The reluctant hero


“KEEP it simple Evans.”
That is what you would say.
That is what Cde Alexander Kanengoni would have told me.
Not that I am struggling, but to write about ‘DJ’, will go back to that moniker DJ, writing about him is like trying to capture wind with a sieve.
He was everything to us. Everything.
We are not just scarred, we are scared.
You had your family, but we were also your family.
What makes this horrible is that we did not take you for granted.
We did not.
So why have you been taken from us?
Of course we took it for granted that you would be around for a long while.
I imagined one day visiting you at your farm, where you would be farming and writing, your passions, and say Alex, sometimes we would call you that; I did, in the diary sessions.
I saw myself saying to you, “I think I have become a better writer than you because you taught me well.”
You believed in passing on your skills.
You loved us, truly loved us, you cared, you protected us, you fought for us.
You put up with our crap, tonnes of it.
Your patience with us knew no bounds.
Each and every one of us mattered to you.
We knew it DJ and we appreciated.
We transgressed, committed offences, made you angry, but you were never harsh, you never persecuted us and, come to think of it, you would not even punish us even when we deserved severe punishment.
Instead you sought to understand why we would have behaved in an irrational manner and you advised and counselled.
We would transgress some more and you would counsel and advise us some more without ever losing your temper, very few were the occasions you banged the desk with your fist.
We did not see you as our boss; a boss never behaves the way you did.
You were our father, you were a friend, you were a confidante and most important, you were our biggest cheer-leader.
You made us feel important and special.
You allowed us to be free and express ourselves the best way we knew.
You broke the bars of the cage and allowed us to spread our wings and soar.
DJ, they might not have given you the accolades you richly deserved, but we made it a point to give them to you, in our way.
We gave them to you.
Almost every Monday and Friday, one among us would make it a point to let you know you were brilliant, that you were a genius.
We know it delighted you, that appreciation and we enjoyed making you smile.
It would be followed by your classic: “Aaa.. ee ndogona ka ini, but of course it is because I have been doing it for a longer time than you, one day you will also be very good writers.”
Almost all of us never really cared about writing awards more than your approbation.
No honour and award was greater than hearing you say: “That was a beautiful story, a very good story.”
We knew you meant it because you would never blink or hesitate to say “Aaah Evans that was a poor story, you could have done better than that.”
What you deemed beautiful was indeed beautiful, for you were a great author and storyteller.
We called you DJ as in disc jockey.
It was because of the way you walked, your lazy shamble, your flow when you talked and you had swag; so we called you DJ.
You never thought yourself special in any way, your contribution in the struggle you did not consider greater or lesser than that of the next comrade and your brilliant pieces of writings you never saw as masterpieces; just thoughts and experiences expressed in a simple manner.
You were a psychoanalyst and provided therapy to many fellow war veterans and youngsters who never stopped knocking on your door.
Swamped with work and a pressing deadline, you easily gave your time, it was typical of you to spend an hour or two with a comrade from Mukumbura just passing by.
I would at times budge into your office to break-up whatever conversation was going on and later on you would gently say: “They just want to talk, it makes them feel better,” and they did feel better for everyone left your office animated, invigorated and inspired to soldier on.
No one was beneath you or above you for that matter, you were a war veteran after all, a man of the people and so you embraced them all, even those we unfortunately thought were ‘lunatics’, you made time for them.
You had the ability to pick critical stories in what we, in our immaturity and inexperience, dismissed as ramblings.
You loved your country, you served it well.
I do not say goodbye, I cannot, not yet.


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