The gears of my age change seamlessly at the same time my grandmother’s does; my mother’s mother. We share a birthday. In our entire extended family of more than a hundred and fifty people, I think I have a reason to brag. Who gets so lucky to share a birth-date with the mother of many? How timely my escape into the world must have been. Maybe she once had a vision when she started having children; that there is one child of your child who will be born on the same day she was born. Take note of that one and give him your blessing. You will find good reason to give it to him by the way. He will deserve it. He is the chosen one among your grandchildren.
He will be as intelligent as his grandfather, who happens to be your husband, who you will be married to for fifty eight and more years. He will walk in the shoes of his grandfather and rewrite the history of the two of you. He will be the reminder of where the pillar of the family came from. Maybe she wasn’t given a clue of which one among her children this boy would be born to. But he will just be born among tens and tens of your grandkids. But first, focus on your own children first, the vision still says. You will have eighteen of them. Yes, you will have eighteen children. Don’t ask how, you will just have them. They will make you the happiest and proudest mother on earth. At times they will also cause you sorrow, but you will get through it because you will understand life through God’s iris.
You will teach them how to be responsible and disciplined people. They should never at one time discriminate others. Always work for what is theirs in honesty because the God of the rich and the poor sees all efforts. You will teach them how to be very good parents just like you are going to be to them. They will give rise to children who will not be a disgrace first to the family and then to the society. They will learn how to source for happiness and joy from you. From that, they will always make merry and comedy whenever they are together as family. You will have a happy-funny family. They will understand the significance of happiness while together when they are still alive and have the chance.
But here is where your story may become sad in a good way, they will grow up and get married to good people from various parts of the country. They will have to leave you for new lives now. You will have to brace yourself to let go and so you will miss them. But here is the good part, they will never forget you. They will always make time to come and see you and respond when you call asking for any help. Your children will be people of great value to the nation with different professions and talents. Now live through it, says the vision.
The child who was to be born on the same day as you were, will be born sixty-one years after your own birth into the world. He will be born to the sixth child among the eighteen. He’ll be the last one among the three children your sixth child will have.
Mjango, the sixth born of my grandmother is my mother. I am the third born of my mother. Okay I know you want it to be said as last born, so there you have it. I am the last born. People say last-borns are the darlings to the mothers. Mum is that true? So I am a darling to you? I know you will answer while laughing, “But why not?”
So last week was our birthday. I was seated responding to unending whatsapp messages and stories of mjangos wishing me a blast without an actual bomb. Why do people say, “I wish you a blast?” Well okay, but I cannot tell that to people especially my Somali friends on their birthdays. Wave at me if you’re reading this Fatma and Ambia.
Some people said some nice things that really made me feel special. Others only took that chance to ask me those questions they cannot summon courage to ask on an ordinary day. Like whether the madame I write about on my blogs will or has already given me the best birthday present a man can ever be given. I expect you to get that point mjango. Don’t be a zuzu now. An absolute shame on them, but anyway I answered them and thank God they don’t have blogs like me. They would go about writing about how that conversation went just like the way I write stories from conversations I have with my mjangos. They would hang my unborn children if they could, but they just can’t.
So I had my mum begin to talk on phone in Kamba. You’d be surprised at how she can switch to pure Kamba while still being an English linguist. Her phone calls with her mom start very uniquely, you’ll definitely know who she is talking to.
“Eeeeh mamaaaaaa!!!” I rush to the kitchen immediately I hear that. I also wanted to talk to my birthday-mate you know.
She spoke some Kamba for a while with a big smile on her face as she looked at me smiling too – to the corners of my ears. Then the long awaited moment came. I could tell I was now being handed over to grandma when I heard my name mentioned in the middle of her conversation. I think my mum was telling her that I was standing infront of her waiting to wish her a happy birthday.
