Mess in SCOUT’S Camp Fire Function
It was during the Scout’s Fire Camp in the Railway club of Nakuru in the year 1989. I was the chief guest at the function and was invited to open the Fire Camp where scouts from the entire Rift Valley Province were to take part in the camp which was supposed to last for three days.
The program was supposed to begin at 6.30pm. and I arrived on time. Perhaps the scouts did not know about my punctuality although I had briefed the Captain about my habit of reaching events on time.
The general public of Kenya was not used to being punctual at such functions and so often the Guest of Honour would purposely arrive late to such events. If he arrived on time, he would find only the organisers at the venue undertaking the final round of preparations.
I was always punctual and nearly all the organisers who invited me to their functions were aware of my timekeeping. I would also brief them about my habit of arriving on time before accepting an invitation.
When I arrived at the camp site at 6.30pm sharp, there were some scouts and girl guides in the field rehearsing their parts of the program. Others were trying to stand in a proper line to receive the guest of honour on his arrival. The captain who had been my contact and was the only person I knew in the scouts, was nowhere to be seen.
I parked my pick-up in the parking area and headed towards the hall, where the function was supposed to be held. The scouts, and some guides, who did not know me in person, glared at me, seeing me to arrive so early during the function.
I entered the huge hall which was nicely decorated with plants and flowers with a beautiful table set for the Chief Guest and his visitors and the officials. There were hundreds of chairs which were arranged in rows.
There were a few people sitting doing nothing, I joined them and started talking. At about 7.15pm, the captain of the scouts arrived in his full official dress with several badges. He checked the table, glared at the decorated walls, and talked to the volunteers who were around. As he was on the verge of leaving the hall, he saw me sitting in the 2nd row of seats with some other people.
He was surprised to see me sitting inside the hall, when he was arranging his troop to welcome me outside. He rushed up to me, greeted me with a scout salute and asked about my arrival. How had it happened that nobody amongst all the scouts and guides waiting outside had recognised me? He had not been told about my arrival and apologised for this.
He quickly took me outside by the back door and asked me to wait his call. He went to the group of scouts and girl guides and told them of my arrival and alerted them to be ready to give me their prepared welcome with the scout salute.
I had to pass down the line of the scouts and girl guides, nearly 200 in number, who all saluted me as I entered the hall. There were guides with a special bouquet and the head guide with a very heavy garland of flowers ready to present them to me. Everybody stood up as I entered and the National Anthem was sung before the program started.
Everybody was surprised to see me as the guest of honour, an Asian with a Kaunda suit who arrived alone in a pick-up. Everybody was expecting the Chief Guest Dr.H.V.Kerai to come in a luxurious car driven by a driver and accompanied by a number of cars full of his friends. The Chief Guest was supposed to be in a suit and tie, according to them.
When I stood up and opened the function with a few words, no-one seemed to be interested. There was no silence in the overcrowded hall where almost all the people were very much surprised to see me as the Chief Guest. The Captain managed to maintain silence and I started talking to the crowed very sweetly with my usual alluring opening speech. There was a pin drop silence in the hall and I continued with my duty as the Chief Guest. When I left the hall at the end of the function, there was a big crowd around to bid me farewell including scouts and guides who were very eager to shake my hand.
It was not what they expected of the guest of honour, a doctor and an Asian in so simple dress, with a pick up and no one to escort him. It was strange, that that was Dr. Kerai, the general public was crazy about. This was the man whom the general public respected as a real man of the people and crowded to listen to his words. The needy and poor citizens of Kenya longed to see him in person and funds flooded in wherever he went for fundraising functions.
Clothes and luxury do not make people likable and popular but a person makes simplicity likable.