By Grace. That’s how they arrived at this point. A deep common consciousness pervaded the three of them, reflected clearly in their nonchalant faces: Easy, genuine smiles; affirming abstract understandings and upright, cool, calm and collected demeanours.  Their cumulative age, one hundred and sixty-five years, to be exact, intertwined many stories between the three men. Mũhoreri, the eldest of them, was now approaching his eighty fourth year on planet earth.[1] His soft forehead muscles and his snow-white hair betrayed an inner vigour from the past that was muffled in the present. His face bespoke courage and a gentle spirit. He did not use a walking stick though he leaned forward slightly, his right hand tapping his knees every so often with the palms of his hands, his shoulders moving to and fro, particularly when he spoke. His silent gaze reflected a deep sense of ease. Mũũgĩ, his son, was fifty-six years strong. Stronger and physically healthier, his signature moustache in place just above his generous lips indicated that he was a son of Africa. His face reflected the many roles he had played in life and his real wealth was more than skin deep. A simple black jacket sat comfortably on a bright blue collar-shirt with vertical stripes, tucked into a pair of jeans with his feet ensconced in maroon moccasins.  He was comfortable with his own style. Mũũgĩ was approaching his sunset years, the head of a family that had enjoyed a certain degree of progress. He glanced at the young man sitting next to him and smiled, as if they had known each other for many years. Indeed, they had. Nyaga, his son, was twenty-six years old, his life ahead of him. He smiled in return, exposing an immaculate set of white teeth, a testament to his youth.[2] Dreadlocks draped over his back, an identification he proudly wore, knotting together his African roots. The elderly in his society observed him with intensity, detecting, rather prematurely, the vibrant Rastafarian culture in his otherwise calm demeanour. At times this scrutiny irritated him. He doubled his efforts to prove that he was a young man with dreams that were valid. His face was smooth, and without blemish or contortion. His gait resembled a giraffe, and the tone of his skin, soaked in dark chocolate. Though barely three decades strong, he had accumulated many stories, or so he thought. His zeal for life reflected the respective stages in which these men found themselves, and yet here they were, in the cabin of this train at Mwanzo Wa Safari railway station. The day of travel was a Monday morning in the year 2016.

The train bellowed one more time, choking fumes emanating from the roaring engine. This was Africa. For one reason or another, she was always catching up, such at least was the common opinion held by many in distant lands, including Africa herself. If she had a voice, she would say she was misunderstood, a truth only a few people affirmed. As such, this “motherland” was held in low esteem by her own sons and daughters. Maybe her grandchildren would become emissaries of invigorated hopefulness and appreciation. “Choo-Choo-Choo” the train quipped, as more and more passengers made their way through the three doors of the cabin, set equidistant from each other on the train’s side to accommodate the few passengers that embarked on this journey. By the look of things and judging by the number of faces, this journey was for a select but diverse minority, yet those on-board seemed rather excited about the journey as well as the destination and the prospect of exotic sites. In fact, they themselves had always tried to sell this exhilarating trip to everyone they knew. They anticipated a refreshing and final stop, the beginning of eternity. Mũũgĩ looked at the catalogue held in his sausage-like fingers. It had the words “a final home for all, each according to the measure of their fruits borne” at the top, and then “hakuna kukonda” (Sheng’ for ‘no worries’). A paragraph and a selection of photographs adorned the first page, narrating day-to-day realities. Starving children, ruthless leaders, intellectual bigots, literature masterpieces, contrasting cultural conundrums, musical maestros, and an assortment of technological textures. All were juxtaposed side-by-side. Africa was at the fore-front of writing the story of the latter burgeoning technological era, reflecting her unique qualities and characteristics. She was intent on telling a different story. Nyaga was gazing at the third page. Despite the pictures of the malnourished children that he had glanced a few minutes ago, he perceived that his continent was on the verge of something new. He could be part of a story which he knew was in his hands. Such was his characteristic spirit. He was deeply self-driven. Here were photos of middle-aged mothers smiling gallantly; towards the bottom of the page, a young couple was holding arms; a lady with a slightly darker toned face, spherical eyes, and graced with an elegant Africa-print headscarf; and a man with a gaping pierced ear. Together, these images comprised a portrait of the new Kenya, where communities were more of a celebration than a battleground. The highway in the background of the portrait seemed almost futuristic, with its intertwining underpasses and overpasses as in an intricate puzzle. That was the future, an equitable society, a developed nation, devolved power with a prospering and proud African spirit. As Mũhoreri looked at Nyaga’s face and the portrait, he smiled and wondered whether to pose his question: ‘Do you know?’ At the back of his mind, Nyaga knew that this composite portrait might not come true. He was sceptical. He was aware that his father, and grandfather had dreamt of these grand things, and this kindred spirit. It appears the dream had eluded both generations, materially and aesthetically. He sensed that this tension had been encountered at different times in people’s lives, that the issues and the battles were somehow similar, only that the names of the wars and the weaponry different. He was thinking about Wangari Maathai’s autobiography, Unbowed, which affirmed his thoughts – the environmentalist’s journey of transforming the nation, and the changes that were going on through her life and her country’s journey. However, he cast aside those thoughts, and decided instead to insert the new story of his generation whenever the opportunity presented itself. From his broad reading background, together with his recent decision, he anticipated what needed to be done and how his life would unfold. Mũũgĩ seemed to agree. He was happy. He knew only too well that the same fate awaited them all. They were all made of the same substance, literally. The same blood ran in their veins and water was too thin to dilute it. His eyes enlarging, he suddenly beamed at the thought that something rather precious was common to all the people in the train. The stories in the catalogue had sketched the tapestry rather well.

The final page was a sight to behold. Notwithstanding that all that glitters is not gold, what he beheld on page four was sure to entice the salivating beholder. It seemed to contrast deeply with all the previous pages. Indeed, page three had been better than page one, but page four resounded with deep meaning for the three men in aisle number seven. They all knew that the past three pages reflected the world they lived in but page four affirmed the common spirit that united them. It seemed to set them free, for a few seconds, from the thoughts of the world which they knew all too well. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away,” read the top of the page. At the bottom of the page was the phrase, “I am making everything new!” In the middle was imagery which Mũhoreri, Mũũgĩ and Nyaga had read earlier. The profound joy, peace and harmony that the destination promised defused any prowess of their imagination. Many people had tried to construct such a perfect society in times past. In pursuit of knowledge and imagination, Nyaga had read about a few of them. These included great personalities such as Plato, Thomas Moore, H. G. Wells, great civilizations such as the Mali Empire, and movies such as Star Trek and in recent times, the Venus Project. Yet, for one reason or other, the older projects had all failed. Some remained only as figments of imaginations. Yet from the depths of his soul he recognized this destination, in a manner of knowing that defied abstract logic. It was what every man, every woman, every child and every older person had been searching for. He could feel it. It had been revealed to him after the new choice he had made, with which he now found himself. He had not regretted making that choice. Together with the two men sitting next to him, he knew without a doubt that the journey ahead would be faced with difficulty. That said, he was at ease. He could barely contain his emotions. Each passing day had been a discovery of new truths, about himself, about his friends, about the world, about history, about spirituality and most importantly, about the One who was to make everything new. Neither he nor anyone else in the train could put into words what he was feeling. All had tried. Some had succeeded. Some had not. It was life as they all knew it. By grace, their lives would forever be intertwined.

[1] Mũhoreri – The peaceful one; Mũũgĩ – The wise one

[2] Nyaga comes from Mwene Nyaga, one of the traditional references to the God of the Agĩkũyũ. The name references Mt. Kenya because of its white parch like the Ostrich (snow-cap).

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