The Knife

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It’s the motorbike you heard first; a Yamaha Super Tenere, 750 CC. Its thunderous roar filled every room of the unremarkable building we occupied at Wilson Airport. No matter how busy you were at your desk you wouldn’t pretend to ignore the fact that he had arrived. When he finally walked through the office floor that housed DRUM, ADAM AND TRUE LOVE magazines, a floor of writers and stylists and editors and a clutch of sales people; bedecked in black from chin to boot, a shiny helmet tucked under his right armpit, he was a complete contrast to his loud bike. He spoke softly. A gentleman. He was agreeable. He was the knife (pala) that he was named after and for the longest time he had cut through our thorax  and found a home in our hearts with his writing; infuriating some, inspiring some and if he did neither, at least you took notice of his work.  

And he was my boss, my editor. Which was crazy because for me and a host of other budding writers, Oyunga was that beacon, that imposing literary lighthouse that stood tall and represented a promise that we, too, would finally find the promised land and we would eventually become respected men of letters.

When I first met Oyunga he wasn’t what I expected him to be. (Which, really is the same for all writers) I expected a brash and boisterous lad who stood in the middle of the room with a beer in hand. Instead I found a mostly reflective man, who walked alone in his own shadow created by his legend, and most weekends he rode his loud bike out to faraway places expunged of human voices.

What stood out for me was his deep self awareness. I was completely drawn to that; this ability to remain rooted in his self. This meant that I constantly sat at his feet and tried to tap into this well of depth. This was apt because our paths crossed at a very crucial point in my life; as a late bloomer I was just turning 30 and spinning like a reed in a storm: I didn’t know myself as a man, I didn’t know where I was headed or what I stood for or believed in, my convictions were like ribbons in the wind, twisting to the whims of nature. I swayed and searched. Although a lot of other influences in my life eventually shaped me into the man I am now, he played an important role in some of those aspects. For example, it’s him who got me to really start reading fervently, as well as exercising (he called me fat when I joined the magazine), he got me to drop sugar and fizzy drinks (haven’t touched sugar for 10 years) and introduced me to the virtues of discipline and staying on the wagon.

I remember always going to his apartment at United Kenya Club, in town, this quaint bachelor pad flooded with light from massive windows. The decor of his houses have always been a reflection of who he is; a minimalist. No clutter – if he didn’t need it, he didn’t keep it. That included people. I have never seen a TV in the two houses he lived in because he filled his time with silence, words and sometimes an eccentric  spiritual teacher saying things on Youtube. His curiosity intrigued me.

Him being a rum lover, I would rock up with a bottle of Old Monk and we would sit at the counter of his open kitchen and talk for hours. I saw him as a proper writer and I wanted to emulate him, to write like him and embody some of the values I admired in him like calmness and how authentic he managed to remain in his celebrity.

I remember his small writing desk that was thrust against the wall by the window overlooking the parking-lot below. He wrote on a Macbook Pro a time when Macbooks were for a selected few. I remember thinking, by Josh, when I grow up I will also write from such a fancy laptop like a true writer. (A bad workman quarrels with my tools). Over time we stopped being teacher and student. We became friends. He’s a guy you can rely on. He shows up. He helped me bury my mother when my world was filled with unyielding darkness.

When I took over Mantalk from him, I was terrified. The night before my maiden story I couldn’t even pee. It’s also him who gave the best writing advice that has served me over time; don’t ever believe in your own hype.

And so when I called him and asked him if I could interview him for this 40s series and he said yes, I was at loss, because how does a student write the story of the master?

He’s having a haircut at Prime Apartments at the end of Rhapta Road, Westlands. I send an Uber to him. (Uber Kenya is now the official sponsors of this 40’s series. Ahsante). Peter, a baritone voiced Uber driver calls me when he gets there and says “Bwana Biko, I’m outside here.”  Now, I normally wish boils on people who call me “Bwana Biko” because I sound like I’m a school bursar in some school in Kaplong. Today I chill. I send him Oyunga’s number and they connect.

Forty-five minutes later we walk into The Chop House the steakhouse at The Radisson Blu. It’s elegant and chic. Typically he’s cynical. “Why couldn’t we just go to a simple place?” he moans as Godwin Okello, our waiter, takes his jacket off him and hangs it on a wooden coat-hanger next to him. He orders the 21-day aged fillet steak, a 200 g of prime beef grilled in a Josper oven and comes with blistered tomatoes. “Medium to well done, please.” he tells Godwin who also recommends their “brilliant red wine”, a bottle of Chalk Hill Blue Shiraz Cabernet. I’m no fun of steak so I go for roast chicken breast in garlic herb butter, cauliflower puree and fried carrot strings. I suspect that writing menus is also an artform in itself because you read things like blistered tomatoes (tomatoes with blisters?), carrot strings, pulled pork steam burns… Chefs seem to have us on with these saucy adjectives. As the menus are taken off our hands I realise I have just made a monumental mistake as an interviewer; sitting with my back to the room.

