MY SHOPPING CENTER

By Wakini Kuria

My shopping centre goes by the name Murengeti. Literally, this means a blanket. This has nothing to do with the chilly weather, just mere coincidence. A story goes of how an old shepherd died while out grazing in the fields along the highway, leaving behind not only his sheep but a blanket that everybody found taboo to touch. The old man took a nap never to wake up again. Passengers would instruct the driver to stop at ‘murengeti-ini‘ and the name stuck.

This is that place where you get your eyebrows turn white with cold droplets. Comedians crack the joke that, Limuru is chilly in the mornings, because the people there sleep with their mouths open.

Before, residents didn’t put up gates to keep out thieves, but rather, the many donkeys that were let loose by their owners and were only collected when they were needed to run errands. The beasts of burden were left to roam freely and should they be lucky to enter your garden, they would eat everything green and leave fresh ‘sponge’ in their wake. Nowadays, the beast has long been replaced by nduthis though.

The sluggish centre boasts of only a handful building harbouring a few shops, one pub, a clinic, some rentals and a few kiosks.

Located along the busy Nairobi-Nakuru highway, I grew up witnessing weird cultures such as people from ruguru, who would take out a human corpse, beat it up for refusing to go home from Nairobi.Ruguru is the name our people use to denote Western Kenya.

The vehicle would probably have broken down or ‘refusing to start’ and after the thorough beating the corpse would ‘agree’ to go home.If the person in their lifetime had refused to ever go back home, they would cheat him by placing the corpse with the head facing towards Nairobi.  Believing that he was headed towards Nairobi and not home, the corpse would agree to go. No more car breakdowns.

All the while, from a safe distance residents would be watching in horror as the relatives worked on the dead man with clubs and sticks, instead of fixing the faulty vehicle.

Road carnage claimed too many lives on the busy highway, but the statistics reduced drastically with the introduction of the Michuki (God bless his soul) laws. An ordinary day would turn tragic, marked by a loud bang that would see residents rushing to the scene, not necessarily as good Samaritans, but to salvage whatever the victims had in possession.

Today, fewer pedestrians are knocked to the next world as this has been left that to the nduthi guys. They get snubbed like flies. These nduthi ninjas are known to be notoriously reckless.

For one, they don’t go for professional training. A guy will just show up, ask a friend to let him ride up the Kuria wa Gichui hill. On his way downhill, the-now-expert will be carrying a passenger.

If one of them happens to cause an accident, the entire nduthi community will come out in multitudes carrying petrol and burn to the ground the vehicle that killed one of their notorious own.

My grandfather whom everybody referred to as ‘ndagitari’ owned one part of the shopping centre. He ran a clinic at the feet of his homestead and drank half the liquor in his pub christened Solidarity.

It is here that I would go to get him. His patients knew where to find him if not at home or at the agro-shop. They would ask: “Watoto wa daktari, wapi daktari?”

We would then stop playing and rush to The Solidarity to get him. There was always a reward for it. You either got a bottle of soda or mutura from the butchery-cum-pub.

He was ever there for them. More so the December season where he helped boys transition to men. Half, if not all the men in the neighbourhood became men by his hand.

I remember how the-boys-now-men would leave bouncing away, walking with a spring in their swagger, wearing a grin that spelt, I-am-now-a-man especially to us little girls playing in the compound separating the clinic from the homestead.

Today, nothing much has changed. A big number of men still idle at the recently built bodaboda shade from sunrise to sunset. They pounce on ‘new arrivals’ as they alight matatus demanding for handouts “Si unafanya Nairobi? Nunua chai” should you come driving, the demands hikes double.

Thats my shopping center for you.

About Wakini Kuria

Wakini Kuria is a writer, editor and journalist. A book enthusiast who likes to curl up with a good book and a hot cup of chai to beat the cold Limuru weather.One of her favourite quotes is Never let life beat you into submission.

