Dowry is a business! You are selling your daughter to another man. It is just as simple as that!
Kibaki had just 'Tharaka nithi-ed' Raila in the 2007 elections and in a matter of days, the country was up in flames. This was the context of the dowry negotiations between Kamau and Aisha. They had been childhood friends in the same estate in Mombasa and then reconnected in campus.
The ethnic tension was very high in the country but never did Aisha think that her dad who was once a Muslim but now converted to be a Christian could be swallowed up by all that drama and much more.
Kamau, his dad, uncles and relatives made it to Mtwapa to meet the girl's family and little did they know that they were going to be part of an afro-sinema. Immediately after they had taken their lunch, the negotiations began.
Mzee Ali, Aisha's dad asked the visitors to state their case and they began with the usual tired line of, "We have seen a flower here....", skirting around the issues and Aisha's dad interrupted and cut to the chase. he was a forthright man who has served in the military and he like being brief, precise and clear.
"I don't support this union between my daughter and your son for obvious reasons. You all know what has just happened in the country and yes my daughter being married to your community is not a blessing. However, I have no control over my daughter's heart and who she falls in love with, but I will dictate the terms on which she leaves my home. She is still my daughter and for now she bears my name.
Let me be clear about this, I don't trust you people and since you are all about money, today, I will give you a taste of your own medicine and make it about money. My beautiful daughter is well mannered, educated, articulate and a born again Christian just like all of us. 1.5 million is what will make me move an inch towards considering a marriage between your son and my daughter."
The demeanor on his face just changed to that of a wild fox. It was evident that he was not amused by their presence in his home and the political climate did not help it at all. This wasn't the same man who had welcomed them about 2 hours ago and exchanged pleasantries. He talked like a crossbreed of the land cartels in Kenya and the Shark Tank team. He was out to make a kill and he had just struck the jugular.
One of Kamau's uncles who has been to several bride price negotiations, began with a chuckle to try and cool the atmosphere of 'cold heat'.
"Mzee Ali, thank you for welcoming us into your boma, "he began on a polite note. "We have heard you and we are interested in beginning a relationship that will endure the course of time and so we are requesting you to reconsider that amount....."
He wasn't allowed to finish.
Look here my friend, this is not a discussion.
We are not in a market haggling for a sack of potatoes. This is my daughter we are talking about. In fact, I am being very nice, because my brother seated here is an accountant and when his daughter was getting married last year he demanded a full compensation of all that he had spent on his daughter from class one to University.
I am only asking you for 1.5 million shillings.
- Mzee Ali
The boy's family couldn't believe what they had just heard. Kamau was visibly shaken. His heart was in his mouth. He was seeing this deterioration manifest right before his eyes. As a rule in these matters, he is not supposed to talk after all he is just a boy, but he felt like he really needed to intervene, maybe the old man would listen. He sat there and watched the back and forth between his people and Aisha's dad. They had a full battalion and he was a one man army. None of his brothers or relatives spoke. Ali tore them one by one and even when Kamau's dad attempted, he was put off by this guy who was determined to fleece them. Kamau convinced himself that he should stand up and say something.
That sentence did not even go past his lips. He was pulled down by his uncle and Ali shouted at him.
"Shut up young man! You have nothing to say here!"
Kamau felt a some warm fluid fill up his pants. He tried to control it but it was too late. The man of God in between his legs decided to relax at the wrong time. He actually urinated on himself right before all these people. He wanted to get up and excuse himself but then his rear end and the seat had just developed a close bond that couldn't be explained. His feet had taken leave of absence and so he just sat there.
"Don't talk to my son like that sir!" Kamau's dad said
"I will talk to him they way, I want. This is my home and I am King in this place. Did you see me coming to your home asking for your son to marry my daughter? You came here, because he wants to marry her and therefore you have to comply with what I'm telling you or else there is not going to be a wedding!!" He stood up and left them
No amount of diplomacy could work with this hard nosed man. He had made up his mind and that was it.
Kamau's dad remembered how 2 years back he was in Mzee Ali's position. He remembers harassing the guy who wanted to get married to Sarah his daughter. He saw this as an opportunity to buy another plot. So he didn't have a tough stance like Bwana Ali, but still he had set a minimum amount of 500k that was untouchable. Now, being a believer, he wondered if this was a case of reaping what you sowed.
