10 AMINI: The Oath…

I swear by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius the surgeon, likewise Hygeia and Panacea, and call all the gods and goddesses to witness, that I will observe and keep this underwritten oath, to the utmost of my power and judgment.

I will reverence my master who taught me the art. Equally with my parents, will I allow him things necessary for his support, and will consider his sons as brothers. I will teach them my art without reward or agreement; and I will impart all my acquirement, instructions, and whatever I know, to my master’s children, as to my own; and likewise to all my pupils, who shall bind and tie themselves by a professional oath, but to none else.

With regard to healing the sick, I will devise and order for them the best diet, according to my judgment and means; and I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage.

Nor shall any man’s entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel any man to do so. Moreover, I will give no sort of medicine to any pregnant woman, with a view to destroy the child.

Further, I will comport myself and use my knowledge in a godly manner.

I will not cut for the stone, but will commit that affair entirely to the surgeons.

Whatsoever house I may enter, my visit shall be for the convenience and advantage of the patient; and I will willingly refrain from doing any injury or wrong from falsehood, and (in an especial manner) from acts of an amorous nature, whatever may be the rank of those who it may be my duty to cure, whether mistress or servant, bond or free.

Whatever, in the course of my practice, I may see or hear (even when not invited), whatever I may happen to obtain knowledge of, if it be not proper to repeat it, I will keep sacred and secret within my own breast.

If I faithfully observe this oath, may I thrive and prosper in my fortune and profession, and live in the estimation of posterity; or on breach thereof, may the reverse be my fate!

These sacred writings proudly hang in the patients’ lounge of Professor Ludwik Lachowski’s clinic. Alongside – and all in solid black frames – are his practicing licence, a fraying graduation certificate from some school of medicine in Poland, and two photos of his graduation – a much younger man distinguishly robed with award in hand and the other with his proud but now long departed parents. His father Eusebius Lachowski, Anglo-Polish, met his mother Sabina Chawema, during the colonial era and together they had 2 children. His sister Eugenia Marahaba, lives in the leafier Lovingtown of Nairobi with her husband and son Theo. Lach, short for Lachowski, pronounced Lax is the Professor’s preferred byname and those in Amini are most careful to enunciate as so because it has a not very pleasant translation in one of the local dialects.

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09 AMINI: Woman…

You must give it to the Professor for being able to explain medical conditions in a very humorous way. What better medicine! When a clinician uses the terms leiomyoma, dysmenorrhea or ovarian apoplexy, the affected is left feeling like the end is nigh. Worse when the prescription is a unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. Something that sounds like only a team of high specialized surgeons in Mumbai or Delhi can comfortably handle. Where will the air fare even come from?

Lach offers practical suggestions on how these maladies can be avoided and stresses the need for proper diet, consistent exercise and – most importantly – annual pelvic checks. Mama Clara, who has incessantly been cheering every point that resonates with her, can no longer contain herself. She stands to testify how the doctor’s recommendations also helped her lose weight. “Look at me! Just look at me!” She does a 360◦ spin in her obviously 1980 ndege-round skirt and continues to testify how a 35 kilograms loss in the last 2 years has made her desire another baby. An uproarious laughter fills the school compound. Mama Clara is about 60.

Question after question begs a response from this man truly covenanted to the Oath.  I’m sure Hippocrates would be proud of him. “I usually advise patients diagnosed with endometrial cancer to consider having their uterus removed. The anger that meets me is something I have had to get used to. Women of Amini, the intent is not to put out the very essence of your womanhood but protract your very existence!” I too – initially bewildered by the doctor’s theatrical opening performance of the fourth chapter of The Good Book of Solomon – raise my hand with questions. No shame at all. Redemption is here!

The next session is facilitated by a representative from Faydar Pharmaceuticals – one of the largest multinationals in the industry. They’ve just introduced a new napkin and the enthusiastic employee together with her sales colleagues display its greater advantages. Each of us receives a hamper. O what joy when the women discover purple t-shirts in their pack. I will never wear it! Nairobi has fashion rules for women my age.

Woman! Never did I think I would be proud to be called a woman. Growing up it seemed highly unacceptable to be referred to as one. I was young, it meant old. Seemed to signify a weakness – a shameful weakness. A someone almost insignificant! Now I bask in the joys of embracing the bone of His bones and flesh of His flesh. Divinely breathed into life. A most fearfully and wonderfully made being. And like David, the Psalmist, I now know that full well.

