Tuesday, November 12, 2019
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Timbitii: How Njove killed the culture of taking wedding gift suggestions in The Seven Ridges

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IMAGE: Swaziland's King Mswati has made it his business to marry every now and then | Image source: dn.static-economist.com
Swaziland's King Mswati has made it his business to marry every now and then | Image source: dn.static-economist.com

I am going to a wedding this weekend. In the city. Nobody weds Anybody on Saturday at 10.00 am at the Glory Outreach chapel, and I happen to be invited. I was actually part of this wedding preparation Whatsapp group, where I just followed stuff silently. [Sheria people, Daisy, Pamela, give me a term like ‘pro bono’ for a person who follows Whatsapp proceedings without making contributions, financial and otherwise]

Anyway, Anybody and Nobody did send us a list of items they would like as gifts, and where we can get them. Once you pick an item, you cross it out so no one else picks the same item. That way, they won’t end up receiving six TVs and not a single TV rack on the big day. Logical, isn’t it?

Except I won’t be taking any of the listed gifts.

Why?

Because that is taboo where I come from, in the slopes of The Seven Great Ridges.

Let me explain.

Many years ago, we used to do it like it is done today, back in the village. Anyone with a wedding would list what they wanted, and we would deliver gladly on their big day, in song and dance. Except there were no fridges and washing machines back then, so we used to gift newly-weds with farm animals, sofa sets and solar panels.

Until one day, Njove’s wedding.

When Njove’s list of preferred wedding gifts came out, it was one of the weirdest things we had ever seen. Not a single item of your usual wedding gifts. No sofa set, no goat, no cupboard, no table, no mattress.

The only thing which looked wedding-ish on the list was ‘Two Atlas or Avon bicycles.’

The rest of the list read 1-bale baking flour- Uncle Munyi, 1- bale jogoo flour- Tata Maria, 50kg- rice- Cúcú Gorreti, 50kg cooking fat- Úmau Múgo and such like bizarre stuff.

The Ridges were thrown into confusion. Why would a man want such gifts, we wondered. It was discussed in numerous fora, from house-mudding to bean-whipping, but no one could come to a logical conclusion about it. Eventually, we agreed that Njove was a ‘greedy, short sighted fool,’ who was solely guided by his stomach. His wife-to-be, Peni, short for Peninah, also agreed as much, but could not speak much, as it was custom for would-be-brides to show a certain mannerism in those days.

That said, however, we had a strict village culture of never knocking a comrade down from their pedestal, so we let Njove be.

And we bought the gifts, every one of them, as outlined. The two bicycles were bought by combined effort, one by the bride’s family and the other by Njove’s own family. Njove’s outdid themselves by going beyond the stipulated Avon and Atlas to get him a Phoenix bike, complete with two top tubes (míkon’gori)

And the wedding came to pass as one of the weirdest ever. You see, our wedding songs were tailored to say specific things about our conventional gifts, like how ‘we are giving you this bed because [insert your mother’s name here] is a woman of class and we don’t want her to be born on a mat. Naughty fellaz, those villagers of mine!

So you can imagine the creativity it took to do ‘covers’ of those songs to cater for Njove’s weird choice of gifts, yes? Like, ‘we want you to eat this ugali and be a warrior, because your father is a warrior and we don’t want a weakling named after him.’

Suffice to say Njove was largely elated to see the gifts trickle in. He wore a certain smile, one I have over the years learned to define as ‘goofy.’ The same cannot be said of Peni, who appeared embarrassed throughout the entire ceremony. To his credit, Njove was able to cheer her up significantly when they disappeared for an hour- or so, no one was counting- during the after-party.

The wedding weekend over, we settled back to our normal lives and waited to watch Njove fall from his greedy pedestal.

Except he didn’t.

The immediate week after the wedding Njove used to teach Peni how to ride a bike. You can call it honeymoon, because they were like kids all week, holding and helping each other up, and shouting at each other then making up.

On the second week, we were surprised to see a lorry drive into Njove’s compound, and pack all his gifts in it. As it drove away, Njove hopped onto his bike, Peni onto the other and followed. That was around noon.

Later that afternoon, handwritten fliers and posters started appearing at different points within the villages of The Ridges:

‘Welcome to NjoPeni Foodstuff and General Stores. Located at Jasho Building, Kararerí. For the best prices for your household goods.’

Ayayayayayaya! Njove, what have you done to us? You mean you used us to set up a business!

Word spread fast of Njove’s ‘betrayal,’ but there is nothing like negative publicity. People were raving that Njove had done wrong, but I was of the opinion that we had given him the best gift ever, a steady start to an economically independent life. Not that all that prevented customers from trooping to NjoPeni’s fair priced store.

Lakini watu unawaita kina nani?

Needless to say, the culture of choosing wedding gifts died an instant death. I don’t think it should have died though, or do you?

So I am not taking any listed gift on Saturday, not because I think it’s bad, but because, you know…mwacha mila.

Blame it on Njove, the most prominent businessman on the Seven Ridges today.

What is your take on wedding gifts? Tell us in the comments section below.

Meanwhile, enjoy these glorious wedding videos: [Source: YouTube]

https://youtu.be/GTyrC7kPOEU

Lakini hii hapana:

https://web.facebook.com/Sir.Collinsky.C.K/videos/10205534818129270/

 

#tbt #iRestMyPen

#Timbitii When I almost became a musician

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IMAGE: Studio mic
Image source: http://wallpapercave.com

I often say some words in passing, but I have come to realize that most of these words have a greater permanency than the advice lectures I give with my most serious face. Recently, I was speaking to Musoki Mkenya, and he revealed that I was part of the reason why he never made a career in music.

That’s preposterous! I objected.

So, he mentioned a very brief conversation we had one day long ago.

Let me give you a brief background.

Around the turn of the 21st Century, Radio Taifa KBC was your main radio station, and as such, one of the nation’s club bangers was ‘Wakulimaa, Ongezeeni Kilimooo.’ At least according to me. I later learnt that you could catch Jeff Mwangemi on Yours For The Axin [Where is that bugger by the way, he needs to be brought in for pioneering the xaxa culture] and another one called Sundowner. But how could we, when both the Man Beater’s and The Taliban’s radios were only turned on during news bulletins?

