Soldier, Bodi or Chris is how we would identify Chris Tsuma. He answered to them all. The answer would be Ni Aje? Or simply, sema. It was that simple, yet not so simple. Why?
Chris was as easy going as he was a mystery. To some he appeared impatient and quite difficult to please or deal with.
May be it was something to do with his 'cold' stare from a well-toned body, a result of several hours in the gym or a perceived unpredictability about what answer you may get. It really does not matter because it took something special to unpack Chris.
For a few years, we worked with Chris. We compared notes, went on assignments, learned from one another, shared frustrations, ate at our popular Burma Market or some dingy 'hotels' in the CBD.
During this time, I forged closer working ties with a gifted and unique journalist. I was a correspondent and him a staffer, but you would never draw a line because Chris was a consummate professional who respected his job which he did with outmost commitment.
This write up is just about the person I worked with and shared some of the most difficult times as a correspondent, somebody I kept in touch with and a journalist who raised the bar in sports journalism which is a mixed bag.
Chris a workaholic
Chris was a workaholic and easily got bored whenever there were no assignments or something to do.
He would look for stories and explore every angle. A detailed report was what you expected from Chris because he did not believe in mediocrity which sent signals about his perceived impatience.
On assignments, Chris would be the lone writer sitting away from where other journalists congregated. He did not like the 'journalist huddle' at assignment venues and would - in his favorite hoodie top - go to some secluded place to watch the match.
He reasoned there was lots of distraction from the 'journalist's huddle' where it was hard to concentrate because of the constant talks and comments from other journalists who appeared not to seriously take the job at hand.
Because he put so much effort in the copies he was assigned or generated, woe unto you if you changed his story for any reason! Chris will ask for an explanation! You better have one because he would ensure that you give a satisfactory answer.
The worst mistake would have been to say somebody higher had suggested the story to be changed. Chris would not be afraid to confront that higher authority.
It was during such times that you acknowledge the fighting spirit and fearlessness in this man who sometimes had very few words. The same persistence would be extended to press conferences.
Was it militancy? Yes, to those whom it was easier to coin such words than deal with the reality which is why he rubbed some people the wrong way. He was simply no nonsense.
This was Chris, who was equally courageous whenever there were chaos during a football match. While some of us were looking for an exit plan. the soldier in Chris would be weighing every option and sometimes dangereusly get caught in the heat of things but come out unscathed. Only once did he get get caught up!
Two items you may not have missed in his possession were a book and a gym bag.
The gym bag appeared so tiny but carried just enough for an activity he cherished. It is not surprising that Chris passed on at his favorite place, the gym, doing what he loved.
To say that Chris had a passion for sports is an understatement. He had a good grasp of any sports and quick to learn. I remember him getting interested in rugby which I loved (and still do). It took less time for him to get the basics and we even joked he could try and play the game!
It was Chris who broke down the complex game of cricket and this enabled me to cover the World Cup Cricket which Kenya co-hosted with South Africa.
At our work place, we shared notes and called a spade a spade which is how he quit in a huff and worked his way to the academia. He was principled and this ruffled a few feathers. Afterwards, I also left but sporadically kept in touch with Chris.
We joked about the tough decisions we each made, the hard knocks of life and generally, the state of Kenya's sports journalism. Add to this list mediocre assignments.
Never die attitude
To me, Chris was a valued colleague who entertained divergent views. His perceived impatience which painted him as 'trouble' was a reflection or a reality check on a system which conformed to the status quo.
Chris set the bar so high and was light years ahead of his time. One big lesson I learned from Chris was his never die attitude and pride in who he was. His conviction in what was right and courage to forge on even in difficult circumstances.
You barely knew what he was going through but his ability to wade against a fast running river saw him bounce back many a time. The ready smile for those he felt comfortable with was genuine. He was as humble as he was industrious.
Chris would have loved us to celebrate his life and not be sad. He touched many lives and his light will for ever shine. Fare thee well my friend. 2 Timothy 4:7 - I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.