If you have been with me lately you know that we’ve been saluting some heroes who took me from writing a e i a o u to the point where I can write vindu vichenjaga without fear or favour. The heroes belong to a profession which, needless to say, is the father and mother of all professions. The professionals go by different names in different seasons, locations and under different circumstances: tutor, coach, teacher, lecturer, instructor, odijo, tiche, rabi… the list can make a mini dictionary.
Let’s get down to hero number two.
My Agriculture teacher was Mr. Mate until an enemy of beautiful names decided he should be Mr. Mtungi. Now, generally speaking, a mtungi is a container, a jerrican in the Queen’s language. However, in some quarters you have a stomach if one must touch to feel what is behind the shirt. When that section of the body pushes its way for recognition it becomes a mtungi. Whatever gives that part of the body confidence to stand so proud is porojo for another day.
Now, before anyone rushes to court with a bus full of petitions, applications, annexes and stuff let me pronounce myself thus: I have nothing against any owner of a mtungi. Indeed when I consume chafua at Mama Onyi’s Cafe I picture my stomach ballooning into a mini-mtungi. You know, a mtungi tells the world that when hunger goes on the campaign trail it does not knock on your door. It also tells walalahoi like Wizard that to win the hide and seek game with the shilling they should be looking for it in your wallet.
Before I forget, chafua is a special cuisine that comprises chapati in a shower of soup and a rumour of either madodo, cabbages or other basic but often luxurious delicacies to the likes of Wizard. The cuisine is very popular at Mama Onyi’s Cafe since one pays for the chapati and not the uchafu.
Let’s salute our next hero.
Mr. Mate had his beautiful name declared null and void because his food and liquids storage system, that part commonly called the stomach, stood so proud that had he to spit in front the saliva would land on its roof. If you subscribe to the wisdom that one’s height is God given whereas one’s width depends on one’s hard work then Mr. Mtungi was very hardworking. If Mr. Mtungi’s mtungi was an indicator of a teacher’s pay way back then teachers were receiving more than enough.
I will never forget how I found myself in Mr. Mtungi’s line of fire on the very day he became my odijo. Picture this: a guy with a mtungi is busy talking of farmers whose cows sleep on mattresses and listen to Sundowner as his mtungi is busy doing a lipala. Just that you should know, lipala is a dance from Ingoholand. To dance lipala just vibrate like a phone as you kick your feet the way you remove mud from your boots. Don’t forget to massage you stomach (or mtungi for that matter) with your hands, one at a time. There, you are a master!
You are sitting in front and since your laughter engine is well and sound you are about to explode because of a mtungi which is good at lipala. What do you do? Of course you don’t laugh, not you are here to become the first professor in Kiandutu.
Still I felt like laughing.
To check myself I forced my mind to feel sorry for the shoes that were shouldering all the weight and the trouser which was clearly between an angry thigh and a hungry one.
Needless to say I felt little pity and more laughter.
Kamanguya’s (Kamanguya is soon to be saluted) wisdom visited me: if you must laugh when you mustn’t never declare the laughter null and void, just let go mos mos, you know, slow-puncture style, otherwise you will explode. I could not trust my foot on the gas pedal so I discarded Kanguya’s counsel. I forced my mind to concentrate on a rib who had not only said no to my advances but had added that the size of my head gave her nightmares. That did the trick.
I was congratulating myself for diffusing a bomb when Mr. Mtungi shouted, ‘What are you smiling at?’
‘Sir, I am not smiling,’ I pleaded.
‘You have been smiling although,’ Mr. Mtungi’s tummy had replaced lipala dance with mwomboko. ‘Do I feed at your mother’s?’
No, of course not. I would be dead of hunger if he fed at my mother’s.
Then it hit me. Ladies and gentlemen, as you already know Wizard alias Mali ya Mungu is the proud owner of a permanent smile. This is because my incisors are so shaped that they meet at an acute angle outside the mouth so that had I to undergo an alignment I would not need Operation Smile but Operation Don’t Smile. It would certainly call for a tough doctor who can either lengthen the upper lip or make the incisors stand at or close to ninety degrees. It would be an irregularity and an illegality should I forget to tell you of the magical gap between the upper smiling teeth.
Now my blessing of an in-built smile was proving to be a curse as Mr. Mtungi thought it had been triggered by his proud mtungi. To prove my innocence I decided to cry.
‘What is so funny you laugh while crying?’ Mr. Mtungi demanded.
‘Sir, I am only crying?’
‘Next time I am in class use a peg!’
To cut a short story shorter Mr. Mtungi moved from recommending the use of a peg to getting used to me in-built smile. And that is how we became the best of buddies because, in Mr. Mtungi’s words, he has never seen a face so jovial it smiles while crying.
Mr. Mtungi, rumour has it that you have since retired and that your mtungi has since become a stomach. Sir, as you remember I passed your subject with running colours. I would have passed the same with flying ones had your mtungi not erased the board as you wrote the notes. If you stick with me you will learn that I have tried severally to be the tough farmer you always saw in me. I am far from giving up because, in your wise words, the shilling is like a mijimiji; her ‘yes’ might come on the tenth attempt.
Before I forget, I once swore never to forgive you after placing a bet that you were full only for you to consume a bunch of bananas. Well, yaliyo ndwele sipite. Live with peace for your sins are forgiven.
Stay with me as we salute Pythagoras, the third hero.