“When we started writing back in the day, we didn’t consider ourselves writers.” Oyunga says settling back in his chair. “There was a notion that writers were people who studied literature in campo, and not people like me who were studying anthropology.”  He started as gym instructor white studying at UoN.  Mundia Muchiri gave him his first stab at newspaper writing by assigning his fitness stories and later some “oddball” features.

His bottle of wine arrives swathed in a white napkin like a holy scroll. Godwin shows him the label and speaks of ‘aromas of red berry fruit” and “hint of wood” as he pours a mouthful in a bordeaux glass to taste. Then wine is the colour of a duck’s blood. I’m on still water. (Running the next day).

Rhoda Orengo – former editor of Satmag – one time ran into him and said, Oyunga you are a rugby guy, why don’t you write something “guy guy” about rugby and what happens there. Consequently first foray into social commentary was something cheesy along the lines of “Ten things women should know about men.”

“It was an interesting period. We would type in cyber cafes, save in a diskette, go to Nation center and hand your story by hand!” he chuckles then sips his wine. “Sometimes you would realise that your diskette was infected by a virus and so you would have to go all the way back to the estate where you had typed your piece in a cyber cafe and hope that the file has not been deleted. Nation editors didn’t have their own private emails, people used Hotmail. Do you remember Hotmail? I mean if you used Yahoo you were the more savvier ones.”

We cackle.

“The cool ones had email addresses like Theblade47@yahoo.com, oh boy, so cutting edge.” he says sarcastically and we laugh as the starters are set before us by two gentleman, one wearing black and the other white  (probably the Yin and Yang of the kitchen). The one in black is the executive chef, Wissem Abdilatif fresh off a boat from Tunisia and speaks in a near whisper and the other in white is Executive sous chef, Jeff Gitonga. Wissem tells us about the starters and I only catch seared tuna, grilled asparagus and minted yoghurt.

“Rhoda [Orengo] and I had a very interesting relationship,” he reflects after the two leave. “People don’t give her enough credit for turning Satmag into what it is today. She might not have had great people skills but Rhoda made me a good editor later. Without her I don’t think I would have survived the 10 years I did at Satmag because she never cut you any slack when it came to deadlines. You had to meet her deadline short of killing your mother. With her you always felt the world was ending, she would call you and say with frustration,’ yawa, Oyunga where is my story? What are you guys doing to me? Why are you guys stressing me!”

I really laugh at that because it’s so true. “Why are you guys doing this to me?’ is a line I also heard many times.

“Now you have young writers who only write when they feel inspired,” he scratches the air in quotation marks. “ Rhoda’s deadlines didn’t move, inspiration or not.” Back in the day Mantalk had three writers, he tells me; Clyde Morvit, himself and Tony Mochama. “I was the third wheel actually,” he says.

We  fork our starters that had arrived earlier. There is a nice mild din of clicking cutlery in the restaurant.

“They said you were an angry man with issues.” I say of his Mantalk notoriety days.  

He dismisses that with with a snort. “ You have to understand that it was a period that this feminist wave had taken over  and men were reacting to this image which wasn’t who were are. Men were under attack.” he says. “ women had found a voice in the media after a long feminist struggle and most of the editors in the new lifestyle platforms were women. Finally men were sitting across tables with women and it was payback time and men were being told off. It was open season. They kept bashing us,” here he adopts a whiny voice. “ Oh, African men are not romantic enough, oh African men dress badly, oh African men have no manners…We had to defend ourselves from this ridiculous Westernised notion of men, women wanted us to represent. Fairy tales they picked off soap operas.”  

The main course arrives. The presentation is impressive. He twists black pepper on his steak. Piped music curls over our heads like smoke.

“What was your decision to remain anonymous at that time based on?”

“I’m shy that’s not what many people will understand. I didn’t want to be put on podiums to defend my bizarre theories.I was actually surprised that people were getting annoyed at my articles because I was writing satire and it became evident that most people didn’t understand satire.”

I ask him what he – a 43-year old – thinks of the current crop of men now.  

“I find guys to be pretentious now, but it’s not their fault,” he adds. “ Guys now are under so much pressure to live up to some ideal. In our days we weren’t trying to be men, we were just men, we used Brut!”

“Brut Faberge!” I say.

“Now guys feel like they have to have a personality!” He says the word personality with such contempt that I have to put down my fork for a minute. “ Men now feel the need to keep an impression, an ideal that our women want of them. It’s like there is a behaviour code going around and it’s our women to be blamed because now they demand for men of means and men of class.”

The steakhouse is now fairly full diners. At the end of the room you can see the activities in the kitchen through a massive rectangular glass window. Godwin fills his glass, he nods at him and he’s ghost again. He’s a good waiter, Godwin, he knows when to come to the table just when there is a coma in a conversation. He moves like mist under doorways. At some point the duty manager shows up to say hello  and asks how the meal is.

“The steak is all right, “Oyunga says. “But it’s a bit chewy. I love the salad, it’s very very good.” I tell him my chicken is fantastic.

