Monday, June 23, 2008

T 9

When I was small,there were three things I feared.An ogre,a T-9 and a Kanyutu.
In my mother tongue,a big person is called a kimundu,following the ngeli ya m-ki.A normal person is a mundu.A big p erson is also called impolitely, irimu.Irimu is an ogre. One day I watched as a child ran back to it’s mother saying-mami mami!Irimu!" In front of them a very tall man stood.
Mama told me that there were three times of marimu,those that carry baskets{irimu cia nyakondo},those that have three eyes, and Cain. I feared the first time most because if they came across you,they put you in their basket and took you to their very old grandmother who would boil you in a large pot as the ogres played a game of fire jump.Cain I was told could only be seen by children. I was not very afraid of him because he was only one and I believed if he was still making his round mwenda,he’d be somewhere as far as America,and before he returned I’d have grown up and wouldn’t see him.
When mama narrates a story he’s very dramatic, if he wasn’t so attached to his potato and cabbage plants, and his three cows,burugei, bahati and nyakairu, he would have made a career from telling stories,then his age mates would think he’s gone soft in the head,and kids would make fun of his sons at school.Though I doubt he’d get paid anything close to what he earns from one gunia of wheat for two or even 3 narrations.
So kanyutu he told me,was an animal that walked on it’s two legs, it was beige in color and could move faster than my dog chui running away from cucu if she found it in the kitchen watching me peel potatoes.
He said Kanyutu’s favourite food was cow’s udders. It would snatch the udder right out from under the unsuspecting cow and before the cow realized it was missing an important bargaining part ,fainted,then got up to moo, kanyutu would be in charity{charity was a village about 25 km from our village,up up the hills},disgorging another udder,and when the alarm was raised there,kanyutu would be in Baringo, another hilly 25 kms. Carrying the two udders like money bags from both hands, you can imagine, like a man running away and looking behind once in a while. The way he put it, kanyutu would know in advance where to go, and his route back so there was no way to keep watch to catch him.
I lived in terror of kanyutu.He said no one ever saw a kanyutu.
Last weekend,my neighbor was listening to Coro fm at his kiosk and when I went to buy a bamba twenty . I heard them mention kanyutu . I asked him what it was and he pointed to his calendar.I laughed.In my mind all this time,I had assumed mama had made up the story .Kumbe, a kanyutu is cheetah, and this time, the name was not even coined by mama.
The other cause of fear was a T9.These,everyone said were some very tiny rubies ridden dogs released from Uganda by Idd Amin.I don’t know how true that is .I never saw one but I saw it’s effects .When T9 caught up with your dog,the dog went mad immediately and started biting everything in sight.
One of cucu’s friend had only two cows, one they fondly called gathambu,and another silky one which gave them more milk. Gathambu gave about a cup and a half. When the T9 Paid their shed a visit, it bit the silky one. Now , the rule was that I such a case, one had to report immediately to the chief. Then the chief would send some askari to shoot down the animal. I remember that day, many men gathered in the field and dug a hole, like a grave then tied the cow with ropes and bang! It fell into the hole. We, the women folk were a bit far off , it felt like a funeral.
When two of my cucu’s cows were bitten, cucu was very sad. One died the following day, the other had to be killed. Now that I think about it, it must have been a very big loss. The neighbours came to comfort us.
Had it been a calf or a bull, the loss would have been minimal.
With dairy cows, there is always a connection. Which comes naturally from all those days you lean your head into their stomachs as you milk them twice even three times in a day and when you stay up with them to help them calve at 3a.m.No wonder the naming. Daisy , Rosy, Gathambu.
I have never understood how a small dog will just bite one animal and go the next, why just wound while it could bite, even eat the animal, maybe a calf and die happy instead of all the mad running around.
Ogres don’t scare me anymore, although when I meet a very huge person, I look again, just to make sure .
These fears are no longer prominent, but when I go to visit cucu and it gets dark and from the forest comes all sorts of sounds, I think-there is a kanyutu nearby,and that’s a fact.


  1. I understand these ogre fears oh so well having lived in the countryside when the country still had a forest. Nights then were concealing, and you could actually touch the darkness. At such times I would feel the three-eyed orgre you describe so well. I think there was a picture of one in my standard 5 English story book!

    But what touches me in your story is the heartbreaking, vivid recall of that cow you knew and loved. The one they had to shoot. We didn't have one we had to shoot, but I remember helping a couple of them give birth at mdinight. Strange how they always gave birth at such odd hours! One of those was called NYAKIO--dilligence-- perhaps. . .
    Well, she had just given birth to this huge calf, her third. We loved her for the abundance of milk she provided, and so this third time we hoped for the same. She wasn't three-times lucky because in two weeks she died. The vet said she had so much milk to give; it became her death! She had a rare 'milk disease' which made her mammary glands overwork thus making her udder swell. In her last days she couldn't stand. . . I still remember where she had lain. A garage stands there now.
    Ciss, thanks for the memories. I love your vivid imagery. You have such a subtle touch on 'recall', yet you make one live it. George.

  2. thanks George.I didn't know you also raised animals.Always thought you were an uptown boy :)