I sat cross legged on the plush rug. My grandfather sat in his favourite chair, rocking back and forth on its ‘non-rocking’ legs. I always wondered how he focused on the words when he moved around so much. He seemed engrossed in the pages of the latest Grisham thriller but I wanted his attention.
“Baba” I called, he looked up and smiled at me. I could see the grey hairs in his nose from my point on the floor.
“I want to know something Baba, your growing up years, what was it like? Was it much like mine?”
“Oh, child, no. Not like yours at all” he laughed heartily and I could see the strong muscles in his neck. “My father was a farmer, like his father before him. He wrestled in his spare time with his cronies. It was a hobby. I learnt a lot from him though and I took it serious.”
“He taught you to wrestle?” I asked, incredulous
“Like a lion. I was sore for six months, but then I toughened up and became a terror. I loved the excitement, the applause, the heat and the noise of the wrestling arena. Every Friday night was wrestling night. I would replay my father’s words in my head. Telling my self I could do it, I was a champion, I ruled the ring” he beat his chest and heaved, as if reliving the moments. “Enye nguvu ng’ombe dume*. The words built up in me, drumming in my ears and coursing through my veins until I knew the fight was mine.”
“Which was your most memorable fight?” I asked
“Ha! That will be my bout with Angavu. Folks called him the son of the Cheetah. He was fast, his style unique. He pranced around like a maniac, weaving through my legs and catching me unawares. He was small and wasn’t that strong but what he lacked in strength he made up for in speed. We sized each other up. I kept a trained gaze on him. He made shrill, guttural sounds to distract me. Suddenly, he launched at me and tried to lift me off my feet. I caught him in the mid region, his head between my legs. I heaved him up and threw him backwards, he landed on his back. The crowd went wild. That was a spectacular day but I didn’t wrestle for much longer after that.”
“Why Baba?” I wondered, still imagining the wrestling bout
“Well, let’s just say it was at that point I became like you.” He pointed at me, a huge smile on his wrinkled face. “I wanted to study, so I went to the university, studied Business Management. Ha! I don’t really know what possessed me to study that, considering that the only business I knew to do was sell the produce from my father’s farm in the local market. But I was bright and I learned fast. I was on scholarship so I wasn’t bad for money.”
“What happened after you finished from the university?”
“I had an MBA and came back home to work. You want to know the job I got?” his voice was low and mischievous. I nodded, expectant. “Selling newspapers and groceries in a kiosk!” he guffawed, throwing his head back and laughing vigorously.
“What?! With an MBA?” I was incredulous
“Yes child, with an MBA” her calmed down and placed his hands on my shoulders. “But my little shack has grown. Yes, into a mega retail business with several outlets in Mombasa and its environs.”
“Wow! That’s how you started?” I asked, feeling my eyes shine.
“Yes my Son. That’s how. I didn’t despise the small beginnings. So when I find someone today, selling from a kiosk, I usually have a little advice for them” he settled back in his chair ad crossed his legs, “get an MBA!”
*Enye nguvu ng’ombe dume means Strong as a bull in Swahili
*Mwana means Child in Swahili
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