There is a story I love of the Old Roman Empire. Of a victorious general coming from a war. He would be driven through the streets of Rome in a chariot of four horses, decorated with gold and ivory and followed by his troops and preceded by his spoils in war. The ceremony would sometimes take two days with massive crowds turning to cheer him and lionize him as he headed to the temple of Jupiter where he would be given a chance to give a speech of his legion and greatness. The victorious general would be viewed as a divine god. The god of Jupiter.

Now, the most interesting element of this procession was a slave who all this time stood behind the general, holding a golden crown over his head. Through the cheering and ululating he only had one job; to whisper to him in reminder that he was only a man, a mere mortal, and not a god.

“Who was your slave? I ask Oyunga. “Who was that person who made sure that your notoriety and fame didn’t get to your head?”

“My Mean Machine friends. There was Tony Karembu who was my best man and I his. Fame can destroy you. Maradona tried being a man, a mortal but the Argentines couldn’t let him, they told him he was a god. It’s difficult.” he reflects. “It also helped that I didn’t hang out with media guys and I resisted any attempt for them to pull me in. Also celebrity factor just gets in the way of writing. When you think of yourself as a celebrity you get caught up in a fake persona. There are many so called celebrities in Kenya who have forgotten who they really are. I see two-bit bloggers now trying to bleed their two cents of celebrity and I’m astonished. Back in the day we didn’t stalk fame, in fact, it wasn’t cool to be famous, celebrity was a crass word. We didn’t feel like celebrities because we didn’t feel like we had arrived. Plus I drove a freaking VW Beetle.”

“What do you think the celebrity culture now is founded on?” I ask ensnaring him.

“Vanity and emptiness.” he shoots. It’s only when you have no substance inside you that you would want to mop up hype outside.”

The table is cleared. The crumbs are  wiped off the table. Oyunga’s glass is filled again. We protest any offer of desserts.

In 2005 – when he was 30- he visited Laos and he spent quite some time traversing that part of Asia, it’s there that his love for motorcycles and religion was founded. “When I came back from Asia I was a changed man. I saw the world differently and it spilled over in my writing. I questioned things.”  He packed his things and moved to shags. Six months later he got called back to edit Adam magazine. In 2010 he quit Mantalk and not long after got involved in a near death experience when he was hit off his motorbike by a motorist along State House road. It changed everything. Things that seemed important stopped being important.  He went back to shags to heal, to reflect, to spend time with his mother, to embrace his roots more. He farmed. He attended funeral committees and church functions. He mended fences in the boma went to the farming market to sell produce.  “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he admits. “ I had become a villager, one of those guys in funerals who are told, “yaye,  jo dala, please give up your seats for jo’ Narobi.”

That kills me. So typical of shags.

“What do you regret most about your life?” I ask.

“You know, I can’t see those as regrets but lessons during hard times. It’s during those hard times that you experience the greatest growth. I had my biggest lessons  and growth when I was out of work and in shags.”

Udesh, the Executive Pastry Chef shows up bearing dessert; Chocolate Heaven. Oyunga asks him if he’s from Sri Lanka by any chance and he says yes and off they go, talking about Buddhism and they realise they both know of a monk in Nairobi called Bante and they bang on about the faith for a while and Udesh is surprised at his knowledge of the teachings. I sit there staring at my notes. Finally Udesh leaves and Oyunga regales me further with the resilience and ferocity of the Sri Lankan warriors, the Tamil Tigers.

With his cynicism to relationships and marriage nobody expected him to get married. But he did at 42-years of age. He and his wife, Dorothy Ghettuba who I have known as long as I have known him, had a garden wedding in Naivasha.

“What made you decide to marry?”

“I think when you are done you are done.” he says. “ I come from a steady family unit; my parents were together for 40-years until my dad’s passing. So were my grandparents. I was clear that I wasn’t going to get married early because I had things I needed to pursue and I found marriage so distracting.”

He tastes the burnt orange ice cream and agrees that it tastes heavenly.

“People don’t give themselves the luxury of exploring life before they decide to marry,” he continues. “ As Africans we are seen to be irresponsible if we put off marriage to when we are ready. I think we should be allowed to find ourselves first no matter how long it takes before we decide to marry.”

“What did you see in Dorothy that made you decide that you were going to marry her?” I press.

“That’s a good question.” he says leaning back in thought. “ Dorothy has  lots of great qualities. She is a very hard worker and has such powerful self belief that I admire. I found her tenacious and bold and she is the lady who is unafraid to take risks. We share one very special thing, we both have the ability to risk it all to get what we want. Most people can’t risk much for what they want. Most people prefer the safe corner of life. Dorothy doesn’t. Everybody wants you when you are at your strongest but can they be there when you are at your weakest? She met me when I was at my weakest and she stayed.”

“Do you think you make a better husband now because you are in your 40s?”

“Maybe. But I know that she has found me at a time when I’m more patient. In your 30’s you have these relationship  ‘rules’;  a chic can’t do this, a chic can’t do that, if a chic crosses this line it’s a wrap etc. In your 40’s you realise that some things are fluid, that too much ego isn’t worth much.”

I’m so pressed but I ignore it. I will not be controlled by my bladder, I tell myself. I’m the boss of me.

