The village that brought me up. A follow up from an earlier article here.
Muturi the village drunkard.
There were many other drunkards in the village but Muturi stood out for me because he was our immediate neighbor. He also sang the loudest in the deadest of night and he had a penchant for blacking out in ditches. His wife’s first order of business most mornings at the crack of dawn was to locate him and bring him home before the world woke up and found him sprawled in some ditch. To hide family shame.
Often times he was unwittingly our official time keeper. Whenever my siblings and I wanted to stay up late over weekends, we promised Mum that we would go to bed when he sang. ‘Mum tutalala Muturi akiimba’. So simple, worked like a charm. Many nights, first words of his croaky tune and we’d all laugh and scamper to bed.
When I was growing up, I did get unfortunate enough to see him in his drunken stupor a few times and I vowed, whatever this alcohol thing is, I’m never touching it. Fast forward, whatever this alcohol thing is, I’m never touching it to an extent of sleeping under my neighbor’s thicket fence.
Muturi unfortunately died of pneumonia but the village being the village, this is how Kiimu (Kimani) described his death in one of those one liners whose full nuance can only be fully expressed and understood in mother tongue: “alcohol liquefied all his lungs, liver, kidneys…. everything, even the pancreas. Then he coughed and splattered them out and died”. I know.
Kiimu was and still is the village clown and story teller. He told stories with his entire being. His tone of voice, full motion of gestures, shameless exaggeration, mastery of the Kikuyu language and wicked wicked humour were priceless. He worked mornings and headed to the shopping center later afternoons to sell sugar cane and to well, tell stories. He had something to say about everything but he was not annoying about it because he was so damn hilarious.
One of Kiimu’s favourite topics was Mombasa. Never mind that he has never been there but he told and retold stories of the place in his characteristic style that could only have one falling over themselves in laughter. He told tales of the people who supposedly found themselves naked on top of trees after a fun night with the so called jinis of the coast. The ones who are said to come in the form of very beautiful women. He told of the ferry and how it carries many many cars and even more people at a go. He authoritatively described features of Mombasa in a way you’d think he has been there.
When phones came about, Kiimu was not quick to buy one – partly because of the cost and partly because he swore he would never need one. That he knew where he could reach all the people in his circles by just walking to their houses or places of business. He often joked that his talkative self would need millions of shillings worth of airtime just so he could exhaust even half of his stories.
He finally cracked and bought himself a feature phone and his children later got him what he called an internet phone. By that he meant a smartphone – just that his main interest in it was to be able to access the internet albeit via heavy guidance from whoever was close by who knew how to navigate. And by heavy guidance I mean the helper did everything :-D.
I often found Kiimu at the market and the fact that I was from Mombasa was enough to spark his interest and get him talking and asking for updates about the place. Now that he had a smartphone, he made me promise to send him photos from Mombasa when I got back and I did! I took photos of the beach, the ferry area, Mama Ngina drive and other interesting areas of Mombasa and sent him. Just so he could tell his stories with a bit more spice and reality.
Despite mentioning that he would need millions in airtime, he actually does not talk much on phone and still keeps the old habit of having his thumb on standby on the disconnect button. But he loves technology and he actually does spend some money on data bundles to access jokes and inspirational messages on whatsapp. And photos of Mombasa before I left.
Kiimu is among the people back in my village who I’ll never forget. Do you have such characters back home who stand out? Post them here and let’s remember our upbringings together. And not just the village. Anything or anyone you feel made or is making an impact in your life.