Happy New Year and Bye! 2015.


Then,  I would struggle to keep awake. I would count and wait. The entire of us surrounding a dying kitchen fire. That was long ago when the year took twice as long to conclude and you would only tell its done when you ferry your wooden desk to a class next door shouting viola! That was back then in the village and not everyone else was as determined to wait. The wait was just as tough and factors not as constant. The guys of rural electrification had not yet done their thing. The alternatives were as slim as sleeping with faith to wake up in the New Year, attending some hushed church service where a quarter congregation was asleep as soon as the sermon came to life or best doing the popular kitchen fire wait. Boy the later took my vote often.  Imagine waiting around the kitchen fire from as early as 5pm. The fire gives up and dies off slowly, the colds set in un announced then those noisy insects I told you I hate take over the air with a buzz. One by one guys retreat to sleep along the way. An hour to the main deal you are there in solitary determined to endure the wait. Perhaps to wake up in the new year to retell firsthand how the transition happened devoid of the popular myths. Yes you are burning with desire, but the hour proves unmoving. You doze of unknowingly only for your big sister to wake you up as she comes in to fix breakfast.

Yesterday I waited. Waited as I engaged my phone, heard music from the background and threw glances at the telly just across the room. I heard the noise, the shout, the joy and something spectacular was happening. The options had been as wide as attending the TSO_Totally sold out at the Kicc, doing the crossover from kasarani stadium, chilling in some noisy night club on Moi avenue, attending the overnight church service a doorstep away just to mention but a few. For some reason, I had not managed to choose among the many options available for the crossover and that’s how the sitting room won!


Yes, Grandmothers are heaven sent: Ask Esther Kiragu

And then you wake up in upcountry where the entire clan is meeting for Christmas.


You slowly leave the compound to have time to yourself, to reassess your life. As you leave, you pass by your grandmother’s kitchen and see a group of women busy cooking. Behind the kitchen, banana leaves have been spread on the ground where the men are preparing to slaughter a bull and 2 goats. You will be back before noon to eat, you tell yourself. You then take a walk around. You take photos and post them on Instagram with hashtags like #CountrysideLife #HumbleBeginnings #TembeaKenya


After an entire day of getting lost in neighbours’ shambas, you trudge back to the homestead, tired and hungry. Your mother sees you and asks you where you have been all day. She doesn’t wait for an answer because she is busy. She walks past. You follow her to the kitchen and say, to no one in particular, that you are hungry.


“The food is not yet ready,” says a fat, sweaty aunt, with a leso around her waist, red Ngoma rubber shoes, women’s guild T-shirt and a hideous weave, passing you by while carrying a large hotpot.


You try to comprehend.


You try to do the math.


You tilt your head slightly sideways while still looking at the group of women, and squint. You purse your lips and lightly place your forefinger on your chin.


You think.


You try to understand.


They have been cooking from 7AM. It is now 4PM. The food is not yet ready. HOW? Exactly how? What is going on? Has the fire been uncooperative? Are they cooking stones? Even if they are cooking stones, the stones should have been ready by noon, so which kind of stones are these that they are cooking? Your mother brings you left over breakfast; two slices of bread together, one spread with an iota of Blue Band and the other spread with the smell of jam, then cut into two triangular halves. The tea is a few drops of milk mixed with a tank of water and no sugar.


Then you get a phone call and you move to a quiet place to answer it. After you are done, you go back to find the food already served, and everyone is holding a  500ml bottle of soda of their choice while chewing food.


You try to comprehend.


You try to do the math.


This food was not yet ready. Suddenly, it has gotten ready and even served within the 2 minutes you were on the phone. HOW? What is going on? Are the gods conspiring against you? You look at the remaining sodas in the crate(s) and see that everyone has taken the decent sodas and only left Krests. And they are all warm. An aunt asks if you have gotten any food. You say no. She asks you to rush to the serving area since the food is almost finished. You get to the serving area and find that there are no plates. You start to frantically look for a plate. You contemplate using banana leaves, but how will they hold the watery under-salted soup? You finally find a plastic plate that has a layer of oil and dust. You have no time to wash it clean, so you run water over it and run to the serving area. But it is too late.


You try to comprehend.


You try to do the math.


This food has been cooking the entire day. This means that it was a sinfully huge amount of food. But it has gotten finished within 5 minutes. A bull and 2 goats were slaughtered. HOW? How is it possible?


You only manage to get the burnt crust of the rice, a drop of the soup and half a potato. All the chapatis are gone. All the meat is gone. You look at the gathering of family and relatives eating the good food gluttonously and you feel tears cutting through your eyes . Even the cousin visiting from overseas, who has an annoyingly forced American accent, is eating. The previous night, this cousin had sworn they were allergic to the food and that they wanted pizza.


You go to hide in grandmother’s kitchen to cry in private and then eat the leftovers there. You find grandmother burying some sweet potatoes in the hot hearth. She looks at your plate of food questioningly.


“I found the food already finished,” you say with a shrug, pretending it doesn’t matter.


Then she opens her cupboard and retrieves a generous plateful of meat stew and some chapatis. She gives it to you.


“Eat this,” she tells you.


She reaches for her Fanta blackcurrant that is hidden behind the cupboard and gives it to you as well, saying she doesn’t take sugar. Then she peels roasted sweet potatoes for you as she advises you to eat because she does not want to see those collar bones.


Grandmothers are sent from heaven:Esther kiragu. 



One thought on “HERE COMES A NEW BORN

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