The guy had pleaded with him to accept 300k but he wouldn't hear none of it. He had come down from his initial bride price of 600k and then chopped off the cows, goats and other traditional requirements and so according to him, this was a good deal. To appease his own guilt, he told himself that this was a way of the suitor proving to the dad that he could take care of Sarah. So today the tables have turned and now he is has been put in a corner. He wished that he would have been kinder to the young man who had to cut his wedding budget by half just to pay that price. Indeed God is not mocked you reap what you sow.
He felt his heart race very fast and a sharp pain in his left arm that lasted about 10 seconds and then it disappeared. They had hit a gridlock and so they left Mtwapa and went back home. No one talked to the other in the car.
Kamau was in a fix. He was fighting with Aisha on text. He was asking her to try and persuade the dad to accept a lesser amount because he didn't have that cash. She on the other hand was also surprised by her dad but the she said that there is very little that she could do because the dad is a dictator and then as a man she expected him to do what he needs to do, to prove to her that he really loved her and that he could take care of her.
Borrow, take a loan, do anything just for me.
"I don't believe in taking a loan to spend, that's not financial intelligence. You take a loan to invest. Dowry and a wedding are not investments" He said.
Oh, so you mean you don't want to invest in me...you don't consider me a worthy investment?
No wonder you even want me to hire a dress instead of buying one for me. Kama, let me tell you, this is my wedding day and you are not going to ruin it.
If you really love me, then please go out of your way, show it to me, prove it to me, be a man like other men and pay the 1.5 million shillings and then get me the wedding of my dreams.
"But honey, you know how much I make...."
They never made any headway because there clearly on two different lanes....
No one noticed that Baba Kamau had slumped at the front seat of the passenger's side in the Nissan they had hired. The Police officer at the road blocked noticed that something was wrong with him and alerted them...He was unconscious and sweating profusely....
They rushed him to hospital.
Kamau sat in the waiting room together with his relatives as they gave time to the doctor to work on his dad. He couldn't help but think that whatever the dad was going through had something to do with the dowry negotiations that had gone awry. He really felt bad that his sweetheart did not stand by him and yet she knew his financial status...was this really the kind of woman who was meant to be his wife, would she stand by him during the tough times? Now his father was fighting for his life and here he was wondering where he was going to get 1.5 million shillings, just for the dowry. They were yet to come up with a wedding budget.
The doctor walked into the waiting room with his face crest fallen and everyone in the room could tell that he didn't make it. Kamau's mom unleashed a piercing scream that was glass shattering for about 2 minutes and then she passed out....Kamau just dropped on the floor and started sobbing. Mr. Kinyanjui had died of cardiac arrest.
He was by all standards a strong and healthy man with nothing serious in his medical history and so everyone was shocked at this sudden departure. This new development just threw everything into disarray. Everyone in the family really wanted to blame Mzee Ali for his hard stance during that visit but then again, they couldn't really prove if he was the trigger of that cardiac arrest.
Kamau was bitter and angry against Aisha and didn't even bother telling her about the demise of his dad. It's his sister who sent her a text with the news. She was naturally shocked and tried to reach her fiance to give her condolences, but he wasn't in the mood. He was really disappointed in her and just wanted to mourn and bury his dad in peace. She sent numerous texts to him and tried calling him, sent his sister as an emissary but nothing. The guy had logged out.
Funeral preparations started immediately. He was to going to be buried in less than a week. Aisha wanted to come but wasn't sure if Kamau would be okay with it and since they were not on talking terms, she decided to use the sister to find out if he would be okay with her presence.
"Aisha wants to come to shaggs to bury fathe", she asked
Kamau just looked at her.
"What do I tell her?"
"I don't know, let her do what she wants" he was non committal.
The answer really hurt Aisha, but then she decided that she would travel just to show her support for him during this trying time. Her dad wasn't even moved or bothered that the old man had died. His only answer was, "Ok." The mother sympathized with Kamau, but of course couldn't do much because she was living with a tyrant.
Aisha arrived in Kamau's Shaggs at around 3 pm after the burial had just happened and it was Kamau's mother who saw her first and began shouting,
I do not want to see that girl in this homestead!
