“Eh! Victor. Mwana wa ingoo, karibu mtaani.” Said my uncle as we shook hands vigorously like the Luhya men we are.  His name is Justus.
Laughing, “Mtaani kweli kweli.” I got the joke.
It was heading towards 8pm on Wednesday last week. We giggled and made fun like teenage boys as he ushered me into his house. It is the kind of typical house you’d find in the green infested landscape of Kakamega. I had arrived some three hours before. The effects of travelling could only be done treated with a nap. I was not with my family on this particular one. Let’s just say I dared myself to go to my mother land to get acquainted with her on my own. I hear she bears blessings.
Habari ya Nairobi?”
Nairobi ni kuzuri. Kuhustle kama kawa.”
Changamoto iko kila mahali.”
“Eh ushasema.” I said in agreement as I stared at the steaming ugali illumined by a lantern next to it – on the table right in front of me. I was having supper at his house that night. Heaven knows I needed that ugali. I had not eaten real food for two days. Bhajia, crisps and soda is not even food – to a Luhya in this case. I was learning how to be the Luhya I was born being.
Sadly, we have to live with the endless stereotypical intimidation Kenyans have developed about members of this wonderful tribe. They say Luhyas are the ever hungry human beings and ‘professional eaters’ for that matter. Their appetite does not fluctuate with the economy or even their humanly moods. They can make you hungry when you hear them talk. Can I fail to mention that the chicken is the icon and idol of the Luhyas? In fact that reminds me how  every single mjango I told that I was going to Luhya land ordered me not to return without a feathery two legged animal under my armpit if not in a ventilated box. Most of them were girls by the way. You know urban chiqs and their undying love for kuku but only when it’s mortified, fried and spiced? Rolling eyes.
His daughter, my cousin as well, brought to table plates of fish stew followed by a tray of drinking water in plastic cups and a small basin of water. As if that was the end of her service, she held the basin before me, signifying that I ought to wash my hands. How kind and well taught for such a young girl, barely ten years old, I thought to myself.
Asanti sana.” I also have a kind heart somewhere in me know.
“Victor, umekuja?” The mother of the house walked into the supper scene. I thought of complimenting the way she had taught her daughter well, but I ended up thinking twice.
Jokingly, “Imebidi.
She giggled, “Karibu.”
With her was a baby girl who was new to my eyes. It pricked me when I realised that she had been in existence for months now yet I didn’t even have an idea about it.
Na uyu ni nani?”
Eish!” The mother shrieked in the common way Luhyas do.
Huyu si amekueko kutoka ile siku ulikuwa apa mara mwisho.”
Na mbona sikuwahi mwona?” Of course I didn’t expect to get an answer to that. I suspected that my ignorance to matters concerning ingoo was on display there.
Aleki ombako.” The father said. Alex is the younger son.
We shut our eyes like it is custom for Christians in readiness to have the boy pray for the meal before us. Mjango we waited until I had to open one eye to confirm whether the prayer was on the way or not. For heaven’s sake, I was hungry and wastage of time was not on my to do list before the grand meal that night. I realised I was not the only one with the same idea. We opened our eyes only to see the boy scoping his eyes through all of us and the centre of our fellowship, the steaming ugali.
“Oh! Yani sisi  tunangoja uombe na wewe unatuangalia tu?” The mother said.
“Alex anaogopa Victor…” My uncle said.
Aya Mercy omba.” The mother said quickly to cover up the lousy embarrassment before their visitor, who is me. The girl prayed in correct English. Again, how nice of her in a place like this.
“Amen.” We said in unison as we raised our heads for the prime session.