Even ‘Wakulimaa’ we only caught when we could hold out long enough after Edward Kadido or Omuga Kabisae was done with ‘Matangazo maalum halkadhalika ya vifo.’

Then came the millennium, and with it the first icon of media revolution: FM Radio. KBC blessed us with Metro FM, which for a long time Njove [Not the one of wedding gifts] convinced me was using the slogan ’24/7 Horse of Reggae.’
Next up was a crop of local musicians, and John ‘KJ’ Kiarie in his ‘Head on Korishon’ segment in The Sunday Nation [Another xaxa pioneer] prophesied Kenyan youth would soon be pursuing music more than college degrees. Then, KJ was following his dream, before he later broke off to follow his father Waweru Ngéthe’s dream.

Then E-Sir happened, and with him the onset of KJ’s prophesy coming to be. Fortunately, or not, probably, Mkenya was one of those caught up in the music business craze. He teamed up with Alex Ndume who was also working with Patrick Mbogo and they started spending most of their free-and prep- time writing music. I don’t remember their stage names, I’ll work on that. Any money they saved was used to make trips to town in search of a recording studio.

All fine and proper; to each their own.

Except they started trying to rope me in. Mkenya specifically did the asking. He began by asking me to check the written lyrics for him. Although I had no music experience, I did that like a good brother and opined about a few rhymes I thought could be tweaked here and there.

Next he started inviting me to their practice sessions, and I tagged along as a show of support. Then they started asking me to give it a go. To this I said no. Categorically. But who do you call Mkenya!

He then started dropping subtle comments that the money I was wasting on Football-and other- magazines could go a long way in helping ‘our’ recording. I was tempted to tell him that his music business was none of my business, but I didn’t. I have no idea why, because it definitely wasn’t wisdom.

Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back.
One day I was on the desktop computer the Man Beater had acquired helping the chimp design a poster for a show they had coming up, trying to get creative and stuff. Somehow, they had managed to have a show in a neighbouring school on the eve of closing, and they were even allowed to bring in outsiders. I have to give it to them, I have no idea how they managed that. I must admit that for a split second I even mulled over the benefits of becoming an artist.

So we are there trying to come up with catchy phrases and, inevitably, ‘Wasanii wakali ndani ya nyumba’ came up. On it, we superimposed an image of the then famous ‘Simba Saloon’ lion that was used to advertise nights at The Carnivore on newspapers. Problem arose when we came to put in the artistes’ names.

IMAGE: A snippet of a Simba similar to what was used in Simba Saloon ads | Source: Kenyabuzz.com
A snippet of a Simba similar to what was used in Simba Saloon ads | Source: Kenyabuzz.com

After listing the three key performers, Mkenya slyly asked me to insert my name as a fourth performer. I was very alive to his cunning, but I just replied to him casually, ‘Hii ni ya wasanii wakali ndani ya nyumba, mimi nitakuwa msanii mkali hapo nje.’ [I’m not sure I got non-Swahili speaking readers. If there are, please notify]

Hahaha, hapo hujaniambia poa. Mkenya replied, and we got on with designing our poster.

The poster was dope; people loved it. I attended the show, and it was a relative success. The physically handicapped kids, part of the institution where the show was held, were elated. I felt happy- and a tinge envious- for Wasanii Wakali.
Talk of me joining the group never came to the surface again.

Eventually, they did split and went it solo but none of them pursued the dream much farther. And the music story went under. Until recently, when I told Mkenya I was planning to record a song ‘just for fucks,’ and he grumbled, After successfully killing my career!

That’s preposterous! I objected.

You remember when we were designing that poster and we came up with that killer phrase Wasanii Wakali ndani ya Nyumba and you said you would be Msanii mkali hapo nje?

Mmmh…yeah, I think I do.

Man, you really killed me with that. You blew out my candle.

Whoa! That was just a casual statement! You are blaming me for your little ambition.

Casual to you. Little ambition it was yes, it needed some support to fledge…

Okay, let’s stop getting emotional here, shall we?

Okay…

And just like that, the son of the soil failed to become a hit maker because of something casual I said. So now I’m here drawing images in my mind of how we could have become great [I definitely would have been the manager] and toured the world and given Sauti Sol a run for their money at the MAMAs.

Or just become a bunch of drug and alcohol imbimbing brats like…need I start listing?

My track is coming, soon.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave this one here for no reason at all…

IMAGE: Mufasa move faster. Image source: Pinterest
Image source: Pinterest

#Timbitii #iRestMyPen

The day I pulled a Superman

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IMAGE: Superman logo is what I felt I deserved after my heroic exploits | Source: Google images
Superman logo is what I felt I deserved after my heroic exploits | Source: Google images

Back in the day when Macadamia grew only on rich people’s shambas, The Rose bought me a jacket. I am told there are no macadamia in Western and many other regions, but I don’t know how to explain them further, just macadamia. You can google them, but it would be better to find them and eat them. You can come for some at my place. Yw

Anyway, The Rose bought me a jacket. And it was a big deal because of three reasons.

1. At the time, kids did not have jackets. We all owned one heavy hand-sewn woollen pullover with a cat or umbrella decoration on the front. This was worn strictly Sundays, and removed after church. Or on weddings. It had to be in the same color as your school sweater to cater for the rainy season [ever realised how rules tend to relax when it rains, at work, school etc?]
Then we had a school sweater and another funny mtumba sweater to wear in the evenings after washing our feet.

2. My jacket was two sided- red on one side, green on the other. Both wearable. In essence, two jackets! It also had a hood that could be removed and replaced at will. Magic. And thus no more mboshoris for yours truly.

3. It had pockets. In the days when we wore shorts that almost always got torn in the middle and t-shirts that were rolled over to leave our malnourished stomachs bare any time we had to carry something, a garment with pockets was a big plus.

