Never underrate the mirror’s usefulness!


WHOEVER you are, as a creature of God like me, and whatever you are doing to do what is known as earning the daily bread – even if a wise doctor forbade you to eat it for some strange medical reasons – I am greeting you (most sincerely, I swear) by one of the briefest expressions of goodwill that God ever created: Hi! If you know of someone who can cure me of a strange disease whose stupid nature I’m about to sketch, please refer me to him or her, the way a local doctor who has failed to cure a patient refers the person to a more intelligent (sorry, better technically facilitated) colleague abroad.

In return, I will pray to God a million and one times to reserve for you a place in heaven, for resting in peace, as an ex-human being. Out of the question are the likes of a character that operates from a hut at Kigogo Luhanga in Dar, that a self-respecting goat would boycott to sleep in.

He once tried to convince a friend that he would convert him into a billionaire, by placing the dried skin of a male lizard under his pillow for three nights.

The disease that’s torturing me is constantly remembering funny, some of them outright idiotic things that took place a long time ago, not in Bethlehem, but in my home village.

One of them was a school handwriting competition I won, for which I was awarded – of all items – a mirror the size of a packet of playing cards.

Looking back, it was not only no big deal, but a mockery, as virtually everyone can now afford it. Inescapably for me, though, one of its unwelcome services is to remind me that I am growing no younger.

But it is a reminder that reminds me of what a friend called Kitambi Chembamba, who I believe doesn’t believe in telling lies, constantly reminds me.

He emphasizes that whenever a ‘growing-old’ feeling creeps in, I should pretend that I am growing younger, and loudly advise the feeling to go to hell.

Upepo Mtamu Bar – the proprietor’s Kiswahili version of Cool Breeze – was my choice for murdering the evening and killing a few beers. I was joined by two ancient citizens. One, an ex-schoolmate, Mr Highbridge Knox Tibijunda (they don’t rot).

And two, an ancient European, Dr Tony Neverdie, a malaria researcher. Dr Highbridge teasingly referred to me as a handwriting hero, for which I was awarded a mirror during our primary school days over 50 years ago.

I disclosed what I hadn’t done to my classmates; that, at several intervals, five nights after becoming a handwriting hero were divided in almost two equal parts, between sleeping and musing over my facial reflection in the mirror.

It was because prior to that, I wasn’t fully aware of how I looked like, since glimpses of my facial replica were via my grandma’s mirror, which she lent me for five minutes maximum, ahead of the trip to church on Sunday mornings!

The gentlemen broke into laughter; then, to spice things up, I told them that the nasty experience was almost on the scale of my toes serving as free accommodation for religion-less creatures called jiggers.

I amused them further by remarking that, I was only good at relatively simple things like handwriting, which probably accounted to my becoming a writer, as opposed to complicated ones like medical research and architecture as were their cases.

The duo burst into a hand grenade explosion-like laughter, which in the case of the mzungu, was promoted to tears of amusement. Someone passing by greeted us politely, and politely requested me to join him a few steps away.

He was a long-lost enemy, Frank Potea, nick-named ‘Ba Mkwe’; a liberal spender, thanks to being a smart conman. He once threatened to slaughter me like a goat over rumours of me wanting to ‘Wilsonize’ his girlfriend.

Originally fat, he was now so thin that I was almost embarrassingly fat by comparison. Things had truly gone haywire.

I gave him a 20,000/- donation; he pretended to ask God to bless me, and I pretended to believe that he was sincere.

A huge surprise awaited me when I rejoined my friends – a fanciful mirror that Dr Neverdie had bought for me from a ‘machinga’, as, as he put it: “A most belated reward for your handwriting heroism!” I was mighty excited.

I put it to immediate use. Jokingly, I said the hair looked like salt deposited in the wrong place, and the attempt by the moustache to imitate what once graced the chin of a prominent North Vietamese nationalist, Ho Chi Minh, aka Uncle Ho, was a total failure.

I joked, furthermore, that in spite of the failure, I would, one of these days, register ‘Uncle Willie’ and ‘Mjomba Kai’ as spare official names.

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