- Renato D’souza JACKSON BIKO sat under an extravagant chandelier, in this room that echoed with the grief as he talked about his best friend, his father, who died three years ago.
An empty conference room at Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel. Renato D’souza sits amongst a cluster of forlorn empty chairs and a thick carpet that has soaked thousands of speeches and stiff cocktail laughter. A lonesome lectern presides over the noisy stillness of the room.
His blazer is off and draped resignedly on a chair next to him, like a comrade who could not make it to the finishing line of this corporate rat race. His face mask hangs under his chin like a rooster’s wattle.
Outside, the sun sets on the bones of a jaded city. It looks like it has been an unforgiving day for Mr D’souza.
Until moments ago, he —Stanbic Bank’s Head of Client Coverage within Business and Commercial Banking—had been in a conference room next door for hours for an annual planning meeting. He has a flight to catch the following day at dawn to go shake more bushes.
But you know what Queen, the British pop band, once said, “the show must go on.” And his show has been going on for the past two dozen years, in various senior roles, his last role being the head of oil and gas.
He and JACKSON BIKO sat under an extravagant chandelier, in this room that echoed with the grief as he talked about his best friend, his father, who died three years ago.
Do you find that being light-skinned has its advantages professionally?
[Loud laughter] Socially, maybe. [Laughing] Oh boy! That’s a funny question. Professionally, I don’t think so, especially where I work. Stanbic Bank Kenya is a result-driven organisation.
If you don’t deliver, trust me, your skin colour won’t save you. In fact, it might work against you because they might say, ‘the only reason this guy got this job was because of his skin colour.’ [Chuckles]
I don’t suppose you have a perfect life. I certainly don’t.
What do you think would bring your life close to perfection? [Long pause] Time. You always get the feeling that you never have enough of it, and there are so many things that you could do only if you had enough time. Sometimes I wonder if I have fully utilised the time I have.
Do you have enough money?
[Laughter] What is enough money? I think enough money for me is money that can bring certain comforts to my life.
I don’t really think there’s a time when you’ll say, ‘yeah I have enough money,’ because people are always looking for more and you wonder ‘what is this that the extra money you’re looking for can buy that you don’t already have?’ So back to your question, do I have enough money? I have enough to make me comfortable.
You are in the money business, what have you learnt about money over these years working for banks?
The biggest lesson I’ve learnt about money is you need to respect money. Money is a double-edged sword; it can be good if you respect it but also bad if you don’t respect it. Think of people who have made lots of money.
Mike Tyson, for instance. He made lots of it, but did he respect it? But on the flip side look at people who have respected money like Bill Gates, they have sort of ensured that that money ultimately works for them.
What’s been the tipping point in life?
Fatherhood. It changed how I saw myself, how I saw the world and how I engaged with my days. Children alter how you approach life, suddenly it’s just not about you, they depend on you.
Children bring a sense of responsibility to your life. When you have children, you realise that you must plan for tomorrow, they make you confront the very idea of your mortality.
If you were to die in the next hour or so, who is the one person you would apologise to?
[Pause] Interesting. [Pause]. My dad. My dad died in 2019 at Nairobi Hospital. We were at his death bed. He was ready to leave. He said, ‘I have done my part, I’ve done my best, there is no reason to hang on. It’s up to you guys to take it from where I left off.’
I admired that. My dad and I used to speak every Sunday. We’d talk about work, family, money…everything. I’d apologise to him because although he gave us a lot of time, I could have given him more time, but I didn’t.
There are many days he’d call, and I’d tell him I’d call him back. I wish I had picked his calls and spoken to him because what was so important not to speak to him, a hangover? A work call? I could have travelled to Kericho more often to check on him.
You are half- something and something, right?
[Laughs] Yes. I’m Goan and Kikuyu. Have you been to Goa? No? You should. It’s an amazing place, very liberal and westernised. So, they say that Goans are all trustworthy, industrious, hardworking and have diabetes.
[Laughs] My dad was born there and came to Kenya when he was young. They grew up in Nakuru. When Kenya got independence, his brothers relocated to the UK and my grandfather back to India, but he remained behind in Nakuru.
He then moved to Kisii after high school to work with my uncle who owned a car garage. He went about in a 850cc motorbike and used to do a lot of hunting with guns. He also played the guitar.
Meanwhile, my mom, whose dad was a known politician, moved to Kisii with her sister after being kicked out by their father for some mischief. That’s how my parents met. They got married, moved back to Kericho, and started a life.
What’s the one question you’d wish you would ask your dad today?
How did you do it? How did you raise four children? I only have two and it seems daunting. My dad brought us up alone after he broke up with my mom. Not to say that she was not involved. My dad came for all the school functions.
Never missed one. I went to Lenana School. On top of providing for all of us, he was also running a business. He seemed omnipresent. He never missed any graduations or our children’s baptisms. Where was he getting all this time?
Is there a lesson there for you?
Yeah. That there is more to life than material stuff. He reached out not because he had more time than we do but because he created time. My dad ran a shop in Kericho, and every morning he would buy the street children porridge.
When he passed away a great mix of people came for his cremation, people who had nothing in common with each other. He gave to the church without asking for a mention, only a plaque mentioning that the donation came from the Goan Community.
We had a nanny in Kericho who had a daughter called Sasha and whenever we visited, we would go with bicycles for our children and one day he told us, ‘don’t bring those bicycles here unless you are also bringing one for Sasha’ because Sasha who didn’t own a bicycle would feel inferior.
He said such things create inequality amongst children at an early age. From then if we were buying presents Sasha got one. He always said there was no difference between the children other than the fact that some had better opportunities than others. We have continued supporting the family after his death.
Because your dad was this big figure in your life and now, he’s gone, what have you filled that void with?
Golf. [Laughter] Sundays are tough. I always find something to do with my children; church, haircuts, lunches. That gap can’t be filled.
They say we end up marrying our mothers, did you marry your mother?
I think so. Joy and my mom have a lot of similarities. They are both beautiful. When they believe in something you can’t talk them out of it. My mom and dad were the opposite of each other. I guess unlike poles attract.
Would you like to be buried or cremated?
Cremated. I don’t want guys to mourn me for long. Cremation is easier on the family. My dad passed on on a Sunday and by Thursday we had cremated him. And the only reason we did it on a Thursday is because my mom had to fly in from the US. But if I had an option, I’d say cremation.