I was born and raised in a Roman Catholic Church going family. For close to two and a half years I had to forgo the weekend banter and play with my friends, just so as to attend religious classes every Saturday morning and Sunday evening. It was called ‘dini’. And so ‘dini’ became my sixth subject for the better part of my upper primary class life. Our ‘course facilitator’ who was supposedly granted the daunting task of churning us, and in the end make angels out of these little devils; instead grilled us into recite prayers. Failure to attend classes of which often led to rustication from the institution.
And since my mama was a member of the jumuia ya wakristo, there was no freaking way in bliss or torment her son was never going to graduate…into baptism. So unlike most of my friends back then, my Fridays always seemed like Sunday evenings. The last day just before school resumes. As my classmates sprung home as the sound of the bell was yet ringing on Friday evening, marking the beginning of their much anticipated short holiday, I used to think…
‘Coitus! The Weekend is here.’
Saturday morning. Tom and Jerry was on as from 8am on the Cartoon Network followed by Scooby Doo then Dexter then Courage the Cowardly Dog. Yeah I knew the line up just like I knew I had to give up the luxury of a good weekend sleep and a good Saturday morning breakfast; and head straight for ‘dini’. I hated the fact that I had to attend these hypocritical prayer classes while my siblings did not. I mean, that was not fair. I was the last born…and where I come from lastborns always do what they want. Or not!
So I hated church. I abhorred being a Roman Catholic. I bit my tongue for the times in the catechism classes when we knelt and prayed round the rosary over and over again until that dumb kid at the corner mastered every bit of the prayer. I loathed being teased in school as the boy with whose backside crack the Priest would have his way with. I had to bear with jokes like…
‘I would rather be found picking soap in a Mexican prison than be a boy serving in a Catholic church.’
Only that I did not laugh at these jokes. not because i did not find the funny, but because after so much stereotyping, my feeble minds had began believing them to be true. The thought of an elderly man suiting his fleeting needs with the little slit below my back pierced through me like a dart. And boy did I hate the sluggish hymns they made us sing in church. The ear sore…goodness! The choir sounded like a group of redundant Mathare drop outs yawning in unison. With all the hysterical standing up and down, it seemed to me like we were rehearsing the nursery rhyme song of Head Shoulders Knees and Toes. Not forgetting the unsightly caricatures on the walls that slandered the image of what God apparently looks like. The smoke and water sprinkled on us regardless of whether you had an Italian suit on or one of those knockoffs from the open air market just across the street. The undeserving silent standing ovation the Priest was accorded as he waltzed his way up to the altar and the little boys…the slavery they had to endure to balance the huge cross and candles all through the service.
And then in the most bizarre turn of events, I found myself at Strathmore University.It was by fluke that I got into Strathmore. I was supposed to get into the School of business through a scholarship courtesy of EABL Foundation. Not to brag, but when you have the first letter of the alphabet decorating that piece of paper from Ongeri, the opportunities available are always indefinite. However, I just missed that opportunity because my mum knowingly decided to sit on the material knowledge that my brother was also on scholarship from European Union. Well, honesty can sometimes be a female dog. There is only one student in the whole of Strathmore named Deogratias, and my mum should have known better than trying to impute that he was not the one who had bagged the EU scholarship.
But it has always been so. I mean with me and my brother. His name is what enthuses today’s post. See, Deogratias (or Dee as he would like to be acronymic) has always been the person who got my back in everything. Since we met like two or so decades ago, I have always been the one who gets into trouble, the he covers. And it is interesting for me, because in hindsight, I do not remember appreciating any of those times I messed up and he had to clean up after me.
In my defense (again) I would like to play the lastborn card. See, there are some unwritten rules regarding being a lastborn. Like a lastborn gets what he wants, even before he wants it. A lastborn’s interest is the family interest. A lastborn eats that last piece of cake that remains when everyone has taken a piece. A lastborn never does any manual labor or household chores. A lastborn is only answerable to the mother. And lastly, it is never a lastborn’s fault. Legally speaking, these provisions are conspicuously missing from Chapter Five of our constitution, but then I guess such are the things we should take factual notice of.
