MY SISTERS, CHAPATIS AND I

sisters

Today, the third Saturday of September, is Celebrate Your Sister(s) Day. It’s not marked in red in the calendars because calendars are made by men but that doesn’t mean that this good day doesn’t exist. Most good days are not marked in the calendar anyway. So today I am celebrating my sisters-those dainty fairies of my childhood that can never be lost in me.

I am sure when my sisters read this, they will smile since they know where I have added the decorations. And that’s the thing about sisters-you can’t lie to them about your childhood. They know you since when you were eating mud and chasing after ladybirds beetles thinking they are edible because they are beautiful and thus would go well with the mud you were eating. You can kid the world but not your sisters.

I arrived in this world only to find my elder sister had gotten there before me.As I grew up I always considered myself to be older than her. I was in that age when one wants to look older. I no longer do that since I am in that age when one wants to appear younger-despite the silver strands on my temples. My second sister came later-blessing  me with my first girl to beat other boys over. When you have two sisters, you wonder how other boys who do not have them survive. Who washes their clothes? To whom do they tell those fancy boyish stories that leave sisters starry-eyed? Oh, to be a without a sister as boy is a serious handicap that the government needs to address.

My sisters were the same-caring, yet different, for each cared for me in her own way. While one cared whether I had eaten, the other cared about whether I had taken my yucky Scott’s Emulsion. They were like flowers from the same garden. They were close to each other, yet afar from each other. Like pillars of a house, they worked best when they were neither near nor far away from each other.

Boys don’t necessarily have something to say to each other. They can sit in a room, silently together and be comfortable with each other. Apart from occasional grunts and mmhhs, they can be silent for hours on end, just scratching their dry knees. But sisters are different. They speak unceasingly and when they exhaust their daily word quota, they use a language of snarls and smiles and frowns and winks. Then for no reason, they get mad at each other and switch to snorts and sighs and sniffs and sobs then hold on to pillows till they sleep their heads off. Then they wake up the following day and hug like they are meeting for the first time. You can’t doubt me such is the kind of sisters I grew up with.

My elder sister still speaks to me with that I-changed –your-nappies-in-1982-attitude.My kid sister, on the other hand, still views me with that I-will-tell-you- on-mom-that-you-pinched-Ovaltine-look. The thing about women is that they never forget. You see, a sister will forgive you for never repaying her hard-earned cash, but she will never forgive you because you stole Madhivani biscuits from the pockets of her maxi dress  in Christmas of 1985 when she was four.

Seasons came and went. We grew from wearing Pepe jeans to box haircuts. Hormones came along-messing our faces with pimples and our hearts with cravings. My sisters saw it right to be washing my clothes-women have a natural inclination to nurture men around them.Happens especially if they are hunky Adonis like I was in my teens. I am still hunky but today’s post is about my sisters-not me. But they didn’t wash my clothes because they cared a lot for me.They did it because no girl wants to labelled the sister to that dirty boy.

When sisters wash your clothes for you, they start playing your mother. They scold you about how dirty your shirts are, or how unruly your hair is.One day, when one of my sisters was rummaging through my pile of unwashed laundry, she gave me my first lesson in foresight:

It’s always good to wear clean underwear, she started. I ignored the fact that she was implying that I wore dirty underwear. Most boys in Form Two did so anyway.

Where did you read that from-Mills and Boons or Jackie Collins? I asked her.
She smacked her lips. It was in the early 90’s and eye rolling hadn’t been invented then.
I said it’s always good to wear clean underwear! She hit back emphatically.
Ok. Why? I asked.
You never know when you will get an accident. She said triumphantly. Sisters are there to point out the things the rest of the world is too polite to mention.
Or a date….I added cheekily. She sneered, then broke into that you-are-so-naughty-laughter. Women will always enjoy a risqué’ joke, but pretend not to, though their bodies say otherwise.

Then pimples went and we cleared high school and I went to campus .Having sisters became more fun-nothing beats having sisters to tell those macho campus folklore which they don’t realize are silly since women like being told truth with some embellishments.What’s the good of news if you haven’t a sister to share it with? I loved telling them about the end of the world conspiracies after September 11.I watched them cry when I told them the world will crash with the Millennium bug-which didn’t happen. I tried hard being a man to them; they tried hard to keep up with my well-crafted cock and bull stories.

My sisters were blooming to women too. One of the signs of coming of age then was a girl being allowed to cook chapatis.My sisters rolled their first dough as I watched. I watched them graduate from making chapatis the shape of Kenya to square ones. Then they graduated from making oval chapatis to round ones. When they mastered the process, they started embellishing them with pumpkins the way Picasso would embellish his paintings with strokes of yellow. They had come of age.

Thus one day, I came home and was served chapatis. I was a Sociology Major in campus and reading Dialectical Materialism and Existentialism and Utilitarianism and thus walked with my head held high. Yes, the chapatis were perfect round, but harder than granite. With my campus insolence, I asked my mom who among her daughters was trying to kill me-an upcoming great scholar -with granite hard chapatis.

