The world is full of unsavoury and savoury characters. Misfits, miscreants and maestros dominate this third planet in appalling numbers and almost in equal measure. They are in our lives and they are all over. They sit at dinner tables in high-end settlements and sometimes eat in silence. Other times they talk with mouths full of food, defying all kinds of basic table manners. Some good ones own foundations and work for the betterment of humanity with their ‘strategic plans’, ‘annual goals’ and ‘mission statements’.
There are the few who spend their days chasing tenders at City Hall. Guys whose names never miss in any government deals where innocent citizens are swindled. There are also those ladies and gentlemen who cherish fries made from sweet potatoes and their counterparts who talk about runny eggs with the desire of ages. There are men in this country who lock their fridges and hide the keys under flower vases by the verandah. There are those folks who constantly remind us that ‘money has never been a problem for them’ when they walk into shoe places at Yaya Center and casually buy Barker shoes worth almost half a million. And of course, how can we forget the men and women who form Whatsapp groups to organize trips, most of which never see light of day because of the few people who always come up with a parliament of excuses. Remember, history is also littered with men who built castles for ladies who later rejected them. Should there be a Whatsapp group for such men, Lord Egerton would be the admin unopposed. Humanity is one hell of a cocktail.
And then there are good men like Edmund Opiyo who possess wild imaginations and dreams that scare and rattle people like me. This is a short story about Edmund Opiyo, the gentleman with a liking for programming, a propensity for innovation and a fascinatingly mysterious understanding of science.
As high school peaked in 2014, most students in our class back then aligned in various activities such as games, drama fests, contests, science congress and anything that tickled their fancy. It was never about love for any of these things. Well, sometimes it was. Especially for those uncanny characters who owned vision boards and voluntarily wrote Inshas then took for marking. These activities were, however, mostly about escape or taking a break. A break from the daunting routines: the boring classes, the sweltering afternoon heat and the maddening academic competitions.
I used to hear stories, at the time, about Edmund Opiyo and his wild reading habits and dreams but I thought it was all normal talk or banter. Because of the different streams that we were in during those first few years, I didn’t quite confirm the rumors until much later on while we were away at a science congress function in Kisumu Boys High School.
So it’s around March, 2014 and it’s a little bit cold in Kisumu. It’s a Saturday and we find ourselves in classrooms with cheeky writings on white walls. Students from all over the county are interacting and innocent girls are giggling at things that the not-so-innocent boys are telling them. A boy from Tiengre High School has just made a loud funny joke in his raspy voice and the room is dying in laughter. It’s all bliss amidst the anxiety and anticipation on how the day will unfold. Supervisors (the people who assessed the project presentations) slowly stream in and the games begin. (Not Hunger Games. The presentation games).
My project partner Njugi was a little bit nervous but I gave him a pat on the back and reminded him that we’re from the Equator. Nothing could go wrong. Well, everything went wrong after that. Amidst our presentation, he somehow froze and forgot some crucial components of the presentation we had spent days and nights preparing for. And things fell apart. Ooh Njugi. Sometimes he was vexatious to the spirit. On asking him later what had happened to him, I almost choked on the response he gave. A smile from a pretty Indian lady from Jalaram Senior School was all it took for him to blow away months of efforts and excruciating days of practice. I couldn’t stay in the room any longer and look at his inky eyes of apathy. So I took the loss and went wandering to the next room just for the sake (Funnily enough, Njugi and I are still great friends to date).
When I entered the next room, Edmund Opiyo seemed to be having what I would call his ‘Einstein moment’. It was an intellectual carousel. A display of poetry in science. He was presenting a project titled ‘hydroponics and aquaponics using grey water’ not only to students who looked bewildered but also to supervisors who seemed to be learning a thing or two. We were all there lost in the mad, dangerous and intoxicating world of his imagination. His arguments were a swirling silvery delight. It was like watching Ronaldinho in his prime. Even his partner looked aghast at his know-how. Later on that year, I met a friend of mine at United Mall who told me that her schoolmates simply dubbed it as “That Presentation in Kisumu Boys”. That is how iconic it was. I told her that most people in the room probably loved it not because they understood any of the complex things that Edmund was saying but because they were simply taken aback by the sheer display of intellect.
I caught up with Edmund on phone last Friday at 7pm. He’s certainly been getting things done since high school. You know that he is busy man because he is unreachable during the day. Like all programmers out there, he spends his days punching keys on his keyboard and producing codes from programming languages that lack vowels and consonants. Languages with snake names like Python and some with abbreviated names like PHP or HTML. A fifth year studying Electrical and Telecommunications Engineering at MMU, Edmund already has a company. Delva Skob is the company’s name. And Delva Skob is a parent to many other subsidiaries. I asked him what Delva Skob does and he blew my mind off by explaining terminologies like social commerce and reputable marketing. Same old Edmund. Never a simple man. Never a man who settles for less. Always a man who knows his stuff well. Always, the Einstein in every room that he walks to.
What piqued my interest greatly, however, was ROBO DINE. This is a subsidiary company to his Delva Skob. When I first heard the name, I thought to myself “Ooh Lord, what is Opiyo up to now? This guy will one day bring us Martians to earth”. But I was definitely overthinking. Though not too far. ROBO DINE is a new technological concept that he is working on. Once he started talking about it to me, there was no stopping his flow of thoughts. So I let his mind roll and listened to his genius find life. He explained how he wants to build Robotic restaurants in Kenya where robots are used to prepare affordable five-course meals for customers.
Immediately he said that, I couldn’t help but imagine a Robot cooking Njahi or baking a birthday cake for some choosy Gemini who doesn’t like too much sugar. I smiled a little but did not interrupt his flow with my silliness. He trudged on with his enchanting explanations. Serious business words like ‘venture capitalism’ and phrases like ‘quality assurance’ seamlessly made their way into the conversation and I was nothing short of bewildered. Which is what I always am whenever I am talking to Opiyo. His ideas are as grand as Central Park.
At the time of our conversation, many people had already invested and bought shares in the company. In fact, there’s already a waiting list of those who would wish to be first diners of the five-course meals in his ROBO DINE Restaurant. Meanwhile, he is in Kakamega coding his life away as he coordinates the printing of the initial robot joints (or arms, like he calls them). Of course, I forwarded my name to be on the waiting list. There’s even a Whatsapp group. Which surprised me. I don’t know about you but the idea of chilling and dining in a Robotic Restaurant sits well with my spirit. If things go as planned, the restaurant will be ready by August next year. Unless a Mugumo tree falls somewhere and spoils the party. Hehe. But some ideas are too grand even for the deepest mythologies.
Edmund Opiyo is the ROBO DINE guy. He’s cruising through life like a phoenix bird, always reinventing himself and ideas as time progress.