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The Harpreet and Clement Affair: Some open letters

Dear Harpreet and Clement

Ah, young love! The thrill, the joy, the agony. It was written in the stars, it was sung on the wind, it was meant to be. When romance is in the ascendant, nothing else seems to matter.

Congratulations, youngsters. We can only wish you well. May your love blossom, mature and set an example to the world.

In the meantime, you may want to think about some things.

Harpreet: Pregnant at 18, with no obvious means of financial support? What exactly were you thinking?

Clement: granted, you were pushed into a corner by your prospective father-in-law, an ornery cuss by all accounts. But using the media to ambush him, and then goading him to make a complete fool of himself? What exactly were you thinking?

Contrary to how it may feel sometimes, the world does not spin around the two of you. You will need help in life. You will need to be understood. You will need financial security. You will need parental guidance.

Cheapening your Great Love Affair with comic antics was utterly misguided. You should have sat down to explain, placate, understand and be understood. Failing that, you should have walked away like the adults you are with your heads held high.

You should have kept the moral high ground for yourselves. Unprotected sex and unleashing a media circus betrayed naivety and foolishness.

Passionate love is a fever. It subsides. When that happens, you need a strong, sober bond to see you through the years. You need sense and sensibility. You need to be less impetuous and more thoughtful. Life has consequences.

But for now, we do wish you well. Enjoy your passion, before real life intrudes. And when it does, have the fortitude to deal with it.

Best wishes

**************************************

Dear Raju Syan

Commiserations. An unemployed 22-year old announces that he has impregnated your 18-year old daughter? That would send most fathers I know up the wall. I can only imagine the rage and helplessness you felt, coupled with the shame that our reactionary community will undoubtedly heap on you. Pole sana.

But having said that, did you have to have such a mindlessly over-the-top reaction? Allegedly locking your daughter up, threatening a forced abortion? What century do you live in?

And when you showed up at the hospital and found Clement waiting, media circus in tow, did it escape you completely that you were walking into a trap? Attacking all and sundry, losing your turban, shouting obscenities in the most public of places – what was that all about? All you managed to achieve was giving a newspaper the most unseemly of photo spreads.

And the next day, when the same paper calls you up to ask for more, you plunge headlong again. This time calling your daughter (and, apparently, your wife) unprintable names. You seem to be under the impression that this is everyone’s fault but yours.

Did it escape you that your daughter’s antics might actually reflect the relationship you’ve had with her all these years? What is the point of flying into uncontrollable rages when the damage is already done?

Oh, and perhaps you didn’t tune in, but all the FM stations went to town with this. And their callers phoned in to say “Oh, so this is how much these Wahindi hate us Africans.” Thanks a lot for that one.

Pride and prejudice undid you. Still, we commiserate. This was a tough one, and few of us can guarantee a sane response when provoked so severely. But it was a time for love and understanding. I hope you find those in the times to come and can reclaim the regard of your daughter.

Best wishes

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Dear Kenyan Media

Wow, that was a big one, wasn’t it! It had everything: young love, forbidden romance, lust, recriminations, drama, spectacle. More newspapers sold, more listeners phoning in. Advertisers happy, journalists exultant.

But tell me: were you doing the right thing? Agreed, you didn’t create the story: Harpreet and Clement and Raju did that all by themselves. But did you not fan the flames? You lay in wait for a crazed Raju at the hospital, and you goaded him into making an utter spectacle of himself. Then you splashed the ugliest of photo spreads in the paper.

And radio station hosts, did you only see one angle in this story? That of the pure young lovers trying to cross a forbidden racial line? I heard this played out for hours on end on the airwaves. Do you have any sense of responsibility for the wider society around you, when you throw fuel onto the fire like that? And which of you is not a racist and a tribalist, that you wish to point fingers at a more obvious one?

What is the point of highlighting the rage of a father who has clearly lost the plot? Is that news? Why don’t your interview any number of disturbed people out there, if sound-bites are all you’re after?

Most journos these days seem to be too young to have developed mature perspective. But I was surprised that less impetuous figures, perhaps with daughters of their own, did not stop this story from turning into a silly carnival. Is it so hard to put yourself in the shoes of another, and to understand where anguish comes from?

Yes, Harpreet and Clement are adults, but did they demonstrate any emotional or sexual maturity? Issues like this call for reasoned and sensitive handling, not the circus that ensued. The media may not have written the story, but they certainly made it into the shallow and silly news that it became. Only two correspondents that I came across – Clay Muganda and Rasna Warah – added sense and insight to the debate.

We can be better than that. There were big issues at play here, but we missed them all in our rush to produce the sensational.

Best wishes

***************************************

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