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Of the gulf between haves and have-nots

Sunday February 16 2020

SOCIAL STATUS

There is a huge chasm between the experiences of the haves and the have-nots. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

CAROLINE NJUNG'E
By CAROLINE NJUNG'E
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What a huge chasm there is between the experiences of the haves and the have-nots, I told myself after listening to Gideon Moi’s tribute to his father on Tuesday at the Nyayo National Stadium.

He was talking about how, when he was younger, he crashed his father’s new car after taking it for a “spin” without the old man’s permission.

And what price did he pay for his expensive mischief? Well, an amused laugh from his father, who figured that the terror he went through as he rehearsed how to explain himself was enough punishment.

His account reminded me how I was almost crucified on a tree for accidentally breaking a tea flask. I shuddered to think what could have happened to me had I written off the old, old family car.

The haves and the have-nots. How different our realities are. True, we found that account by Gideon amusing, though I suspect we found it so mainly because he had unmasked a side of the former president we did not know, however, the fact is that a majority of us could not relate to such a childhood memory.

BIZARRE PUNISHMENT

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As expected, that story opened a floodgate of memories, mostly hilarious accounts of the punishment meted out to us by our parents for the smallest mistake you could think of.

One Kenyan who had been watching the event live could not understand how one could go unpunished for such a grave crime, recounting how she was once forced by her mother to eat a bowl of pilipili as punishment for eating sugar; while another recounted how he almost spent the night in the cold because he broke a cup.

In a WhatsApp group I am in, a friend narrated how he once stole and ate a chapati from several that his mother had saved for supper unaware that she had counted them.

As punishment, his mother prepared a mountain of chapatis And when she was done, she set them before him and ordered him to eat them all while she stood over him with a belt, a scowl on her face.

Despite a valiant effort, he managed to eat only a few of them, a sorry achievement that earned him a beating that still rings in his ears decades later.

DIFFERENT STATION

This friend says that was the last time he ever ate anything without asking his mother for permission.

That beating, he adds, also triggered in him a dislike for chapati, which he rarely eats.

I bet the ‘haves’ have no food stories like this to tell, probably because food like chapati, which was a rare delicacy when we were growing up, was common in their plates, and therefore not valued.

Yet another friend recounted how she was beaten blue and black for falling off a tree she had no business climbing, never mind that she had gone home limping and crying in pain due to the fall.

We got beaten up for just about anything, including laughing too loudly, looking at the food your mother had served a visitor in a certain way. Or crying.

Of course I don’t begrudge Gideon of his memory. After all, we cannot all be in the same station in life, nor do we choose our parents.

I also refuse to say anything about his “doctari” Kiswahili …

The writer is Editor, Society & Magazines, Daily Nation; [email protected]; @cnjerius

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