I was handed the phone. I also thought of starting with an “Eeeh mamaaa!” but I didn’t. But I start with, “Hallo nyanya,” We call her nyanya by the way. Not shosho. Shosho are other people’s grandmothers. So I also pull the word nyanya in my intro. It’s like an opening statement that you have to use. I warn myself against trying to speak Kamba too. I might end up spoiling both of our birthdays and the hundred plus offsprings will be on my case that day for spoling Nyanya’s big day. They would tell me bad things like, “Ata wewe hujaishi kitu na umeanza kujiona unajua sana. Unajua nyanya akona miaka ngapi?”
Then I say with my head bent down, “Eighty-one.”
“Unaona? Na wewe je? Umefikisha ngapi?”
I keep quiet because they might decide to cane me the same number of strokes as the number of years Nyanya has more than me, a mere mjango. That’s what would happen if I tried Kamba on her that day. But I know she has a sense of humor. She’d just laugh even if I make a mistake. She’d be happy I am trying. But I didn’t, I was right not to try on that day. I tried speaking Kamba on the following day after our birthday. I was at my cousin’s, Irene – graduation party when I tried to greet people in Kamba. It was almost fatal mjango. Never again in my life.
So anyway, back to my call with Nyanya.
“Eeh habari yako?” She sounded so happy. I loved the way she was pulling her words and speaking loudly. She is a grandmother you know.
“Mzuri nyanya,” I also pull my words.
“Habari ya huko kwenu Kataneeee,” I nearly laugh.
“Ni kuzuri nyanya, happy birthday.” I felt like such a darling when I said that.
From there the network at where she was jammed. On all the days the damn network has to jam, it jams on our birthday when we are having a December babies conversation.
The last time I was at Nyanya’s place was on August for a big annual get-together we usually have. Even though age has caught up with her, she still does chores and finds her way around the compound looking after the cows, goats and chicken. I love the chicken part especially. You know I have a Luhya origin too. Chicken are the most adorable creatures we know. I find them funny though. You can even catch me unawares having a one on one stare game with a chicken, just for the fun of it. I will be around when she says, “Shikeni yule kuku, na yule na yule na yule pia.” She is Taita by the way, married to a Kamba. That explains her neat Swahili. I will be around when she says, “Sasa noeni kisu mchinje,” My dad, the Luhya man in the house would be around to say, “Lakini msichinje kuku mmoja hao kuku wengine wakiangalia.” I have never understood the logic behind that though. But I think being Luhya, it is expected of us that we would treat the kukus with respect, nearly but not so nearly like a human being. So we are expected to imagine the trauma other kukus will go through when they realise what is going to happen to them in a while upon seeing their fellow writhing in pain without a head!
I walked into the kitchen there and found my mum seriously working in the midst of a thick cloud of smoke from the three-stone stove staffed with pieces red hot of logs I here Kambas call, ‘Kisinga.’ I hope I am right aki. I called her out and she came out with signs of tearing in her eyes.
“Yani kuna moshi hivo hapo na bado unapika?” The urban-mjango in me said.
Nyanya was seated around there while that non-premeditated clause came out of me.
Mum answered, “Of course yes. We’re used to this. Sisi hatukugrow tukipika na gas kama nyinyi.”
I could hear Nyanya laughing with a laughter that still sounds so young. She had tapped into the conversation. She had every right to anyway.
Nyanya in her grey voice, “Victor unaona vile nimefunza mama yako kufanya kazi?”
I giggled in humility that acted as a yes answer.
“Hii generation yenyu nawahurumia sana. Sijui mtapata mabibi wa aina gani. Hata huko university utaenda utakutana na wao. Msichana mrembo lakini ngoja mpaka ile siku utamoa. Mara ni mchafu, mara hajui kupika,” Slapping her palms, “Ai!… (Kikamba kikamba kikaaaaamba with my mum as they laugh. Damn I should learn Kamba. I’m missing all the fun)” She then turned back to me, “Kwa hivo kua na bidi. Mama yako akikufunza kazi, kubali kufunzwa maana ni mimi nilimfunza na anajua kwa nini anakufunza. Na ukiwa na bidi hivyo, hautakubali bibi mwenye pia hajui kufanya kazi.”
Do you feel those words like I do? That’s my Grandma, my birthday-mate, our Nyanya or our shosho if you like it that way from where you come from. Her name is Chausiku. Say that name with me, Chausiku. We celebrate your number 80 Nyanya.


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Written by The Mjango

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Bethwell Mwangeka Mukoshi
5 years ago

Love it!…Keep doing whatchu do bruh. I have never missed a read.

5 years ago

This is… Any firm of expression that I come up with somewhat feels degrading of a reading if this statute. Very good read.
Happy belated to ‘nyanya’… Wewe si tulishamalizana?