Friday, June 14, 2024

Life in moderation: New blog in Diaspora Messenger-Ruto Nyama choma

Life in moderation: New blog in Diaspora Messenger-Ruto Nyama choma
Life in moderation: New blog in Diaspora Messenger-Ruto Nyama choma

Wherever one find East Africans — one invariably finds the familiar signs of home like nyama-choma, ugali and samosas. Our weddings are packed with lesos and kitenges dancing majestically to the beat of zilizopendwas — plus a few shuka-clad Masai “warriors” smiling bravely against the snow storms.

In the summer we have the occasional rugby matches that provoke happy memories of my beloved Mean Machine University RFC.

Let me proudly introduce myself as the “damu” classmate of two original Mean Machinists — Geoffrey Simiyu and Robert “Arafat” Aswani — greetings my older brothers.

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Those were the brave old days — when our class “borrowed” the snooty bus from the School of Law for a noisy pilgrimage up Ngong Road — to watch our boys strutting their moves all over the Impala RFC………. wwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh !!!!!!

Another fixture of those good days was listening to the Mangelepa Jazz Band as they prepared their extra hot mandazi on Sunday afternoons. We were quite busy too distributing the “Je Umepata?” pamphlets at Uhuru Park. We were busy hawking “Maisha Bora Ndani ya Yesu Kristu” to the groups of relaxing Nairobians.

Although frankly in retrospect — our biblical sales were often drowned by the Mangelepa warbling sweet love songs in the background. One tenor musician always floated smoothly above Uhuru Park and hopefully that incredible voice still retains his bell bottom trousers……….and platform shoes.

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Unlike my Afro hair-do which has now turned aging-gray and my “feminist” mini-skirt now permanently buried at the Cross of Calvary…………together with several incriminating High School photographs.

In those good old days — whenever the Police nabbed Kenyans wandering “suspiciously” around the night streets —  they would order the “suspects” to lie face-down on the tarmac and sing that famous Mangelepa hit song “Embakasi mi nakuya eeeee moya……….nasimama nzuu sini eeeee moya ooooooo”.

GOD helped you to remember all the stanzas in pure Lingala — to avoid enjoying free accommodations at Central Police Station — followed by a free shuttle bus to Makadara Law Courts. One nameless suspect (now a high profile lawyer) forgot to whistle the pii-piii-piiii siren as the Mangelepa navigated their booming guitars down the Embakasi runway towards Kinshasa. He had to accompany the police on their rounds through Kamukunji, Bahati, Nairobi West and back to the main campus. At each stop — the police made him shout the pii-piii-piiii siren at the top of his lungs.

The police finally chased him up St. Andrews hill with a parting shot: “Tuonane tarehe mbili” meaning prepare yourself for the real disco on March 2nd (JM Day) when you pampered students always rioted. Cowards like me normally vanished from the campus by February 28th for a whole week just in case.

It is rather sad to note that our modern Watumishi have progressively lost this traditional humour and sense of community entertainment. Nowadays they do not even bother to shout a warning pii-pii-piiiiii before distributing their random bullets………nor do they offer any format of maisha bora.

But give thanks to the Almighty GOD — because free shows are still happening among the ordinary Kenyans. Take for instance the stand-up comedy known as Jevanjee Gardens — where one can have a full lunch buffet without paying Norfolk Hotel prices. Thanks to the impressive number of preachers from every jua-kali workshop in East Africa (complete with the latest in rap music). Most of these preachers have now been promoted into millionaire bishops with air-conditioned sanctuaries – the solid proof to you (diehard skeptics) that faith indeed works miracles……….did I hear some loud amens from the young entrepreneurs (teenagers) now squirming at the back of the your church.

And that is precisely the goal of this jua-kali writer — to prove to you (diehard skeptics again) that the mantle of our most beloved humourist (Wahome Mutahi alias Whispero) can actually fall on a muhonoki who does not drink any Ruarakas or smoke ganja or even live in Rhoda’s neighbourhood.

