AM reliably informed, but wish to inform you that I have a constitutional right to refuse to inform you who gave me the information, that a person who tells the truth is endeared to God.
What no-one has informed me, on request, voluntarily, or has cheated me, is whether compatriots of mine called Msemakweli are so-named because God is endeared to them.
Since being truthful is potentially a sure passport to being elevated to the level of at least God’s friend, and not necessarily his best one, I wish to tell you something that is 100 per cent true, but which is also pretty embarrassing.
During, after school, and wherever I will end up after kingdom comes, I was, I am and shall be incurably poor at arithmetic, as well as its elder brother, mathematics. Since Form Four exam results are generalized rather than precise, I am not sure how badly I failed in mathematics, but I seriously guess I scored an unholy zero.
If exam failures were to be jailed, I would surely have spent a quarter of my life as an unwilling guest at a prison near what is today the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar.
I should thus be the last person to suspect that you could score a zero (nick-named yai - an egg) by uncharitable people) for my simple question below: What is the most ominous five-letter English word whose Kiswahili version is one letter less?
To spare you of embarrassment for not manufacturing the right answer, becoming the owner of a king-size zero, and probably contemplating suicide, here’s the answer: Death (Kifo). You have probably encountered a few experiences of cheating death narrowly, after, say, acute malaria decided to behave by obeying a doctor’s instructions, or a car in which you were travelling had wanted to overturn, but changed its mind.
Congrats, for not many people are lucky to cheat death by the so-called skin of the teeth! Death is truly terrifying.
You would think that a presumably larger-than-life wrestler you watch on television – a ‘pandikizi la mtu’ species, would squeeze death if it provoked him, the way a child squeezes juice from an orange. You would be absolutely wrong.
When Mr Death beckons, the eyes of that creature would be reduced to twin water taps from which tears would jet, while pleading for mercy. Not so long ago, I was part of a gang of evening beer murderers at Tokomeza Kiu Bar.
A friend who had nick-named himself ‘paroko’, believing his journey to heaven would be fast-tracked, did something we dismissed as a comic, but which turned out to be a signal of impending disaster. He knelt by the table beside which he had been sitting, flung his hands heavenward, and, tearfully, pleaded in a deep, Manu Dibango-like voice: “My Lord, forgive me all my sins, including the latest one of flirting with my neighbour’s wife at Mafichoni Guest House this afternoon. If I die, reserve a place for me in heaven.”
We laughed hilariously, but half a minute later, a loud staccato of ‘Panya Road- Panya Road-Panya Road’ alert pierced the air repeatedly. We became actors in a comedy that had no script. ‘My God’ and ‘Mama yangu’ exclamations rang out.
The ‘Everyone-for-thyself-God-forus- all’ principle was set in full motion.At a speed that could have put national athletes to irreparable shame, a fat, pot-bellied gentleman whose surname, curiously, is Mwembamba, sped off on foot towards a direction opposite the location of his house.
He forgot about being the owner of a car he had parked in the bar’s yard, whose loan he had repaid only half-way. In the midst of the confusion, I picked a basket abandoned by an acutely deathfearing machinga.
A very fat lady, informally called Mama Kibonge because she was mother to a fat daughter, collided with Kibonge, who had been running from the opposite direction, from where another ‘Panya road’ alert had been sounded.
On an open space, a tall, slim, bearded man, Pastor Wokovu, was addressing a crowd. I drew closer out of curiosity, because he rekindled memories of my literature lessons in school, of Brother Jero, a character in a play by famous playwright Wole Soyinka.
He advised true believers to surrender valuable items which they wouldn’t need any more. A man surrendered his car and a lady handed over a handbag with about one million shillings.
I surrendered the basket that was originally a machinga’s, which I belatedly discovered hosted secondhand ladies’ underpants.