Republished from last year….
To attend a birthday party in Nairobi’s Westlands you need car keys and a good neck tie. Especially if it is an Indian home. A nasal accent and a wrapped gift are added advantage, though the tie and car keys are the thing. On weekends I have walked to these parties without my yellow tie and still the feeling didn’t change.
Birthdays are about celebration of life. They are about acknowledging the passing of time and the ageing of man. At least that is what I know. I was brought up in this family setting where to know your birthday you had to carry out a research project, visiting and re-visiting aunts to confirm the data. Bribery too. I gave up on mine when an uncle couldn’t agree with my first-born aunt over where and when it was I was born. He said on the way from the river, May; she swore she’d midwifed her behind our banana plantation, February the previous year. I surrendered.
But be what they may, the several birthday parties I’ve attended have taught me that man likes to commemorate life coming to earth. See them light those candles, cut giant cakes and sing century-old songs and you’ll know what I’m saying. The latest I attended was for a stubborn boy named Aniruddha or something and I can tell you Nairobi is raising a herd of sadists out here. He kept screaming at the mother and asking us to take him away from his parents because they’d refused to buy him an iPhone 6s (what is that even?) and barred him from inviting his girlfriend to the party. So here we are. Next time your kid says he is inviting his girlfriend for his sixth birthday, give him a nod or else your next guest will walk away with a small African tucked under his armpit as a gift. And you will remain childless.
Hehe. I know of someone in the village who could clobber his kids to death if they cried in front of guests. But this is city style parenting. Democracy and juvenile tyranny.
I have seen kids make merry at those bouncing castles outside malls every weekend. It is an envious sight. Who wouldn’t envy them when he first saw a bouncing castle at the age of twenty, in a movie? And torn? It is such an envious experience watching the young guys jump into the air and letting free their small arms while their parents watch and smile and exchange business cards. They will break at midday, eat GMO food and go back to play. You’ll see them change into their swimming costumes or switch to skating. It’s essentially a whole day of play and fun with the parents’ eye and love.
These parents know they are raising the best breed. They don’t just calculate in the present. They know how the past in a person’s development makes or breaks their future. Moral lesson? Give your kid the best past and his future present will ever be perfect. You have Greenblatt on your side.
So these public joys will arouse images in your head. They’ll give you a clue that perhaps the reason your neighbour likes to look sadly at your sister is because of their upbringing. That a historicist dip will reveal why so-and-so is happy and why the other asshole is ever high. This is what Nairobi parents are trying to rid their children of. You must have been wondering why your friends are so unmanageable and now you are happy a nondescript blog south of the Sahara is offering Psychology lessons for free. It is okay.
Now, have you seen people who smoke on public buses? Those that fill their lungs with puff and smile it into the face of their seatmates, have you seen them? On phone, they flash you and cut it ages before the ringtone opens its lips. If you are browsing on your phone, you’ll still find a missed call, sometimes two, mostly more. They are guys who wish you a happy new year on July eighteenth and insist they come home for the new-year bash that evening. They put on torn socks and always trail you around, introducing themselves as your siblings. Have you seen them?
They were born in September.
One very calm evening, Tina is coming home from the market. She has been sent to take her back-to-school shopping list to Andanje, who is the biggest shopkeeper at the market centre. So Tina is walking back wondering why the holiday has been very short. Actually, Tina has been kept hostage by her father the entire holiday. Samwana Tina is this retired teacher recently appointed the village sub-chief and he now wants to run the home like a Roman convent. So her worry is not just going back to school this soon – her biggest worry is that her imprisonment at the convent has cut communication with the one person she’s wanted to see every other sunrise. She’ll perhaps not see him again till next December.
Then, just sexing then, wind blows stronger and her head scarf falls a few metres away on the roadside. She goes to pick it. She hears someone whisper her name. It is not the soap opera thing. It’s not that Nigerian movie. It is Jak himself!