- Kamaus Mother
She made a big fuss out of it and even wanted to evict her by force. Other relatives who had learnt of the developments leading to the death of Baba Kamau also ganged up with Mama Kamau and they told her to leave. Kamau's sister tried to come to her defense but she was overwhelmed. She opted to drive off with Aisha. All this time Kamau was hanging out with his cousins from shaggs and they busy trying to initiate him into drinking muratina (Kikuyu traditional brew). So he was not privy to the happenings on this other side.
Kamau's sister took Aisha to a local cafe in the village where they could talk. It was here that Aisha got the full picture of why Kamau was upset with her and why he suspects that her family's tough stance on the dowry got the old man into shock and eventually a cardiac arrest. Aisha had all along thought that Kamau was just going through a phase and he would eventually come out of it and everything would go back to normal, but it hit her very hard that she was probably in the process of losing the man of her dreams, her childhood crush all because she could not stand up for him.
For the first time she came face to face with her own selfishness and decided to do something about it.
Could you please get Kamau to come here so that we could talk about this issue?
"I don't think he will want to see you and then he might not be in a state where he can talk"
"What do you mean Stella?"
"I left him with my cousins and he was drinking?"
"Drinking? Kamau doesn't...."
Yeah, I know but he has been so down of late, moody, withdrawn and not eating and so our cousins decided to cheer him up and got him some muratina.
Wow, this was going down fast and Aisha knew that she had to have a strong resolve to see him.
"Please Stella, do what you can to get him here, I really need to talk to him in whatever state. Please I'm begging you"
Kamau's sister tried her magic with her cousins but none of them was sober enough to drive so she had to go and get him and she couldn't risk going with Aisha because of the venom of her mum. By now it was around 7pm and they agreed that Aisha would wait in another restaurant that had a guest house annexed to it where she would spend the night before traveling back to the coast the following day.
Getting Kamau from his male cousins was like trying to pull out someone swimming in a pool of super glue. The guy was high and loving every moment, sinking in that sewer of local booze. It was long since Stella had seen him this happy. She tried her best and lied to hi about how she was going to take him out partying to have the time of his life. He fell for it and they left together, when she got to the shopping center and she sent a text to Aisha who came and got into the car.
Kamau was shocked and incensed at his sister. "You brought me here to meet with her?"
"Big bro, you two need to talk" She kissed his forehead and walked away leaving them in the car.
"What are you doing here?" Kamau asked.
"I came to condole with you and your family," Aisha said
We don't need you. You and your father made it pretty clear that you are after money. So just go back to where you came from.
The quarreled for what was like 2 hours with both of them trying to justify their positions. The shouting match continued because even Aisha wasn't happy with the silent treatment she had received from him. Then Kamau started crying.
None of them saw it coming...a little regurgitation in the esophagus and then without warning he threw up. The first splash was on her face and then on her clothes before she directed his head elsewhere. It happened so fast and then he blacked out.
It was yuck and completely disgusting. She had bought this nice black dress just for this funeral only for him to come and...
Here she was in this small town in the middle of nowhere its past 10 o'clock and her fiance has just vomited a buffet of muratina, tumbukiza(a meal that is cooked with very little regard about the consumer-You take a bunch of ingredients throw them in a pot at the same time, pour in water and let it boil and then you call a press conference to announce that your meal is ready) and mutura (Kikuyu sausage made from intestines and other 'interesting' ingredients from the insides of a cow or goat) This was really going south.
She called Stella who came and was not amused to see what had transpired in her car, but then she understood and quickly put on her thinking cap. She managed to get some water from the guest house and they cleaned Kama and took him to a room in the guest house, the only room that was unoccupied. Stella got a watchman to clean her car as Aisha freshened up.
She drove back home to get Aisha a change of clothes, thank God their sizes were almost the same. She also brought some spare clothes for her brother. She left them in the room and promised to check up on them the next day.
Kamau was snoring on the bed like an old generator that had seen two elections. He woke up once to vomit and then went back to bed and when he woke up the second time, he was thirsty and hungry. Aisha went to her bag and gave his some biscuits and some juice that she had carried for the journey. He ate like a hungry Lion and then sat up and took a deep breath.... they were silent for a moment.
