Saturday, February 4, 2017

Hear no Evil, See no Evil! Speechless, Sightless Night of Horror

Boooooom! It was a sound never heard before in the sleepy, quiet little village market. That was a Kalashnikov, famously known as AK 47. The gun designed by Mikhail Timofeevich Kalashnikov ostensibly to bring peace has been the source of many nights without peace. Every time the AK 47 coughs, there are devastating effects leaving many orphans, widows or widowers. The Kalashnikov is causing havoc. The Kalashnikov is in the wrong hands.

My brother Emmanuel owns and runs a bar called Simbi (meaning near) at Misikhu, a few kilometres from Webuye town. It is a popular joint, always packed with little or no place even to stand. This is because he has a ‘live band’ made up of local musicians who entertain revellers with local Tindikti hits mainly touching on social issues. Others go there to be praised in songs. All one does is to give a few coins to the musicians and they put them on top of the world as they belt out their praises. The two lead musicians are two blind brothers who say they became blind one day on their way to school when lightning struck them leaving them blind but alive. The brothers, known as the Wanundus are so popular in the area because of their creative way of entertaining. Despite their disabilities, they always shock onlookers as they assemble their music equipment made up of jua kali guitars and plastic containers for drums. They then belt out favourite numbers for revellers till the wee hours of the morning to allow their fans to stagger home and catch some sleep.

Not so long ago, my brother received some unwelcomed visitors. The thugs struck at about 9pm. The revellers were busy dancing to live Tindikti music with the two blind brothers belting away popular hits. Interestingly, apart from the two blind musicians, Emmanuel had a watchman commonly known as Bubu (pictured), but his real name, known only to a few, was Mechumo. Bubu, as his name suggested, could neither hear nor speak – he was deaf and dumb, bubu in Kiswahili. (I kept asking Emmanuel how he could hear if anyone was breaking into the premises). Emmanuel told me he has never hired him as a watchman but he has declared himself one and chases away anyone he tries to hire as watchman. The well built Bubu doubled up as Emmanuel’s carpenter (still does) to repair stools, broken on drunkard’s heads, broken beds from lodgings etc.

The thugs announced their arrival as usual by shooting their AK 47 in the air. The sound of the gun sent everyone scampering for safety in the pub. At that time, Bubu was inside the bar watching patrons dancing the night away. He once told me using sign language that he loves watching ‘stupid’ people making funny movements and kept wondering how normal people would just shake their bodies from hearing some sounds. He confided in me that he was so lucky he could not hear anything because to him it was all evil dancing to some stupid sound. Interestingly, Bubu kept complaining about what patrons were doing, telling us they were wasting a lot of time.  

Of course Bubu never heard the thunderous sound of the AK 47 because of his disability. Within seconds, the thugs came inside and ordered everyone to lie down, which they did with some wetting their clothes in the process. The blind musicians could only hear the commotion and with their guides diving for safety, all they could do was drop on the floor and wait. They were later to jokingly tell us that they were lucky not to see all that evil because they wouldn’t have taken it in. All this time, Bubu, who was standing with his back to the entrance thought the patrons were performing a routine dancing style because he had not looked over his shoulder. Everyone was down on the floor except Bubu. The thugs thought he was playing a tough guy like in the movies because he was not even turning to look at them. One of the gunmen, (They were three) moved towards Bubu to attack him.

Sensing something was unusual, Bubu quickly looked over his shoulder and was confronted by a sight he had never seen before. As he later narrated, he realised this was no policeman but an enemy. The thugs moved fast to attack Bubu. When he saw one of the thugs was going to hit him with the butt of the gun, Bubu moved fast and literally lifted the gunman off the ground, bringing him back with a heavy thud and embarked on thoroughly flattening his face. The gun dropped from the thug’s hands. A story in the village has it that when you provoke a deaf and dumb fellow, they can never stop hitting you till they see blood. That is what happened. The other two thugs were for sometime dumbfounded and were about to take to their heels but on realising that no one was coming to Bubu’s assistance, they decided to help their now bloody, gunless mate.

