By David G Maillu
Published November 5, 2017
Compare and contrast the following excerpts. The first one is from the first page of Kibera, my latest novel, finished in August 2017. The second is from my mini novel, Troubles, written and published 42 years go.
The funeral function of Lukas Kivondo schemed crowds virtually from anywhere in the country. Not because he was a well-known man, but because during his working days as a government driver in Nairobi he had made many friends. Indeed, he was a man of people.
But he wasn’t only a man of men. He was a man of women too because his going on the ground had discovered that women, like his mother had been, had much more to offer to him than men. It was his sharp nose of smelling beautiful women that hooked into women’s world. A master of flirtation he was. Women love being flirted to just as much as they love beautiful clothes. Although he was a polygamist, he had long lost count of the women he had slept with, some of whom he had actually slept with in the government’s vehicles. Least did Lukas Kivondo know however that which you seek religiously may turn against you and destroy you. That is why wise people take refuge in modesty. The collection of women Lukas Kivondo had been sleeping with would manufacture his death. He was killed by the Aids Virus. Now whispers in the village were saying, “We are going to bury only bones; thank God the coffin hides his features.”
For months just preceding his death he had vanished from people and got imprisoned into his bedroom as death ate him away day by day in small installments. In the last days family members became protective of his embarrassing condition and decided to stop as many people as possible from seeing him. They did so by using any means of sending visitors away. Commonly they said, “He has gone to hospital for a checkup.”
They were afraid that after he had been seen the visitors would further spread the news, “He’s gone, only bones.” Each member of the family appeared to have authored a different disease for sending visitors away. “He has liver problem,” one may say while another other would say, “He suffers from a bruise he once got from a motor accident.”
The burial was the most attended one lately, attracting political and fanatic religious vultures for a kill in addressing and winning the hearts of the audience. For the first time his two wives, Martha Kasimbi and Joyce Wanza, sat together each wearing a different face about accepting the burial baptism that would turn them into widows. They could as well start planning where they would also be buried taking into consideration that the man they were burying must have infected them with the same cancer killing him. Each wife must have been cursing, “May he perish into hell for destroying me. What had he been getting from those women outside which he couldn’t have got from me and my co-wife?” Yes, Lukas Kivondo had used his penis to dig not only his own grave but that of his wives. Both wives were too scared of being checked for the virus. They hoped a miraculous immunity had prevented the virus from finding home in them.
The children sat separately but into two distinct groups. Children of the house of Wanza sat closer to the grave than the children of the house of Kasimbi. The spearhead of the house of Kasimbi was a son, Ndunda. The house of Kasimbi, which was more prosperous, was spearheaded by Thomas Makindi. Each wife had a son as the first born.
Although Ndunda couldn’t say it in words, from within he glowed with the pride that the father had died. For goodness sake, he should die seven times. The Aids Virus had fought successfully for Ndunda. The so-called father had never been a good father to him; if anything, he had been Ndunda’s stumbling block. He lived to remember one time when the father had beaten Ndunda’s mother before Ndunda’s eyes. He lived to be haunted by the crying voice of his mother from the beating. He lived to remember his father’s destruction of Ndunda’s guitar. He lived to remember his father threats of strangling a village girl because she had become Ndunda’s girlfriend.
Kivondo and Wanza had a son and a daughter. The house of Kasimbi had five children who lived in a better permanent building. Everybody knew too well that Kasimbi had given birth to bright children who excelled in school; a matter of great pride to Kasimbi. She used that pride to ridicule what Wanza had given birth to. Kasimbi and Wanza, like many co-wives, had always been at war with each other; each poising her children against the children of the other.
“AAAMMENN!” the gathering sealed the prayer enthusiastically in an unmistakable and highly inspired oneness. The church went silent except for the single interruptions of a person here and there clearing the voice system, sneezing, or a child talking or crying demanding breast-feeding. It was the Salvation Army Church of the Ngunguunguu village.
The long-winding and comprehensive prayer of the Sunday service that nearly touched all issues of man’s afflictions and reasons-for-being-happy, had nearly exhausted Captain SakayoNgove. He took time to regain his breath and find his own feet for the next item. Usually, a good prayer should be followed by a hymn. For that reason the Captain stirred up the congregation with one of his favourite hymns about God’s children in the wilderness. The church drowned into singing in which drums, too, rose and throbbed into the rhythm whereby women’s voices rang high and men’s dug deeply.
