A friend of mine recently offered me whisky – a spirit distilled from malted grain, especially barley or rye – but I politely declined. Later, I explained to him why I stopped drinking. Before that, I had taken to drinking and smoking due to the influence of adverts.
It was 1998 and I was going through the heartbreak of a failed relationship. I drank a whole bottle of chang’aa in Hawinga, my home village in Siaya County, to drown my sorrows. I blacked out for five hours and many even thought I had died.
For those who don’t know, chang’aa is a very potent traditional home-brewed spirit that is very popular among low-income earners in Kenya and is made by fermentation and distillation from grains like millet, maize and sorghum.
In those days, there was no Ezekiel Mutua, chief executive of the Kenya Film Classification Board, to warn people against destructive advertising. I was hooked to Sweet Menthol (SM) cigarettes because the adverts convinced me that after smoking them, I would have smooth lyrics to improve my seduction game. But the cigarettes only gave me bad breath and cost me a girlfriend from the coastal region because she couldn’t stand my bad breath, even though I had invested heavily by practising the Kiswahili spoken in Mombasa.
I was also made to believe that if I drank Guinness, I would have extra strength. Instead, many times I found myself weak and falling all over the place. I really pity those who fell for the Michael Power advert that was released one year after I quit drinking.
Indeed, there is always the unseen, the unsaid and the unknown side of everything wrong we do. You may enjoy what you are doing for a while but the consequences are usually terrible.
I developed a deep hatred for the guys who live flashy lifestyles and are involved in dirty deals after seeing what my elder brother went through. He got involved with some dodgy Nigerian characters and started dealing in some white powdery substance. He started flying regularly to Pakistan and through him, many Pakistanis came to Kenya in the 1980s. He suddenly became very rich and bought several cars and buildings in Highridge Estate, Nairobi.
However, behind the flashy lifestyle was violence and extreme stress. There was a time I visited him and literally saw him using pliers to crush the private parts of a Senegalese man who had failed to deliver his part of whatever contract they had between them. Sadly, in 1994 he was poisoned to death.
There are always hidden consequences of many of the things we do. If you get involved in corruption, you may find yourself under arrest. And if you are very powerful and manage to evade arrest, your children will pay one day and you yourself will never know peace.
If you are involved in a secret love affair, you may find your photos and screenshots of your conversations posted online. Or you might end up like a friend of mine who had a habit of seducing people’s wives – he was eventually stabbed in Nairobi’s Eastlands.
That is why it is critical to consider the whole picture before getting involved in some things. Even in relationships, a person should know the other side of their partner. For men, it is ideal to visit the woman you intend to marry and see her dressed in ordinary clothes and without any make-up before you propose. For women, get to know the source of the money your man flaunts around. You might be dating a hired killer unknowingly.
In short, always remember that there is another side of the story, not only what you can see.