As a kid, I used to watch a lot of movies. I loved movies with bad guys. I could go to a movie shop and ask the ‘movie man’ to only give me the ones that have bad guys with big guns. In the course of those movie hunting expeditions, I bumped into a TV Series that would later become one of my favorites. I suspect it still tops the charts of the best shows I’ve ever set my eyes on. The TV Series is 24 (I can already hear someone shouting Jack Bauer over there at the back. Is it you Jairus?) I loved that series so much not only because of Jack Bauer but because the bad guys were really badass. Like they were not the soft bad guys you see in movies of these days. These days you find movies with villains who only slap people and you wonder what became of script writers and movie directors. 
As I progressed watching 24, season six caught my eye. The first reason as to this was that the character who played the role of President of the United States was a lady. And she was no ordinary lady. When she spoke in presidential security briefs, her top advisors trembled. Her cabinet consisted of old conservative Native Americans but none of them dared to question her actions even when she was utterly wrong on some matters. Her name was Alison Taylor. The second reason why I loved the season is because of the bad guys in it. They are the kind of bad guys whose character traits match those of the canny T-bag from Prison Break. 
Two of them particularly impressed me. One was called General Juma who was president to the fictional country in the show called Sangala. The other was known as Matobo. He was the general’s assistant. For the better part of the series, Juma and Matobo plotted several biochemical attacks against the US most of which failed because Jack Bauer stopped them. That was what Bauer did best. He stopped the bad guys. Sometimes he chopped off their heads with Katana swords and other times he opened up their bowels with Cuban knives. There are also times when he tortured them with high voltage electricity that brought massive shocks to their systems.
I know at this point some of you may be wondering why I am infusing all these movie stuff in this story when they are clearly at variance with the title. So let me tell you why. It’s Toby’s birthday today. Yes. You heard that right. Olaibon Roy Tobias is turning a year older. I have been reflecting on the first time I met Toby. It was back in Kabete. I saw him and my mind flashed back to Matobo of 24, General Juma’s assistant. The resemblance was striking. For a moment, I thought that Matobo, the badass villain of 24, had quit a lucrative acting career from Hollywood and joined University of Nairobi School of Law. But then he spoke and that’s when I said to myself “this can’t be Matobo”. You know how I knew that? Simple. Matobo, in the series, spoke fast and he minced words like someone who grew up in Chicago. Toby, on the other hand, spoke like someone who grew up at the slopes of Mount Elgon and went ahead to study at Utumishi Boys Academy. 
Toby and Matobo are however so different.  The latter massacred people while the only thing that Toby massacres is ugali that is as hard as steel. He is a good person though. Toby has a tall heart that can stretch from Nairobi to Kampala through Kisumu. His kindness to people is one thing that is open to all who have eyes to see. He listens to everyone from those with deep personal problems to those with no stories at all. That’s how accommodative he is.  For the little time I have known him, I have noted that he makes friends with minimum ease and keep them for a long time. 
It still remains a mystery to me how he manages to converse with so many people within a day.  Sometimes, especially in class, he moves around from bench to bench laughing about and giggling with people about mundane things you wouldn’t want to hear about. In his typical slow speech and disjointed laughter, it easy to know that he is around. If not for him laughing, someone will occasionally call out his name loudly and that’s how you’d notice his presence at a place. 
I bet that’s his way of deriving happiness from this short life. We all have our ways. Some get their happiness from being silent. Others do so by sticking earphones in their two ears. Some wear crocs from Monday to Monday and derive satisfaction from that. For Toby, it’s by talking to people. I doubt anyone can ever beat him to that. He knows things about people. Both good and bad. But he doesn’t use the bad to hold people ransom. Neither does he share them with other people. That’s just who he is. He has a good personality. 
As his friends, he has taught us some valuable lessons especially in regard to life. Personally, I have learnt more about the art of friendship through him. I’ve also learnt about things people from Teso do in their day to day activities. I’m sure Keganda too has learnt the same from him. But on the brighter side, he has learnt tons of stuff from us. We have introduced him to ideas, places and people and exposed him to things he’d never thought existed. 
