You notice you are in Bulimbo- that village where my beautiful mother got married, when your car(if at all those unroadworthy third hand jalopies qualify to be christened such) gets stuck in mad and in the process breaks down and the only available spare part or tool at the nearest hardware shop is, well, ehh, a sledge hammer! Or when you hear virtually everyone refereeing to dry cells (radio batteries) as mawe (sic)! I mean, where else would one- knowingly, buy a bootleg movie- at 50 bob, and still complain bitterly about its third-rate quality, if not in Bulimbo? It is a typical African village.
So unique is this village that their interpersonal communication will leave one marvelling From older men habitually talking to themselves, to their female counterparts being able to accomplish some notable feats, traditionally considered to be men’s preserves (which I swear some boys masquerading as men in Nairobi cannot accomplish, anyway). A case in point is beckoning an individual in the distance by shrilling a high pitched whistle-makanga style! Women of Bulimbo have a penchant for gossiping, at times the presence of their subject notwithstanding. And the funny bit about it is that when they gossip about an individual who is within earshot, they inaudibly do it without moving their lips! Gory stuff is exchanged but under their breaths before being punctuated with some giggles and rapturous laughs! You are giving me teeth (euphemism for cracking someone up), one of them would tell the other in a bid to coax her to spill more beans. Here, during meetings, when people don’t beat by the bush to kill time, they grant, do uncalled for clearing of throats, eehs, aahs, and unnecessarily pause when putting across serious points, for special effect-perhaps! Vintage village communication, I tell you!
In Bulimbo, business and my people are two strange bedfellows. First of all, not once or twice have I gone to a ‘hotel’ for lunch only to find the darn thing temporarily shut down. And upon inquiring about the whereabouts of the proprietor, only to be told that they had dashed to their house for a short-well-deserved lunch break! How do we even achieve that pipe dream-vision 2030, with such jokers masquerading as businessmen? If that doesn’t justify my pessimistic optimism nature of neither seeing the proverbial cup half empty or full but constantly filling and emptying at the same time, what else does? Even with your PhDs you don’t fit in-just like that. You must take time to understand the dynamics of the social life of Bulimbo. This village is simple in a very complex way! The village wisdom here will blow your mind. For instance, on the small matter of virtues like honesty, as a neighbour you are subtly judged by the very simple gesture of whether or not you ever surrender eggs that a desperate-for-privacy neighbour’s chicken lay at your place!
All along I have known this place to be very welcoming and friendly but my last visit proved otherwise. It amazed me that some strange and antisocial traits-from Nairobi, have in filtered into this once lovely village. We have these dingy and smoky hotels at the market, where men-each, buy a cup of tea and while a way time as they gossip-with decorum, of course. While there, I bumped into a rude shock upon seeing ‘NO IDLING HERE’ stickers all over the place. I saw that and I was like dah, like seriously, where else do they expect villagers to idle- and kill time, if not at the hotels and barbershops. Beneath tree shades-a preserve of women, hell to the no, I mused. Tell it to the birds, I dismissed with a tired wave of the hand as I planted myself on the bench at the veranda.
A hotel so dirty that even no self-respecting house fly would venture in without donning protective gear like gloves and gumboots, ha! And here they are, in a rather pompous way, proclaiming that they-‘management’(I saw that word and I could not help but somersault on the ground with laughter, wondering whether these jokers even have the roughest of idea of what management is all about) abhor and frown upon idleness. Since when, I was tempted to scream. Before I could walk away in protest (probably to search for a nice tree shade to idle under)one rather conspicuous sign post in the next building arrested my attention. Naming them on this blog will scandalize their business but the thing is, it was a wretched hovel boasting of massage services they offer. Bulimbo! Bulimbo! Bulimbo! A massage parlour in my Bulimbo? Never ever.