"I'm sorry honey, I'm really sorry for everything" Aisha started
They were able to have a meaningful discussion despite the fact that Kamau had a throbbing headache.
They embraced and cried together and as they were caught up in that emotional space. Aisha kissed him. His mouth tasted like the urine of a church mouse but she didn't care. She wanted to show him that she still cared about him even in that state. Kamau kissed her back and before they knew it, they were all naked and even though both of them were virgins, their bodies developed a language of their own in that night as they deflowered each other.
Kamau unleashed his people in torrents
They were trapped in the moment and relished every bit of bit, what they did know was that Aisha was ovulating and Kamau unleashed his people in torrents and one of them unapologetically made it home to the bulls eye.
They fell asleep and when they woke up, both of them felt a tinge of guilt in their hearts. Then the instinctive nature of self preservation took over and they began blaming each other.
"What!?, did we just....you trapped me into ....." Kamau started
Wow, I did what? You were such a mess yesterday. Kamau, you have never taken alcohol but you took it first time and you were something else. Stella and I had to bring you here after you puked in her car and we had to clean you up. I watched over you the whole night, well I might as well say that you took advantage of me now that I was on the wrong and.....
They started another cat fight and like two immature teenagers arguing about sport pesa bets, they fought and it ended badly. Aisha grabbed her stuff put it in her bag and left for home without even showering. Kamau was infuriated and then it hit him that he had just buried his father and tears welled up his eyes. At that very moment Stella came in and found him alone.
"Where is Aisha?"
"I don't know, we had a fight this morning and we said some mean and nasty things and she just took off"
Aki Kamau, you are the only brother that I have. I really look up to you in so many things, but I think you are losing it real fast and its not doing you any good.
Things went bad last week during the dowry 'thingy', then daddy has passed on and now you want to lose your fiance too?? Stop behaving like the world rotates and revolves around you because it doesn't.
All of us are hurting, but we are finding ways of coping. Kama, yesterday you got drunk of muratina, of all the things...grow up! Call Aisha and make up!
She left him there
"Over my dead body." he muttered under his breath.
The family left upcountry that same day to resume their lives without their dad. Kamau did not know what to make of the sex incident at the guest house. He was glad that his baby sister could look at him in the eye and tell him off about his mischief.
Aisha was not exactly thrilled at herself. What if she had behaved differently? What if she tried to talk to her dad to relent his tough stance? What if she would have been nicer and kinder to Kamau that night when they were texting each other, would they have ended up here? She had begged and apologized to this guy who seemed ungrateful and now she had lost her virginity and she wasn't going to sink lower than that.
2 months passed without a word.
Kamau was awakened with his alarm clock to read that sms from Aisha. He went numb for about 5 minutes and before he came to. He was going to be a dad and yet he was not on talking terms with Aisha.
"It's okay, we will take care of the baby. Can we meet this evening?"
They had a civil meeting. Aisha was fearing that he would be mean and get abusive again or ask her to abort but he didn't. Kamau on the other hand was treading cautiously trying to study her motives even as they talked. He wanted to be sure that this was not a trap.
They continued with the coffee dates for that entire week and by the 3rd week of seeing each other, their relationship had gained the traction that was needed to put it back together. So they decided to jump the gun and move in so as to put their monies together and save for the baby. The backlash that they would receive from both sets of the family plus the church would be huge but they didn't care. All that mattered was that they were together and that they were going to have a baby. This time they were on the same page.
Stella of course was the first one to know about this development. She wasn't too happy with the rush, but then she was going to be there for them. Kamau's mother was not amused at all, she called Kamau for 3 separate meetings to try and talk some sense into him but he was adamant about his decision.
Every other person in both sets of the family got to know about the pregnancy about the decision to move in and they all had mixed feelings.
The last person to be told about this was Mzee Ali. He was livid at learning that his daughter had been impregnated by that guy from that community. He was convinced that Kamau had trapped his daughter. He was mad at the thought of being played by this young rudderless boy. What made him even more indignant was that Aisha had moved in with him without his consent and blessing as a father. For about a week, he wouldn't talk to anyone at home. When he finally chose to speak, he told Mama Aisha,
Tell your daughter, that I have disowned her.
The fact that she chose to go and get pregnant with that guy and moved in with him without even having the decency of telling me, just reveals how much respect she has for me.
