It's yet another of my many birthdays

Birthdays. The more they accumulate the less the desire to acknowledge them let alone celebrate them, and the stronger the urge to postpone them. But you can’t dodge them even though you know that each of them adds to the bundle of years that weighs you down a little more each year. Yes, they keep coming back like a pesky fly to a honeyed bun when what you want is to have a birthday every other year. Or indeed, one five years.

Unfortunately, unless you’re a Malawian footballer, you don’t have the luxury to pick and choose the years in which you’ve birthdays.

I cannot say thanks and no thanks. So I’ve to accept that today the 18th day of September the humdrum of my life has been milestoned by yet another birthday. Just as it was last year, the year before, the year before that and every year in the decades I’ve so far accumulated.

Which means I’ve no choice but to blow out the uncountable imaginary candles on the imaginary birthday cake and make a wish.

But what’s my birthday wish this year? Mmm … let me see.

A Bugatti Veyron perhaps? Nah, unless it came with an equally impressive pot of money. In any case, the Bugatti isn’t just the wow factor but also a synonym for speed. But we don’t have the roads for that, do we? Not when we share them with goats, chickens, market vendors and bicycles laden with bags of charcoal, firewood or pigs. Besides, when they aren’t punctuated by speed humps or potholes, our roads are littered with corrupt cops more interested in gleaning a little something out of your already empty pockets than getting mini-buses driven by drunk drivers who obey no traffic rules and slow moving overloaded lorries and other junks off the narrow roads.

A couple of millions of pieces of paper depicting portraits of dead American presidents into my ever-overdrawn account that I maintain only because it’s a conduit for my stunted pay? Not a bad idea. But nah. It’s ok to dream but dreams ought to be realistic. Being well beyond the sell by date for a gigolo, and not having the looks for it anyway, I don’t think the BMW heiress will be writing me a cheque in this or the next life.

How about the Ministry of Lands offering me a plot of land in one of the prime areas of Lilongwe? That would be nice after all I’ve been submitting multiple applications each year since 1999. But I’ve to be realistic that until I change my mind about bribes and fork out a little extra on top of the registration fees it isn’t going to happen any time soon.

What then? A holiday in the Bahamas, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Seychelles, Cape Town or the French Riviera? Actually not a bad idea but the reality is that if I want to holiday in any of these places, I’ve to save up and save up big. And saving on my emaciated pay from my tight-fisted employer isn’t feasible.

Maybe a candle-lit dinner with an ethereal beauty sitting across the table; our legs entwined beneath it; ogling into each other’s eyes; every time I lift the glass of red one to my lips my eyes taking a lingering detour to her generous cleavage before moving on up and settling on the beautifully sculpted face hosting her tempting chin, luscious lips, angelic smile and fluttering eye-lashes before settling on her natural hair; a miasma of love coursing through our veins; our thoughts barely on the food and drinks but beyond onto my bedroom; our imaginations unwrapping the horizontal desserts that would cap off the night?

Now you’re talking! But judging by what’s gone on in years past, it isn’t going to happen this year nor in any of the years that remain.

What then?

Aha, I’ve got it! Wait for it …

I wish for a president who isn’t a ruler but a leader. A president who realises that he doesn’t have exclusive rights to intelligence and wisdom and therefore listens to his people and not just to bootlicking sycophants from his party. A president who recognises that he’s fallible. A president who doesn’t have an “I don’t care whether you like it” attitude and doesn’t impose his will on his people but instead wins them over to his vision. A president who doesn’t confuse the view of a hundred or so bribed fearful chiefs as being that of the majority of his people. A president who allows all demonstration whether they’re pro government or against it. A president who doesn’t go ballistic and resorts to threats, suspensions, dismissals and arrests whenever a prominent person’s views aren’t in sync with his own. A president who wants to be respected not feared. A country where parliamentarians are free to vote with their conscious not always according to what the president dictates. A president who isn’t nepotistic but awards posts on merit and doesn’t openly ridicule and despise people from a certain region of his country and bangs the door to opportunities right in their faces. Yes, a president whose policies don’t entrench division but fosters unity. A president who doesn’t blast at lawyers who try to explain the law to go back to school. A president who respects his vice president and doesn’t let her become an item of ridicule on the public broadcast channels all in aid of creating a dynasty. A president whose anti-graft body isn’t merely a tool for torturing his opponents into silence but a genuine drive to root out the evil of corruption. A president who doesn’t exploit people and when they’re no longer useful tramples on them and throws them out to the dogs. A president who doesn’t put his wife on the cabinet list even though he himself acknowledges that she isn’t a cabinet minister. A president who doesn’t let road works begin before designs are complete and doesn’t let all contracts for roads construction works be awarded to only one company. A president who acknowledges that even in times of plenty, pockets of hunger can occur in the country because rains can’t be subsidised. A president who doesn’t sweep the streets of vendors only to replace them with Chinese ‘investors’ vending the same counterfeits but in rented shops vacated by Malawians who can no longer compete. A president who isn’t blinded to the rampant underdevelopment in the country by the acquisition of a new wife, a few road works and a donated parliament building. A president who doesn’t insult the majority of his people by toasting the “tremendous progress” with a new flag whose ugly noon day glare spotlights how far Malawi still has to go up the human development index.

