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king telephone

there were days when black wires crisscrossed the village, each wire destined to the other villages but only two terminated in our village. the dense sagging multiple wires, supported on wooden poles were the most efficient but scarce means of communicating-albeit at a price. it was not just any other homestead that could be connected to the telephone, it was only the chosen village elite who could afford the bill at each month end.

the telephone then was fixed, unlike the walking mobile device of today. the villagers would go to the telephone rather than waking with the gadget as is the current practice. then, before placing a call, you had to talk to a fellow then known as a telephone operator. this was the interchange guy whom you would tell ‘kindly connect me to Y4 Kanja‘ when your wish was to be connected to your neighbor in the next village known as Kanja. i guess the numbering was so simple as there wasn’t a village with a 100 lines which would confuse the operator.

despite being a measure of success, owning a Y 3 Kanja line was a bother. being the villagers that we are, at times, even without such an arrangement, a villager wishing to sip a cup of tea with sugar would arrive unannounced i the homestead with a telephone line and claim that he had been promised a call. since it was unafrican to hostafellow and not give him something to warm him, the host would be forced to brew a cup of tea as the visitor awaited a non existent call. an hour and half later with no call coming through, he would depart, but his stomach full and warm.

another challenge was the host being forced to be an operator of kind, receiving all kinds of messages to the villagers, all hours of the day and even at night. once i a while, the kid in the telephoned home would be seen rushing to the far end of the village to deliver a particularly urgent message- whose gist would be lost on the way anyway.

when the exhausted host at last gave up on the telephone, the them post and telecommunications company- which also produced a huge book known as the directory or yellow pages then- decided to put up a telephone booth in he village centre. this contraption would produce only one kind of ringing sound when called. you still fed it with coins to accept your request. then, in case you were calling a person or company and didn’t have enough coins, requested the operator to tell the other party to call back.

this was a risky venture as you were not assured of a response. you also hanged up the receiver and guarded the booth so that nobody else used the device before you were called back- or else the cal would find the only line engaged.

talking on the phone was not for everyone. there was a believe that the telephone could not transmit the local dialect so one had to try hard with many many ‘hallo halloo”

but the tiny talking device came and cut the black crisscrossing wires.. today they are mostly used a clothes line. how times change….

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learned villager

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there was a time when the bearded fellow with greying hair and a receding hairline and his fellow villagers passionately believed-and even some do to date- that a degree is the gown that learned fellows deck once in their academic lives.

since villagers who had chewed enough books were a rarity, it was a sight to behold when a villager was given powers to read and do all those other things. unlike to day when kids who can barely wipe their noses are graduating, a graduation was not a joke then. when the big day approached, a committee was set up to prepare.

the committee would consist the village elites and who is who- the pastor, the teacher, the prominent farmer and the shopkeeper. this s obviously together with the proud family which has produced the graduant. among he matters to be deliberated by he committee included the vehicle to be used to attend the graduation- a sub committee would set off to the next village consult with the owner of the lorry , the catering affairs and the most important aspect of the committee was to vet who would accompany the family to see their son/daughter being coronated.

apart from the wedding ceremony, this would be the most anticipated event of the year. this was an opportunity to see the big city and come back with tales of how the family got lost and met with he graduand only so barely. the vetting was always so heated that almost always quarrels and enmity would follow the announcement of the final list.

on the material day, with the lorry bedecked with banana leaves and other flora to signify the ceremonious nature of the day, long before the cock crew, the happy crowd would set off. this was not before the pastor – strtegicallyseated with the parents of the guest of honour- had done a long prayer, insisting that the vehicle their were about to use had been made of hands of men yet here they were foolish enough to entrust themselves to it.

prominent among the songs was one declaring that the fellow at at the steering wheel was symbolic- Jesus was the driver. as the vehicle groaned, whined and shook as it negotiated the hills and meandering round out of the village, the flow and web of te songs followed suit- encouraging the driver and rebuking the devil as the need may be.

the villagers would reach the city almost at noon, to find thousands of other villagers. at the conclusion of the ceremony, a major search and rescue mission would follow- finding the graduand and seeking those foolish enough to leave the group and mingle with the crowds and get lost.

the following sunday, the village would be in a celebratory mood- as the graduand showed off the ‘degree’ , attending church in full graduation regalia-cap, gown and fly whisk. and our dear old mothers would touch the degree in wonder and adulation.

