‘MOSHE DAYAN’ KARIA NJAHI

Just after Giceeri had placed our meat on the greasy wooden table,a scraggy geezer wearing a “Segenge ni Ng’ombe” cap sneaked in.He was out of breath and obviously out of food.

Bwana Dayan,nawa mkono tukule,” My uncle hailed him.Dayan cunningly scanned the room with his one eye and promptly sat next to the steaming mountain of meat.

I was to later learn that Dayan was short form for Moshe Dayan-the late Isreali Prime Minister who always donned an eye patch.While the real Moshe Dayan may have lost his eye in some battle, this Dayan had lost his one eye in a forgotten bar room brawl during his swashbuckling days.His real name is Karianjahi though.

“Nindarega!” Dayan started.

“These bones are too big to be those of a chicken!” Dayan added as he dug into a juicy morsel.He then swallowed hungrily, his only two loose teeth dancing dangerously in his mouth.I feared he might swallow them as well, rendering him toothless.

In the kitchen,Giceeri loudly cleared her throat.

Silence.

“Do you know there was a time this witch cooked us a lizard and told us it was fish?” Dayan asked no one in particular, deftly wiping his oily lips with the back of his hand.

Giceeri banged two sufurias loudly.More silence.

Aai! This meat has a naughty smell,” Dayan declared between two loud burps.

“What smell?” Uncle asked him,coldly.

The smell of her witchcraft.Giceeri sits on the meat with her panty and kamithi of before cooking it for us”. Moshe Dayan disclosed triumphantly, his furrowed face glistening with delight.

Uncle spat angrily on the ground then stopped eating altogether.Then he reached for the back of his ear, removed a stub of a half smoked “kiraiku” and lit it.It’s pungent plumes slowly pervaded the room, like an incense to the god of decadence.

Giceeri could no longer bear Dayan’s insolence.She presently emerged from the kitchen, adjusting a washed out shuka around her ample hips with her greasy hands.

“Weee! Ritho Rimwe,what did I hear you say, eeh?”

She barked at Moshe Dayan, pointing at him with a shaking kitchen knife.Dayan stopped licking his soiled fingers, stared downwards at his cracked plastic shoes then mumbled something inaudible.

“Tero me, you Kimenyi,what brought you here,war or free food?” Giceeri bellowed at Moshe Dayan,her hands now held akimbo.

Then with one mighty heave, she hurled him outside into the encroaching darkness,where he fell head first into an open sewer.I cringed at what could have happened to his sole two teeth.

Mùchenji ùcio..blarry fool!” My uncle cursed as he took a generous swig of his Balozi ale.

As we walked home, we found Moshe Dayan at Kibango, the place where four roads met, forming a cross.He was barefoot now, his shoes having been pinched by some village raggamuffins.In his hands he was holding his two broken teeth, while singing with a cracking voice like a lost minstrel, slurring on the syllables:

‘aya ni mabatao akwa…..”

“aya ni mabatao akwa….”

“ingìyia………ingìyia……”

(These are my needs, oh Lord)

(These are my needs, oh Lord

(Meet them, oh Lord)

For some minutes uncle regarded his old friend with indifference.Then, he swung his bakora and walked on, breaking into a song:

“Niwe werìire...”( You are the one who messed up yourself)

MEN OF THE DEW

One of our biggest fears back in the day when teenage hormones coursed madly in our veins was facing the supreme court of elders after allegedly impregnating someone’s daughter.

So feared were those wazees that some young men of my age disappeared from home altogether after putting some girls in the family way.Up to date.Samidoh talks about this in one of his songs where one Gathiaka walked all the way to Lodwar so as to “jump pregnancy”.

The “men of the dew”, as they were called, would arrive when the grass in village lanes was covered with dew.The word dew in there also alluded to another risque “dew” that I dont want to go into for now.

To make sure that the errant young man had no chance of escape, they would be accompanied by a few KANU youth wingers- tough fellas who had wrung a neck or two or opened a few skulls in their bloody career.The area Chief would be in the mix too, with his mean askaris in tow.

After knocking on the poor chap’s door only once, they would threaten to enter with it.The young man would come out, disoriented, haggard and scared to death.

