Kenyan Stories

The Day of Calling

He was expecting dark clouds. Those large balls of grey cotton in the sky would guarantee him and his clan an extra month in that place. Lenana had led his people to the rolling hills of a place they called,upon their settlement, Rongai – unpronounceable to other communities. He had grown used to that, being part of a community that effortlessly gave names to new locations. Laikipia – treeless plain, Eldore – stony river, Illuwasinkishu – area for grazing. Names that remained even after they left those lands that would thereafter be taken up temporarily or permanently by other communities.

Olorgesailie was a dusty settlement that his great grandfathers had once settled in before they set journey for another home. It was where his maternal grandmother was born. The place named after her father, Eh-Olorgesailie; an elder spoken of so highly in Maasai tales who convened meetings atop a mountain. It was said that it took many moments under the sun’swatch to climb the mountain. Rongai was rolling hills, about a day away from Olorgesailie,a partly deserted land with emerging trees that Lenana saw great potential in.

Kenyan Stories

If his timing was right, it would take a week for the rains to come. He called to Enkai, his hands raised in show of praise and submission,his chin pointing to the landscape before him, his eyes closed for fear of challenging Enkai. His lips were like sand; hard, unfeeling of anything. His tongue swollen from dehydration. It had been three days since his last drink of water. His clan had resorted to fermented goat milk and sugarcane wine from the Taita of Taveta.

Years before Lenana’s father passed, he told Lenana a story in Maa. One day the Maasai will settle in one land, he said. A land we will be satisfied with. One we will name, fight for and emerge victorious over. A place we will be remembered for. The summary? It would be of ever present fertility – Enkai’s love for them. Close to Enkai’s place of eternity.

Lenana opened his eyes after minutes of silence. The wind had begun to smack his face with such vigour that he needed to see for himself whether Enkai had painted the clouds grey. Instead the skies were clear, an outline of violet and pink on one end where the sun stamped, and on the opposite end, the crystal-like blue that reminded Lenana of the Turkana lake in the north. Turkana, synonymous with his mother’s voice; lullabies, songs of games with beautiful harmonies. Turkana, his mother’s name.

Through those recollections, he heard her voice flow in the wind as it had when he was younger, effortlessly from the back of her throat. Lenana smiled. Something good to feel at Rongai.

This thought invited him to take a stroll. A little furtheraway from the clan. Maybe, maybe he could find Enkai – or, Enkai could findhim. Maybe he’d find something new to take as his own, more property. Valiant Maasai-ism. He walked for two moves of the sun. When it was directly overhead he had reached a clearing. A mass of still water presented itself. It remained silent, as though it harbored secrets, with grass shoots sprouting here and there and in groups in some places of the dark water. The wind was playful foronce. Calmer, swirling lightly around Lenana’s outstretched earlobes and swishing the ends of his plaited hair. Enkai! Lenana said in almost a song. Enkai eeeehhii Enkarre Nairobi.

He waited for response. Still not a single dark cloud insight. His left leg raised to his right’s knee. A spear in his left hand and a staff in his right. Lenana waited. More intently, the croaks of frogs and choruses from crickets gave for entertainment.

…. And Enkai will always provide, always protect,

Always speak to his people.

He never abandons, doesn’t leave.

When we fall from his grace, he forgives and reminds.

He reminds us to learn from our transgressions.

These are some of the things that make him Enkai.

Another of his father’s words – a poem. Lenana first heard of it the day after his initiation. A gift of words to welcome him into manhood.Words for Lenana to carry in his heart, that Enkai played a role in the continuity of life as a man. Thereafter, Lenana was introduced to private walks, those said to invite Enkai’s complete presence. To seek wisdom, to pray,to be vulnerable and less of a man – but only for a time. To find new placesand name them accordingly. To find more wives and traders. To expand the Maasai territory.

In the times since, Lenana’s faith in Enkai had wavered. The times he longed for Enkai’s presence, Enkai’s reassurance. Once, he thought he heard a voice, deep in the night when even the wind had gone to sleep. He had sat up then, ready for his calling, ready for Enkai to give command, to certify Lenana’s leadership. Lenana stood up and listened to the wind breathe in and around his manyatta, ready to prove himself worthy. The voice disappeared just as it had come. Lenana returned to his mat. It hadn’t been the day of calling.He closed his eyes and waited for sleep.

Now.

The feeling of desolate soared within Lenana. He longed for Enkai’s presence.

Lenana reverted his attention to the still water. Enkarre Nairobi, he said aloud. Hope of a new place to seek Enkai, he concluded.  

Lenana stood on both feet and turned his back to the swamp,ready to trek back to the hills. The sun was beaming with each passing moment. Spear in hand, gourd of milk secured to his leather belt, Lenana set off. Barely ten steps into his journey he heard the sound from a distance. A full, deep,prolonged cry. Paka kubwa! he exclaimed when the roar made itself known in his mind. Paka kubwa!

Lenana began to tremble, feeling the intensity of the heat, fingers lose against his staff, salty drops lining his forehead and streaming past and into the crevices of his face.

Enkai. Enkai. Saidia Enkai, he cried as he waited for the beast to come into view. Lacking energy to battle.

His breathing grew heavy when he spotted the loose figure of the animal. He tried to think but his attempts crumbled into hallucinations. He saw Turkana, his mother, standing beside him. Heard his father’s voice. He called Enkai. A mere whisper. Tried to lick his lips but the sun wouldn’t allow.

The beast could smell him, he knew that. It roared to terrify Lenana. They both remained still. Lenana waited to take on a cowardly death.

He felt the wind come. Felt his eyes get heavy. Felt the sun’s rays get stronger on his skin. Lenana fell to the ground and gave in to demise.

Enkarre Nairobi – Lenana’s resting place, the place of cool water.