Life: What a journey – CHARLES CHISALA
IT WAS one of the two Sundays when I am off duty in a month. So I drove to Lusakaâ€™s Soweto second-hand motor spares market to look for a replacement for a faulty radiator cap for my SUV.
After buying the cap and fitting it on the vehicle, I asked a car washer to give it a bath â€“ it was a windy day and it was not looking too clean.
While the man went about giving the vehicle a make-over, I sat down on a log or pole (I wasnâ€™t sure which), joining two other gentlemen. One of them was selling small bottles of whisky and brandy, the new version of utu jilijili now called junta in Lusaka, at a nearby kiosk.
The other guy was imbibing Shake-shake chibuku from a not-so-clean packet.
As we were chatting I peered at the dirty packet of the opaque beer from which the hustler was taking swigs and sips every now and then and remarked, â€œI hope you will not start beating innocent people when you finish that [pointing at the packet].â€
The young man shook his head vigorously.
â€œIne father? Teti. Ulubuli balakaka [I canâ€™t do that because I can be jailed],â€ he said.
He took a swig from his blue and white packet of poison and wiped his mouth with the back of his right hand. Then he explained why he loathes fighting.
â€œBoss, I spent three days in a police cell and I donâ€™t want to go back in there. I was lucky that I was locked up for loitering, so I was released after washing cars at the police station since I did not have money. But I felt sorry for those who had committed serious crimes like assault and theft,â€ he said.
The young man recalled that he found a man who had been in the cell for one week and left him there.
â€œWhat had he done?â€ I probed.
â€œOh, what he had done?â€ the young man responded and laughed. â€œIficitika mukomboni boss teti musumine [sir, you canâ€™t believe me if I tell you what happens in the townships].â€
I encouraged him, â€œNshimikilako kabili [tell me now].â€
The young man narrated that the man had returned home one evening in a drunken stupour and started hurling insults at his landlord, accusing him of being jealous of him because he used to eat chicken and sausage almost every other day while he (landlord) and his family fed on â€˜grassâ€™ and â€˜leavesâ€™ every day.
â€œInstead of being humble he decided to insult his landlord. So the landlord evicted him from the two-room house in Soweto township,â€ he narrated.
â€œThe guy came back with raw human waste in a plastic bag and splashed it on the window of the landlordâ€™s house. The smell was unbearable boss,â€ he explained and burst into laughter.
After recovering from the laughter he lifted the packet of Shake-shake and took a generous swig and put it down.
As usual, he wiped his mouth with the back of his right hand.
The young man saw that I was laughing.
â€œWhat did the landlord do?â€ I asked, still laughing.
â€œThe landlord mobilised youths who apprehended the guy and brought him to him. After giving him a thorough beating, they handed him over to the police, who locked him up. I have just forgotten the offence they charged him with. I found him in the cell and left him there,â€ he narrated.
I patted the young man on the back and gave him four K1 coins as a reward for the good story.
â€œYah, mwalosha faza [you have mourned my death in advance by giving me this money, father],â€ he said and disappeared to go and buy another packet of Shake-shake.
As we were sitting and talking a woman appeared walking from Kanyama township towards City Market. She was dressed in Patriotic Front (PF) branded chitenge wrapper, T-shirt, sweat shirt and a cap.
The lady was carrying a baby on her back who she had secured with another PF branded chitenge piece.
The light-complexioned woman looked tipsy and was in buoyant spirits. However, the baby on her back was not as jovial. It was whining and kicking in protest at her failure to feed her.
She stopped a couple of metres from where we were sitting and bent downwards to adjust the babyâ€™s position on her back and tighten the chitenge strap. As she loosened and retied the knot she turned her head and looked up at the baby and rebuked it.
â€œWhy are you troubling me over breast milk? Tell me, should I be feeding you all the time, anywhere? First sonta apo wabomba. Nga tawasontepo tawalimone ibele [show me why I should feed you; if you donâ€™t you wonâ€™t suck my breast],â€ she told the sobbing baby whom I estimated to be about a year old.
There was a chorus of laughter from onlookers. The woman walked on without bothering about the laughter.
Comment from a reader
I wrote to you about two years ago expressing my enjoyment at reading your stories about Nchelenge Secondary School when you attended in the 1980â€™s.
Again, I really enjoyed your piece about Chimfuntuâ€™s bakery. Mr Chimfuntu was one of the many good things about my stay at Nchelenge Secondary School between January 1967 and December 1969.
His bread was consistently excellent. From what I remember he had trained as a cook at a hotel/ restaurant in Lubumbashi. After getting to know us he arranged several evenings when we would go down to his store after closing and he would prepare and serve us a three or four course meal.
They were superb. He even produced a home-made menu for us to consider before we ate. His prices were very reasonable.
He was a wonderful man.
During my time there we also used two general stores, one owned by Mr Mulenga and the other by Mr Chisakula.
It was also interesting to read that the water supply from the lake to the school hadnâ€™t improved much from my time to yours.
Do you have any contacts in Kashikishi who might take some photographs for me of the modern village and the school? Someone who has a smart phone and could send me the images? In exchange I could send copies of my personal photographs from the time I was there.
Barry Crutchley, United Kingdom.
Life: What a journey – CHARLES CHISALA