“So you are the he-goat of this village, huh?”

The chief would bark at the thin young man now before the group.The elders would then force him to take plea.The prosecutor- the Chief- would then detail how on diverse dates, the young man had ‘known’ a certain girl, breaking her leg in the process.

“Turuu oro force???!!” The Chief would forcefully bark at the young man since he was the only one fluent in English.

The hapless young man would hesitate upon which the youth wingers would bombard him with threats.Which included castration, being rolled down a rocky cliff in a hive full of angry bees or being fed on a plateful of live wasps.Or all the above.

Out of fear, the young man would accept the pregnancy. The magistrate, a gnarled Methuselah of a man hanging on to a sooty walking stick gone smooth with age,would then read out the fine.

Which would be a hefty sum of money to go to the upcoming child’s upkeep, much of which would remain with the elders.

By some lucky happenstance, I was never the victim of the “men of the dew”. However, my cousin Kamaley once encountered them and lived to tell the tale-another story altogether.

ONCE UPON A JANUARY…

January is over-and so is my month-long hibernation from these streets.

I know some of you thought I had hibernated to launch my political career- seeing that my kitambi, jingling bunch of keys and a newspaper forever tucked in the armpits, cuts the image of a mheshimiwa.

Forget that- I had hibernated because I was broke than a family of church mice.

The entire January, my mango shaped head couldn’t come up with a story to tell. And when it came, I had no quid to buy bundles to post it. None of my friends came to my aid since I have friends who can readily swing me a crate in December, but can’t buy me 100mbs to catch up with these streets in January.

One story that came to my mind is about the boy’s band we formed once upon a January- as we waited for our KCSE results to come out.

Kamaley was our lead vocal since his voice had broken properly due to smoking things legal and illegal.”Jimmi Hendrix” Kamanja played guitar which was homemade. Shei was our drummer since he couldn’t sing. But boy, that lad caressed the drum (which we had pinched from a church) with his crooked fingers till it moaned with pleasure. I was the band’s nerdy songwriter since I could neither sing nor play any instrument.

For weeks we practiced in Kamaley’s cube, raising a ruckus that could be heard in Kosovo. The Fab Four made their musical debut in a disco matanga of a departed villager I can’t recall.

Our first hit, which we dubbed directly into those C90 cassettes, swept through the village like a hurricane. Overnight, we became instant teen sensations. Wise dads hid their daughters once they heard the quartet had been spotted in their neighborhood.

Soon, we started promising girls season tickets to the Grammys. Puff Daddy, whose record label was to cut our first CD, constantly featured in our talks. Five Alive, and even Boyz 2 Men had nothing on us.

Ah, the idealism of youth!

I will cut this story at that point-just like our dream was cut short soon after. This left us artists without an art form and thus dangerous souls.

The death of the Fab Four marked the end of one of the most promising boys bands to ever come from Murang’a.

STRESSED MEN OF THIS WORLD, UNITE!

Anytime a man does a horrendous act like killing his spouse, his children, or himself, we generally agree that stress is a national pandemic. Our common reaction is ‘mental sickness is real’ comments in social media then we move on with our lives.

Others ask men to talk, open up, cry, etc. Sometime back I saw a lady recommending men to go for manicures as a way of coping with stress. Whereas such advice from our sisters is well intended, it’s blind to the fact that the way we handle stress is gendered.

During prolonged stress, men use the ‘fight or flight mechanism. Women on the other hand use the ‘treat or nurture’ mechanism. By applying the “fight” reaction, men can respond to stress with a high level of practicality. On the other hand, women are well equipped to calm, share, relieve loneliness and offer support during times of distress.

As we talk about stress, each gender must understand and respect the unique needs of the other. For example, women should honour the “fleeing” man’s need for silence, while men should respect the woman’s need for an embrace and physical touch.

