Nuggets of wisdom from Juuju


My grandmother has over the years given me the most valuable nuggets of wisdom.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The kind of peace and joy I experience when I am in her company is immeasurable.
  • She is one of my favourite people on this planet.

I was intrigued to learn that in a population of 54million, we have less than 7,000 people in Kenya over the age of 90. I smiled thinking of Juuju, my maternal grandmother who is close to hundred.

We are blessed to have a loved one of that age whose mind is still clear and acts as our historical encyclopaedia. 

The kind of peace and joy I experience when I am in her company is immeasurable. She is one of my favourite people on this planet.

I lived with Juuju most of my childhood to young adulthood. I am so much of my grandmother’s child than grandchild. She has over the years given me the most valuable nuggets of wisdom.

These are a few of Juuju’s life nuggets that I hope you can embrace as you step into 2021.

Long before I met hubby, a man I was seeing proposed. He was a good and decent human being, but I just did not feel excited to move forward to the next level of the relationship.

Juuju was visiting and during those three weeks, she met the man because he would stop by with some shopping. No, he did not sleep over, so stop with the judging. One evening as I arranged the flowers he had bought me, she said:

“He is a good man. But I don’t think that’s the husband for you. Release him or else God will be angered if you deceive that man.”

She also insisted that I stop accepting his gifts.

“It is fraudulent, because you know that you won’t marry him.”

Juuju has never minced her words. I had not told her that the man had proposed.

Be averse to any form of deceit is a nugget I try to uphold.

Her fierce spirit keeps her independent so much so that during the Covid-19 lockdown, she asked my uncle to send me Sh2,000 from her farm produce to buy food! It is only of late that she has lost her agility.

Learn to laugh out load

She has always worked, ensuring that all her children ate well and attended school. We are talking ‘50’s and 60’s when children of widows were considered destitute.

Not Juuju’s children whose young father died in Manyani as a detainee for being in the Mau Mau freedom movement. Any of her children who did not get to secondary level has only themselves to blame.

Work hard and your creator will bless the sweat of your brow.

Juuju is not the type of person to hold her chin under her palm in sorrow. She says kwithikira – it is impossible to translate this – is only for the bereaved.

“Oh, someone talked ill of you? Is that reason to look as if you are bereaved? Get over it!”

For a long and healthy life, she says, “Stay happy. If anyone wrongs you, tell them. Don’t let it simmer in you.”

She has loads of daily belly laughs. She will laugh at herself for a whole three minutes if she trips and falls. Learn to laugh out loud, carelessly, often, at yourself, with others, every day.

“You might be from your father’s clan, but you have my blood. Our people carry karma.” She did not use the word karma but the meaning is similar.

Juuju has always warned me to never deliberately hurt anyone, because it would unfailingly come back to bite me. On the same breadth, she told me, “If anyone deliberately wrongs you, relax and watch. They will get what’s coming to them, because our blood fights back.”

Whatever you do reverberates right back. Make sure it is always good. She hates it when people gossip. She has never learned the art. You tell her something negative about someone, and she will ask you,

“So, I’m I to ask Kathambi about this issue?”

“Juuju, no, you should not mention this to Kathambi!”

“Then why tell me? How will this help Kathambi?”

You are speechless.

Strive to be right

“Oh, you mean that was gossip.” She will give you a look that will teach you to never ever gossip ever again. We know how gossip thrives in families, eventually breaking them. Abhor gossip.

Watch your tongue. It does not build you to assassinate another’s character.

When I would get bullied and go home crying, Juuju would ask me,

“How many hands and legs do you have?”

I would whimper and tell her two of each.

“And how many does the bully have?”


“If you come back here crying, I will beat you too. Fight back! Pick a rock, throw soil in his eyes, whatever, just fight back!”

Took it literally. I have had a fist fight with a street urchin and a hawker when they ganged up to rob me. (Story for next week, let’s meet here). I have punched a man when he touched me inappropriately. I have marched to the HR department one time when a colleague, my senior was sexually harassing me.

You will meet jerks. Do not accept to be bullied. Strive to be right, not necessarily popular. There is nothing to be ashamed about when protecting your dignity.

She earned her own sizeable land in the seventies, when it was considered taboo for a woman to have a title deed in her name. The land official insisted that Juuju should instead use her son’s name. She refused.

“He is my child. Not my husband. And it is my piece of land.”

The land official stared at her, shook his head and reluctantly wrote her name.

Be bold. No one promised easy and no one will bring it to you. Get you knuckles bloody and go for what you want.

Karimi is a wife who believes in marriage.


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