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birdy village

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there were days when , due to a serious deficient of animal protein, all means and ways were commissioned to get the same. in the village, this bearded grey haired fellow not only trapped flying insects -which which i has a chance to talk about previously- , but birds were far prey too.

first and foremost, a young fellow learnt early which birds were edible and which ones were poisonous. the edible ones were identified with what they ate- carnivorous birds were generally avoided while cereal eating birds were a delicious delicacy.

tiny meal

for the small sized -tiny is actually the word- ‘birds of the compound’ it was easy but tricky way to harvest them. this birds were known for they love of tiny cereals , especially millet or sorghum. the tiny red necked greyish birds,would land in twos where the creals had fallen during their (cereals, not birds) preparation.

now the young fellow would bait them by placing the cereals under a upturned karai held in place with a stick. on the stick would be attached a long string whose other end the boy would be holding. setting the trap was the simple bit. the tricky part came in two ways- one, ensuring that the birds don’t spot you and take flight. secondly, timing the pull the string not too early or late so as to trap the tiny fellow. the easily frightened birds would take flight a he slightest disturbance. catching e first one was not so hard. once they realized of a trap laid, they became wary and careful. but one bird was too little for a meal. i t was here patience was tested and nurtured.

skill set

the noisy yellow weaver birds offered much more animal protein per bird but required a different skill set. one needed to identify trees which produce a stickiest goo and how to cure the same for maximum effect. before you harvested the sticky substance, one would find a container for the same- from cutting a branch of a shrub which is soft enough to be unstuck and leave the cover intac. this would then be stoppered at te lower end.

next was easy- just stick the goo to a stick at a strategic point, then bait with a grain or two. when the bird lands, they are stuck- and ready to be defeathered.

bird rotting cold

At times,mat around august, it would be terribly cold at the remote route. it was so cold that the season was reffered as cold that rots the birds. then it would be easy to just grab the frozen birds off the branches and proceed to make a warm meal of the same.

electrical flocks

lastly, when power lines criss crossed the village and at the base of the poles, there was picture of a skeleton with empty sockets staring at passersby. inscription at top and bottom of the picture was a warning of ‘Danger’ and ‘Hatari’. electricity then was more lethal and the wires would serve a certain meaty purpose. A certain species of migratory birds- which i suppose has today gone missing- would flock the village,. and a good number would perch on the electricity wires and puff- the village would have tens of birds for a meaty day.

and in various ways would the flying protein supplement our roots and tubers .

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smoky village

whereas some mischievous characters like to associate my greying, balding head with use of those farm products which make one go high high, this Remoteroute Assistant Elder wishes to, in the strongest terms possible, refute such allegations. these unfounded rumours have no factual basis and are as a result of too many idle moments of the village gossip.

whereas in my idle young days I was tempted and attempted to use tobacco products (not those ones you were thinking about!)- the leafy ones- not those which seeds and stalks into the mix, the good gods of the mountain and forests, together with the ancestors (both living and ancient ) intervened and this dirty habit did not take roor.

this does not mean that there were no smokers in the village then or today. However, smoking is a subdued and generally frowned upon habit. then, in my youthful days, it was the tough ting – especially the newly circumcised. it was a rite of passage, a honoured tradition that the newly cut boys would buy ‘smoke ‘ so as to be initiated into the adult phase of their lives. it was then when the matatu drivers would light up to no complaint. even in the most crowded of places,when the itch struct, a smoker would nonchalantly light up.

the cigarette manufacturers then had a field day, with gorgeous women posing with a cigarette clutched stylishly between their fingers and smoke curling allurings from their painted lips. then they was this powerfully build sportsmen , who, the adverts alleged were the net result of smoking-‘kwa watu was bidii‘ (translated: not for the uninitiated). with a cigar stick dangling from his mouth. literally mouth watering..

there were cigarettes for the chicken like fellows , without a filter and yet claimed to be most potent- and cheapest. rooster, in my young days was a mesh up of a cockerel- which was then the symbol of the ruling party then- and that bitter , classless cigarette stick. then the middle of the game sportsman for the village teacher. then the mysterious dunlop and malboro, the elite smoke horse riding associated brand.

after inhaling the first puff, seeing stars and head pounding, the smoke invariably went the wrong way. several coughs later, the initiate would either man up and bear or quite for good. lucky for this bearded fellow, it was at that point he called it quits.

it was not just this these branded smokies that ruled the addiction roost in the village. after realizing that it was an expensive habit they had got themselves into, some enterprising villagers got the seeds and decided to go fully organic- by growing the crop themselves. in a few months time, a village could have a patch of tobacco crop. all that was required forthwith so as a to roll a potent smoke was to borrow a piece of newspaper and you are set to go, with an extra long stick stylishly stuck on one ear.

this decorated villager survived all this, only for his hair to start discolouring for no apparent reason..

