Archive for May 2009

Visiting the village

May 25, 2009
On my arrival in the village recently, I could not smile even as my friends cracked their funniest jokes. My face was a clear DO NOT DISTURB sign.
 
The severe expression was to put off the swarm of friends and relatives who rushed to greet and hug and thank God for my arrival. On arrival in the village, you will be told about all the relatives who had passed away in your absence. You will be informed about all debts that had been incurred and how they had been praying for your assistance.
 
Friends will be there for you too. They will pat your back and shake your hand in knowledge that you will turn on the taps of beer again. You are still searching for a kibarua in the city. You are ever broke – only eking a living out there but folks down there are stuck to the fact that you are senior officer in some big company.
 
Thus, apart from buying lots of sugar and maize to relatives, you will also be expected to pay for the bull that was slaughtered sometimes back in a distant relative’s funeral.  
 
“Though you have a lot of money,” an old friend said to me, “we are only requesting for a glass of chang’aa.”

 
“You  must do something for us!” another one commanded.

Of course, I was very broke but I could not make a mistake of telling them about it for they could have laughed it off and branded me a great joker. So I told them about my sickness and how was in urgent need of a doctor.
  
The kids who were playing football excitedly stopped their match and ran towards me when I entered home. They looked excitedly at my rucksack in thought that I had carried foodstuff for them. It was bad for them since it only contained my books and clothes.
 
  “Go back to your game!” My younger brother tried to order them. I knew quite well that they would not leave. Not when a ring of smoke was coming from the kitchen.
 
So we took tea together. The bread was not enough but we enjoyed a single slice each. I was happy at last!
 
We later played together – running around and laughing excitedly. It was nice to be back home. Nice to be a child again.
 
 There was abject poverty in the village but the kids played merrily as if all was well. I smiled as they began to sing “The sun has gone to sleep” the song I had loved as a child. I sang along loudly. I jumped and clapped my hands only to realize that there were some spectators…
 
“I knew you were not sick.” Came the excited voice from one of the spectators. He was one of my stubborn old friends. “You must buy the drink…”

 
 I became sick again. Very sick.

 
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The Firstbones

May 18, 2009
 

I used to put up with my aunt who had a set of rules I considered Draconian. Reviewing them later, I realize that they were aimed at shaping my life for the better.

 

Though she was unable to read and write, she ensured I studied every evening.

I recall how she used to request me to read and write letters for her. She even made some neighbors who could not read and write to seek my assistance.

 That ignited my early writing fire. I grew up yearning to become a writer so I could write and read many letters for my people! 

 The point is – we are all indebted to society. Since a lot was invested in us, much is expected from us!!

 The village spent its resources on us. It took us in the education kiln so we could be baked on its behalf. Goats, chicken, dogs and other domestic animals were sold to secure a place for us in the academic kiln.

 Isukuti dancers swung their bottoms in response to the heat. Old men spat their blessings on our hands to wish us success. We made our parents to earn an early respect from the community.

 The children were trusted as future problem-solvers. They were being taken to Harvard so they could rebuild the falling huts and built better bridges.

 But upon graduation, the scholars vanished! The city is now their home. They own palatial bungalows and sleek cars. We only watch them on TV discussing about the progress of their businesses.

 They have forgotten their rural homes completely. The huts they used to live in are derelict. The path they followed on their way to school is bushy and thorny. Their people in the village are still using the old koroboi for light

 Poverty is a huge ugly picture down there. Kids are clad in shreds. There are jiggers in their toes. They yawn desperately. They beg for something to bite.

 Their parents are busy toiling on the farm. From dawn to dusk, they are busy digging and planting. But will the dwarfed yellow maize on the tiny farm feed the large and still enlarging family?

 Then there are graves. Big graves and small graves. Fresh graves and old graves. Most of the departing souls are victims of the deadly AIDS. But it is not AIDS in the village. It is witchcraft.

 The problem is glaring but the problem-solvers have turned into trouble makers.

I have interacted with many youngsters who have taken an oath never to step in the village after gaining some education and financial success.

 Sometimes I am puzzled whenever I pass near a deserted home only to be told much about the place: “Dr. So and So comes from the home.” Someone reveals. “It is also the home of a senior director in a certain company abroad.”

 Why ran away from the rural home? Greener pastures? Jobs in the city? May be. But is it the reason of hating the village altogether?

 Most of our people still believe in witchcraft. On arrival in the village, you are supposed to put a huge padlock on your plans or else you will end up giving an easy time to the village’s witchdoctors.

 In fact, some people arrive late at night and leave at dawn to avoid the witchdoctor’s evil eye. And for the relatives who floods in to request for sukari, one is advised to give them real sukari and not money!

 So we uproot ourselves from the rootstalk. Our people could be witches. They could be poor and ugly and uncivilized but they brought us forth!

 We belong to them, and furthermore, we bear their ugly mark! Something else – we never realized their witchcraft in our childhood! We loved and depended on them. We disclosed our ambitions and sought their blessings.

Now that we are on the highway to success, we are saying “Man for himself, God for us all.”  It is until now that we have realized the ugliness of our mother’s breast, the breast we suckled all our youth!

 Yes, it could be so sooty, so uncivilized a breast; now that we are guzzling beer and other intoxicating liquids in town. But has it occurred to us that mother’s milk remains the most nutritious food for our health?