Now this is where the report of the shopkeeper will have to wait longer to reach home. After all, everyone wants to see what Jak’s hut is like. It gets more interesting when Jak says there is an end-year dance party in the next village. Only if Tina will use their window to get out later tonight. Tina is Tina, and she says yes. Just before the first cock-crow, Jak returns her home as agreed.
That’s the story. Replace the market centre with the posho-mill at the corner of the village or a supermarket or a hyper mall for our other brothers. Buy your mum fried chicken and when she’s almost done, ask her where she used to be sent three days before the end of December holidays and fix it there. Then draw an arrow nine months long. Put yourself at the end of the arrow. It shouldn’t taste like Maths.
Your life began at night, at a dance party. Or on the path to the river. Or at a wedding of a cousin.
Your life began in a trench. It had rained and liquor was on their breaths. You were conceived as it began to drizzle again. A white pickup was passing by. He had on one shoe, the other gone by the water in the trench. Her high heels got lost somewhere in the parking lot, or perhaps in the washrooms. She couldn’t tell. So that 28th December, at exactly 2309hrs sharp, when a white Toyota was passing by two people without shoes, you became. On 28th September the following year, your mother was picked by an ambulance at home and since other motorists could not obey the siren of the ambulance, you were born at a zebra crossing, 150m from hospital and deep in the traffic jam of the city.
Who then should expect a person like you to be normal? Who, if not perhaps other September felas?
You can never wear clean socks and it is not your fault. You can never be tall enough, or if tall, you are exceedingly so with a fast-receding hairline at 22. You can never play music without waking your neighbour. You are the most talkative crook in the Whatsap group and you keep adding members without their consent. And you have this pugilist short temper that even Mecca prayers can’t quench. That is you and it is not your fault. Go home.
Among my 950 friends on Facebook, about 229 have had their birthdays in September thus far and we still aren’t in October yet. Plus, there are a few more who have hidden their DOB’s from their timelines. These September guys can buy Greece if they decide. They alone can monopolise the world. But they can’t. They aren’t normal.
Picture my room-mate in college. Abnormal tendencies. First, he’d stopped wetting his bed before turning three (who stops that before high school?) and now he spoke in sleep as compensation. Huge guy with big fingers, big shoes and a soprano. Chap used to sleep naked in our room. If at night he felt like doing anything as visit the washrooms or talk to his debtor, he’d dangle his unprintables down the corridor and back. If he met you he’d stop and ask details of tomorrow’s lecture. And then he used to laugh like a spoilt generator, which was always. Live long and you’ll see.
It took me three solid years of perseverance to discover that he was a September guy. 1st September actually. That incriminates 1st December, probably the first weekend after his mum closed school for holiday. This story has a sad ending though – that I longed to meet his parents but the guy kept postponing the invitation till we completed campus and went our ways.
So when you see that guy who comes to Facebook to tag you in an update of the weather being sunny, don’t bother. If you meet the kid that wants to start inviting girlfriends home at the age of six, relax and count nine months before birth. If you don’t stop at December, you yourself are the September guy. Otherwise their life began in a trench. At the back door of a Sabina Joy Bar and Restaurant in December 1983. Or on a dusty dance floor in a dimly lit hut. Or in the back-seat of their grandma’s Volkswagen.
Hardest bit: does it feel anything for parents who throw kids’ parties in September? One September morning they send cards to neighbours and workmates and say that that first-born of ours is celebrating his birthday this 25th, so hell come. How true does it prove to maintain a clear eye in this situation? Some guest will arrive, sit in the corner and throughout your celebration they’ll be thinking how sharp blooded you guys were back in the day. Yeah, they might be wrong but they’ll think anyway. And then if they have several Dicksons in their phonebook, they’ll save you as Dick-Anima-Animus. Or Dickockrel. Or simply Dick September.
So apart from cleaning my eardrum with a toothpick, the only other thing in that genre is to hold a September birthday party. That’s information I’ll go to the grave with and still no ghost will hear of it. Classified Omega-17, signed and rubber-stamped by Sloane himself. No one will want smelly ghosts with unkempt hair laughing at his insatiable coital demands in days of December or that of their parents.
Hey, HBD all September guys. You are coital legends.