A monkey, boss and prof rolled into one


I HAVE told you, countless times, that my memory is almost 80 per cent kaput. You would thus be committing an offence to expect me to recall which wise gentleman or gentle lady remarked, God knows how long ago, that, even by another name, a rose would smell just as sweet.

Thank God the offence would be social rather than criminal – the sort that would make you an involuntary visitor of a person who doesn’t know how to smile when he’s on duty.

He probably knew how to do so in the distant past but dropped the hobby after becoming a magistrate. As a guest in a courtroom, you would be shocked almost to death, because your host wouldn’t invite you to seat on a sofa, but make you stand in a small wooden, open structure that would make you look like a fake pastor delivering a fake sermon in a fake church.

A non-smiling gentleman called prosecutor would tell the magistrate that you caused something known as actual bodily harm on a man you suspected was having an affair with your most beloved wife, but for which you didn’t have absolute proof.

Fixing his eyes at you Pontius Pilate-style, he would inform you that, even if there was proof that you were having an affair with Mr Fulani’s wife, you had no legal right to stab his blessed stomach with a knife of Al-Shabaab sharpness.

Convinced that the prosecutor and the witnesses were truthful creatures – God bless them – the magistrate would relocate you from your sweet home to an inhospitable one Dar, which shares the abbreviation UK (Ukonga) with a western country – United Kingdom. Isn’t it a bit of a big lie, though, to claim that a rose would smell as sweet even by any other name?

Here’s a teaser: Suppose a rose were to be called Garbage? A long time ago, in response to a question on how he felt over Hillary being a female name as well, veteran Kenyan journalist Hillary Ng’weno quipped: “What’s in a name?” I guess that, some men called Hillary, who may have previously felt a bit embarrassed, and a few of whom may have assassinated the name and replaced them with presumably more male-sounding ones, could have changed their minds if Mama Hillary Clinton were to become the next US president.

Ng’weno’s professional colleague, Philip Ochieng, ignored an idiotic critic who, instead of countering ideas he had expressed in one of his columns, advised him to drink a dose of Philip’s milk of magnesia, as though he had had a stomach upset.

I was mighty fascinated by the nick-name Kakende pinned on me as a tribute to my monkey-like goal-keeping skills as a schoolboy. If you dare call me Kakende today, I wouldn’t waste a precious minute to debate on whether or not to forgive you; I would pick the nearest axe and do to your neck you-know-what !

A very kind judge would sentence me to death, after a long-running case, though what I would have done to your neck would have been in broad daylight and witnessed by several people.

I have long resigned myself to the fact that, besides my official names, I have a chain of others, some against my will, donated by mostly friendly compatriots. I am not the boss of any institution, but many people call me ‘mkuu’, ‘kiongozi’ and ‘bosi’.

Although I have neither headed any sports outfit nor won any contest, I am called ‘captain’ and ‘champion’. A broadly smiling machinga who persistently addressed me as Ustaadh, sold me a solar-powered lamp that went kaput after two weeks.

When I met him a month later, he asked me, this time addressing me as ‘Mzee wangu’, how the lamp was doing. I lied to him that it was fantastic. He reciprocated with an innocent donkeylike smile! Baba (father) is how a small girl respectfully addressed me along a street, but when we met half an hour later, she called me babu (grandfather).

Either she thought she had met two different men, or, I had rapidly grown scandalously older in the interim! Tears of joy strolling along her cheeks, a lady ambushed, embraced me, and thundered: “Doctor Massawe, God will bless you forever; my mother, who you successfully treated at Muhimbili hospital two years ago, recovered fully and is doing very well.”

A short, pot-bellied man whom I envied because of his Jonas Savimbi-like beard, which puts the few strings of hair below my blessed chin to irreparable shame, exclaimed: “Professor Selatile, I saw you on television last week. The remarks you made at a political symposium at some Johannesburg university last week reminded me of the late Professor Ali Mazrui.

” I grinned sheepishly at him and he grinned back just as sheepishly!

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