Captain Ngove conducted the music with profound feeling and consolidated faith, his hands flying vigorously punching the dictions of the song with the precision of an excellent conductor. His head rocked and rolled joyfully with the rhythm and his voice he nearly outsang the congregation particularly at the chorus and in that particular part about deliverance.
The song came to an end. The drums rolled and died then, after taking some breath, the Captain opened the preaching, “Brothers and sisters, this is good…” His mind idled for a moment before he continued, “We live in difficult times. Times of many tribulations that require wisdom and spiritual control to over¬come. But our own wisdom, our own trials, and our own control are not enough without more power from God. We find it too difficult to walk in a straight line without God’s helping hand.”
He paused. He stared at a particular woman right inside the gathering. She had her daughter close to her and her hand rested on the daughter’s shoulder. The woman replied at the Captain with a stare. He disengaged his look and continued but, this time, with some stammers, “We, we… we shall examine some important chapters in the Old Testament, from the book of Proverbs.” He gave the woman another look and found her piercing stare on him still on. Now he cleared his voice, readying to start with the reading. There was a paper sticking out from every page he had chosen a verse. “I shall mention the chapters as I read on,” he cleared his voice again. “Chapter 11 verse 2,” he said and slapped his lips, glanced at the woman then proceeded, “When pride cometh, then cometh shame; but with the lowly is wisdom… Chapter 11 verse 14: where no counsel is, the people fall; but in the multitude of counsellors there’s safety… Chapter 14 verse 19: The devil bows before good and the wicked at the gates of the righteous… Chapter 20 verse 1: Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whoever is deceived is not wise… Chapter 22 verse 1: A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches; and loving favour rather than silver and gold.”
This time he made a bigger pause and returned the stare to the woman. Some people noticed the connection and a few daring eyes stole looks from the woman out of curiosity.
When he returned to his reading this time his voice lacked the original strength. It had acquired some degree of vibration or disturbance. Nevertheless he managed to continue, “Chapter 23 verse 31: Look not thou upon wine when it is red, when it gives its colour in the cup, when it moves itself aright. At the last, it bites like a serpent, and strikes like an adder. Your eye shall behold strange women, and your heart shall utter perverse things. Yes, thou shall be as that lies down in the midst of the sea. Or as that lies upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shall thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not. When shall I wake? I see it yet again… Chapter 26 verse 11: As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returned to his folly.”
He looked down then panned a look across the walls and finally his eyes returned to the mother and daughter. This time when he disengaged his stare, he glanced at the roof and as he returned his eyes to the book he took a handkerchief and mopped his sweating face. He had one more verse to read then begin to expound the complete reading. “Chapter 31 verse 4,” he continued, “It is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princess strong drink, lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink to himself that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of hea… heavy…” His stammer increased, but he fought to continue… “that be of heavy hearts.” He mopped his face again. There was a visible change in his face. This time the vibration in his voice came out distinctly as he read the last bit of the verse. “…Let him drink, and forget his poverty and remember his misery nno… more.” He stumbled over the next word before he recaptured his voice after glancing at the woman. “…open the mouth of the dumb in the cause of all such… of all such.., such, as the appoi…appointed…” Everybody could see the desperate fight he put up, trying to finish the sentence. “…such as the appointed to destruction.”
He heaved a sigh and looked exhausted. They noticed that something was the matter with him and some of them feared he might get a stroke. Yet silence held him in a grip. His hands rested on the pulpit with his fingers tapping absently on the board slowly. The radiance in his face had vanished. His lips had fallen loose and his eyebrows gotten more knitted.. It was then when Captain SakayoNgove lost control of himself and broke into tears, beating his face suddenly with his hand. The house was paralyzed and hushed up by the incident.
“Oh my God!” cried some voices.
Captain Ngove deemed it wise to clear from the pulpit urgently, then out of the church as people consulted from one another:
What’s the matter with him?
How can a man cry just like that?
He was moved by the words
What about the woman he kept on glancing at?
She must be the cause of that.
Whatever it was, an adult didn’t shed tears just like that in a public place. Or what did the oracle say when an adult’s anus was seen in the public?
The congregation dissolved, totally confused, each person walked away to report the matter in his or her own version.