Subconscious Plagiarism, am i an Oyunga Pala copy cat?

While struggling to find a possible topic to warrant a post today, I prowled on the web onto sites of famous writers whose dexterity with the English language is both humorous and unmatched. In a world where writers try to tickle emotions of their readers, few succeed with the prowess shown by the once famous Oyunga Pala found at This is one man who when men cackled at the fear of expressing their distress of the women folk single handedly formed the greatest revolution known to man only as a column called Man Talk that used to run on Saturday Nation. Well, at his temple many men who were either knowingly or unknowingly seeking wisdom of dealing with their women and potential spouses crawled into this cave and with dimly lit torches and occasional tin lamps sought for answers like hidden treasures. These men would stumble on skulls and carcases of what many believed to be previous visitors who failed to crack the puzzle that was the answer. Crazy enough most men who walked into the heinous cave that soon became a controversy never got answers for their problems rather they found a cocoon in which they would laugh off their grievances. He was akin to a chief who wore a waist cloth made of python intestines , above which was an unmistakable protruding katumbo from the numerous calabashes of gruel he got as appeasement offering from men and women alike who sought his wisdom. Occasionally he would stumble on a wineskin or young beautiful woman whose father thought this chief was the perfect man for. Well in those days women knew their place in the society and it was in the kitchen and next to their men in bed. The days before these we know was ruled by men who never sought the counsel of their women on whether or not the grass thatched house was sufficient for the twenty something children. He never took kindly to any of his women raising their voice against his. He never got involved in scuffles between his newly wed wife and other wives, in fact he watched while his older wives formed a coalition against the new arrival and waited for the day when like every political party such associations will surely break apart. One woman will defend themselves saying that the new wife was from their village, another will befriend the new wife to find out why their husband spent more time at her hut. Yet others in their common hatred for each other will form one woman organisations. Such was the society that Oyunga Pala’s Man talk column created and he was the defacto leader as in his days long before the online frenzy, one’s grievances were never addressed by the writer and the dedication required to write a grievance in proper handwritten grammar and spelling, in the most presentable fullscap then walk the 10km to the nearest post office only to find it was closed for lunch time break. One would then have to wait for the next 2 hours before they buy an envelope and a stamp to post this letter which will arrive at the nation centre with a trail of others. Chances are most grievances were cast in the waste basket and their contents cast away like the dedication involved in making them. Oyunga would probably never know an issue was raised about his style or conclusions and as such his legend grew faster than his arrogance. Many who thought he was witty were lost in his mastery of the art of communication which consisted of carefully calculated jokes that left ribs cracking days after his advice. But that is what made him stand out, in a world where many men sought answers for their problems he made them realise that not all problems deserved a solution rather that most were just a test for one’s patience and sense of humour.

While in still in school I would seek for a copy of Saturday nation as if all the things I needed to know lied there in. I worshipped him and he was one of those guys I used to quote much to the displeasure of the occasional unattractive adolescent girls who let me touch their breasts. Then, there was a belief that in order for one’s boobs to grow quickly they had to be touched by a man. And thanks to the man who started this myth and my overconfidence my hands knew a lot of pointed tips.

My obsession with this guy made my start writing my own share of man talk wisdom, which truth to be told weren’t as witty or funny. In a world of strong friendships, a good friend of mine, who happened to have read these pieces, would teasingly call me ‘The next Oyunga Pala” an action that seemed to tickle my brain. Truth be told, I was so pissed when one day I prowled the pages of Saturday magazine and read a piece by the replacement boy Jackson Biko and felt something missing. Don’t get me wrong, Biko is a good writer-funny and all, his writings have their own musings and skill that, forgive my honesty, are incomparable to Oyunga Pala’s but he’s not Oyunga and that doesn’t work well for him. In a media dominated by writers whose different skills are unique, Oyunga stood out as the guy who even the almighty Philip Ochieng could not dare correct. Philip Ochieng is the kind of guy who, suppose he was in a movie he would have been Spartacus, the rebel who defies his master and points out his mistakes. His brevity in doing hitherto unspeakable things like correcting the Queen of England in her use of her native English language would find a definition in a word far much precise and daring than Brevity. And like most Kenyans who are avid readers of his column, I haven’t made tail of his work. You could say he’s that good or that the only reader who understands his work is probably the overly educated PLO Lumumba.

So I wasn’t amazed when my next door neighbour who’s one of the anonymous readers of my blog asked me whether Oyunga is my inspiration. I have been doubting that for days while I worshipped this Oyunga Pala I would unconsciously plagiarise his style and work so this question worked as the much needed wake up call. Being a writer is something that comes to me naturally but as much as I want to be a good writer I would hate comparisons with legends such as Oyunga Pala or Charles Onyango Obbo. So in the coming weeks my readers will witness my experimentation with different writing styles until together we find a new niche that is both fun for me to write and them to read.

I hope this literary journey makes us better friends  and even if we finally come back to the place we all started, lets be different in the way the journey and our retention level deems fit.


