Author Archives: jagweng

About jagweng

I love telling stories verbally or written, and trust me, I have no sense of humour! I love Village life and I miss the 90's...

Super Sales Rep.

They create a link.

There is always something unsettling about the smiles of sales reps. Unsettling because you never know if the smile is genuinely from the heart or some kind of bait. After a lot of observations I have come to learn that it’s nothing but a trap. A trap to indirectly lure one into something without having prior planning. Don’t you think it’s some kind of thievery in itself? Some level of conning, yah? Now, this sales reps…when handling male clients…are mostly female, beautiful female sales reps. Reason is, no man in his right senses would resist some attention from a gorgeous lady with a disarming smile.

Let’s say, you had a rough day at work. The Mpesa lady that you have had a crush on and have been trying to win hasn’t been showing signs of ever giving in. Three days ago you realised she hasn’t been showing up at her place, instead there’s this odd looking guy with an even odder looking Rasta Cap. In your mind you concluded he smokes bhang, because he also has the trademark bloodshot eyes. Your crush hadn’t given you her number so you don’t have a way to ask her where she disappeared. You are walking through the alleys trying to distract your mind with various items on glass display. Most of the shops have either some dude ringing a bell or some bevy of beauties inviting potential customers inside the shops. They are cheerful and adorning the cutest smiles. They could make you forget all your troubles and imagine you are super rich. You forget that your rent is due and the landlord had threatened to evict you because you have always paid rent late. Your cooking gas had ran out earlier in the morning. But still these ‘sweeties’ would make you buy a pair of shoes worth 7k, an equivalent of your rent for 3 months back in the ghetto.

Now, my story is different. I have a penchant for buying stuff online. At least for 4 years now. I’m so addicted to this that going into boutique to, say, buy myself a pair of shoe seems like an awkward thing. Recently on one of my shopscapeds, I had ordered for a customized pair of shoes from one of my contacts. It took weirdly long than I was accustomed to, I was almost giving up. I had been ripped off… It’s a risk one has to be ready for…the meagre 3k I had paid. Out of the wind, I get a call from a different dude informing me that he had a parcel that should be sent to me and wanted to confirm the shipping address before sending. It was slightly past midday. It was a busy day at work and I didn’t give it much attention.

Later that evening when I was back inside my ‘hut’ watching a movie, I remembered the phone call. Fiddled with my phone scrolling through its call log so that I could call back and ask if the mysterious guy had managed to send the parcel. On dialing, when the call finally connected to the other end, a female voice came through and I almost hang up. You know, one thing with me, I hate suprises. No, I loathe suprises. Akwardly, this female voice didn’t seem spooked at all. She was all calm, like she expected me to call. She sensed the skepticism in my voice somehow and introduced herself as Nancy. She knew about my parcel and that it had already been sent and I should expect it the next day. I was impressed.

I hang up and placed the phone back on the coffee table and let my mind replay that conversation. Feeding on the calmess in that voice, her voice. The usual sales reps thing. She was just being ‘professional’ if you understand what I mean.

The next morning I decided to pass by the courier office to check if indeed my parcel was due for pick up. Sadly, it wasn’t there yet. I was told to check the following day. Later in the day, Miss Nancy decided to call back to enquire if I had actually received my parcel, of which I informed her that I was told to go back the next day. There was some level of genuineness in her voice that I found intriguing. Somewhere in my heart I felt it was still ‘professionalism’. After I received the boots, she started asking if I still wanted to purchase anything else. Then I got a Gucci wallet. She sold me a Gucci jacket too. There and then, I knew I had to stop myself before I grew the wont of shopping every day of the month. There are times she could just check on me. She got me confused. I was right and I was wrong. I got to know her full name. Then she told me she was from NYERI. I assure you my phone almost fell off. I swallowed hard and convinced myself I was in no imminent danger. I felt my pants to see if my ‘member’ was present, and with a sigh of relief, it was there. Intact and unaware of my fears.