Its 6.00pm, a whistle blows. We all stand at attention. A group of scouts can be seen lowering the Black-Red-Green Flag. These students are here every Saturday afternoon for their clubs activities. You should see how proudly they march in their cotton khakis complete with tilted velvet green berets. Another whistle marks the end of this government protocol. The professor stands by the gate, greeting the hands of the almost 250 ladies who attended his baraza.  A most rewarding afternoon it has been. Professor Sir, I will definitely be speaking to management to include you in our company’s list of approved practitioners.2

08 AMINI: The Flower…

I open the door. It’s Professor Lach! I almost jump out of my skin. The president himself is here and I am in paint-stained pajamas. The lesso, quickly strewn across my chest at the knock of the door, is the only decent hope of ever being introduced to his heart-melting nephew, Theo.

Come in…” My confused self invites. I begin to unlatch the outer burglar-proof  door.

Not to worry my daughter, I’ll only be a moment.” He hands me a flier – the same pink flier that, a few days back, was slipped under my door. “I just thought to make a personal invitation. Too many people missed out last year…

A 60 year old man climbs 5 flights up to reach out to me. How can I possibly not be there? “I will be present…” I confirm. I know fully understand why Amini reveres this gentleman.

I apologize for my unkempt look. “Not to worry my daughter and anyway if you cannot be free in your house, no other place can ever liberate you.

2:30 p.m. Cheery strides of the women towards Amini Primary School can be heard from afar. I rush down the stairs to join them.

I see you neither carried a lesso nor an umbrella…” Mama Frosa explains that the Professor’s talks can get long and windy making it necessary to always carry the paraphernalia. “In any case the grass stains can be a royal pain but don’t worry…” Her strong left hand squeezes mine, “We will share…

Amini is shaped like a flower, with each phase representing 1 of the 8 petals of its well thought out design. At the heart of it is the vibrant Amini Shopping Centre complete with a supermarket, butchery, hair salon, pharmacy, restaurant, movie store and of course the very popular Amini Veranda Bar. An aerial view of this floret reveals 2 access roads; one leading cars in and out of the trading area, and the other allowing residents and their guests to directly access their homes. The school – shaped like a leaf – is built off-road and boasts of having the largest playing field in Nairobi. The only sad thing is that the silver faucets that once jetted clean drinking water for pupils are all a dusty dry. Nonetheless, Amini’s architecture remains undoubtedly ingenious.

We arrive at the school. The anticipation is at its climax. Hugs and high-fives make the mood all the more exciting. I never knew Amini had these many women. Mama Frosa quickly introduces me to her friends and the daughters to her friends. “She is the one who drives the old white Nissan.” “Ile inasimama simama?” another of her comrades seeks to ascertain. That is it! I have to get rid of the godforsaken vehicle. Frosa’s mum sets camp right at the front. I hand her the extra bottle of water purchased at the gate entrance. “Asante sana!” We quickly submit to our thirst.The Professor, newspaper in hand as always, arrives. The crowd ululates. An interesting afternoon awaits us.2

07 AMINI: Paint…

5.30am. An opportune time for me to paint Amini from its darkness to marvelous light. I’m going to lie about a blue sun rising on a yellow sky. My brush will stroke Mzee pacing through the 8 phases of the high-rise estate to deliver papers for his friends who are too frail to get out of bed. I will show Peter, through the wooden frame of his kiosk’s window, kneeling to present his requests before the Most High. With a charcoal pastel, I will design Professor Lach’s Kaunda suit as he quickly makes his way to the shopping area. Confessions will be made about Kayamba’s faded trousers firmly held up by matching suspenders. He will perch himself alongside Lach for a careful examination of Saturday’s daily.

I will throw a Pashmina shawl over Mama Frosa’s caramel nightdress to hide the slight rip on her left armpit. As usual, she will be buying eggs for her never-ending guests; a generous and warm soul she is. A royal blue and bright orange ‘Asiyefunzwa na mamaye hufunzwa na ulimwengu’ lesso will be seen respectfully wrapped around her African hips, her graying hair held together with a yellow scarf. Jeremiah will playfully dare her to a race after picking up cigarettes for his once-in-a-week visiting dad oblivious that this man who always gives him an extra shilling for candy isn’t really his father.

