Katana On Trial

People need a villain and they need him perhaps more than they need a hero. They need someone to point a finger at and say, ‘That one is the reason things are not working in my life.’ That’s why evil gets so much press because ultimately people want it. Need it. Crave it.

But I am not the villain in this story, sure I will do some bad things, but really I am the hero of this story, of course, that depends on the stuff you think your hero should be made of. If you expect me to fly around in red underwear putting out fires around the world, you might be disappointed. I am talking about everyday choices, mistakes, and karma.

Where are my manners? Let me introduce myself. My name is Katana, I am 29 years old and an only child to Sara and Mateo. Like most Kenyans, I was not born into a well-off family. I was born and brought up in mashambani. A small town in Baringo County called Churo. So small that it had one shop, a primary school, and a pub that transformed into a posho mill most of the time.

Alcohol was a hard sell in Churo not because there were no takers—God knows they would take it on credit if you allowed them but even when they paid, the money did not stick around because everybody knew everybody.

If a husband or son showed up home drunk the wife or the mother would be knocking on the Posho Pub the next morning complaining to Njoro the owner, that what was spent was money for school fees, medicine, or clothes for the kids. Njoro wanting to keep the peace would return the money or put it as a downpayment for maize flour.

But enough about Njoro, this story is not about him even though he plays a part in it. Back to me. Did I mention that I wasn’t any good at school? I was never the child whose parents would say admiringly. ‘That’s our son, he is so bright, he will be a doctor someday.’ In fact, I was one of those students that were never punished for coming to school late, because really it never made a difference in my grades; if I was early, late, or didn’t show up at all.

My mother Sara, a stay-at-home mom, who was in her mid-fifties and who busied herself with collecting firewood and scrapping together our meals so much so that her back was now bent was always encouraging me even with my poor grades. ‘Katana, you have a brain on your shoulders,” she always reminded me in my mother tongue. “It’s not a brain for books but it’s still a brain. Sungura mjanja,” she would add before going back to her chores.

My father Mateo was an entirely different story. He was an ageing man of seventy and the breadwinner of the family. A farmer who smirked so often his face was folded. Perhaps, I exaggerate his profession by calling him a farmer.

The land we owned could hardly fit our mud house so he would get jobs to till the neighbor’s land. After I finished primary school and it started becoming quite clear that I wouldn’t go to high school he started pushing me toward Njoro’s Posho Pub. In his mind, he probably thought that being Njoro’s assistant was an upgrade from tilling the neighbor’s soil.

I might have chosen this path if perhaps there was a girl looking at me but I suppose even in Churo where the cost of living is pretty low. A class eight dropout whose highest calling was mtu-wa-mkono for a Posho Pub was a hard pass; So Sheila ran to Timo the mechanic who fixed one car every month, Winnie to Fredrick the charcoal burner, and Beatrice and Beatrice hurt, opted to be Njoro’s second wife.


This will be a continuing series on this blog. Call this Episode 1. Read episode 2 here.

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image credit: samuel aboh


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