Why yours truly will avoid political rallies like the plague . . .

 By Kimathi bin Mutegi 

I have been seated at this park of Uhuru for the past three hours, trying to figure out where my life is headed to. I am at the farthest corner, next to the swings towards the University because I want to avoid being pulled into the noises I am hearing coming from the other side and town in general. There are many cops all over and as it happens, cops and I are never the best of friends. Like to arrest and beat me up, that’s what these fellows in uniform do and I am not going to give them an opportunity to inflict pain on my body.

I am also no longer one to be easily pulled into political confrontations, exciting as they might be. I learnt my lesson the hard way when during the last election, I threatened to beat up some guy that was supporting a rival to my preferred MCA. Of course I was a bit tipsy, okay, very drunk, having been well watered by the candidate to make noises on his behalf. At the moment, he was my best buddy and there was nothing I could not do to defend his name and honour. I knew the guy well -the candidate, that is.

He was thoroughly hated by fellows back home because his rich family has been oppressing the rest of us since before independence. Despite this, his family has given employment to majority of my poor relatives for a long time. His father was a particularly mean son of his mother. He could load women in a pick-up, take them to his shamba, 40 kilometres away where they would spend the whole day toiling. Then they would walk back through his home to collect the meagre pay in the evening.

A story goes that one day, when the crops were a few weeks old with the beans having only two leaves, he loaded a bunch of poor mothers as usual in his truck and took them to do some weeding. In the evening, unlike his custom, he drove down to the garden and called the tillers together. “Now,” he said cleaning his huge glasses, “I would like anyone who has accidentally or otherwise, cut down a single bean stalk to come to my left.” This was pretty confusing to the poor women.

They did not know whether to be honest and risk his wrath or lie and risk his wrath. Tentatively, one brave woman stepped to the feared left side. “Now,” said the mean farmer, “If you spent an entire day tilling beans of this size and did not cut even a single one, then it means you weren’t working, so goodbye.” And true to his nasty gene, he paid only the woman that admitted to cutting down a bean. It was an error of judgement in his case. He overlooked the fact that these things that these women were using to till the land with can also become terrifying weapons.

He also forgot to note that these were healthy young women while he was a retiree, and hopelessly outnumbered. Before he could take 10 steps, the women were ululating and screaming for his blood. He took to his heels but his huge pot-belly was an impediment while his aging legs were slow and cumbersome from years of disuse. Well, the fellow paid the women, double the amount and also dropped them in town.

He then went missing for a year, perhaps the embarrassment too much but now I was talking about his son. Despite me knowing how mean this boy vying for MCA was, I still was ready to die for him as long as he funded a few kegs from the local pub. So as it went, I threatened to beat up the fan of his rival and I ended up receiving a beating that rolled back the years for me. In one minute, I was screaming and wailing like a baby while frantically searching for a seat large enough to hide under.

Gosh, this fellow, small as he was fought like a tiger. I spent the next two weeks sharing an hospital bed with some boda boda guy who had flown into the back of a lorry and broken every piece of bone in his body. The lesson I took from the incident is that the pain was individual, that is, I am the only who felt it. The bill was also individual as my MCA candidate didn’t even come to visit me in hospital. In short, I decided that I am not going to be involved in any political brawls ever again. Its only the small guy that gets hurt, never the politician.

So as I was saying, I am not going to be pulled into the excitement that’s bubbling around town. When situations get ugly and police start shooting teargas or live bullets, these politicians will make noise for a week and promptly move on while I will be thoroughly dead or rotting in prison. So, I will sit here and commune with my empty tummy and this ant that I have kept captive for the past 20 minutes. I am asking Mr Ant how in the world he manages to live so carefree, while in his world, there are no such things as cars and TVs and phones.

He is not interested in answering me but I still enquire how in the world his family manages to stay fed and fulfilled while I am the one with the cleverer brain, yet I can hardly sate my thirst. He still isn’t answering but I have also spied an interesting thing. Some girls, perhaps from the University, who had been eating chips a few metres away are leaving and I think one of them was girlie enough to not finish her stash. In the moment of distraction, my prisoner has escaped but it doesn’t matter, I might have a silent tummy, even though it be for a minute. And I need to leave you my friend because I need to get to the bag before that hawk over there does…




Why Nyumba Kumi makes me curious about my neighbours

By Kimathi bin Mutegi

In the spirit of Nyumba Kumi, I have decided to let you in my living quarters because who knows, some day, you might be called as a witness and save me from a hanging line, simply because you knew me personally, sort of. So, after a day’s work, which mostly involves a cocktail of loads of hazardous stuff – depending on the specific JD – I like to get to my small room which I like to call ‘the cave’ in the evening, lay about and recollect on the day’s happenings.

