When you see Masiga for the first time you would think he is a Volkswagen Beetle like the one Obama rode in with his sister Auma when he came to Kenya in 1997. But if you talk to him you realize that he is a Ferrari. Or rather his ideas can only match the rank of a Ferrari in the motor world. When I first saw Masiga in 2012 at a school along the equator, I was struck by his resemblance to my uncle Ochieng. He doesn’t however know this. He will finally find out when he reads this post one week from today (He reads my posts late. Sometimes even two weeks late. Then he comments using emojis. Who does that to a friend?). There are times when we are at a serious discussion and Masiga is there giving his opinion and my mind just shoots to Uncle Ochieng. Let me tell you something about this uncle of mine. He rarely laughs. He is considered to be the smartest man back in the countryside. He chairs nearly all village meetings. He has a rod that he never leaves behind. When he is angry, he doesn’t talk instead he taps the aged rod on the ground profusely to demonstrate to his adversaries the gravity of his anger or disappointment. Usually, people tremble when he does that. But that is not who Masiga is. Apart from the resemblance, they are completely different personalities.
If Masiga was created a city he would have been Zurich. Zurich is in Switzerland. When you go to Zurich you realize that everything smells seriousness (I’ve not gone to Zurich myself. I’ve only read about it in numerous world travel magazines.) Zurich has streets lined with red oaks and cherry blossoms that come alive during Spring. Along those streets are people in black coats and black scarfs and black briefcases. They rarely smile these people. And they always look back for fear of being followed. People in Zurich talk money all the time. The city has a reputation when it comes to money and jewelries. In fact, I suspect that the precious metals and ornaments stashed in the banks of the city could cumulatively run the African economy comfortably for the next decade. There is no single day I have ever had a conversation with Masiga without money finding its way in it. Success is his language.
He will always find a way of bringing Ahmednasir Abdullahi into a conversation. If it’s not Ahmednasir then its Donald Kipkorir or Jeff Bezos or the Duke of Omaha or the Sultan of Brunei. As his friends, we have got used to it. We have learnt to accommodate his thoughts and views on what Putin is doing to Russia or why Donald Trump is the best Republican president since Abraham Lincoln.
If you are a lady and you have a crush on Masiga I bet you will have to start being knowledgeable on the things above if you’re to box him. And you will have to start believing that Cristiano Ronaldo is better than Messi. And there are times you will have to be ignored for the sake of the Uefa Champions League. Because that’s who Masiga is. A nice personality he is though. He has always struck me with his ambition. He wants the very best for himself in life. You can always feel from the way he talks about Harvey Specter’s suits or vintage cars or people who’ve been listed on Forbes. We have always mocked him that he has telescopic eyes that can see through tinted car windows because of his tendency to identify people in those cars. We could be sitting for lunch and Masiga just blurts out that “he saw Chris Kirubi yesterday along Parklands Road inside his Mercedes Benz.” And one of us would sarcastically ask “How was that possible when his car windows are tinted?” Then we all break into laughter.
I first saw Mickey Kutu in Sheria hall on admission day. He came with his Techno phone in hand, a rugged trouser on, an animated T-shirt and sat right next to me. He was undisturbed by the motions in the hall. He remains undisturbed about things in life to date. Typical Mickey. If he were created a city he would definitely be Rio. Rio is the capital of Brazil. Life in Rio is carefree. People play football at the beaches late in to the night and walk barefoot in the streets as if it’s the most normal thing. But as Mickey would say “He is in this world for a good time not a long time”. He would seamlessly fit into the Rio culture where people live in the moment and don’t give a damn about what tomorrow holds.
There are days when we go to Mickey’s room and find sacks of junk food under the bed and in the lockers. He derives his meaning of life from those junk foods. I never knew that crisps could be packaged in such massive polythene bags till I saw some in his room one day. At first, I thought that he was supplying crisps and popcorns and brawns to the school tuck-shop but then he said that they were for his personal consumption sending shockwaves to our poor faces. Bettina, who is motherly in nature, has always tried convincing to familiarize himself with real food to no avail. Masiga couldn’t care less if he choked on junk. Keganda is Keganda. He will call him brooo and laugh and roast him and mock him and be Keganda.
Annoying Mickey is one of the easiest things in this world. The only thing you need to do is say that the Kenyan Police are mistreated and that they live in pathetic conditions. That statement turns him into a wild beast like those ones that migrate seasonally from the Mara to Serengeti in Tanzania. Mickey has a soft spot in his heart for the Kenya Police. The Kenya Police are to him what Brioni suits are to Masiga or what SDA is to Keganda or what WOSWA is to Bettina. He cherishes the police and believes that they are well paid and that they do not suffer at all. His ancestors might have been police men. We will never know. But that is a part of him that I will always admire. I mean nobody defends the police out here except Mickey. People loathe them.
Michael Kutu will always remain mysterious to us. His life is unscripted and unplanned. He has friends who can call him on a Monday night and ask him “Hey buddy, you wanna go to Tanzania tomorrow? Everything is catered for.” And he would pack right at that moment for a week’s vacation to Kilimanjaro and its environs. Such a life. I usually tell him that he is already living my dream life. The boy from Moi Forces Academy who hails from the dusty county of Kajiado. He says thank you as “dhank you”, Tharaka Nithi as “dharaka nidhi” and thunderstorm as “dhunderstorm”. Perhaps that’s why we love him most. It’s always a “dhrill” to have him around.
