IT is only after pondering (watch out, this has nothing to do with the Kiswahili word ‘kuponda’) a tiny secret I am about to leak to you unlawfully (by doing which I am carelessly tuning myself into a resident of the wrong part of Ukonga in Dar) that you will decide whether or not you are lucky or unlucky to be a friend of a friend of mine called Nickname Mutanshobelwa.
How on earth (the same would probably be the case in hell) does one bear that first name, as though there was a shortage of names around the time he was born, prompting Nickname’s father to paste that one on his son.
The surname may sound Greek to someone not born in a region, and more-so in a village within which God showered three times more mosquitoes than its residents needed.
Never mind, I am at your free service to give you an explanation, though thanks-giving in the form of two beers, for which no-one would accuse you of bribery would do neither of us any harm but instead, as the world is not starved of miracles, facilitate our entry to the right section of the world beyond the clouds. Mutanshobelwa translates liberally as “don’t consider me to be a strange creature”.
What fascinates me most about Mr Muta (which is how the surname is officially circumcised) is complaints about Kiswahili being murdered, over which he declares that if he were a judge, he would dispatch them to you-know-where.
He declares that his pressure rises tremendously (big liar!) whenever he hears a man aged two and a half decades referring to someone owning half a century as ‘mwanangu’ during a chat in a bus.
My friendship with Nick (which is how he is addressed in circumcised form) stretched back to when we were small versions of toddler goats in our home village.
The friendship was solidified by a special gesture that he extended to me in 1962. His father’s Mwanza-based friend on holiday in the village had given their family nice presents that included bread and butter.
Nick took the trouble (going the proverbial extra mile as opposed to extra kilometre) to hide two buttered slices of bread in the separate pockets of his pair of shorts for subsequent presentation to me !
I was one of the few pupils in lower and upper primary schools in my home village (though, paradoxically, the former was located on a hill while the latter was hosted by a valley) and secondary school on a coast of a certain ocean, who, as young adults, was spared of the virus of migrating to central and western Africa for the so-called greener pastures. Nick was among the green pasture hunters beyond the Land of Kilimanjaro.
After exchanging salaams when the two of us bumped into one another along a busy street in Dar recently, I reminded him of his fantastic friendship-bordering brotherhood gesture via the slices of buttered bread he offered me a little over five and a half decades ago.
I assured him (as though I have such a mandate) that he was a sure heaven-entrant-in-waiting. Tears of excitement rolled down his cheeks for a couple of minutes.
He told me he was being temporarily hosted by a half-brother (as opposed to full brother?) at Kitunda suburb, in the midst of our ‘watani’ youngsters upon whom he showered much praise for cycling with trays full of eggs to various other parts of the city.
He contrasted them with the hopeless species that moved around in circles in markets, selling plastic shopping bags and others shouting daladala route destinations at bus stations.
Two or so minutes later, he was encircled by a group of ‘watani’ who were chorusing: ‘Ndio yeye…ndio yeye…’ Being not a big, but gigantic coward, along the lines of Wazo Hill being ‘cha mtoto’ versus Mount Kilimanjaro on matters connected with who is taller than who, I sped off at fairly terrific speed, setting onlookers wondering how such an old human creature can put up such a show, some of whom cheered me as hero.
A few weeks earlier, a reckless motorist knocked the bicycle of one of our egg-hawking ‘mtanis’ and sped off. He wasn’t injured, but all the eggs went to heaven; meaning loss of income.
The ‘mtani’ swore that Mr Nickname Mutanshobelwa was the culprit; a fugitive from justice. Some bush diplomats intervened, and it turned out that my boyhood friend-brother was an innocent victim of mistaken identity, and was set free.
I felt very embarrassed, but when death beckons, the urge to help someone who gave you two slices of buttered bread several years ago evaporates.
When we met a few days later, Nick told me he would have done what I did if he had been in my position: the funny side of friendship-brotherhood!