THE SON OF MAA

Heritage and cattle are the only two things that give mister happiness and pride. Well, that was until his first grandchild came along. My mother claims that he almost added me to his list of things that make him feel good about himself. I am Mister’s first grandchild and to make it even much better, Enkai Narok gave him a grandson. Mama says when he learnt of the news; he embarked on a two hundred and fifty four kilometer journey to the big city. With him were five of his fattest and finest goats. He had to bless God for the blessing he had been awarded.

“Ole Sironka came all this way on foot!” Father exclaimed. Mister was never one to visit people even when those people were his own children. He was firm about who he paid a visit to and when he made his visits but all that changed when I was born. When Mister learnt that his daughter had blessed him with a grandchild, he went out of his way to pay our family a visit. The birth of his first grandchild had softened the heart of the pure and firm one. He was ready to venture into a new world, a world far from his own.  

Ole Sironka is the embodiment of the Maa man. His height and structure can easily convenience you that there exist giants in this world. When he walks, he plants his feet firmly in the ground, it is often a musical walk, with the dozen and one beads covering his neck and wrist clapping in song while his shuka flaps against the wind.

 As soon as I could speak, i called him Babu. That cold August morning, he leaned closer, looked me straight in the eyes and said “schee Eero ele! Idol  anaa kataarara?” To which I replied “no mister.” And at that moment in time I knew I will never call him anything other than mister. 

Mister raised me three months in a year. As soon as the school closed, mama packed a bag for me, took me to the bus station, paid for my matatu and told the conductor “After five hours drive you will arrive at the farm with many goats and cows, ask anyone there to take this boy to Ole Sironka.” All through my childhood, I alighted right in the middle of Mister’s farm. Everyone knew him, the Masaai man who lived the maa way. How could I get lost?

As I grew older and Mister’s hair turned white and grew thinner. We grew in and out of many things and changed in so many ways. Mister accepted Christianity the same year I got accepted to study law in the University of Nairobi. With mobile phones, one more thing from the westernized world Mister embraced, our bond remained stronger than ever. Grandfather was pleased that he was going to make a lawyer out of me. “We need more Masaai lawyers in the world.” He often said. With his approval I went to law school determined more than ever to become the best lawyer the world could ever have.

One afternoon mister called me, “Lemayian! Have you read enough law books?” Before I could answer, he narrated how Lenakukuiya's 150 cows had been shot dead. He heard in the news that bandits were shielding themselves while exchanging gun fire with the government’s security forces. “Who plays with cows like that?” he asked. I had learnt early on never to answer to questions that seemed rhetoric. I nodded, hoping he knew I was keenly listening. “No one is speaking up! Even the church is silent! Seems like the traders Jesus chased away are back! The church is silent!”

Naomoni Aiyai! Kaatigile oltau Enkerai ai! They have come for us! Us and our way of life!” I could hear Mister’s breathing turn heavy. It seems like he was about to shed a tear. I cannot tell if he truly shed a tear or not. “How do grown men cry?” I wondered! Truth be told I am yet to see one cry.

Nothing breaks a man’s heart than losing his livelihood. Mister was distraught; he had left his ways to embrace the new. He let the world take its course! He did not fuss when they built sky scrapers on the land of cool waters. He was calm when they caged Kiserian’s favorite animals. When my grandmother learnt she might never see elephants and their calves playing in the mud again she wailed with so much bitterness Mister says her screaming almost made cracks on the dry earth.

“The traders are trading in church, they are trading hapa na kule and now they have come for what we have Lemayian! Is there something in your law books that can ensure we salvage the little we have left? I protected us with my spear, but times have changed. Your books will give us refuge!” Mister lamented.

As capitalism and consumerism sinks its claws in our old world, I am tasked with ensuring our lives and livelihoods are protected. Mister let me trade my spear for a life in the westernized world but a Moran is a Moran whether armed with knowledge or with a spear. My fate as a son of Maa was sealed when Ole Sironka blessed Enkai Narok for sustaining his lineage.

Image by Jimmy Nelson Retrieved from www.jimmynelson.com

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