Unfortunately, the ‘flight or fight’ mechanism can manifest itself in several dangerous ways for us men. Such include engaging in risky behavior, aggression, shutting down, etc. On the flip side, there are constructive ways of channeling the ‘flight or fight’ mechanism. Which can include:

1. Engaging in sports-this sucks the bottled up emotions and helps a man solve a problem as he enjoys what he does.

2. Having friends to talk with. Hanging at the estate base with your ‘boys’ is not that bad at all.

3. Half-full glass attitude-look at life from the sunny side of life.

4. Regular exercise-which can include a walk around your hood, jogging, or a game of draughts.

5. Take up an engaging hobby that you take pride in. Which can include growing rare medicinal shrubs, revamping old cars, experimental grafting, repairing old electronic devices, etc.

6.Talk about your problems with a confidant- but not to everybody since this can leave you vulnerable.

7. Avoid situations that will aggravate your situation. Like the company of friends who will disappear home for a whole weekend. Escape is very alluring when one is stressed.

8. Reward yourself when you achieve a milestone. It can be with a book, the mbuzi that you will eat for Christmas, a gadget that will engage you-anything that boosts your ego.

9. Identify a space that calms you. It can be your mother’s house(because it reminds you of your childhood), the village where you grew up, someplace by the riverside, a balcony in a club where they play music of your high school days, etc

10. Join a group of men going through challenges. Then you will realize that your load might be less heavy than others’.

MOSHE DAYAN

Just after Giceeri had placed our meat on the table, a scraggy fella with an ancient cap sneaked in. He was out of breath and obviously out of food.

“Dayan,nawa mkono tukule,” My uncle hailed him.

I was to later learn that Dayan was short form for Moshe Dayan-the Israeli Minister who always donned an eye patch. While the real Moshe Dayan may have lost his eye in some battle, this Dayan had lost his one eye in a forgotten barroom brawl during his swashbuckling days.

These bones are too big to be those of a chicken!‘ Dayan vowed as he dug into a juicy morsel. He swallowed hungrily, his only two loose teeth dancing dangerously. I feared he might swallow them as well.

In the kitchen, Giceeri loudly cleared her throat.

‘Do you know there was a time this witch cooked us a lizard and told us its fish? ‘Dayan asked no one in particular, wiping his oily lips with the back of his hand.

Giceeri banged two sufurias loudly.

Aai! This meat has a funny smell,” Dayan declared between loud burps.

What’s the smell?” Uncle asked him, coldly.

“Its the smell of her witchcraft. She sits on the meat before cooking it.”

Moshe Dayan disclosed, his face glistening with delight. Uncle spat angrily on the ground, then stopped eating altogether.Moshe Dayan’s tricked had worked-he now all the meat to himself.

But Giceeri could no longer bear it. She emerged from the kitchen, adjusting a shuka around her ample hips with her greasy hands.

“Weee! Ritho Rimwe, what did I hear you say, eh?”

She shrieked at Moshe Dayan. Dayan stopped licking his fingers, looked at his cracked plastic shoes then mumbled something inaudible.

“Tero me, what brought you here, war or free food?” Giceeri bellowed. Then with one mighty heave, she hurled Dayan out into the encroaching darkness, where he fell headfirst into an open sewer.

“Mùchenji ùcio!” My uncle cursed as he took a swig of his Balozi ale.

As we walked home, we found Moshe Dayan holding his two broken teeth, singing like a lost minstrel, slurring on the syllables:

‘aya ni mabatao akwa…..”

“aya ni mabatao akwa….”

“ingìyia………ingìyia……”

(These are my needs, oh Lord)

(These are my needs, oh Lord

(Meet them, oh Lord)

Uncle regarded his friend for a while with indifference. Then he swung his bakora and walked on, breaking into a song:

“Niwe werìire...” (You are the one, who messed up yourself up)

A TETE A TETE WITH MR.DEATH

On a day like this 6 years ago, I received the news that my mum was no more.

I drove home crazily at midnight, hoping that I would save her life. She couldn’t be gone-she hadn’t reached that die-able age when hands get gnarled and the brain gets cold with Alzeihmers.She was a hip digital mum-always texting me some punchy Bible verse every Sunday. No, mum wasn’t gone. DENIAL

When I touched her lifeless body at the morgue, it dawned on me she was gone. She had danced in the wind and melted into the universe, becoming one with the stars. My world came crushing; my tears glands went supernova. I wanted to hold on to something and crush it. Like Samson of yore, I wanted to bring down the temple of life and go down with it-and thus join her. ANGER.

