Hello villagers! I bet the word maandazi sounds alien to some of you. You my fellow villagers are of different races, but I believe you are familiar with English, otherwise this sentence wouldn’t have made sense to you. For the sake of fairness and to avoid straining our lush camaraderie, allow me to explain what it means. Maandazi is a Swahili word for doughnuts or bread kind of – sweet bread. Forgive me, but I don’t know how to explain it better than that, it’s just maandazi. Are we good? As for cooking fat, I believe you do have an idea. Let me just break it down for you, cooking fat is a semi solid cooking oil or thick paste if that makes it easier to comprehend. It’s common back here in my village, and it cheaper too. Most folks are able to enjoy a fried meal courtesy of the cooking fat. From as little as Kshs. 5 you are guaranteed a fried stew for lunch or supper. It has attracted a number of pseudo names with the most popular being nyakatuda (which I can’t explain to be honest) and Mor Achodha. The latter meaning scooped fat.
Now that you know, let me save you the megillah and get to my story…
A few days ago something happened in my the village that got everyone laughing. But I didn’t laugh at what happened, I laughed rather at what the villagers were laughing at. Is there any difference in what I just said? I don’t even know what I’m saying. OK, the whole village was left nursing painful ribs after what seemed like a scene out of some Hollywood comedy movie, became the centre of attention one sunny afternoon. The scene was at a neighbouring homestead, and the main characters were two co-wives; Nyar Alego and Nyar Asembo ,both widows. The cause of conflict was a maandazi and cooking fat. How you ask?
And it occurred that…
Nyar Alego the eldest wife had been bedridden for what seemed like two months. She had grown lethargic and senile. She was somewhere around 78 years. Nyar Asembo on the other side was still strong. Since they both didn’t have their children staying with them, as they were either married or living in the city, she had to assist Nyar Alego.
On this eventful day, Nyar Asembo was going to the market to buy groceries, and what to prepare for lunch that day. She passed by Nyar Alego and inquired if there’s anything she felt like eating. ‘Maandazi’ she had said. On her way back from the market, Nyar Asembo had remembered to bring her co-wife the maandazi she had requested. She had everything she had bought packed in a polythene bag. On reaching home she passed by Nyar Alego’s house to deliver the maandazi. Being in hurry she dipped her hand inside the bag and felt for whatever was wrapped in a piece of paper and handed it out to Nyar Alego in the bed where she lay half asleep then walked out of the house to her own kitchen to prepare lunch for both of them.
Water for Ugali( thick paste of maize, sorghum or millet flour) was set on the three-stoned fireplace to boil as she prepared onions and tomatoes she was to use in frying eggs that had been left unhatched by one of her chickens early that morning. She sang as women do while preparing a meal or doing a chore. I don’t know if it’s only my observation! At least, I have noticed my mother and sisters doing so, but I have never understood the logic behind it. If you haven’t, then take time today and pay attention to any lady or woman, most of them prefer Gospel music. Done with the onion chopping and tomatoes, she beats the eggs and takes to preparing her ugali. When it’s ready she sets it on a plate beside the fireplace and puts another sufuria on the stones for the eggs. She reaches for theold polythene bag she had brought from the market and takes out a wrapped piece of old Newspaper. On unwrapping she discovers it’s maandazi, and not cooking fat she had bought at the market. She scampers out to Nyar Alego’s house on realization that she must have given her the cooking fat.
‘Nyar Alego kara ne aweyoni mana nyakatuda kar mandas!’ (Nyar Alego I must have left you with cooking fat instead of maandazi) She had said apologetically.
‘Kara ema omiyo ne oyom kabisa!’ (So that is why it was so soft ) Nyar Alego responded innocently.
‘Ichamo mora!'(You have eaten my cooking fat ) she exclaimed in shock. It couldn’t be true, Nyar Alego couldn’t possibly have eaten it, she was bluffing. She inched closer to where she lay and beside her noticed the fat stained piece of paper. A wave of fury overcame her and she almost threw herself on her with rage. She looked at the grotesque figure lying on that bed and she got madder. She wanted to tear her apart. Storming out of the house, she threw away the maandazi.
A strong smell of something metallic burning hit her nostrils and she remembered the sufuria at the fireplace. Dashing inside, she found the cooking pot glowing hot red. The sight of this only added to her already rampaging rage, she pushed it off the fire, burning her fingers in the process. Now it was a mix of anger and pain. What a terrible combination. This gave her flaring temper a new boost and she came out of the house spitting insults to the helpless Nyar Alego, who was still in her house. It is this that attracted onlookers drawn, from within the neighbouring homes and those who had been passing through the village.
One woman walked close to her to inquire what had transpired, a small crowed followed her and it became a small political rally. She was like an opposition leader delivering a harangue to the rulling President, all attention was on her and she had her loyal supporters with her, she was the vox populi. When she narrated the earlier occurrence, her supporters laughed and others jeered. They started filling out of the compoured leaving her behind, dampening her spirits. She lashed out at them, driving them out her homestead, they were ungrateful and disloyal to her, their leader. How could they dismiss her like that?
It was now her against the villagers. Words were exchanged, jibes flew laced with mockery. The village came alive. They had something to talk about until another could come back- a comic relief. They found a momentary break from problems bedeviling their lives and enjoyed some good laugh, though only for a brief period…the maandazi and cooking fat moment. A Luo would say : A mandas and nyakatuda moment!