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Two men, their boss, and a gift of roses

Sunday January 19 2020


Being the traditional kind, he had no idea what to do with his bunch of red flowers. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Sometime in December last year, a relative was honoured by his employer for his faithful 10 years of service.

Among the tens of others that were honoured were an elderly man, around 60-something.

On that day, the honourees were requested to assemble in one of the company’s many auditoriums over lunch hour, where they were to be addressed by one of the bosses.

This relative has worked for a number of companies, and none had ever recognised his input, not in such a public manner; therefore, he was excited, and could not wait for the ceremony and the goodies it would come bearing.

If your employer has ever invited you to a lunchtime event, it always almost means that the organisation will foot the lunch bill.

As you can therefore imagine, this relative and his colleague made a beeline for the venue on empty stomachs.


The boss did not keep them waiting, she arrived on time and went on to thank them for their dedicated service and said other nice things that are likely to be said during such a do.


The speech did not take longer than five minutes, which was a relief for the hungry workers.

“In appreciation for your service, we have something special for you,” she announced.

It is then, to this relative’s utter disbelief, that a trolley full of bunches of flowers was rolled in.

A couple of women from human resources then proceeded to hand over the flowers to the seated employees.

When they were done distributing the “red flowers” (my middle-aged relative says he wasn’t sure but they could have been roses), the boss thanked them once again for their tireless service and walked away, leaving her audience stunned.

The company he works for is a big multinational whose core leadership is drawn from the West, where, I assume, flowers draw appreciative Oohs and Ahhas from the recipients.

But this is Kenya, where the flower-gifting culture will never catch up, no matter how many Valentine’s Days we will celebrate.


For lack of a better word, this relative was crestfallen. But even more disappointed, again for lack of a better word, was the 60-something-year-old messenger.

Being the traditional kind, he had no idea what to do with his bunch of red flowers.

The least he had expected was a free lunch, and perhaps a supermarket voucher, and if he was especially lucky, an envelope hiding a couple of 1,000-shilling notes. Talk of big-time disappointment.

My relative took his flowers home to his wife, who accepted them with a quizzical look on her face because it was the first time she was getting them.

Unlike in the movies, where the woman lovingly places them in a vase and feeds them some water, his wife handed them to their children.

His young children also had no value for them, and by the time the family was retiring to bed, the kids had plucked all the petals off, leaving only stalks held together by a red ribbon.


Though that incident took place weeks ago, my relative’s colleagues are yet to move on, they still poke fun at him and his red roses.

It is said that you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but my relative reckons that some gifts are akin to no gift at all.

“When you go to Rome, do what the Roman’s do,” he concluded when he finished recounting the story, a narration that left us breathless with laughter.

Obviously, Rome in this case is Kenya, where a celebration, at least for many of us, is not a celebration without copious amounts of food and nyama choma and even more alcohol.

If you are visiting Kenya for the first time, please do your homework before you gift a Kenyan.

Oh, have a Happy New Year, and may you stick to your resolutions this time round.

The writer is the Editor, ‘Society’ and Magazines, ‘Daily Nation’; [email protected]