It started with a question over a cup of tea. It always starts with a question over a cup of tea, doesn’t it? Or any drink in your hand for that matter. Questions we imagine are sober in the moment but whose consequences, months later, will come back to bite us in our remorseful behinds.
Like a bunch of accountants standing around the water dispenser with Styrofoam tumblers of Keringet water in their hands. The hum of worker bees sprawls out in the openness of the office space they are too familiar with; from where they stand, they can spot their coats hanging on the back of their seats. Their days are dull, and they know they will only get duller. What life will be like in the next five years spreads out like an invisible buffet before them. So one accountant will say to the other: These guys will continue sucking the sanity out of us. We need to quit our jobs. We should quit our jobs, yes?
Or it’s the New Year. You are counting down to the New Year. He stands before you and you are looking into his eyes as you mouth those digits with an unnecessarily sexy twist of your lips. Nine, eight, seven… He thinks you are a fucking goddess. Aphrodite herself. Hehhe.
And when you get to one – Happy New Year, you shriek – you will clink your glasses and he will whisper boyishly into your ear: Let’s make a baby, Baby. And because you’ve already had too much to drink and because you think he is so damn sexy for his word play, you will giggle like a little girl then down the drink to the back of your throat before you scurry off into the night. Your giggles float behind you. He will set down his glass, wipe his mouth with the back of his hand then follow you outside.
You won’t know what hit you. Literally.
Rule #15 of the Monk’s Guide to Lasting Happiness says you must never make a decision when you have any drink in your hand. Set it down first before you utter your ultimatum. Rule #16 says you can only do so if you are willing to shed off excess baggage along the way. Whatever that means.
There’s a blinding witchery that comes with making such decisions. A power you don’t believe exists. You imagine that you have the world by the balls in that moment when, in truth, it’s the other way around.
So that day, someone popped a question: “Why don’t we start a chama?” (Ladies, you’ve probably been asked that question more times than you are willing to recall. An epiphany-like moment when one of you wants to take their friendship to the next level of an investment club.)
And because there was tea, and because it was a loose weekend, and because such brilliant questions always demand for more brilliant responses, they all said “Yes”. A unanimous, over-excited “Yes”.
There may have been a ‘Hell yeah’ and ‘Why not?’ and ‘Why don’t we?’, but when it comes at a high pitch from seven kale women huddled together for a cup of tea on a loose Saturday afternoon, it sounds like a ‘Yes’. A thunderous ‘Yes’.
The term ‘chama’ was floated loosely, they would later learn. Because what the women started in the week that followed wasn’t a chama. It was a merry-go-round. A group kitty that every member had the privilege of feasting when it got to her time to sit at the table and eat (catch that pun?).
The first year would be bliss. Everybody was happy. They had chosen wisely. “This merry-go-round is swinging in the right direction,” they’d nod to each other in agreement before the cash checked in to their bank accounts, “we are all swinging in the right direction.” And hell yeah they were.
The fault lines would start to show in the second then third year. There would be squabbling and meddling. The cash would come in late, sometimes not at all. The accountant would cook the books. The secretary would write things in the minutes that had not been said by anyone. Someone would pull another’s wig at a chama meeting. Another would be cursed for being too aggressive. Bitchery. There would be a guerrilla group, and people would take sides. The Chairlady would be too wrapped up in her own personal shit to worry about the impending coup. Women being women.
One Saturday over another cup of tea the top blew off and there was major fallout. Bitter exchanges. Curses and swears. Life enemies were made. The carousel stopped turning. The poison of cash and friendship reared its ugly head. And how’s that for the drink in their hand…?
Everything flat lined.
It would be in their fourth, maybe fifth year that they would reawaken their lost passion to build something of themselves and find each other again; they separated the dilettantes from the diehards. A revamped chama would rise from the ashes. Five diehards. And that’s when they would adopt a spiffy new name. Let’s call it K’Won. Kalenjin Women’s something. (Although I don’t know what that ‘n’ stood for.) And it would be my Mum and K’Won that I would meet once a month after every six months. The merry-go-round matured to monthly meet ups at one of the mamas’ house. I use the word ‘mama’ to paint the picture of trays of chapos and ndaos, thermoses of tea and boisterous laughs amidst the gossip. The women that had remained were still friends, no doubt. The Monks were right.
They made several wise business decisions, plenty of risky moves unexpected for women their age. This wasn’t K’Won chama anymore; this was a bloody investment club. They had a bloody investment portfolio of high-value assets. They had bit off a chunk of the property market and the stock market. Terms like ‘bear run’ and ‘cash-on-cash return’ were traded as easily as ‘screw you, you are too soft’ and ‘pass me the sugar’ were during their meet ups. Who would have ever thought they’d see the day?
I met the women again last November. I hang out in my room listening to music as the meeting went on. They’ve matured now, senior citizens. Their manos tagged along to have chapos and chicken. And they brought wine with them. Ha.
I didn’t hear them discussing any business.