Life, why have you treated me like you once caught me sleeping with your pretty wife? What do you want in exchange for her life? God, do you care as they say in the good book? Are you going to answer these questions of my soul Lord? What can I do for you? BARGAINING.

From that moment on, grief and his twin brother sorrow embraced me like two jealous Oga wives, each fighting for a piece of me. Like a sore tooth that is not content to throb in isolation but spreads its pain to the whole head, this sorrow engulfed my whole body. I wore sadness like a dirty sackcloth, my shoulders forever falling like teardrops. DESPAIR

I come from a community that’s known for thrift. Every coin is to be saved. Every drop of water is to be conserved-including tears. A man crying in a funeral is an abomination. Not even for his mother.

Thus the burial day found me standing there stoically, holding back an El Nino of tears in my head. Anytime I turned, I could feel my head go whoosh like three quarter full calabash. I couldn’t cry-because Kikuyu men don’t cry in funerals. Culture is a tyrant.

Forget culture, a man should be allowed to mourn his mom. Why? One’s mom is one’s needs answered. A man is at home with his friends when life is good. But when the vultures of sorrow start hovering ominously over his head, he seeks refuge in his mother’s bosom. A man would like his mum to live forever, but death has it macabre plans.

It is curious how sometimes the memory of death lives on for so much longer than the memory of the life that it purloined. The memory becomes permanent, like a government job. Long after my mom’s burial, the funeral proceedings played in my head for a long time. ‘Ash to ash, dust to dust’, the wind whispered. Anytime I looked at the grave I knew that therein, in the words of English poet Rupert Brooke, there is ‘a richer dust concealed’. Then I stopped shedding tears that she was gone, and started smiling because she had lived. I let her rest, not because I loved her less, but because I cherished her memories more. ACCEPTANCE.

Life is full of contradictions. We all want to live to ripe old age, but we detest gnarled hands and grey hair. We all want to go to heaven, but we don’t want to die. Can we cross the river without the bridge? Shakespeare reminds us that every day we rot and rot as we approach our graves. Mr. Death lurks in our shadows, waiting for that destined moment to claim our limbs and free the soul from the pestilence of the body. So we live in his constant dread, every waking day. But is death the end?

Sri Chinmoy tells us, Death is not the end. Death is the road. Life is the traveller. The soul is the guide. When the traveller is tired and exhausted, the guide instructs the traveller to take either a short or a long rest, and then again the traveler’s journey begins.

We spend a lifetime preparing for this fleeting life. Forgetting that we will be dead for an eternity. We need to learn to humor Death-because he is one side of living. We need to have a swanky image of him-not some hooded gothic scepter with a scythe in hand.

Some nerdy graphic designer kid needs to come up with a sexy symbol of death-a friendly chap in skinny jeans, a killer Mohawk and an iPad. He needs to have a swanky iPhone 6 that he uses to call guys and tell them in a foreign heavenly accent-get ready buddy, you are next.

This death guy should be on WhatsApp. Every Monday, he should add all people who are going to die that week into a group called ‘Club Eternity’. Then add them as friends on Facebook as well. On Throw Back Thursdays he should share photos of guys who left us last year. Then on Saturdays he should share photos of some heavenly parties,#HeavenBashManenoz.

Yes, Mr. Death should also be in Twitter-with hash tags that trend forever. Death should also be in Instagram, with millions of selfies.

When this happens, we will be brave enough to tell Death when he comes knocking: ’come right in D-boy. I was expecting you!’’

Buda, what’s your favorite drink again? Hell’s Flames you say?

 Hio sina,but I got a quarter of Blue Moon. Here, to eternity.

Mr Death, will you listen to some music?

Can I play you Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’? ‘Samidoh? You can’t hurry death’ by the Heavenly Supremes?

Sire, you are getting tipsy now. Let’s do that last selfie. Chap! Don’t forget to share it on your wall and tag all my friends. Now, let me dance into eternity where I belong. Ciao!

