THE FRUITS WE LOST

Matomoka.A fruit that was in abundance back in the day.Until we were lied to that an apple a day keeps the doc away and forgot about these fruits.

This fruit,known as Custard apple, is said to have many benefits, one of them being cancer fighting properties.But you wont find it in our supermarkets.Its not even common in our rural markets.Our kids know only of apples and pomegranates and such imported fruits.Imported fruits that are laced with chemicals so that they can last on the shelves long enough.

Its time we decolonized our foods. And did away with overrated Eurocentric fruits and go back to ‘matomokas’ and ‘matuyas’ and ‘ngambura’.That aside, what’s the English name for ‘matuya?’ and ‘ngambura?’ Which other forgotten fruit do we need to bring back to our plates?

THE COURSE OF JUSTICE

One of my favourite past times in Wajir was whiling away time at the Law Courts.This was an utilitarian hobby because I had several friends working there who could buy choma at the nearby Prisons Canteen after the court adjourned.It was fun seeing the same buddies wearing legal stonefaces in the court room,yet the previous night we were shouting expletives at Nghamia club after marinating our livers with frothies.But that’s life in Norther Kenya.Someday I dropped by the court and found at the dock was a young chap who had been accused of doing ‘tabia mbaya’ with a goat .Forget the legal term for his act- they can be very descriptive.Something like performing indecent acts with an animal which is against Section 76 (i) of the Penal Code as read with the Animals Act 2006.Anyway,the fellow didn’t look like someone who would go down on a goat.But I wasn’t here to judge but to extract lunch from one of my buddies.After listening to the case for a while,I deduced that the fellow had no chance.One,he was a non local.Which meant that he had slim chance of his case being diverted to maslah system-the traditional Somali courts.Maslah system is an age old Somali judiciary which resolves complicated curses like murder in a way the High Court would envy.At the essence of maslah system are two things.One, the compensation of the family of the person who has been wronged.Two, the punishment is not meted on the individual but on his kinsmen.A win win situation.This doesnt happen in modern legal system because the course of justice often prevents it.Back to the guy of and his goat.When the veterinary doctor went on dock to give expert evidence,the guy’s fate was sealed.The vet told the court that there were signs that indeed,the goats private parts(you all know which word I am avoiding here) had been penetrated.The owner of the goat which had allegedly been defiled smiled knowingly.His one hundred or so clansmen broke into loud chatter.The court was called to order.After his expert evidence,the vet doctor folded his neat folder and sat down.The accused person’s lawyers shot up.He was a short smiling fellow,who did his things slowly but meticulously.‘You have told this court that the vulva of that goat showed signs of having been penetrated?’ He posed to the vet Doc. ‘Yes’.The Doc replied.’Were there any male goats around?’ The lawyer asked.’Yes’.The vet doc replied,not aware where this was leading to.’Is it possible to differentiate whether the goat was penetrated by a goat or by a human being?”No.’The vet doctor said.’No more questions your honour.’The lawyer then sat down.The prosecution had failed to prove beyond resonable doubt that the goat was penetrated by the man on the dock.The accused was set free.The goat’s owner and his 100 clansmen left the court downcast.I am sure the clansmen approached the young man to settle the case under maslah system because for that community, the course of justice in modern legal system is sometimes the cause of injustice.

MY LANDLORD,THE DOGS AND I

Once upon a camel in Habaswein, I had one Sheikh Hassan as my landlord.That soft spoken man with a goatee dyed the colour of Royco was an Islamic Education teacher at the local secondary school.Some end months,I would tell him that I had gone to Wajir town to get my pay to settle his rent. After drawing my salary from KCB Wajir,I would go to Ngamia Club for lunch.At around midday,the air would be shattered by the landing of a big Jumbo called Juba Airlines in the nearby Wajir airport.That humongous thing that could fit a small village plus all its grunting camels used to charge Ksh 3,800 to Nairobi then.I would weigh between going back to Habaswein to pay rent and going home to see my children.The children would win,finally.Or love would win over financial obligations.Thus I would board the big jumbo and by 3pm I would be at Tea Room,waiting for a matatu home.That thing was fast.When I would get back to Habaswein,I would play hide and seek with Sheikh,seeing that I owed him rent.At some point,we would meet,him sitting on the mat outside his dash just after Maghreb prayers.Dash is a man’s ‘thingira’ in Somali.‘Habari ya nyumbani?’ Sheikh would ask,a thousand watt smile lighting up his face.’Salama.’ I would answer.’Na habari ya bibi?”Na watoto?’His salaams would go on in the elaborate salaams style of pastoral communities.If you have camels they even ask ‘habari ya ghamia’.Then I would weave a tall tale on how I used all the rent money for some emergency at home and he would quip:’Hakuna shida.Mungu atapeana.’And that would end it-until another month’s rent would become due.But rent was not the only point of conflict between me and the amiable sheikh.Every evening,we would go to the local police canteen which we called Mabatini to shoot breeze and generally pass time.The maître d of the only shanty hotel there was an Embu lady called Muthoni.Now,Muthoni was infamous for serving chicken with one leg or one wing missing if you placed a full chicken order.However,she made up for those small failings by cooking the illest goat head I have ever known.We used to call it ‘headache’ for no particular reason.Muthoni kept a horde of dogs which customers were obligated to feed as they ate.Otherwise if she noted you were mean to her dogs,she would been mean to you and disqualify you from credit.To be on her good books,I would drop the dogs some morsels as I ate.Which in turn made the dogs befriend me-just like anybody else who did that.Come the time to go home,the more than 9 canines would accompany me home in the moonlit lanes,playing and cajoling and being generally naughty.One day the dogs and I arrived at Sheikh’s compound to find him saying the 8 oclock prayers.The dogs went around him,some particulary naughty ones wagging their mangy tails at the Sheikh.Mind you,dogs are ritually unclean in Islam.The following day,the Sheikh warned me that those dogs should never come to his compound again.I protested,saying that I didn’t invite them but they just followed me.This happened several times,until I had to tell Muthoni to tell his dogs not to follow me.She ignored my pleas, so I changed tact.I told her that her canines are flea infested-and might even have rabies.And they were the sole reason Habaswein hadnt rained for the previous two years.The following day,I was withdrawn from Muthoni’s credit worthy list and had to eat on cash or starve.Her dogs too withdrew their nocturnal escort services-with immediate effect.Of course with orders from their Master.When the Sheikh noted that I had amended my ways and discarded my mannerless mangy friends, he started inviting me for dinner.Which we ate sitting cross legged on a mat outside his dash, the stars shining our way.This saved me from starving since Muthoni had withdrawn her credit services from yours truly.Sometimes its better to lose nine unwanted friends to retain one valued friend.

