She's not had much sleep,yet the sun is almost out.Because Kiracha,her husband,has spent the better part of the night screaming obscenities,to all and sundry in the house and out.He always does that,this husband of hers.Whenever he staggers home from Ngurwaru,the local shopping center,where he spends the day 'hustling' for cup after cup of mugasha,some potent illicit liquor,he embarks on this barrage of screaming and yelling ,to no one in particular.He's not violent,Kiracha.In fact,not even once,has he ever laid a hand on her.Partly because she's stronger than him now,(And he knows it)and also because she feeds him.Somehow.
The rats,mice,cockroaches,even the mosquitoes of the house have long gotten used to his barrage,and don't even stop mating when he shows up.If it wasn't for the noise that he makes,no one would even notice his presence,or lack of it.But tonight he's particularly been noisy,maybe because a local MCA contestant was buying death-tickets for all men at the shopping center,that pass for alcohol.So Jasiri,mother of five,having had enough of the snoring and the foul-breath,turns sharply and gets off the creaky bed.Besides,its time to go milk Kungu,the cow,before Kiracha does so,because when he does,he carries the milk to the shopping center,leaving the kids without breakfast,only to exchange it for mugasha,the local brew.
Ahead,is another full day.Plenty of planning needed.So Jasiri sits on this stone outside her house,gazing at the rising sun,and wondering if,today,it would bring with it some good news.Something different,from all this struggle that she has to endure daily.Briefly.here's what she has to do,before the end of the day...
After milking her cow,she quickly makes breakfast for her family.A litre of milk should do,so that the other litre,she can sell to the primary school teacher neighbor,who has just stated the second week of their national strike.(They are seeking a five hundred percent pay rise,so they can build more senseless economically nonviable bungalows,filling up whatever land is left in the villages).This she does,because her second born child,a boy,is joining upper primary soon,and this gesture is so that the teacher may remember her kindness,when she shows up in school,child in tow.
After making sure the kids have had breakfast,accompanied by the previous night's left-overs,she's going to send all her kids off to school,except Kamari,the last born kid,who is down with some Malaria.
At around this time,her burden,that pass for a husband,is going to wake up,come staggering outside,and demand for food.And she's going to give it to him....she's used to giving,almost never taking.Then she's going to wait on him as he eats,listening to him criticize her cooking,her methods of tilling land,her inability to milk the cow with finesse,her crude way of cutting nappier grass for the cow.Even her looks,for she has by now,completely forgotten that she too,has a right to look and feel good,as every woman should do.She somehow slid into the role of a farmhand,not a wife and mother,finding these two as luxuries she can ill-afford.She's going to ingest more verbal attacks from this man.as he carefully describes how all the above things ought to be done.
Never even once,has he ever showed the way,if he was that good,always describing in detail,how this and that ought to be done.Jasiri is going to take all that in her stride,and when its over,she's going to see him off.He's going to bark a few more instructions as he troops off,'to attend this meeting with the MCA,in a bid to sound important.He's going to assert,as he leaves,that this aspirant stand s no chance of election,if he was to exempt himself from the campaign trail.But Kiracha goes to no campaign trail...he's always left sprawled at the shopping centre when everyone else has left.Seems his ability to withstand the sting of mugasha is caving in..all it takes is three mugs to 'speak English',four to sing circumcision songs,five to say goodbye to the world and six to 'park the bus'. All that therefore,costs sh60,and its done.He wakes up at night,takes one more so he can see,then heads home to start the screaming session.
Jasiri is going to join the other women,at their Rabbit rearing project,sponsored by some wazungu from Norway.She's going to be there till noon,then head straight back home so the kids coming for lunch may find her there,having already prepared their lunch.Then she's going to get more feed for the cow and the goats...at least the chicken can fend for themselves,of course with the risk of poisoning, should they stray into the neighbor's field.(A neighbor will poison your chicken,then come to listen to your radio saying.....raira is coming soon,i hear.Is he a pitch black as darkness?). She's as hard as an officer from the Special Force,Gilgil.Her life is like a never-ending military drill.Things have to be done at specific times,or the whole family will disintegrate.
In between,she'll somehow manage to clean the house,the kids,plus the homestead.How she does that,nobody knows.She seems to be at all the places at the same time.Her energy is legendary.Its inexhaustible.Some quarters call her the weaker sex.Yet the only weak thing in her is her inability to be weak,in times of adversity.Even when there's nothing to eat,she puts on a brave face.Probably hoping that tomorrow will be different,better.She long refused to give up.She soldiers on,forgetting herself in the process,as she makes great men and women of the country.She forgot herself.She's the last to eat,even to sleep.Sometimes she'll skip a meal,so Kiracha can eat.All this with a smile on her face.
Then come Sunday.She's the first at the church compound,so she can help clean it before the 'yoyos' show up with their headphones and CAT shoes,to soil it all over again.In between the preaching,she'll volunteer to cook for the guys in ties at the high table.And serve them,even though she knows they'll criticize the way she is dressed,especially the slight tear on her sweater,which she didn't have the time to fix.Only when the day is over,will she realize that,once again she's served everybody else,and forgot herself.And there will be none left,so she'll smile and head home,this time to cook for her kids.
My intention was to capture Jasiri's daily work.Midway,i realized i couldn't.Because i'm not Jasiri,and i have no idea how she does it.So i quit trying.I quit trying to know how she makes her world turn.All i know is Kiracha would be lost without her.Her kids would melt away in her absence.The family unit depends on her.She carries so much on her shoulders,that it would be impossible to capture it writing.She hardly ever sheds a tear,even when the abuse from Kiracha goes overboard.Even when she's got nothing left to give,she hardly ever cries.Except when in total private,when she prays,for everyone else but her.
When we meet Jasiri and company,let's for once,not keep commenting on her flat shoes and unkept hair.Or shaven head.Because,she's carrying more than we can ever handle.The things she gets done,on virtually nil resources,are vast and wide.No writer can aptly capture it.Choose to see the heroine in her.Choose to help,if you can.And if you can't,please zip up and walk away...she's had enough as it is,without more of your comments.
Today,i pay glowing tribute,to all women out there.All mothers who keep giving,forgetting to take.This day may be insignificant to them,they don't even know its here.Not much recognition goes their way,because even in all these social functions,all they do is cook for you and serve you.Then they sit at the back,flat on the ground,as you sit on the chairs they carried.Then they'll eat what you've left.Then they'll smile at you,as you hop into your fancy cars,for that drive back to the capital,as you complain about the taste of the water they served you.Sometimes you throw a few coins of appreciation to their direction,and they,in turn pray for you.So you can have more.So you can drive safe,so you can be more healthy,even as they make do with pain-killers,to treat that backpain that never goes away.These women are special.
For all that its worth,Mamas of rural Africa...i'm proud of you.God bless you richly.He's proud of you,too.Amen.