This life will finally kill us. We need to learn to accept death not as an opposite of life, but as a continuation of it. To that end, I want to feel alive while I am. I will feel the earth with my bare feet and let the wind play with my hair. One day, death shall surely die, and I shall wake up eternally.

Then, like God’s prima donna that I am, my soul shall sashay into the cosmos.

Mom will be there, leading the Heavenly Mothers Union choir in the crystal stairs. Belting her heart out to the beat of golden karing’aring’a and silvern kayamba.

In loving memory of maitu-Mary Njambi Mwangi

(1954-2015)

STUNG BY A BEARD

Yesterday, cyberspace went supernova when Samidoh- the fastest rising Kikuyu benga star- melodramatically apologized for having a baby out of wedlock.

I am not here to moralize whether what Samidoh did was right or wrong.That’s for clergymen which I am not. But what he did has precedence since all famous men attract women like beacons. Back in the day, a famous national figure whom we cant mention got a child out of wedlock.This is how it happened.

The lady of the house had sourced a house girl from the village to help her with housework.Young innocent thing with ‘miceege‘ on her crumpled calico dress. After feasting on Cerelac and Blue Band and kujipondoa with Cleartone, the diamond in the rough blossomed. She soon turned into a nubile lady with tumescent mangoes bobbing up and down in her silk blouse, seeking to be picked.

When the man of the house-who was well into his seventies-saw the mangoes, his gnarled fingers straightened.Other anatomical features in him straightened too and- twitched- spasmodically- after a long slumber.Some primordial soups started hissing in his loins, seeking to escape.

Kidogo kidogo,the young lady started craving nyamuiru sugarcanes- a clear indicator that she was in the family way.The lady of the house, in her wisdom, nurtured her until she delivered a baby boy.Which she noticed was a spitting image of her boys.

After adding one and one, she rightly deduced that the old lion in the house was the father of the baby.She called a few of mzee’s peers( am I giving out who I am talking about?) and sent them to ask him why he did so.

One fine morning, the old boys gathered in mzee’s compound to castigate him for his randy actions.One of them, while balancing a horn of muratina on his hand, asked mzee to explain what happened.

“Kairîtu kau karahutirie nderu cia gukawe karathecwo nîcio”, mzee answered, unpurturbed.(The young girl played with his grandpa’s beard- and got stung in the process.)The whole drunken company broke into bawdy mirth. Case finished.

The lady of the house waited for feedback on what transpired but none came. Later, she took the girl far away, hived some acres for her from their expansive family land, and built her a house.

Finally, she warned her never to mention who the kid’s dad was- not even in her dreams.

DISGUISE YOURSELFIf schools had not been disrupted by Covid 19, this would have been the last week of schooling for kids.To that end, I have been reliving some of my high school memories. During school holidays, my classmate Phares Wainana and I would visit each other homes without notice.It was mutually beneficial- I would enjoy picking tea at his Kiawambogo home and he would enjoy picking coffee in our Iyego home. Another thing between him and I is that we had this uncanny resemblance.One weekend I went to visit Wainana at Kiawambogo.I was debonair lad clad in Tokyo trousers and Azzaro shirt.To cut a macho image, I lit one of the two Embassy Kings sticks that I had bought at Kangema town.Then I trekked to my friend’s home blowing smoke rings into the clouds like a badass cowboy.Unluckily,one mzee who happened to be Wainaina’s dad’s friend saw me and confused me for Wainana.When his dad come around, he reported to him that he saw his son smoking.In the evening, Wainana’s dad called the two of us and gave him a thorough tongue lashing.Telling him that he should be well behaved like me.I sat there, my head bowed like a sheep’s, knowing that my friend was being punished for my sins.After the family slept, we crept into the chilly night and shared our last ciggy under a pear tree in the homestead.’Boy,next time when you sin, always disguise yourself.’Wainaina told me as we went back to his ‘cube’ for the night.Later, in retrospect, I realized that Wainaina’s advice went beyond that particular episode.Sadly, Phares Wainaina left us in 2008 in a road crash near Thika.