NO CHRISTMAS IN DECEMBER

By Kimaru Kokota

Like the smell of a rotten egg patched on a cloth, the odour of events that transpired that day has permanently refused to leave your brain. You still get that feeling whenever December staggers to take its place and space on the calendar. You have since tried to forget it. But then, possibility is a word yet to be injected into the dictionary of your struggle. You are like that bitter lover who thinks of how terrible her ex was because he used to bite his nails but still find her hands twitching on his DM, aching to write him a text. You just can’t move on.

Whenever you think of it, you see the 12 year old you amongst an exuberant lot of children. Pregnant with expectations and the childhood ecstasy that comes with knowing that the saviour was born of a woman. Not only a woman, but a virgin. A Virgin! Your Sunday school teacher’s face always lit up whenever he mentioned the word virgin. It was a word that seemed to be packed with a unique respectable honour that was only used on Mary. Not Mercy, Sharon or even Brenda, just Mary. You liked the name so much that you promised yourself to use it, at least once, to cover for the creativity impotence in your compositions. It was on the same line of Mary and virgins that you pitched the idea to go for renditions a skit on kuzaliwa kwa mtoto Yesu.

The face that your Sunday school teacher put on was characteristic of the one he had whenever talking about Virgin Mary. It is how you knew it was a great idea. The other children were summoned and it is how you found yourself in a queue. They were all shining in their new Christmas clothes, faces shining with Vaseline and innocent smiles which were their natural make up. You were also elegant. Only that you had a decoration, a natural ornament, that hang from the mouth of your nose. The ornament was like two rivers that ran from the nose to the lips with obnoxious slowness. Nevertheless, you were trim and ready to play mtoto Yesu part.

Hands were raised whenever a character was mentioned. From the hands raised children were assigned roles to play. Some got roles without a whisper while with some, a heated debate ensued. The three wise men, the manger owner, Joseph, infamous eye witnesses and the donkeys were found. The only vacant slots remaining were for Virgin Mary and Mtoto Yesu. You were still hopeful since the slot for mtoto Yesu was vacant. The teacher’s face lit up in a way you all knew whatever he was going to say next was about a virgin. Only a hand was raised. It was Penina, the girl from over the ridge. It was a direct entry for her. No other girl in the grouping could compete against her. Like a jigsaw puzzle, her character and face perfectly fitted the role of Virgin Mary. All the boys in the village and the next knew that she had never ever played kalongolongo. She was a true virgin Mary, this Penina.

After it was all settled, you remember your hand shooting up even before the teacher opened his mouth. You were the cockroach amongst them but your confidence couldn’t be housed in the body of an elephant and a hippo combined. They all stared at you like you had just transformed yourself into a black cockerel as it happens in Afro Sinema. At first you thought that it was another case of direct entry.  You then looked around and saw the halo of surprise and disbelief they wore on their heads like a crown on a model.

I want to be mtoto Yesu .

Your utterances were received with guttural grunts of disapproval. You looked at them, the teacher included, with a look that imminently said, Yaani you guys don’t get it?

You can’t be baby Jesus! Millie said and then continued in her soft childish voice. ..Yesu hakuwa na makamasi kwa mapua.

Embarrassingly, you touched your nose as if to confirm whether all she said was true. It is then that you met the thick syrup that had been your face decoration for as long as you could remember. Another two rivers were added to your face, only that this time around they flowed from the eyes. You cried your small heart out. Partly because no one approved of you playing the role you so much dreamt of, but mostly because your Christmas was ruined. How could it ever be the same with the kind of embarrassment?

You have now probably grown older. You are not supposed to be troubled because, it happened while you were a kid. At the time, the only thing you were passionately kissing was the tips of Coca-Cola bottles. Smartphones and the slavery of social media had not tiptoed to your analogue world. Christmas meant new clothes, vibrant talks with aunties, playing hide and seek with nephews and nieces late into the night. It was Christmas in December and even lice on beds in ushago knew it.

Sadly, for you, it will never be Christmas in December. The memory of you wanting to be Mtoto Yesu with mucus is still fresh among your childhood peers. Whenever you visit ushago for Christmas, after saying how much you have grown and asking when you’ll get a wife, the question next on queue, is whether you still remember that incident. It irks you to say the least. You will have to accept it, or better, get used to it.

