Dad Breaks Down Outside Bank in Nairobi CBD –

Have you ever cried? Not the little sobs that sneak through when your favourite movie character finally triumphs…or dies. I’m talking about full-blown wailing; the kind that produces tonnes of tears that can drown a tiny bird.

I had one of those as recently as January 4th.

I can’t explain it. My heart (or whatever part of my body responsible for keeping my tears in a leak-proof box) just gave in.

If you happened to be walking past the Co-op Bank branch located along Kaunda Street, right next to the City Hall Annex on the day, you probably saw me.

Co-operative Bank Branch Along Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi. Monday, October 21, 2019.Co-operative Bank Branch Along Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi. Monday, October 21, 2019.

Co-operative Bank Branch Along Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi. Monday, October 21, 2019.

Simon Kiragu

That middle-aged man down on his knees wailing on the pedestrian walkway outside the bank…that was me.

You must have seen that 10-year-old girl dressed in her school uniform with a ‘what on earth is going on’ expression on her face…that’s my daughter Lisa Kavata…or Dr Kavata, as she likes to refer to herself these days (you’ll understand why somewhere down the line).

Needless to say, my heart always does a dozen summersault every time she introduces herself as Dr Kavata.

Back to my wailing episode.

Neither the judgemental looks I got from passers-by nor the gazillion ‘dad you’re embarrassing me’ statements I was getting from Lisa could stem the flow of tears.

A sneak peak into my version of 2020 is all I have to explain why I was ’embarrassing’ my daughter dead in the middle of Nairobi’s CBD.

I lost my better half to the virus on August 27, 2020… I am yet to fully come to terms with this…but some mental health article I came across said talking about it helps…hopefully writing has the same effect.

Mama Lisa was my pillar. She was my best friend. She was the type of person that you’d take to the bloodiest of battles knowing she’d have your back, right down to her last breath.

Ours was the fairy-tale kind of love story. We have, or rather had, known each other our entire lives, having grown up next door to each other in Buru Buru phase 5.

I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed when it came to math back in primary school…let’s just say I was madly in love with the subject, but I was struggling to make it love me back in equal measure.

That’s where the prettiest girl in ‘my world’ stepped in.

If someone had told us back then, (as Daniella struggled to explain how to go about calculating the area of a cuboid) that we’d end up married down the line…‘eeew’ would have been our collective response.

We had always thought of our friendship as the brother-sister kind…then, life happened.

Flashforward to October 31, 2008, and you’d find me at my local church smiling from ear to ear as I watched my bride walking down the aisle.

She had just started out on her first job at a local bank within Nairobi’s CBD. On my part, thanks to her math lessons back in the day, I ended up an architect at one of the top real estate firms in the country.

2 years later, we welcomed our little bundle of joy. Life was bliss.

A mother holding a babyA mother holding a baby

A mother holding a baby

Then 2020 happened.

I’ll spare both you and I from the heart-wrenching details of Daniella’s time in self-isolation. I’m not quite ready to write that down yet. Maybe next time.

It was after this period that my Lisa decided that medicine was her path, and Dr Kavata was her new title.

The pandemic hit our firm hard. Like most companies in the country, layoffs and salary slashes became an inevitability.

Having climbed up the corporate ladder over the years, I was fortunate enough to retain my job.

However, Daniella’s treatment coupled with funeral expenses had bled us dry, financially.

By the time, CS Magoha announced that all schools were set to reopen on January 4th, I was operating on fumes.

I considered borrowing money from some of my closest friends. But ‘rona’ had cut through all our lives like a hot knife through butter.

This led me to option B, apply for a salary advance loan at Co-op Bank and pray that 2021 would turn out to be better.

I applied just before the firm closed for the end of year holidays.

Could I have switched Lisa to a more affordable public school? Yes. Was I willing to do it? No.

I have nothing against our public institutions, her mother and I were both moulded in public schools. However, we made a vow the day she was born.

“We are going to accord her any advantage in life that we could, whatever the cost”.

Plus the back to school salary advance arrangement I had applied for at my bank was as ideal as they come.

As fate would have it, on January 2, I received a call from the bank informing me that my application had sailed through and my account was now funded.

When I stepped into the banking hall 2 days later, with my 10-year-old in tow, emotions overtook me.

As my personal banker helped me transfer Lisa’s school fees directly from my account to her school’s, tears welled up in my eyes.

“Are you ok?” the kind-hearted attendant asked.

“Yeah, it’s all good,” I said, using every ounce of strength left inside of me not to break down in front of all the strangers in the banking hall.

This proved impossible from the moment we walked through the revolving door on our way out.

My tears were a mixture of pure joy at having kept my vow to Daniella, and an explosion of pent up emotions over the year we’d just gone through.

I was able to compose myself a while later…the gazillion ‘dad you’re embarrassing me’s’ thrown my way helped.

“I think kuna kitu imeniingia kwa macho,” I said in my attempt to maintain my Rambo-like persona in Lisa’s eyes, that is a spitting image of her mother’s.

“Don’t cry dad, everything will be ok,” she said. “But pia don’t think I won’t tease you hadi 2022 for crying like a little baby,” she added.

I couldn’t help but chuckle, “wee uliskia wapi nikilia,” I retorted, as we made our way to the car parked on the opposite side of the street.

It was time to head back to school.


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