PHOTO | Daniel Mato
When Anyango – my elder sister, last came home, she had come to inform us about her father in law’s (Koro’s) demise. That meant that papa and a number of elders had to plan for their in-law’s send off. They hence held numerous consultations under the tall mango tree in our homestead; they deliberated on which two bulls had to be picked from papa’s herd, who would talk on behalf of the clan during Koro’s send-off, how they would raise Ksh 10, 000 to supplement the two bulls, and what they needed to do to strengthen ties with the late Koro’s clan.
Two days to Koro’s burial, when I was cooking ugali, mama (seated on a mat next to our water pot) stated that my younger sister and I would accompany other girls from our village to Anyango’s place the next day. She said that she wanted us to go over and help Anyango receive guests on Koro’s interment. We chortled and tittered on learning that we would spend the next day in Anyango’s company. I even gained more energy and psyche to stir the ugali on our three-stone fireplace. We loved Anyango so much that we always looked forward to the slightest opportunities of spending time with her.
Cock crows and the commotion outside woke us the next morning. The bleating of goats, barking dogs, and incessant whistles outside was enough proof that the young men selected to lead the two bulls to Anyango’s home had arrived. So we (girls) had to hurriedly ready ourselves and join them. All lassies supposed to travel to Anyango’s place had slept in one hut – my brother’s hut. It used to be his simba before he tied the knot and moved out to his own home, which is just a stone-throw away. One guy banged the door, the beautiful Akumu responded that we were almost all set. Minutes later, we joined the boys and set off.
We arrived a couple of hours to noon, Anyango warmly received us and directed us to where we were to operate from. On the burial eve, we trekked to the stream, took bath, and fetched enough water for our consumption. The boys from our village then slaughtered one bull and furnished us with meat to prepare. Later in the night, we started preparing the fish, meat, greens, nyoyo, mandazi and chicken to be consumed the next day. Actually none of us napped the whole night.
The following day, people from our village started biking in as early as 9 a.m. with trousers tucked into their long socks. Papa also showed up accompanied by several elderly kinsmen, staff in hand. Women wailed and moaned and fell on the ground and rolled and rolled, and so much praised the late Koro for the good man he had been, and yakked of how there shall never live any other man like Koro. After Koro’s eulogy, all folk from my village assembled in under pavilion. We served them the numerous dishes we’d prepared the previous night, and the ugali we’d just cooked barely 15 minutes ago. Papa and his fellow venerated elders had a separate special table – where chicken was served in plenty. The remaining horde of kinsmen fed on the remaining sustenance. They ate, ate, ate, and ate. Some even excused themselves and visited the loo several times within the feast, and when they came back, they munched like they had not eaten before. Have you seen a hungry Luo man eat? Have you? Eh? Eyyi! Those people ate.
That was two months back. Today Anyango came home again. Only she neglected us and spent the better part of the evening in papa’s hut. Tonight she seemed different – no talks of how marriage was the sweetest thing on earth, how she always missed her hubby whenever she came home, and how she enjoyed being called “mama Ogweno” – Ogweno was his firstborn son. Here, married women are called by their firstborns’ names. So when your firstborn’s name is Obuodha, people will call you ‘mama Obuodha’. Is that the case where you people live? I mean, are women there called by their firstborn’s names? No? Ok, so Anyango coerced us to slumber and hinted that tomorrow would be a busy day. I didn’t understand what she meant so I turned to my younger sister and gave her a muddled gaze, she shook her head to mean she also didn’t comprehend what Anyango meant by ‘tomorrow would be a busy day.’ But because we respected and followed whatever Anyango ordered, we sunk our skulls in our blankets and feigned sleep till the next day.
“Auma, keep yourself neat. Your visitors will be here today,” Anyango decreed. I uncovered my head, raised my neck and checked around to see if there was any other girl in our hut – perhaps her name could be Auma. There was none, it was just me, Anyango, and our lastborn. I supposed Anyango was dreaming so I recoiled to enjoy the sweet morning sleep.
“Auma, it’s you I’m talking to!”
“Me! Which visitors?” I poked out my head again and queried.
“Papa said you’ll have guests today, so get ready,” she retorted.
I lurched out and wanted to find mama and enquire about the claimed visitors. Luckily, I found her sweeping the kitchen. I stood by her, greeted her, and shot my question. She rested the broom in her right arm against the wall, reached for the mat, spread it on the floor and sat me down. She then took the weight off her feet and explained what Anyango meant when she said visitors would be here today. And what Anyango meant last night when she hinted that today would be a busy day. Mama then reminded me of the four men that were here two weeks ago. She told me that the very visitors were coming today. She also asked if I recalled the youngest of those visitors.
The night after Koro’s burial, those people hired a powerful music system, with very large speakers. The music was so alluring it swept my nerves into it. I begged Anyango to let me out of her hut. She did. I joined other girls from our village who were already dancing and twirling. I didn’t know how to dance, so I just observed those girls’ antics. There was no light outside save for the moonlight. The only lamp being that on the deejay’s table. I sat on a log adjacent to my elder sister’s hut where I easily watched the girls dance.
My eyes were steadily fixed on Akumu as she briskly shook her buttocks when suddenly, I felt a firm rough grip on my breasts. My heartbeat accelerated, I breathe so hard. My body temperatures shot up. I lost speech and felt weird. I wanted to yell, I couldn’t. My knees were shivering. I dropped from the log that I was seated on to the ground. That’s when the grip loosened, I looked up, an ugly giant of man readily pounced on me and ordered me to remain silent. I disobeyed. I kicked my thin legs in the air and screeched. People gathered around us and let me loose. Immediately, I retired to Anyango’s hut in fear any of such happenings.
That ugly giant of man that readily pounced on me is the one mama means when she mentions ‘the youngest of those four visitors.’
“Mama, si I told you how that man attempted to rape me?” Mama looked down. Actually, when I came back from Koro’s funeral, I narrated the whole experience to my sweet mama. And when the famous four visitors came home two weeks ago, I told mama that this man they call ‘the youngest of them’ is the man that wanted to come between my thighs without seeking my consent.
“And what do they want here, mama?” I implored.
“They will bring your father cows, for you,” replied mama.
“Ati cows for me?” How could that man carry his entire family to this place? To come and compensate me for his attempted rape? Uh! But papa hardly asks for compensations and reimbursements. This man could be on some mission. Huh! I just hope it’s not a plot to espouse me, which could never happen, after all, who marries thirteen-year-olds? I thought. And I knew mama too could not accept a marriage offer.
I was still buried in contemplations of the many possibilities of those visitors’ intentions when I heard a cough outside. It sounded like papa’s cough. He then hailed my name. It’s then that he informed me of the impending activities –that I would accompany those visitors. In short papa was marrying me off to the ugly bastard, rapist. I could not object. Papa was no democrat. Nobody talks when papa speaks.
Later, those chaps turned up. I gladly received them because they were my guests, and because it was my day. After eating their ugali, it was mandatory that they be served with tea. So I went for the hot tea in the kitchen, poured it in our blue jug and rushed back to serve my visitors, joyfully. On reaching their table, I smiled at my visitors and at the youngest of them. Then I opened the jug, looked my man in the eye, disgorged the hot tea in his face and ran off.