THE PISTOL

Before my uncle settled down in the village, he lived like a hobo. He loved the road, and found its freedom seductive, like a dimpled glass.He cursed like a black movie screen icon-all the while hopping from one pub to another.

When I came of age, he had just reached that age when women buy aging creams to slow aging, and men buy fast cars for the same reason. Those days, he swaggered around with the front buttons of his silk shirt open, to cool the high octane testosterone fire raging in his chest

One odd Saturday, he woke me up roughly and tasked me to polish his new Renault 4- then fondly known as Renault Roho.Its inside smelt like asphalt, desire, and dreams. It was wildly popular then since it was the first car to come with a humongous derriere- like a slay queen. Slay queens later copied it- fashion is cyclical.

With a scratching melody coming from the radio and our hair flirting with the wind, we hit the road. On the way, we gave a lift to an old couple headed to church. They commended us on how swanky the car looked- with leather seats and AM radio.My uncle then beamed with pride like a goat fed on those leaves called ‘mukenia’ which made them smile.Then chimed:’

‘Gaka kanyuaga ime ta ngiria.'(The one imbibes fuel sparingly like cricket does on dew.)When the old couple reached their destination, the old lady alighted half-heartedly.

“Where are we going?” I asked uncle.” I dunno.”He grunted inaudibly back, his head lost in the funky Steele Beauttah song playing on the radio. He sang along loudly, like he owned the universe.At Maragwa, we bought those long green and yellow “miraru’ bananas- which my uncle called pistols.Watching too many black movies had influenced his choice of words.

Later, We then ended up getting lost- but in the right direction- since we ended up in the parking of a pub called Kahiriga.Nice cosy joint that’s not on any map. But most nice places arent anyway.Kahiriga is still there, struggling to get customers, like an ageing tart.

I was still wet behind the ears so uncle ordered Coke for me as he and his friends took hard stuff.A stocky lass called Mwihaki inserted a coin into the jukebox, which burst to life with Kamaru songs.She had this well-formed calves from climbing many a Murang’a hill. But when her hips swayed, wallets swayed too, emptying everything into hers.I wont go into the other emptying of proteins that would take place later, in the neighbouring Wanjerere Bar and Lodging.

As we were about to leave,a drunk was peeing on the tyres of our car.He had this roughly hewn face- which looked like a road map to every seedy chang’aa joint in the hood.A face that betrayed how life had wronged him.

“Shadao! If you continue peeing on the tyres of that my new car, I will cut your wee thing off!”My uncle slurred, pointing a thick brutal finger at the sod.

“Then you will need a very big knife for that.” The drunk boasted back.I am not an expert at human anatomy, but going by his frame,he could make those Mwea donkeys envious.

“You nincoompop!” My uncle cursed him back. Apart from Dr.Gikonyo Kiano,he was the most educated man in the district, and his English was impeccable.Still is. Leaning on the car’s bonnet,uncle lit a Nyota cigarette,stuck out his chest out and like a ghetto king from a blaxploitation movie and yelled at me:

“Nigga,git me ma pistol from the fuckin’ boot. Fast!”I went to the car boot and found those long bananas we had bought at Maragwa.

“Master,the yellow ones or the green ones?”I asked, feebly.

“Yellow one, idiot! The greens ones are for damn cows.”

The drunks gush reduced to a trickle, then a drip drop. Then he melted into the night like a cowardly evil spirit chased out by some potent juju.In a journey, the lessons come from the journey, not the destination.