So since I was the last one to gully creep from my mum’s bosom, I got to enjoy all these unwritten privileges. Dee on the other hand was the one I robbed these rights from. Were it not for the unsavory loins of my old man on June 12th then perhaps he would have been the one ranting on this post. Maybe he would have been the one who conned girls at home; making them trade their innocence for smile and promises of grandeur. He would have been the one caught at the depths of a once upon a time water tank with the girl next door; doing what I did that I did not know how to do.
Perhaps he would have been the one who hid his school pair of shorts in the besheni ya blue just so as to avoid school. It would have been his name that was the example that mothers used when warning their sons the company that they should not be found in. The kind that sobered up drunks by throwing a bunch of fire crackers on their faces. The one who picked fights with the other kids on the block because he knew I had a macho elder brother who everyone feared.
Or worse (better?) still, he would have been that kid in school who was made to sit at the front row desk. Not only because he was among the smartest, but because he needed to be put on check at all times. That is, to ensure that when he missed school, it would be obvious. In that hoopla of almost a hundred plus kids that constitutes a public school, one pupil was comparable a common sense in a company of MRC protagonists. He was made to sit at the front, so that he wouldn’t fail to complete homework. Oh, and to ensure that this little bloke washed up before coming to school.
But he simply is not that person. Sadly, my dad was not privy to the G-pange campaign of his time on that night when my mum was not doing her ‘check check 8 hours long!’ dance. Thus, a tall, dark luo king that walks like an Egyptian pharaoh ensued… Me.
Deogratias was the student in class who was so disciplined that teachers barely bothered to check whether he had done his assignments. He was the one that walked lethargically home from school with all Science text books; KLB, Malkiat Singh, Patel, Golden Tips and Primary Encyclopedia. He is the one who had to deal with the embarrassment of being called by the Teacher on Duty, because his younger brother had been found tying a duct tape around his shorts. Reason? His buttons had fallen off during a brawl and he had no belt. Then he would have to suffer the discomfiture of being asked whether our parents were fighting, away or getting a divorce. At class six, he was the proverbial fat whiz kid who cracked up when the Math teacher joked that trigonometry is for farmers: swine and coswine…
At home, well, he missed out in the ‘fun’. Like when we went swimming in the slimy, green tadpole infested waters of Kapenesa, he went do finish his homework. At some point he even stopped me from enjoying that kind of fun and stopped me from accompanying the rest of the crew as they went to harvest honey at Museveni shrubs. Yeah, the one that resulted in the harvesters staying under house arrest for the next couple of weeks because the bully of the estate had decided to lock out the rest of the crew from entering the escape tent- his girlfriend was performing secret service on his crotch as bees made pinpops out of the poor lads’ faces outside.
When he was away on holiday tuition, I engaged in an exchange of fists at Pab Remo (Field of Blood). Here bragging rights were earned and lost; and grudges settled amicably. In this arena respect was apparently won by the victor stuffing a handful of sand into the mouth of the adversary. The place where ten year old children were converted into gladiators and made to fight for their freedom. Freedom from the incessant intimidation that they had long been made to stomach. And the name was no mistake. Blood was spilled. Lifetime wounds inflicted- both physical and memorial. during those days, lessons not learned in sweat and blood were soon forgotten.
I was a recurrent visitor to this field. Not to spectate, but to fight. Most of the time I lost, but the few times I won, I won with a statement. And when I lost, Deogaratias had to redeem the family ego bruised by making a crater on my opponent’s face. So when I won, it was not because I was the stronger fighter, but because the other person feared the wrath that was due to him if he did not let me win.
So when I count my blessing every day, Deogratias is part the of the list. As I kneel down at the end of the day to thank God for who I am, I give all the credit to Dee. That is what Deogratias means…it is Spanish for ‘Thanks be to God’. If he had not gotten an A in High School, I would not have qualified to go to law school. Because I only aspired to be better than him. He attended the Catechism classes with me when the boredom of catholic Community became unbearable.
Looking back now, I get more and more convinced that he should have been baptized in my stead. he did not care what people thought of me; neither did he give a rat’s booty of what men saw when they looked at me- rather he believed believes that I am beautifully and wonderfully made in the eyes that God behold. I can shout that I love this blood of my blood on the rooftops without saying No Homo, and any pervert who would want to compare him to Roman Catholic Priest; would want to say that to his face at Pab Remo.
I so dare you.