Saturday, August 6, 2011. That was the day Kenneth Tuya and his fiancée were to get married. But it was not to be. Instead Kenneth found himself alone in the house they were to share, counting the losses and utterly confused.
His doomed love affair began in 2009, when Kenneth, an IT expert, met her. They exchanged numbers and a few months later, the two began dating. As the courtship progressed, it became clear to Kenneth that he wanted her as his wife.
“After a year of courting, I took her to Kakamega to meet my parents. Even though she was from a different tribe, my parents did not object to my choice. They were happy with my decision and gave us their blessing,” he recalls.
Understandably, Kenneth asked to meet his girlfriend’s parents who lived in Mombasa. However, she informed him that she was from a polygamous family and that they would have to make arrangements to meet both households.
SIGNS OF THINGS TO COME
“I could see she was unwilling to introduce me to her family, and when I insisted to know why, she revealed that her father had issues with my tribe. However, she finally agreed to introduce me to her parents, whom I met for the first time in Mombasa,” says Kenneth.
He says the meeting went well and her parents even agreed to a second one, to be held at his girlfriend’s ancestral home in Makueni. They set a date for March 2011. But the meeting did not take place.
“Her father postponed the meeting, explaining that he was too busy. He told us to visit in May, just three months before our wedding,” says Kenneth.
Kenneth rallied his father, an uncle, and their local pastor and together, they visited his girlfriend’s family in Makueni in May 2011. The three men were accorded a warm welcome, akin to one given to a child who has not been home for many days. The negotiations with his future in-laws were smooth, much to Kenneth’s relief. However, his fiancée’s father gave Kenneth a few conditions he wanted met before he married his daughter.
“He told me that I had to foot the travel costs for him, his two wives, and a brother when they agreed on a date to meet my family in Kakamega. The second condition was to pay dowry in full. He also made me promise that on the wedding day, I would pay for all their travel and accommodation expenses from Makueni to Nairobi,” says Kenneth.
Those conditions, according to Kenneth, were a small price to pay for his bride. He readily agreed to meet all the expenses if that was what his fiancée’s family wanted in order to give him their daughter. The family also asked Kenneth to provide three goats, as tradition demanded. The three goats cost Sh20,000. Kenneth also paid for the food they ate while in Makueni, which was also part of the agreement.
“After the meal, the old man told me that he had given me his daughter and that he had no objection to our marriage. He also gave us the go-ahead to plan the wedding,” Kenneth says.
Before the end of the visit, the two families agreed that Kenneth was to pay an extra Sh100,000 as part of the dowry. This money was to be paid before the wedding day. Kenneth and his fiancée went back to Nairobi and continued with their wedding plans with renewed strength. He was relieved that he had finally got the stamp of approval from his soon-to-be in-laws.
A month to what he considered the most momentous day of his life, the wedding venue was booked, the cards were designed and paid for, and the cake was chosen and paid for. The wedding gown, which cost Kenneth Sh20,000, was ready — Kenneth says his fiancée had not wanted a hired one. The rings were also carefully picked, fitted, and purchased. Even the marriage certificate had been paid for and was being processed.
Even though the wedding plans were tedious and money was scarce, Kenneth was thankful that all was panning out as planned. This was until a fortnight to the wedding, when his dreams went on a downward spiral.
Kenneth, his fiancée, and the best couple decided to pay one final visit to his future in-laws in Mombasa. This was a follow up to the agreement that Kenneth would pay an additional Sh100,000 as part of the dowry before the wedding.
“When we arrived, her father asked why we had come with a third party, saying that he wanted to meet my fiancée and I only. He was so annoyed, that we did not even get to talk. We travelled back to Nairobi with the Sh50,000 I wanted to give as downpayment,” says Kenneth.
The father also asked his fiancée to remain behind as Kenneth and the best couple went back to Nairobi. She, however, followed them shortly afterwards. Kenneth waited a week for his soon-to-be father-in-law to calm down before he approached him again.
His fiancée had reassured him that her father had said they could progress with the wedding plans. Kenneth was, however, doubtful and sought to double-check this fact to avoid embarrassment and disappointment on the wedding day, which was just days away.
“On the last Saturday before the wedding, I decided to call her father, but my calls went unanswered. I tried calling him with my pastor’s phone to no avail. I wanted to know if the wedding was still on and how far they had gone with the arrangements from their side,” says Kenneth.
