Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Patrick Karari
Everyone has their thoughts of a saviour who will someday come and rescue them from the trepidations of this world. So, when the wazungus came to our humble residence we were all in awe and got different expectations from their presence.
Baba Boi saw himself acquiring a new job. He was heard saying:
“Where there’s a mzungu there’s an African ready to steal from him, thinking it, planning it or executing it as we speak!”
Thus he saw himself as their protector and you could tell this from the way he suddenly straightened his back from his usual hunchback position and thrust his chest out like a gorilla drumming his chest in an attempt to look the part.
His only fault was his non-existent knowledge of the English language. Baba Boi had at no time pretended to speak the language of the westerners. Well, actually he had at one time spoken something close to English much to his disgrace. It is alleged that he once told some potential white boss that he wanted to “fuck “for him. The mzungu did not take it lightly and saw it as an affront to his masculinity. This mzungu had just married a young, beautiful, black woman and was not about to let any black man help him in consummating his marriage. At the time Baba Boi did not fully comprehend the meaning of his words. An even angrier Baba Boi had later asked me what was wrong with “fucking” for the mzungu. I had then had a long boisterous laugh.
Hard as it may seem to believe the root cause of this misfortune was his long time employer, an old racist Asian who had insulted Baba Boi all his life as his worker. The Asian would always refer to Baba Boi as “that fucking idiot”. Baba Boi had asked the watchman what the statement meant. The watchman did in fact speak some English- the yes-sir, no-sir kind of English accompanied by intensive nodding or shaking of the head –which meant he read faces to figure out whether he was supposed to agree or disagree.
The watchman figured that since the Asian used the same statement for both of them and what they had in common was that they both worked for him, it could only mean that he was referring to them as his workers- his working idiots. Otherwise why would he refer to them as “you fucking idiots” all the time when addressing them?
The wazungus in our slum had come to check on the average mwananchi’s living conditions.
Apparently, there was a project they were working on and they had come to the grassroots to get some information from us. They were writing something we learnt was called “a proposal”. True to their intent a proposition was made to some residents to pose for some photos outside the hill of rubbish just outside our slum “gate”.
Baba Boi was among the first in line to present himself as a “resident”. He went up the hill like Moses on Mount Canaan posing for the photos, picking up rubbish, pretending to be dumping rubbish, tunneling his hand deep down into the waste. It was all too grotesque to watch but we all did. The wazungus were busy directing him, encouraging him as their cameras clicked and flashes lit the dump site. He was on a roll.
His family not to be left out on what was now deemed as a family picture, came out to join him as he came down the hill carrying an old newspaper- the Ten Commandments? It was on a Sunday afternoon so his whole family was at home. They lined up in front of the dump site as the Wazungus contorted their bodies to take the best shot. Baba Boi’s youngest child decided to relieve herself at that very point. She lifted up her already soiled skirt and was about to pull down her pants when a sting of conscience hit Baba Boi like a brick to his head bringing some sanity back into him. He jumped from his hill and rushed towards his daughter, picked her up and asked her wife to follow him back into the slum. Baba Boi’s interview was over.
In a straight line with the cameras still clicking, Baba Boi’s family made their dramatic walk disappearing into the slum. This was amidst laughter from the sizeable crowd of on lookers who had all along been wondering who the “fucking idiot” was.
Who in their right mind would let their family be exploited like that?
© Patrick Karari