Saturday, July 16, 2011

Early Man's Errant Ways

Sheldon Cooper: The Big Bang Theory
For the purposes of this here enumeration of crazy episodes from a childhood past, the early hominid I once was will be referred to as ‘early man’, or simply em. À la Sheldon from the Big Bang, this here Homo novus keying the memories down will be upgraded to the status of ‘ze mien’.

§        Episode 1: G-Shaggy Chronicles

They say every great man has his eccentricities, and in my 4-year old eyes there was no greater man than my old man back in the day. On the one hand, there was the airforce uniform and the brilliant little model planes that garnished our apartment in a high-class suburb; on the other was his narcissistic drone, trying to get me and my siblings to speak our ‘native language’. 

Not that we couldn’t understand the language; we did. We just did not feel the urge to straggle responding in it, when we had the luxury of a very sufficient Swahili and English to boot. So old man decides to take me ‘visiting’ with my grandma, and conveniently ‘forgets’ to take me back with him to Nairobi. Cue the longest 2 months of my life, stuck in what seemed like a veritable Kalahari Desert: no TV, no electricity, nothing but absolute culture shock. 

Suffice to say that by the time my mum won the arm-wrestle to get me back to Nai, I could speak in tongues, riddles, proverbs and fables – all of them indigenous. After she had managed to convince me that she was my mother [see how dementedly hot the sun was?] this, among other sad things, is what I had to say to her as she ferried me home:

Kile kiRadio chenu chenye kilikuwa kinaonyesha tumtu, bado kiko?
Tr: That big Radio you guys had that displayed little you still have it? 

Of course this was spoken in native tongue. Notice that I had clearly disassociated myself from my family, truly assimilated by my daily routine of speaking Kikuyu, grazing the cows, sitting around a fire, dancing to the mwomboko and all that jazz. Actually, make that ‘and all that wandindi’ or whatever other instrument was at play during early man’s time at Shagz.

§         Episode 2: British Kikuyu Tobacco

So em gets back to Nairobi. Actually it was a new em, one that was now shunned by friend and foe alike, for speaking in uncity-like fashion. At least that was my nursery class teacher’s analysis when my mum paraded me in front of her for a prelude to 8-4-4. “Seriously madame, do you live in Nairobi?” Apparently, speaking fluent and exclusive Kikuyu at St. Marks Westlands was unheard of.

Which brings me to the incident on Britain. Old man was away on Airforce duty – as usual. Me and ma are cruising to Nairobi from Nyeri. My loud mouth has been running parallel to the matatu’s speedometer since we left Nyeri. The ‘guests’ are clearly entertained by unsolicited stand-up comedy [kids could stand in the ‘aisle’ of a face me- face you.] 

Stoking the fire with relative ease, one of the passengers ignores my ma’s pleading eyes, asking “Na babako ako wapi?”[Where's your father?]

Arathire Birikaini.” 

That’s kikuyu for ‘he went to the kettle’. To the kettle kinda sounds like Britain. At least it did, to a kid high on Kikuyu Tobacco. I would certainly have forgiven my ma if at this point she’d thrown me outta the window to salvage some dignity, yet she did not. Not even after I went on to narrate how the dress and hair she was in were not hers; that she’d borrowed them from my aunt after our visit, coz we hadn’t planned on sleeping over and she had nothing to change into. Should I add that I pulled the wig off her scalp as Exhibit A? 

              Episode 3: Johnson & Johnson

I know this episode sounds dirrty. But it really technically isn’t, so get your minds outta the gutter. 

In a deluded way, em was quite a helpful kid. This one time, ma had gone outta the house and left some water boiling in preparation for Ugali. Em was about 10, and in his mind, he could cook Ugali. By the time ma came back, there was something cooking; only it wasn’t exactly what you’d call food. However, I can –and I do – claim to have started cooking at the age of 10. 

Much in similar fashion did the Johnson episode occur when em was about 4. Ma had just washed my 2-year old sis, and was in the kitchen getting her something to eat. So here’s the kid in her crib, and em figures out he can be of some assistance to ma. He takes a tub of Johnson’s Scented Baby Jelly and proceeds to smear it all over her tiny body, sparing no millimetre of her body. And I mean none. Had ma not come in when she did, em may have inadvertently ended up in juvee for suffocating his sibling with Johnson’s Baby toiletries.

§         Episode 4: Bilingual Tails

I remember this one time when I was out playing with friends on a steeply inclining hill next to our apartments. Much as ma had tried stopping this, her punishments later in the evening hardly eclipsed sliding fool’s speed down a grassy hill. Oh, the thrill!

Now my 4-year old sister was quite the snitch back then. It hardly took her two seconds from the second she spotted ma coming home from work for her to scream, ‘Mum! Babi bado anakurutuka na matako!’ Must have been her payback for episode 3 above.

Much as my shaggy behaviour was uncivilized in a westlandish setting, hunter-gathering skills learnt from episode 1 did however come in handy when we played ‘cha mama cha baba’. Every once in a while we actually cooked, and I recall a particular incident involving a pan, a jerrycan of stolen cooking oil, and a tin full of 'hunted and gathered' nguya. The grasshoppers we ate raw...

§         Episode 5: How early man almost Killed his Mother

Being as I am part of the soft core that is our current Generation Y, at around the time I was 5, children my age could tell you one thing for sure. ‘Nyayo’ was a synonym for president and power; hence such absurd inquisitive phrases as “Museveni ni Moi wa Uganda?” Any kid could also tell you that we loved ‘maziwa ya Nyayo’.