His black jacket that hangs next to him on the hanger looks like a legless and headless bodyguard. The most useless type.  

“What has surprised you most about marriage?” I ask.

“How uncomplicated it is. It’s the small things that count, never the big ones. It’s saying good morning. It’s opening for her the door when she is leaving the house. It’s asking her if she wants water when you go to the kitchen to get water for yourself. It’s fixing for her the mosquito net when she is about to get to bed. It’s saying thank you and please. It’s checking in with her and saying you will be late. Courtesy. I think for me that’s the hallmark.”

OK, the bladder wins. I go to the the little boy’s room to take a leak. In the urinal a drunken man from a function tries to have a conversation. As a general rule I never talk to other men while we are both holding our members in our hands. I just stare ahead as he blabbers in his drunken euphoria.  

When I get back Oyunga is on his phone sending a message home that he’s almost done. It’s just after 9pm, we have been talking since 6:30pm.

“Have y0u had your first fight ama it’s still honeymoon?”

He laughs. “ We have.”

“What about?” I push.

He thinks about it. “Do I really want to go there? Fights teach you about people’s limits. Good thing we have clean fights, we are very frank. She is a straight shooter, I mull things over a bit. But when we are done issues never linger.”

“Has marriage changed your views on what you wrote for a decade on relationships?” I ask.

“Yeah, my views started changing as I neared 37 years of age.  Most of my views before were limited. But I think based on my age I have come to marriage a little more prepared than most.”

I ask him, “what would you advise a woman in her early 30s?”

He pushes away his glass of wine, folds his napkin and places it the table. “Always value yourself, put in the work and remember whatever life throws at you, happiness is a choice. In the end we attract who we are, not what we want.”

“And what’s the one advise you would give a man in his early 30s?

“Man, I loved my 30s. I would tell them to explore and dig into their persona. Know who you are. While my peers were spending their 30s building careers I was reading and exploring myself through reading and travelling and talking to people. I spent the first seven years of my 30s trying to figure shit out: Who was I? Why does the world  work like this and how do I fit in? I embraced the tragedies life threw at me. Spend your 30s being curious. Ask yourself, what is my purpose. Do it early.”  

Then he adds.

“You know, I spent my life waiting for a job as an anthropologist, little did I know I was living it as a writer recording the human condition.”

***

If you have a story of your 40s, or know someone with a riveting story. (They can’t be anonymous). Please email me with just a para of what the story is on biko@199.192.19.46.

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167 Comments
    1. Loved every word of that read. “Self awareness” is truly bliss. Of course like most things these days, it has been reduced to another fashionable statement in world of increasing waning conjecture. Only a handful would toy with the idea of hanging the proverbial boots to seek self discovery let alone do it. Picture giving up the groupie love, Vip tickets at the next Safaricom Jazz festival, and all the other comforts that come with the Kenyan Celeb status to go back to shags to ‘kunyua chai’ from tin cups at maombolezi as you watch your star find its brim, all in the quest to find that elusive inner you. Now that’s hard stroke to master. It takes brass ‘canolis’. Looking forward to the next article.

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    1. kaplong…….break it down….kap+long…..really sounds far… doesn’t it. but don’t bother much, it’s a lovely place. am sure Biko liked the place. I also met a lovely lady there….

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      1. Lovely interview..Have read it!
        Glad to have found his blog.
        I think I’ve binged on all of Biko’s posts when insomnia hits me up at 2:00am..Now I’ll binge on all of Oyunga’s stories when insomnia hits. Good stuff!

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        1. Hehe. Two am people should just form a community already. Kwanza reading biko’s posts from 2012 and way back. Aaaarrhhh. Its like lovely ancient refined coffee with an aroma.

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        2. Thought I was the only one who binges on his work. Biko and The Magunga will make any insomnia ridden night a good night.

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  1. Spent most of the time waiting for a career in anthropology not knowing he lived as a writer recording the human condition. How true!
    “Life is actually what happens when we are busy trying to make other plans” – Allen Saunders.
    Oyunga is the man with the life lessons. He kinda seems to have all of it figured out by now. I mean he knows that no writer ever thinks they’re really a writer. And the little fame that hazes and clogs the actual persona of bloggers. They write exceptionally when no one is reading them once their name trends over the inter-webs, and they get 50 retweets in Twitter A they suddenly become the opinion makers, and write from their butts.
    I found this article refreshing much.
    Good read.

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  2. “Always value yourself, put in the work and remember whatever life throws at you, happiness is a choice. In the end we attract who we are, not what we want.” Quite profound. Nice piece Biko

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    1. The man is reflective. They talked from 6:30 to 9pm. So I think Biko was spoilt for choice in what to write to us. And I personally find this article very new life. You read it then you pause and rethink over it as you reflect over your life.

      And that didnt happen to you then you should go finish your homework and wash your uniform…

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    2. Hahaa, you want some drama, donge? Like highlighting ‘major’ failures, maybe go into details about the accident he had and what not. But that is not the focus of this story, Oyunga has chosen to dwell on the lessons and it’s his story. Sit and listen.

