'... Conqueror of the Red Planet!'
(Continued from last issue)
By Valentine Marc Nkwame
Karatu happens to be a very dusty town and when it rains the area becomes quite
muddy - red muddy. All the same, don't be surprised if somebody decides to
elevate the tiny, dusty, Karatu town to city status in the next fiscal year.
The bush where my guide took me for an afternoon of traditional brew, was
however like an island, heavily shaded and surrounded by trees. I however later
realized that, the thicket was meant to be a hideout. You see, not all
traditionally brewed, frothy liquids have so far been legalized.
"Now my friend, we usually start with the traditional gin, in order to stimulate
our nerves before going back to town and drink Guinness and Coke." said my
guide. "You cannot simply begin with Guinness, it is too mild! Haven't you ever
read that story of the Cana wedding in the Bible?"
By the way, Karatu fellows are very religious. They flock to church on each
Sunday Morning and sing Hymns until their throats dry up. Not to worry though,
as soon as the sermon is over, both men and women would rush to the nearest
joint to irrigate their coarse voice boxes.
The old men who were sipping some clear liquids from even clearer bottles,
grudgingly allowed me to sit in their midst. They however continued with their
task, unperturbed by my presence. I turned to my guide and asked; "The liquid
they are drinking looks very pure, what is called?"
"It is called just that, "Pure!" pronounced "Piwa" in Kiswahili." He grinned.
"It is a new phenomenon in Karatu. People here simply love it. The drink was
introduced here by some guys who came from the Olmateijo area, in Arusha town.
Ever been to that place?"
A weather beaten lady, was starting to pour two more drinks once we sat down. I
don't know how many years behind bars one can get if caught with the drink which
keep refusing to become legal, but at the moment the issue was not prison, the
case of those guys of Machakos Kenya who drank themselves to their own funerals
was still very clear in my mind.
There was no way I was going to touch that drink, let alone drink it. I
exhausted my entire stock of prayers, said the grace five times and looked up to
heaven expecting a miracle. Then I recalled some old TV dramas, in which
somebody in awkward situation would always be saved by the bell.
Indeed, I somehow also got "Saved by the bell!" It was the chimes of cow bells
being heard heading to our direction. Suddenly everybody in the area got up and
took onto their heels, leaving a trail of; dust, bottles and broken glasses in
"Hey what is happening?" I asked, more relieved than shocked. But nobody
answered. My guide simply cursed and grabbed my arm. "Quick! Lets get out of
here." He ordered, pulling me unceremoniously. "That was a warning!"
And it was. A couple of children were driving their cows by. In Karatu, whenever
a bunch of old men happened to be busy, cleansing their tonsils with some 'Pure'
liquids, that the Government is refusing to Gazette, some children would always
be stationed nearby to keep watch and warn the adults off, should some uniformed
guys show up in the area without prior notice.
But the children in Karatu are very clever. They don't just shout, "Look out
Grandpa! Some policemen are coming to arrest you." Or, "Daddy, Mummy! drop the
devil's bottles because 'Black Maria' is speeding towards your direction."
"Black Maria," by the way, is the rural term, referring to the Police vehicle
which is normally used to ferry suspects, jailbirds, criminals and other types
of alleged society misfits, to either the Police stations, courts or prison. In
Arusha however, the vehicle is usually known as 'Karandinga!'
Anyway, Karatu kids don't do such dumb things. They simply drive their cattle,
goats, sheep and what-have-you, all being fitted with bells, towards the hideout
bushes and the sound of the pandemonium is enough to remind the guys in the
thicket that, the State has not yet patented the pure drink, which at that
moment happens to be burning its way down their dry throats.
So we ran, showing clean pairs of heels. It was at that instance that I realized
that should be the main reason why, people from Karatu and Mbulu district are
extremely agile when it comes to athletics .... The Mount Meru International
Marathon is coming up next month!
Whether it was indeed the invasion of Uniformed policemen, an apparition of
'Black Maria' or simply a 'Cry wolf' scare, it was of no issue to me, as long as
I managed to escape from the den of Pure drinkers alive. Why! I was even about
to sing a few circumcision songs that I had picked up from the guys in the bush.
At that moment I felt like a true conqueror of that red planet known as Karatu.