Of Kenyans and their love for big words

17 Jan

I had to research the word Draconian as I keep hearing it being thrown about by the press whenever the legislature passes a new law. The English word “draconian”, meaning marked by extreme severity or cruelty, especially about laws or governments. Hmm, Kenyans have a thing for big words. Remember the way we massacred ‘promulgation’? But I digress. Now where was I?

Last Friday was a day of jubilation for many Kenyan drinkers who enjoy a pint or two or whatever amount that gets them to crawl home. That the news of the squashing of the ‘Mututho Law’ should come on a Furahi day seemed perfectly well planned. I was not in Kenya on that day but I can imagine just how many walks of shame were witnessed Saturday morning, how many people cannot explain their events of the previous night and the general malnourishment of most drinkers wallets come Monday morning. Kenyans do love their drink, no doubt about that; KBL, Keroche and Mama Pima are smiling all the way to the bank this morning am sure.

While people celebrated and over 50% of my facebook friends updated their statuses with their excitement and sent heartfelt shout-outs to Murang’a Bar Owners Associations, I could not help but feel a little sad. Not that I dared voice my concerns out loud, no I do not fancy being booed in public. Let me start by saying that I did not quite agree with the so-called “Mututho Law” 100%. Nairobi bars and nyama choma dens have facilitated my meeting a lot of awesome people some of whom have gone on to be great friends,I have struck serious business deals and made valuable contacts over a pint or two. Most of my friends back home can only be met in bars, don’t ask me why. Infact I cannot tell you where most of them live, I just know the general direction eg Westlands, Buruburu, South C, etc. This does not mean that I do not meet them whenever am in Nairobi, far from it. I just need to make a random call and an hour or so later find myself in one of Nairobi’s many pubs with a Gin and Tonic, some ice and lemon on the side, and some awesome company to boot. This would invariably happen on Friday, Saturday and perhaps Sunday afternoon. Now I am no mlevi, not by anyone’s standards, but I do enjoy my gin every now and then. Even when I am not drinking which is often enough, you will still find me in a pub either for the music or for the company of like-minded friends or just for networking purposes – my job demands it. I somehow do not see most of my friends fitting in at Java or Savanna. Infact some do not even know where to find such joints. When Nonini sang that Kenya is a drinking nation and everyday is a vacation, he clearly had studied this lot rather well. (By the way what happened to him, its like the man swallowed baking powder, he’s as huge as his ego). Having to cut down my social time was therefore not amusing especially over the Christmas and new festivities. I even had to learn directions to peoples’ homes. Nkt! What an inconvenience? 😉

Now that that long disclaimer is out of the way, allow me to explain my sadness over the shelving of this law. As much as I complained along with the masses, Mututho did make a valid point, at least for me. I originally hail from Nyeri, Karatina to be precise and I have seen the full effects of alcohol abuse on both the youth and the old around my village. I have seen it my my own family and it pains my heart so much.

Let’s start with my mother’s youngest brother who at 34years of age is a complete mess. Eddie looks 48 but acts like he’s 16. I have spent over a week at the village without seeing him even once. I only hear him singing off key as he staggers home at ungodly hours. While his “riika” (agemates) work and raise kids, he sleeps off the previous night’s hangover often wandering over to his mother’s house to look for something to eat. How he manages to keep his job is a wonder to me. Most probably its because a distant cousin of ours manages the milk plant where he gets his drinking money from. Once in a while he will break into my grandmother’s house and steal the little money that her kids have sent her, and when money is not available pick an item to sell for a little beer money. He used to be a jolly, nice fellow Eddie. Very ambitious young man till the demon that is alcohol possessed him. Now my grandmother cries everyday as the child that closed her womb seems to be killing himself illicit drink after drink. She sees no hope of ever getting grandchildren from her favourite son and it breaks her heart. She longs for the day rumours of his having impregnated someone’s daughter will reach her. She dreams of holding his kids in her hands and lightly spitting on them in blessing. She prays and cries and waits……….

Eddies elder brother is no better. Uncle John is a pale shadow of his former self. Alcohol and its attendant trappings have left him nothing but a shell of a man left to reminisce about the good old, glorious days gone by. He cannot educate the 5 children that he proudly calls his to whoever cares to listen, he neither knows what they eat not what they drink or wear. His house is literally falling apart at the seams and were it not for his first born son’s many attempts to repair it as best as he can they would not even have a roof over their heads. His children often go hungry and my old grandmother who lives nearby, being the wise woman that is, always cooks more food than she needs and makes sure the kids come by to be fed before they go to their home every evening. There is always food at their house, but not enough for 5 growing kids with a healthy appetite. The rest of us do what we can, we pay for the kids school fees and shop for their clothes and basic necessities. Not that he shows any gratitude. This only shames uncle John into drinking some more and insulting all of us for “thinking we own him and his family”. That however does not stop him from accepting our charity or asking for the loose 50 bob which invariably ends up at Wakaria’s sorghum den, either to pay for accrued debts or to line his throat with more poison. It disgusts me. It pains me.