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cassock confusion

when the gentleman who wears the major cassock in what was once referred to as the Church Politics of Kenya assembly declares that there shall be no more politics in (his) church, the grey haired bearded villager gets confused. the village elder is confused of this decree for a number f reasons, least of which would be the history of the church he heads.

as alluded earlier, the church was at the centre of agitation for better administration in this country. it had luminaries who spoke, in their words, truth to power. disregarding the fact that a number of then truthers are in power, has the truth ceased to be? how will the church continue to partner with the like minded politicians if it ostracizes one and every politico? its still in the elder’s memory of how fiery the holy halls were either during the memorial services for the deceased agitators or on an inspired Sunday service with the late beloved senior most cleric. in fact, in one occasion, in the head church hall, second liberation activists and wanachi run for refuse. can the church welcome such today and deny the politicians the podium to declaim?

unsavory characters

its no secret that there are some very unsavoury characters in politics. indeed, the gross accusations leveled against politicians, some quite senior, are implacable. mass murder, mass displacement, private killings feature at the top. that a good number of politician hold no single decent thought cannot be contested. that there is an urgent need to replace them is also incontestable. but how shall we give a platform to the moral, conscientious and public spirited (and holy spirit filled) -read Reuben Kigame- and in the same breath deny others?

murky dark world of innuendo

the not so wise vice elder thinks the church would have done better by leading by example. we know the politicians. we know the art conmen of politics. let the church make clear her choice that the masses may be so guided. instead of hiding behind a blanket ban of all politicians, let the educated theologians leave the congregants in the murky dark world of innuendo and suggestions. we know politician A stole this and that. We know politician B gives bursary only to his tiesmeen. and we know politician C shot (almost) dead a certain DJ. despite the abundance of material ‘blessings’ he /she is not welcome in this church, unless he has come to repent.

grey haired confusion

if this is cascaded down to the village level, maybe my village priest will be courageous to call out the rich fellow who is vying for MCA in the village but we understand he grabbed his neighbours land and hived off the village school playground. and that Mp who put up a bar in what was formerly a communal cattle dip.

then the grey haired confusion would cease, and light shed by the men of cassocks .

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howls and whowls

the howls and wholwls emanating from the city of many many many lights have reached the village. the many many lights have to be qualified with another many as our little city – the former district headquarters- now boasts of many lights in its streets. however, in the major city, there are many many many more lights. its however from this place where there are continuous attempts to chase darkness away, even during the day, where many a distressed cries are coming from. and the whelps for help are so loud that even the fellow with hair turning the colour of fresh milk has heard it. and it has all to do with the liquid the denizens of the benighted city use to make their vehicles move. in the village, we use a poor relative of the liquid to fire our lamps.

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lightful place

in the village ,we have heard many things about the lightful place. we hear that if you want to cross a road in that blessed place, you need the prowess of moses, that old jewish prophet we were taught about in sunday school. moses, we were told, was not just like any elder (senior or junior) of our clan. our sunday school teacher, a fellow who could not read but claimed that there he had a special inspiration which revealed all this to him, told us that moses was a fellow who, if you fought in his presence, and he didn’t like the colour of your beard, he would send you to meet your maker. pronto.

he was such a tough fellow, endowed with such prophetic prowess that rivers, however big were no bother to him. he simply flew over them. once in seeking greater challenge, he passed by a sea whose colour was red. seeing that the sea was blocking him from visiting his fellow prophets on the other side, he simply raised his fimbo ya nyayo. and the waters ran to the left and the ones to the right evaporated, making a dry path in the midst of the sea! after raising whowls of dust while crossing, he raised his hand again and the path disappeared as the waters returned. or such recollections my greyish cells recall.

now, its such prowess needed to cross the road in the city of many lights. you literally have to part vehicles to get from one side to another.

grains on a maize cob

we are told in the village that the vehicles in the city are like grains of maize a cob- it no bother trying to count them. we hear that even if we use all the fingers and toes of all the villagers, including the unborn ones, we will still not tally in totality the number of vehicles.