I am so happy to have known her. Made friends with her, at the time the country is polarized. As politicians are busy pitting tribe against the other, Nancy (A Kikuyu) and I (a Luo) are getting to know each other. We are doing what this country badly needs, breaking the shackles that bind us, tribalism. I Love this Nation. I love the diversity and the difference in culture. Nancy Wangu, thanks for being a SUPER SALES REP. The Best I ever met. Thanks for being a friend. A Kikuyu friend for that matter. It’s always an honor to do business with you.

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How I Survived A Mob ‘Justice’.

Pickpocketing.

Is mob ‘justice’ really Justice? Is it the solution to increasing crime rate. There are situations where I would agree that it is. Like when someone is caught in the act, defiling a minor or a woman of age. I would understand when people act out of rage and beat up that savage.  But there are some instances where it becomes an injustice.A thousand people have lost their lives in the hands of mobs, a thousand innocent lives. Simply because someone suspected they had done something wrong (sometimes they didn’t really do it). They end up being beaten up, and/or burnt to their death. How people get excited by the sight of blood is something I still can’t bring myself to comprehend. Have we just become wicked or simply bloodthirsty? When a mob lynches wrongdoers, is there a difference between the people in the mob and the actual wrongdoer? I don’t think so, at the end of the day they have all committed a crime. We blame it on the laxity in our justice systems and the inefficient law enforcement apparatus, but still it doesn’t justify the need for mob lynching. Arrogating ourselves the role of the punisher, issuing instant justice is rather hypocritical of us. We have all, in one way or the other, committed certain crimes secretly and luckily got away with it, what then gives us the right to give out punishment to others? If we all had to pay for our secret crimes would there be anyone walking this earth?

That said, let me fast forward to my story…

It’s one hot and dusty evening when I walk into the countryside bus terminal (Machakos), five years ago. I was traveling back to the village from Nairobi. A stream of bus scouts kept approaching me, persuading me to go to a specific bus, others were honest enough to tell me that that’s the only way they would get their commission. But my mind was set, I had a specific bus in mind – the hottest countryside baby on the road, Destiny Coach. When I got to where it was, dressed in the latest graffiti art and neon lights, I was home. To add more life, the ticketing guy turned out to be my classmate back when we were in primary school in the village. After booking me, we talked for a while and then he advised me to get inside the bus and pick the best seat before they were all occupied.

Inside, I chose a seat in the first row next to a lady I found already seated next to a window. After assuming my position beside her, we shook hands and then I got out my  IDEOS smartphone from my pocket, plugged in it’s earphones and turned on some music. I was looking earn some points. For your information, IDEOS smartphone was an asset back then, smartphone was just hitting the Kenyan market, and being in possession of such a gadget was a plus. 

A friend of mine texts me, asking me where I was and when I told him that I had booked a bus back to the village and was leaving at 9pm. It was still some minutes past seven so he suggested we meet up in town for supper before I left. I decided why not? I requested the lady beside me to watch my space as I rushed to pick something in town. She suggested I place something to mark the seat. Since I had no bag I decided to leave my coudroy jacket behind. I walked into town and met my friend and then at around 8:30pm, he offered to walk me back to the terminal.

On reaching, the bus was not at it’s parking spot. I asked one of the scouts and he offered to take me to the clearing exit where the bus was. I bade my friend and rushed behind the scout, pressing through sweaty masses of other travellers, scouts, touts, hawkers, idlers and petty thieves. Finally, we got to the ‘baby’ and I offered twenty shillings coin to the scout and he walked away after giving me a strong handshake. I got in and walked to my seat. To my shock, it was occupied already. This lady must be so dumb, I thought to myself.

‘Hey, where’s my jacket?’ I asked dejectedly.

‘You’ll give me back my phone!’ She shot back at me.

‘Are you nuts? Where’s my jacket?’ I demanded. She didn’t bother responding to my question. She stood up from her seat. 

‘Conductor here he is!’ He called out at the front.

The intruder seated at my place remained calm. Bodies of hawkers pressed beside me as I stood in the alley. I was about to ask a third time for my jacket when someone grabbed me by the collar of my short sleeved shirt, cutting the words from my throat midway. I turned my eyes to see who the ‘joker’ was but I my eyes only met bloodshot eyes. The attempt turn my head around made my throat hurt and I felt like being cut off air. I gasped for air and returned my head to the initial position.

