It was 1994 or 95 thereabout and we were in the farm planting maize. By planting maize I mean maize, beans, peas, and pumpkins maybe. But where I come from, maize is the cash crop; so we plant maize, the rest is, well… insignificant.
I was barefoot, feeling the cool, wet loamy soil as I counted the maize and threw them into the holes. 3, 2, 3,2,3,2… I always did the maize, probably because the grains are big and easy to count. If I had been asked, I would have liked to broadcast the fertilizer. It looked so easy. But mum did that herself.
My grandma was next to me, I was trying to keep up with her. She was planting the beans and I wanted to be near her. Oh how I loved her. We loved spending nights at her place. And she loved it when we did. But she suffocated us at night; covering us up with her many blankets in such a way that it was impossible for one to breath. If you tried to fight for air, she would pinch you and say rather loudly,’Fanguro wewe!! Do you want to catch a cold?!? Eh?!?’ And you’d coil and resign to suffocation.
And speaking of ‘fanguro’, that is not the only insult she threw our way. She would also call us ‘ndugana’. But we did not know what the words meant. Not that we did not try to find out. I once did…
You know how you fear your parents? I’m talking real fear. That’s how I felt about my parents. My mum was like a terrorist. How I feared her. I remember a day she beat me up and I insulted her in my head. And she freaking heard me; she even knew what I was thinking.
‘You just insulted me, didn’t you?’ She asked calmly.
‘I just called you a dog but I’m sorry. I swear I didn’t mean it!!’ I screamed out crying.
So this day, my parents were there talking about my grandma. And we were all laughing. And you know how you get nervous and you try your best to impress? That’s how I felt that day. I really wanted to tell a joke. And so I blurted out, ‘Hehe… Yea, grandma is so funny! Lol… Like when she calls us Ndugana.’
And just like that, the laughter was gone. My mum ordered me to get the hell away from there. She did not say so, but her eyes did. And I obeyed.
Fanguro, suffocation and all, we still loved grandma to bits. She’d bribe us with fruits to make sure we went to her place. The fruits were kept in a pot at a corner in her bedroom. The whole room in fact smelt of fruits. With a promise of fruits, we’d have done anything to go there.
And my dad knew it.
When I asked for permission, he’d go like, ‘Ah, so you want to go to your grandma’s, yea?’ And if I said yes, he’d tell me, ‘Well, all I know is that no one is leaving that gate with a loose tooth in their mouth.’ And believe it or not, a minute or two later, I’d come back with the tooth in my hands and that would be my ticket to paradise.
This particular day though, something was terribly wrong. Here’s how our conversation went.
Me: You know if you have fruits in your house today and you invited me, I’d totally say yes.
Grandma: I have fruits yes, avocadoes-but they’re not ripe enough.
Me: How far from ready are they? You know if they were ripe, I’d even help you to weave the kiondo that you were weaving.
Grandma: They still have a day or two. You can still come over and I’ll cook you something nice, then after two days, I’ll give you the fruits. They’ll be ready by then.
Me: You know I can eat them the way they are…
Grandma: You’ll have to wait.
Then I would wait for like 30 minutes…
Me: So, what did you decide?
Grandma: About what?
Me: The fruits
Grandma: I told you they’re not yet ripened
Me: I like them a little unripe…
This went on and on the whole day until she could take it no more. She told me that I’d have my fruit once we got home. I’ve never been so happy!
I reminded her once more when we got to her place and she gave me promising me a thorough beating if I failed to consume it all. She was lying. Not once did she raise her hands on us.
But her threat did the trick.
Let me just say that I’ve never eaten something so awful! Not even an uncooked yam which is also hell! And as it turns out, when you give your cousins an unripe avocado, they refuse to help you eat, no, chew it!
I could not even smell an avocado for a whole 7 years after this!