They hit Bubu with a blunt iron bar on the head leaving a gaping hole. Bubu collapsed on the now very weak thug. They helped their mate get to his feet and went about gathering what they could get from the counter, money from pockets of the shocked patrons, watches, mobile phones, shoes and even clothes! They then went for Emmanuel who was holed up in his office, thoroughly beat him with the iron bar leaving him a bloody mess. They then frog-matched him to a nearby petrol station where they robbed petrol attendants who were too shocked to resist.

In the meantime, local Administration Police (APs) stationed at the market had heard the gunshot and were watching from the shadows armed with their G3s. As they were later to tell us, the sound of AK 47 always scares them. One of them tried to aim at the thugs from the shadows and missed prompting a heavy fire from the thug’s machine gun. On hearing the thunder of the gun again, two APs took to their heels, leaving one brave one called Ingoi hiding behind a tractor packed at the petrol station. The thugs literally sprayed the tractor leaving tyres in threads. Ingoi, shielding behind the rim just used three bullets to gun down the three thugs. He then marshalled support from whoever could be found to take Emmanuel and Bubu to a nearby hospital.

When we got to the scene the following day in the morning, we found one on the thugs still alive and pleading for mercy. Ingoi’s bullet had gone through his hip bone, tearing off his testicles. As usual, the police too arrived in the morning. There was one bully policeman whom everyone feared because he used to carry a nyaunyo which he unleashed on anyone he suspected to be idle. His name was Ujimoto. On getting to the scene and finding the thug alive, Ujimoto asked us why we hadn’t killed him. He lamented that taking the thug to hospital would cost the government money and also meant that one of them would be forced to keep guard at the hospital bed. Ujimoto then did something weird although no one regretted his action. He asked his colleagues to shield him from the crowd to block their view and quickly pumped two bullets into the thug’s chest killing him instantly. He was also overheard telling them not to tell the boss.

The County Commissioner had been informed of the raid and he arrived on the scene shortly after Ujimoto had finished off the thug. He summoned Ingoi and promoted him to a senior rank on the spot as a reward for his brave act. His colleagues, the two other APs were suspended on the spot pending investigations for being cowards. He prompted laughter by telling wananchi that Ingoi should have also aimed at his cowardly colleagues when he saw them taking to their heels.

Emmanuel was discharged from hospital after about a week. Bubu spent many agonising months in hospital but he eventually came out. He immediately went back to work despite many of us discouraging him. Emmanuel eventually decided just to keep him there still on his payroll as his ‘third eye’. He has played that role very well to date. He keeps Emmanuel informed on all unusual happenings in the premises. He still continues to repair furniture in the premises. He loves narrating his ordeal (of course with sign language) and thanks God that he cannot hear any evil. The two blind brothers have gone on to record hit after hit and they too thank God that they’re not able to see that evil. Reminds me of Richard Pryor’s famous Hollywood Movie, “See No Evil, Hear No Evil”.