‘Where’s that lady’s phone?’ My captor asked. Saliva spurting out of his mouth and settling all over my face.I turned to the lady, my eyes almost popping out as I tried to get some air in and trying to speak.

‘Di…d I t…ake  your …phone?’ I managed to ask with the little breathe I could get.

‘You stole my phone and went to sell it in town!’ She shouted back.

This was the craziest thing I ever heard my all life, being accused of stealing. Stealing a phone whose price must have been a quarter of the one I owned, this ridiculous. When I left she was typing on the phone. Before I could talk, someone slapped my head from the back. Then a punch followed. My captor stillof maintained his grip and tightened it occasionally to make me confess. He tried to slap me but I blocked it before it landed on my cheeks. I was now sorrounded , shouts of ‘Thief! Thief!’ rippled in the air inside the bus. 

‘Let’s burn him’, a voice suggested. And it was chorused by the others. 

‘Burn him!’

I tried to plead with my captor that I was innocent. That I didn’t steal the phone in question. But I realised that the more I pleaded, the more guilty I looked to them. My fate was sealed.

‘We are used to you idiots. You are all always innocent. We are going to see how innocent you will after we set fire on you!’ Someone barked from behind me.

One guy ransacked my pockets and fished out my gadget and showed it to the lady if it was hers. She said no. The slaps rained on me in tandem with the questions about where the phone was. I decided to keep quiet and wait for my death. I always wondered how I would die, where and what I would be wearing on that fateful day. My guess had always been that I would die in a road accident. That day had finally come, I know knew how I was going to die. A painful and embarrassing death. I felt for my family and friends. What a shame I was going to leave them. Lynched by a mob snatching a phone. I thought of how they were going to learn about my death. An update would run under the screen of television news broadcast: A NOTORIOUS PHONE THIEF LYNCHED AT THE FAMOUS COUNTRY BUS TERMINAL! That would be me, a ‘notorious phone thief’. They would just ignore it or maybe say it deserved the thief right.

After some days when I didn’t make it home and my phone dead.A  search would ensue. Only to discover that I was the ‘phone thief’.

I thought of a scenario where the police would intervene and handcuff me to the nearest Police station…Moroto… that is less than a hundred meters from where I was facing ‘justice’. They would hold me there for a while until I bought them some ‘tea’ before they could let me go.

My stream of thoughts were interrupted by someone’s voice ordering people off the bus. My captor loosened his grip and I looked back and I recognised that face. He had been down there with my friend, the ticket guy.

‘Aren’t you a passenger in this bus?’ He asked when he got to me. I gasped for air and told him that I was.’Show me your ticket!’ He demanded, but in a soft way. I reached for my shirt pocket and luckily it was there. I showed him and then he turned to the lady who had been accusing me. I remembered my phone but I couldn’t see any of the faces who had held me captive. But that didn’t matter now, I just escaped death.

How To Kill With Flaccid Breasts.

Killing with flaccid breasts you ask? Yes, I mean exactly that, what you just read. It’s ridiculous, that I agree, but not to everyone. At least not with my tribe. I have heard this since I was old enough to  make sense out the the words that reached my ears. How true this assertion was I didn’t know, until few weeks ago. 

There are numerous taboos embedded within my tribe that seem control how people relate with one another. I remember when we were young, we were always warned not to look at female kids while they are passing urine. Let me make it clear to you that we never did look at them with ill intent, but mostly it was out of curiosity. We had a pipe with which urine jetted out, but they didn’t and our young minds found that fascinating, very fascinating.  But we had to stop, as we didn’t want mother lose her breast. We were also warned against crying or wailing at night, as evil spirits would pick up our voices and we would loose the ability to talk. 

In adulthood, existed more serious taboos, that lead to death. If someone, out of anger showed you his or her butt hole, you were done for. The only remedy is to whip that person’s butt instantly or show them yours too. Hahaha. Crazy, huh? Another bizarre incident is when a wife hits her husband with her panty, food or cooking stick ,this means death unless special intervention by elders were done immediately. How true this beliefs are, I can’t tell. Woe unto you if an irritated woman unleashed the the curse of breasts on you, by undressing and slapping them, or even her thighs. Death visited you immediately. It is this last one that I was set to prove after I witnessed it in play, a few weeks ago. 

