Wamuyu

 

Think of sitting on her favorite chair, like sitting on Sheldon’s favorite spot. At some point, you will have to vacate the moment she walks in, and such repetitive behavior will earn you a strike. Three warnings in, and you will have to find a nice little family to adopt you.

 

It’s where she spends her evenings after a busy day. Despite old age creeping in, an inevitable monster, she still insists on carrying out some tasks independently. One that she is particularly fond of is talking her banana harvests to the market. She will do no hard labor of harvesting or transportation, but she likes to be present. She is the face of her business. She is the business.

Sometimes, she says, the demand is so high that she only spends a couple of hours at the market. On such days, she heads home early, having cleared all her stock. This business, like any other, has its gloomy days. She can tell when such days are around the corner, watching, waiting for the right time to pounce and drain her sales dry. 

 

“It’s what you do on such days that determines your survival,” she says as she sits across the living room. It’s just the two of us. 

 

“You can’t be mad that people don’t buy from you,” she laughs, “Complaining will get you nowhere.”

 

She is a storyteller. And when I visit her, we spend the evening talkingwell, mostly her. Her evenings are somewhat a routine. She cooks early, before the sunset; that’s what a mother does, she will say. And by 7 p.m., we each have a plateful of Mukimo as we watch InooroTV news. It’s her favorite station.

There is not a day that goes by without her watching the news. And the Kenyan media should incorporate more positive news, you know, more good to outweigh the bad. Because as it stands, they have her thinking the country is going to shit. It might be, but I don’t appreciate them serving what feels like heart attacks to the elderly on a news-labelled silver platter. It’s all tragedies; murder, stolen funds, murder, corrupt politicians, murder, stolen PPE’s, murder, rogue police snipers, murder, a corrupt president, murder, and stolen foreign donations. And if you are thinking, well, why not just quit watching the news? You are clearly missing the point.  

 

She laments that Muthoni Mukiri quit Inooro TV, and now she has to endure the torture of watching a news anchor who does not charm her the same way. She was fond of her. She is fond of familiarity, a trait that I think manifests in me best. At her age, she loathes change. At mine, I have no choice but to embrace change.

“Muthoni wa Mukiri left us,” she says in Kikuyu with a heavy Mathira accent. Her tone alone lets me in on her stand. She is a tad dramatic. A trait that’s got to be recessive in me. I’m confident that if a genie gave her three wishes, she would waste one of them getting the station to hire Muthoni back and a second one entrenching permanence in her decision.

A quick google search lands me on some of the most clickbait-infested Kenyan blog sites where copy-paste overrules originality. You can sense a lack of in-depth research. Here, the dire need to be first clearly outweighs accuracy. There is nothing relevant about Muthoni’s destination, and the idea of updating her turns futile.

 

She tells me that she has a show that she watches after the news and that I might not like it that much. 

 

“You’d have liked the previous one,” she comments as she pulls the jiko closer to her and carefully lays a sufuria half full of water on top. I do not question her because, unlike a customer, a grandma is always right.

 

She tells me the main characters do not charm her, again not in the ways that Muthoni did—and the bar seems to be relatively high. From what I’ve gathered, the previous show was intense, more thrilling, and unpredictable. More so, she enjoyed the drama. Her high affinity for dramatic TV shows makes perfect sense to me. Because what do you do when you have the whole house to yourself. And not just for a day or two, but for what feels like an eternity. 

What is left to do when your children leave home to make a life of their own. When your grand kid’s, whose cheery characteristics reminded you of your youthful days, grows up and moves to the city. All in an attempt to make sense of life. What do you do when your house doesn’t come to life anymore. You cling to the small things that bring the house to life. Small doses of entertainment that bring in snickers to overshadow the loneliness that comes with living alone. This is until a young lad who is the spitting image of her mother shows up unannounced to keep you company for a day or two.

 

She has another program that she watches, an Indian drama dubbed in Kikuyu. And she turns into a chatterbox when the show commences. She has a lot to say about the program. Pointing at the TV, she says that the lady in blue lies all the time and should never be trusted. She also thinks that the liar’s newlywed friend is better off single since her man wants another woman (“ucio wina nguo njiru (the one in a black dress),” she says, pointing at another lady on the screen dressed in a black lehenga). I just sit there listening, asking questions where necessary, and occasionally nodding like a good student. At some point, her commentaries, which she loves, comes to a halt. Proof enough that she is into the show. As she immerses herself into the program, eager to know what they have in store for her that night, I find a companion in Caroline Kepnes’s work and engross myself in a world full of words.

 

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