great ‘Businessmen’. It still puzzles me today how he isn’t at the London School of Economics rubbing shoulders with men in suits whose aspirations range from things like ‘liberalizing of markets and preventing the world from experiencing another financial crisis’. But all is not lost. He can still be the Luis Litt of the Kenyan legal industry.
In 2014, Masiga became my boss. We in form three. He was the overall school Laboratories Captain. I was Computer Studies Chairman which meant that I was in charge of the Computer Lab. So technically I worked under him. Unlike his predecessor, he was calm. Leadership never got into his head like it did to the others. We never clashed at any moment. He had this separatist notion of leadership that saw me do my own thing as he did his own with the other chemical-laden labs.
2015 was a defining year in high school. It was a culmination of sorrows untold, occasional sparks of joy, remarkable friendships and achievements bagged. Masiga had his desk just behind me in 4 R. There were days filled with frustrations, failed exams and an extremely tight schedule but we somehow all managed a laugh at the end of each day. The tiny successes pushed us through to the end.
That same year, something terrible happened. We watched Wangwe succumb to a heart attack in the school’s lower pitches. We united in grief and carried the beautiful memories he left us with as he was laid to rest in Western Kenya.
Then November came and people did KCSE and parted ways promising each other to be in touch. That was the last time I heard from most. As fate would have it, Masiga came to law school. So did I. We are still the close friends who share a common obsession for the struggling Manchester United. We are the friends who used to fervently read The Nairobian a few years ago but now have an open distaste for its nonsensical stories.
The Masiga of 2020 is so much different from the Masiga of 2015. He has evolved on a grand scale. The Masiga of 2015 was Facebook fanatic with typical Facebook mannerisms. He’d post things like ‘Gd9t guys. C u 2moro’. The Masiga of today fancies Twitter more than Facebook. He’s more informed and discusses, on his TL, things like “Why Nancy Pelosi is refusing to hand over the articles of impeachment to the US Senate as required by the law”.
You’re a great man.
You will make a great lawyer.
You have always been a towering figure in our class group assignments. I thank you for that, on behalf of everyone.
Your intellectual acumen is visible to the blind and audible to the deaf. May you keep being the academic lighthouse from whose rays we bask in to nourish our feeble minds.
May kindness and greatness continue to live in you for many years to come.
Your best days are ahead of you. Just keep the focus high. Organize. Strategize. Mobilize your inner self for the success that awaits you in future.
And may you please give Ole Gunnar Solskajaer time to rebuild the club. It’s not him where the entire problem lies, it’s in Malcolm Glazer and his billionaire brothers (on a light note).
Happy Birthday Masiga.