IT’S not praiseworthy to be a spy, for which the person who coined the Kiswahili version ‘shushushu’ deserves not less than three free bottles of a drink which resembles water but tastes like itself, for being somewhat brilliantly creative.
No ‘shushushu’ worth his ‘shushu-ism’ broadcasts that role, the reluctance to do so being almost equally matched with that of a commuter bus station ‘destination announcer’, aka ‘mpiga debe’.
Two factors soften the frustration of a ‘mpiga debe’, the first being the ‘profession’ sharing the short-form MD with Managing Director. Secondly, his face is familiar to around three million people who see him at commuter bus stations in the miniature republic of Tabata, where he loudly transmits the ‘Buguruni Chama-Sudan- Temeke-Tandika’ message about one million times per day, including Christmas Day.
To have one’s face familiar to so many people, the way the faces of Cabinet ministers and regional commissioners are, is a big deal. Yet, after doing justice to three miserable-looking, but fairly delicious roast cassava at the ‘Kwa Mama Mrangi’ kiosk, he retreats to a room in some shack, where around midnight he occasionally dreams that he had become the MD of a lucrative commuter bus company.
Being an MD only in dreams is agonising and embarrassing the reality of being a ‘mpiga debe’ (the ‘m’ and the ‘d’ being lower-cased) thus not being something worth proclaiming. Back to being a ‘shushushu’, I engaged in small scale spying at a new joint labeled Shusha Pumzi, frequented mostly by a species of human beings called gentlemen but who are only half of that: men, but not gentle.
I bumped into an old childhood friend, Cowboy Nonshekya (you make me laugh), now in his mid-60s like me. He was thrilled by my small, frightening January 1978 adventure as a young man, a bachelor, resident in a so-called Swahili, rather than English house at Magomeni Mapipa.
An elderly man, Mzee Makubazi, accused me of winking at his third, youngest and most beautiful wife of the four in his ‘possession’. Trembling with anger on a scale serious enough to have caused a sick and weak fly flying nearby, to crash like a destabilised helicopter harassed by hostile weather, he said that if I repeated the crime, he would do to me what cruel people do to fat cocks and goats during festive seasons.
Sounding as innocent as someone pleading with hell’s gatekeeper not to open it because he had been led there as a mistaken identity victim, I told (lied to ) him that I was not winking at her, but that the closing-opening motions were due to my eyes being itchy.
He half believed me, the doubting half being neutralised by the intervention of a fellow mzee, who going by his own experience affirmed that itchy eyes could create a winking gesture. Cowboy laughed like Nonshekya’s business.
Shortly afterwards, a young couple came in and occupied the table next to ours. I noted that like a cowboy in cowboy movies to which we were hooked during our boyhood, as some digital-era youngsters are hooked to social media sites, Cowboy cultivated a liking for the young woman.
Pretending to go to the washroom, a technical fake version of toilet, a word some quarters are scared of uttering, but visit to what it represents are unavoidable, he winked at her.
She ignored him by 100 per cent, no ‘cent’ more; no ‘cent’ less, causing Cowboy’s anxiety to mount, the way the anger of a cowboy in a cowboy movie did, prompting him to draw a pistol and donate three bullets to a rival’s blessed chest. He complained that his heart felt like an overheated boiler in a brewery about to explode, and accused me of not sympathising with him.
I warned him that he was courting serious risks, of even of being killed by the husband, and revisited my nearmiss nasty Magomeni Mapipa experience. He pretended to heed my advice, but two minutes later, the Mike Tyson-shaped husband caught him red handed winking at her while returning from what is diplomatically called ‘releasing excess water’.
The man, Tim Mbavu, pronounced a funny punishment for the culprit: to declare loudly, three hundred times non-stop, “I won’t fool around with married women till God recalls me”.
Cowboy complied as he was still eager to live. He became a spectacle, loudly cheered by several gentleless” gentlemen, as he made the declaration repeatedly like the staccato of a machinegun. At around the twenty-fifth declaration, the culprit sped off like a healthy, middleaged antelope.
Tim confronted me as the fugitive’s companion, and at knife-point ordered me to make the declaration but for only 15 times on Otanshekya’s behalf. I was loudly cheered, making me hugely embarrassed. I softened the embarrassment, though, by convincing myself that I had paid for the 1978 Magomeni Mapipa crime for which I had gone scot free !