so when the fellows whose business is to determine the increase the city dwellers pay to acquire the precious liquid, in this ninth month of this year of our lord two thousand and twenty one, the cry of the dwellers reached even the Remoteroute village . that month by month, always an increase. and now it has reached the level of getting only six litres for a thousand kenyan shillings!

ask for transport

we at the village understand the vehicle owning city dwellers frustrations. our local ├ísk for transport’‘ guy always has container with which to rush for some extra fuel with in case the two hundred he added to the vehicle depletes half way.

what we villagers fail to understand is why the city dwellers have not led he nation in changing the complains narrative. everyday, as every new ”shouty” thing happens, no real push back is heard from the city dwellers. despite having so many Phds in that city, they lead the nation in getting to leadership the most unqualified and most inept. at times i tend believe the villages who insist that Phd stands for ”pengine hana digrii‘.

so do we expect any change in the village despite the howls and whowls? most unlikely, even if the price of fuel goes to 200/- per litre. or maybe we the villagers will be surprised when to reduces to half, courtesy to the yells of the dwellers of many many lights place.

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bone shaker

before the chinese introduced this death machines on two wheels, a more gentle soul existed. it was what some more wise fellows have called the bone shaker, and i tell you- it shook bones! the roads being mere cattle tracks then in the village, a bicycle was both a source of joy, measure of prestige and also a scary convenience.

VVIP

together with the ancestors of today’s motorcycles, the bicycle was for the village elite- he teachers, priests and occasionally the prominent farmer. the yamaha motorcycle was the preserve of the VVIP- usually the one headteacher. this was known even from the noise it produced- ot was that unique.

the business of learning how to ride was not simple. a young fellow, after pledging loyalty to the bicycle owner by being his PA for eons- as a show of responsibility and earn trust, then would he be given the bike together with a mentor. the bicycles then were not not like today’s pets, even with electric power. first they were high. we,the shirties and dwarfs would ride sideways, balancing precariously between the main bar/ side diagonal bar and stepping on pedals, at an inclinational angle of 45 degrees. the mentor was to steady the bike as one learnt the basics of balancing on the most unstable contraption ever made.

toughest leather

the seats were made of the toughest leather, at times with fur on the lower side. growing taller and managing to get on the seat didn’t make one any more comfortable- the spine would still be shaken but that would never discourage the determined.

for one to ride or own a bicycle, several skill sets were required. one was to be a mechanic- to repair a puncture , brakes or to straighten the ‘head’. tis involved twisting and turning the handle bars till they aligned, or the drift was not so bad as one would ride sideways.

bear scars

since brakes were not a guaranteed safety feature, an important skill set was – never panic. it was possible that when riding downhill, brakes would snap and one would find self doing a Kipchoge downhii, with the path full of cattle, kids and stray chickens. one had to dodge, turn and avoid each and one obstacle and at the same time slow the bicycle without ending up in the village river. the alternate to brakes was to use ones foot to slow the bicycle. considering that shoes were a scarce commodity then, many a foot of a then cyclists bear scars.

bu then,as tims wait forno villager, the chinese happened. All sorts of motorcycles flooded the village. the damage – limb and leg- cannot be compared to the bone shaker ones.

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what for?

among the many reasons that this villager’s hair has turned the colour of fresh milk , i think, is of the many questions without adequate answers which swirl in his scattered grey matter. the ash coloured (or so it has been romoured- could it be red, really?) thinking material at times gets so worked up that the fellow wakes with his bush beards askew, heat boiling and the heart palpitating. and unfortunately, all to no reason but to be reset to factory settings.

funny ideas from funny fellows

take the forever existential question- why is the villager here? its undisputed fact that the Junior Assistant Clan Elder with no portfolio was born in the slopes of the Remote route village, at the feet of this imposing majestic mountain. its also that as a young fellow, due to the prevailing norms and practices of that time, he was not adequately cuddled, thus has a scatter brained head which never stills. it, as a matter of fact , steals all sorts of ideas from all sorts of funny characters thus muddying an already obscure existence.

a century before. or later

so from the foolishness of being unable to succinctly explain his existence, the feklow dabbles in all sorts of imagination and conjecture. maybe he was born at he wrong time. maybe his miserable existence- of eating, warming benches and doing that which is not mentioned in polite society- would have a greater meaning, a greater impact of he had been born a century before. or a century later on.

