Sunday, May 30, 2010

This Madaraka day

I was going to post last year's Madaraka Day's post but realized that you would catch me in my little plan. This is an undecided year - Yes and No. I thought it would be better to try to be crafty next year. I want to ape former President Moi in his gift of Prophecy and prophesy the following things concerning this Madaraka Day and probably give some suggestions that would save our future holidays.

One, the Committee of Preparing Really Boring Entertainment has already swung into action and they will have choirs that seem like they have landed at the Nyayo National Stadium on UFOs from various towns in the country singing completely out of whack as if they are being controlled by alien beings from space. I suggest that on Public holidays, we can reinstate the KANU regime for only that day after which we can take over and go back to building the Nation.

Two, as always, there will be a protocol issue between the Prime Minister and the Vice President. They will both be rushing to sit on the Most Powerful Seat after the President's. Their drivers should take care not to crash the limos. At least chauffeurs save your limbs. What will it benefit you to break your limbs in the mad rush? It is better for those two to fall off chairs because they have assistants to wipe off the dust from their coats. The reason we are in this state of affairs as a country is because we sacked one mkuu wa itifaki Mutuma Kathurima and replaced him with msemaji wa serikali. So as he semas, the PM and the VP will continue to behave badly.

Three, the employers will as usual be pissed off that you did not go to work and they will have no choice but pay you. Remind them that it is not your fault that we had forefathers who on the sight of a 'mzungu' were so willing to give up their land. "Here" they said, "Have our land." God only knows what they were expecting apart from being pushed to settlements while the 'wazungus' enjoyed themselves at Happy Valley. Employers should actually beg the government to include another holiday that commemorates those forefathers and call it Utumwa Day . It might help them fight the angst they feel against Madaraka Day. They should also thank those generous forefathers who gave them the right to draft us into their companies. Otherwise all of us would be under our own trees enjoying our hard work in our own farms.

I wish all of us a Happy Madaraka Day and just remember that as much as we are free, so do we have a greater responsibility to this great Nation.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

KLEPTOMANIA

Life has a way of disappointing us but it seems solely interested in me, most of the time. Just when I am thinking that I have covered enough ground in many aspects of it (life), it springs a new surprise. The surprise that I had the other day was of a disease called kleptomania which, if you have read the last two columns, makes me want to sue some people because they punished me for being sick. I hate to check words in the dictionary but kleptomania, as hard as I tried to figure it out of context was like trying to locate and swim in the Mississippi river in Kenya. As I have written in this column before, I don't like to use a word and later, when I check out its meaning, feel like an utter fool. This is how my dictionary defines it - 'illness that gives a strong desire to steal'. I immediately checked the calendar to ascertain that it was not April 1 or if you don't mind Fools Day. Several other dictionaries and Thesauruses claimed the same.

The next action I took was to call the WHO offices to inquire whether they were aware of this important disease and whether the UN has a World Kleptomania Day. Nothing. The lady who answered the phone was very nice and she said she would get back to me. She didn't because another one thought, and told me so, that that was the single most stupid question that one has asked since she started working with the UN and that if I called their offices again she would call the police! (I didn't know it was a crime to ask ignorant UN staff questions).

I decided to carry out the research myself, who knows, I might win a Nobel Prize for highlighting Kleptomania. I found out that it was a real disease and there was a recent case right here in Nairobi. Can you believe how close it is to you? I am sure you were hoping it probably is in the US because Americans seem beset with all sorts of ills, both imagined and real.

The guy who suffered from Kleptomania would have his lunch worth Kshs 1500 in a Five Star hotel in town after which he would head for the bathroom and come out with his pockets bulging. After observation by the hotel's security team, they realized that the guy would leave with two rolls of tissue paper worth Kshs. 18. Yes.There is a time tissue used to cost 9 bob. The hotel management had him arrested but later realized that their sales had gone down by Kshs. 1500 daily. They did what astute businessmen do. They 'forgave' him and asked the judge to release him. They increased the price of his lunch by 20 bob. He still stole the tissue.

The second case is of another lady who would buy her mother every latest design of tablecloths and then steal them and buy her mother more. The mother was comfortable with the arrangement coz she got all the latest designs and her house looked superb but she never had more than one set coz the daughter stole the last one she had brought as soon as she brought the new set. These two stories convinced me that even though I share my genetic code with the biblical Thomas, that there might be a probability that kleptomania is real. The concept could as well have been invented by habitual thieves to avoid the long arm of the law.

I remember developing signs of kleptomania in my younger days. You realize that these people have a line of specialization - tissue, tablecloths. My line of specialization would have been mangoes. I went to the market with mom and after buying some, I kleptomaniacked one more. My mom saw me putting it in the basket.

"How many mangoes did we buy?" She asked

"Eight," I answered.