I had this nice little problem though: How to classify my jacket. Do I make it a Sunday Things kind of garment or do I classify it as a cloth of gútinda? I could have gladly chosen the former, but a month has only four Sundays; I could not sport my jacket so rarely. In true functionality, such a heavy jacket was of little essence to an energy packed lad, jumping here and there till sundown.
In the end, it became a second skin and assimilated a new smell -and some wool-from my handling of sheep. Remember back then I was the Man Beater’s chief shepherd.
Now to the story itself.
On this day we had a very important boys-only mission to invade Mwalimu’s macadamia garden. Macadamia to last us a week then some was to be smuggled. While at it, we could also get some well cultured blackjack, lantern camara and múthúnga weeds to feed our rabbits. All check.
There was little cause for alarm since Mwalimu’s land was huge and the farm house was a safe distance from the trees.
All was going well and we had gathered quite a heap of the nuts until Sah, that bastard famed for scaling trees was overcome with greed. With an express command from Sisto that the loot we had gathered was adequate, the thieving bastard chose to reach for a bunch of fully bloomed nuts at the very end of a slight branch.

macadamia_nuts_on_tree
When the finest bunch is at the very edge of the branch, know you are going for it. The temptation you can’t overcome | Image: Wikimedia

You will fall off, Sisto warned.
No way, I am a mas…..he did not even finish the sentence. The branch gave a loud crack as it came off the tree trunk and Sah came tumbling down. Care to remember that the first macadamia leaves were spiky as hell. The bastard hit the ground with a thud, and a big scream.
We did not need special branch to tell us we were found out. Immediately, all of us, Sah included, took to our heels out of the thicket. We could soon hear Kaparo- Mwalimu’s son- shouting expletives at us, hot on the charge.
We managed to get out of the woods, but by then Kaparo had got at least a glimpse of every one of us. And we knew without any doubt that he would be hunting for us the entire afternoon. He had stopped chasing, but we knew he was coming.
And that is when the idea struck me!
Without telling anyone, I turned my jacket inside out, from red to green and started going the other way. Such that I met with a raving Kaparo coming downhill as I went up.
Kaparo must have been sure I was among the crew of crooks, but I had him twisted. One, he had not seen anyone in a green jacket. Again, there was no way in his mind I could have pulled such a stunt. In those days, lads had guilty written on their faces.
Where are your friends? Kaparo quipped. I don’t know, I have been sent by my father. But I think I heard people running this way, I said, indicating to Kaparo a totally different direction.
He let me go and I watched with glee as he completely lost track on the gang.
Meanwhile, I weighed my options of going back to get the loot. While it would be death if I got caught, I would be village hero if I pulled through.
Weighing the two options, I decided Big Risk, Big returns. Kufa gari, kufa dereva! Tuingie mitini.

macadamianuts.jpg
And here are the spoils of the great war! Where is the hero’s welcome?  | Image: Georgiavines.com

I got the loot, and, for the first time in my life, I was counted out when the thieving rascals were reported- with a strong warning- to their respective parents.
And I’m still alive to tell.

macadamia.jpg
Let the party begin! | Image: louisenursery.com 

#Tbt #IRestMyPen

 

Tribulations of the Famine of Gateta

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IMAGE: This could easily have been the earth when the crowd turned against me, but it didn't open up enough to swallow us | Image source: Wikimedia
This could easily have been the earth when the crowd turned against me, but it didn't open up enough to swallow us | Image source: Wikimedia
So the weatherman announced that rain was going to be inadequate and, as a result, there would be little or no harvest this season. Nature.
Thus, owing to our food insecurity as a country, the drought is likely to cause a famine. Sad. (In my book, drought is inadequate rainfall; famine is shortage of food. The two are directly related, but not similar. Class dismissed)
Anyway, the current situation sent me back to the year 2000.
During the famine of Gateta.
Where I was born, we have a habit of naming droughts and famines after the phenomenon popular during that time. Like we once had ‘yúúra ría kavúng’a’ -famine of Kaúngá, named after the yellow Kavún’ga maize we were given as relief. Then, circa 1984, we were hit by famine of kíthioro (sharp corner) named after…ask Sammy Rukenya Wa Karuguti.
Then 2000 came. The turn of the millennium did not bring with it an end of the world as prophesied, but it did bring a strong threat of the same in the form of a severe drought and an even harder hitting famine. The landscape was drier than Fred Omondi’s jokes, and there ceased to be foods for specific species. Humans ate the pawpaws that had refused to mature and fed the paw paw stem to the cows. The cows themselves produced tears if you attempted to milk them, with udders so shrunken you could mistake them for wrung woolen sweaters.
IMAGE: In 2000, this beest would have won the fattest livestock award in our village hands down | Image source: greenplanet.org
In 2000, this beest would have won the fattest livestock award in our village hands down | Image source: greenplanet.org
The famine was referred to as Famine of Gateta. Gateta was the package of 1 kg maize flour. The word ‘Gateta’ derived from ‘gúteta,’ to grumble, complain. It was so called because it was the only size of flour that families, whatever size, could afford at the time, with jobs obviously hard to come by. There were no farms to work on, duuh! (Utuku, see, I can go digital too!) As a result, there was a lot of grumbling and complaining from family members who felt they had been served too little, or came home to find the meal had already vamoosed. Ergo, Gateta.
I remember this because me and Mercy Wanja had set up a kiosk to leverage on the food shortage, and our fastest moving consumer good (FMCG) was Nafuu maize flour, Gateta size. Except the goods were moving fast on credit, because Mercy, like her name suggests, could not afford to see a penniless villager sleep hungry while we had stock. So inevitably, we went out of business.
You know the saying a hungry man is an angry man?
Of course you do, but you never take it seriously.
You definitely should.
Let me explain.
If you have observed nature carefully, you must have realized that in its wave, a trough is always preceded by a crest. A drought is almost always preceded by a bumper season or two.
And that was the case in the year 2000. In the year 1998, we had the El Nino rains and although much of the harvest went to waste, the soil stayed wet- a good sign everywhere, wetness- and we had a more than decent harvest in 1999.
Having learnt from the waste of ’98, me and my business partner Mercy set up a maize buying business in ’99, whereby we bought excess produce from the village farmers and sold it to a large scale buyer at a profit. That is where we got the capital to set up our kiosk in the new millennium. The future looked bright.
Except it was not.
Once our kiosk grounded to a halt, the villagers saw no more benefit in us, and they started seeing us as the traitors who had carted off their food savings in the previous year. “Were it not for you two who conned us of our produce and sold it to the lorry, we would still have enough to eat and feed our cows,” they said.
Attempts to remind them that we did a favour by buying off the produce that was too much for them to store or preserve, that it was all going bad were it not for us, fell on deaf ears.
“You stole from us with dog prices and sold to the lorry,” they shouted.
I find myself unable to continue, because my keyboard is wet- not a good sign after all, huh?- with tears. The happenings of that season- what befell us in person, our kiosk, our reputation and so much more- traumatize me to date.
But I have found a picture that -just slightly- describes what we went through. I’ll end at that and let the pic do the rest.
IMAGE: Roughly the type of treatment we underwent with my partner Mercy. This is just but a fraction though | Image: Mugambi Muriuki/Onetisa
Roughly the type of treatment we underwent with my partner Mercy. This is just but a fraction though Éndia Mbembe Gúkú= Sell maize here | Image: Mugambi Muriuki/Onetisa
#tbt #iRestMyPen
PS: I hear the office of the Deputy Governor and Women rep offer counselling and rehabilitation services. This trauma is killing me! Anyone?

