I recently ran across an old friend who operates a cloth stall at our neighbourhood market. Now, market days are on Tuesdays and Fridays when the market is at its busiest and traders maximise on these days to cover for the rest of the week when business is slow. It was a Tuesday afternoon and he was going home. Why wasn’t he in his stall, a family emergency, perhaps? No, he was going home to watch an early World Cup match. How callous of him, I thought. The brazen audacity! As if reading my mind, he explained.
He has always aspired to greatness, this friend. And his idea of greatness? Make money, loads and loads of money, built flats, buy a Range Rover… basically have a lot of material riches. And he just set to do that. So, beside the cloth stall, he would supply fruits and vegetables too. This meant that he was rarely at home, stepping in only to catch a wink or two. In between, he got married and had a baby.
One day, he fell sick and was unable to go to work. Well, his wife brought him the baby to play with him as she did chores around the house. At this, the baby started crying. The wife tried a couple of times more, shooing the baby, still, the baby would not leave mother for a stranger’s arms. For my friend realised that is what he was to the baby, a stranger. It goes without saying that he started spending more time with his family and they are now tight. To afford this, painful as it was, he chose to focus on the cloth stall.
Away from spending time with his family, he also creates ‘me time’ and encourages his wife to do so. Essentially, this is a time to reenergise, take stock of his life and reflect on what it all means – this being here on earth business. He told me that at the end of the day, we are all unique individuals; if you will, standalone biological organisms. This, he explained, helps him live a purposeful life. Plus, he has personal goals which he keeps track of during this time.
Smell the roses
“You’d think it was obvious,” he said, “that you might as well enjoy life while you still can as we are all passers-by at the end of the day.” In short, he was telling me to enjoy the little pleasures of life as I await to realise the big things – houses and cars and such. This as no one is promised tomorrow. He is a football fanatic and hence the reason he was going home early to watch the World Cup match. Away from football, his roses came in other varieties – visiting friends and relatives, a holiday or outing once in a while, trying on new things… as a matter of fact, he was contemplating ballet dancing. And why not?
My friend had been raised in the village before he came to Nairobi. He had also spent a stint in Mombasa and Kisumu chasing the paper, as he put it. His observances about life in the village and in the three cities? That in the village where everyone knew everyone else, it was considering rude not to greet others as this would reflect badly on one’s family. In Mombasa and Kisumu, friendships would virtually be made in matatus, hotels, beaches… name it, with an invitation to their homes made soon.
In Nairobi, though, people were generally suspicious of one another in the streets. Further, the more one moved up the totem pole, the more one got alienated with friends and family.
Lastly, my friend told me that he always found time to read. As a rule, he set aside 20 minutes of each day to read. And why not? Reading expanded one’s horizons without having to spend a time on travel. Plus, it gave one insights on different things – life, family, business, marriage, relationships, the whole spectrum of human affairs. His conclusion, that one who never read was much the poorer for it.