THE SANDLAND- Mystery of JoKobala
Even when I was still very young and fast growing, I was so much interested in the lifestyle of our chicken. We had a lot of chicken, thanks to our main Cock, Moi. This cock screwed hens in that compound the whole day, sometimes my mother had to restrict it in the chicken coop at least for some hours to let the hens cool down a bit before it could be released to resume its official duties. I think it's one of those cocks that can keep a wife... Sorry... a hen. Moi didn’t have competition, it had drawn the boundaries of its territories that no other cocks could cross. It’s because of its cruel nature that my father had even decided to lease our other two cocks, Raila and Kenyatta to our uncle Gilbert to avoid further confrontation. Even our neighbours loved it and once or twice a month, my father’s friend Ogwang’ would borrow our cock to go and spend the night at their place with their chicken. I’m sure that the business that would go down there would leave the hens sweating the whole night. Yes, Moi wasn’t one of those cocks that got cowed with a hen refusing to be submissive; I can count of about seven instances when I had to pull it from the hill forcefully.
So Moi crows in the morning, a command that stretches across fifty homesteads. It’s time to wake up, the day has begun. My village of Kawuor sits at the centre of Kobala, the land of my grandfathers. Kobala overlooks Lake Victoria, a once clear massive lake that formed the main part of our childhood. We were sons of the Lake, fed by the lake and breathed the breeze from the lake. A few of my clansmen would get lost in the lake, if they didn’t die fishing, then they ‘got lost’ fishing. In Luo Land when we say you’ve gotten lost in the lake it could mean you are drunk with fish money, spent it on a few bootylicious women who Luos are never short of and failed to reach home to give a share of what you’ve sold.
Boat owners were the richest, fishermen were the most respected. If a certain fisherman had a beef with your family you’d never buy fish from him, not even on your knees. You’d go hungry. Going hungry for a man from Kobala is simply having a meal with no component of fish, not even Fish’s grandchildren Omena. Now you can imagine some of the normal kinds of beef in the village, like your cow having invaded the shamba of Otieno the previous day and chewed quarter of maize growing in his field. With news that it is Otieno’s boat that has just docked at Alara beach the following day with a good amount of fish, you’d just consider yourself a hungry man.
Our beaches had a lot of trade going on, good kibandas for nyoyo, uji and mandas as we call mandazis back at home. Women bathed by the shores, nobody cared about what was seen, I think this is where the term ‘mali ya umma’ originated. You’d not be surprised to see the mother to your friend Onyango smearing herself with pado, the Jamaa soap, rub herself with her bathing net until she is all foam then run into the lake and swim around as she rinses her body. But Min Onyango would scream from the lake that something has caught her leg. The first thing that comes to your mind if you are from the lakeside is that there must be a crocodile around and that Mama Onyango is just about to be cut in half.
Everyone who was swimming is suddenly fighting his/her way out of the water. You may be a good swimmer until you hear there is a crocodile in the area, Mama Onyango is wailing and some people suddenly do not want to swim out of the water, they have turned to pray for miracles asking for wings to jump out of the lake
Min Onyango is kicking in water, she’s shouting at the top of her voice that the animal seems to be holding her legs under water.
This thing has caught her leg. At this point, nobody cares that she’s nude. This is not the time that you act embarrassed when you see her breasts jumping up and down. Trust me, there are others following the scene as a great cinema. But don’t be surprised when it finally emerges that there was no crocodile at all in the first place but just a joker practising his underwater breathing skills who had decided to give Min Onyango a good scare. He pops out of the water and laughs out loud at the shaking woman… “You can’t be this scared! Hahaha…”
Nobody is amused. In fact, people are asking questions. Questions like “What did he see while he was down there?” “Why did he stay that long? Why was he holding her leg… wait a minute, both legs?” There are some questioning the position of his head and eyes while he was down there holding the legs of Min Onyango. “It’s not easy to hold both legs firmly when you are under water unless you have both legs spread above you” at least there is an old man heard saying that as he whistles and walks away.