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    3. “Vanity and emptiness.” he shoots. It’s only when you have no substance inside you that you would want to mop up hype outside.”

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  3. Self awareness is critical in any stage of a Man’s Life and when it comes to marriage Its the small things that matter.

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  4. Wow! At the master’s feet. Biko I remember your first story and commending Pala for it. And he was gracious enough to tell me that it was you who wrote the article and not him. Yes, man talk was synonymous with Pala and either the editors did not put your name or it was my assumption that it could only be Pala’s article.
    I take his advice for the 30s woman seriously, now that I am there. I could be one of the late bloomers, so far so good.

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  5. Good read, always been curious to know how you and Oyuga Pala met… and these 40’s stories, there timing is just perfect :). By the way,Biko this is how we sit through all your stories…..”I’m so pressed but I ignore it. I will not be controlled by my bladder, ”
    http://www.shesatomboy.com

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  6. Oyunga says he finds the today men very pretentious and they struggle to live up to some ideals.Well, I think those are two different things.When you really want to live up to some level of ideals,and you make an effort,and you try, does that really make you pretentious?Does that mean we are not supposed to have men who are polished and cultured ?Well,it depends on how you view it.
    Good read.

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    1. To some extent, yes. See, ladies have set the bar above our heads. So we have to jump kidogo to hit it… As we do that, we float in the air. How can keep your confidence when you have no grip Teryl?

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  7. The gonzo humor and lessons in this piece is just too real. Though it is always hard for a student to write the story of the master you have done this piece serious justice ” Bwana Biko” hehe. I used to skip the love and relationships part in Sat-mag and head straight to the Man Talk column by one Oyunga Pala just to be taught on how to be a man. His satire was and still is very sharp. Thank you Mr Pala.

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  8. Oyunga Pala has been there since Treetop and Blueband ya Kadogo. He’s a legend, I feel like I want to read more about him.

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  9. Sharp shooting women make great conversationalists,especially if they are also witty.If she can speak her mind,she will be a wife worth your cows.You will never have to guess what she means.

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    1. I love having straight forward conversations. Deep and insightful. But unfortunately not everyone can handle such women, but when you find a man who lives by the same lines like Pala, then the cupid hit you right. Because that is the dream.

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  10. “Now I normally wish boils on people who call me “Bwana Biko” because I sound like am a school bursar in some school in Kaplong”

    Hahahahaha. Great read!

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  11. I remember when I first saw Biko’s article on satmag’s Man Talk and lo and behold Oyunga Pala had varnished. I was so angry that Oyunga had not consulted us and had left us all orphaned and all. Then Biko started his thrill and I find myself looking for all his articles including the one on the Kenya Airways’ magazine. You two are my best writers with Owaah moving up the ladder stealthily.

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  12. Oyunga Pala..the man who made the Saturday Nation a must buy for me.. One thing though it’s clear that the student has become a master of his own …. Good work Niko!

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  13. Oyunga Pala..the man who made the Saturday Nation a must buy for me.. One thing though it’s clear that the student has become a master of his own …. Good work Biko!

  14. Very insightful piece.my best parts are:-
    Ladies-always value yourself, put in the work and remember whatever life throws at you, happiness is a choice.
    Men-Spend your 30s being curious. Ask yourself, what is my purpose. Do it early
    Marriage-How uncomplicated it is. It’s the small things that count, never the big ones.
    Thanks Biko I have read a number of articles he has done and am glad to have come across this article on Oyunga Pala. All the best in your life and marriage.

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  15. Inspiring. I read mantalk in my teenage and early 20s. Come to think of it, his writing shaped my thinking and perceptions.
    Then i met and lived in the same village with Oyunga, can’t explain the experience. Was teaching in a girl school next to his home, bought items from the Mum’s shop… Nice to here he married…

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  16. I always had the impression that people should have discovered themselves by the time they were turning 30. And by 30, people should have defined and developed their career. I appreciate the 40s series because I now realise that the 30s should be spent discovering and building oneself. Then at 40, life can “begin”!

    I like Pala’s words,” whatever life throws at you, happiness is a choice”.

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  17. This is beautiful. I have missed Oyunga Pala for so long. It’s his cynicism, sarcasm and satire that I loved about his articles. He made me laugh….. Have a great life knife…..

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  18. ‘Always value yourself, put in the work and remember whatever life throws at you, happiness is a choice. In the end we attract who we are not what we want.’ Amazing piece Biko.

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  19. Oyunga Pala always made me mad whenever I read his Mantalk column but I would still come back to read another article every week because he had great penmanship. Glad to know the years have mellowed him out LOL.

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  20. Lovely article.Loved reading Man Talk with Oyunga pala.You made my stomach grumble with the steak,chicken and wine…mmm

  21. Lovely article.Loved reading Man Talk with Oyunga pala.You made my stomach grumble with the steak,chicken and wine…mmm

  22. I haven’t read much of Oyunga Pala’s articles but this post clearly tells me the kind of a person and writer he is. Besides if he was Biko’s teacher and Biko is passionate and compelling,then he must be truly great.

