Over the weekend, I overheard a story that got me thinking, a story that prodded me to review my life and convinced me to make a few necessary changes.
The story was about a tycoon that recently died. I had grown up hearing his name, often in regard to how rich he was. He is one of those older generation businessmen that sniffed out just how lucrative land in Kenya would become decades ago.
Those who foresaw, ages ago, the benefits of chamas and the great accomplishments a group of people could achieve when they pooled their resources and invested in diverse property.
At the time of his death some time this year, he had numerous rental houses in a couple of estates in the outskirts of the city. He also owned a fleet of lorries and a couple of long distance trailers, as well as many acres of undeveloped land all over the country. And yet this is just the property that people know about. He died when putting up a hotel somewhere in Nakuru. He was in his late seventies.
Besides his famed wealth however, he was also known for his legendary stinginess. Though he was extremely wealthy, he lived like a pauper – well, almost, a fact that made him a laughing stock amongst the villagers and others who knew him.
To begin with, his children attended the same schools as his neighbours’ children did – I am told that once upon a time, the only primary school in the area then had no windows, while some classes had no doors, since construction had stopped midway.
Even worse, the pupils were almost double the number of desks and chairs, and so many learners were forced to either sit on the floor, or on stones while in class.
This is the school his five children went to, and to make matters worse, they went bare foot like the other children, even though their father could afford to buy all the shoes in several department stores. And no, he did not even take them to college, their education ended in high school, after which he sent them to man his retail and hardware shops.
The story goes that the man was so tight-fisted, he was unwilling to even spend his hard-earned money on decent food. For lunch, he would frequent a certain food kiosk where he would eat either rice and ugali, and a watery stew of chicken legs – not the drumsticks mind you, the actual scaly legs of a chicken whose nails had been cut off.
According to gossip, at his home, meat was eaten just once a month. For a long time, this multi-millionaire drove a battered white pick-up, which he had decided to upgrade with a white Probox a year before death came calling. To cut a long story short, this man never enjoyed the money he worked so hard to get. Neither did his family or others in need.
SELLING AND SPENDING SPREE
As I write this, I hear that his children, three adult men and their sister, have been on a selling and spending spree, with the unreserved blessings of their long-suffering mother.
I hear they are now living like greedy kings, as if trying to make up for the many years of want their close-fisted father subjected them to, in as short a time as possible.
I don’t know what your take home is from this anecdote, but I have decided to no longer deny myself at the expense of an uncertain future, and to congratulate myself more often for a job well done, if I can afford it.
Yes, I will still plan for tomorrow, but I will enjoy the present as much as I can, for what use is money or wealth if it cannot buy you and your loved ones a fulfilled and comfortable life?