She’s at the library when I call her. I imagine the ring or buzz of her phone jolting her, sending her thumb scrambling on the screen of her smartphone trying to shut off the damn thing. Libraries are silent places, you see. And silence must be observed because it creates a vacuum that the universe fills with intellectual energy and bubbling creativity.
She rejects the call after two or three rings and then follows it up with a text message, writing, “Sorry I’m in the library. Guess who forgot about our meeting!”
“Guess who will kneecap you,” I thumb back a text reply, following its heels with, “It’s okay. We’re still well within time.”
“Okay, give me five. I need to walk out of the library.”
“Cool. Call me back when ready, I’ll be here.”
I am well aware that we had scheduled the call, though I still feel terrible for having to pull her out of the library. She was probably working on another masterpiece (book), who knows, feeding off of all the creativity housed between the pages of books lined up spine against spine on the huge shelves of Kenya National Library Service, Upper Hill, Nairobi.
I puff out my cheeks then blow some air, and hope that I haven’t knocked her off the creative wave she was riding before my intruding call. Then I relax in my chair behind my desk. And wait.
Verah Omwocha is our (Positively African Book Club) author of the month of June. When she calls back, we enter the gates of a mellow chat where she gives me a brief interview about who she is, and what her book is about. Diary of the Miaha, is the title of her memoir. A superlative read that easily defies gravity—stays raised to your face. It is our book of the month.
My job today is to dangle a carrot in front of your face as they did to the proverbial donkey. Just to whet your appetite, allow you to wrap your head around Verah’s door for a sneak preview into the table she’s set for us. That will make you want to enjoy the full course, later at the book club session.
Around January 2017, Verah officially started dating her long-time friend and confidant, Gabriel Dinda. It just happened. In the same way one month runs and seeps into a new month, their friendship seeped into a romantic relationship. They’d been friends for a long time, going on bookish dates and having bookish chats. You’d expect that from Gabriel, seeing as he is the father of budding writers at Writers Guild Kenya (Our good partners at Qazini. Together, we leverage the power of storytelling). Let me tell you a story about how they met; because it’s juicy. Delicious as a ripe grape bursting with juiciness between your teeth.
A friend of Verah’s had dropped something for her at Gabriel’s office. So, Verah went to collect it. Gabriel was kind and funny, and he even introduced her to Writers Guild–encouraging her to write. After giving her what she had gone to collect, he escorted her to the elevator and pressed the button for her. Like a gentleman, as Verah writes in her memoir. I’d love to imagine a few more seconds of chatting between them before the elevator dinged and the doors slid open. As Verah rode it to the ground floor, she was unaware that they would soon ride down into the depths of each other’s hearts. It’s all in her book.
On the 3rd of November 2018, Verah and Gabriel exchanged wedding rings. But they hadn’t gotten to exchanging the vows without life-threatening challenges, as a grisly road accident along the Narok-Maaimahiu road had threatened to steal Verah’s lover a few months to their wedding. Still, her dream of saying I Do to the man she loved, in front of witnesses, came to pass. A blessing.
On the blurb of her memoir, this line lurches at me. “Is marriage welcoming of a young girl, broken in so many ways?” We are to find out soon, in an in-depth, guided discussion when we host Verah at our June Book Club Edition.
“A German poet whose name I forget once said, whenever I hear the songs they play at weddings, it reminds me of the songs they play when sending soldiers to the battlefield. What do you think about that?” I asked Verah.
She laughed her signature hearty laughter.
“Okay, sometimes it is a battlefield because life happens. You know, you are two people from different backgrounds and different denominations, brought together in love, trying to work it out. Trying to balance your ideologies. Marriage is a relationship. And a relationship is people. And people are complex.”
“There’s the beauty, though, in abundance. You know, having someone that’s really in your corner, supporting and loving you with all, that’s beautiful.” She adds, “And oh, he was very supportive when I told him I wanted to write a little memoir about our marriage life.”
“What’s love?” I probed.
“I would define love as a beautiful house – with strong pillars. It is safe, welcoming, and secure. The owners invest in it – give their time and money to it; they water the flowers; they love it. From the outside, people might think it perfect but sometimes it needs repairs – electrical issues, water system damage, or roof repairs. Sometimes, however beautiful it is, you get bored of the house; perhaps you buy new lighting fixtures or change the interior to spruce it up. Love is a cocktail of friendship, companionship, self-giving, service to each other, and everything in between.”
Verah concedes to getting pushed to a different track as opposed to the initial one she had when she began to write her memoir.
“When I started out, I thought I’d talk about marriage as a young girl—this new life. But then it became more of my introspection into my childhood, my beliefs, and my perceptions. Oh, it was after writing this book that I saw my parents as a couple. All through I had just seen them as my parents.”
In Diary of the Miaha (Miaha is a Dholuo word meaning a recently married woman), Verah talks about her cultural experiences and what they mean to her, a marriage that brackets two different denominations—who crosses over, and why?, matters sex, how reading and writing have shaped the woman and the wife she is and is becoming, her childhood traumas, experience with FGM, the kind of mother she wants to be, among many other things.
In her own words, “I wrote to answer the question, how is marriage? I wrote for anyone who wants a sneak peek into a young marriage. I wrote to get in touch with the child in me as I journey towards healing.”
While in the memoir she only speculated about raising a kid of her own, at the time of writing this, Verah and Gabriel are blessed with a little one, a daughter.
Verah’s hobbies include reading and writing (of course), cooking, hiking, travelling, knitting, and DIYs. She confesses that the last two suffer abandonment.
Have you ever watched a movie that made you lose track of time? Well, if Verah was cast in a supernatural powers film, her preter-ability would be making people lose track of time. That’s evident in her captivating narration captured in Diary of the Miaha (This reviewer also had good things to say about the book).
Join us at the Positively African Book Club for more about Verah and her memoir. Oh, I asked her to tag Gabriel along, or else I kneecap the both of them. See? You do not want to miss this one. I promise.
The Positively African Book Club will be discussing Diary of the Miaha, on the 29th of June, 2022, at The Chat Room, Kilimani.
Copies of the book are available for purchase at All African Bookshop, our partners. They are located at Hazina Towers, Nairobi, Ground Floor, Suite 2A. For inquiries or deliveries, reach them via 0748055879.
Copies will also be available for sale at the book club. To book your slot for the upcoming session, contact: 0743-235997 or 0748-055879
Also Read: Against All Odds: Courage and Tenacity From Kenya to Europe
Verah’s other publications:
· Wendo Tours Nairobi County (Queenex Publishers, 2019)
· Co-authored: The Longhorn English Literacy Activities, Grade 3 (2017)
· Maria and the Tomatoes (Nsemia Inc. Publishers, 2016)
· Co-Authored: in The Cry of the Crow and other stories (Vide Muwa Publishers, 2018)
· The Crescent Moon (La Case Books, Kindle books; Published 2018)
· The English Catapult KCSE Revision Paper 1 (Functional Writing & Oral Skills); Paper 2 (Reading and Comprehension) and Paper 3 (Composition Writing)
· Contributed to: The Daily Nation, The East African, The Standard, Qazini, The African Writer, Kalahari Review, Sugarpult.