My uncle said in continuation, “Huyu Alex wakati hauko anaongeako tu vizuri. Lakini kukiwa na mgeni baridi tu inamwingia.
I was constantly amused by the accent, twisting and choice of words they used while speaking. It made everything they said sound funny even if it was not worth laughing at. I was loving it.
Talk of twisting words, Luhyas have their own kind of Swahili which extremely defiles the grammatical rules of the language. This comes about by the constant use of certain syllables used while conversing in Luyha. For instance, the syllable ‘Kh’ is used in place of ‘K’. E.g.: “Akha khatoto khadogo khananiambia nini?”
R’ is used in place of ‘t’. E.g.: “Chukua uru ruvitu rwako na uende kabisa!
Syllable ‘Ko’ is added in every verb that ends in a vowel. E.g.: “Nifanyieko favour.”
Mjango, the Luyha-swahili lessons could go on.
“Victor wewe utakuleko ugali kutoka hapa tu ama nikate kate?” My uncle asked.
You see its custom for them not to divide the ugali for everyone to have a portion but instead pinch the ball from the central place it is. I calculated my Luyha abilities to do that and the results were negative. The ugali was so hot and my hands, urban grown hands that have never worked with a jembe are so soft and sensitive. I would only end up shedding tears while eating and they’d see their grown cousin crying over what they did not know – but I know that the ugali is just too hot lakini navumilia tu. No I was not in for that encounter.
Wah! Ebu katakata tu. Hakuna haja nijichoche.
He smiled, “Aya chukua sasa.
I reached for a particular piece and oh yes, I had to pick it skilfully because it was hot. I restrained myself from saying that I normally use a fork while eating ugali. In fact, I had never used my hands to eat ugali for six years and counting. When you go to Rome…
“By the way huku pia kulikuwa na shida ya unga?
That question broke a shell that hatched into a series of stories.
Ayaiyaa! Ata usiulize. Shida ya unga ilikuwa kila mahali.” My uncle said.
“Oh haiyaa!” Pretending that I did not know that.
Tumeteseka sana. Hii serikali…” He paused. He was now getting political?
Tulikuwa tumeikubali lakini sasa, tuko karibu kuanza kulia na kutoridhika. Tumeanza kufikiria vingine…”
I could measure the weight of pain in his words as a father and Luhya; speaking on behalf of the entire community. I realised that people in places like these in the country are the most affected with the ripple effect of government failures and misdoings.
Si unajua mimi nafanya kazi ya transport?
I nodded as I chewed the steaming piece of soup-soaked ugali with utmost caution.
Sasa kuna lorry huwa naendesha. Huwa tunaleta supplies pia za chakula. Si siku ingine nimeingia tu na gari pale sokoni Stage Mboga. Watu wakaanza kukimbia wanakuja hapo kwa gari wengi wakisema, “Tuuzie unga tu tafadhali.” Na kwa gari ata sikuwa nimebeba chochote.”
I giggled but that was serious. At that time the baby was crying too much until it became annoying.
Unajua ni heri kukuwe na unga kwa maduka lakini watu hawana pesa. Lakini eti sasa watu wakona pesa lakini hakuna unga kwa duka? Mimi sijawahi ona io. Nimeona tu na hii serikali. ”
Na si kitu mzuri. Hapo nimekubali. Lakini huku nayo nimeona vitu zingine ni cheap.
Kama nini?” The mother asked.
Pikipiki? Ai niliona ni cheap sana. Maybe naona hivo ju nimezoea Nairobi. Mtu amenibeba kutoka Masinde Muliro, tukaenda tukaenda hadi apa ju sijui kunaitwa aje…
Panaitwa SendeSukari.”
Eeh hapo.” As if I knew whether that was really the place I was referring too.
“… io distance yote ananiitisha tu seventy bob. Nilimwangalia na huruma…”
They said almost at the same time, “Hivo ndo iko! Na io bei.”
Mother said, “Ata io walikulipisha sana.”
I laughed in amusement, trying not to be embarrassed because of my urban naivety.
Ai! Mimi niliskia tu kumwachia io mia. Anahitaji io pesa kuniliko.”
Uncle said, “Hawa watu hulipisha ivo. Lakini wa town service ndo hulipisha sana kidogo. Ya town service minimum ni hamsini.”