Until then, it is no Christmas in December.

About Kimaru Kokota

Kimaru Kokota describes himself as a kick ass writer,avid reader and photographer with no camera.He is also a Bathroom singer and a Dancer in bad dreams. Kimaru is the Writer in Chief at Kokota Tales where you can read more of his punchy tales.

TURKANA FINDS HER TREASURE

By James Ouma(Guest Writer 5)

A long time ago, when the British were about to leave, a banquet was thrown for girls from all over Kenya. Each of the girls was given a gift that they were told to unwrap as time went by. Some were given instant rain, fertile lands, minerals, beautiful gaps in the teeth, swinging hips that made men want sell their plots, ideas to make money and others gifts.

But not with Turkana. Turkana was given a handful of sand and a small envelope that she told to open after fifty long years. She waited and waited as others celebrated their good fortune. Many mocked her, laughing at her saying, “You will never amount to no good. Why don’t you just give up and stop dreaming!” They even sung a song about her saying there was nothing to smile about her gift in an envelope.

But Turkana never gave up. She kept on counting the years. Nobody wanted to have anything to do with her. And just before Kenya celebrated 50 years, Turkana took out her envelope, blew away the dust and with trembling hands, she quickly opened the envelope and found a tiny cracked mirror inside.

“So it is true what they say,” she said tearfully. “I have been waiting for fifty years for a tiny cracked mirror? This is nothing to smile about!” she sobbed, her bosom going up and down like the tidal waves in Lake Turkana.

After crying for a long while she looked at the mirror. It was so tiny that she couldn’t see her whole face but just a part of it. But alas, she liked what she saw. One by one, Turkana started seeing things she had never imagined she possessed. Her lips turned to the left as she smiled while her eyebrows danced up and down in celebration. Slowly but surely, Turkana started smiling more often. She became thankful for what God had given her. She started appreciating the expansive and endless sand she possessed. She began appreciating the thorns springing like acne on her face. She began loving her lithe dark unschooled sons.

With time every kind of blessing started springing up all over the place. They discovered oil. They discovered water. They discovered a treasure that was way beyond measure.

And suddenly everyone wanted to be seen with her.

About James Ouma

James Ouma is a Born-Again Christian who loves writing about family and parenting on http://www.jamesoumawrites.com/.

He likes mentoring boys and exceptional young men in juvenile correctional facilities through Lifesong Kenya.To support his charity work with boys,James runs and cycles to raise funds .

James is also a creative writer whose passion and purpose in life is to use creativity, skills and experience in TV Production and writing to bring a song in other people’s lives.

“Life is a song! Sing it, dance it, live it!”

-James Ouma

GUEST POST 2:DRUNK DAYS

By Kantai Kotikot

“Listen here friend, not all days are sober.”

I have always wanted to start one of my stories with that line. The thought is funny, the thought of sober days and drunk days. The thought that some days are those days that you play sane music like T.I`s “ Dead and gone,” or Imagine Dragons ” Whatever it takes,” and then others play in your mind like Mejja`s ” Shigribadi deng deng deng deng.”

Listen here friend, not all days are sober.

There is a quality to drunk days, the same quality that Maina wa Kinyozi calls ukweli ya ulevi. Drunk days dont happen on Friday evenings, when you have bought your kaquarter Chrome and are relaxing at the bar with akina King( whose real name is Kingori) or the band of boys who keep the bar as their second loves, right after the bottle. No, it is not so. It doesnt happen on Mondays either, when you turn up to the office in a  nice suit after a harrowing world war with Thika Road jam, no. Monday is officially a hangover day on all our calendars, pale. It can’t be drunk. The day cant be drunk when you are trying to be sober.

 

Let me tell you. No? You are not drank yet? The worst drank day is Sunday. Yes. Sunday? The day of the church. The day when your wife dresses in African print and walks to church, most of the time leaving you alone in the house. The church is more often a woman`s house, and that is the gospel according to your Saturdays.. You want to argue? Sit down. I am the one pigaing the story here.

