I AM almost absolutely sure that, people who have been careless enough to waste a bit of their precious time to read my blah-blah – hopefully you aren’t amongst them – know, not about my love-hate relationship with arithmetic, but the hate-hate variety.
I am so dumb at it that, an intelligent prosecutor could promote it to a crime, and convince a similarly intelligent magistrate to sentence me to at least six month’s imprisonment. I would be happy because in prison, I would learn arithmetic easily by counting the few beans that extra-kind warders would donate to me, as part of a prisoner’s (as opposed to human) rights. I completed the last Standard Eight in a year I’ve long forgotten.
It was the last, because it was thereafter circumcised, and Standard Seven was promoted as the climax of primary education. Long after primary schoo and right into ownership of an unnecessarily long list of years, figures give me as much headache as reckless motorists donate sleepless nights to traffic police officers.
By extension, I donate almost incurable stress to bank staff, due to the difficulty, while filling in forms, of determining how many zeros represent hundreds and thousands – millions are out of the question for reasons you have correctly guessed!
I loved nature as a boy, instead, and more-so as a pupil, because bushes near our school served as free hideouts. I did so to take a break from the arithmetic teacher who miserably failed to persuade my near-useless tiny brain to become a playground for a confusing array of numbers.
It was as impossible for him to do so, as it would be for instructors at a vocational training centre in Temeke whose name my poor memory has boycotted to remember, to convince students to assemble a ballistic missile.
My love for nature was terminated by a comical drama featuring me and an old gecko, which was an old citizen within its species, as I am within the Tanzanian context today.
Walking back to school from the hideout, timing the return to coincide with break time, the gecko, which was resting on the edge of a rock, fixed its gaze at me. I stood still and gazed back at the somewhat handsomeness- starved creature.
At the point when I was about to wave at it as a gesture of solidarity, it opened its mouth and made lip movements that somehow convinced me that it had uttered the name ‘Wilson’. I sped off towards the school, repeatedly screaming ‘Temba Osoke Amabanga’, the name of my family’s patriarch stretching some 400 years ago.
Upon reaching the playground, I collapsed and died for six minutes, prompting the entire school community to encircle me. The next day, as punishment for skipping class, the head teacher forced me to recount the adventure to the whole school.
All pupils burst into laughter, for which each was awarded five strokes of the cane for finding a useless story so funny. I was nonetheless nick-named gecko, which, fortunately, didn’t transcend primary school.
Two weeks ago, I revived my love for nature by venturing into a bushy, uninhabited area, which I gather people have boycotted to turn residential, due to reports that it hosts evil spirits. I sat on a rock and mused over many things, including ‘J’ being the first letter of the first name of three Tanzanian presidents so far: Julius (Nyerere), Jakaya (Kikwete) and John (Magufuli). Plus, ‘A’ and ‘B’, close alphabetical neighbours, relate to two others Ali (Mwinyi) and Benjamin (Mkapa).
Then, from the rock opposite ‘mine’, to which I had cast a glance, a gecko literally smiled at me, and I sensed it had also uttered my first name. I shot from the spot the way an arrow does from a bow. I didn’t scream like I did as a boy five centuries previously.
I just ran on and on, and was cheered by many people for being a ‘mzee’ who knows about and demonstrates the importance of regular physical exercises ! Last Friday, I patronized my constitutionally sanctioned share of beer at Usiku Kucha Bar at Machimbo, as a break from my favourite Bia Chungu Grocery.
Jeri Rutachokoza (someone who doesn’t provoke other people), joined me while I was assassinating the second bottle. We hugged happily, as he was my primary schoolmate. Two elderly, friendly strangers promoted the number to four.
At some stage, Ruta narrated the drama featuring me and a gecko in 1963, whose name I involuntarily inherited ! My three companions burst into gigantic laughter.
After becoming as silent as a dead body for two and a half minutes, I proclaimed that I was a young gecko then, and Ruta was an old one now. He stormed out, declaring that he was heading to a police station, to report me for insulting him ! We burst into double gigantic laughter!