Happy New Year! As we count through the final hours of 2022, I would like us to do three quiet things that might dignify our having handled the dying year, and inspire the dawning one.
I suggest that we take a brief look back on the past year, peer forward into the new one and finally try and work out some aspirations to direct our progress through the next twelve months. Our mantra is: review, preview and resolve.
Obviously, it is impossible for a simple scribe like me to cover the myriads of our experiences, expectations and aspirations in an article of this brevity.
The best I can do is to share with you my own recollections, anticipations and resolutions, based on my well-known interests and passions, and then invite you to use my presentation as a template for your own recollections, expectations and resolves.
Looking back on 2022, the main event that particularly lifted my heart was the way Kenyans handled the “Grand Choice” of “tisa nane” (August 9). The Kenyan victory I celebrate here is that of the ordinary wananchi, with whom I live and share my “Kenyaphilia” (I love Kenya).
What most won my admiration, and that of the world, was the dignity, discipline and decorum with which the ordinary voters handled the exercise. Ninajivunia (you did me proud)!
International Kiswahili Language Day
On the East African Uswahilini scene, the celebration of the International Kiswahili Language Day, on July 7, was an occasion of special satisfaction and hope for me and all who believe in the value of our regional unity. Related to this, the biggest development in East African Community affairs was the admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the Jumuiya. This daring step was a unique act of faith, considering the endemic problems of that vast country.
Regarding my other passion, the woman’s cause, 2022 has ended on a sad note for many of us, with the loss of dramatist and communications expert Alakie Mboya, the first daughter of the legendary Tom Mboya. Two things struck me particularly about Alakie Mboya during the brief spell I worked with her in theatre and on a few publicity assignments.
One was her sheer intellectual brilliance and creative resourcefulness. Secondly and more importantly, Alakie was an extremely humble person and preferred associating with us ordinary folk rather than the elite classes of her upbringing.
On a happier note, 2022 has been a year of triumph, as some of us incurable optimists had predicted, with the significant ebbing of the Covid-19 terror and the opening up of most of our lives to precious normalcy.
For us book and education lovers, the glorious normalisation included the reopening of our schools and the resuscitation of our related events, like the drama and music festivals and our beloved Nairobi International Book Fair.
At a personal level, as a writer, I feel profoundly grateful for your continued reading of these random conversations of ours and for engaging me actively with your responses. I particularly appreciate those who differed with my views, because, like Oscar Wilde, I get worried when everybody agrees with me.
The publication of my environment advocacy play, Shimo Katika Anga, was a cause of great joy for me. I want to communicate increasingly in our chosen common tongue.
I am deeply grateful to my publishers and my colleague and friend, Prof Kitula King’ei of Kenyatta University, who worked with me on the project.
As for previewing 2023, we all have to be understandably guarded. Those of us who rely only on our experiences, common sense, and undying optimism, can only tentatively speculate on the future. We will almost certainly continue to experience economic hardships, resulting mainly from the unfortunate cocktail of the depressions of the Covid-19 scourge, continuing international instability and the inclement weather in many parts of our region.
The upside of all this is that our resilience will help us pull through. Already, many sectors of our economic activities are reviving conspicuously.
My wanderings around East Africa since July give me the impression that tourism, for example, is picking up very rapidly, and it could hit an all-time high in 2023. We are also gradually realising that many of the things that we previously regarded as “necessities”, like those daily two beers at the local pub, are luxuries, and can be reduced, or cut out altogether. Those of us who have lived long can remember previous comparable upheavals that sent our economies into a spin and fundamentally changed our lifestyles. I, for example, bought my first new car for USh27,000 in 1972.
A year later, following military turbulence in the Middle East and the energy crisis caused by the Arab countries’ restrictions on their petrol products, that sum could hardly buy a bicycle.
But we adjusted and survived, and here we are, still driving the multimillion-priced vehicles. Why should we not be able to adjust in 2023 as those “bloomers” did in 1973?
Regarding my resolutions, I still abide by my principles of keeping them few, realistic and flexible. For 2023, I have only three, and I sum them up in three words: faith, fitness and present. I will have faith in my God, in myself and in my fellow human beings.
I will also work on keeping as fit as an average 79-year-old can be. I will be eating and sleeping well, walking along the village paths and flexing and stretching on the floor of my home library.
As for my work, I will try and focus on the “present moment”, working with full concentration on the job at hand. There will be no more speculations about what I might plan to do “by and by” and all those subterfuges of procrastination. I have enough on my plate, and I will deal with it immediately.
Happy New Year, once again, and best wishes with your resolutions. Bonne année!