FAIRLY long time ago, far longer than a snake you have ever seen (thank God not the one that missed biting you by a few millimetres) when you were a barefoot internal tourist walking along a bushy path from Kijiji Hiki to Kijiji Kile to say something other than ‘hello’ to a beloved relative, because I guess your mother (let alone father) tongue doesn’t have such a word, an urban centre called Dar es Salaam fascinated us, the villagers.
It was (and still is) the biggest city in a country to which the Almighty God donated a nice mountain that foreigners troop in to gaze at, but in which some citizens don’t show the least interest.
Bukoba, the town nearest to my home village (ownership of which was claimed by unnecessarily many other villagers) was in reality a glorified village; or, to give it a semblance of credibility, it was a township. It nonetheless served the purpose of giving us occasional breaks from the ‘villageness’ of our home villages.
The few, mostly smoky vehicles, nicer-looking houses, bigger shops and better Kiswahili-speaking creatures that we encountered there made us feel that we were in a better world than what our miserable village represented.
It was no wonder, then, that, going by the many stories we heard about Dar es Salaam, we conjured images in our ‘kijijinioriented’ minds, of the faraway city being pure paradise.
We subsequently learnt that some stories narrated by hadbeen- to-Dar village mates were spiced up; that the city wasn’t all that fabulous. This emerged from balanced stories narrated by honest fellow villagers who were fresher short-term tourists to Dar es Salaam.
The Dar mystery didn’t vanish entirely, though. Due to the phonetic challenges of pronouncing ‘Dar es Salaam’, many pronounced it as ‘Daleshalaama’.
At evening recreation centres, while the adult children of God sipped ‘lubisi’ wine (reportedly among the world’s best, but minus international accreditation) alongside chatting, a few punctuated the conversations with firm declarations to visit ‘Daleshalaama’ in the near future.
By and by, as more people travelled to and from Dar, the mystery surrounding the city eased. Some of the ‘had-been-there’ people actually revealed secrets of some parts of the city’s suburbs being unpleasant in terms of outlook, some of which would suffer technical knock-outs if they were to face competitions with some villages.
The stylish names that some recreational centres and locations bear are quite fascinating. They include Poza Kiu (Cool Your Thirst) Bar at Mabibo External, the internal part of which I don’t have the remotest idea.
Many people assemble there to drink things that are not sweetened by sugar but which, strangely, they find sweet; to drink soup and munch meat that their wives, husbands and children rarely eat in their homes; and to update one another on how hopeless, dull, immoral and uncreative other people (other than the talkers ) are, and how first-class they are themselves in all socio-moral departments.
They include a fellow called Mirindimo, who reached Form Four miraculously, but who thumps his chest like a champion wrestler and declares that he doesn’t envy Professor Cleverman Zinachaji, because his head is empty !
A few years ago, my villagemate and boyhood friend James Rutasheka (he who doesn’t laugh but in reality does so excessively) and I were regular patrons of the joint.
One evening, we decided to become holy men by drinking soda for a change. Whoever would have jokingly referred to us, respectively, as Saint Wilson and Saint James wouldn’t have been accused of being a notorious liar.
We engaged in a conversation focused on rediscovering our past, by revisiting some aspects of life when we were boys. We reminded ourselves that we were bushmen – that the deference between us, in our home village then and the bushmen of the Kalahari desert, lay in degree rather than essence.
We recalled that our feet were denied the constitutional right to wear shoes, the underwear being a non-existent word in the vocabulary of any language, rats and jiggers enjoying the dietary right to chew portions of our feet and hands and eating bread being mainly linked to the “holy trinity” of Easter, Saba Saba and Christmas.
Plus, the Kambona hair combing style being a magnet for attracting girls, among whom, God willing would become our future wives and how, upon being enrolled in boarding school, we became proud owners of wooden suitcases that weighed about half a tonne each !
Plus, furthermore, our desire to visit ‘Daleshalama’ some day, but when, after doing so, we discovered that the city wasn’t much of a big deal. Word soon spreads throughout the bar, about two bushmen being in their midst.
Many people gossiped about and pointed fingers at us. Some deliberately passed near our table to catch snippets of our conversation, which they subsequently shared with their drinking mates.