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Friday, 3 July 2020

A Young Boy’s Worldview Changes

I wonder how it feels to give up everything you believe to be true. I know I did. As a young boy, I was told being a doctor was the most wonderful thing. It was the hallmark of success. And so from my mother’s mouth to my ears, the words went, and I became one with the belief. I strove as best as I knew to reach for this dream. My mind painted a nirvana, heaven with doctors flying like cherubs injecting love medication on smiling patient’s butts. Yet every time I went to a hospital, I worked extra hard to get back to that nirvana, since the reality wasn’t as heavenly.

To achieve my dream I was told I had to work hard, wake up early, study longer, and be the best in my class. I did all these with a focus that rivaled a jet plane pilot. I always felt a certain kind of high when the next report came in, or when after a long day of studying, I would slump into bed, tired.  That was my reality, and I loved it.

My mother a nurse at the district hospital and my father a government accountant believed in it and encouraged it, so I did not question it.  Then things changed. I remember it started with a pimple. An irritant that broke off my chin and grew in size, rich in pus, and I dared not disturb it. Then one night it broke its banks and disappeared. In its place stood a phoenix of a solitary hair. At first, I couldn’t stand it, then some strange voice, mentioned I was now a man. And I swallowed that ignoramus lie.   As the weeks passed, my emotions went on a roller coaster. I noticed previously invisible girls and started taking particular care of my hygiene. In came the famous ‘Brut’ an underarm roll-on and spray that was so common, a blind man would use its smell to identify a teenager in a crowd.

My conforming self was eroding. I started feeling odd fires in my loins and the world developed a pubescent hue in my eyes. Nothing was black or white, and nothing was sacred anymore. Questions throbbed in my head.

First off the block was whether I wanted to be a doctor, given most of the doctors in my mother’s hospital had a poor sense of hygiene and a worse sense of humor. I loathed moments when I would be left in a room with them and their sanctimonious behavior. Yet the habit had been planted, I knew no better than to work my young self to the edge of being tired, and in getting grades that made my father’s chest swell up. Just like my sister, but that’s another story for another day.

A friend introduced me to Tupac Shakur, and I was blown away by his lyrics, and words. I spend days rewinding his tape and writing down his words in my Lyric book. I fell in love with hip hop, then picked up a habit. A swagger, and desire to not conform, as I had always. First came the girlfriend, then the breaking of rules. I felt free. Free to be me for once. As I listened to Snoop Dogg, and his obscene lyrics, that boiled my young village mind to a crisp. No wonder the church folk started believing hip hop was from the devil. An addiction to stay connected ensued with a monthly supply of tapes, Word Up! and Source magazines. We also got VHS tapes of recorded sessions from KTN, a TV station, serving the capital city, Nairobi, and its environs. Those were the highlight of our month, as young boys. I remained unscathed by the drugs my age mates started abusing. I was raised a church boy, so strangely a hedge came around me when it came to such things. And I didn’t think too much of it.

Yet we aped the hip hop lifestyle, making money disappear from our parents’ closets to buy, a second-hand trouser, or a tape, and so forth. The thug life, with all the gang signs we flashed to each other in our village streets, was alive and kicking. Strangely, we knew nothing of it, or why in our minds it was so glorified. I was a cool boy because I had a mountain bike, and I was doing well in class. But still very naïve.

I needed a change in spectacles. So my father mentioned we were traveling to the city. And for days before then, I couldn’t sleep because of the excitement. The song, “summertime” by Fresh Prince, came to my mind. This was going to be my summertime in a tropical country. The day arrived, and we got into my dad’s dark yellow station wagon Toyota Corolla. By then it was a few years old. The journey to Nairobi was one of awe and wonder for a young village boy. Three hours it took, and for those three hours, I was a court stenographer, taking in every minuscule of information as we traveled down to the green city in the sun.

 We stopped over at a petrol station to fill up and my father bought me chips, sausage, and a soda. It tasted like heaven, without the doctors, I still have that taste filed somewhere in my mind. Never has anything come close to it again, given the garbage we call fast food nowadays.

That night we arrived. The lights were beautiful, the confusion and allure of the city transcendental. I remember only blinking once or twice, as we drove through traffic to an estate my father lived with some relatives. The house was part of a row of similar massionettes cut out like slices of bread. There was a front lawn, rather parking, two minuscule bedrooms, a tiny kitchen, pantry, a minimalist sitting room, and a space in the back.  I was blown away by the order. I went off on an adventure in the house, out in the back, and came back to the sitting room, planted myself before a 14-inch cathode ray television, and started rotting away. This was the first time, I could watch all the shows brought to me in the village with VHS tapes. I felt so satisfied sitting there. And it because the only thing that I woke up to, exercised to, ate, and lulled myself to sleep on. When the grown-up programs came on, I stepped outside, to take notes on the behaviors of the locals. I watched them but avoided any interaction with these strange kids who had a rude swagger and spoke English so well, and with a funny Nairobi slang.

I avoided them, afraid to expose my ignorance. Except for a young boy who lived a block away. We were related and so we were friends. This boy was the angel Gabriel sent down from above to yank the ignorance out of me. He had a Nintendo Game Boy and spoke of cousins in America. He went to a private school. These qualities lined side my side qualified him to be my sensei. He stunned me with his fresh knowledge of hip hop, and his new crisp copies of Source and Word Up! The best I had handled before then was chewed regurgitated copies passed down twenty times before they came to me.

That holiday, my life changed.

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