When nobody from his fiancée’s side responded, he asked her to talk to her family, but she flatly refused. Kenneth decided to take matters into his own hands. Four days to the wedding, Kenneth asked his fiancée to accompany him to her home in Makueni to clear the air. They agreed that he would pick her up from her house that morning so that they could travel together. On that morning, however, she changed her mind, and Kenneth had to travel with his best man.
When they reached Makueni town, Kenneth called his fiancée to give him directions to the home since he could not remember the way well. However, she had switched off her phone. After a couple of wrong turns, they finally located the home.
“I asked them if the wedding was still on, but they told us that they were not prepared. Her father told me that I should either postpone the wedding or go ahead without them.”
Kenneth says that he had never felt so confused in his life. He tried to call his fiancée, but her phone was still off. Dejected and feeling betrayed, Kenneth and his best man travelled back to Nairobi.
“My only option was to postpone the wedding. It was already Thursday, two days to the wedding, and my fiancée’s phone was still off and I had no idea where she was. I sent an SMS to a few friends to tell them the wedding was postponed. I did not give a reason since I did not also know why,” he recalls.
When he got back to Nairobi that day, Kenneth bumped into a friend who told him that his fiancée had gone to live with her sister in Rift Valley.
Sure that there was not going to be a wedding, Kenneth started to make calls to friends and family to tell them that the wedding was off. Most of his family had already travelled from upcountry and were staying in his house. On the wedding day, August 6, 2011, Kenneth switched off his phone and found himself alone in his house, angry and frustrated, not knowing what to do with all the food he had bought for the big day.
That Saturday evening, instead of enjoying his first meal with his wife, Kenneth was counting losses to the tune of Sh300, 000 that he had spent on a wedding that never was.
“I had spent all my money and the money my friends had contributed during the pre-wedding, but I had nothing to show for it. I felt as though I had been robbed and that I had robbed my friends, who had generously contributed towards my wedding,” he says.
He barely ate or slept for days after that since he had many questions that remained unanswered. He would call his fiancée every hour, but her phone remained switched off for weeks after the wedding date.
“All I wanted to ask her was why? I wanted to understand where the problem was,” he says.
Kenneth slowly began picking up the pieces of his broken heart. He went back to work two weeks later, but could hardly concentrate. Everything around him reminded him of a fiancée who had left him without a reason.
“I had already received gifts from close friends who could not make it to the wedding. I wondered if I should keep them or return them,” he says.
When he could not take it anymore, he packed his bags and returned to the village in Kakamega for some peace and tranquillity.
But in the village things were no different. He did not know what to tell villagers who apologised for not making it to the wedding, unaware that there had been no ceremony. Those who knew could not hide their curiosity. When he could no longer take the stares, he packed his bags and came back to Nairobi.
A month later, Kenneth learnt that the woman who had crushed his heart was back in the city. He decided to pay her a visit and sort out the issue once and for all.
“She told me, ‘I don’t want anything to do with you ever again.’ That’s all she said. No further explanation. I accepted and decided to move on with my life,” he says.
His biggest challenge was the debts, especially since there was nothing to show for it. It took him the rest of the year to pay them.
But Kenneth’s rather sad story ends well. In mid-2012, he met Milly Tali and they became fast friends. The two fell in love and before they knew it, a wedding was in the works.
“After my ordeal, I developed a negative attitude towards women. I thought they were all bad, and was very cautious around them, but when I met Milly and got to know her, I knew she was different,” he says.
Kenneth was honest with Milly from the onset and told her about his experience at his first try at marriage.
“Her first reaction was be feel sorry for my suffering. She also felt insecure, wondering whether I had gotten over my former relationship. But I reassured her that she was my past and that she has no place in my future, which is the truth.”
Kenneth and Milly got married exactly a month ago, on August 10.
“It was the happiest day of my life,” he says.
The greatest lesson Kenneth has learnt from his experience is the importance of forgiving and forgetting. In late 2011, Kenneth sought out his former fiancée and informed her that all was forgiven.
“I told her that even though what she did to me was wrong and unfair, I had forgiven her and let go off the hurt. I felt relieved and lighter. I was ready to move on.
Today, even when I talk about her, it doesn’t hurt. I talk about it not to embarrass her or her family, but to encourage others who have gone through what I did, or will go through the same thing. Life goes on and there is a better person waiting for you.”