It was that year when a big-tailed beast blazed the sky and the whole village was sure the world was ending. Later, in class 5, I learnt it is called Harleys Comet and it passes by Earth every 76 years.
Anyhow, we were rough boys with equally rough dogs looking for some trouble to keep our Saturday busy. Then trouble brought itself to us in form of a blue Morris Minor owned by one of the local barons called Kirema Nditi.For those who don’t speak my tongue, Kirema Nditi means ‘the one who overcomes all obstacles’. What his name meant is that you pushed him into a pit latrine, Kirema Nditi would come out smelling of roses. You go to mganga to bewitch him, you die yourself. Kirema Nditi was indestructible.
When he parked his beloved Morris Minor, we made it our duty to guard it, hoping he will reciprocate our selfless service with a lift to the big town. Or give us one of the loaves of bread he was distributing. Those were the days when some wazees from our place formed a company called Mugoiya that used to bake bread called ‘Hot Bread’ at our Kangema Township.
Now, if you did not taste Hot Bread as child, your childhood must have been very needy. It was said that the dough for making Hot Bread was kneaded by the strong feet of barefoot villagers who wore shoes only on Christmas Day. But that didn’t dampen our appetite for it. Bread was pizza those days.
When Kirema Nditi was done with making his bread deliveries at our shopping center, he came back to his car. My dog Carlos, an old mongrel whose mother was a jackal and father a wild dog, saluted him, hoping to get a loaf.Kirema Nditi was not impressed. We had to get another trick to impress the mean geezer to give us bread. Luckily, his car refused to start. God answers boys’ prayers that way.
‘Kirema Nditi’! My cousin Tony called him. ‘Can we push the car for you?’
Immediately, Kirema Nditi got out of his car and started whacking us. He whacked all us and our dogs so hard until Makurata, the old lady who sold overripe bananas at the shopping centre shouted at him-‘We! You will not kill those our boys as I watch’. Kirema Nditi then left for Kanorero, leaving behind a whiff of Hot Bread and pain in our bottoms.
When we got home, we told our grandmother how Kirema Nditi had almost
killed us, yet we had done him nothing. Our cucu was an ex-Mau Mau who
would cross any river to defend us.
‘Kirema Nditi is not called Kirema Nditi’.She told us.
‘He is called the father of Chege.’
That was my fist lesson about nicknames among my people. In our place, a nickname is private. People give you a nickname but only use it when you are not there. The reason being oftentimes, the nickname is a slur, a thinly veiled insult, or an outright absurdity.
And people, didn’t those wazees of yore from our place have colourful nicknames! We had a man nicknamed ‘Kanyua Imata’-the one who drinks creamy milk .Then there was one ‘Muirigire Rugiri’-the one who has a fence around him. I once worked in a small town with a rich man nicknamed ‘Njigirira Ningukuua’-put it in my back, I will carry! But the one that used to catch my fancy was Kanyugi Makundo Kenda-Kanyugi the man with nine locks of hair in his head.
Then we had several Matenjagwos-a name which means ‘Those that never shave’. This stock nickname was reserved for those toughies from the Mau Mau days who like Nazarities, never shaved their body hair, lest they lost power.
Another common nickname was Kamumunye. Almost untranslatable. It was reserved for those that, for one reason or the other, had lost their teeth and thus sucked at food like a lover’s tittie.
Finally, we had this mechanic who was always in greasy blue overalls. In the village, they called him ‘Chege Ndimiaga’. Chege the one who does not go to the toilet. You can guess why. It is said that he once ran over a man with his Toyota Stout after he called him so to his face. Calling a man by his nickname in our community can be suicidal at times.
The nicknames from our place are outta this world. Feel free to add your own.