1998 teachers’strike, remember it?

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Anyway, the year now is 19 naite 8. We are still in premary. Moi is still the president because, I hear, he says people like Raila and Kibaki don’t know anything about politics but Moi is a proffesor in that discipline. I ask the Man Beater why akina Kibaki have not gone to pursue that degree; he tells me that is Moi’s propaganda. I ask him what propaganda is, and consequently earn myself an assignment to look up a word in the dictionary! Arrgh!! Wish I was a modern day kid, I’d tell Man Beater to ‘kuwa mpole’
Anyway, teachers have gone on strike because they want Moi to pay them more money but Moi has said he is broke. I don’t understand; this same Moi gave 100k cash to Kyeni Girls on his way to Meru live live tukiangalia. Just because of singing for him. Our headmaster said we have to go to school because ours is an academy school and our teachers are paid by Father Kibariki, not Moi. But while we were in class at around 10, teachers of public schools came singing war songs and waving twigs; our teachers fled like babies. So we had to go home, even before having our usual bread (with bleband) and cocoa. Today was my serving day. Now we are also on strike.
Anyway, I have just discovered a stash of unused KANU campaign posters in my aunt’s cupboard and guess what? They are plain at the back. Now it is to draw to draw. On one I’ll draw cars, the other one a big picha of Bruce Lee, another people playing football etc.
Anyway, that can wait, right now I have to go out and play football. Yesterday we scored 14 goals and we conceded 14; so today we start 0-0.
Anyway, you know our field, don’t you? We play on the road, when people pass we stop play and let them pass. Respect is a great and painfully instilled virtue in this village.
In the rare event that a vehicle passes by, we immediately abandon our game and run after it with intention of gùcurîra, also known as kùrìa cuma/ngunju or kudandia tu kama mat in Swahili. (The resumption of this match will be marked by an argument over the scoreline)
By the way, we dandia any and every type of vehicle/car, but we are oft in luck because the vehicles that come around are either pick up trucks delivering cement or lorries delivering sand or construction blocks. Hardcore is brought by Ox-carts; those are of little interest, we just let pass.
Anyway, today Nyaga has had a face me matatu bring cement to his home. Nyaga works at the home of PS, who from time to time allows him to use one of his many vehicles for personal errands. As you will guess, PS used to work for the ministry as a PS. He did not return home even after that; rumour has it Moi gave him another job. He comes on Friday and leaves on Sunday.
Anyway, we have adjourned our game so we can dandia Nyaga’s matatu. And here it comes. As the ritual goes, we let it pass as we feign walking in the opposite direction, before turning and giving a mad chase.
Being the fastest of the crew, I am the first to catch up. Others come after me. One or two do not get space or they fail to catch up; those ones we will ridicule later.
Now to the problem, we only gùcurìra within the village. It would be taboo to get to the main road. But this matatu is too fast we can’t jump off. Two, I think I have seen the Man Beater somewhere on his way home; I think our eyes locked for our split second.
Ng’e says the matatu will slow down at the junction joining the main road, but I can’t wait that long. What if it doesn’t and it keeps picking up speed and takes us to God-knows-where?
I have to jump! Like now! Like right now! Like I. Have. Jumped.
Anyway, like always, I mistimed my jump, and my landing. I will have to work on that. My palms and knees are bruised. Those I can bear, but my trousers are torn too! How will I explain that?
Anyway, a man has to face his fears; mine is The Man Beater. So I head home. My defence is one of the obvious two: 1. Silence 2. It wasn’t me….Not that it matters at all, there is only one verdict in the Man Beater’s court:…….

That was then, and that’s #TBT.

#iRestMyPen.

 Wanted Man: Running like a fugitive

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IMAGE: Black man and white man conversing. | Image source: Shutterstock
Black man and white man conversing. | Image source: Shutterstock

Long ago. Njo, my right hand wing man, has set me up with Múthoni, alias Mútho, alias Kifagio (I don’t call her that) and our first meeting has been largely successful, in my eyes at least…

….They may say I blew it, but I am armed with two pieces of evidence:

  1. Ni vile she thinks I have another girlfriend
  2. She was in a hurry asichelewe. She said to tutaonana.

For now, I need to go and change, and also lie down. Never sweat so much, or had such breathing problems before. Could I be contracting asthma? Hope not.

Kumbe Múthoni is Hezzeh’s girlfriend! Ma ya ngune! In the afterburn of my date, I give the boys tips a feel of how it feels to be alone with a girl in a romantic setting. I also arm them with tips of what and when to say. But then, as always, Uto drops the spoiler. “But si Kifagio huwa is katiwad by Hezzeh?” “You fool, dont call her Kifagio….wait! What? Ati katiwad by who? Get lost!”

I am dead meat! I swear! I do not show it, but i can feel it from my pimpling face to my emerging pubes! I excuse myself from the council earlier than usual and head home. On my way, I gather some dry múvariti leaves for The Rose to use to light fire. It is of little consequence that I collected a whole sack on Saturday. I pass by the pen to ensure I have locked the Man Beater’s sheep safely. Heck, I even go inside to count them and their lambs. I feel like every bit of me has done wrong.

Supper is tasteless. Thank God I did my homework during evening preps because weh! I cannot think. No sleep in bed. Tossing, turning, sweating, and Hezzeh. Small flashes of Múthoni.