It’s around 10:00am, and the market is just warming up for the day. It’s a fair weather and most people are busy setting up there wares of trade, so the market is relatively calm and quiet. The eerie silence is disrupted by Otieno, preaching at the top his voice. He stops it abruptly, just as he had began, and the serenity is restored. Now, Otieno is just the market lunat, the only twist is that he preaches the word of God. Wasonga, another of Otieno’s kind , runs and prances, and leaps across the market. He makes a sudden halt, then starts dancing to some imaginary tunes . These are normal occurrences that rarely draws peoples’ attention. 

I’m drawn to my work when I here someone wailing, a woman’s voice. It’s a mix of screams and words that at first are inaudible. The voice gets closer and the words are getting clearer. A look at the marketers and I realize their attention is trained to the source of the noice. 

Atieno, you have destroyed my house! ‘ the voice screams. ‘I’ve been quiet for so long! ‘

Finally, the source of the voice comes into view. A woman, noticably around 60 years of age, medium height and dark in complexion. She had no blouse or bra on, just her dark trunk with two loose pricariously hanging socks-like breasts, flapping like elephant ears on her chest. I stepped out of my shop and my eyes followed her to where she was headed. Then she stopped right in front of her, Atieno. Atieno is a maandazi vendor. She’s somewhere in her 30’s. She’s blessed herself with a light skin, thanks to the cheap bleaching lotions sold in every salon and beauty shop. She must have been accustomed to this kind of attacks from other women, because all this time she remained calm, handling her maandazis. Or it must be she was waiting for the old woman to dare touch her, she must have been confident the woman was no match. 
It is this calmness that irritated this woman more, she jumped slapping her grotesque breasts, unleashing curses, insults and threats at the sametime. I feared for Atieno. She was going to die, if the beliefs were true. Seeing that Atieno wasn’t shaken, she dared to undress and curse her with her womanhood. As she began lifting up her skirt, some two women rushed in to restrain her, offering a shawl to cover herself. They walked her away, calming her down and trying to keep the shawl in place. She had totally lost it, she was fighting for her husband. 

It’s almost a month since that last incident, and I have been watching Atieno closely, monitoring any change in body weight or business falling, but nothing. She seems to have won the battle. The other woman lost her dignity. The woman was justified in her course, but it was misguided by belief that she could cause someone’s death by embarrassing herself. Maybe there was another way of handling the whole issue without causing unnecessary loss of dignity on her part. 

I’m Being Stalked! 

Be on the look out!

‘Hey, mambo?’ She said. Hey, how are you?  I didn’t see her coming. She must have sneaked up on me. I had been busy typing a reply to a text message and all my attention had been drawn to it. I was just leaving work, at around half past seven. When I looked up, she had her hands outstretched for a handshake. 

‘Oh, poa.’ I responded reaching for her hand. Oh, fine. Her palm was soft but her fingers tiny inside mine, felt like I was squeezing life out of them and I let go. 

‘Umetoka mapema sana leo,’ she pressed on,’ungetoka saa tatu.’ You closed work early today, you should have left at 9pm.  She seemed determined to extend the conversation to my dislike. 

‘Niko sawa.’ I scowled, trying to ignore her comment. I’m alright . She forced a plain laugh and then started walking away. 

‘Have a goodnight…Tony!’ She said in a raised voice. With the momental pause before saying my name, I’m sure she was trying to recall it. She wanted to let me know that she knew my name. I wasn’t  impressed by that, she was pushing too hard.