It was not always like this. Uncle John bought me my first bike when I was 5. It set him back quite a tidy sum but money was no object where his favourite niece was conccerned. I looked forward to going upcountry over my school holidays just to hang out with him coz boy that man could spoil a  little girl. At the time, he ran the most successful second hand clothes business in Karatina. In addition, this handsome and humorous young man had a restaurant and a big farm where he planted tomatoes and kales for sale at Karatina market, which was in those days the biggest market in East Africa. I loved going to Uncle’s restaurant. 5 year old me would spend a whole day there stuffing myself with huge mandazis, toast mayai’s, sausages and all those treats. He called me ‘mum’ as I was named after his mother and there was nothing he would not do for me. The name has stuck with me all these years. The town girls loved him too and he was spoiled for choice on who to marry among the bevy of township beauties. He settled on Bilha, a tall, lanky, model type from Mukurweini and soon enough a healthy, boy was born and named after grandpa. This spurred him on to work harder and soon he owned a “Canter” to transport produce from Karatina to Mombasa. Things were looking good and a second lorry followed. Uncle John was hard working and money liked him too.

I don’t know when things started going wrong, see I was too young to understand. But somehow Uncle’s fortunes started dwindling. I think everything started going south when he crashed the first Canter while on a drunken spree and it was written off. He had not paid for the insurance and that was the end of that, he took quite a hit due to bank financing. He started drinking too, and the well endowed girls on the Mombasa highway showed him better ways to spend his money. The second lorry was grounded soon enough. He went back to the clothes business which his wife was now running. But the alcohol beast still demanded to be fed. After that everything went downhill pretty fast. Soon enough everytime I went upcountry Uncle could not afford to give me the Ksh.2,000 he normally gave me to buy myself something nice at Deacon’s. He was never at work too. We always found him at the bus stop with the village layabouts waiting to help us with our luggage. Mum made an attempt to inject some money into his business twice when he swore to change but it was not to be, the beast took that too. Now whenever we meet I give him 50bob or 100bob to get his daily fix. It is his wife that I leave the good money with, for the kids upkeep. I remember the glory of days gone by with fondness and I must admit to a soft spot for Uncle John despite the mess that he has become.

Then there’s great cousin Bogi. He was the top CPE student of 1977. He was a student of the then prestigious Meru Technical School and his star shone bright. His prospects were endless. He went on to become a big government Veterinarian. I will not go into the details of what happened to him, but he now does casual jobs for grandma and spends his wages at Wakaria’s den. The rest of the days he spends his time at the bus stop waiting for any visitors from Nairobi who can give him a lose 20bob to go get his fix. He will follow you around like a dog till you part with something, he never takes no for an answer. He is a good spirited fellow though, in a moment of soberness he will come and fetch water and do all the farm work without expecting pay. He will settle for a nice warm meal and just being treated like a human being. <sigh>. Its depressing enough just writting about it. So much potential gone to waste.

As if that was no enough, late last year, the media brought us the story of a small time councillor from Mukurweini, Giathugu ward councillor, Mr Abel Kijana who has been rewarding parents to conceive. In Central province, the population is growing at a rate of 1.6 per cent compared to an average of 3 per cent in other provinces. Statistics don’t lie, clearly we have a problem on our hands. Just last year alone, 2 schools in the area were closed due to lack of students. The area risks lacking another generation since locals are no longer bearing children. The women seem healthy and energetic enough but the men simply do not notice them. Many couples live together like brother and sister. One friend of mine told me he is married to “Tusker Wanjiku Muhehu” ( a cold Tusker). While the men have ran to the pubs, the women have found solace in church and merry-go-rounds and ‘chamas’. Who will give rise to tomorrow’s generation? When I tried to debate the issue with some pals (over a pint of course), one pal from western Kenya brazenly asked, “Couples in my village get an average of 6 kids without counting wale wa nje, why should we be punished because you kyuks can’t kunywa responsibly?”. To say that I was shocked is an understatement. Don’t we all belong to the same Kenya? How much longer till this evil spreads to his part of the country? Such irresponsible talk from someone I respected so much.

I could tell so many more stories. But I hope with this background you will pardon me for not seeing anything “draconian” about the Mututho law. As a matter of fact, if the matter were to come up for a referendum as we Kenyans love to do, I would vote a huge YES and take any available chance to rig the votes to my favour. Sue me!

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4 Responses to “Of Kenyans and their love for big words”

  1. waywardfoe January 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    that was the best defence to the nuthotho bill i ever saw and to think what a switcharoo this post was. quite the rollercoaster. those stories were all very harrowing. and i agree that alcoholism takes lives and even generations. i guess in context a lot of things begin to make sense.

    • not-so-little Miss Random! January 25, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

      Wayway foe, karibu rafiki. And thank you for expanding my vocabulary (switcharoo) :-). I won’t defend my position anymore as this post was quite lengthy but I refuse to suffer in silence, my family is one of those the Mututho law was made for and am not complaining.

      xoxo!

  2. Rachael January 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    Nonini comment LMAO

    Yes i also extol mututho’s Law but undercover.
    Sincerely these cheap liquor will wipe out generations.
    I have seen my relaz fight with alcoholism…its really sad.

    Btw .. Friday i celebrated with my friends and found my way home @ 4.00am lol…. ‘I love Mututho’…..Undercover …… ‘Mututho sucks’ ….. with the crowds

    • not-so-little Miss Random! January 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

      Rech, whats!! lol, kumbe we are many? Even me I celebrated in Kampala till kedo 3am ni kama Mututho had affected us here too lol. Very few people can honestly say they do not know an alcoholic, if you aren’t one you probably know someone who is. So sad!

      XOXO!!! Thanks for being a regular visitor

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