So when I vociferously answered “Si ni ule mwenye aliua Ouko?” to the question “Moi ni nani?” you may understand how I quite nearly killed my mother. Especially since we were walking across a bridge filled with people, who immediately scampered away lest they also get taken away when the Nyayo House Police got there. 

Back then, mentioning my dad and the president in one statement seemed like a really good way to state an argument. Like: 

“Moi havai short. Papa pia havai short. Hata mimi sivai short!” 

And to illustrate my point, this once I actually succeeded in almost flushing my shorts down the toilet drains.

§         Episode 6: Nursing School

As you might imagine, by the time em got to a schooling age, he very badly needed nursing for the head wound many thought he had. Let me introduce you to “The Lunchbox” to further illustrate my point. 

On my first day at St. Marks, my ma hadn’t had the time to get me a lunchbox. I did not even have uniform, coz that would have defeated the purpose of tricking me into school. You see, I was not very keen on education in a classroom setting. The world was my playground and occasional teacher. Give that up to sit in a classroom. No way!

So instead, ma told me that we were going to the mall. The mall, unlike the classroom, was part of the world, so there was little to argue about, until I realized that this new alien land I’d arrived at was no mall. Boy did I throw a fit! 

Long story short, eventually I settled down and actually enjoyed my day. So the next day I made ma take me shopping for a lunch box before school. Venue: Uchumi. Purpose: Lunchbox. Only question was...which lunchbox? Which is exactly what ma asked after em had opened up nearly all the lunchboxes at Uchumi, each time shaking his head in disappointment.

“Kwani unataka gani?” asked ma, bemused.
“Nataka yenye iko na chips, na bacon, na sausage, na...”

Tr: Which one are you looking for? - I want the one that has chips, bacon, sausage...

§         Episode 7: Em Juan

Much as em was a bit of a potato-head [see episode 6 above] he was actually quite good with the ladies. A veritable em Juan. Having had this thing with Princess Patra since the age of about 2, he was quite experienced when he got to KG1. Forget that Princess Patra was a TV ad, coz that’s beside the point. Anyway, if your name is Comfort and you were in St. Marks between 1991 and 1993, you owe me one.

“Comfort ana lips tamu!” I declared one evening to ma, having spent the afternoon ‘sleep session’ locking lips with this elusive gal. And don’t even get me started on the twins Caroline and Christine; first time I declared my undying both of them, simultaneously, after having played ‘cha mama cha baba’ during ‘sleep session’. Come to think of it, sleep session was awesome!

§         Episode 8: Tusker Pee-Jet Fame

Sons tend to look up to their fathers in the early stages of childhood. In fact , psychoanalysts can tell you all about the raging hormones that influence a boy’s Oedipus complex. Em had his own complex; the urge to burudika baada ya kazi like his father did, with a Tusker.

Now a certain street-boy – we’ll call him Master Sugu – had become part of em’s neighbourhood right around this time. He lived with an ambitious couple next door who believed they could erase the past 10 years of his life in the streets and turn him into a proper citizen. Soon, however, Master Sugu was running a cartel of pranks on the neighbourhood kids, having already gathered a following from the prior estate bullies.

That was how em ended up drinking what he thought was a Tusker – despite it having an oddly whiffy scent of ammonic barley. Think that’s disgusting? It doesn’t compare to the time, aged 2, when the correlative functions in his little brain convinced him that there was a sausage in his potty.


Truth be told, we change a lot in our evolution into adulthood; I do however feel rather certain that if em had somehow found a portal to this day and age, meeting Yule Mbois Mndialala face to face would have done traumatically irreparable damage to his already messed up psyche.

Actually, come to think of it, seems like early man was merely a prelude of things to come in the evolution that became ze mien. And quite frankly, the idea that a little monstrous fiend the likes of em may yet spring forth from some union in my future scares the living crap outta me!


  1. haha!! I remember ma narrating tales of how insane u were! We'd laugh so hard. U forgot the episode wea ma took u for shoppn.. U guys bot clad,most of it yours,n ma bot her personal effects 'without ur knowledge':at least she thot so. Then u got to the house n she calld some mamaz wit kids yo age waone venye hiyo base mlikuwa ina nguo poa zenu. Then u show up with her 'inners'
    u;ma umesahau kuwaonyesha hii(showin the garment)
    ma:babi unaleta suruali zako sitting room kwa nini?(with a 'dont-u-dare look n tone)
    u;hii si yangu,ni yako(u said,streching the elastic band on the waist,evidently letting everyone know twas her pants)!!!

  2. That one I DENY! Wasn me! Ha ha. Enyewe I was a nutter of a kiddo! I still recall how I got u n me to eat poisonous seeds eti ni 'omena'. I don think ma had ever seen so much puke before in her life. A whole week's worth of it!

  3. Emma I am absolutely insulted! This is not a 'ha ha ha' moment! It's a 'mu hu hu hu ha ha ha...mwa ha ha ha!' moment. Picture the guy in Mortal Kombat that goes "Flawless Victory" laughing THAT out loud. Cheers

  4. He he...glad to have caused such traumatising bliss - kama umekula lunch na ukaandika page kadhaa I believe you can call it a day :)


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