Just like love starts with a kiss (the oldest lie in the universe), a wedding committee starts with an SMS written in a complex programming language and ending with a supplication to God to ‘Blez u as u plan 2 attend’.
You can clearly tell that the message has been scripted by a person who is not yet ready for marriage, although he or she is actually the one inviting you for their wedding committee.
You read the message with a vigorous shaking of the head – if someone expects you to risk your life and limb to attend their meeting in some dangerous parts of downtown Nairobi where the chances of losing your life and property to the area business community members are forever high, they should at the bare minimum have the decency to write to you in full sentences and address you with some degree of respect.
ADDED TO A WHATSAPP GROUP
Just as you are trying to contact your teenage nieces to decipher this syntax coded message for your easy consumption, you receive a notification that you have been added into a WhatsApp group aptly named ‘Philomena and Zachariah wedding committee preparations’, and you now know that you are into this thing for the long haul.
Five minutes after the group is formed, someone shares a lengthy post that starts with ‘Please read to the end, don’t ignore’ and ends with ‘Please share with everyone in your contacts’.
This post and subsequent ones obviously include some raunchy vernacular songs, clips of local comedians plus long reflections from a sweaty American preacher.
Because you attended reputable public schools, you are bright enough to know that you don’t attend a committee meeting on the first date unless you have all the intentions of being unanimously appointed the Chairman.
You bide your time as you persevere the WhatsApp group that provides an endless supply of ‘forwarded as received’ messages and very little content about the wedding, and you finally decide to show up during what you believe is the tenth meeting whereby you expect that things have progressed significantly.
RECESSES OF DOWNTOWN
The meeting venue has changed several times in the ten weeks since the committee was formed, and you are led deep into the recesses of downtown Nairobi where thoughts about your personal safety remain paramount.
You finally find your way into the meeting room with more than a hundred plastic seats and with only less than ten being currently occupied by people who are all on phone and clearly disconnected from the theme of the meeting.
Five more people will show up in intervals of thirty minutes and the meeting shall finally be called to order.
You realise with horror that this is actually the first formal meeting of the committee since all the other nine meetings were called off without deliberations due to lack of quorum.
You continue sitting there trying to comprehend this near-bizarre situation, and you are suddenly jolted to attention when you are unanimously appointed the Assistant Secretary.
The Chairman is undisputedly a brother to the bride, a carefully selected cheerleader whose sole mission is to push a bloated budget down your thin wallets and shoot down any noble cost cutting initiatives at the covert instructions from his sister who is hell bent on having a lavish wedding despite the apparent precarious financial position.
On the wedding day, he will double up as the transport manager who will dump ten flower girls inside your tiny car to deliver them to the photo shoot session, but that is a story for another day.
UNTRUSTWORTHY-LOOKING COLLEGE GIRL
The treasurer is the bride’s younger sister, an untrustworthy-looking college girl who seems to spend all her time, and clearly all her scarce resources on her phone and makeup.
She is also the author of the weekly financial updates whose figures never seem to make any credible financial sense.
The first agenda item is the food menu for the wedding day, and after a two hour heated discussion on whether the rice should be served with five or eight litres of cabbage soup, the committee finally drops the idea and settles for the cheaper option of mukimo with carrot stew.
You are at the extreme edge of your sanity and you pretend to be busy taking minutes and doing the stew to rice ratios using complicated calculus formulas.
Next on the agenda is the cake, and the cake service provider wearing a big colourful headscarf is there with photos of her alleged culinary expertise which I can clearly tell are downloaded straight from the internet.
She wins the tender nonetheless with some persuasion of veto powers from the chairman. Further investigations reveal that she is a first cousin to the bride.
The cards printing supplier is next. Despite the fact that the colour theme for this wedding is purple and green (who choses these colours in the 21st century?), the supplier shows up with yellow cards with blue ribbons that are in sharp contrast to the colour campaign .
The bride is obviously livid, but time is running out and it also turns out that the supplier is also her close relative, so the cards are given an uneasy okay.
Meanwhile, the groom’s two brothers who are his only relatives in the meeting and who had travelled all the way from the village have only spoken twice in the entire meeting, seeking clarity as to whether the carrots shall be grated or sliced, and whether there shall be a bus to ferry them to Nairobi on the wedding day.
They only speak in Swahili, and we keenly listen to their important submissions with a lot of patience.
The last agenda item is the photo shoot session. Although the church wedding is being conducted in Rongai, the reception party is happening in Athi River and the photo session is in Thika.
I try to paint a bleak picture regarding the logistical complications that this plan is bound to present, but one glance at the bride and I quickly retract my claws. I even laud the idea as brilliant, but inwardly I am already making plans to skip the wedding and save this county thousands of shillings in petrol.
In the AOB session, the groom beseechs the attendees to give him their vehicles to ferry his big entourage around on the wedding day.
A small piece of paper is passed around for people to pledge their cars for the big occasion.
Although the last time I placed my jalopy on sale it could not fetch more than two hundred thousand shillings, the last thing I expect is for someone to disrespect if by forcing me to pledge its availability on a piece of paper.
My bare minimum is a strong delegation paying me a visit and offering me a big basket full of high end shopping and a large bottle of whiskey before they state their mission.
To save myself from a piercing glare from the Chairman, I scribble down my vehicle registration and make and leave it at that.
Finally, the treasurer takes over.
“We have a budged of Ksh 850k, and so far we have 60k in cash and 110k in pledges, we are doing quite well and we hope to meet our target during our next meeting which shall be the last,” she coos with the confidence of a Wall Street venture capitalist.
She passes more pieces of paper for the attendees to pledge more money for this noble cause.
As the meeting comes to a close with a song about how Paulo and Sila prayed until the prison doors opened, I steal a few glances at the treasurer and I come to the conclusion that she is not so bad after all.
I promise myself to look for her during the wedding's evening party whose venue is still a heavily guarded secret.
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