(Crowd bursts in laughter)
Is Eunice Kilonzo here? Come for your certificate.
(More laughter, mimicry, K-I-L-O-N-Z-O-O)
I didn’t flinch. I didn’t move. My classmates at the parade nudged me to go and get my award…but I couldn’t.
It is because of how they said it. How they viewed it. And, particularly, it was how they got to know it.
I had a similar name to a watchman in a 90’s local TV drama series: Tausi.
The watchman played a ‘silly’ fella, who crossed people’s paths. He acted as a meek, unintelligent with a load more quirky traits persona. No wonder, he was unforgettable.
This caused me a mixture of embarrassment and self-pity.
But this was not me, that was him and some people did not care if there was any difference at all.
You see, I was named after my maternal grandmother. She was called Eunice Kalunde Kilonzo. I have her three names. I was born six years after she died. My grandfather said I reminded him of her. So do my uncles and aunts who call me ‘mum’. They say, I have her voice, her stare and mannerism.
Kalunde is a revered name in Kamba. It means a ‘small spear’ where Ka is small and Lunde loosely means a spear. Kilonzo on the other hand means someone who likes to talk or more specifically, argue.
My grandmother, cucu, was the second wife but she was a fierce one. Her husband, Kilonzo, who I was lucky to have met, was a calm grey-haired-man who loved Fanta. He said, softly, she lived up to her name, Kalunde.
She was authoritative, keen and shrewd. Her surname was Kamau and it is said she had black curly hair, conspicuous cheek bones and a hearty laughter. It seems she took up her husband name-Kilonzo-seriously, as she spoke her mind many times. She was inquisitive, charming and of Kilonzo’s four or five wives, her hut was most visited. She had nine children to show of it. Interestingly, she always had her youngest children- my mother, aunt and two uncles-close with her. It was not different when she passed on in 1983 with them in tow; to what my cousins say must have been liver cancer.
And her fruit, my mother, did not fall too far from the tree. She had most of her traits. And, yours truly-I- picked these characters in abundance. Curiosity, those high cheek bones and everything Kalunde-ish.
So, you can imagine my dismay when the meek Kilonzo from Tausi = Me.
Throughout my primary school I had a problem introducing myself. In fact, I began using Kalunde in high school after the teachers ‘accidentally’ stumbled on it during my mock examinations in form three. Surprisingly, I took my name in stride, pride and a scoop of salt. I would know be referred to as Kalunde Kilonzo, Eunice was silent.
I mean, I was that talkative ‘small spear’ and I loved it. I wore it like new perfume. Daubed all over, that I got used to the scent but to new people, who would be lured to the sweet-sickly waft from me.
I loved my name.
Fast forward to joining campus and this name business began once more.
Eunice Kalonzo Musyoka. Irk. I had lecturers and classmates call me that and asked if I knew the then vice president-Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka. Of course I didn’t. It was enough that he was the Vice President but what was most irritating was the alias he had forcefully acquired-W.A.T.E.R.M.E.L.O.N. Which, I learnt was shared to and with the entire sadly, Kamba community.
It is said he was indecisive and well, perhaps I was too. Because…we shared a name! Tough times, those.
I was very different. I grew up in Mombasa, with the coastal accent but my name didn’t show this distinction. I was just another Kalonzo.
Recently, whenever I introduce myself, I am most likely to be asked if I am related to Mutula or Kethi Kilonzo. Before I get a service rendered. Now, I have come up with a tactic. When asked if I know the family…I smile and ‘authoritatively’ say: Oh, the Kilonzo’s? They know ME.
Pretty much settles the series of questions lined up.
I am Eunice Kalunde Kilonzo. The young woman who is creative, adventurous, energetic, and at times untidy. I maybe the ‘reincarnated’ Eunice Kalunde Kilonzo, Snr, but I am sure that this small spear is sharper and probably better than the last.
The Eunice Kalunde Kilonzo who is optimistic, a lover of colours, books and words.
Who loves to discuss, compete, debate and at times argues a lot. But this Eunice Kalunde Kilonzo is quick to learn, to make amends and to apologize.
The chubby faced, brown haired and high cheek boned young woman who loves to dance, eat and meet new people.
Yes, this is she.
Eunice Kalunde Kilonzo, ‘Jnr’.