I met Bettina through Keganda. Just like I’ve met ninety-percent of my friends in law school. It was one early morning when taking breakfast at the mess. I can’t quite remember what they were talking about but I bet they were arguing. They do that all the time. And their arguments get heated to the extent that one would think they’ll never talk to each other again. Bettina is like the protagonist in Chimamanda’s novel Americanah. If you have read the book, you know that the protagonist is a young girl from Lagos called Ifemelu. Ifemelu beat the odds against her and got a fellowship to Princeton University in America where she excels. A fellowship is just a glorified scholarship. Ifem, as her name is shortened in the book, had an unwavering love for Sidney Sheldon novels. I don’t know Bettina’s favorite author but I bet it’s Jeffrey Archer. Her table never lacks an Archer book. Of course there are also small catechism books and course books that decorate her place. She is everything that we are not.
We came back from the very first semester’s holiday and found her as the organizing secretary of SALAR. Some of us knew about SALAR much later on in the second semester. She is also in TCAN. TCAN in full is The Consulting Academy. She is in WOSWA too and she has a post that I have since forgotten because she has way too many posts in too many places. WOSWA mentors all female students of the University of Nairobi I hear. So it’s no ordinary association. She is also in Tekeleza and she does projects that take her to places like Kilifi .and beyond.
Bettina has way too any engagements going on in her life. Strong and independent are words might as well be substituted for her second name Amondi. We often have conflicts many a times and she intervenes when there are such conflicts. Though some times she causes the conflicts with her damning roasts. If she were a city she would definitely be Santorini of Greece. Santorini stands up high on hills and towers above most Greek cities. It’s full of life and vibrancy. It’s unlike Athens that looks sad and dull and regretful all seasons. Santorini, like Rome, was never built in a day and when it finally stood up it was good. Ifemelu in Americanah knew what she wanted right from the very start at the school she went to in Lagos. Bettina always seems to know what we she wants with her life.
Keganda has a personality that allows him to relate to everyone. He freely interacts with basically every person. He has friends who are as young as my niece and as old as my dad. He is a lucky man because God did not give some of us that much talent. I first met him in high school at the Students’ SDA church association. He was a natural church leader from the very beginning. Years later he would become the overall SDA chairman unrivalled. It’s like the moment he stepped into high school; he knew that the post was created for him. He could sing beautifully on Friday vespers and lead the choir into countless beautiful Sunday presentations at the school chapel.
Once a rugby player and a hockey player, Keganda is a physically strong man. He has loads of energy packed within him. He can travel to Kisii on a Friday night and be settled in class on a Monday morning without showing any ounce of exhaustion or fatigue. And he is probably the one person I know with so many friends. He has friends who work at Egesa FM and others who work at Aga Khan Hospital. There are also others who work at AIM Global. The world seems to be his oyster.
If Keganda were to be a city then it would be Chicago. Chicago is the face of black struggles as well as black excellence. It’s the home to President Obama who has proved to the world that blacks can shatter any glass ceilings above them and soar high into excellence. Ian Keganda has a deep affiliation to black excellence. He has saved videos in his phone of Dr. Martin Luther King speeches. When he was my roommate, I could be woken up very early in the morning to the sound of Dr. King delivering a speech in Mississippi. He could play those speeches over and over again. By the end of that semester I could recite a number of those speeches word by word effortlessly. If you look at the movies that he likes, they are always freedom-related. If not so, then there is always a black family curving its path in life. Some examples are Sarafina, Underground and Empire. He is an ardent fan of these. He believes in justice and in the fight for basic freedoms. He has gone to marches organized by Boniface Mwangi on issues to do with corruption in the country. In 2017, he joined the marches and protests that called for electoral justice and inquest into the death of baby Samantha Pendo and other victims.
Lastly, there is me. My name is Brandon and I don’t know how to describe myself. How does one describe himself? I only know that if I were to be born a city then I’d be Kisumu. I’d have a large lake beside me and I’d be host to beautiful people who sleep as early as 10 pm and eat fried fish on Saturdays.
Life brought the five of us together through the spirit of friendship. It’s not like we don’t have other friends. We do. Both jointly and separately. We have friends like Toby who are friends with everybody. In fact, some of those other friendships may be better. For us, it’s like we are those dysfunctional friends from the movie “DYSFUNCTIONAL FRIENDS”. Those friends rip each other apart and laugh about it and sometimes they don’t talk for days but they always find their way to one another again. Sometimes I even think we are siblings and that I am the last born because I don’t talk much.
If we woke up in a world where we were siblings then Keganda would probably be the first born, Bettina the second born, Masiga the third, Mickey the fourth and me the last. Keganda would be the first because he has good advices and he knows how to organize things and he knows how to drive. Bettina would probably often challenge his authority as the first born in her typical argumentative ways. Masiga would probably be that sibling who comes to family reunions dressed in a grey suit like a law student who is on judicial attachment. Mickey would be the sibling who misses family reunions because he has an appointment with the dentist.
Like all friends do occasionally, we have made plans and not fulfilled them. We have organized hangouts in town that never materialized because one or two people opted out last minute. Masiga has a PhD in this. If any plan coincides with a Champions League game or a Manchester United match then that’s how you lose him. His love for football is extra-fanatical. We all have our flaws and we are imperfect. Maybe what keeps our friendship together is that we derive strength from our imperfections. We are always available when one of us has a problem be it family, relationship, class or just having a bad day. But I think Masiga is immune to ordinary world problems. He hasn’t been through the emotional rollercoasters that the four of us sometimes grapple with. His problems range from things like an expired Windows 10 or an outdated Internet Download Manager which I usually fix for him for free.
Cheers to all friendships out there!!!