They are here, ask them. My mom, ever the cool matriarch, told me.I ignored the chapatis and ate the ndengu stew only and then went on to say that those chapatis could only be digested by a ruminant. Nobody answered me but since I was reading the fiery works of Karl Marx and Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Hobbes, I had no one to fear. Beware the silence of women-it talks louder than words.

I forgot about the incidence until one night when I came home to find the whiff of chapati all over the compound like the smell of overripe fruits in an orchard. My younger sister then served me a plate of ndengu stew and went back to the kitchen.
Where are the chapatis? I asked.
My two sisters held their hands across her chest at the same time like something they had practiced on all day. They looked at me, all silent, like Sisters from the Sorority of Silence. When they decided to speak, it hit hard.
But you aren’t a ruminant, are you? They answered back in unison with a triumphant glee. My mother crocheted furiously. My elder sister pretended to be reading her Drum magazine to keep from bursting with laughter. The younger one flipped through the pages of a Pacesetter novel like a major who had just won a battle. I was alone.

When women conspire to teach a man a lesson, nothing can save him. More so if you are a young man still wet behind the years and yet to know they ways of the female species. It took the intervention of my mother, an old aunt and some coaxing to be put back on my kid sisters chapatis serving list.

If man wont learn about womankind from his sisters, nobody will ever teach him about it.

The media wants us to believe that the only significant relationship we have in our lives is the romantic one. Yet sisterhood is the one that will last longer than any other. A sister will share with you the scents and smells of childhood and later their memories as you sit together in the evening verandas of your lives.Sisters are, in  a way, like best friends you can never get rid of.

Mpesa your sister(s)  a token of love today-if you can.

THE LOST SISTER

A long time ago, there lived a young man called Wamwea and his beautiful sister Wachera. Their parents had died in the cassava famine. Their lived in an empty hut whose eaves hang forlornly with want for repair. It was haunted by hunger and need, but the sibling love between them saw them from this moon to the next.
Wamwea used to go the field to tend after their few goats. One day, when he came from the fields, his sister told him:

Two young men came here today. If you go away tomorrow they will carry me off.

Before girls get husbands get husbands to nag, they nag their brothers.

You talk nonsense my sister, Wamwea replied.
I lie not. Wachera said. Wamwea kept silent, ruminating on her sister’s words, turning them his mind.

If they carry me off I will carry a calabash full of seeds which I will drop along the way so that you can follow my trail. Women,unlike men,based on age-old intuition,plan ahead of danger.Men plan when danger looms before their nose.

That following day Wamwea brought the goats from the fields and went away to some muthunguci dance in the next ridge. When he came back home he found the homestead empty. His sister had been carried away by some young men. They had carried her to some faraway land, her young nubile breasts bobbing up and down like two lost mangoes.
Several moons passed, Wachera did not come back. Wamwea had no one to cook for him. He slaughtered goats for his food, and within no time, they were finished. It’s then that he thought of his sister.

The seeds which his sister had dropped in her trail had now grown, and were big shrubs. Wamwea followed them. He journeyed for months in jungles where the sun never seeped through and a green river flowed through the forest floor like an alligator. He got lost in a fogbank of flora, until one day when he came to some children who were fetching water by a gurgling stream. The children took him home like a long lost uncle. Their mother came and served him with little food in a potsherd since he was a stranger. They didn’t give him water to drink-so he drank down the water he used to wash his hands with. After eating he was told to sleep on the floor since there was no bed for him. But since he was tired, he soon dozed and dreamt of his lost sister Wachera.
The following day Wamwea went out with the children to chase the weaver birds from their father’s millet fields. As he threw stones at them, he sadly sang:

Fly away little bird,
As my sister Wachera flew away,
Never to come back again.

Why does he say the name Wachera?  The children wondered.
When they went home they told their mother about this. The following day she came and hid amongst the nappier grass. Then Wamwea started singing again:

Fly away little bird,
As my sister Wachera flew away,
Never to come back again.

At that moment, Wachera realized that this was Wamwea her brother. They slaughtered a goat for him, and there was a great feast and dance. Wamwea lived with his sister for some time, until he came of age and was taken to the river to become a man.

Wachera’s husbands gave him many goats and cows as bride price for her sister. Wamwea grew into a strong man, straight as a Maasai hunting spear. Soon, he fell in love with a maiden called Wacici and they got betrothed. Later, they got married and Wamwea didn’t go back home but set up his home near his sister’s Wachera.

If you go down to the village with big rock facing the river, the names Wamwea and Wacici exist to date.The song too exists in the hearts of boys and girls who sing it as they chase after lost butterflies.

 

PS

This is the last story in the these series of forgotten folktales.If you have folk story that needs to be retold,get in touch with us on njambigilbert@yahoo.com

Thanks for finding time to visit this blog.

MG