Sasha Mutai and I agree to meet up. On the day, he shows up earlier than expected. Then at exactly 6pm, he texts to inform me that he is already at Under The Radar, in Valley Arcade. I pick up the phone, ready to call and receive him, only to spot him at the bar.
We exchange pleasantries then sit down for our chat and the meal of the evening; this includes Sasha’s Greek Salad as a starter and Fish Masala with Jeera Rice as mains. No dessert.
“Is the name ‘Sasha’ unisex?” I ask him.
He says it is. And it’s short for Alexander. His full name is Alexander Kiplagat Mutai.
Sasha is Nandi from Kaptumo, which is not too far from Kapsabet. His mother is Russian, his father Kalenjin. They both live in Nairobi, which doesn’t give Sasha much incentive to visit Kaptumo. He also explains that he speaks more Russian than Kalenjin, mainly because children pick up the mother language.
Sasha tells me he goes on a three-months detox every year. No kind of alcohol whatsoever. None. He parties hard, then goes on a detox. Sometimes the timing is terrible, like once when he was in Las Vegas, and he had to stick to Soda Water.
Reason for the detox? Health purposes. Trying to stay fit. Keep his body well maintained. This is easy to understand, seeing as his father is currently on dialysis, struggling with an ailing kidney.
To any average person, his life would seem extremely glamourous. But, his demeanor changes when he begins to open up about the Dubai break-up that he’s become synonymous with. For a brief period, his eyes sadden while I prod endlessly and he answers graciously.
Sasha dated a woman. Loved her fiercely. Flew her to the Middle-East and proposed to her in the world’s top-most restaurant, located in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.
They came back to Kenya engaged. Sasha very ready to marry her. The engagement lasted six weeks.
Sasha says he had a dream. Something was wrong with the relationship. In addition, like an alarm, his gut instincts kept going off. The lady would deny if he asked, and he needed evidence, something irrefutable.
Sasha, who is articulate, extremely soft-spoken and had arrived for the interview in his Porsche Cayenne, was very candid about his struggles, challenges, and successes. He’s a man who’s relatable, one who forgets his status and embraces the moment. Here’s the rest of the story:
“How did you find out?”
I hacked into her Yahoo email. Found everything I needed.
Proof that she was having a side story. Saucy conversations between her and the guy she was seeing.
Everyone reacts in some way to these things. How did you react?
(Pauses. Then makes eye contact.) I sent the trail of emails to everyone we knew. All our family and friends.
Yeah, not my best move ever, but I did.
Would you like me to omit that from the publication?
No. Include it. It happened. It’s over. We are all human. We do things. As they say, shit happens.
Finding out she cheated, did that alter your perception of women?
Yeah. I became very cynical about women for a while.
Are you still cynical?
No. I healed.
Time. Time heals most things.
Is there anything you wish you did different in the relationship?
Not really. I loved her. What else is there to do? But I’m glad I found out when I did. I really would have married her. There’s always a reason for everything.
All kinds of women make moves on you, and then here’s someone who cheats on you after a proposal in the world’s tallest building, how do you process that?
It is what it is. Again, I’m human. Things happen to me the same way they happen to everyone else. I’m not immune to misfortunes.
Any regrets? Mistakes you wish you never made?
No regrets. Mistakes are inevitable. They’re going to happen, even if we’re given a chance to do it all over again. However, I think there’ll always be a lesson. Like not trusting too fast, too soon. To take time. Not to rush the process.
Do you know where she is now?
No. I don’t follow up. No use in it. I don’t force things. I go with the flow. Keep life simple. I moved on. No sour grapes.
What’s an example of some of the bizarre things women say or do to get your attention?
This happened the other day. I’m with my buddies at Explorer. We’re chilling, having a good time, then this lady walks up to me and says: “I want you. I want you right now. And I always get what I want.”
What did you do?
Nothing. I froze. That’s a really dangerous thing for someone to say, if they actually mean it.
So you just sat still?
Yeah and smiled. And it was during the detox, which means I was 100% sober. She was tipsy.
I soon found out from her friends it was her birthday. I gave her my best wishes, that somehow worked. Thank God! (Laughs)
Do they stalk you?
Yeah, sometimes. Calls, texts…
Is it flattering?
No! No one wants a stalker! No one. It’s not amusing.
Are you dating?
Yeah, I’m seeing someone. It’s long distance. She’s in Dubai.
Sasha, this Dubai pattern…
(Laughs) I know, I know! But I’m not in a rush, we’ll see where it goes.