Call me an alarmist; thats because you do not know Hezzeh. It is well known that Hezzeh does not come well.  If you hear of a person who does not come well,  be very afraid. First, he is in class seven. Yo see? No? Hezzeh, despite being in class seven, is the first boarder of Ciamanda primary. First boarder is the person who can beat all people in their school. It doesn’t matter if it is a day school. If you can beat everyone in your school you are the first boarder. Under normal circumstances, the first boarder should be in class eight. It is well known that practically Hezzeh is in class 15, but who can say it aloud? That is an open secret.

Two, Hezzeh has been known to call five five boys from class eight. He once called the entire class six boys. Then he called class 5A and 5B combined. To call people is to challenge them to a fight, for those not in the know. Now you get why I am chilled to the bone? Oh, and he also called six boys selected from three schools during Education Sunday. And now I have crossed his path!

Wednesday is a nervy school day. On arrival home, my worst fears are confirmed: Hezzeh has learnt of my insurbodination and has sent a very clear message. “Hide very much, hide very far.” Normally, when someone sends you a message, you have to give feedback. Usually, it should be to the effect that you do not take empty threats, but no! I won’t tread that path. Wacha niitwe muoga!

It is even worse if you do not respond. In that  event, chimps will cook up an even more unpleasant message and send it back. So I just respond “I don’t want his girl.” and leave them to package it as they want prior to delivery. I think of reporting a the matter to a higher authority, but my cousin Nyuki is an eel, you can not catc him. The Man Beater is out of question, because, well, what would you say you are reporting?

Nonetheless, if you have to die, die for a crime you have committed. Wednesday evening i again waylay Múthoni on her way to deliver milk. Today things are a bit easier. Hi…Hi…..Kwani what’s up today you have gone for milk so late…..mum sent me to pick clothes from the line…….blah blah blah, back and forth……are you Hezzeh’s girlfriend?…..Who, me?…..Yes….[Angry] Looking at me like this you think I can be katiwad by such an ki-old man?……He says he will kill me for taking his girlfriend……I am not his girlfriend. Kwani if I become your girlfriend he will kill me? Go tell him i am your girlfriend…..[ In my mind] BOOM! ……[talkin] Ok, bye, your mother is about to come looking for you.

Straight back to the chimps. Múthoni has chosen me herself! I am not taking away Hezzeh’s girl, she is the one who wants me. If he is afraid of katiaing asiniletee wazimu yake.

Thursday. I am happy and confident. I can’t wait for school to end so I can hear the latest. Evening, I hear that Hezzeh is after my head. I don’t know what version of my message got to him, but, more than ever, he has made the hunt for me his sole mission. Even now, I am told, he could be around looking for you. And sure as hell he is!!

Out of nowhere, the rough bastard appears. Barefoot, like me. In shorts and a dirty shirt. Like me. End of similarity. Three times my size in every dimension. Where I have a clean shave, he has a ‘box’ cut. [Taking me by the scruff] Ati what did you say?…..Stop holding me like that, you did not give birth to me!……[Surprised] so you are even going tospeak shit. Say, Ati ulisema niambiwe nini….Nothing….Do you know I can kill you?….Try and see. She does not want you.

There is a saying that goes “Speak the truth, but leave immediately after.” No way am I waiting for the next address. Before anything else is, I charge towards Hezzeh like I am gonna fight, but, amid all the confusion, I shoot right past him and everyone, a trail of dust behind as i hear him shout, “Better run for the rest of your lfe!”

Whatever! Later in the evening I learn of how my charges have been expanded. I am also wanted by all circumcised boys for urinating in the circumcised boys’ toilets, and making abusive inscriptions while at it. The most inapropriate being ‘Hezzeh wí kívící’ [Hezzeh you are not ciercumcised.] and ‘Wamía ígúrú níkí?'[Why have you defacated on top?] among many others. I swear, I did not make those writings, and the day I used the seniors’toilets was on Sunday, during a football match, when everyone is free to do so. So now, besides Hezzeh, I need to run away from every circumcised boy. I hate my life.

When it rains it pours. On my way to school Thursday morning, a random villager tells me, “Kívící na tondú níronire wí múanjiu gwokia we!…” [And because I see you have started getting an erection….] Where I come from, whenever a bigger person tells you something and does not end the statement, again, be very afraid. It gets worse in the evening, when The Rose asks me “What is it that I’m being told?”…..what?….why is Múthoni’s mother saying that you are disturbing her daughter as she delivers milk…..Disturbing her how? The story ends there, but I know its just for now…..

So now I am a boy on the run…..I am a fugitive, in my homeland. The future looks grim!

#iRestMyPen

Wanted man; fugitive at 12

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The year is still long ago. I am on the run from Hezzeh, the boy who can beat all boys on the Eastern Slopes of Mount Kenya for trying to slice him off the village queen bee, Múthoni, aka Mútho. Circumcised boys are also after my head(s) for committing one of an uncircumcised boy’s cardinal sins: taking a leak in the Nthaka’s [boys who have faced the cut] toilet. The charge is fabricated, but it is a charge, and that’s all that matters.

I also have pending charges with the Man Beater; although I am yet to appear for a mention, close sources have intimated that the matter has already been taken up from The Rose by The Director of (extended) Family Prosecutions (DFP). I think there has been no mention because he has been busy co-ordinating KCPE.

A number of villagers are also on the lookout since word got out the little he-goat has started smelling the goats’ backsides. One particular villager has taken to taunting me with the sound of a he-goat every time we meet. “Bbboo..bbooo….mbrr, mbrr, Ngúthúkúme?”Mark you, in this village, you can receive a beating from anyone beyond your age group and there will be no case to answer before any court in the land.

Thursday, 15th . When its fifteenth, you have to act fast once the 3.45pm bell goes. Supervising cleaning is easy for any prefect, because no one wants to delay others or remain behind at 4.10 pm. Evening chores are done equally fast, and football practice is highly shortened. Because fifteenth is the day of Cendema, the day when the mobile Cinema comes to the hood, and no one is going to miss Cendema at any cost. Unless you want to spend the next week being irrelevant during discussions and not appearing in the list of noisemakers, in which case you automatically qualify as a sell-out.