    I liked this the most.“You know, I can’t see those as regrets but lessons during hard times. It’s during those hard times that you experience the greatest growth. I had my biggest lessons and growth when I was out of work and in shags.”

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  23. In your 30’s you have these relationship ‘rules’; a chic can’t do this, a chic can’t do that, if a chic crosses this line it’s a wrap etc. In your 40’s you realise that some things are fluid, that too much ego isn’t worth much

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  24. Hi Bwana Jackson Biko :-)! This was a very interesting read. Can I just say this 40s series idea is profound? Very rich lessons. The wisdom of the age is something we should all pursue in our youth, and this is a great avenue to do that.

    A bit of feedback, I think the heart button will be more effective at the bottom of the post, that way, when one finishes reading the post, they can heart right after without having to scroll back up. Cheers!

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  25. Man!! I had a serious crush on Oyunga back when I was in high school. How I looked forward to Saturdays so I could rush to the library and read a dose of mantalk.

  26. Beautifully succinct. That’s how I always describe his writings when ‘pushing’ one of his pieces to wary friends & acquaintances. That and the fact that, OP will always, ALWAYS keep it classy. Even when I didn’t agree with him I always felt he was someone, one (regardless of gender) could have a genuine conversation with; all preconceived notions left at the door…His writings now? They have the feel of cellar wine; rich, to be sipped and turned over & over in one’s mind.

    He sounds like a beautiful man. And I envy (truth be told) the inner freedom he possesses. Rock on, OP.

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  27. Why do I think there’s more we need to know about Pala? This man is great, just like his writing and we need to pierce into his life and snoop on anything in there… The Knife cannot just leave us hanging, he deserves a book if Biko cannot write everything on him… Big up Biko for making our Tuesdays fulfilling.

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  28. “What has surprised you most about marriage?” I ask.

    “How uncomplicated it is. It’s the small things that count, never the big ones. It’s saying good morning. It’s opening for her the door when she is leaving the house. It’s asking her if she wants water when you go to the kitchen to get water for yourself. It’s fixing for her the mosquito net when she is about to get to bed. It’s saying thank you and please. It’s checking in with her and saying you will be late. Courtesy.”

    so true…

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  29. “Vanity and emptiness.” he shoots. It’s only when you have no substance inside you that you would want to mop up hype outside.”

    Enough said

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  30. The foodie descriptions..Torture..
    Deep thoughts from ‘the knife.’
    It’s pretty cool when someone considered a celeb doesn’t let that get to their head, because at the end of the day we are all mere mortals who eat and piss the same.
    Certified Asiaphile here. South East Asia’s intensity fascinates. It’s a region far too spectacular to be sampled in sips and stops. Not only so but it’s a paradise of sorts for the budget backpacker. I sometimes wish our continent had that draw, but travelers complain that traversing the African continent is not seamless and it is not cheap.
    Shags is cool and relaxing; plus you realize the air quality is quite good. I hope one of these days, I can be a villager so long that someone says, “yaye, jo dala, please give up your seats for jo’Nairobi!

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  31. Always value yourself, put in the work and remember whatever life throws at you, happiness is a choice. In the end we attract who we are, not what we want.

    Perfect advice for a lady in their early 30’s, thanks Oyunga for that!

  32. “In your 30’s you have these relationship ‘rules’; a chic can’t do this, a chic can’t do that, if a chic crosses this line it’s a wrap etc. In your 40’s you realise that some things are fluid, that too much ego isn’t worth much.” ABSOLUTELY!

  33. Great read. The mistake about a writer giving his back to the room, maybe Oyunga played you and being a seasoned writer, naturally took the position facing the room… 🙂
    Wisdom comes with age. It’s great to learn from those who have gone before us. He’s to living, loving and continuously learning.

  34. Man talk…. talked to me more often than not I wanted to throw stones at the talk…. then I was curious to meet the man… now I have a glimpse at Pala….. thanks chocolate man

  35. You guys are just brilliant I read oyuga papa’s articles then and now it’s you Biko I LOVE you guys to bit continue with the good job and God bless you both

  36. “You know, I spent my life waiting for a job as an anthropologist, little did I know I was living it as a writer recording the human condition.”……what better way to end the article? Am loving the stillness with this forties series, this men know their stuff, but its worth noting they had their seasons of being lost, a bit clueless and careless and maybe its a note for the ladies too…..this men, sigh

  37. Used to love reading Oyunga Pala’s work and am glad i can now catch up on his blog (didn’t know about it till now, thanks guys). As always awesome read Biko.