“Nimejua sasa.”
Eh waskunyang’anye pesa bure ju wanaona wewe ni mgeni. Ata unajua ukiwa hapo town utaona tu maajabu. Unapata mtu ametoka town kama ya Nairobi ama mahali kwingine na hataki tu kupotea. Sasa ju hataki kupotea ata kidogo, anakuja anauliza mtu wa boda ampeleke mahali within hapo town. Atakama ni mahali unaeza muonyesha umwambie ni pale, yeye hataki. Anataka tu kepelekwa mbaka aambiwe ni hapa.”
I stopped paused my meal to laugh. That was not the end.
“Sasa si kuna siku nilikuweko town na hii pikipiki yangu. Mtu akakuja akaniambia nimpeleke mahali Fulani yeye hapajui. Nikaona kama kawaida pengine ju hataki kupotea wacha nimpeleke. Nikamwambia ni fifty akasema sawa. Tukaenda tu kidogo corner moja nikamwambia ni hapa tumefika. Alikaa nikama hakuwa anataka kushuka ju haamini tumefika. Nikaona tu vile alinipea io fifty…” He laughed.
I was cracking, “Shingo upande. Wah! Enyewe.” He took a piece of ugali and passed it to his son. I didn’t look elsewhere but my uncle as we talked since he was directly opposite to me. The wife next to him was nursing the infant to silence her.
“Lakini siku tu utabebwa na pikipiki na uone mwenye anaendesha anaenda mbio sana ama vile anaendesha si kawaida, usiogope kumwambia. Ukiona tu io speed kuna venye tu si ya kawaida…”
“Eh namwambia tu roho safi.”
“Kwa uzuri tu. Unamwambia ukona shida ya kifua io upepo inakuaffect, apunguze tu speed.”
“Na akikosa kuskia?”
“Unamwambia tu vile me huwa nawaambia. Kama jamaa mwingine ni kijana tu tunajuana alikuwa ananibeba kwa pikipiki yake. Sasa tukafika mahali nikaona vile anajaribu kufanya, eti anaovertake pickup na kuna gari ingine inakuja, sasa anataka kupita katikati yao.”
“Eiish!” The mother exclaimed and begun speaking in Luyha. I could not comprehend a word she said – like you’d expect of me. She seemed to be adding on to the conversation. I was left out for a while as they spoke. Those are the times I end up feeling like I betrayed my native home for urban life yet it was not my choice to be brought up in the city all my life. It is normal for born-towns to think that they are being talked about in secret since they cannot understand the subject language. But I didn’t let that get to my head at that time.
He switched back, “So Victor mimi nikauliza huyo jamaa tu swali moja.
“Nilikuambia ninaenda wapi?”
“Si ulisema unaenda town.”
“Na mbona wewe unanipeleka mahali kwingine?”
“Mahali kwingine wapi?”
Nakwambia alijichekelea.”
There I was cracking again. Though I had food in my mouth, I couldn’t help it.
“Jamaa nilimwambia ninaenda town lakini yeye anaendesha vibaya ndo niende hospitali…”
After swallowing, “Pengine ata azidi akupeleke mortuary!”
We all laughed our lungs out. You see that mjango? That moment touched me. My eyes opened (not literally) and I saw the cloud of family love happily hovering around the perimeter the lantern lit the sitting room. I apologised to myself and to them within myself for not being loyal to my native home. Though I don’t put the blame on myself entirely. A sensation of hope lingered within me when I was leaving that it was not too late to make it right. I may not be able to learn my native language entirely, but I can always visit there and actually be a part of them regularly. We were born in a generation that does not recognize where they natively came from, a generation empty of any cultural respect. I guess that norm for me is now changed mjango.
I honour Ingoo. Ingoo is Luhya that means home.


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Written by The Mjango

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6 years ago

Umetupeleka nyumbani bro….io imeweza…big up

Suzy baskamul
Suzy baskamul
6 years ago

NICe story …..

6 years ago

My guy umenifanya hadi nifikirie kuend Musye!!!!asap…..Nice….Big up

Steve vinnie
Steve vinnie
6 years ago

I feel touched…… Unanifanya nafeel kuenda uko ingo …bruh that is an exellence???