 
That was the first conversation we ever had. After that she developed a wont – passing in front of my shop several times a day. Whenever our eyes meet, she waves. When they don’t and there is no buyer, she comes to shake hands. Now, it’s not that I have never seen her, in fact her face for over a year now but she never did take notice of me or looked at me like she does now, we’ve always been strangers and just conducting our affairs like strangers do. She’s charcoal black – that’s the first thing I ever noticed, darker than I thought I was. And she’s one of the few ladies I would say, are proud to be really African, if you know what I mean. She is slightly above five feet tall, keeps her hair cut to almost an inch above her scalp, with the sides of the head trimmed shorter, mohwak kind of. Her face is… somehow… rectangular. Big white eyes, a small nose, and  brief mouth – with thin lips curled upwards at the ends in a sneer. She has a long neck, which isn’t so bad. Her body is lean, and then she walks her bossom is pushed up as if she were carrying a bucket of water on her head from the river, on a steep slope, and she’s supporting it with both her hands. Bottom line is, she’s not my kind of girl, she doesn’t tickle my fancy.

The other day, I confided in a friend of mine about her wierd and sudden friendliness. His answer was; she has a crush on you. I laughed out loud, really loud. That evening she came to my shop to buy some antihistimine tabs, she did the outstretching-hand thing again, and I took her hand reluctantly. I felt some fear grip my heart making it feel like a clenched fist in my chest. I let my hand slip away and then got her the drug. She was smiling and I was tempted to ask what she was smiling at but I couldn’t. She was about to begin a conversation when my phone began ringin, to my relief. She walked away. When I was done with the phone call, I noticed a piece of paper on the counter top, it hadn’t been there earlier, before she came. Out of curiosity, I picked it up and unfolded it -it was folded once,symmetrically. It was some kind of a note, surprisingly, with my name on it. 

Hello Tony, 

Please I am sorry but it’s really very bad to keep quiet with something that pains. You know what? I am almost even having a wound in my heart because of you. Yesterday was not my first time to see. Since the day I came, I saw you but there was no way of talking to you. 

I am Sharon. Originally I’m a Ugandan. 

Please help me, call 0711 949 ***, or I just come back for my reply. 

Note: I don’t have someone to love me or a fiance nor a child. 

I read the note twice, the more I read it the more comical it sounded. It was so full of errors but I got the message.  Then something made me freeze…originally I’m Ugandan. Now, there’s this belief that the land of  matoke has the most potent love potions. What if she had applied some of it on the note? Then I will be under her spell, following her everywhere like her shadow. If she says I bark like a dog, I would do it without second thoughts. If she says walk on fours like the dog, then I would be on it, I’ll be her puppet. That’s horrible. Just that mere thought got me shaking. I had to do something, real fast. The Bible. Yes, I had to undo it using the Holy Book. Neutralize the power of that potion, should there be any. I reached for the Bible that had been gathering dust inside a box of books. I held it on my palms, not knowing what I should do. The first impulse was to place the note inside the Bible, that’s where it had to be.

I had to keep her away from me. I wasn’t going to let her come back for her reply. What if she decided to chew some of those potions! I decided to give her some feedback through the number she had provided in the note. In the text message, I told her that I am happily married, with a kid. Her reply was: pliz not for sex. Who even talked of sex? I decided I’m not having a conversation on that. She calls when I don’t reply, then Truecaller app installed on my phone gives me one of the most genius suggestion, Block Spam Calls.  I go for it, sit back and try to relax. 

A Letter To My Brother Overseas.

Letter To My Brother Overseas

Dear Otis, 

It is with deep sorrow, mixed with enthusiasm, that I write you this letter from your village, Mlaha – do you even remember that name, your village’s name? Sorrow because I miss you so much my brother, and enthusiasm because this is the first letter I have written to you  and because I believe it will reconnect us. OK, how are you doing over there? It’s been 25 years since you left home for loka (overseas ), 25 long dreary years. I was your favorite… remember?… and you had promised to come back for me, I was only five then. Do you even remember me, Onyango?  I pray you still do, because just a mere thought that you might have forgotten my name, brings me down to tears. 

When you left for the white man’s land, mother told us( me and our two sisters) that you were going to become pastor, preaching the message to the whites. We got very proud and bragged all over the village about it, about how great you were going to become. Anytime an aeroplane flew over the village, I told my friends that it was carrying you, and they believed it, because I believed so, too. Mom became the envy of the village, her son had flown on a plane, to the land yonder. You instantly became an inspiration. I remember the letters you sent home occasionally, mom kept them under her mattress because they meant so much  to her. Once, I did still a letter to go and show it off to my friends, mom found out and I received a dog’s beating, but I didn’t mind, because you promised to come for me and the beating will be no more. 

