Let me take this opportunity to salute a bunch of tough Kenyans who spent years doing abracadabra with numbers and letters in an attempt to make yours truly a tough Kenyan. Weather they achieved their goal is neither here nor there. For some fellows to graduate from a mathematical table in the name of bean bag to calling each other ‘my learned friend’ while mentioning such threatening words like ‘jurisprudence’ and ‘amicus’ some Kenyans must have sacrificed sweat, saliva and tears. The fellows belong to an endangered profession called teaching.
In my day teachers had neither mastery nor appetite to dance to such hits as ‘bado mapambano’ and ‘solidarity forever’ in front of the camera. Whether they did so in the shower is porojo for another day. While chapati made impromptu visits to homes of such Homo sapiens like Mali ya Mungu once a year they were permanent residents in houses where someone carried the name teacher. All car wheels in the neighbourhood belonged to a teacher. If you saw a bicycle or a wheelbarrow it was borrowed from a teacher. Teachers were so tough that when they passed not only did you forget you had a mouth and remembered you had ears, you suspended breathing and stood to attention. If you hit their kid the entire clan accompanied you to school to settle the mhadhara.
Before I get carried away by how teachers were overthrown from being the local waheshimiwas, let’s get down to saluting some heroes.
First things first, though. We should build some consensus before anyone claims they were not consulted. One: we should trust pupils to correct perceived mistakes that were committed by whoever lifted a weird name from the dictionary for you. Two: if you are a teacher you should trust students to give you a nickname, joke about it, modify it and laugh at it when you tell an otherwise stale joke. They won’t consult you, nor fear or favour you. A future star in Churchill Show will just wake up one day and decide that you are too brown to be Robinson so you should be Brownie. Or you are too confused to be Clinton and you should be Wasiwasi. Or you are such a regular at local wamuthemba to be Laurence hence you should be Wamacups. Trouble is, the clown’s colleagues will embrace his twisted wisdom and that is why your mother’s effort to choose a tough name will go to waste.
If you are a teacher you did this; if you didn’t then you should answer for wasted talent. Since I am tempted to say this I’ll say it: any teacher without a nickname is in the wrong profession.
So, here goes.
The first hero worthy saluting is Mr. Longitude. According to Yolanda (another great hero), my geography instructor, a longitude is an imaginary line that runs from North to South. Longitude answered to that name because his waist was where his head was supposed to be. And no, he was not imaginary. If you are worried about his displaced head you are justified because it stood in the way of airplanes. Picture this: if a group photo was taken with Longitude standing at the back he was caught waist up. Here is a clearer picture: to use the entire blackboard Longitude had to kneel. Since kneeling is a form of punishment Longitude utilized 1/3 of the board. If you still don’t get it you can’t be helped.
Ladies and gentlemen, behind the lyrical syntax and tough vocabulary is Longitude, my Queen’s language instructor.
According to Kisangau I would find it easier to replace my rib had I been taller. However, I would rather retain my height than be in Longitude’s boots since then I would terrorize the most daring of ribs.
Longitude was so fair he gave you a chance to atone for your sins. The atonement usually took the shape of reading such sentences that should have remained in England as ‘the little red lorry rolled and landed in the river near Limuru’.
If you were not born and raised in Jiggerland and its environs I don’t expect you to see the torture in this sentence. Much as mbeberu succeeded to colonise Kiandutu and its environs he was unable to colonise one part: the tongue. To this end, to the tongues of Homo sapiens born and brought up around these areas ‘S’ and ‘L’ are corruptions of ‘C’ and ‘R’ respectively. The tongues swore years ago that they won’t just accept and move on.
As the advocate of the Queen’s language in Kiandutu Primary School, Longitude was quick to remind us that the Egyptians manufactured 26 letters and that electing to massacre any of them was a very serious sin. In an effort to do it in Kiandutu as it is done in England a lot of tears were shed. Take the day I arrived late and Longitude ordered me to read an Al-Shabaab-looking sentence that went like ‘she shot sea shells at sea shore’. I had practiced in my head severally and since practice makes perfect I was sure Longitude would soon find out why a duck is not a hen. I summoned the gods of Rutui River, stood on tiptoe and cleared my throat.
‘Chi chot chi chells at chi chow!’
No one laughed for fear of suffering under the weight of the same cross. I repeated the sentence with such vigour my tongue felt as though it had grown a bone. Still, the coordination between what the eyes saw and what the tongue thought the eyes saw remained poor. If you were born and raised elsewhere I don’t expect you to appreciate it but, trust me, this is more of a crying than a laughing matter. When a learned friend declares that ‘Chirchir’ is ‘Shirshir’ without any fear of contradiction don’t waste your time, valuable or otherwise, putting a gun to his head.
Mr. Longitude sir, you tried, I tried; we really did. My tongue just refused to be colonized. To prove my case I plan to conduct a research into the political, cultural and environmental factors that make a tongue misbehave. I will operate under the hypothesis that there exists an algorithm Y=1.2045x+183546 where X stands for the thickness of the tongue.
Sir, kindly stay with me for the results.