All I remember of Mr. Karimi was that he wore a clean shirt every day, and a tie I think. I don’t remember his face, but I remember his voice.
He was a self made comedian during parade, making us in lower class laugh but the class eight gimlet eyed teenagers would be very silent when he cracked jokes. I guess they weren’t really jokes.
He said one day; ‘If you don’t pass your KCPE this time, don’t think you can come in January
next year and expect to be taken back. No, We shall just give you a bowl to cry in. You can fill it with your tears but we’ll give you another one, then you can go home after that.’ The school had some faded cream and yellow bowls to eat Githeri from.
There was an episode when girls in the school started to get pregnant immediately after class eight and other such scandals because one Monday he came and said.
‘Sooo, Sundays are your outing days eh? Someone brings you Mũtungo(boiled maize) and Tropical (mints) and you walk hand in hand up the hill kwa Amos -Kwa Amos was some hilly woods that were think with cedars and cypress, with thick ferns covering the underground. There was also a very clear stream running between the hills-
‘He says “I love you.”
You say, “Too much.”
It becomes a song I love you, too much, I love you, too much’
And Mr.Karimi was swinging his backside from side to side. It was hilarious.
It was 1992 and I still strongly believed boys were disgusting. I walked around without a petticoat and didn’t know it, until one Saturday morning cũcũ asked me to put on that orange dress that was my Sunday best and said we were going to Endarasha.
We walked into a shop and she asked for tũmithi twa tũirĩtu. The woman behind the counter took a long pole with a hook on its end and pulled down a black cotton petticoat from the school uniforms section.
This shop looks like Garissa Lodge, Bata,Kalu works and Twiga textiles had a collision, apart from the fact that it’s only one small room with a tiny window, very tiny window that is mostly a peep hole.
My cũcũ is a regular customer here. Her women’s chama also buys house ware from here. The woman then pulls down a green half petticoat.
‘These are popular for their big zigzag lace.’ She informs us.
Cũcũ is not about to cater for such fancies. She settles for a black full body one with just a slither of lace.
On our way home we pass by a tailor’s house and cũcũ shows her the petticoat and orders a similar one from the woman. This one will be cheaper; this tailor makes all my dresses, even my underwear from the bits that remain from the dress fabrics, even though it’s kinda rough.
Kumbe Mr. Karĩmi had sent word to cũcũ that the girl needs a kamisi. The following year, he is also sees to it that my little cousin has been bought tũraba (Ngoma Bata canvas shoes). I suppose she might have been wearing gumboots or pumps to school.
I remembered him today as I stood beside my clothes’ closet trying to decide if to wear a kamisi or just stockings. I am prudish. I always wear one imagining I might bump into Mr Karimi in town and he might discover I am not wearing a kamisi and he might call up cũcũ to say I’ve become a bad girl, walking around kamisiless, and cũcũ fearing any more recriminations from the head master might send me one of hers by 2NK Matatus, or have one made for me.
In primary school ,some teachers relished in embarrassing kids
-come here, you silly boy and tell your mother to stop shaving your head using scissors, a haircut is five shillings only-
Mr. Karĩmi was different, he was not out to embarrass anybody.
I saw Mr. Karĩmi at my best friend’s brother’s burial. He remembered me and said I had really grown up,I was in form 1.
I wonder if he still teaches.