-          Musakali, Joseph Juma

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Father, My Teacher

I arrived in Bungoma late in the evening, wet and hungry. Inside my green paper bag I had a few belongings that I had managed to grab as I made what I called ‘the great escape’ or worse, ‘prison break’. My cold legs carried me to my eldest sister’s house, about a kilometer from Bungoma town.
I gathered my courage and knocked on the door. My sister opened the door and was shocked to see me standing there shaking like a leaf.  With tears in her eyes, she asked me, “Wwwwhat’s this? A joke?” She realized it was not a joke when tears started flowing freely down my innocent cheeks. She quickly ushered me in and brought a towel to dry me up and a blanket to wrap me in. We were both sobbing uncontrollably without uttering a word. This went on for long with my sister thinking someone had died at home. Amidst the sobs she kept shouting “who? Please tell me who?” To make things harder for her, amidst my sobs I kept shouting “ I’m not going back! Not going back there!”
After the confusion and calm restored, I eventually told my sister that I had made a great escape from what I termed my father’s torment. She understood what I meant because she had been through the same kind of treatment in her youth. I did not understand why she started smiling and telling me, “That’s why I’m a successful teacher”.  I wondered if I had made the right decision or I was simply jumping from the frying pan to the fire.  I was only relieved when she declared that I was welcome to stay in her place and that in fact she would try to get me a place to continue with my education in a school she was heading then. Though I believed she knew the kind of punishment my father was known for, I had a feeling mine was very different and severe. That is why I decided to narrate to her my torments.
One day I woke up with a start to see a towering silhouette over me. “Still dreaming huh?” My father’s deep voice echoed. “Wake up silly boy, time to go to school.” I didn’t want to start my day badly because a slight delay after the command would have resulted in a different kind of breakfast. I hurriedly gathered myself and jumped out of bed.  This had been the routine ever since I joined standard one in a school where my father was a headmaster. This day was just one of the many hard days. I had endured the beatings of waking up late, not doing homework and all. I was now of age and in standard four in the same school. I realized things had become tougher ever since I stepped in standard four. My father told me I must stop joking henceforth because standard four is a senior class. The punishments had become tougher as well as the assignments. My father always had his own assignments apart from the official school assignment. There were many days like this.
I would get up and go to the borehole to fetch water as it was routine. The mornings were chilly. I used to take my bucket and soap and try and bathe behind the house. It was always hard. The water was cold, very cold. I would quickly survey the main entrance to the house to see if my father was there shaving. As usual, he always came to the verandah holding a tiny mirror to shave his beard. On the days I would not see him, I would take advantage. Was it French bath? Whatever you may call it, I would wash my face, my hands and feet and sprinkle some water on my chest to look wet. I would then stay in the cold longer to start shivering from the cold and also to buy time lest I’m accused of not bathing. On a few occasions while my mother prepared breakfast for us I had experienced the pain of being taken back to bathe again either with my father’s supervision or bathing me personally.
My mother would be busy pressing and preparing my school uniform. Some days my uniform had to be washed and aired at night if it was too dirty to ‘rewind’. Otherwise rewinding was the order of the day. The trick was to avoid playing too much. Making it dirty within the week would attract the wrath of my mother and that meant serious flogging.
I always had the privilege of sharing breakfast with my father. Of course his was ‘special’ with more to eat than mine. The good thing about sharing was he would almost always ‘sambaza’ or pass me a specially prepared egg, bread, mandazi or sconce on the rare occasions that such were available. I always took my breakfast standing because whether I was through or not, the moment dad cleared his, it was time to go. This went on day after day.
I remember some days and these were many, with my feet wet from the morning dew, we would set off amidst the singing birds as the sun gently rose. This would be after I have done a quick checkup of my father’s bicycle to make sure it was clean, the tyre pressure right, the brakes working and it is well oiled. A few metres from our house as was always, dad mounted the bicycle as I ran along. He always left me way behind because of the downhill momentum. Ever since I had joined standard four, I always did this. Previously I had the privilege of being given a ride. He would go as far as the momentum will take him and leave the bicycle by the roadside knowing that I was right behind to push it uphill for the better part of the remaining journey to school. About one kilometer to school I would hand over the bicycle back to my father because it was downhill momentum again. I would then try to race against him because it was a ‘rule’ that the moment he gets to school he closes the school gate and everyone who comes after him is a late comer. He was the school’s headmaster. No one admired being a late comer and at the same time no one wanted to be absent from school unless with very good explanations. The repercussions were telling and I was not exempted from the punishment. He would simply lock the gate in my face as I raced to beat the punishment. He did not care that I was late after pushing his bicycle uphill. With other latecomers, we would line up and go on our knees and ‘walk’ on our knees on the 300 metre rough gravel surface to the parade. One day each of us was made to ‘dig our own graves’. This was a hole as deep as your height and as wide as your length when lying down. I remember my father coming to inspect and casually telling us to fill them up. He came to inspect again. “alright, make the ground level and plant the grass. I want it as smooth as it was. You’ve messed up my ground!” This was just one of the many punishments.

