Sunday, August 3, 2014

THE KHAMALA/SARIKA STORY MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING..

Many years ago as a young journalist I was sponsored - together with three other fellow scribes - to spend a year at the Times of India newspaper in Bombay, India. By the end of our tour, one of us had "married" an Indian girl. I have enclosed the word "married" in quotation marks because none of us three witnessed the wedding, or, any exchange of vows between the two.

Although the petite Christian girl did not travel to Kenya with her spouse - who incidentally was already married at home - I know for sure their love flourished for sometime until the real wife found out about the secret liaison. As I write this, at least one child from that encounter exists in India.

Since those days, I have known a number of Kenyan men married to Indian women. The only difference between the cases I know and the love story of Timothy Khamala and Sarika Patel is that the men in the former instances were educated urbanites already endowed with careers, and even perhaps, worldly wealth.

In contrast, the scenario now trending in our media is of an ordinary man with a nondescript, rural background, who has fallen in love with an educated, polished woman, of a middle class Asian business pedigree. Had Khamala been a man of professional status and residing in one of the posh Nairobi estates - instead of the rustic village environment he is in - this story would not have taken the kind of frenzied dimension it has taken, and the "paparazzi" media would not be camping at Webuye to monitor every minute of this couple's humble life.

It is a fact though that the Khamala/Sarika's is a human interest story. The world thrives on such juicy episodes, and that is why, the mainstream media - here and afar - as well as the social platforms, took the story and ran with it.

For us in Kenya, this story has magically provided a dynamic diversion from the daily menu of politics and crime. It has, albeit temporarily, got Kenyans focused on a news-cum-entertainment story that is likely to rekindle the old debate about race relations.

Had there been a fully, meaningful integration of races in our country, the Khamala/Sarika saga would perhaps have attracted only a sentence in the major dailies. Instead, the whole event assumed the life of a circus. To me, that is "Much Ado About Nothing."

The important thing here are the lessons we must learn from this rare event: that there is still hope for our nation to bring not only races but tribes together; that our cultures, as rich as they are, should not - even with the best intentions - get in the way of personal relationships.

As the Kenyan Indian Member of Parliament for Kisumu East, Shakeel Shabbir - himself married to a Luhya - said, the Asian community remains a closed community in a global village. Kenya Indians, just like all other ethnic communities in the country, must open up their doors and allow marriages across racial lines.

Having said all that, we should leave the two love birds alone to enjoy their blissful relationship. Neither the elders nor the media should come in between. This way, we will be acting "normally," and we will show the world that after fifty years of independence, race is no longer a big issue in Kenya.

And that is my say.