I never want to see her again!
- Mzee Ali
With that he went to sleep. That was Ali for you, you never argued with him because he would dismantle your argument and show you that he is the main man.
Aisha felt the sting of being ostracized from her family but there was nothing she could do because daddy always has his way. So that was it for them. Kamau assured her that he would come around once the baby was born.
2 weeks later, Mzee Ali was diagnosed with kidney failure. While in the army one his kidneys had gotten damaged during a peace keeping mission in Ivory Coast and now his only kidney had failed. That meant that he had to start dialysis treatment or get someone to donate a kidney.
Everyone in the family volunteered to take a test to see if they were a perfect match but none of them was. The only person left was Aisha and of course he wouldn't hear any of it.
"I would rather die!" That's what he kept saying anytime the daughter was mentioned until one time the pain was just too much and he asked for Aisha to be tested.
When Aisha showed up at the hospital, the doctor just dropped his head and everyone wondered why he did that.
"The young lady is pregnant and from the size of her bump and her walking style, she must be in her 3rd trimester. A kidney transplant is a major surgery. I'm sorry we can't do that. We will have to wait until delivery and and when she is fully recovered and we are sure that she is out of danger that's the time we can do that. For now even if she is a match then we can't do it." He said that as he walked away.
"Doctor, I would like you to test me." A voice said from the back.
The doctor turned and saw a young man running towards the huddle of relatives standing there. It was Kamau.
"You are?" the doctor asked.
"I'm his son in law"
"Well, the odds are against you, because you are not related by blood, but then there is no harm in trying" The doctor said.
Everyone including Aisha was surprised. He smiled sheepishly at them and was booked in for tests. The family members agreed not to tell Mzee Ali until after the tests were done....
Guess what he compatible!
It was unbelievable even for Kamau himself. He had actually just volunteered to show support to Aisha but then he really did not think that he would suited to him.
Mama Aisha had been a subservient wife from the day she got married. She decided that was the day to change that script. She went into Ali's room.
Baba Aisha, we have a perfect match for you but it is not your daughter. It is your son.
- Mama Aisha
"I don't have a son"
The father of your grandchild is your perfect match.
Now I know that you are a stubborn. Very tough, but today allow me to preach to you.
Both of us were Muslims when we got married and you got saved before me and taught me about the love of Christ.
You have changed in many ways and in many areas except in this one thing, you are stiff necked my husband.
There is nothing wrong this boy has ever done to you and yet you are mean to him. In fact his two crimes are being a Kikuyu and loving your daughter. Really...so now, God has humbled you and brought you to that very place where you need help and it is coming from an unlikely source.
You have to let go and let God, mpenzi wangu (my lover).
- Mama Aisha
He held her hand and his heart melted. She signaled Kamau to walk in and Mzee embraced Kamau and asked for his forgiveness...The person who said that men don't cry was indeed very right because the older man and the younger man were groaning like two frogs that had been stepped on by a pregnant elephant. It was a sight to behold.
Before he faced the knife Kamau had one onerous task. He needed to tell his mother that he was going to donate his kidney to the guy that they suspect was responsible for his father's cardiac arrest. Wueh! He lifted up his eyes to see if his eyes would come from Mt. Kenya or Kilimanjaro...it was pretty clear that this one had to come from the Lord.
He called up his partner in crime Stella to help diffuse this news to mummy. To their amazement, they found their mother expectant and ready. God had actually gone ahead of them and spoken to their mother two days before and told her to get rid of her bitterness and unforgiving heart towards Aisha's family. He further revealed to her that he was going to unite their family in a peculiar way. She couldn't really understand this until Kamau and Stella told her the story.
She accompanied them to the hospital and all of them crowded the bed of Mzee Ali as they prayed...the tears that flooded that room could embarrass, River Tana, if there was to 'be a census' of tears.
Aisha was beside herself and she found herself jumping up and down in total exhilaration. She felt a little moist and then the water burst in front of everyone and she was taken into the labour ward.
The transplant went well and the families made a special request to the hospital to allow Mzee Ali, Kamau and Aisha, plus his the new born baby boy to be in the same room as they recovered.
Kamau and Aisha decided to name the boy, Ali Kinyanjui Kamau.