“BOUND TO TRADITIONS”
The young Luo girl Khira, fights against the traditions of her people and society in order to achieve her personal modern world. Half orphaned, she is brought up by her extended maternal family in very conservative Luo traditional values. At the age of five months she gets engaged to the neighbour’s son, Barry, who himself is only six years old. The two have their first major conflict over a happy birthday kiss when Khira is six, Barry twelve.
Khira’s life changes when, at age twelve, she is sent to a British missionary boarding school, St Mary’s. Here she meets other schoolgirls of her age and older, but with a completely different “modern” upbringing – the daughters of Kenya’s political and economical elite. For the first time she learns about the world outside her family and clanspeople. These schoolmates become Khira’s role models. She listens, watches and imitates them as well as her European and Euro-American teachers, and in particular her fifty-year-old Englishwoman headmistress, Miss Churchill, who is unmarried and devoted to missionary work. Soon she’s the perfect chameleon – during exeats and holidays she slips into the Luo “well-bred maiden”, but during school terms she strives to be ultra modern in thought and behaviour. She is introduced to lovemaking a few weeks after joining the boarding school by her best girlfriend Joyce, three years older than her. This is “routine” among many boarders at St Mary’s but kept very clandestine.
Unfortunately Khira’s uncle, responsible for paying her school fees, dies and the girl is forced to leave school. Furthermore, she is now fifteen and according to traditions, in a marriageable age. Khira fights against this. She succeeds by pointing out that Barry is still carrying on his education and being a student’s wife living with her parents-in-law is not what a loving family would want to relegate their daughter to.
But helping her mother cook, fetch water and firewood is not exactly what she – the “modern” Khira – would call a career. Yet the family is too poor to pay for any kind of trained skills.
Fortunately her headmistress, Miss Churchill, with whom she kept contact, intervenes and gets Khira to a secretarial college in Nairobi. Miss Churchill offers to pay for the girl’s tuition fees if the girl can take care of her boarding and lodging. Khira can: Barry’s older sister Edwina and her husband Jonathan both live and work in Nairobi. Khira would live with them, the family agrees, and the couple would now be her “duenna” to make sure she does not lose her “purity” before her wedding day. She does well at the secretarial college and achieves relatively high speeds in shorthand and typing in less than a year. Khira at last manages to find employment as a steno-typist in an international company in Nairobi, the Lindqvist Group. And that’s where she meets Erik, a Swedish industrialist old enough to be her father.
Erik Lindqvist is a man with both a past and little regard for women, because his first marriage so disappointed him that he mistrusts all women and has avowed never to marry again. In his early twenties he had started out as a manual labourer in the harbours of Gothenburg, Malmö and Hamburg before breaking off to Africa to manage a clove plantation in Zanzibar owned by the Frenchman de Jonghes. Within two years Erik marries his employer’s daughter, Claudette. When the marriage remains childless it begins to disintegrate and graduates into wanton promiscuity and infidelity. Claudette begins to drink heavily. Erik has in the meantime started an antique business in his home city of Gothenburg, run by his younger brother Sven, while he remains in Zanzibar to continue managing the clove plantation as well as collecting more African antiques and artefacts for his antique business. Soon he is collecting from as far away as Kyoto and South America. At a party in Tananarive, Madagascar, he meets an Italian count who has a coffee plantation in Kenya. He learns from the count that the latter is planning to start a transport company with a fleet of transporters to convey goods from the Kenyan port of Mombasa to all the landlocked countries like the Southern and Northern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia) as well as Uganda and other central and southern African landlocked countries. But the count needs a financial partner or two. Erik grabs the chance, finally moves to Nairobi after Claudette’s death (liver sclerosis), and begins to build his industrial empire, the Lindqvist Group, involved in transport, franchises for Japanese cars, office machinery, fleets of small aircrafts for the tourism industry, banking, wool in Australia and oil in Canada.
His favourite pastime is womanising. But when he meets Khira his attitude towards women reverses out of orbit. At first his sole intention is to adopt the sixteen-year-old half orphan. But Khira, after moving away from Edwina and Jonathan’s home, has other plans for herself and Erik. Despite himself, he is not immune to them. She’s the child-woman with the wisdom of a septuagenarian, an incredible poise and the gracefulness of ancient aristocrats. It is the beginning of a passionate love with a lot of cultural and traditional stumbling blocks on the lovers’ path – from both of their cultural worlds and their families. But the two naturally ambitious and strong characters are also well armed for both worlds.
With Erik as her coach, Khira is finally an adept businesswoman and Vice Chairman of the Lindqvist Group. She has achieved her lifelong dream with a loving husband at her side and five children. Until her traditional beliefs catch up with her and she secretly allows her eleven-year-old daughter to be “initiated into womanhood”. Erik finds out what Khira has done when their daughter is on the brink of dying and any immediate adequate medical assistance is out of reach – the family is out for a weekend in Tsavo National Park. Once again betrayed by a woman he loves and trusts blindly, Erik loses control and physically attacks Khira. He ends up with a wife in a coma and his worshipped daughter fighting for her life. It is night time in the savannah, hundreds of miles away from the nearest hospital in Mombasa, and the only transport available is a Range Rover, the only means of communication a radio call to the Hilton Hotel in Nairobi which is nearly four times farther away than Mombasa.
(The third book in this trilogy – The Separation – is being written)