Before ball begins, I usually engage in a small enterprising activity. Since my school is a boarding school (synonym for private) I am privileged to have a few extra coins saved from my transport money. This I use to bankroll a highly illegal gambling business. It goes like this: There is a game called beating, you probably know it. Two or more players. Other players cover a coin with their arm and one guesses which side is up- Moi or Ngo. You know that game, if not, go to the year 2000 AD and learn.

So I identify gifted players who have no capital, I finance them and we share proceeds on a 1:2 basis. Don’t look at me like that, I absorb any losses. And I also let off my clients privatise once they are good to run themselves. And I spend a lot of resources to ensure word of my activities does not get to the Man Beater, aka the DFP. Anyway, that’s besides the point.

On this particular Thursday, I am informed as I shuffle from point to point supervising my gamblers that there is a plan to way-lay me after Cendema. An expensive tip off, but the fifteen shillings spent to buy the intel will prove a wise investment come dusk.

What to do now? Skip Cendema…no way! Attend in disguise….well, I am sure the spotlight is on me so I my cover will be easily blown. Pay for protection….Paarfect!!!….Wait, who to pay now? No one can stand up to Hezzeh. Like my cousin Nyuki says, Yeye ndo kunyamba, sisi ni kunusa tu!

Njo furnishes me with another invaluable piece of intel: A group of boys from Gítitú have been training undercover and are spoiling for a fight to dethrone Hezzeh. Their complain: Kwani he thinks he is who? A suggestion to use me to provoke the chip has been floated, I hear, but they don’t know how exactly to initiate talks with me because: 1. I still possess a foreskin 2. I school in an academy 3. We are not from the same village.

Small trouble. Me and Njo are thinktanks. Plan of action: We are going to keep Ngondi, an uncircumcised boy from Gítitú close for the rest of the evening. This will be easy, we just need to sponsor Ngondi’s gambling for the rest of the afternoon. Another fifteen shillings will do. Not cheap, remember a similar amount was used to buy intel!  Once Hezzeh confronts us, we will claim he wants to beat Ngondi, and pap, shots will be fired.

You can feel the tension as we settle down for the film of the day. I do not catch the title, but it is a film about how Catholics are evil and will not enter heaven.  I am oblivious of Madawa, the drunk who forces us to sit on the dusty market floor so that those at the back-adults manly- can watch the film without distraction. A lot is going on through my mind: following the film, where is Muthoni, Keeping Ngondi close, when will Hezzeh strike?

Ngondi is easy to keep, Muthoni is easy to find. She has made herself largely conspicuous-for me- by passing around close to us and looking behind as she walks away to find a sitting position. I have a feeling she was following me from the field. But competing for her attention with the film is not child’s play, especially the point when all other people go to heaven and Catholics remain on earth. Clothes fall as people disappear into the clouds and Catholics desperately hold onto the falling garments like a children trying to repair Christmas balloons that have burst.

If you want a girl to jipa completely, watch a horror movie with her! She will look up to you for support, and…. Mútho is a catholic, so this qualifies as horror to her.  You should see her smile when I tell her I will marry her so she won’t have to be a Catholic by the time Emmanuel-God with us- returns. But the moment does not last. As the credits go up, the bastard descends on me.

No talks today. It is a story of dead men tell no tales. But nothing beats a well planned plan. And no one beats Njo. Before he can land me a second blow, Hezzeh is landed on by a huge multi-man blow that sends him sprawling.

Literally, Hezzeh will never know what hit him. This is because as soon as the knockout blow hit him, whoever delivered it disappears in the dark cloud. So does Múthoni, Njo and Ngondi. I leave last, but before Hezzeh can recover from both surprise and pain. I am not mad, I don’t at all suspect that I have been deserted.

I meet everyone at The Transformer, the place we all wait for each other after the film, because we lose each other every other fifteenth. Múthoni is there too; she professes her undying loyalty. The boys from Gítitú celebrate their victory. Ngondi is the one confused soul. He has no idea what went down, well he saw me go down, but he cannot make head or tail of why Njo is busy narrating how Hezzeh actually was about to attack  him (Ngondi) too, but he (Njo) pulled him away and Hezzeh missed.

To cap a wonderful evening, boys from Gícúgú village also declare war on Hezzeh. The charges of urinating in the Nthaka toilet are effectively dismissed as vendetta. Free at last! Free at last! Great God Almighty, I am free at last.

I have no doubt Hezzeh will be back with vengeance, but I just wanna live this moment.

For God so loved the Mboya, that he gave him his only Njo, so whoever confronts him does not prevail, but gets condemned to public uprising. Literally, Njo, what could I do without you?

#iRestMyPen

 

The people of Kigumo vs Hezzeh: The ultimate battle

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Previously on #Timbitii…Literally, Hezzeh will never know what hit him. This is because as soon as the knockout blow hit him, whoever delivered it disappears in the dark cloud. So does Múthoni, Njo and Ngondi. I leave last, but before Hezzeh can recover from both surprise and pain. I am not mad, I don’t at all suspect that I have been deserted.
I meet everyone at The Transformer, the place we all wait for each other after the film, because we lose each other every other fifteenth. Múthoni is there too; she professes her undying loyalty. The boys from Gítitú celebrate their victory……To cap a wonderful evening, boys from Gícúgú village also declare war on Hezzeh. The charges of urinating in the Nthaka toilet are effectively dismissed as vendetta. I have no doubt Hezzeh will be back with vengeance, but I just wanna live this moment.

So now it is a case of the people vs the bully. And I am the unifying factor.

With KCPE done and dusted, it is time to shave the foreskins of the candidates’ penises so they can be inducted into manhood. The same applies for those who have spent 3-4 years between class six and seven. Simply put, baada ya kuwa mtahiniwa, automatically unakuwa mtahiriwa.

But before the shearing is done, a boy has to take his first manhood responsibility: Build a house, because men do not sleep in their mothers’ houses. A mud house. Basically, it takes an event , íthinga, where you invite anyone known to you to come help plaster your house with mud. The mud plastering is more of a boy thing, the girls get more involved at the final and final stages- cow dung and lime smearing to create an attractive finish.

