I HAVE heard it said, probably one million and one times, that a person who speaks the truth becomes an automatic friend of God.
This sets my tiny brain that enjoys free accommodation in a somewhat cabbageshaped head, to venture into funny imaginations. One of them is this: what would happen if a creative person manufactured a rumour along these lines: that a list of truth-speaking children of God resident in Dar-es-Salaam city was displayed on giant billboards at the National Stadium.
For sure, as sure as May First is the twin brother of May Day, there would be a gigantic scramble of people heading to the stadium that had not been witnessed since Tanzania was created. Several people would perish in the stampede, prompted by the desire by everyone to see one’s name on the list and be subsequently guaranteed of a place in heaven.
This shouldn’t surprise you, because, although Tanzania may not qualify as a country of ‘truth speakers’ by 100 per cent, virtually everyone in Dar would confidently state what one’s name was and thus qualify !
Here’s a bit of not-veryexciting history. Youngsters who hated school due to what was being taught there being too difficult for them to grasp, were accused of being afraid of ‘umande’.
‘Umande’ stands for dew, and so, they were afraid of their feet being terrorized by biting morning dew that they encountered while half-walking; half-trotting to school. Whereas I cannot boast of being an absolute truthspeaking agent, I can, by 100 per cent, boast that I am a half-way ‘truth speaker’.
I am not so proud to inform you that I was half-way afraid of dew, for which reason I didn’t become a lawyer, and that’s why unlike those who did, I am not a learned friend (though not an unlearned enemy either).
If I had been a learned friend, I would be familiar with legalistic language, via, for instance, a witness giving evidence in court being instructed to speak “the truth; only the truth, and nothing but the whole truth”.
Now, let me tell you something that is nothing but the whole truth, but, thank God and thank the heavens as well, outside a courtroom and not within. I am so afraid of courtrooms my friend (and this is nothing but the whole truth) that, I don’t have the courage to pass by a courtroom even if it is closed on a public holiday.
I fear that I could be summoned in there to answer a charge of having insulted a fellow citizen during a quarrel in a bar eight years ago! I am now about to tell you something that I feel is the whole truth, hoping that you won’t twist things to seem and sound as though I am a big liar (my small-size stature notwithstanding).
I feel that, one of the reasons for Tanzania being a peaceful country is that its people are scattered over 100 tribes who relate to one another very cordially. Besides cordiality, people of various sets of tribes can crack jokes and even teasingly insult one another without taking offence.
In-between, though, are some characteristics that seem okay to one set of people, but quite awkward to others. Some wives out there (guess where) complain bitterly about their husbands not being adequately compassionate. Reason?
They don’t beat them regularly enough ! In that same part of the world, too, a strange feeling of boredom bothers one set of young people when several weeks pass by without their having engaged in physical confrontations with another set. So, two ambassadors (one from each) are assigned to organize a fight on a given day and time at a given venue.
A fight is staged in which some are injured, but since it is a “friendly” encounter, it is climaxed by an eating-drinking party, the participants including some with bandaged parts of the body !
The get-togethers are climaxed by hearty handshakes and curiosity of when the next ‘friendly encounters’ would be staged ! The naming format is one of the interesting aspects of some of our tribes. In mine in Kagera Region, I can’t say whether I am lucky or unlucky not to bear a surname that kicks off with either ‘Ruta’ or ‘Muta’.
I guess, though, that ‘Kai’, as the circumcised version of Kaigarula and especially when it is preceded by ‘Mzee’ sounds cool, doesn’t it ? During an evening stroll the other evening, a young man addressed me as Dr Kweku, a Ghanaian intellectual whose brilliant political science lecture that I delivered at the University of Dar es Salaam several years ago, he vividly remembered.
Just as I was acknowledging the ‘appreciation’, another young man greeted me as Mzee Kai and hinted about a certain old man who was publicly complaining in his neighbourhood about my delay in repaying his 100,000/- loan!