“Mic testing. One two…one two. Mic testing. Go get tested before you deem yourself tasty. Here. It’s working.”
“Our guest of honour, ladies and gentlemen, …, potatoes and tomatoes. …”
I bet you’ve heard this acknowledging catch phrase a number of times; none where you were the guest of honour being referred to(prove me wrong), but millions where you were one of the fellow pupils, or just somebody, or simply nobody at all. Yes. I mean the potatoes and tomatoes. Anyway, what do I know?
Chances are you’ve ever used it. Most probably on the much anticipated closing day ceremonies; at one time right before your fellow Standard One classmates and you recited, or rather shouted a five-stanza poem entitled ‘The Elephant’ till the end(such oomph). Afterwards, you curtsied, or bowed, or both(I love my people extra), then marched away, grinning like a Cheshire cat. This you would do, extremely grateful for an end to the presentation, which you had to jump through hoops, tearfully receiving cheek-numbing pinches or several back strokes(I know, I know, relax)for it to stick in your little mind(I weep for you, child, but in retrospect, it was necessary). Look at you now, chanting ‘Njege Sanse’ lyrics like a mantra. I’m talking to you. Why are you running?
Well, growing up in a Kenyan household, having guests visit was a normal occurrence, or at least I dare say. Awareness of such a day would kick in when you would see vyombo vya wageni in full display. After which you would be obliged to run some errands here and there(including going to the kiosk to buy kilo moja ya maziwa na lita mbili za sukari)in order to achieve a warm welcome for the guests(i think a ‘worm’ welcome should have been given to the earliest guest). Upon your return, you would be showered with the rhetorical “Na Boi umekuwa mkubwa, unakula nini?” by the arrivals as they held your hand hostage during the mandatory welcome greetings; a remark that would unleash your unprecedented power to draw invisible art on the ground you stood on. Splendid moments filled with lengthy discussions, spasms of laughter as heavenly dishes were being devoured and random remarks would then ensue for hours on end. Customarily, ‘the little one’ would fall victim to the age-old “Tupatie haka turudi nako kwetu” amid farewell wishes. We all love a joke, don’t we? Indeed, guests of honour they were.
On the flipside, there were guests of ona. A perfect example was your nextdoor neighbour. Her sole aim in life as far as you could tell was to be updated on the latest improvements in your home, always in the name of “Habari ya siku nyingi Mama Boi?”, a preliminary intended to prompt a gradual welcome into her main expedition. They say agenda must agend.
You misplaced your favourite sock? Voila! She finds it before you know it. On the wrong side of the law? Her ears can pick up the Maria siren five-hundred kilometres plus away. Didn’t get wind of the fight that erupted the previous night? Uh-huh, for the prequel, sequel and verdict, she’s got you. Talk about employing the senses to some purpose.
Such were the characters who elicited stunt worthy marathon reflexes in their victims as they sought solitude in the nearest business-like spaces upon their arrival. Had Jason Statham witnessed, he would have gone green with envy.
Now, you’re probably reading this, all the while thinking, “This is so relatable.” Hey, remember that time you boarded a matatu to you know where? You were sinfully bored, not even the conductor’s intermittent shows of his monkey-like agility each time the driver resumed motion after a stop could save you from the pangs of boredom. As though heaven-sent, the passenger next to you flipped out a sleek gadget, inspiring you to skillfully manouvre your eyeballs in the direction of you know where. A skill that requires more than just speed to undo your corrupted intentions of minding one’s own business once found out. Of importance was the entertainment that came in handy. Let me tell you Maina; you were a guest of ona!
Hold up! Hold up!
“Okay, hold up, wait a minute, all good just a week ago. Crew at my house and we party every weekend, so, on the radio, that’s my favorite song. Made me bounce around, like I don’t know, like I won’t be here long. Now the thrill is gone…” I mean, Childish Gambino’s hits were such bangers.
But hey, hold up.
So, there you are, having purposed to attend that one lecture with the intention of kuokoa semester; a semester which if it were possible to question, would have denied even a hint of your existence. You’re seated at the most coveted ninety-degree position in the room, hoping against hope to grasp something to add to the ultimate degree in the long run. Unfortunately, all you manage to focus on(besides the initial, further and total confusion occupying your mind)is the undeniable glow on your lecturer’s bald head and that one student who even knows why when you buy biscuits, the lion will eat grass. Need I tell you who you are? Louder, please.