"Count them," she said

"Nine," I answered with every ounce of enthusiasm that I could master.

She asked me to return the one I had stolen to the seller and apologize. I was so ashamed and was hoping that I would turn into a wisp of smoke and disappear before facing the seller who often sold me mangoes at a discount.

We passed at Cosma's shop. (Cosma was the guy who sold belts in our town) and mom Hire Purchased one. Whenever a belt fell into my mother's hands you could literally see it coiling itself into doom. She sent me straight to the bedroom to drive out the demon of petty theft that had entered me. That is the day I was healed of kleptomania. I am not sure how to cure chronic kleptomania (habitual theft in adults) but can you imagine how many Kenyans are rotting in prisons because they suffer from this sickness? It is time human rights activists stopped wasting time on murderous goons and make a case for these these patients.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

GOING HERBAL

I went to town the other day and swore that I will not ride in a 14-seater matatu again. This is because even though the mat is tiny and slummed, it produces music that wouldn't be played in any of our major stadia because it would blow off both the players and the audience out of the stadium. The music started to play and it is the kind of music that you can't tell whether it goes into your body through the ears and on to the lungs and out through the heart. So I figured that my ventricles and whatever other ligaments and tissue that keep my heart in place would cave in and I moved to buses coz there I get to share the noise with four times more people and I hope I will extend my life by the same proportion.

So I took a bus and I promise you except that it was rather crowded, it was quiet. I sat between two men and you will find out the reason I mention them. We rolled off town finally and just when I made sure that the two fellows I was sitting with were not likely to pick my pockets, I clutched onto my handbag and napped off. I had barely closed my eyes when a man disrupted my nap with the introduction of his company whose name had 'Christian' in the middle. At first I thought he was going to preach and pray for us and then ask for an offering and since I had decided upfront I wasn't going to part with an offering, I decided I was going to sleep so that I wouldn't hear what he had to say as in 'No hearing, no offering'.

He must have seen me trying to pull that one on him and he grew louder and annoying and obnoxious about his trade. He wasn't a preacher after all. He was a doctor - a herbal doctor. He finished his introduction at Pangani and launched into his consultancy.

He started by insulting us. He told us that we were walking corpses and that if we did not buy his medicine immediately, some of us would walk back straight to the City Mortuary while the rest of us would have the pleasure of going to bid bye our doctors at the Kenyatta National Hospital. I shouted 'Halleluyah' coz I thought that would be the best thing to happen in the present economic times. Everybody else seemed to think so too and the doc realized that this was a crowd that was not easy to threaten. So he decided to change tact and give us a lecture on the diseases that were killing us. He said that each of us was carrying a total of 56 diseases but that he was going to deal with the top two which were (get ready) Dirty Blood Syndrome (DBS) and Male Impotence. He launched into a talk about how food manufacturers had agreed to exterminate us by adding Potassium Permanganate in all our foods hence the (DBS). He went ahead to do an experiment where he put Potassium Permanganate in a 250ml mineral water bottle and wonder of wonders the solution turned purple! I would have imagined that since he was talking about blood he would have used real human blood. He then added 'his medicine'(which cleanses our blood and cuts short our trip to the city morgue) and the water became almost clear! He said that if we bought his two day dose that our blood would be completely rid of all toxins.

He reminded me of the first time I saw the Potassium Permanganate experiment in class 8. I stole some and became the local magician and charged every child in the neighbourhood a bob. Business picked up immediately with kids coming in droves begging their parents for the money. I was 24 shillings rich when the news reached my mom that I had become a magician and charging a fee for it. You imagine that mom would have rejoiced at the thought of us becoming rich through magic. But no. She gave me a proper whomping and returned all my hard earned cash to the owners.

After the doctor had proved that we had DBS, he launched into Male Impotence. He said that the reason people were not filling the world with little brats is because men have become impotent. You and I know that it is for economic reasons that we are not filling our houses with children. This guy, who obviously lives on Planet Zoog thinks it is as a result of Male Impotence and fortunately for those who are so stupid they believe him, he has a solution. He promised the MI sufferers that he had medicine that would have men's virility shooting to the high heavens and that it costs 300 Shillings but for that day he was going to offer it to the lowest bidder coz he only had one dose. The rest would have to look for him in their office in town. We arrived at the bus station and you wouldn't believe that we couldn't alight because a small clot of people had formed at the exit listening to the doc and bidding. Except that the driver of the bus threatened to run down the doc and his newly found "patients', I probably would still be trapped in that bus waiting for the doc to finish handing out his business cards.

