Life and Death: Muhammad Ali


People get inspiration from the oddest and unlikeliest things. There are those who will look at your nose and return from menopause. Others will see an eagle pass and remember their late grandpa. Others will see fire and think fire; others rain and see themselves affluent. We are not the same.    
While still in campus, I used to take an early morning run with a girl who wanted to burn the fat around her hips. Another guy saw us and asked to join us. It wasn’t even asking. He just announced that he’d be joining us and I didn’t find words to turn him down. Soon a reputation I had built came crashing down. Part of it even hit my nose. The guy had now overthrown the government and the girl took orders from him and forgot her excellent me.

THERE IS a roommate I once had on campus. Kefo didn’t pose as a less informed guy. Actually I almost made him my model because I liked anything from the city and he had spent all his childhood growing tall in Nairobi. This guy used to play loud music every day of the year. And so I began to play loud music every day of the year. Until another friend asked me why. And I asked Kefo why. He told me he was doing it so that when we quarrel, it should not appear like we were shouting at each other since we were friends. The next week I moved out.

THERE IS this leopard-skin fashion that has been trending with Nairobi girls. It came with a sad face but after it got our attention, whatever we have seen! Now you are a village girl and when you come to Nairobi your first assignment is to ape the leopard girl. Time has eaten its length and she looks like she measured her fabric from an A4 sheet and spared enough to cover her table. She feels so confident swaying her tail down the street. My dear girl, don’t be fooled to take home that fashion. It is just that Nairobi people are too busy to stop and start laughing at a cartoon. And cartoons don’t pay you when you laugh.

THERE IS a trend of people who walk village paths with their Sanyo radios wrapped in a yellow cloth. What we see in the village! Don’t ape. Don’t ape people who walk with a tilted gait. Don’t ape people who walk down the lane with giant headphones. Don’t ape people who carry three phones to a meeting. Don’t ape single people who stay in five-bedroomed houses. Don’t ape the guy who runs too fast, too much. You don’t know what drives them.

And the people who follow them are clueless.
SUCH PEOPLE, all of them, smell the village. The only way a village look can help you is when we take you to the game park and tell visiting Jews that look, this is how the grandfather of Pharaoh looked like. This is how he used to throw his swag before dames. In which case we shall get sacks of the shekel as you stay caged and guarded from yourself. And we shall buy you food from China and attend conferences to give endless requests to the international community to help protect you and elephants from poachers.

Find better role models, if there is anything like that.

Mine is Muhammad Ali. The great.

I have followed Muhammad Ali since childhood. And I have read him since I grew my first piece of beard.

I don’t even like boxing. I don’t feel cool when someone WHUPS another’s ass. Ali himself didn’t like boxing. He loathed seeing two niggers unshit each other to be cheered by whites. So it is not the boxing bit. I like Ali because of how he plucked and harmonised the keys of his instrument. How he blended his poetry, oration, his punches, his career; how he blended life and filtered what he became.   

Don’t emulate the girl that puts on A4.

Challenge. Ali is gone.

He who was the greatest. He knocked down many. He was the outboxer whose name caused pressure to managers and coaches. Robust and fast, his trade was to knock down people. Now he is down and nobody has knocked him. Used by Time. Time used him to settle scores with those Time didn’t want. Time used his undercut and knocked down Time’s losers. When Time pointed at Frazier, it was Ali who planted a jab on Frazier, and Frazier went down. When Time chose Cleveland ‘Big Cat’ Williams, Ali planted himself on him, and the Big Cat was shred into pieces of a rat’s fur. When Time felt upset with Foreman, it was Ali’s punch that went for Foreman’s jugular, and Foreman went down. Ali rumbled in the jungle before and after 1974. But it was not Ali that rumbled. It was his master. TIME. Life. Death.

The greatness of life lies in death. Therein we find completion and actualisation. We become complete. We get deprived of want or need. In death no record is broken. Only peace. And peace. Ali has been initiated into the sect of the peaceful.

There are very nice lines Housman writes. I have never found better poetry.


The time you won your town the race

We chaired you through the market-place;

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder-high.


Today, the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.


Smart lad, to slip betimes away

From fields where glory does not stay,

And early though the laurel grows

It withers quicker than the rose.


Eyes the shady night has shut

Cannot see the record cut,

And silence sounds no worse than cheers

After earth has stopped the ears.


Now you will not swell the rout

Of lads that wore their honours out,

Runners whom renown outran

And the name died before the man.


So set, before its echoes fade,

The fleet foot on the sill of shade,

And hold to the low lintel up

The still-defended challenge-cup.


And round that early-laurelled head

Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,

And find unwithered on its curls

The garland briefer than a girl’s.


Random fact

He rumbled in the jungle in ‘74. He died at 74.

And to God be His.