Friday, April 11, 2008

Name calling

My uncle,he always forgot our names.He’d never admit that but I know that’s the reason he never calls any of us by name.

When we were young,me and my three cousins had names specially designed.I was machang’i,because of my hair that stood out from my head like branches.My cousin was kabuyu,because he was shaped like a jerry can, and the youngest was mbuku,because she liked to hide behind the house and you’d find her crouching like a rabbit.

Personally I didn’t like the nickname,I’d have preferred if he’d called me by name.The title kabuyu always caused fights if anyone but mama used it,and mbuku,it stuck.Nothing would stop mama from using the names, infact the more we resisted the more he used them and the more it caused laughter from the neighbours. There were of course,other temporary ones as the need arose.

As I grew older and learnt to hold down my hair,and grew tall,I became muraihu{the tall one}which was used inter-changeably with the other one,giraffe.Kabuyu became kibuyu{a big jerrycan} and mbuku became ka J{ka Jobless}This,we don’t explain to anyone coz mama coined it from J’S habit of hiding so that she wouldn’t be assigned any duties.Now we simply call her J and tell everyone it means junior co she was the small one though now she has bigger hips than me and isn’t afraid of work.

We finally grew up and left the nest.Mama is now raising his own kids,two boys,10 years apart.The older one is titled Kihii,just kihii{meaning just,a boy}the younger one they call ndungu{fat}.Mama is comical,it’s nice to know that not even the dropping prices for farm produce can suppress his humour.

Bugs Bunny

When I was a young happy girl growing up in my granma and mama’s farm,I picked up smells and identified things by their smell.Like the rabbits I reared.Their fur has a comfortable scent that makes you want to cuddle . It’s not the same smell when someone has butchered the little balls of fur and they are cooking together with some vegetables, what used to be the rabbits’ food.

Mama would scold me daily if I didn’t give enough leaves to the poor animals and even if it was dark and misty I’d go out carrying a touch to pick a few leaves.How is one supposed to know which leaves are green when it’s dark?

I would have to smell the leaves to know which were safe and which would fetch me a beating. If by mistake a single onion stem got into the mix and the nose missed it, wo!

I’d be peeled,kuunurwo,proper.To be one the safe side,I’d try to trace some spinach and banana leaves.The spinach would definitely result into a beating,lucern was out of the question,that was for the dairy cows.Pigweed was for the sheep, cabbage leaves for the chicken, and the kales we ate.To differentiate the weeds in the dark was the hardest task.Some weeds made the rabbits' ears sick.

So apart from sharpening my sense of smell,my sense of touch just had to catch up.That’s how I I’d know how to get the blackjack and not the stinging nettle and how to avoid the Datura thorn apple.

One day after my night tour I smelt datura but, assumed the smell was coming from my gumboots and clothes since I had been wading among the weeds.When I got to the hutch mama was waiting . I was mumbling prayers, when I handed the leaves to mama for inspection and was pretending to scrape the mud and weeds from my boots on the grass.I looked up when he said nothing for a whole minute ,he was holding up-a datura thorn apple leaf-along with a face that’d have split a log of cider.

Mwana uyu kai ugucagia kii?{you child,what drug do you use?}

Ugatwira mbuku magurukia?{you got datura for the rabbits?}

Datura, in kikuyu if translated would mean the plant that causes madness.

I could never answer my uncle back so I just kept quiet and the smell of the plum tree cane intensified[that was what I received my strokes from,a fresh pimpled stick} ,and the taste of tears was strong in my mouth.My ears were itching and I could not even hear what he was saying.Just the strong voice of my cucu in the kitchen saying to tata:

Ici mbuku ni ciaki ituragia mwana na kiriro[what’s the use of these rabbits ,they just bring tears to the child]

But at the moment,any beating was alright,as long as I kept my rabbits,and my cats,and the puppies,and the chicken,and the trees I was watering every evening and forgetting to feed the rabbits.

Now that I moved into the city I hate it each day because you will not imagine the smells I pick.But I can still remember how blue gum leaves smell and taste,how the sap smells and taste, how the blade of a two handle saw smells after it has been sawing through wood all day.

When I see rabbits,I remember the old times how mama threatened to set free all the rabbits if I didn’t feed them enough.

I read in a magazine that just because rabbits have long ears doesn’t mean they should be used as handles.I read that somewhere and laughed because mama would scold me when I held my chicken like a cat,not roughly by the legs,like a handbag.Yet,he doesn’t get near chickens himself.He says they are full of fleas,and a health hazard,their sole purpose to destroy his cabbages


Tata-aunt,mama’s wife

Cucu-grand mother

Talk is Cheap

Language,speech,the means of communication.When I think of language,I like to lean more on the written bit of it,and for a good reason.

The few times I have tried to say something in public,and especially when a microphone is involved,my heart beats 142 times per minute,and that is when I have taken deep breaths.

What happens I’ve surveyed is despite having the idea clear in mind,when I start to speak,boy.My mind behaves like a faulty marquee. I only have single words and letters in the mind,and that’s what I grip to.If I had to say something like.

-It is important to retain the literary form of any piece of work when posting a blog.

I’ll have literary ,important, piece of work, blog in mind

And try as I might,the correct order can’t come so I might end up saying something like:

Remember it is important to, for a blogger, um,any time, when posting um literary works to retain the literary bit of the piece of work.

A pack of too many words which most times won’t make any sense.

Ken Njuguna says it’s always better when written and I agree,talk is cheap,some say. Literally, I agree. Because as you talk,you don’t think much about what you’re going to say and what comes out is not quality.

So writing is the better option,and when you have to talk,always have an outline.But then you might sound boring,or abrupt,or even out of your mind.The other day someone I respect asked me

-how’s you cat doing, okay?

I said yeah. Yeah, and should have said thanks and shut my mouth but heck I asked and, how is your fish?

Well if he had a fish it would have been fine, but he never told me he got a fish,so he asked

-A fish?-

And I asked

-what do you have?

And he said I believe to rescue me;

-I have a couple of mosquitoes, some of them are dead..-

So you,see,talk is overated.That’s why I write,even to my gran who can’t read.I figure she can always ask someone to read the letter or text to her.

Efficiency, why we must learn to be.

 There are no schools that you will sign up to to learn how to be efficient. Most will teach you a profession or a skill and it's up to ...