Earlier this week I managed to get away from the city for a few days and went to the village. I was scheduled to attend my aunt’s (my father’s youngest sister) burial on Tuesday, but Nkaissery’s heart was softened and he declared Monday a public holiday. So I left on Sunday afternoon, just after the Sunday service. The change of plans was so sudden that I completely forgot to inform my mother, and only remembered while in the church service and sent her a text. She replied by saying that I should go directly to my grandma’s (Mrs Maroncha’s) place.
Mrs Maroncha was naturally excited to see me. I haven’t seen her since Easter, though we do talk on phone. My mother was busy cooking when I arrived, so Mrs Maroncha served me tea and boiled sweet potatoes. Then she sat with me to update me on the latest news in the village. My young cousin Joy came and after greetings joined my mother in the kitchen. Mum knew exactly how to touch me-Chapati and beef stew. We had a lovely reunion that evening. There is always something peaceful about Mrs Maroncha’s household. By the way peeps, this is where I largely grew up, and my grandma is like a second mother to me.
The following morning my alarm went off at 5am as usual. I rose and rubbed my eyes. Everything looked unfamiliar. Then I remembered that it was Monday yes, but I was in the village and wasn’t going to the office. I gave my phone a wicked look and murmured:
“Today I win buddy”
And with that I rolled back, pulled the duvet over me and went back to sleep. I don’t know if it is just me, but I find the dawn sleep particularly enticing. When I was in high school I preferred working late to avoid waking up early in the morning. My younger brother tells me that they have now made the morning prep mandatory, and I am glad they did that after I left. It is the same reason I hate early Saturday morning engagements. I wake up early from Sunday to Friday, and therefore I hold my Saturday morning date with my bed very dearly. Same reason I prefer doing my devotion in the evening before I sleep. It just can’t work in the morning. My brain starts functioning after 6.30am.
I woke up at around 8.30 am when I heard Mrs Maroncha talking. So I rolled out of bed and went outside. The morning sunshine was beautiful, therefore I found a stool and sat outside. Later, my mum and my grandma joined me and we had breakfast outside. My cousins had left for school early (schools these days don’t respect public holidays?). Then my mum suggested that she and I go to Mrs Maroncha’s farm to irrigate her crops as she went about preparing lunch.
Now, here is the thing peeps. Neither my mum nor I have done farm work for a long time. This was largely an experimental idea, to see if sitting behind desks has made our bones soft. So we took buckets and went to the farm. My grandma’s farm has canals crossing it, so you fetch water in buckets from the canals and pour it in the holes where the maize seeds had been planted. After a short while mum started complaining that her heart was beating faster than 72 times per minute. Like really now. I reminded her that Mrs Maroncha was 80 and still did the work herself, though sometimes with help from hired hands. Then it so happened that mum had misunderstood Mrs Maroncha’s instructions, and we had started by watering holes that had no seeds. My grandma laughed her heart out. The net result was that we spent almost the entire day in the farm. Which was fun though, as we had some lovely mother-son moments as we did the work, never mind the unforgiving sun.
We freshened up and took lunch late in the evening. My mum then left for home. My eldest cousin Carol came along and we spent a long time catching up. This girl is an amazing piece of work, and leaves me in stitches. We only meet about twice or thrice a year, but it always feels like we meet every other day. We took so long talking that we did not notice night time coming. And so I had to escort her back to her place. Now peeps, walking in the village at night is delightful. Those lovers who imagine the beach represents everything romantic should try a moon walk in a rural village. The place is usually quiet save for the occasional barking of a dog, or the chirping of crickets. If the sky is clear like Monday night, the moon casts long shadows from trees adding to the intrigue of the night. Dogs and other small animals like hiding behind the shadows and making funny sounds.
Occasionally, you will meet a lone man walking. He will usually be dressed in a heavy jacket and a “monkeyface” (remember that headgear mothers used to force us to wear when we were kids?) and a wide hat. He will usually be holding a thick stick on one hand and a torch in the other. Perhaps a night watchman going to work in some middleclass home. And work for him entails making rounds and flashing the torch around the home before the family sleeps. Once the last light is out, he finds a cozy corner and dozes off. But makes sure he wakes up before the househelp wakes up to prepare breakfast at 5am. See, security is a feeling. Make the family feel protected, and all is well. They feel secure, and you get your sleep plus salary, and everyone is happy.
I woke up at 8 am on Tuesday. Mrs Maroncha had already prepared breakfast and so I took it, took a shower and dressed. This was the day of the funeral. My grandma could not come along because one of my aunts was feeling unwell, and so I left alone. Along the way I met an elderly neighbor, who was also going to the funeral. He is my uncle by the way. See, his father was married to the daughter of the man who happened to be the cousin of the woman who was married to the brother in law of my great grandfather’s eldest wife. We were late, and so we followed the funeral convoy by public means. It happens that the funeral was taking place some distance off the road, and so we had to walk for a while.
As we walked, my uncle told me about his first love, which was long before he got married. She was Somali, tall and light skinned. And she loved him with passion, at least according to him.
“Si unajua vile wanawake hupenda mtu?” he asked casually. Apparently men in his generation have never heard of the word friendzone. And I suspected that if I told him that there is a deeper zone called the familyzone, he would have stared at me in horror like I was the first serious fool he has ever seen. Not wanting to lower my status in the old man’s eyes, I nodded wisely:
“Sasa mimi nilifikiria kumuoa. Lakini nikaona ataniitia hao mashifta wa kwao siku moja wanikujie huku Meru na wanifanye makosa. Unajua hiyo wakati nilikuwa nafanya kazi huko Moyale. Lakini nikaona siwezi nikamwacha hivyo kwa sababu alikuwa ananisaidia kwa njia mingi. Nikamtafutia kazi kwa prison. Unajua hata ukifanya usherati, unaweza ukapunguziwa adhabu na Mungu ukitendea huyo msichana mazuri. Lakini ukimuacha tu hivyo utafuatwa na laana,” he said, feeling very proud of himself.
Then he gave me a sermon about God’s forgiveness and punishment until we got to the burial. At the burial, I met many of my relatives who I had no idea existed. My dad introduced me to many cousins, uncles and aunties. I was also surprised to learn that I am related to some of my primary school and high school mates. So when I went back to my grandma’s that evening, I had a simple question:
“Mrs Maroncha, up to which degree of kinship am I prohibited by custom to marry?”
She looked at me with kind eyes that suggested that this was the silliest question she had ever heard in her 80 years’ existence on the planet.
“You can’t marry your relatives,” she said simply.
Wait, what? From what I saw at the burial, that probably means I can’t marry anyone from the Mwimbi, Igoji, Imenti, Muthambi and Chuka subtribes of the Meru tribe. That leaves only Igembe, Tigania, and Tharaka, who I should also probably avoid as a precautionary measure. Because there is my mother’s side to consider as well. And I can’t even marry a Somali because my uncle sowed some wild oats there. I am done. I am getting me an Indian. A darkish Indian girl with long silky hair. Surely, my ancestors’ tentacles could not possibly have reached New Delhi, could they? Or maybe I should move further East to Singapore, just in case one of my ancestors was captured by Arabs and taken to Bombay in a dhow. Plus I think it’s in Singapore where there are the dark “Indians”, no? And I am absolutely sure my ancestors had no idea where Singapore is.