The cars…do you need a Porsche, a Jaguar and a Mercedes? All of them?
(Giggles) When boys are young they love small toys. When they grow up, they get big toys. Why not?
Your house in Lavington, did you really purchase it in cash?
I’m a Quantity Surveyor. I shopped around. Did my research. And I got great deals in every stage of the process.
What exactly does a Quantity Surveyor do?
We are the cost engineers of projects. So basically we work together with architects and engineers, get designs from them, cost them, ensure it’s within the budget and then inform and guide the client accordingly.
So it’s not that glamorous?
No. It’s not that sexy (Laughs). It’s hard work but it pays.
And it also requires brains…
Yes, there’s a lot of numbers involved. There are projects of about Kshs 10 Billion, and we have to manage the finances. There’s an endless amount of meetings too, I’m rarely ever in the office for an entire day. You’ve got to love the job.
Your elder sister was also in the business, were you brought up in money?
No. Not at all. My parents were middle-class civil servants. I studied hard, and I put a lot of hard work in what I do. Nothing fell on my lap. I worked for it all.
One needs serious networks in business, yes?
Yeah. But some ethics remain key. My sister and I were brought up well. We network as much as possible. But we don’t engage in back-door dealings or accept bribes or anything of the sort. We simply work really hard.
As a Quantity Surveyor, do you encounter a lot of con-men/women in your line of work?
(Laughs) Yeah, tons! All the time. I can now easily identify them in minutes.
So someone walks into your firm, YMR, asks to see you and gives you a seemingly impressive pitch, what then?
I hear them out. I hear everyone out. But by the time they walk out the door, I know whether or not I’m going to engage them. People talk too much. I don’t pay attention to words, I pay attention to actions. This is the reason I don’t speak out loud or excessively, I like action. I want to see a track-record. I want to see things happening.
Best business advice you could give?
Don’t burn too many bridges. It’s a small world. Someone always knows someone.
Rugby, do you miss being a part of it?
The leadership? No. Not really. The politics in Kenyan sports is on another level. I’m glad I’m out.
Did you attend the recent Safaricom Sevens at Kasarani?
No. And it was the first time in 20 years I didn’t attend a tournament.
Were you that demoralized by the politics of it all?
Not demoralised. It’s just that, some of us have passion. We love the sport. And then you see people involved who only want to be in it for their own personal needs. I just didn’t have the push. But I watched it on TV.
TV? That’s sad, that a fan of so many years now supports the sport from the couch…
Yeah, I tuned in to Zuku. It is sad. But Kenyan Rugby is different now. Places like New Zealand give a lot of attention to their Rugby. It’s the reason they do so well.
Speaking of New Zealand, do we need our own version of the ‘Haka’?
No, I don’t think so. In Kenya, it’s different. Our culture is different. We are known for chanting and making a lot of noise when we win. Maoris conduct their sports differently.
Admittedly, their ‘Haka’ could get any audience excited to see them play, right?
Yeah, it’s incredible what they do! I was in New Zealand once for Rugby. It’s intense, so much adrenaline! I’ll be going to London for the Rugby World Cup in the coming weeks. Looking forward to it!
Where else would you like to visit?
Thailand. I haven’t been to Thailand. They say very many nice things about it. It’s also cheap to holiday there. And Cuba. I’d like to purchase my cigars direct from their source.
What’s your favorite Cigar flavor?
Montecristo No. 2. That’s my favorite.
Milla, your daughter, how old is she now?
We’re not together. But we co-parent.
And it works well? Civil?
Extremely. We relate very well together. I’m really grateful.
It could always be worse, right?
Oh yeah! I hear stories from some of my divorced friends and what they go through…it’s terrible. I’m thankful every day. We co-parent, share visitation, my parents chip in, and it works great.
What’s been your greatest challenge in life so far?
Spending enough time with Milla. It’s never enough. I try. I even moved her to a school so close to the house that I can actually walk her in the morning, but it’s never enough.
What’s the other option?
Travelling together. I’ve taken her to Disney. She’s traveled so much for her age.
What do you hope she grows up having?
Values. Great values. The ones we were taught growing up: honesty, integrity and hard work.
If you could ask God for one thing, what would it be?
(Pauses) Nothing really.
Nothing at all?
No. I’m doing well, I travel, I have someone, I have a daughter I adore and a family I cherish. I wouldn’t ask for anything. But…I would say thank you. I’d tell Him thank you. He’s been kind.