Boyhood skills still ticking, after 50 yrs


BEING poor at keeping records, and my memory being scandalously poor, I recall very few things that I have done since I officially became a human being on a date in August 1953, which my memory has boycotted to remember.

If there had been a clause in the constitution that allowed someone to sue his poor memory, I would be the first in a long queque in front of a famous court in Dar whose name shares the first letter with my surname, ‘K’.

I would request the magistrate to sentence the poor memory to death. I would dramatise things by kneeling prayer-like, and wailing like an ambulance siren. I would add the proverbial icing on the cake of the hilarious drama, by staging a one-man, two-minutes ‘kyankondo’ dance of my tribe, which engineers the dancer into sweating enough useless sweat to fill two gallons!

Lest my poor memory engineers me into forgetting what I was setting out to say, I am duly resetting myself on track. My memory has accidentally reminded me that when I was a tiny human being, I was a tiny football player.

This makes me recall Joe Kadenge being the greatest footballer with which Kenya has been blessed. I heard about him in live radio match broadcasts in the 60s, harassing players of rival teams with classic dribbling, a replica of which many boys wished to become. I was not among them, my specialty being goalkeeping, which, being least hectic, was a suitable hideout for the lazy boy that I was.

I was a partial (not part-time) monkey, with above-average skills to block balls destined for the net under my presidency. I was proud of the ensuing ‘Kakende’ nick-name, which translates as a small monkey – a reflection of my size.

Had I been fat but ‑ God forbid ‑ not on the scale of a Japanese sumo wrestler, I would have been nick-named ‘Kikende’, which would have made me prouder.

This very minute, my poor memory has conquered its poverty briefly, by making me remember the famous phrase ‘Mountains don’t meet, but people do’. I wonder what the inventor of the saying was up to, by stating the obvious.

Thanks to my slightly below-average intelligence, I know for sure, as I do, that you are probably being bored like nobody’s business but your own by reading this blah-blah, that there’s no way Kilimanjaro and Kenya mountains can meet at Namanga for a chat and a drink, preferably brands of beer bearing their names.

But long-disconnected relatives, friends or acquaintances can meet; or, preferably, bump into each other – which, given the dramatic touch, is pleasantly shocking. The other evening, I was – guess where – doing what a friend nick-named ‘mtumishi wa Mungu’ calls ‘escorting the evening towards midnight’.

A bitter argument arose a few tables away, between two seemingly polished, but in reality culture-less men, over a very fat, but not necessarily very pretty girl, who each loudly proclaimed was “my property”.

One of the combatants upgraded the status of the war to physical level, by aiming a full bottle of beer at the other, who had started walking away, calling the rival a hopeless sheep. The bit of monkey in me was reactivated.

I leapt and caught the bottle in mid-air, Juma Kaseja-style. I was cheered wildly, the excitement being enhanced by a very loud verbal ‘Mzee Tumbili-Mzee Tumbili-Mzee Tumbili’ staccato from an old man roughly my age. It was picked up by many people.

The fellow mzee approached and hugged me several times. I neither knew him, nor registered a complaint of his likening me to an old monkey, because I was virtually an old version of the ‘kakende’ of my boyhood goalkeeping glory era ! He joined me for a chat, the starting point being whether I remembered him.

I didn’t, and was hugely surprised when he revealed that he was Nixon (minus Richard) Gumisiliza, my primary school classmate in the mid-60s.

I couldn’t have possibly linked the name to the bearer, whose facial features had undergone a big revolution, his head being as hairless as that of the late Isaac Hayes (Black Moses) and his chin hosting a (the late Jonas Savimbi-like) bushy beard ! Nixon told me he was a businessman in a country whose name he didn’t disclose, and had come home for a brief holiday.

After his extra-sharp nostrils picked signals of three approaching police detectives, he shot from the bar like a spear thrown by a stone age hunter and vanished. I couldn’t help the detectives trace the fugitive, who wanted to grill him over conning some mineral prospectors.

They were nonetheless amused to learn that during our footballing boyhood, Nixon was an exemplary centre-forward nick-named ‘Ichumu’ (spear) due to his dashing speed, and that I was the Kihaya version of a small monkey (kakende), courtesy of my goalkeeping wizardly.

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