A few young men wear the look of jealousy as the ‘crocodile’ and the victim walk out to the shore, some cursing their lack of creativity. This crocodile guy has just had his free lunch, everyone knows he has fed his eyes. His baraza guys are waiting for him to bring the sweet news home. This is a story that must be told when they get to play ajwa under the Ng’ou tree. The baraza guys call themselves Jobez.
Ajwa literally pushes time. Men discuss women; those with the biggest bum bums in the village, the ones who have just been impregnated, who have dropped out of school, the odhi oduogos… those are the village girls married but divorced or just came back. It’s believed in Kobala that the only reason a woman can come back home after dumping her husband is hunger, I mean the real hunger, not the normal night starvation that some couples who have gotten used to each other often subject themselves to. The story of Careen, the only daughter of Oduma who just got married six months ago and went to the city with his husband but has been seen in the village for the past two weeks sneaks into the discussion.
“I’ve seen your wife around Michael,” Ouma knocks on Michael’s shoulder in a flattering way. Michael is married to Nya Kano and Ouma seeing his wife shouldn’t be an issue, after all telling a guy that you’ve seen his wife is questionable, you must be having some interest. But Michael reads from the smile on the side cheeks of Ouma and he knows there must be something cheeky behind that smile. He calls him Ous, a partner in crime. They have been friends since childhood and screwed uncountable number of village girls but Michael has never ceased reminding Ous of his sweet Careen, the sweetest village girl he has ever had. At least they dated for 4 years, that’s a long period to date a girl in the village with all those obvious obstacles including sneaking out a girl from their home at night, dogs barking at you and yes… meeting the area chief patrolling the area with a whip in his hand, you would have to be a good runner not to be caught by him. And even if you were to run away, just to be safe, you would have to confuse him and not jump over the fence back to your home since it would be easy to trace you the following day, you would have to jump into someone else’s compound to confuse the chief then jump over on the other side of the compound before proceeding to your home.
The worst that can ever happen to you is jumping into someone’s compound and get attacked by a dog. That would be a double tragedy. So before going ‘hunting’ at night, one would have to make a proper survey of the area the girl lives, mark the hostile territories and battlegrounds, map out the possible exits in case of an ambush, agree with your girlfriend on time and how you will communicate that you are already out waiting for her. Most of the time one would have to pelt small stones on the roof of the girl’s house or maybe sneak to their window and whisper her name. she would have already told you where she sleeps in the house, or if you were lucky enough she would be sleeping in her brother’s Simba, some distance from her parent’s house which gives you a due advantage. You wouldn’t be stressed getting her outside the house unless they have a dog or out of nowhere your girl gets sleepy and gets to the dream land. Sorry mate, this is one of those nights you go back home without a bite, you live to eat another day.
But Michael had beaten all these odds with Careen for four years. His only scare all this time had been a python which was said to have been frequenting the dry river which was the pass to Careen’s home. But the Kobala people can be funny at times, Michael can tell you why. The dreaded dry river would host funny people and behaviors at times, actually even the said python could as well been a full human being with two thin legs, plus the normal unsaid third leg if that guy he found in the dark thickets of the river with that woman he couldn’t see her face one of those nights were to be mentioned. That night Mike saw a dim light from the thickets while going down the river to fetch Careen. There was some shushing of leaves and someone was moaning! Ai! This wasn’t normal, let’s say a python can’t moan, right? And if it moans, there must be something sweet it is feeling, I wonder if scientists have ever done research on instances where a python can moan. For humans, we know they moan when sweetness gets to their head…. Yes, that was the sound Michael was hearing, at least earlier than he thought since he was expecting to be the beneficiary of this kind of sound about 30 minutes later after picking Careen. He had to see this.
Now there is something about men and sex; they like watching. The feeling of just catching these people in the darkness excited Michael more than any other thing. So he sneaks deeper into the thickets hurriedly and fails to notice a broken piece of plastic basin which tips him over leaving him kissing the dry sand in a fraction of a second. Damn! Well, the ‘wild animals’ enjoying themselves in the thicket seem to have been obstructed from finalising their meal, could be the worst feeling ever! There are some things on this earth that you must leave to end before you disrupt, imagine getting to cloud 8.5, just 0.5 to be at 9 then some fool disrupts you. You think you are the only one with serious calls of duty in dry rivers in the middle of the night only to realise that this is a homestead for mischief.
