Whenever the young man got busted for doing drugs, which got him spending the night behind bars, his grandmother would promptly arrive at the police station, her purse full of maandazi money, to bail him out.
Her sons, the boy’s uncles, would admonish their mother for spoiling him.
The boy’s mother, tired of all that she had had to shoulder, had all but given up hope of him ever returning to the straight path.
What she did not tell her brothers or her ageing mother was that her hands were constantly raised in prayer to Allah to rescue her boy from himself.
No sooner was the young man free than you would find him at his lair, with fellow misguided youths, laughing and planning where next to get the resources to fund their antisocial habits.
The uncles wondered, the mother wondered and perhaps the boy himself wondered what had gone wrong.
There was nothing their home lacked, Not food, not warmth, not finances, not moral upbringing.
What did this bad apple in their family tree need that was not provided him?
Often the grandmother would scold her children for being judgemental, for putting too much pressure on the lad.
She insisted that it was a phase that he would grow out of. All he needed was for them to bear with him. She believed whatever demons that were driving him to harm himself he would eventually conquer.
But, despite the old lady’s  fondest wishes, the young man would not change; didn’t seem concerned by his family’s concern. Wasn’t interested in being better.
So many mothers, looking at this rotten egg in this respectable family, felt grateful that their own brood- with their bad academic grades, shocking hairstyles, an aversion to praying in the masjid and their loud love for football – were so much easier to deal with than this junkie.
Then one day, desperate for a fix and having no cash to buy it, the lad sneaked into his grandmother’s bedroom. He ran his hands over every piece of clothing in the closet, every linen and went through every handkerchief tied up into a little bundle.
He struck gold, literally, and helped himself to it.
Because there were guests were in the house his shenanigans went unnoticed.
Until a few hours later when the grandmother let out a scream that they had been robbed. Of not only her valuables but of gold entrusted to her by others for safe keeping.
It was only the house help- who had seen the young man’s stealth movements- who would put the mystery to rest.
” It was Bwana Mdogo.”
“Bwana Mdogo” did not come home that night or the night after that.
The women of  the household wailed and sobbed. Many wondered whether the grief they exhibited was for the missing son or the worry about how to repay the valuables that were lost.
But for the grandmother, her tears were for something else. They were for the trust she had so lovingly, wholeheartedly placed in the belief that her grandchild was good.
She had believed, after all was said and done, this child of her child had integrity and some decency in him.
Just as she had believed his father. When he had apologised to them after her daughter had come home with a swollen eye and face. Again and again. The apple, it seemed obvious now, had not fallen far from the tree.
The days turned into weeks. The uncles stopped their search for the wayward boy and the mothers’ tears fell even more dejectedly every time the sun set.
A chance remark by one of their neighbours that he had seen a ‘msako'(personalized search/hunt) take place revealed that of those thrown into the back of the AP(Administration Police) lorry one of them had been none other than their own.
” No, ” said the grandmother.
The family braced themselves for another lecture; prepared to set aside some time to visit the high security jail he had been thrown in.
They wondered, too, how much of bail money they would require to release him.
“No, ” said the grandmother.
” Go visit him. Let him see you. Then come home.”
Some smiled, some were shocked -none were suprised. It was about d*mn time, they thought.
The boy sobbed. Begged for forgiveness. Promised he would change- turn over a new leaf. He swore to Allah he would straighten himself out, find a decent job and a decent girl to marry.
His uncles looked at him; filled with pity and fatherly love. Then they looked at each other, shook their heads and left.
The boy’s screams and grief followed them to their car.
When she was ready the grandmother asked to be taken to the prison. The same prison her husband had thrown their son in law in after he had thoroughly beaten  up their daughter.
It had been thirty long days.
The boy looked haggard, wild eyed and desperate. He could not look the old lady in the eye. He sobbed silently.
She touched his hands.
” You are better than what you have become.”
When he heard the jangle of keys the boy looked up with amazement and hope. His grandmother had come through for him. She always came through for him and he let her down. Always.
He fell to his knees there and then. It didn’t matter there were people around, looking at him, he did not care.
He sobbed and cried and promised he was a changed man. He promised he would never leave the masjid, he would not steal and he never ever wanted to touch a joint again.
He pleaded with his grandmother to free him from this dwelling where the devil himself lived. He had seen more than enough here to scare him straight.
And so…… our story ends. Has the young man kept his word? Has he made good on his promises?
So far he has.
He has had no choice. He owes his grandmother that much at least.
Eventually, he did find that decent job; cleaned himself enough for a decent girl to consent to marrying him.
He wonders when the call of the evil will seduce him again. He knows enough to know he will fight it this time with all he has.
He also knows that he can count on his family’s tough love to set him straight.

Najma Abdusheikh

I am a mother of three, born and bred in Mombasa. I write as a means of navigating through life's laughs and challenges. I see a better world for us but only if we believe ourselves worthy enough to work towards it. Find me on

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