BABA YAO

‘BABA YAO’My Jaa-nuary has generally been drama free.We men rarely get into drama when broke.Until yesterday.I was lazing in the sitting room, scratching my scaly knees when First Lady cooed:’Wee, nduthie woe mwariguo cukuru.’You, go and pick your daughter from school.Broke men are very obedient.I headed to the school and found the kids sitted outside their classroom, waiting to be picked.The young Kenyan who calls me dad rushed to me and we headed to the gate.’Wewe mzee, unaenda wapi na huyo mtoto?’The ‘soldier’ who is more familiar with mama watoto asked gruffly.I explained that I was the girl’s dad but he refused to buy the idea.He surveyed me, surveyed the young belle,shook his head then blurted out:’Hakuna kitu kama hio!’What he meant is that the child bore no resemblance to me and thus I was likely a child abductor at work.I dont blame him.By some mysterious happenstance,my children have refused to inherit my mango shaped head.I dared him to ask the child who I was.’Mami huyu ni nani?’ He asked my daughter.’Baba yao.’ My daughter answered without batting an eyelid.’Baba yako ama baba yao?’ Soldier asked her again, perplexed.’Baba yao.’ She repeated, confidently.’Mzee, huyu mtoto sio wako.’ Soldier issued his verdict with finality.My elder girl, the one I have named after my mom, has always jokingly called me ‘Baba Yao’.Her kid sister picked that moniker from her.It took the intervention of the school head, who knows me from way back, for the minor to be released to me.

POORER THAN A THOUSAND CHURCH MOUSES

Being broke can make one very creative-happened to me yesterday afternoon. After getting bored almost to death indoors, I sauntered to Karwitha’s place, hoping to find a benevolent soul to cheer me up.

But since no benevolent soul was there, I coaxed Karwitha to give me drinks on credit. I ordered the drink with a photo of the mountain on it.Karwitha calls it ‘ Whitekaf’. In my digs we call it ‘ mukurino’ since its white top conjures the image of a turbaned man.

When the bill came, it had two drinks. One Karwitha’s, one mine. Hats how she operates- this petite belle from the lush highlands of Katheri.If you have to get credit, she has to drink on you.

Btw all girls working in these one-star joints share alumnus. Just like all cops went to one college- Kiganjo.Where they were taught to be cunning, sly, and manipulative.

In windy Habaswein, there was Muthoni from Embu. She would cook a chicken that surprisingly would lack a gizzard or had one drum stick or one wing but still charge you for a whole chicken.

Then there’ s Wanja- the walking siren with a humongous derriere that can cause a solar eclipse. Which she wiggles invitingly as she serves her customers which gives them some randy hopes. But after clocking out, she sashays home alone because she prefers her derriere shaken, not stirred.

But the above three are angels when compared to Giceeri from my hometown. Giceeri cooks tumbukiza for you but eats half of it while its cooking and the other half with you as you struggle to keep with her eating pace.

Very sly girls I tell you.

Anyway, back to Karwitha.By 4pm, my bill was nearing 2k since for every drink I took, she took one. It’s at that moment that a brainwave hit me.

I recalled there was this acquaintance who owed me 5k which could settle that bill and leave me with some shekels for tumbukiza. Since Dec, the chap had adamantly refused to pick my calls and respond to my smses.

I summoned all the English I learnt at Njiiri School, all the Literature Prof Imbuga taught me at K.U. and sent him a terse message:

” Look. If I don’t get my pound of flesh before with bid this day adieu, I will post in Buyer Beware Group that you pilfered me. I will also post the same on my timeline and tag your in-laws, your bosses, mistresses etc. The ensuing pecuniary embarrassment on your side will be of gargantuan proportions.”

I was only kidding the chap- I do not know any of his in-laws. Nor his bosses or mistresses. Shortly thereafter, the guy called and begged me not to do so, promising to pay up by end of day.

“You have under two hours” I reminded him curtly and cut off.

Before the sun closed its eyes, the Mpesa message came in.Hata na ya kutoa.I smiled and promptly settled Karwitha’s bill and ordered for tumbukiza.Now I could party without my bill being doubled.

This, partly, explains why some akorino-esque drums are booming in my head this morning.