I would have thrown him a contempt card but I wasn't carrying one then. I will sure start carrying some and I encourage you to have yours handy coz you don't know when you will fall into the hands of such a contemptuous person especially when you are accompanied by your family.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

SPOIL OR GET SPOILT

SPARE THE ROD AND SPOIL A CHILD in our days meant that if you kept the rod in a cupboard and let a child run care free, he or she would get messed up and would not become a responsible citizen. Today it means that you actually keep the rod in the wall unit and take your kid out and spoil him which translates into spending money that can feed several Kenyan families for a year at some popular spot.

It is in the 90s when whacking children became a word for the old fashioned, when parents started to behave as if they had been to school to learn parenting that they started to say that they would not use the rod on their children. They said this oblivious of the good results the cane had produced- them. Now their kids have evolved into dorm-burning goons and surprisingly they all agree that it is the Minister for Education’s fault. I didn’t know that one of his capabilities was child rearing!

When I was growing up, strikes were unheard of in schools. This is precisely because actions which were not going to hatch into strikes even if they were incubated for a thousand years were treated as felonies.

I remember a time we picked some heads of wheat during a marathon from a field and the owner of the wheat field spotted us and reported to the school administration. We were sent home with letters of suspension which then was a big word. Today, students have dubbed it ‘Suspe’ (u is pronounced as ‘u’ in put) and they speak about it as if they are talking about sharing groundnuts. A suspension in our days was equivalent to being sent into a war zone unarmed with opponents armed with nuclear weapons. These were first, your parents during the suspension and the teachers after the suspension and the rest of your sweet school life.

So I went home with my suspension letter and on arrival and after explaining what had happened at school, which the headmistress had indicated as gross misconduct which the school will not put up with, my mom’s response was ‘mmph’. Now this was more scaring than if she had just taken a hammer and broken all my bones.

I was informed that I was going to be a guest because I belonged to school for that period of time. Next, I was going to keep to the school’s schedule. That meant waking up at 5 A.M. and taking a cold shower, after which I proceeded for preps. At 6.30, a cup of white porridge was ready in the kitchen and the rest of the day, I spent holed up with books in the guestroom. This lasted the two weeks I was on suspension.

While I stuck to githeri whose only difference with the school one was that it was free of weevils, (my bro, on several occasions suggested to my mom that he knew a place they could buy weevils to add to my githeri), my family went on a chicken eating spree which we have never witnessed again. This was the first phase of the war. They began with the cold war.

Then the day to go back to school arrived. We were ushered into the Headmistress’s office like rogue political leaders to The Hague . We started with the most important business which was to compensate the farmer of the wheat which we had eaten. We were surprised when the farmer was paid for two acres of wheat. We were informed that we were going to be his combine harvesters and we were free to eat the rest.

The headmistress had strategically placed some three Bunsen tubes on her table to aid with the interrogation. Immediately our parents grabbed the tubes and started thrashing us. The headmistress rang the emergency bell and everybody gathered at the assembly ground. We emerged with our parents from the Headmistress’s office still being whacked to prove that they (our parents) would never allow wheat thieves in their homes. The beating was made worse because our parents were competing to impress the Headmistress, who had this subtle way of fueling the beating by saying it was enough.

At the end of it all, with our bodies feeling like they were made of lead and our legs feeling like overcooked spaghetti, we were each awarded a Sun-yellow cardigan which meant that we marked for the rest our lives in school. We were not supposed to remove them even if the sun descended a few metres. The other students treated us like we had the Amazonic flu and nicknamed us egg-shellers or Land-miners because that is how we carried out our business in school. We spent the following day at the wheat field. After half an hour with our teeth aching and our jaws locked, we were relieved of that punishment but it determined the relationship I was going to maintain with wheat in the future. I keep as much distance as I can with wheat unless it has passed via millers into bakeries. A wheat field reminds me of my appointments with the dentist.

If an eggsheller made one more mistake, it led to expulsion. This is a line you did not want to cross because of all the ogre stories the teachers told us if we became unlucky enough to be expelled. First, there was no other head teacher who would accept you in their school. The teachers told us that we would end up married to farmers or charcoal burners with scores of children clinging to our only dress and for the men who would be lucky enough to get to the city, they would push mikokoteni for the rest of their lives.

For dorm burning students, I would recommend that we ask them to build and burn new dorms as punishment. But because we can't, we could send them with those tall jerrycans which are inscribed with a broad 'X' on both faces to the oil wells of Saudi Arabia or Nigeria to get the petrol for themselves to burn the remaining dorms. By the time they get back they wouldn’t know where it was they were taking the jerrycans much less what it was that they wanted to do with the contents because by then they (the students) would be senile! Hahaha. So what we should probably do is to round up the guys who banned caning in school and set them on fire and then reinstate it. Or what do you think?

Just in case you think I lost my marbles, it is second term when the strikes' demon strikes and you had better advise your little spoilt brats that we don't have time for their stupid reactions to mock exams.