DEAR SON: Why we should have named you Strike

Friday November 10 2017

The food boycotts you were waging early in your

The food boycotts you were waging early in your life appeared to be tell-tale signs that the general air of defiance across the country was getting into you. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 


Dear Jijee,

Your first name should have been Strike. A more apt, more relevant name that is closer to the zeitgeist of your year of birth, 2017.

How, you ask? You were born in a private hospital in the middle of a nationwide doctors’ strike that lasted 100 days.

And as you grew up, a number of your vaccines were administered in private hospitals because in five of your first 10 months, nurses were on strike and none was available to immunise babies. Heartless nurses, weren’t they?

You were born in a year when there were strikes by tea pickers, university lecturers, supermarket workers, among others.

There were also numerous street protests by supporters of the opposition who were pushing for one cause or another.

It often made me imagine that you could grow up to become a “strike” yourself, morphing into a fire-breathing student leader shouting “comrades power” and “Tibiim” from here to Greece.

I would see you developing guts to power you into telling the university administration that they should behave or face consequences that would rather be imagined than experienced; that a vice-chancellor will be multiplied by zero.

There was also a chance of you becoming a secretary-general of some powerful union to issue ultimatums and fault the government and storm out of meetings to say how you will not listen to anything until your members’ salaries are increased.


The general defiance of your year of birth also made me sometimes entertain thoughts that you would one day become the leader of opposition. By the time I was writing this, you were showing good signs of becoming one, what with the number of times you would openly voice your displeasure (by crying) and the times you would throw your head backwards to boycott meals you did not like or anything in a spoon that you suspected was not the normal yoghurt.

The food boycotts you were waging early in your life —  which made your mum consider force-feeding you the way some toddlers were being made to gulp down porridge by adults pouring it into their mouths through cupped hands — appeared to be tell-tale signs that the general air of defiance across the country was getting into you.


But, who knows? Maybe there was something divine in you being delivered in a private hospital.

Unlike the hospital were you were born, not many maternity wards in public hospitals have a switch next to a patient’s bed which a mother in distress can press so that nurses can rush to her attention.

Your mum would press a poor button next to her bed every so often, because her milk refused to come off her mammary glands in the first three days after you were born. You were screaming blue murder all that time.

At least three times, the nurses gave you some warm milk placed in a very small container, which I thought was too little for you till I later learnt a newborn’s stomach is almost equal to a pen cap in capacity. The way you would gulp down the formula milk left no doubt that a 1200cc guzzler was now part of the family before our coveted Volkswagen did.

Perhaps if the public facilities were operating normally, your mother would have found herself in a ward with 14 other mothers delivering at the same time and that means every mother would virtually be left to her own devices.

Congestion was normal in public hospitals, and sometimes children in need of an incubator would do with being laid on their mothers’ bosoms — the so-called kangaroo technique — because there was little space to accommodate them in a proper incubator.


Even with vaccines, there were cases of injections gone wrong at public hospitals. Sometimes quacks would be left to administer injections and maybe a higher force was ensuring that you do not face that risk. That force must be having big plans for you.

Whether the strikes around your year of birth will have an impact on your life, it will be a wait-and-see. But something tells me to start preparing to appear before teachers to explain why my son should not be expelled for being the leader of a strike to protest against a weevil found in one student’s beans.

That voice also tells me to start preparing enough room for you because one day you might be expelled from your university for 1,000 academic days for organising “the grandmother of all strikes” in the institution to question why some classes are not air-conditioned.  But today I’m telling that voice telling me those terrible predictions about my son: ishindwe!


This series brings you writings by PETER MOGAMBI, a Nairobi residentwho became a father in January 2017. By the time his son is old enough to read and comprehend, which is at least 11 years from today, a lot of water will have passed under the bridge. So, he has decided to preserve happenings in black and white so that when the boy can finally comprehend, he will get to follow his father’s feelings.