This mantle has fallen upon a committed believer with a strong preference for red turbans. A believer who has discovered that the Almighty GOD is the funniest (and yet the most underpaid) comedian in the entire Galaxy. This heavenly comedian happens to be a billion dollars better than Chris Rock without those annoying bleep-bleeps that make us switch off the media networks.

Think about Prophet Samuel conveniently turning up “as soon as” Mheshimiwa Saulo opened his mouth to chew the forbidden nyama-choma. Remember our year–mate who sneaked into Panafric Hotel to drink her first “boom” (student allowance) and bumped straight into her local sub-chief who quickly spread the good news that our year-mate was “actually working as a prostitute in Nairobi”. Three years later our year-mate had to parade through Meru Town dressed in her BComm graduation gown — just to shame the lingering unbelievers.

The mantle of Wahome Mutahi floated down to my humble shack one Friday night during a telephone conversation with my friend Njeri Githiora. We had just made the shocking discovery that our most admired boyfriends were:
a)either already dead;
b)quickly dying (within the next decade) ;
c)honestly — dead for several centuries;
d)Frank truth — dead for a few thousand years.

We are talking about real heavyweights like Moses, Elijah and Jesus Christ — not you mheshimiwa sorry.

Njeri Githiora will speak about her own heavyweights in another column…….but let me introduce you to the “still breathing” heavyweight Father Yakobo who grew up in Minnesota, served in Vietnam and then joined the Maryknoll Missionaries. He was posted to Marsabit Diocese in the middle of the Shifta War (1970s) and is now a retired missionary living within Baltimore Diocese.

Father Yakobo (like most retired missionaries) did not realise how much Africa had seeped into his bones until he came back home. Then he started hanging out at the Columbia Mall — hoping to spot somebody who looked like a recent “green card” and then he would complain loudly in Kiswahili about “these pampered Americans” with their hundred brands of breakfast cereal…..dunia mazeee ni rock sana.
Father Yakobo was missing the “motherland’ the most (within the Diaspora) because he no longer fitted among his own people. So the local Bishop gave him a new mission field – keeping the Diaspora properly informed about their homeland by pronouncing loud opinions about all things remotely African.
This priest just turned eighty-eight-years-old (August 2011) but that escalated number does not prevent the Diaspora parishioners from going crazy over him because he speaks honest and practical truths without the usual placebos — just like the classical African grandfathers of our childhoods. You can always tell when Father Yakobo is hearing confessions — by the unusual laughter inside the confessional box and the cheesy grins of the forgiven penitents coming out………………….
Father Yakobo is the irascible, incorrigible and too indiscreetly loud African grandfather — who conceals deep love and wisdom beneath a rough exterior. This grandfather mentoring becomes even more crucial for us today because of the rapid globalisation of African families — which means that most African children are no longer in daily contact with their continent.  Father Yakobo is the village griot to the African Diaspora and beyond — reminding us of the core values that transformed poor villagers (you and me) into big time New Yorkers.
Father Yakobo is the living memorial to the late Reverend Father John Kaiser who suffered political assassination in Kenya (August 2000) and whose principled bravery continues to inspire Kenyans today.

Father Yakobo will be dispensing uncensored wisdom in this new column — with the goal of transmitting valuable nuggets of our faith and traditions. You will certainly meet with the ghosts of your past in this column (and with the goals of your future) right here in the hustle of our present.

You will also confirm that often ignored truth that real Africans are not passively squatting at dust infested airstrips waiting for reluctant handouts from a bored world. On the contrary — real Africans are busy confronting their challenges — because real Africans never run away from the battlefield ever. We may duck and retreat (where necessary) but we always return more victoriously than General McArthur….

Father Yakobo is the Diaspora Inc………..kwa hivyo karibuni sana ndugu zanguni.

By Margaret S. Maringa


Life in moderation: New blog in Diaspora Messenger-Ruto Nyama choma


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