It is not a place I would call decent, though, but nevertheless I’m glad I do get entertained a lot despite only owning a thin sponge that you people normally call a mattress and a single blanket. The cave has no cooking place and my utensils consist of one cup, a plate, two spoons and a fork. This last gadget, I have never used for the years I have lived here, I mean what could I possibly eat with a fork in this place? None of the delicacies enjoyed and transported to the mouth using a fork has ever found its way in the cave.

But matters of the food are a rare guest so let’s just assume that I am kept fed, not necessarily from within the walls. I am also properly entertained. Let me explain. To start with is my immediate neighbour, who is a really generous one. He lets me watch his TV, though he doesn’t know that I do. He is also the richest in the neighbourhood, though nobody knows exactly what he does. The partitioning of the cave is done with iron sheets which means that I get to know almost everything going on at my neighbour’s.

I know that he has a radio, a TV set, a metallic bed, a charcoal stove, another that uses paraffin and utensils. You are probably thinking I did a Nyumba Kumi on him to find out about all this and you are probably right though my investigations are greatly aided by these tiny holes I drilled on the tin partition one day. Through these holes, I get to view free television and sometimes, I am able to witness some x-rated action, which I will leave for another day.

There, however, exists a problem with the partitioning allowing every detail about what’s going on next door without necessarily going there. You see, as I listen to the evening programmes on my neighbour’s stereo, he also happens to be cooking. We do not call him rich for nothing because every once or twice a month, I smell meat simmering in a pot coming from his house and this is not something very pleasant for a suffering bloke whose last piece of meat was probably a tumbukiza that was as hard as a boiled army boot and perhaps tasted the same.

Whenever he cooks meat, he is rich enough to buy paraffin and use his stove. I know this because immediately he is done with cooking, he turns it off and a bitter smoke almost similar to the one used to disperse crowds by police officers fills the entire block. You are probably thinking the guy is selfish and does not use his head properly because he turns off his stove inside the house, but you are wrong. In this place, if for once you decide to take the stove outside to avoid the smoke, well, be prepared to forget about it for good.

I think this place has ghosts, things vanish in record time and paraffin stoves are no exception. Besides, there is a belief that mosquitoes can’t stand the smoke, and there are plenty of those annoying biters in the area. A few weeks ago, I came home as usual and there were several voices coming from this guys’ house, I reckon there were four. I could smell ugali cooking and as time progressed sukuma wiki was soon ready. When they were about to eat, a problem arose, with the host claiming his utensils can only serve three.

They argued for a while and then went silent and I figured that a solution had been found by one person eating from the sufuria. This is after I heard the sound of a spoon and metal colliding, an indication that the last bits of food were being cleared. There are other neighbours I cannot tell you exactly what they do. They are three, two ladies and a gentleman, but I can tell you that as I come back home in the evening, I meet with them moving in the opposite direction wearing tight clothing which at times is too short.

I have vowed that when I get rich, I will get them fitting clothing which is long enough and a daytime job because I assume they work in a late night café in town, or maybe I should petition their boss to get them fitting clothing… I am kidding of course. The other person who lives in this ‘plot’ is a matatu tout. He is as typical as they come. I mostly find him at a local joint where they sell my kind of alcohol and the ‘pointing’ type of meat. This, if you are from America, is the type where you point at the piece you want and immediately it is chopped into pieces for you.

If you have never tried, you should, it’s a delicacy, especially after imbibing into some lethal concoctions that can make a bomb. The only problem is that with no butchery in the vicinity, you are never sure what kind of animal you are chewing. There is a day I pointed at a piece of ear I was savouring and while I could have sworn that it was goat, the seller claimed it was beef, a very small cow. Very confusing.

Owing to the recent insecurity threat and purely in the spirit of knowing your neighbour, I will one of these days coincide a visit to my neighbours, one by one. For the rich one, it has to be the day he is cooking meat for supper, for the two ladies I think I will do so when they are in the house and for the drunk conductor, well, I still do not know whether I will visit him, after all it might be difficult to know everybody!