First published in 1990, Mwangi’s Striving for the Wind is set in Kambi, a village in Central Kenya close to the Aberdare ranges. Like most of Mwangi’s books, this one is also written in a hilarious manner, the expressions used will have the reader laughing with every turn of the page.
Baba Pesa, the man at the center of the story, is an arrogant, newly wealthy land owner. He calls himself Baba Pesa (Father of money), and his favorite words are “Money speaks and it calls me daddy!”
Despite the fact that he owns most of the prime farmland in Kambi, he covets the meager plots of his poverty stricken neighbors who barely have enough to live on. Not content with being the wealthiest man in the land, he goes out of his way to gain more financial dominance in the village. He bullies his neighbors into selling and moving.
Baba Baru, Pesa’s neighbor, however, refuses to sell his land to Pesa, who is so miffed that he dreams of setting fire to Baru’s small property just to forcefully evict him from his land. Then there is Juda Pesa, a university drop out, and a drunkard who has decided to fight for the people to protect them from the likes of his father. People in the village call him Professor. This, however, does not go down well with his father, and the clashes between the two are really dramatic.
Baba Pesa cannot comprehend why his son rejects school to waste away his life:
“…………….you belong to the university, building Ivory towers and being……………a man of substance, someone I can be proud of. Why do you choose to be a pauper, a nothing………….” And “you could have been anything you chose to be. You could have walked with kings, eaten with emperors. You chose instead to be a poor preacher, a crier in the wilderness, a warrior of lost causes, a nothing……………….”
Even Mama Pesa, Juda’s mother cannot understand why her son is wasting away his life. In his defence, Juda pleads for understanding from his mother:
“Mother, don’t hate me. The womb that carries heroes also carries thieves and mad men.”
Many events take place that make Baba Pesa realize money sometimes isn’t everything- like when after a long drought spell, the rains finally come and as other people till their land in preparation for planting, he cannot do anything about his farm land because of diesel scarcity. This makes him even reach out to his hated neighbor Baru.
In Striving for the Wind, Meja Mwanji paints an emotional portrait of the inequality, the injustice and poverty exists between the rich and poor but which are often taken for granted in most societies.