10.16a.m. The phone dings. One new email. It’s from Chris Hart, “Still on for today?”
I panic. I should be checking with him, not the other way round. I respond, confirm, and say yes, I’ll be meeting him as we’d planned the week prior. I then panic some more, “Why didn’t I remember to follow-up?”
One and a half hours later, Chris and I meet in his office, which is in his house, just off Westlands. As soon as he opens the door and shakes my hand, I begin with apologies, I should have checked with him. He smiles, doesn’t seem to have a clue what I’m going on about and he asks me to please give him a few seconds, he’ll be right back.
When he leaves the office, I stare at the small African portrait on the wall, there’s a Maasai warrior on it. I look at the Bluetooth wireless speaker on his desk, then peer out, through the window sheers, at the outdoor estate swimming pool. I wonder if it was simply placed there for the sake of it or whether the residents actually use it. As these thoughts run through my mind, I hear Chris’s house help’s laughter coming from the kitchen. It’s a warm, hearty laugh – the kind of laughter that comes from the belly. I smile.
Chris returns and has a seat, but before I get to ask about the estate swimming pool and its usage, or lack thereof, he tells me, “the cat has disappeared, as they usually do.”
I’m confused. I hadn’t imagined a conversation on cats being the prelude to our interview. I’m also intrigued. I listen.
Chris tells me, “One night, at about midnight, we were woken up by the sound of a kitten outside, and when we went out looking, we found this little bundle of fur outside, it had been quite badly injured and in a terrible state. We took it in.” This, he says, about the cat that has now pulled a Houdini.
The cat was unusually large, the kind he’d once seen while he provided some services next to USIU on Thika Road. When he asked around why the domestic cats in the area were that huge, he was told they were crossed with wild cats. The cats had piqued his interest, he was keen on getting a kitten, but he never really did anything about it.
And then one day, “A cat of the same breed simply showed up at our doorstep. Goes to show you how interesting life is. Anything can happen at any moment. So much happens by chance…”
My conversation with Dr. Christopher Hart, belovedly referred to by his fans simply as “Dr. Chris Hart,” took its lead from the cat. In an effort to demystify who he really is, celebrity status aside, Chris talked to me some more about chance, work, love, and the moment he almost gave up.
Has chance always played a huge role in your life?
It has. When I look back, all the key turning points of my life were influenced by chance.
Do you think everyone gets to experience this?
Certainly, I think chance strikes in everyone’s life. They call it “serendipity.” The difference is that some people take note of it and some don’t. If you’re always walking while looking down at your feet, you won’t notice it. And even if you do, you won’t make the most of it. However, there are those that pay attention, take note of what’s happening and make something out of it. That’s the difference.
Is that how you met your wife, by chance?
Yes. (Laughs) We met via the internet.
You met via the internet? In those days?
Yes, (laughs again), in those days! I was writing for the Nation. She wrote to me about an article I’d written. I wrote back to her. Somehow the conversation stuck. And this is strange, because many people write to me, very many people. I reply, and we converse a little, but it hardly ever goes any further than that. With my now wife, the conversation just kept going.
Well, she’s Luo, she was in Kisumu at the time. I started finding excuses to make trips to Kisumu to meet her. I remember one time we were sitting across each other at a bar, and something happened, We both just knew this was it.