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By Denis Wabuyi


Sometimes greatness and heroism in our community is earned by one’s age but it is not guarantee if not accompanied with wisdom. Old folks must tell stories; of their adventures, of their persistence through the hard times so as to inspire the current generations to meet the challenges of their day. Many stories are told, and told in the right time to counter circumstances of the moment. In times where there are many cowards during the circumcision, stories will be told of how it has ever happened and how it was countered in those days.


Mzee Manueli Watenyeli used to tell us about the story of Muduku who was a prominent government official who served in various capacities when he was not circumcised. Sometimes, he could even be delegated to handle cultural activities. Little did they know that he had not paid the debt of Bamasaba (likobi lye Bamasaba) which is imbalu. How he was able to dodge and not be realised remains a marvel; but some people say that he had migrated from Budadiri to Bududa and since he was of old age, everyone assumed that he was circumcised.


One day, his 40 days elapsed and the ancestors signaled to the elders that Muduku was not circumcised. Secretly, a plot was hatched to nab Muduku and he was circumcised in broad daylight in a public place. That is how the debt can be settled by such people who disgrace the culture. When told such a story, at the back of your mind is the reminder that you can never run away from the ways of the tribe. Whoever is born of a Mugisu and you’re a man, are supposed to shed blood to unite you with the soil, you’re supposed to shed off the foreskin. That is why from childhood, a boy child is mentored in preparation for this event; you’re taught how to dance and even your manhood is prepared. There is what we call (khukwisa munyingo). A termite is normally used to cut a skin lining that may prevent the foreskin from detaching from the main skin. This is done to ease the work of umushebi and speed up the circumcision process during the initiation.


All said and done, we are facing a famine that has left us wondering whether anyone will survive this hunger which to our generation seems to be the worst we have ever encountered. In the afternoon having finished weeding of beans in Sunnu, we crossed over to our aunt to see if she has prepared anything or if she can give us some water to quench the thirst. We were welcomed to a meal of millet bread and kimisyebebe (leaves picked off a crawling plant. Nothing could be better than this. And since we had already washed hands from a nearby stream, we wiped them over our ragged shorts and joined in.


A combination of hunger and the delicacy of the meal before us, it was difficult for one to hide their excitement. If you were successful, the oesophagus could still betray you; our aunt has a way of preparing kimisyebebe with kumushelekhe and kumurere that makes the sauce slippery. One takes a pinch of busima, rolls it in the sauce and even without chewing, the food will go down the throat and make a sound (kulyu). Then the old man would observe; “wakuulisa kumumilo paka kwola i Manafa”. Meaning that the sound being produced as you’re swallowing can be heard from a distance.


He then told us a story. During the hunger of 1984 we used to have only one meal in two days. One day, as we were having our meal, I felt like my wife had intentionally over doused the sauce with salt and kumushelekhe. But to our dismay, she seemed to be enjoying the meal without difficulty; walya, wakuulisa kumumilo wamalla wa betsakala. As this was happening, I could hardly swallow the food despite the hunger of two days all together. I sensed this could be a ploy by my wife to deny us chance to eat. I took her plate and threw the food to the dogs; of course including my own. That is the only time I fought with my children’s mother.


Mzei continued; then that very year, we had hoarded some millet for planting. One day left home to burry my longtime friend in Bungokho, we left Sarapio alone; those days you could go for burial and return after a week. However, due to food shortage everywhere, they buried my friend in the morning and we were kindly requested to go back to our homes since there was not food to feed the mourners. We returned home unexpectedly only to find Sarapio eating some dark stuff that resembled busiima.


Apparently, soon as he woke up knowing that everyone was away, Sarapiyo had gone for the granary and picked millet. Because he was in a hurry, he did not even winnow the millet; just ground with all the lihutsi and mingled the millet flour. Because we were hungry and tired, we thought to just take the food from him and eat it. To taste, the food was very bitter and even us who were hungry could not eat it. We took it away and threw to the dogs; to my surprise, the dogs refused to eat the food.

Todate I still wonder whether the food was too bad that even dogs could not eat it, or the dogs just refused to side with us as we wanted to punish Sarapio their friend.

Till then we shall keep you posted!


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