  38. Oyunga Pala, Okech Kendo, and Rose Lukalo ( the Head of Media Policy Centre) have contributed immensely in the print industry. ManTalk; I liken it to America’s Daily show. Biko you’re like Trevor Noah, and him Opala, the no-nonsense John Stewart.
    That piece on fame and celebrity struck it right. And I is not limited to writing, even in the Music industry, artists sell Vixens…it is lime they breed them. I wish we can All be free to do great things without media knocking in our doors

  39. …..young writers who only write when inspired, Rhoda’s deadlines didn’t move, inspiration or not. We have to do our best whenever and wherever. Great work

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  40. Oyunga Pala!! Bn askin ma’self where this dude disappeared to…misd jis articles so much they helpd shape my thinking to some extent…nice to hear he finally bowed out of the bachelor’s club. I was convinced he was never going to surely time changes a lot in pple

  41. Biko am proud bro I lov the fact that u stuck with journalism….back in high sch I thought I was cut out for the 4th estate but cjui kuliendaje??? Though am onto sthg else I still maintain my penchant for writing

  42. Really? Lol
    ” I’m so pressed but I ignore it. I will not be controlled by my bladder, I tell myself. I’m the boss of me.”
    I think this is the best way you could have honored your master.

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  43. I’m guilty of comparing Oyunga & Bwana Biko (ducks). I thought I’d never get over Oyunga ditching us. But here I am, happy to have read both.
    It’s great that I find something enriching in each story. Today’s is how marriage can be made simple.

  44. By far the best I have read of the 40s series. I am an ardent reader of both Bikozulu and Oyunga Pala and an aspiring writer.

    Thank you Biko for always making my Tuesdays. Always looking forward to your posts.

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  45. I can say i got my first rate relationships education from OP.I still have some of the masterpieces from this legend which I like reading from time to time.Frankly I’m still hangovered with your writing from that era.Mantalk will always be synonymous with OP and for Biko I have accepted that it is in this blog [not mantalk] that you will always cut everyone’s grass.

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  46. Oyunga once wrote an article titled ‘The invincible man’. The article was so profound to me because it resonated with me at the time. I still remember it clearly 10 years later.

  47. I have read and will read this story again. the advise for women in their thirties……Oh my! I couldn’t agree more. For indeed we attract who we are and not what we want.

  48. Frivolous complicated lives are symptoms of vacuous living in the shallow end.
    The deeper you delve into the core of life issues the simpler you make your own life.

  49. My take home ……………… ”Always value yourself, put in the work and remember whatever life throws at you, happiness is a choice. In the end we attract who we are, not what we want.”

    Oyunga Pala is a shujaa.

  50. I love it! I don’t usually comment after reading but i must say this is inspiring. Especially to the young men. There’s absolutely no hurry in marriage. But don’t waste your early thirties…use the years to discover yourself!“People don’t give themselves the luxury of exploring life before they decide to marry,” he continues. “ As Africans we are seen to be irresponsible if we put off marriage to when we are ready. I think we should be allowed to find ourselves first no matter how long it takes before we decide to marry.” Refreshing i must say
    On the hindsight, do these young men/boys even have time to read remarkable pieces like these?

  51. After reading this, I can rightfully declare that the past five years of my writing journey have been a mere test run. Pardon the pun.

    “Now you have young writers who only write when they feel inspired,” he scratches the air in quotation marks. “

    Truth be told, I used to write when I had the inspiration. But being an ardent follower (and student) of Biko I decided to master the art of deadlines. It has not been easy.

    I hope that in a few years time I shall be the one interviewing Biko.
    God bless the man that is Oyunga. God bless Biko.

  52. The Knife! I remember those days with nostalgia. Saturdays were not Saturdays without reading Oyunga Pala and this would be the talk in salons whole day. Although he was kind of a mystery I later got to see him on a TV talk show, such an unpretentious personality
    I always get the feeling that very soon we will get to see Biko on TV!

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  53. Oyunga Pala always refreshing! I am keen follower of his blog , a gem full of mature writing. His writing has evolved from his days at man talk, where most of the time he came across as a chauvinistic, though, this did not stop us from reading the column religiously!!!

    1. That’s what she said!!

      I thought coming late here would help me get a fine tuned piece!

      Did our editors take leave?
      The stand in guys didn’t do a good job, but all the same, worth my weekly 3 KMs fitness exercise to the only cafe in the district and sitting, waiting for a Pentium 4 computer with its well rounded backsided cream/white(i can’t now tell the real color) monitor to free up.

      Today no one kicked the wire connection and they just acquired a new stand by generator.

  54. I’ve read Oyunga Pala article and it’s amazing. I wonder……
    Biko, how does it feel reading about yourself on your mentors blog?

  55. Good read, as always and this part, right here, is so true
    “How uncomplicated it is. It’s the small things that count, never the big ones. It’s saying good morning. It’s opening for her the door when she is leaving the house. It’s asking her if she wants water when you go to the kitchen to get water for yourself. It’s fixing for her the mosquito net when she is about to get to bed. It’s saying thank you and please. It’s checking in with her and saying you will be late. Courtesy. I think for me that’s the hallmark.”

  56. Your editors are sleeping…counted 4 errors. One was “Fun” instead of “Fan”
    I love reading your work but people profiles are not your strength.