Íthinga is one of the few occasions where ivící and nthaka [the cut and the raw] are allowed to mingle. In real sense, though, it is a place where nthaka exercise their authority over ivíci, by assigning them menial tasks and floating unnprrintables.

So today is Mútwiri’s íthinga, Kamúrai village. I will not go into details of plastering a house with mud, because it is well, plastering a house with mud. The rel bit comes in the evening, when there is a dusk to dawn dance which is labelled ‘warming the house dry. Ivící are not allowed at the dance, but who are we? We hang lurk around in the bushes and suffer erections as we watch the inducted men get a good whining from the girls. Weh! Can’t wait to get inducted.

Kwanza there is a guy called Wallet. That man dances! He is well known across the ward-seven villages-for his sublime moves and slaughtering the girls. There is not a single dance he has not gotten invited to in the last five years. The owner of the dance has to have a special budget for Wallet- a packet of Supermatch cigarettes, a kavembe of muratina brew and ample space. The girls he would bring himself, this magnet.

But this is not about Wallet either. This is about Hezzeh.

On this day I am in between a nthaka and a kívící…since that incident on 15th, the boys want to keep me close as bait to batter the bastard.

Hezzeh shows up at around eight, with his boys in tow. It is well known that they do not love him, they just hide behind his Goliath figure in the war of the villages. His mission is clear: He is after me, and whoever was man enough to hit him during the film.

But he is poor at intel, this bully. He quarrels too many people, he has not done enough research (or narrowing down) to have a manageable number to pick beef with. He keeps voicing threats from corner to corner. In short, he is spoiling the party mood.

Worse still, he displeases wallet. Displeasing wallet is displeasing the girls, and displeasing the girls is killing the party. If the party is boring the house is not going to dry, and will remain Wallet is not a burly guy, but he is beyond Hezzeh’s age group, so a fight is out of question. But Wallent is not violent, so he opts to leave. After all, he has like another five dances to choose from.

So when the party begins to take a downturn, everyone rises against Hezzeh. I am fetched from the shadows by Mbothe, an angry lover of dance. I whisper Njo and we move forward to the main arena. Not that his size can hold a candle to Hezzeh’s, but it is well known that when Mbothe decides, he decides and decides. His slogan: K’ría kíaúmbire níkío gíkaúmbúra. Wa gúkua akuire tene. [That which created is the only same one that can/will destroy. Those meant to die died long before]

Mbothe brings me forward and dares Hezzeh: So now we won’t dance because of you? Kwani who do you think you are! Athicaa! Here is the boy you are looking for! Go ahead, do what you wanna….and hurry up, we have other business to attend to.

The ensuing actions  I cannot narrate first hand. All I remember seeing is Hezzeh making a mad dash towards me, and Mbothe giving him a stopper punch before all hell broke loose. I hastily beat my retreat into the bush, beckoning my fellow uncut lot on my way.

I am home in 10 minutes flat. A dash across three villages. Three effing ridges! I also know that the freshly plastered house had to be re-done the following Saturday. Also, The Man Beater cannot make sense of how I was the center of a whole rampage by circumcised boys. That, or he just feigns ignorance to get me out of it all.

By the look in his eyes, I can tell that I am soon facing the knife. Sooner than I may be able to gather confidence. Too many fishes to fry!

#iRestMyPen

 

 

How I almost became Steve-Mbogo-rich.

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Prologue: There is a fellow by the name Steve Mbogo who has been headlining discussion on the lines for a while. An only son who lived with his brother, Mbogo is reportedly worth Ksh 13b in wealth. He, like Warren Buffet, has invested in many ideas. In many ways, the KUSO chairperson reminds me of me, long ago.

CHAPTER ONE

In the year of Our Lord 1998, the country began taking a different turn. The Private sector began growing in earnest, as the imminent loss of government control on business became realer and realer and people began strategically placing themselves to benefit. You probably don’t understand what I am talking about; neither do I. Tuache hiyo story.

CHAPTER TWO

December 2001. Christmas is fast approaching. Consequently, business is good in both wholesale and retail outlets. Flour and cooking fat is selling like hotcakes. Tailors’ zigwembes are sore because of the intensity at which they are making their Singer machines sew in a bid to complete the numerous orders for shake-shake suits. Kwanza Kito had his measurements taken together with his father’s, and since there was a high possibility of the material having a remainder, his little brother Eneli, Embu for Henry, also had his measurements taken. Wambitú quick tailors is a beehive I tell you. Do not be fooled by the name ‘Quick Tailors’ though.

Then there is the business of balloons. This is where I am making a kill. You probably know it was almost to eat the big balloons, no? The only harder thing is to have Nyaga the cobbler repair your shoe on the day you bring it to his shop. Anyway, the son to the owner of the largest market shop is dating my cousin. Whether or not it can be defined as dating is a whole story on its own. Anyway, I consequently have access to the inside of the shop, and I’ve taken it upon myself to make a copy the chart that has numbers then carefully glued it back.

Before I continue, let me say there is no way you can win balloon number 98 or number 36. Even if you were lucky enough to win Sportpesa jackpot then dedicate all that money to playing for balloons, 36 and 98 are not coming down. Why? Those numbers are not on the chart!

Anyway, at a small fee, a shilling to be particular, I give advice tips on which stickers to pick from the chart. Or I play for you.  Honestly, I too am not giving honest tips, but if you purchase my services, you can rest assured you won’t land those minion balloons that you blow into until your jaws start paining and your ears feel tiiiii…or iyoooo!

Meanwhile, I am thinking of how I can pilfer number 98. Problem is it is too, well…..conspicuous.

CHAPTER THREE

You know in our village we live Ujamaa, no? Of course you do, I just said it. Ujamaa is that thing Nyerere brought to Tanzania where people live like majamaa, relatives. People wander freely into each other’s homesteads at will and no questions are asked. You could be sitting in your compound then suddenly a million people cut right through the middle and disappear without a word. Well, not a million, but you can imagine when the local football team is playing across the ridge, and they happen to pass by your compound together with their loyal fans. And if the team is playing, you know its Sunday, another batch of Church goers who had a jumbo sale will come right after them.