When I clocked Seven years and began attending school, your letters reduced to one in a year, we couldn’t understand why, but mom always told us that you must be busy preaching the word of God. That consoled me but still I looked forward to the letters. Eventually, the letters abated. What ever made you stop? Still, my childish heart trusted and hoped and waited. The planes flew above occasionally, but they brought us no news of you. Were there no pens and papers? 

One day I found mom praying to God to take care of you, she begged God to tell her why you had stopped sending letters. I listened outside her bedroom hoping to hear what God would tell her, but no answer came. I heard her sobbing and I got scared, I found myself too letting down a free flow of tears wash my tender face. I was only ten years. From then, mom stopped talking about you. I took care not to broach the subject anytime she was around. Another day, our younger sister, Akech, mentioned your name and I could see nothing but marked dread in mama’s eyes. I could tell she was hurting inside, she just didn’t want us to know, or get worried. That day she went to bed early and when she woke up next day morning, she was sick. I retreated to that bush next to our home and cried my heart out, I cried for myself, and I cried for mama too. I prayed to God in those tears, those young tears. I begged Him to answer mama’s prayers, I implored him to, at least, send a message to you. I shouted to planes flying over the village to bring you back home, to let you know that we miss you terribly. 

By the way, when grandma passed away, why didn’t you come? Did she not send you dreams of her demise? We waited for you and even extended the burial date, just in case your flight had been delayed, but nothing. We were really optimistic that you wouldn’t miss grandma’s burial. You had promised to buy her a car, and even take her to Nairobi before she dies, what happened to that pledge? I’m sure she is so sad in her grave, she did fight death, a gruesome battle it had been. She lived every second holding tight to those promises, they kept her alive. Like mama, she was haunted by your silence. She lived in despair till her dying day. In her eyes she still clung to a thin thread of hope, that one day, someday you would show up at the gate. And all the silense would be like a mirage. Some kind of a weird dream she had been having. She grew frail each passing day, until finally death wrestled breathe out of her withered lungs. 

My brother, mum almost died that moment, when you didn’t show up for the burial. She got so depressed. It’s like she was trying to burry you with grandma, to ease her pain. She had a nervous breakdown, wish you had seen the anguish in her eyes. The agony of losing her eldest son. What pulled her out of it, was Okong’os return from… um… the U.K. He had gone there only five years earlier ,and drove back to the village receiving a king’s welcome. He had come home and gave mama some cash, saying  he saw you and you sent him with the money, and that you promised to come home soon. And that you apologised for the silence. He brought no letter though. Was it true? That you sent him? We began the wait with renewed energy. We pictured you coming home, driving your own car. Probably, with a white wife. Mom was alive again. 

Otis, do you have a heart?  Did we, your family members, wrong you in any way? You know that you had been like a father to us after dad’s death, we all looked up to you, even mama. Why did you have to desert us? Was it a sin so heavy that you can’t forgive us? Mama died four years ago. She collapsed one afternoon and that was the end of her. The doctors said she died of a heart attack. Mama missed you to death. Thinking of you is what did her in. If only you had written a letter to her, it might have made a difference. Maybe she still would have been alive. We buried her and I tried to burry you with her like she tried to do with grandma, but I couldn’t. I almost lost my mind, but I had to remain sane for our lastborn. 

Our other sister, Auma, got married, married to a man who is married to alcohol. She endures beatings and insults, and no matter how much I try to talk her out of the marriage, she remains adamant. All she says is: You don’t understand.  Maybe she is right, I don’t understand. I managed to send our lastborn to a Teachers Training College and she’s graduating next year. I don’t have a formal job here at home and that has made it a living hell for us. I have cut down most of the trees on our land, for sale and others I used to burn charcoal, just to make sure Akech completes her training. Recently, I started making mud building bricks behind grandma’s house. From it I hope to raise capital to start a business. I had to leave school in Form Three because mama couldn’t raise the money for school fees, I don’t blame her though. It wasn’t easy being a mother and a father, but she did her best. 