From Keganda, he has learnt how to light up a cooker without blowing up the whole house (I still don’t trust him on this though. Last weekend he nearly blew up the house.) I have taught him everything I know about computers but he still keeps coming back about the same damn problems especially about simple things like MS Word. But what are friends for if not that? We can’t all be perfect in everything. Toby might be good with people and hence helpful when need arises in such scenarios. I might be fast in typing and he is not. Hence the need to assist him when it comes to that especially now that he types like someone who is solving a complex crossword. 
Together with some other friends, we have also visited places, talked stories and played games most of which he finished trailing behind everyone. Games like Charade give Toby not only migraines but also nightmares. There was this one time we were in South Coast at Diani when the game played him instead of the reverse. He struggled. 
Games aside, that was also probably one of the few moments when I saw the lad cook ugali for fifteen people. He did so and came out unscathed. He did it with the kind of enthusiasm that I always strive to have in my life. He still talks of Diani to date. He never completely got over the place. But I can’t blame him. The place was fantastic. The swimming pool and the compound were awesome. And of course the beach was super sandy and amazing. Plus he had fifteen of good friends around. 
As Toby turns a year older today, I hope that he doesn’t keep growing tall. I also hope that he doesn’t do away with his laughing mannerisms. I hope that he continues keeping tabs on people and being the good friend that he has always been. I, however, wish that he could stop wearing his funny denim shorts to school. He is too tall for shorts. I also want to implore him to steer clear of ‘knock knock’ jokes. He has done enough damage to them already. He has ruined their taste and defeated their purpose immensely. There reached a point where we could be having a serious conversation and he brings a stupid ‘knock knock’ joke into it like;
Toby: “Knock knock”Me: “Who’s there?”Toby: “Uhuru”Me: “Uhuru who?”Toby: “Uhuru Kenyatta”
That’s how bad it had become. I think at some point we agreed with him that such kind of lameness has to stop if our conversations were to continue. He had made me see a new dimension of lameness that I never thought existed. I’m glad he stopped. 
I want to finish by urging Toby to keep being kind and close to people no matter what others say. I know he has been ridiculed countless times and dubbed as ‘the Friend zone President.’ Some people have even told him to name a cabinet already. But the things Toby do are the things that define him. It’s who he is. He understands people at different levels. That’s what makes him a good person. Never change Toby. 
I caught up with a few of his friends and here is what they had to say to him for his birthday in their voices: 
 Voice of Laureen EmmaMy heart in human form. That’s the first statement that came to my mind as soon as I read the text from Brandon asking me to write a ‘little something’ for this guy. The two years I have known you have been as beautiful and delightful as can be. You are special Toby, you really are. As you celebrate another of your birthdays, I wish nothing but the world’s best for you. You are a gem to the world so precious; I can’t help but thank God for you. This is to more milkshakes, random walks and a whole other world of adventure and sharing. They say that sometimes angels who could not be part of our families are brought to us in another light and you are that angel in another light. Happy Birthday Toby Dear.
Voice of Masiga MauriceToby brotherman,Happy Birthday to you. Bro you are a good friend and we appreciate you. Have a good year ahead filled with happiness and accomplishments. Cheers to many more years of true friendship, brotherhood and ‘to not breaking the bro code’. There is no buddy like you brother. 
Voice of Ian KegandaTo Toby, the tall Teso boy who became family;Sasa how do you describe a man who walks into a room and captures your attention? He looks by all means a South Sudanese and you know over here in this country where we’ve just started mining oil, any predecessor with an oil background is easily noticed ama we just say coz they are tall and really dark as so we can easily see them…Anyway how you speak of such a man is by his heart. Kind heart, dry jokes yes but kind heart. Ok reeaaally dry jokes but kind heart. Of a man who is not afraid to learn and never stops to help others. You my friend are straight from heaven while the rest of us arrived walking. A happy happy birthday to you and if God will not grant all other prayers, may He make you successful.
Voice of Beth KemuntoWhen asked to define happiness, Toby comes to my mind. He is such a lively and lovely human to be with. He lights up the room with his smile and laughter. He is a great friend and a treasure too. As you turn a year older, I want you to know that you are a blessing to us. May you continue being as awesome as you equally are inspiring. Happy birthday dear one. Thank you for always being one of the best souls.
Those messages say it all. Not much to add. Happy Super Birthday Toby. Age gracefully. As my favorite Nigerian author Dami Ajayi says “The world is no place for half measures. Live life in full throttle.” A thousand blessings to you. LIGHTS OUT.

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