 

I have a history with Sundays. They are the days when everyone is drunk from yesterday. They are the days you wake up with a strange person in your bed, or you wake up in a strange bed in a strange room with a strange person, and you can’t remember how you got into that bed. Or cant recall how you got into that person-pun intended. Goes without saying that most of the times you are naked, your member is balancing limply on its own, on your thighs. You were drunk, the drink showed you the way, and your lower head obliged. Sundays are a drunk day.

Listen here friend, not all days of the week are sober.

Sundays are like matatus. It is the unruly day of the week. It rushes, and it stops. It speeds to Monday. The sun rises up and sets before you have had your prayer. Sunday is in a hurry. It is so drunk that it can’t stand its sight long enough.

Oh, you can have a drink another drink on me. Listen.

See, Sunday is also the day to lose everything. The day good people die. It is the day we shout hallelujah in church, the pastor collects tithe, the gospel is preached, and it is the day good people decide to meet the lord.

See, on this day, the, lords might be drunk too. Si we said that the sound of worship, inebriates them? Didn’t we? Yes, the voices of beautiful ladies in African wear singing the strange ” Nara ekelemoo” does confuse them a bit. Don’t you agree? And that is just when good human beings leave us for higher beings. Perhaps they choose their times right, because then the angels at the gate won’t be too sharp-eyed to see them sneak into heaven.

But it’s not just that. It’s also the day we lose people, to being drunk. Good people. People like Michael. You knew Michael? You didn’t? Oh no.

 

See, there are days when he would get drunk, drunk just a little to stagger his way home, with a bottle on his hands. Yes, the usual drunk that makes you call a police officer an idiot, or slap the person who opens the door for you. That’s a usual kind of drunk, you and I know that drunk. The law calls it drunk and disorderly.Its always around us. It’s the drunk that makes you loose your phone and you won’t remember ever losing. It’s the happy drunk. It’s like Saturday. It’s just drunk. Nothing much, just drunk.

But Sundays were not those days. No, Sundays were sacred. On Sundays he would get as drunk as he could be. He would drink everything that he could. He would mix them, in the hope that the cocktail in his stomach would kill him. Sundays were sacred.  But on this Sunday, he didn’t get drunk. He didn’t drink the usual gallons of keg at the pub. No. He swam in it, and he drowned, way before he could get home.

And that’s exactly what happened. He drank what he could drink. He drank the dry ones, and the wet ones. When the waiters tried to stop him, he shifted bars. You and I know that no one shifts bars in the day. That’s an activity reserved for the night. But he was wanted to drink, and drink he did. Until his feet couldn’t touch the ground again and the gates of heaven beckoned his soul. That’s the kind of drunk he wanted, the Sunday drunk.

When he had had his fill, as all us walevis do every once a while, he left. He lifted one foot and none would go. They stayed there, on the ground, jesting him. But he was a man of will. The legs could not treat him as Sundays treat him. He summoned up the demons in him, and he forced the legs to move. And just when he walked out, the doors opened as if they were the gates of heaven, and a speeding car took him to heaven.

He had drunk with Sunday. His Sunday had got him drank. Even after he went to heaven, the day staggered on. The other drunks drank on. You and I came and sat in this bar, on these two tall stools.

Listen pal, not all days are sober days. On some, don’t dare drink. They are drank.

 

About Kantai

Very few people get the unique chance to have a name with some musicality to it-and Kantai Kotikot is such a man.And just like his unique name,he has a unique talent-the ability to see mundane everyday events with fresh eyes.This is aptly demonstrated in this story that  infuses dry bar room humour-like Hemingways-and a commentary on the brevity of life.

Kantai describes himself as a  hard on Maasai man.After going through his blog,I realized that he has a  hard on for writing.The blog drips with fresh talent-and  a fresh turn of phrase.You can follow his interesting blog at  www.kantaidrips.com.