MY PRETTY PEN

It’s not everyday that I write about inspiring experiences, so for this piece I’d advice you to grab your popcorns, sit down, and read discerningly. Take your pencils and notebooks too, for you are bound to pick out a great life lesson from this doozy.

The other day I was attending a function at a well heeled mall, The Junction. It was a book fair where aspiring writers and readers were to mingle with their favourite authors. Connoisseurs of literature, top notch journalists, inspirational pundits, and established authors were to be in attendance.

I was rushing frenetically towards the Railways bus stop, shoving myself through the phalanx of hawkers who had almost barricaded the road. However, the merchandise of a particular hawker caught my eye and I halted at his stand. He was selling pens.

A lot of hawkers were also vending biros around that place. But what was so special about the ones this particular hawker was selling? Well, they were certainly the most beautiful pens I’ve ever set my eyes on. They were of varied designs, and they were all really pretty.

“How much does one cost?” I asked, half-expecting the seller to quote a price higher than the Times Tower.

“Ten shillings each,” He replied.

I was taken aback by how cheap such pretty pens could cost, so I went ahead to scrutinize them. They were of dismal quality; it was crystal clear that they would need a miracle to last a week. “These are probably made in China,” I said to myself as I mused over the Chinese chicanery and mendacity of making tawdry products but giving them elegant designs and marketing them at cut-rate prices.

“I’ll take two,” I pronounced as I handed a pound to the vendor.

You might be wondering why I decided to purchase the pens even though I knew they were trinkets. Well, their designs were elegant and sure to impress. Jones loves to impress.

At the function, which had been christened Author’s Buffet, I had a chance of making a few new friends with whom we shared the same vision of becoming published authors some day. Among my new-found pals were Dennis and the beautiful Alison. (Alison has a great blog by the way, you’d be damned if you don’t give it a visit.)

I also managed to interact one on one with luminaries such as Kinyanjui Kombani, Bonnie Kim, Joyce Mbaya, David Mulwa, Binyavanga Wainaina and Stanley Gazemba just to mention a few. CEOs too were in attendance, and I had a very insightful chat with the CEO of Faulu Kenya on how he rose from being a hawker to a banker. I might share it with you some day.

But one person whose company I particularly took pleasure in was John Sibi-Okumu. For those of you who own television sets, John Sibi-Okumu, who popularly goes by the moniker JSO, needs no introduction. However, for the sake of a few troglodytes among us who probably live under rocks, allow me to familiarize JSO to you.

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Posing with JSO

John Sibi-Okumu is a local and international TV personality. He has starred in a few local and international films, taking no prisoners in his craft and grabbing many awards along the way. In Journalism, professionalism begins and ends with JSO. He has served previously as a talk show host at KTN, and currently hosts his own show daily on Kiss TV.  Tune in to Kiss TV any evening from seven and you will see the guy hosting JSO Live, where he interviews the who-is-who in our society.

My chit-chat with JSO somehow landed on blogging, and I took the chance to blow my trumpet by bloviating a little about this blog of mine. He was so interested that he brought out his executive diary and asked me to doodle the URL of my website in it. His interest piqued a notch the instant he noticed my fancy pen, and he didn’t try to stifle his admiration.

“That’s an executive pen you’ve got there young man.”

“Thanks sir,” I supplied, grinning widely to myself like the proverbial Cheshire cat.

You’d be wrong if you think his regards for my ten-shilling-pen ended there, because the patriarch of journalism extended his approbation further by asking, “Where did you get it from?”

Answering that question was not as easy as you might think. To begin with, we were at a mall where a pair of trousers cost twenty five thousand shillings. You could smell affluence all around the place, and it was clearly out of bounds to the hoi polloi. How did I even manage to sneak in such an out-of-place item?

Careful not reveal the exact place where I’d bought the pen (am sure Railways bus station isn’t somewhere JSO frequents daily) and also not wanting to tell a lie, I managed a smile as I said, “I bought it somewhere around town.”

My self-esteem was faltering, and I wished the designer suit clad man wouldn’t ask any more questions about pens or even stationery for that matter. However, the guy probed further. “Where exactly? I’d sure like to get a pen like that one.”

I would bet my house (if I had one) that the last thing he expected was for me to tell him that I’d bought the pen from a street hawker.  He anticipated that I would name a reputable bookshop, that I’m sure. Again, there was this small matter of price. Surely, a person who appears on TV daily is no pauper. Writing implements used by journalists, especially the cream of the field, are bound to cost several hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of shillings.

“I cannot really remember the exact place,” I said.

I could see disappointment registering all over his person. Clearly, my pen was something to die for.

“Why didn’t you give him the pen as a gift?” I can hear you asking me. Well, as I earlier mentioned, what I bought were trinkets. You know, like that thirty bob gold chain you buy on impulse only for it to be discolored and loose its luster a day later. “I can’t give anyone such as a present,” I thought as I handed him back his diary.

What’s the moral of my story? IMAGE IS EVERYTHING.

I am sure the scribe saw many pens at the function, but only mine caught his attention. Why? Because of how it presented itself (sic). Its image made it stand out from the rest of the crowd. It was UNIQUE. In life, try as much as possible to be unique. It will help you stand out from the clutter and shine. Wear your best. Your hairstyle; let it be something distinctive. Your nails shouldn’t look the same as the next person’s. While everyone else goes for skinny jeans, Polo T-shirts and shamballas, why don’t you push the envelope and emerge with your own swag?  Distance yourself from the boring mundane ‘standard’ and come up with something more exciting. Try to look more than the part.

You might say, “But Jones, I don’t have enough cash to look the part!” An interesting factoid is: my pen wasn’t the most expensive either.

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jowaljones

Jowal Jones is a columnist and correspondent with Kenya's leading newspaper, Daily Nation. He also dabbles in fiction works at times, hoping to be the next Stephen King. Sometimes he takes time out from writing to perfect his deer-dancing and goat-screaming skills.