John was a rather creative character and always won arguments, the type of guys who will always have a final word in any argument. However, he looked frail and was curiously listening to me. It is not easy to advise a guy who was my manager at some point because in his head he still had the mentality that am junior to him in terms of years and everything else. However, knowing his status at that point in time, I felt obliged to just say what I had in mind just to get the feeling that I did something to save the situation.
And so I asked him, “why are you so convinced that life in Taveta will be too hard for you, aren't there happy and rich men there, what is it they do?” He gazed at me and retorted, “my good friend, it is not as easy as it looks. People in the village know that I was a big shot in the Parastatal, I even assisted a few to get employment there. Going back to the village and having nothing to do there would not augur well for me. It is complicated because at the moment I am reliant on my daughter a lot who pays the rent and buys food.” he concluded.
I realized that it was even tougher for me to convince him otherwise. However, I insisted that he had to humble himself, swallow his pride and map out a way out of his quagmire. I told him to compare his current status that seemed to be inviting death and the option of going to the village where he would grow old gracefully watching his grand children grow. After all, the villagers will always talk, whether you are doing well or not. Macho ya chura hayo. After much probing, I realized that he actually owned a 3 acre piece somewhere in Taveta where his wife was residing. The land was idle. He further disclosed that his wife was working in some sisal farm as a farm hand and the last she saw of her was 2 years ago. I jokingly asked him whether he has a side dish of which he laughed uncontrollably and finally said that those things I feel them no more….whatever that meant.
The John I knew at the workplace was a creative guy who would get a solution to all manner of issues. I recounted how he used to motivate us and insisting that we should always think outside the box. I told him that it was his turn to think outside the box. You surely must get a solution to your mess. If you don’t, who will? I reminded him that in life, the biggest issue it to conquer oneself. The biggest stumbling block is what you have fed your mind. It was thus important that you start seeing yourself rising above this challenge.
Analysing his scenario, I made him realize that he was adding no value in his life by hanging around Nairobi where cost of living was really high and of course drinking off his frustrations was tantamount to burying his head in the sand. Realizing that I had no much time left before proceeding to my earlier destination, I posed and asked him the big question. “What do you think are the practical steps that you can take to get things going?”
It took him some hard thinking but he amazingly recounted what he would do. In summary he mentioned the following:
1. That he’d go back to the village, after all he all along knew that he was doing nothing in Nairobi.
2. That he’ll convince the daughter who has been supporting her to give her some capital injection aimed at doing something of economic value on his 3 acre piece in Taveta. Further, the few expected monthly pension amounts would go towards boosting what he’ll decide to do with at the farm and also build a simple house at the farm.
3. Regarding drinking, he said that it would not be easy to stop but he’d at least stop taking the illicit type. Fair enough I thought.
The jokingly I asked him how he’ll deal with the villagers who thought he is a rich big man in Nairobi…He laughed and noted that he’ll distort the truth and tell them that he opted to trade his usual life of big cars and posh life in Nairobi to settling in the village now that he needed a breath of fresh air and to grow old gracefully.
I started feeling like I had achieved something, so after paying the bills, I stood and waved him goodbye but he stopped me and reminded me of the KES 100 he had earlier requested. I had been so engrossed in the conversation and had forgotten that bit. I removed a KES 1000 note, gave him and told him to mind what he had just said regarding the solution to his issues and was quick to remind him that one of the resolutions was to quit illicit brew. With the widest of grins, he said that 1k is more than enough for a few bottles of Tusker.
I took his cell phone number and quickly disappeared into the horizon hoping against hope that I he will take it upon himself to refocus his life and do something meaningful in his sunset years.
How many Johns do we have with us, some are our fathers, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters and mothers? Troubles of the retired who never prepared well in advance. Where I come from, there is a proverb that says something to the effect that a tree is only shaped when it is small. We must plan for retirement and early enough.
In the next post we explore how best we can plan for retirement and actually retireearly.