I RECENTLY banned a young relative, John John Kangaruu, from using Tee-Zed as an alternative short-form of the name of my beloved country, in his mobile phone text messages to me.
I threatened the chap who owns an extra John name unnecessarily, that, if he disobeyed me, I would contact our most fearsome ancestor (whose name, and by which means I didn’t disclose) to do something nasty to him, which I also kept secretive.
I then manufactured a rumour which I engineered into reaching his blessed ears: that, if he ignored the warning, he would become a crocodile in the next life. He told friends that he would have taken the risk if the punishment had been to be re-born a gentle, harmless animal like a goat.
But a crocodile; No, thanks! He wouldn’t stand being a creature with teeth that tear into the flesh of other animals, as easily as someone uses a knife to slice bread! On another occasion, in what disciplinarians refer to as “in no uncertain terms” and angry politicians describe as ‘unequivocal terms’, I banned him from using short-cuts like CU2‑morrow, in his communications with me or anybody else.
I explained that, that was not only a lazy way of communication, but amounted to murdering the beautiful English language (as if other languages are ugly), though not necessarily on the scale of what lawyers call murder aforethought. I reinforced the warning with a threat to contact the same ancestor, but this time, he would re-emerge as a cow if he didn’t pay heed.
This also scared JJ Kangaruu, because whereas a cow is more handsome and gentler than a crocodile, the idea of spending most of the time chewing grass instead of being a human being who eats ‘ugali’ and drinks beer in the evenings gave him what famous novelist James Hadley Chase called the creeps.
The fear was deepened by the realisation that, at some stage, when the owner of the once-person-nowcow got fed up of the oncehim- and-now-it, would be slaughtered and human beings, including the exowner, would shamelessly and cheerfully munch it in roast or boiled form.
The other evening, I was nursing the only beer I could afford at Kiu Kikali Bar at the part of Ilala that belongs to Bungoni, because these days, whoever affords more than two beers is considered a financial hero.
He may not necessarily be awarded the Order of Mount Kilimanjaro for Distinguished National Service, but he could get the Wazo Hill Award for Low-scale Achievement for Doing Thy Stomach Praiseworthy Service.
A revolutionary thought crossed my mind – to organise a get-together of Dar es Salaam-based once jiggerharassed pupils of Bitakuli Primary School in Kagera Region who completed Standard Four in 1964.
The event that drew 15 of us at Twiga Mrefu Hotel (the mrefu bit being pointless as there is never a short giraffe) was delightful, especially on sensational recollections. They included wearing extra-clean uniforms on Independence Day, for boys khaki pairs of shorts and collar-less shirts that pretended to be white.
We later learnt, to our utter shock, that they were part of the uniform of prisoners ! We didn’t wear shoes, but we had applied so much lotion on our feet and arms that they were as shiny as the skins of snakes.
We cherished the miniature flags of the brand new Tanganyikan nation that we waved as souvenirs. They didn’t last long as rats and cockroaches put them to better use – munched them as food. Each of us recounted the most memorable school experience.
I recalled how my hands swelled and turned distantly yellowish like a mildly ripe paw-paw, thanks to a kind teacher hitting them repeatedly, for my failing to sing the arithmetical table accurately. Dennis recounted how, while running into a nearby bush to avoid being caught and caned, the teacher who was chasing him was caught in an animal trap.
He wailed like an ambulance siren; Denis made a U-turn and rescued him! Marietta (now a Mrs Rutashubanyuma (someone who doesn’t walk backwards) recalled how she surrendered to a teacher, a love letter I had written to her, and which I was forced to read aloud in class !
I was deeply embarrassed but managed to put up a brave face. But worse was in store. Departing from the past tense to the present one, Joe Gendagaluka stressed that we, adults, must behave wisely, and responsibly, so as to be role models for the younger generation.
He challenged me to accept or deny reliable reports of my outlandish threats against JJ Kangaruu. I collapsed, lost consciousness and woke up in hospital two days later.