Michael is confronted with a bright spotlight on his face, there is no doubt this is the spotlight of the chief. Wait a minute… was it the chief in the thicket? Oh yes, he’s hiding a woman behind him.
“Chi..chi..chie..” Michael is weighing whether to announce to the chief that he actually knows him or assume that the spotlight is too bright for him to see his sweaty face.
“Chieth. Sut up!” the chief interjects. He is wondering what this idiot is doing in the bush.
“You are the son of Apondi, right? Sindio Kijana?” The chief continues moving closer to Michael, his left hand moving the trouser a bit, he seems to be adjusting his trouser.
“What are you doing in the bushes at night? Huh?” the chief still throwing his questions.
At the back of his mind, Michael feels that either of them can ask this question, but then this is the chief. He can as well assume that the chief had been signing some birth certificate application forms and that the sound he had mistaken for moaning was actually just but squeaking sound produced between the paper and the pen signing the documents.
“I’m looking for our goats.” It’s the first thing that comes out of Michael’s mouth.
“Kijana don’t take us stupid. You know we have played these games before…”
“Whi… whi which games? I’m looking for ….”
“Wewe…” the chief shakes the spotlight more on Michael’s eyes. “Wacha niamke keso nipate ng’ombe ya mtu imeibwa. Utatupea hiyo ng’ombe, Nyasachiel.”
Michael knows the game is over. The chief has won. No fun for tonight.
As he walks back home, one of the longest walks he has ever had before, he is imagining his sweet Careen waiting for him to knock on the window. Careen must be getting angry now and cursing why Mike had to lie to him that he was coming then fail to keep his word. At a time like this, a man can only fantasise how sweet and long the night would have been. Michael regrets following the river route. He could have as well followed that path next to Konyach primary, yes it could have been a longer route but obviously wouldn’t have transpired to this.
Michael’s mind is so full that he fails to notice in the darkness the figure coming fast in front of him… it’s like a wind! The guy coming in full speed stumbles against Michael and they both find themselves on the ground. Michael can smell blood… he’s bleeding on the nose. That was fast. Now all these years of his night hunting he had never met a night runner, today must be his lucky day! The other guy is groaning in pain down there. Michael looks closer… this guy is naked. A smile forms on his cheeks… “So you guys always do it naked?” It’s too dark but the eyes have gotten used to the darkness, he moves closer to the guy. Which part of the body to touch is a problem, you have to be careful lest you find yourself holding the wrong parts only meant for people of opposite sex.
But wait till you turn the head of this fella only to see Careen’s bearded father looking straight at you. You can only say thank you, Lord, that you’ve never been unlucky enough to find the father of your girlfriend off duty. Michael decided to cover his surprise by covering his mouth. In LuoLand, when you meet a night runner that you know, you don’t call out his name unless you want to be dead. They are feared to have the powers to cast a spell on those who meet them in their line of duty and recognise them. The spell can make you a retard. But before Michael could even think of uttering a single word, the guy was gone. What a final date. What a night. This is the sand land. Not many get to meet the chief cheating on his wife in the bushes at midnight then get knocked by his ‘father-in-law’ who is out for some physical exercise with his birth suit.
Omollo has just won the first round of the Ajwa and Ouma is next. He looks at his friend Michael with his normal cheeky smile. Michael smiles back. He knows Ouma can be stupid at times, but why bring up this Careen Atieno’s issue at the Ajwa?
“I told you Michael” Ouma pats his friend on the shoulder as he takes the place of Soja who has just been beaten in the game. “Nyathi Jajuok en Jajuok.” The young one of a snake is a snake. “Careen being married for six months and coming back, She might have just lacked enough space in the city to exercise her special inherited skills Michael. Si you know this work of night running needs enough space. Hapo Nairobi naskia kila compound iko na gate, na hii kazi ya Careen na baba yake inataka open air osiepa.”
The baraza is on. It’s just one of those beautiful days for JoKobala.