By Ajiambo Samantha Immaculate.
Charles ‘Chanchori’ Ndegwa is not an Uber driver but a law student at Kenya School of Law. Chanchori is his high school nickname that has stuck to date. Contrary to his story, he is unmarried and without any child. He is into civic education as that’s his lawyer’s life. He was born with a natural urge to write and has been writing since his lower primary school. He has never stopped writing. Charles was averaging a story a day before he broke into the limelight with the Uber story: Around Nairobi in One Night. Even when his Facebook stories got 5 likes out of his 5000 Facebook friends he kept on writing. He has a bunch of screenplays in his computer that nobody got interested in them until his fame dawned. His next adventure will be coming up with a website by next week www.chanchori.com
The Uber story: Around Nairobi in One Night tackles mental health issues that are still highly overlooked in our country and highlights PTSD among soldiers. Charles confesses that he was worried that killing disturbs them (soldiers). However it turns out it that it doesn’t. When they kill a guy they laugh about it over a beer. Maybe that’s where the worry lies. He acknowledges the stint he did at the Medico Legal Unit which is an NGO that fights against torture, state perpetrated torture and extra judicial killings. It was there that he got introduced to a world of violence through the clients he met. At first it was disturbing but after a while he got used to listening to people sharing their stories and exposing the darkest corners of their human souls.
The Uber story was inspired by; His love for intense characters, His love for psychology, He wanted to dump a totally normal guy into an unfamiliar field and mess around with him just to see how he comes out at the end. The two characters had philosophical discussions. They were well outlined. They lived, breathed. Charles loves writing on murder and human mind if there is such a genre. He chose the Uber story because people could easily have an image of it. You saw how lengthy the story was by the social media standards and you are wondering what trick he used to make us click ‘see more’? His answer was simple. Just write what is in your heart. A reader can sense if the story has a soul or if the writer just put paragraphs together to write a story. See that story that wakes you up in the middle of the night, that’s the story that’s going to carry people away. He typed using his phone after his computer crashed hence he had a lot of time in his hands.
Looking at his works on his Facebook timeline, one would wonder where he gets his stories from and if he experiences writers block. The truth is that most of them are products of his day dreams, sometimes inspired by actual conversations with people and sometimes they just follow him and compel him to take his keyboard and type the captivating pieces. His word to writers when they face the block is to keep calm and take their time. Muses go to sleep sometimes. Then they wake up with a bang! His muse was asleep for a bit before the Uber story. Then when the muse woke up his life changed and he got the town talking of him. Somehow, he has not encountered people on the street calling for autographs because many are familiar with the name Charles Chanchori but not the face of Charles Chanchori.
Charles’ success came weeks after one literature guru wrote a newspaper article dismissing the social media as a platform for growth for artists especially poets and writers. This was a clear show that something good can come out of Facebook in the literature field. Why do Kenyan’s fail to support homegrown writers, musicians and poets? As for Charles several critics came up to spoil the show that the work was plagiarized. Unfortunately they got stuck when asked for evidences to support their allegations. When Charles was asked whether critics should be answered to? He said “No, I don’t think so, unless it’s an informed critic who could build you. Not these people saying the story is copied then when called out they say, Oh sorry. I hadn’t read the story”. There is a press statement circulating that the ministry of defense is looking for him but the later is unsigned. At the first place why would they do so yet the story is pure fiction?
Charles tries to read a book every fortnight. He enjoys reading Jacques Strauss (South African), Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Grace Ogot, Francis Imbuga, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie and Hellen Oyeyemi. Moreover, his all time favorite author is Paulo Coelho de Souza. His words challenge Charles to be a better human being. His other best reads are by John Grisham. To his readers, he would recommend the following books; The Zahir by Paulo Coelho, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie, My Daughter the Racist by Helen Oyeyemi, Fear of a Black President by Ta Nehisi Coates, Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho and the Curator by Jacques Strauss. He is currently reading Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho. Charles is convinced that Kenyans read as his Uber story is evidence to the notion Kenyan’s don’t read. There are people who hack one book a week despite their busy schedules. However these are all internationally recognized books. Local writers can still reclaim their audiences by writing what is worth reading.
Final take from Charles “Follow your heart. Don’t do something blindly because that’s what people do. Find out why you’re making a certain decision, and then follow your heart”
The article is a courtesy of Charles Chanchori’s live WhatsApp chat with the members of Book Club Kenya on 16/02/2017. Contact Ajiambo through: firstname.lastname@example.org