And well, they don’t exactly pass without a word, because every single one of them has to mouth a “Mwí-ega” or “Mwí-andú-aro” And you, seated in the compound, are supposed to respond to every greeting. Pay close attention though, because some, especially the cheeky football fans, frame their greeting as “Mwí-andú-ago?”which translates to “Are you witches/wizards?” instead of the conventional “You good?”

Now, there is a time came when even Ujamaa was put aside. Once you reached the age of getting erections and faced the knife- also known as taking your hat off- you automatically lose your Ujamaa rights. You do not just wander into a compound that has girls and pretend that you were just passing by, no.

Steve Mbogo will tell you that business opportunities lie in crisis. And this is my chance. You see, akina Karígírí are having extraordinary erections this holiday, but, having lost their ujamaa right, they cannot wander into kina Wanja’s compound just like that. It goes without saying that Kina Wanja cannot hang around by the roadside, no?

Again, at a fee, I play messenger between Karigiri & co and the females. For maximum reaps, I make sure there are at least three trips. One, I come back with the message “She is (insert random household chore” or “Her father is around.” Trip two, I come back with, “She is not home” Then I actually call her on trip three.

I am making a killing this December. One big problem though, two actually. Kina Karígírí want to change terms to only pay for ‘successful deals’ while, like every other business around here, competitors are flocking the market; business is quickly diminishing.

Anyway, whatever will be will be, a new venture always comes up. Just pray for a crisis. In the meantime, Steve Mbogo, just know there is nothing new under the sun. Been there, done that.

#iRestMyPen

Opening day fracas at Box 1

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I was in town yesterday and the day before, and I must say I am perturbed by the uneventful nature of back-to-school. That, or I done grown too old I don’t even know the hyped ‘holes’ anymore.

The year is long ago, Tuesday, the beginning of the new school term. Hours seem to run by like minutes, a lot needs to be done. Who has completed Biology homework? No one. Who knows where their school sweater is? No one. But all those are largely non-issues; first things first.

One, there is the issue of a hard-line stance from both parties during the handover of this term’s budget. Pocket money they call it; how long it stays in the pocket renders this name totally meaningless. It is a long haggle with the Man Beater going on and on, again, about how during his day he was given five shillings upkeep and how he wore his first pair of shoes when he joined form one. How a lot of money distracts you from studying and how he survived with one pair of trousers for four years. Since I do not have full independence yet, I cannot talk back, but the look I give leaves no doubt what is on my mind: old man, are you losing it?

Do you know the least bit of economics to understand simple shilling depreciation dynamics? How much money is a lot of money anyway? Do you know how much more distracting insufficient upkeep is as it turns one into a merchant? That eats up time, energy and poses a great expulsion risk if you must know. At best, ungenizaa ukiwa mdogo tusome pamoja when the shilling had that much value.

It’s a vuta nikuvute scenario. While I need to hold on long enough to get that extra coin, I also need to make sure the Man Beater leaves early enough because, at ten, Stella is coming around to see me for the last time this weekend. The Man Beater’s reluctance to toboka and the excuse that he needs to get to work works in my favour this one instance, every term.

Now, Stella. This lass is something else. We have had a long haggle over a certain personal business all holiday; she has rebuffed all through, but I am still optimistic I can land a deadline-day deal. Well, it could be that I never exactly put my demands on the table, but ai! She should read between the lines, si ako shule pia? At worst, I might get a kiss, but at the opening day night talk in Umoja dorm, guys will get a completely different and much much longer version of this story.

The problem with Stella is she comes here in so much of a hurry. I totally fail to understand. It’s not like she has important business to attend to. Ati, salon? Your hair looks just fine to me! What do you mean you need to get to school at 3…you don’t need to be at a school at all! But that’s her, and this is me. A frustrated me.

Now, budget things. First things first, I need to put aside a hundred shillings. That will go into paying Somie for that magazine he brings us, that one with pictures of people with stars on strategic parts; have you Seen it in your entire Life? It will also pay Lewis for those CDs he brings us. God, this entertainment is eating so much into my budgetary allocation, I think I should leave it to adults.

1pm. Not a bad time to be in town. But what to do now? School should be at four, so by no account should we get there before five. How would you go through a whole school term knowing you came ontime on opening day? So now, it has to be up and down and across town until 4.30.

Talk to some girls here and there, tell them I am the chief actor of Box 1’s drama club, see you during festivals. But all girls leave by two, they can’t be late. They, well, got no balls. Now what? Dive again into upkeep for 3reds. I buy a pair of trousers and a long sleeve shirt, because school insists we buy from them, and that we wear short sleeve shirts. These trousers btw are called Anti-K, coined at a school where the deputy was called Kaka, and students wore them to defy him as he loathed them with greatness. Anti-kaka it was, Anti-k is an evolution.

It is frustrating to know upkeep is now running dangerously low, so a can of Kane Extra, KX, will come in handy. Unaffordable and unfinishable, it takes four people to purchase a 60 bob can. ‘Nana…nanana…nana nana…I was gonna go to school, but then I got high….’ Time to beef a little with boys from other schools. You idiots, we have marked you, see you during fests, you’ll die!

4.30 pm. Drunk and late; good enough. Now, matatus know we are late and they have debe, so, instead of the normal fifty, fare is seventy shillings. Ayayayaya! But haisuru, lets go to jail!

So now depa won’t let us in, we have to alight at the gate and  walk in as he takes our names, frisks us and does an alcoblow test. No worries about that, depa himself has been drinking since morning, so he cannot tell whether the smell of liquor is yours or his. God forbids he dislikes you! Thank you early arrivers, at least you have no problem picking our contraband over the fence.

It’s a win-win…we arrive late, we get punished and so school gets cleaned on day one. The punishment is better than preps, there is too much to share….including smuggled KX. A good opening day it is, now we can last the term.

Wait a minute! An internal audit reveals I am negative 300 shillings, and it is day one. Where could I have lost it? No idea….so, by circumstance rather than choice, I have to go into business. Venice here I come, call me a merchant, hand me some argosies. In sooth I know not why I am sad.

PS: A minute of silence for Alfred Kinyua aka Mavoo, who took Furaha gin as we took KX. Like a sore thumb, he was picked out drunk. In his own words, upon expulsion, when his parents asked why he had been chased away, he replied, “Nilirudi shule nikiwa nimefurahia.” They almost died of confusion!

#iRestMyPen