Dominik wa Phase 5 will be sharing a moment with the cabbies after his 10km run. Today he will meet their chai bill with the solitary intention of flirting with Cheupe. This white flower is as attractive as the coconut mandazis she peddles; absolutely no fault in her being. I will gossip about the Matatu drivers who opt for Mama Kadogo’s githeri served alongside Mama Raha’s porridge. Only a heavy meal can take them through Nairobi’s frenetic traffic. At the far edge of the frame, you will observe white passenger vans all with the yellow government mark queued up for a thorough scrub.

10.30am. The incomplete canvas rests from the ambitious strokes of my identical paintbrushes. This time I do not procrastinate about switching off the balcony lights. Amini will be beautiful when the government is done with re-carpeting its  roads. No longer will she be a blurry figment of my imagination or a painting that an enthused tourist can buy at the crafts market. It will be a truth that even our rattily automobiles will be too ashamed to talk ill about. Finally a reason to trade my Nissan B14 for a German machine and the company will no longer have a reason to withhold my promotion. There is a knock at the door. I haven’t showered but it doesn’t matter. Weekends were made for this – a painter and his model.2

The Epistle of L. F. Scolari…

This past week I had the awesome privilege of attending Biko Zulu’s Creative Writing Master Class… An absolutely inspiring guy I must say… Here is my best submission for the class…

Image source here

I am annoyed. I am ashamed. I am anguished. How is it that a man of my calibre would bring such disrepute to this great nation? O how I wish it was another day, another time when we did not have the world at our stage. I hear the jeers in their celebration and sneers in their auf wiedersehens. I cannot imagine they will drink from the cup. Our cup! Curse the lineage of the octopus that ever thought to prophesy in their favour! May her eggs never rise to shore again.

Now they say it, that I should have left a long time back. That the 11-man army should have been led by a dark man, a tall man, a handsome man. Nonsense! Utter nonsense! A man is a man is a man. O my stomach churns at the tearful pains of my sons stripped of their yellow grassy blue pride. No more samba, no more choro, just weakened men thirsting for a noose.

But though a man falls 7 times, yet he shall rise again. And so I say to you my Ronaldinho that in the mid of the field your attack will rise again.  And in your defense my dear Thiago, I swear to you that your shoulder will rise again. And to you Julio, my very son Cesar I pray that your very hands will rise again. And to Neymar, my Captain and King, I decree and declare that your golden feet will rise again. I have no doubt, absolutely no doubt that Bresil will rise again.

Tesha Mongi © March 2016

Bethsaida…

Image source here

Life is catching up with me

I am not as strong as I used to be

It takes me an hour to get here

Another hour to leave here

Those who cannot see

Those who cannot hear

Those who cannot speak

Those like me

All come here

The one with money is fortunate

The one with a family even more fortunate

One day we will be the ones

I’ve asked Sayyda to marry me

“But how can a marry what I cannot see?”

She remembers the 17 years here

And the 38 we celebrate today

“I see you…”

I tell her

“You are beautiful…”

I whisper to her

She will marry the one who immerses her in the waters

The one strong enough to carry her weakness

If I had money

I would pay for her immersion

If I had a family

I would make sure they did it

Just so that she could see her very reflection

Sayyda is beautiful

But for my very now

And my very here

I desire to be immersed

But for a moment

Against Bethsaida and its scorching sun

Tesha Mongi © October 2015 – adapted from John

Sometimes…

Feather pen set of abstract colour
Image source Google search

Sometimes it sounds odd when I tell my friends (or anyone for that matter) that I love to write when there is really nothing to show for it. Sometimes I feel that I don’t have the time to write. Sometimes I feel I have too many stories to write and don’t know where to start. Sometimes it’s just feels like so much work and I already have a day job. Sometimes it is an excuse. Sometimes it is laziness. But sometimes it is injustice to the one who has the gift.

The gift unpacks the skill and the skill unpack the calling ~ D. Mavia

BUT because I always smile at the sometimes deep things I write, the sometimes seemingly silly things I write, and the sometimes very amateurish things I write, I will write. Whether amateur or pro, a writer MUST write FUN SIZED STUFF!