Fireplace Wits

We crouch together below his feet. Tugging, poking and unintended slaps are heard within the hurdle. One calling the other heinous names and others laughing it out. Another lamenting the loss of the spot they occupied last week. Yet another squeezing tightly to get as close as they can. Together the ensemble of 30 plus children form a circle around the burning fire. The owl that circles the night skies probably shakes its head at what men would do just for a taste of something it would never understand. This pulling, pushing, pinching and face making is something not too old to us. In fact I remember it being there by the time I joined the assembly. When after having a family meal and dutifully taking the dirty dishes to the kitchen we would scramble for all the available space next to the fire. At the extreme end is the royal chair, that chair that none of us has ever sat on as much as temptations to risk it run high. My granddad had said that just as the fruit at the garden of Eden, anybody who occupied this chair will know something they wouldn’t have liked to know. A Pandora’s box should be left shut, he said. And like all dutiful kids who will never learn the answers to some of the questions in life so we obeyed. A few grumble here and there but that is all the attempt we ever did to sit on this chair. It is old, older than me perhaps, all of us I suppose. My dad says he doesn’t even know who came first, him or the chair, cos even in all the ages he has seen it around it has maintained its polish like an angel that never grows old.

He knows how to make an entrance, this old man. I believe he watches while the fight for the closest space next to him rages on and waits until all the tears of pain are wiped away with laughters of love. He waits till apologies are passed or noses are twitched for failed apologies. He waits until we hug it out in the spirit of family. This old man who has warned our parents from intervening in our fights, waits for calm to ensue. That’s how we would understand each other, so he said. Sometimes you got to fight the people you love so you know how much you hate to see them hurt. Right he was, nay he always has been. I suppose he derives his massive wisdom from the numerous days he spends below the mango tree with bees circling his whitish hair like a God given crown. A crown for raising a family that know more fights than WWE yet laughter reins through it all. To the eye that observes, this is a home plunged in chaos but to the one that participates joy has never been more abundant. In a world filled with wisdom he has learnt to listen to our stupid ideas with his watery eyes, occasionally adjusting his huge glasses that somehow fail to cover his thick nose. The wrinkles in his face stretch the limits of his mouth akin to a smile.  This old man has been the pillar that holds us strong, the love in our hearts and the courage through our bloods. When we wrong others, he would place his stare on you until a tinge of guilt forces you to apologise then he would smile and turn away. He is a man of a few words who punctuates his speech with phrases like, “this is what I think” but “this is what I know”. He would never shy from telling you the truth but that’s only as long as you ask for it and when you defy his advice he would give you the look. My dad says that look has been the only thing consistent with his face, that once he wants was a serious talker, more like me. But you know what they say, if life doesn’t teach you to listen then it sure will teach you what to say. And what to say, he surely knows.

Like a mascot after a tug of war game he settles in his seat and gets to it,

Äs you can see I have been around for sometime and I have seen much, but not all. Life never reveals all it just reveals as much as you want to know. And me, I haven’t asked to know much. Because the more you know the more you have to do about it. I have been to the races where the adrenaline pushes your limits to an all new high. I have been to the fights where one walks away on the shoulders of his peers while a red eye walks on the cheekbones of another. I have been to the peaceful river, the river of whose tranquillity speak of depths un-waded and cool waters never experienced. I have been there, where the voices of friends speak to your heart to do something that you are reluctant to do and yet you will agree. I’ve stood before my parents and promised never to do it again and moments later, whoops! I did it again. When the voices were raised to the unacceptable high I have denied that voice. When the goat got a near death beat I have said I wasn’t the one. Well life is a fairy tale and sometimes the line that separates reality and the fairy tale is the consequences that reality come with.

The other day I was at the tree, the mugumo tree that separates our land and your other grand dad’s and it reminded me of the silent night many years ago. When under that tree I stood with the most beautiful woman I had known then. I held her hands, touched her hair and counted every time she took a breath. I had drawn her closer and closer to me as I succumbed to yet another temptation. She was fair, fairer of them all and had this sweet voice that when she spoke my mind rolled like a tape recorder that recorded whatever she said. After every meet I would replay this recorded sounds over and over again in my head and I would smile myself to sleep. She was a little older than me but I didn’t mind because while the lost kid found its mother goat, and as the lonely cricket called to other lonely hearts, I was not alone. While the little bird listened to its mamma sing a lullaby and the plants in the farm grew inch by inch, I too grew inch by inch deeper in love with her. In the fading light her long black hair rose with the gentle evening breeze and reflected the last embers of the setting sun giving it a goldly finish. In all my life I had learnt that everything happens for a reason and the reason as to why this evening she finally succumbed into my arms I haven’t yet understood. Not that I have sought for answers but some answers are just not worth the pursuit because for me oblivion and ignorance on this and other few is the best I would love to know.

Her eyes a little teary from all the sweet words I whispered into her face shone like the clichéd light at the end of the tunnel. Her hands in their desperate bid to hold me tighter trembled a tiny bit. But that was ok, I thought, because tonight she was in my arms and I won’t let go of her until she was alright. Or until my iron fisted dad found us, whichever happened to come first. I don’t know how long that moment lasted but one thing I do know, it has been the shortest time of my life and while ages and ages since I wish I had a remake of that scene. There are things I wish I did differently.

He then turns to us, as our ears hang on the last words he just spoke. He watches the apprehension that has enveloped and how engrossed on this story we are. Then he lifts himself up and starts to walk away. The moments seem to take longer than usual but he knows it’s coming so he keeps walking. And just as he’s about to disappear in the dark, I call onto him and say,

“Babu, What would you have done differently?”

By this time we all have eased ourselves noiselessly next to him and he heaves a sigh that lifts his shoulders then sets them back easily, he says,

Unless you can keep them, don’t make promises. Let your words count for the man whose words don’t count shouldn’t speak at all. Good night kids.