Before I embark on today’s post, I am informed of an error in the post The roots. My grandfather Kipsisei had two wives, not one as I had indicated. His wives were Tapunei and Chepkirong’. This error has been corrected and the post updated accordingly. Just tap on the underlined words and get the updated version.
The earliest formal job I know of is being a cook for a white family whose farm was locally known as Kapkoll in Laikipia. We assume Kapkoll is Calr’s. I do not know at what point he learnt how to drive but I know he drove a tractor and a truck for an Asian employer in Nakuru. It is here an opportunity came up and he joined the Kenya Prison Service as a driver in the late 1960s. He worked hard and was promoted up the ranks, from prison warden to officer in charge. In this capacity he served at Industrial area and Nakuru Medium Prison. By the time I came of age, he was no longer driving professionally. He was a prison warde. I have learnt today however that he really had a passion for it. He was so good at it that he participated in several rally championships and won at least four medals. On a light note, those who know me are aware of my desire to become a rally driver at some future time T. Rally driving is a detail I found out today. All I can say is now I know where that gene comes from.
His stories as driver were of his personal inspiration. He would tell us that while he drove his superior’s children to school, some to university, he would pray that at least that one of his own children would join the university or grow to become one of those people he used to drive around. Not literally. The one who kept coming up was Charles Njonjo and his family. He also mentioned that he drove for several line ministries, but mainly home affairs since that was his parent employer. His superiors motivated him and assisted him as well.
I joined public service in 2010. During project trips, I got the chance to interact first hand with public service drivers. I got a look on their lives, how we, the people they drive around interact with them, how we treat them, how we value or disregard them. I processed their per diem. I gave them their allowances. I learnt of their pay. Some of us are mean, some of us are kind. Some of us are not human. But in a nutshell, I got a peek at what my father went through. He would narrate to us stories of driving dignitaries to Kisumu who would fall asleep, say in Naivasha and wake up say at Molo and demand to be driven back to Nakuru because they wanted Lunch at Midlands, or of those who messed the car and he had to clean it up, because government vehicles are the responsibility of the assigned driver. That was what he went through though. He patiently and diligently did his job. Just like many drivers in the civil service still do. I remember one day, while getting ready to go for a project inspection with my assigned driver, I looked across at him and he did not look so well. So I got into a conversation with him. He told me the challenges he was facing keeping his children in school. I looked at him and told him, “One day, a long time ago, my father was where you are, and well, here I am. Keep doing what you are doing and someday, your children will be where I am or somewhere better.” That made him cheer up a bit. At least he saw hope.
One thing my father was vehement about was we had to become better than him. He did not want any of us to become public service drivers like himself. So he made sure we went to school. School was mandatory in his household. Messing up in school was the biggest crime you could commit. You would be whooped and lectured and the fear of the Lord instilled in you. We had to become better than him. By faith by fire. That was his mantra. And he worked hard to make sure we did, enduring what he had to endure, surviving the hardship. His other statement was, if you fail in life it will not be because I did not try hard enough, it would be because you chose to. We had to become something. We would not fail, at least not under his watch, or if he could help it.
I will also mention that, while he was in formal education, he mentored and opened doors of opportunities in employment for many. He used to say he would help so that when his children got to that space, someone else would take their hands as well. It is a good principle to live by. Give and it shall come back to you. Maybe some of the opportunities that come our way are his kindness coming back to us.
While his career may be one paragraph only, since he worked for few employers, it highlights a life of hard-work, determination, integrity and a lot of zeal. The manifestations of his achievements point at a life of dreaming big and going for those dreams. He gave his life his all. And that is not a bad to way to live life at all.