It isn’t too much to wish for, is it?

The briefest of monthly visits


Acres and acres of screen space flickers at me and taunts me to populate it with words. Not a patchwork of words, mind you. The screen is daring me to fill it with words strung together to convey to you exactly what’s missing in my life at the moment.

There the problem lies. Tell me, where and how do I find the verbs, adjectives and adverbs to make you feel what I feel? Being no poet, I’m at a total loss for suitably descriptive words. All I can say is that presently my life is in the jaws of an emptiness that’s a prototype …no, that has some connotations of a work still in progress.

Let’s see … ok, let’s say this void is the template on which emptiness in a person’s life is calibrated; the criterion against which loneliness is measured. The …will you help me out here people?

…I give up. After all, my failure to adequately describe the gnawing longing in my heart doesn’t mask the fact that she has me hooked. What’s that clichĂ©? Hook line and sinker, right? It isn’t just a fleeting feeling either. The fact is she’s had me hooked for more years than I care to remember.

Yes, I’m completely taken by her despite the major flaw she has. No, it isn’t a physical flaw. There’s no noticeable chink in her appearance. It’s her character that I’ve problems with. You see, just a few days after coming to visit me she disappears only to reappear a month later. She’s never offered an explanation. And as the years have gone by, I suppose I’ve become used to not expecting any. I’ve grown to accept that I can’t tame let alone completely own her.

Banish her out of my life! Are you certifiably mad? I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t love her but then my very existence depends on her, you see. She may not be my raison d’ĂȘtre but she's probably the reason I'm still alive. Am I making sense?

So life grinds on. Once every month, she sends me a note. Oh, don’t even bother begging because I’m not going to reveal their juicy contents. Suffice it to say that a few days after her note, she appears and everything reverts to normal.

Boy, when she’s around life is good and fun. We go out shopping. We go out visiting places of interest. We go dining and wining. We go out either on our own or with friends. We have friends visit us. Once in a while we even throw parties. Our fisted palms open up resulting in smiling relatives and grateful street beggars.

But as suddenly as she appears she vanishes without even a word, without fail. Sure, I can feel it when she’s about to leave. First the shopping and the outings phase into a dribble before completely drying out.

Perhaps she doesn’t like my lifestyle. You see, when she’s around, I hardly give her any quality home time. We’re either out some place or we’ve friends over at my place. Or maybe she hates my philanthropic nature. But what can I do when a whole village of relatives think I’m a charity organisation.

They’re really funny people, my relatives. They visit without notice and dictate when to leave, irrespective of the day of the month. When they’re ready to leave, they not only expect to be given the return fares. No way! The fares for the trips here are borrowed and the lenders expect their monies back immediately they see my heavily laden relatives arrive back in the village. And I hope you know by now that even when I give them the return trip fare, my relatives can’t leave if I don’t give them money for their wish lists that include soap, sugar, salt, cooking oil, fertiliser and school fees for some young cousins of mine whose faces I can’t even remember having met

I don’t know why she disappears. I really don’t. All I know is you can swear by the regularity of her monthly visits and her an unannounced departures just a few days later

Talking of which, late last month she came. Besides other things she helped me shop for curtains and other furniture items to replace the ones my landlady is planning to take away. We even stocked up the fridge and the pantry. But I suppose the shopping was so tasking she refused to go out with me even once. In fact, she disappeared soon afterward.

And now I’m like a drug addict in the grip of severe withdrawal symptoms. To be frank the days can’t fast forward quickly enough. I’m longing for her next note. Each of her notes always whets my insatiable appetite for her, you know. Just getting that note into my hands, even before I open and read it, would assure me that she would fulfill her monthly visit. It would also give me an indication of how long her stay is likely to be. I can then plan accordingly.

Oh, I forgot to let you in on a secret. For whatever reason she insists I call her monthly missives Salary Slips. She’s crazy, if you ask me. She even has a name for her arrival days, imagine. She calls them pay days.

Monthly Salary, wherever you’re now, I hope you know I miss you so much. Life is dull without you. Being not very good with words, it’s hard for me to explain how unbearably hard life becomes when you go away. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for the few days you spend with me each month but I would much rather you never felt the urge to go away.

My Monthly Salary, I don't enjoy your absences. Not at all. I'm human so even though I don't have a roving eye, I'm still prone to temptation. Just the other day I almost dated Small Business. Luckily for you, she said I lacked a quality she referred to as capital.

Otherwise ...