 By de-linking ourselves from our umbilical chord, we are making a big dent in our identity. It is right here in the village where we played hide and seek. Right here where we hunted for squirrels and hares and porcupines for an evening stew.

 Sometimes there was little to bite. Sometimes nothing at all. Then mama could attend a wedding and bring home some leftovers which we ate happily and had sound sleep on smelly rags.

It was time to talk

May 13, 2009

 

You separate with the one you love. You swear not to go back to him. Later, circumstances force  you to re-unite. Love? Here is a piece based on a true story. ..

No fooling around with men again! Tina had sworn after breaking up with Seth. She had married him unaware of his true nature. They had lived a happy life until he resumed heavy drinking.

It all began with a claim that his colleagues had forced him to take some ‘mild’ drinks in a party. Then it came to taking a tot. Just a tot to enable him finish his job at the office.

Tina never argued much with him. She never questioned much. He had a way of preventing one from challenging him. He stared hard in a way that belittled and silenced you.

Hell broke loose when she tried. She only advised him to avoid the mild drinks – but he exploded and went up in arms.

“Are you trying to control me?” He thundered. Tina tried to calm him down but he shot a punch that almost disfigured her face. He intended to beat her thoroughly but Tina escaped. She grabbed Maureen and left to the countryside to begin a new life.

As time passed by, she tried her best to push him off her mind. She ignored the letters that he wrote begging her to change her mind and go back to him. After all, she was happy in the countryside. No fooling around with men again.

The day came when she had to fool with men again. It was during Maureen’s graduation day at college and the girl invited both parents to the ceremony.
The thought of meeting Seth after a long time made blood to race in her veins. She almost turned down the invitation but her love for Maureen forced her to attend the ceremony.

Seth…he must have sunk headlong into alcohol. He must be skinny and miserable with a strong alcoholic odor…

She was wrong. Seth was new. He had a new radiance too – not belittling and fiery but calm and friendly.

They talked to each other briefly and went on to pretend that that they were very keen on what was going on at the ceremony. Maureen watched them closely. She knew that even though they kept nodding to what the guest speaker was saying, deep; very deep in their minds; they were politely addressing each other.

“Tina, I know you believe that I am still an irresponsible drunkard.” Seth was saying silently. “I am sorry for what I did to you but believe me, I have changed!”

“I regret to have lost you.” Tina was responding. “You have changed a great deal. You are a new lovable Seth. But I still have some fears about the old Seth hiding somewhere within you.”

“I would like to talk to you.” Seth broke the silence when they later went in a restaurant.

“Is it necessary really?” Tina responded, looking into his eyes which spelt love and honesty. Was he really changed?

She was still thinking when she found her lips on his. His kiss had changed too. It was a long, warm, passionate kiss that made one to crave for more. It even made an excited Maureen to forget about her drink and think about her boyfriend.

Yes; it was necessary to talk!

The Gate Pass

May 12, 2009

 

Birds are flying leisurely around the heavily guarded jail. Lucky beings. How I wish the inmates inside the facility could breathe such fine air and enjoy such cool weather…

The officer at the Naivash Maximum Security Prison main gate takes light years to enter my identification details in the dog-eared official visitor’s book.

 “Name of prisoner you are going to visit?” He asks angrily.

 I tell him the name and he takes another eternity to scribble it in the book.

 “You look like a Luhya person. Which tribe do you come from?”

 I tell him my tribe but there is a doubtful expression on his face. To him, I am Luhya. I don’t know why he has stuck to that.

  “What crime did your relative commit?” He asks.

  “He is in Block A” I reply.

 Block ‘A’ is for those on death row. I notice a sympathetic expression on the faces of the people around.

 A call interrupts the job. He takes a long time chatting with his friend about the good weekend they had the previous week, the fat lady who fell in love with him and so on.

 When he finishes the call to our relief, he complains about his lunch. I think I am dumb here for I only nod when he says that his favorite meal of chapatti and beans only costs fifty shillings. In response, the officer abandons my case by requesting that I wait for a while as he goes on to serve other visitors.

 They are clever visitors. They do not just nod as I did– they dish out some dirty notes for the man, what makes him sign their gate passes faster.

 I make up my mind to be served faster by shaking his hand with a fifty shilling note. Gate Pass Number 13 is issued instantly with a broad smile. But there is another obstacle at Block A’s…

 “You will have to wait.” This one says casually, slipping the piece of paper bearing my details carelessly in his pocket. “Can’t you see it is lunch time?”

 The jail’s walls are tall and thick. Armed policemen all over. Tight security here. The birds flying around the complex do not know how lucky they are. How I wish my relative was able to fly away like the chattering birds…

 Many thoughts are racing in my mind as I wait for an hour. Two. Three…

  “I have been waiting for the last three hours sir.”I remind the officer guarding the jail gate. “I think lunch is over.”

 The officer seems to have forgotten me. He has even forgotten where he kept the paper I gave him but his memory comes back to life when I sneak a fifty shilling note in is hand.

 At last, I am allowed to visit my relative. We shed tears as we great each other through the glass that separates our physical contact. He has been here for three years now. He is skinny and shabby after exhausting the last resources we brought him.

 Of course I have carried some money for him. He needs food and soap and razors blades for shaving. He needs many other basic things. Some of these things like razor blades are contraband but I know how they will get to him. After all, the police who is monitoring our conversation is yawning. Isn’t it a sign that he wants some lunch?