School life was exciting, full of anxiety as well as scaring. There were some things that only happened in school and we used to look forward to them. Other things were so scaring, we would do anything to keep away from school.
In the school compound, there were several hawkers mainly selling foodstuffs. There were two famous ones, Mama Sconce and another one who used to sell sugarcane called Namunguba. When I think of Mama Sconce’s sconces, I salivate. The nicely baked sconces with particles of flour were everyone’s favourite at break time and since they were not so many, we had to dash for them as soon as the bell rang. Now, here is the catch; you could buy the sconces by paying cash or some kind of barter trade. The latter was the easiest. For two eggs you would get one sconce. Since money was hard to come by, eggs became the order of the day. Thinking about it later, Mama Sconce was making a kill- two eggs for a sconce! She would of course use the very eggs to make more sconces. No wonder they were tasty because she had plenty of eggs. Not many of us could get those eggs through the right channel, that is, asking our parents because they wouldn’t give us. So we resorted to pinching the eggs-easy!
There was this day when I had successfully executed my pinching mission when suddenly the mission aborted. With my two eggs safe in my pants, I hurried to go and ‘shower’. What I didn’t know is that my pants were not pressed. As usual, my mother always inspected them before I wore them. On this particular day she was to get a shock of her life. When she found wrinkled pants, she decided to press them not knowing there were eggs inside! She only found out when something exploded after colliding with the iron box. I don’t have to tell you what followed.
In a nutshell, to start with, the highest grade of my mother’s punishment was administered to me. It had two stages. In stage one, standing there shaking like a leaf and naked, I had to kneel on finger millet and walk on the knees. Those of you who know finger millet know what one goes through when you try to ‘walk’ on it on your knees. In summary, I suffered. In the second and final part of the punishment, my mother brought a needle and as if she was joking, pushed it in my middle finger as if I was giving a blood sample for malaria diagnosis. My screaming didn’t help. It only drew the attention of my father, who casually inquired what I had done and instructed my mother to send me to school when she was through. 
When I got to school, more was awaiting me. In the presence of a ‘special parade’, I was paraded and flogged by two teachers with my father as the headmaster ‘crowning’ it with his now famous ‘two pronged’ caning, as he held two sticks as he struck the swollen buttocks. As was his habit, before he struck he would ask, “What is your name and whose child are you?” I attracted more beating when I retorted “You are my father!” amidst sobs.
Mama Sconce was expelled from the school compound. As you can imagine, this was not all. I had to cope with constant bullying from all those whose stolen eggs had nowhere to go and all those who missed Mama Sconce thereafter. For several days after the incident I found broken eggs on my desk.

... More to come

-Namulekhwa story
- Thigh burning
-combing dad’s hair, cutting nails
-Posho mill, maize buying, how many cows? Their names
-Bicycle training
-End of term, no appreciation
-Kitchen intrusion
-maize eating
- Busaa, knee accident

-Sept 28th

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Acities? What activities?

Day in day out we all are involved in crazy activities that either make us smile, laugh, frown or cry. These are the crazy activities. Sample these photos just to wet your appetite.

Do you remember playing such games?  I remember I did and I'm proud I did. No TV, no play station, REAL GAMES. I remember taking a nice shower in a storm. We could wait for the pregnant sky to explode and with the first drops, we could rush in the open to wet our bodies to welcome a layer of soap. Soap? Yeah.... something .... kipande. As it starts to pour heavily, its time to rinse and whaaalah! Clean in a flash! - naturally. There were no colds or flu, guess because we were hardened? Just thinking.......

Can the digital children survive those times? More to come......