This letter, though stained with my tears and bloated in other parts, is all I could come up with. I couldn’t contain the emotions and I hope you’ll understand. Even if you won’t come back home, please try and write back. Just tell me that you hate me, even if you don’t explain why, I promise to understand. I won’t push any further. I do believe you are still alive, I can feel it. You don’t have to fulfill any promises, because I’m no longer a kid anymore, mama is dead and grandma is no more. I’m hurt because I love you. I’m hurt because I care. 

Yours sincerely, 

Onyango. 

Cooking Fat For Mandazi!

Maandazi

Photo by Merufm digital

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! 

‘Sponsor’ Gone Rogue!

Stories have been told. Hearts broken. And marriages thrown into the wind. Economic crunch. The great depression. Even Muamar Gaddafi came and vanished, but this rare species has refused to be extinct, in fact it has only managed to evolve and redefine itself in the society. We can only wish it away but as far as I know, it’s here to stay. It has been operating under a lot of aliases. Latest is the more swanky name, SPONSOR. Former and old fashioned being, Sugar daddy/mommy. Hope you now catch the drift, yeah?

A few days ago, one sponsor decided to act up, or simply teach a sponsee(one who is under the sponsor’s care) some unforgettable lesson. I suspect the sponsee had been a bother and the sponsor simply wanted to get rid of her. 

And the story was…

I had gone to Migori, in South Nyanza, on a personal commitment and I was now traveling back home to Ugenya through Kisumu. Next to me inside the mini bus I was traveling in sat this fair lady. Fair because she was somewhere between beautiful and ugly, fat and thin, light and dark skin. She wore heavy make up that made her look so ridiculous. Her eyebrows trimmed to thread-thin then she did paint it with an eye pencil to make it look bolder. Why would she even do that! Isn’t that time wasting? I have seen a lot of ladies do that but I fail to get the humor in it. If you don’t want to have eyebrows and you decide to shave them off, why again draw imaginary ones? Then she had this blood red lipstick on her full lips. Gracing her head was this blonde wig, that was bold. I’m sure she got it off second hand clothe vendors on some open air market. It must have cost her Kshs. 80 after some 30 minutes of haggling, she looked like that type, the type who could bargain even at the supermarket. A yellow chiffon blouse top and black jeans plants with yellow doll shoes (those shiny plastic ones that cost like Kshs. 150), was her dressing. Then she babied a black shiny handbag, I’m sure it was plastic too. Thank God she had thought of wearing some perfume, even though it was hurting my nostrils, like some noxious gas. Her nail polish was of different colors in every fingernail and a little worn out.

Her phone rings from inside her bag and she fiddles with the zipper and finally opens it. She was short of ripping the bag apart like it was a timer bomb that would go off if she didn’t reach for it within milliseconds. Fishes out the phone and places it on her ear that was on the side I was. I couldn’t help eavesdropping on the conversation.

” Achieng ne isewuok?” (Achieng’ are you on your way?) the caller in a male voice enquires. Now I know her name.

“Yea,” she responds plainly.

“Ne iwacho ni idhi kanye?” (Where did you say you were going? ) the caller enquires further.

“I’m going to Nairobi!” She says in a heavily Luo accent. She’s not loving this conversation at all, it’s evident from the minimalistic answers she gives. The caller was about to ask another question but I suspect she hang up on him. She must have suspected I was following the conversation because immediately she got off the phone she looked my direction but I pretended to be preoccupied with something else out the window. I guess she was cursing the caller for putting her through all that humiliation, talking to her in Dholuo.

There’s one thing that got me thinking, her ringtone, about what kind of lady she was or secretly hoped to be. It was of luo rhumba, Johnny Junior I suppose.
There’s something about these songs that make them so popular with beer drinkers, I guess it’s because they are always played at most locals – bars, mostly where luos frequent. By all standards she would pass for a drinker, Tusker must be her favorite brand I conclude.

I’m seated beside Miss. Tusker here and none of us has said a word, save for the occasional surreptitious looks. I’m always scared of starting conversations with strangers sitting beside me while traveling because I never want to know where it might lead, and Miss. Tusker here wasn’t going to be an exception. Something ever happened to me, really horrible, but that’s for another day. For now allow me to keep my reservations. Another ringing and she receives the phone call. This time her face is glowing, the caller must be special.