Was this the same good old- but very primitive, Bulimbo where in a primary school that I was attending many years ago, the headmaster- a tall weary and emaciated chap, sulked for a couple of days on the account that a new teacher unaware of the staff culture, had made a habit of over-zealously arriving early and unwittingly parking his bicycle against a tree that was, although not indicated, always ‘reserved’ for him? Ha! (Those were the good old days before headmasters could even afford the then fashionable 504 Peugeot jalopies. And for your information- you who is perhaps reading this and chuckling, back in the day bicycles were not for every Tom, Dick, Hurry and Kamau! They were a perfect example of what students of economics at university call goods of ostentation and only afforded as a means of transport by serious people like Headmasters and a few progressive and upwardly mobile teachers. Mind you maintaining that said means of transport was not easy also. People of a certain age will tell you there was a certain levy called county tax. Failure to prove that you had paid upon being flagged down by a council askari you risked the darn thing being confiscated or being arraigned in court.) I could not believe that this was the same Bulimbo now oozing sophistication!
However ,despite this and other ‘sophistications’ and ‘development’ here and there, like folks paying to defecate at the market latrines, we are still lagging behind in as far as certain serious areas are concerned. A case in point is the medical facilities which are still crap. When my relative fractured his hand at the playing ground, upon being rushed to the dispensary, those on duty took him in for an x-ray examination and guess what? He was asked to go home and it was after critical analysis and examination of his x-ray results that they will, and you guessed right, call him! They took his cell phone number! In such a situation, isn’t laughter the best medicine, I mused. I tried to jog my memory-in vain, to think of any veterinary officer maybe he could have ‘done something’. So desperate was our souls that I almost suggested we rush him to the nearest carpenter!
Concerning jobs, very little has been done. Most of the jobs available one does not need much training, only one and very important qualification is needed- muscle! And you are good to go. If you are fortunate enough to be among the very few who make it to University, you must always brace yourself for the agony that comes with it. When a neighbor’s cow wants to give birth you –the university guy, is the person they look for, your rocket science degree having nothing to do with animal midwifery notwithstanding. Even after making it very clear to them that your training restricts you to a limited scope of expertise, folks will still find it necessary to nag you to provide an ‘experts opinion’ on a matter you have no idea-of course no consultation fee is provided after all! Just because an individual works at a hospital- as a cook or a watchman perhaps, when a villager falls sick they always find it necessary to seek his council or ‘to do something’. For Christ sake, what does a watchman know about bacteria?
In that neck of the woods, insecurity is rife. Like I once told you, so high are the levels of this menace that nothing – nocturnal insects like mosquitoes included, hardly venture out at night. In fact, the levels of insecurity In Bulimbo are inversely proportional to spread of malaria, imagine! Africans doing research on the cure of malaria and campaigning for its eradication don’t pop the champagne yet, relax, I’m yet to release the full report. And someone will still ask me what my contribution to civilization is? Like seriously? I hope nobody spreads malicious rumours that Malesi has suggested that we create conducive environment for insecurity in a bid to curb malaria! But I’m working on it.
To the extent of discovering how insecurity can be ‘useful’, clearly, I and insecurity have come a long way. Were it not for my guardian angel and my supreme nature that always conspire to keep all the savages in check and protect me, I would have been dispatched to hell long time ago. You see, my old man subjected me to it at quite an early age. If you are reading this and you think sharing a room with axes, machetes, hoes, spears and other crude weapons is not sufficient insecurity, how about you step forward and point out what is. In a place where it’s taboo for circumcised boys to sleep under the same roof with their fathers, sleeping in the store/ granary is never an option but mandatory (Competing for resources –especially space, with uncooperative insects like bedbugs and cockroaches was common place. Even after accidentally injuring-by stepping upon, some of cockroaches, I would still spot them -the following day, defiantly crawl across the floor with a limp- haltingly! Thorough entertainment for sadists like yours truly back then). Never mind that that store is always ridiculously positioned next to the gate!
As if that is even sufficient to make me use ‘insecurity’ as my middle name, I live with a Nyeri woman-a crude weapon in as far as street and bar wisdom goes. Ha! In Bulimbo you get attacked and robbed not just at knife point but you are fixed like a snake-in the process. Even when you immediately surrender all the cash, you can never avoid the beatings and torture. As a man, your privates are squeezed- proper, as they strangle you and in the process abuse your grandmother, imagine! While all this is going on, one of them goes straight to two places; your socks to retrieve that 50bob we always hide there- for emergency(just in case, you know), and in that tinny pocket patched on your underwear before embarking on ransacking other parts that they are never sure about-your pockets and wallet. Woe unto you if you are in the company of your wife, they must touch her inappropriately and fondle her.