When you have the face of a middle aged man, the metabolism of a middle aged man and the woman you were last seen with (Hi sweetheart) says you dress like a middle aged man, a couple of people you meet are bound to ask for your counsel on an array of issues that are beyond your experience . And if you squint your eyes when you talk (because you think it makes you look intelligent, and also because you don’t make enough money to visit the optician for a pair of sunglasses), they generally take it that you have seen better days. It doesn’t help matters that you have a big head on small shoulders and round cheeks.
People in matatus start conversations with you about marriage assuming that you must have put someone’s daughter in the family way. Some indulge you on ways to keep a wife when the only way you know of keeping a woman is praying for bad weather. Or hiding her shoes. Some are surprised that a man with such an honorable protrusion on his abdomen has not spawned an offspring. These ones do not know that the returns for my labor is so minimal that even buying an unbudgeted-for tomato could haul me into recession. Like the old man I met yesterday while in the pursuit of my daily bread.
I had gotten lost while looking for a customer of the power utility company I work for. Because most customers aren’t particularly great at sketching maps, I heavily rely on the internal GPS that guided my ancestors from the present day South Sudan to the shores of Lake Victoria, which failed me today. Instead it led me to the home of a wannabe kaya elder where I was offered a bride and a drink—mnazi. Palm wine. The elder pondered why an eligible bachelor like me who works for a good company still hasn’t started a family yet. (He doesn’t know I’m way down the pecking order that I can’t even see the career ladder). Naturally, I got offended. No, not at the bride. She was fine. The lady was a real beauty. She was gorgeous. A light skin with soft features and a lyrical coastal accent. Except for the small matter of dropping out of school and having been married twice. She doesn’t make the cut, even if it’s just a trophy wife you are looking for. Gima otamo dichwo wadu ok iketie kori. Translation; ‘All men are the same’, what makes you think you can do what the previous two couldn’t do?
It is the offer for a drink that I offensive. You see, I boast of membership to two counties that distill some of the finest vodkas and gins this side of Madagascar. The fact that there we are not exporting Rasanganoff vodka or Oparanya Gin to Russia and Belarus is a pointer to the quality of leadership in my home counties. These micro distilleries have products so pure that a single shot is sufficient to tranquilize an escaped game animal. The enthusiasm exhibited by JoNarobi for these distilled products when they return to the villages for the festive holidays is such that they pass by mamas pima’s home before they even go to see their own mothers and wives who have since been informally inherited by the bodaboda operators. They never call it chang’aa—that’s a term they reserve for when they are licking cocktail glasses at a company get together.
I had a grand-uncle who partook this local elixir for the better part of his life and still outlived all his brothers, including my very own grandfather who instead chose the white man’s drink and their lofty standard marks of quality. And another who was a reverend and drank the blood of the lamb. He was nothing like those louts you see swimming in rain water down the alley. He always dressed sharply before riding his bicycle to the distillery. Now you see, the law enforcement agencies have never been known to support local industries so inevitably he had a couple of run-ins with the police. Actually, a lot of them. However, he was never caught even during his sunset years. Folklore has it that he could outrun the youngest of revelers with his bicycle on his shoulders. He was never arrested until he succumbed to old age(unrelated to alcohol consumption) in his mid-eighties.
With this kind of samurai blood coursing through my vein, you would understand my taking offence at the offer of mnazi. There is no way I was going to subject my forefathers to the mockery of their peers by partaking of palm wine infused with beetroot juice. While Luhya forefathers are rolling in their graves with pride how much posho their grandsons can clear, mine would be relegated to narrating, amidst sneers, how the derivative of their loins is sipping palm wine at the Kenyan coast. No way! That is also ignoring the fact that mnazi leaves those who drink it smelling like they bathed in a pool of dissolved fertilizer. Also, alcohol has been known to impair judgment and since I was to choose a bride, doing so with an impaired judgment isn’t advisable.
I told him that my position at the company doesn’t allow me to go back to the office reeking of fertilizer. A statement which he interpreted that I held a somewhat senior position and it would be a bad example to my subordinates to drink while on the job. An hour later and a promise of returning the next weekend for ‘proper’ dowry negotiations, he finally gave me the directions to the place I was looking for.