“Hi babe!” she says before the voice at the other end could talk.

“Hi,” a deep male voice responds at the other end, “how far are you?” he asked.

“Like an hour hivi! ” she informs him.

“OK, call me mkifika!” the voice says and the line goes dead. It’s bad manners but I just can’t help following…
The bus conductor is doing a routine check of the passenger tickets and asking if there’s anyone demanding any a change back. When he gets to our seat I pass him my ticket and he marks it and hands it back to me. Miss. Tusker looks at him in the eyes trying to smile, while the conductor maintains a serious face.

“Madam hebu lipa pesa. Sitaki mchezo!” (Madam pay up. I don’t want jokes) he commands.

“Si alikuambia atalipa tukifika”(He told you he is going to pay when we get there), she responds in almost a whisper, an embarrassed look on her face.

“Mwambie anitumie kwa Mpesa.” (Tell him to send me money through Mpesa) he declares and sashays along alley  not giving her room to talk back. She looks at me and when our eyes meet I give a blank stare. I almost told her that I didn’t hear whatever they were discussing in a bid  to reassure her. Her eyes darted around to see if anyone else was looking at her. And indeed all eyes were on her.

Don’t worry honey, they are just admiring your wig, they are probably fascinated by your guts, you are the only lady who can travel to Nairobi in a Kisumu bound minibus without paying.” I played the monologue in my mind.

She tapped my elbow and I almost jumped out of my skin. It felt like I was dreaming until she did a second time and I heard her voice close to my ear, it was so close like she was going to bite it off.

“Could you please assist me with your phone I make a call.” She whispers.

I hand her my phone set to dialer without uttering a word. I’m eager to eavesdrop on the call and it’s becoming addictive. And when the call finally goes  through, the deep voice echoes from the other end. He passes the conductors message to Mr. Deep Voice who promises to call back in two minutes and direct her on what to do and hangs up. She flips my phone over several times and then tells me that I have I nice phone. As if I didn’t know. Why would I go to a shop and buy a phone that to me wasn’t nice! I’m eager to have my phone back while she’s pensively waiting for Mr. Deep voice to call. She remembers she also has a phone and hands me back my gadget.

The bus is going fast and I can now see signs of Kisumu. The conductor walks to her and demands for the money again. He’s finally lost his patience and he’s determined to have his dues now. Then she does the worst mistake. She stepped on sore puss-filled whitlow! And the sin was, asking the conductor for his phone so that he could call back Mr. Deep Voice. The conductor took it as an insult and what ensued was hurling of unprintable. I gave her my phone to call his Mr. but he was unreachable. She tried and tried, and tried one more time but nothing…

The number you tried to call is out of reach, if you wish to leave a voice message please do so after the tone… ” that’s all Miss. Tusker could hear.

She double checked the number and dialed an umpteenth time but the response was the same. Her eyes were almost watery. Passengers had now joined the conductor and jibes were outpouring.

“Mano onyale kabisa!” (That serves her right ) a passenger shouted from behind.

“Ochal jakwal chuo jowetege!” (She looks like a husband snatcher)  a female voice teased somewhere at the front row.

Miss. Tusker was in deep shit. Her tears were now flowing freely, she couldn’t contain herself. The insults kept flying from all corners of the bus. She leans over and asks me if I could pay for her then she would refund me, or even do anything I asked of her. That was the mother of all shockers! How the hell was I going to pat with my five hundred bob for some stranger I met on a bus! She must have been sick. I told her the only cash I had was Kshs. 200, my fare to Ugenya from Kisumu. She told me all she had was Kshs. 70 in her purse, how was that even a concern of mine? That is desperation to you. A sponsor had decided to act up. Maybe a better option just came up. Or the sponsee had humiliated him and he wanted some revenge. When he thought out this plan, he was boiling with hatred I’m certain of that. He wanted it to be perfect, no mistakes. She had to pay. And Miss. Tusker here was paying the price. She wouldn’t suspect any foul play, not if it was well orchestrated. Mr. Deep Voice must have been a sponsor gone rogue.

jagweng