    1. You ain’t wrong my friend. I noticed them too. Unfortunately my comments on proof reading have not been posted. Don’t know why……in fact, I volunteered to do the proof reading for the love of Her Majesty the Queen and her language

  57. I started reading Pala when I was in primary school that guy shaped my reading habits. Sincerely I would have hang my father if he never showed up with Saturday paper. Biko when you meet Pala again tell him I hit my English exams papers straight A’s ,primary and high school,he inspired. On a side note, bait Caroline Mutuku,she is old matual for this 40’s series, and please be brutally honest with the questions and the write up here, ‘we’ want her viceral thought here. keep up chocolate man , you’re one of the few literature geniuses I can read under a couple of neat doubles and never feel the need to burn the houses, in short, you’re writing is amazing

  58. What a great piece and I didn’t want it to end
    You definitely did justice to it and I must say, writing is one of the greatest forms of art and you embody it fiercely.#ForeverTeamBiko

  59. Sometimes I put what I really want to write aside and write what people would love to read instead, and when my peers laud the articles it does get to my head, which laughable because it is a blog I just started the other day.

    The one thing that I am carrying away from this post os to never believe my own hype.

    As a young writer I am glad there is somebody who has had all these experiences in the writing sphere (Oyunga) and someone who can articulate it (Biko) so that as myself and other young writers begin this writing journey we may know what to look out for and not repeat the same mistakes.
    God bless both of you.

  60. Back in the day when I had time to go through the whole magazine I would always look forward to OP column every week. He is one deep writer who has writing blood. I had never thought of searching for his blog but now I have thanks to you Biko.
    Tuesdays are not for me anymore, life is going too fast for me on weekdays but I make sure to give this blog the weekend with the quiet and all the time. Plus I have to read all the comments haha. Just sitting here all week waiting for all the stupid and inspiring comments.
    In my 20s and I’m feeling kind of lost…shock on me now that I know I could have to wait 20 more years to know myself. Deep insights here thanks Biko.
    I second Ghost Reader here who has suggested that you interview Carole Mutoko, and hey Kalekye too.

  61. i remember in my twenties looking forward to mantalk on weekends
    i am still in discovery mode now in 30s thanks biko

  62. …that stuff about risking it all to get what you want?That’s what really roasts my mutura!
    Beautiful piece my good man.beautiful piece!

  63. “ Men now feel the need to keep an impression, an ideal that our women want of them. It’s like there is a behaviour code going around and it’s our women to be blamed because now they demand for men of means and men of class.”

    Am like 20 years away from qualifying to be on the 40 series but I have to say this affects us to the lowest level of our society. We are expected to conform to certain ways that don’t define us as men. Thank you OP for everything, the few times I managed to get hold of your articles while growing up were really perspective changing in the way I approached life.

  64. God, I’ve made it all too complicated. That’s what I thought when I stared down at that soup, devastated by its regularness—by its very soupness. These days, the conditions for me to enjoy a hamburger are contingent on the bun having sesame seeds and astrological order and my menstrual cycle so that I won’t spit it into the sink or sneer at the person who made it for me. These days, I can’t put butter on bread without the bread having a texture to it, and I can’t eat vanilla ice cream unless there is something to bite like a chip or an almond in it. These days, if I am going to eat a vegetable soup, it has to be a vegetable soup that defeats ISIS and fades liver spots and cures belly fat, a vegetable soup that will send people screaming into streets like a postwar victory parade, grabbing women and kissing them and throwing babies in the air and catching them with big whoops. I will never enjoy simplicity again; it will never be good enough for me. I require so many more ingredients; I require so much more technique. I need to be danced for and entertained. I have made the region of my delight a tiny head of a pin. Did anyone tell me that it would be this exhausting to get older?

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  65. “What do you think the celebrity culture now is founded on?” I ask ensnaring him.

    “Vanity and emptiness.” he shoots. It’s only when you have no substance inside you that you would want to mop up hype outside.”

    I loved this so much… Bless you Oyunga

  66. Oyuga Pala. The anonymous Man talk writer… Yes I read his articles faithfully and I always had a face to the name.. Am sure my imaginery face and the real one dont match.. Hahahah.. Nice article

  67. Oyunga Pala. The anonymous Man talk writer… Yes I read his articles faithfully and I always had a face to the name.. Am sure my imaginery face and the real one dont match.. Hahahah.. Nice article

  68. It’s the small things that count, never the big ones. It’s saying good morning. It’s opening for her the door when she is leaving the house. It’s asking her if she wants water when you go to the kitchen to get water for yourself. It’s fixing for her the mosquito net when she is about to get to bed. It’s saying thank you and please. It’s checking in with her and saying you will be late.

    “””””How i wish my EX would see this””””””””””

  69. Hello Biko. I love these 40’s series. Its inspiring and educational. I love Oyung’s advise to find yourself before marriage. You attract what you are not what you want. Amen to that

  70. I’m an ardent fan who never comments, simply because I’m always star struck each time I read you. And this here isn’t a comment either, just an appreciation for keeping me occupied in my free time and inspiring me when I need a power boost! I’m an addict, and anyone who knows me knows this. Enough with my empty talk. Thank you Bwana Biko (I should have written that name in Font 72, caps)! Let me go get my boils checked.