could it be possible, id by a accident of nature, may beron in China- or Maldives, or even in Guinea – where they recently kicked a lower body part of a dictatorial fellow- or in a different village, after so many decades of breathing, consuming several tonnes of corn, beans and other cereals, tubers and roots, maybe i would know myself better.

being yet not being

so here is the villager, being and yet deep inside not being. trying to find self, know self and be. yet the days, as they sages said, waiteth for no king. despite the (real/supposed/imagined) lack of awareness, times moves on. sooner,rather than later, the village. hopefully without pomp or glitz will be laid six feet under. where no man goeth but worm spoil. or maybe if i would have gathered the necessary courage, shall give up the flesh and bones to be planted to others. and that which cant be used be fit for fire and ash.

as the hair greys and the brain reddens, as the fingers crawl while the toes figure out this strange staged life, all one can say Ha!

PS

or is it mid life crisis calling?

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of flesh and blood

its not everyday that fellows from the remote village interact with people outside their kin and kith bonds. its common for the villagers to be born, bred, wed, sire and be interred without having moved more than three villages away. thus, more often than not, innuendo, romour and connotations abound about how other communities live and thrive.

despite the modern means of communication having arrived at the shores of the remote route, the deeply and dearly held perceptions abound. the proliferation of local language FM stations has not helped to dispel the romours but have entrenched the perceptions with constant challenges to the community to ‘return the river to its course’, a cryptic call to return to the native ways of life. unfortunately this ‘original course’ is a partly prejudicial and actively atavistic.

so the bearded, white haired Junior Clan Elder keeps on hearing all types of romours, especially about that community whose love for livestock is legendary. the Maa, the colorful, dancing and jumping community has been held as a community which has actively resisted the westernization and stuck to its ancient way of life. in the village, tall tales are told of how tough the residents of Maa land are.

first and foremost is their diet. it is said that when a maa boy learns how to shoot and arrow- and its compulsory that they learn- the first target is a cows neck. the wonder of shooting a cow in the neck is that the intention is never to hurt the cow but to milk its blood. thus cow will be shot, somewhere in the neck and blood harvested. since the maa are the traditionalis who abhor modern strange ways of life, the blood is put int a gourd.

earlier in the day,the Maa girls had already milked. this time, its the proper milk.the milk is also stored in the same gourd in which the blood is added. the mixture is the left to ferment and thus make a proper maa dish. this live dish is so portent that it makes extremely courageous warriors.

to qualify as a warrior, the awed villagers were told, a young Maa son must kill a lion. the killing of the ferocious wild beast was a rite of passage. this would imbue the young warrior with the courage of the said animal as the heart from the slain lion would be roasted as the peak of the celebration.

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dancing legs off

among the talents the good Lord didn’t deem fit to grant to this white haired bearded villager is the ability to shuffle, twist and turn his body into various eye pleasing movements. the art of swaying, swinging and other body contortions is a mysterious science to this half baked villager. however,this has not prevented yours truly from from observing and wondering on the subject.

amusement and joy

what mystifies the fellow, first and foremost is the thinking behind the moves. as the fellow finds challenge even in walking- he shuffles as if he is both left footed- wonders and unwonders the reasoning that go to an arrangement that rhymes with the beats and provides amusement and joy to both the performers and the audience.

in the golden days, the only source of music was the good old AM and AW radio set. Don’t bother asking the what the initials stood for as this villager has no idea. what was clear, or to be more precise, not clear was the reception this semi wooden set had. the radio produced so much interruption with a continuous shiiiiii noise as one twisted the hard knob in search of some music. Also don’t bother asking why the knobs for tuning the radio had to be so tight- once again this villager has no idea.

hard knob

the idea the villager had was that after you struggled with the hard knob and got some decent music, they would soon be disrupted by a fellow demanding that you change the frequencies. if you failed to heed his warning, yo would soon be hearing only birds chirp from the frequency you were in.

once a year, an agricultural spectacle came to the then district headquarters- the ASK show. apart from admiring the ears of the largest bull in the district- which could also heed verbal instructions from the proud farmer- , the other signature event was the discotheque at night. from the tens of kilometres away, in the Remoteroute village, in the quite dead of the night, the beat of the music could be hard. and the village elite would be in the showground dancing and making merry.

even today when its even possible to carry the beats and music in the pocket, the art and craft of dancing eludes the villager.

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