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By kefa


The first time I met Njaga was many years ago, about a decade ago, then he was a fellow expectant mosquito, or better still a school wheelbarrow or whatever name that came to the mind of a senior student at A.H.S.
A.H.S was not the infamous Alliance high school, in full it was called Atego harambee secondary school abbreviated as A.H.S.S, but then over the years somebody must have realized that name was not palatable to the ears of the opposite gender so it had to be manipulated to a more catchy term. That was not the only thing that was interesting about A.L.S, a village community owned school headed by a tall slender ex-army cadet with a sharp well defined nose, hawkish eyes, a balding head and an acute sense of discipline, it was famed that the head teacher did morning push-ups to exercise his biceps to enable him execute properly his role of disseminating the normal six strokes of the cane to any wayward characters, especially on Monday mornings. He had particular appetite for the junior members of the institution. Often he quipped “The smaller the monkey the longer the tail”, he was known in student circles as Mantissa, an encounter with him always left you with a sore behind and teary eyes. I always envisioned him as a praying mantis rather than the mathematical connotation where his name must have cropped from.
So it was to be the first time I met Njaga was at mantissa’s institute of secondary education, quickly our relationship grew to closer, more because he was burly and muscular, not so clever in class and had a fiery countenance about him while I was short, timid and brilliant in class, it was sort of a symbiotic relationship .He helped keep the bullies away from my paths while I spent the better part of my evening preps repeating for him the lessons of the day, but I think another reason why we cultivated such a close relationship was, Njaga was special, he was because he had a way of lifting one’s spirits when they were down, in addition to that he had a sense of presence about him, he was fun to be with and he loved cracking jokes and telling of non-existent tales, I often thought that humor literary overflowed from Njaga's mind, he was also a dare devil, he did things his own way and somehow the tough rules of the institution failed to straighten him up. To Njaga I was his right hand man, most times we would make small talk until late at night that of course was against the dormitory rules but no dorm prefect dared cross the path of Njaga. He also had loved to listen. However boring or heart rending your story was, Njaga always found time to patiently listen and had a way of making it seem like it was not such a big issue and inadvertently make you feel like you could go through it all.
Over a couple of years we shared much with Njaga , in addition to the stokes that mantissa almost swung with vengeance on our buttocks we shared the weevils and the paraffin stinking magma that was served by Kibaya our head chef ,him of the sagging belly that you saw first as you passed by the school cafeteria before you even saw his face, that and the bed, with Njaga sleeping on the upper tier of the double bed ,always viewing me at a eagles angle like a guardian angel, while I slept on the lower tier .
It was a sweltering hot, indolent afternoon and we were expecting a double lesson class of mathematics, I never liked mathematics on a scotching hot afternoon, and so did Njaga,well, for Njaga not just the sizzling hot afternoons I guess he never liked any mathematics lesson, so when after lunch I mentioned to him that I felt like missing the lesson,Njaga jumped for the idea of skiving the class ,when we skived classes we went to mungetho corner, I was to understand that in the local dialect that meant “the place to lazy about”, it was located at the farthest corner of the school compound behind the latrines, in student circles the place was known as Siberia, At mungetho corner we would go and lie under the tree shade and take a nap, much of the time when we were awake we would share stories. Njaga cherished to mimic the teachers and loved to hear me narrate stories about famous people.
“Shortie, tell me about the radio man with elephant ears” he often would ask of me. You would be mistaken to think the “radio man” was a radio presenter or something of the sort, in fact he meant Guillermo Marconi, I don’t exactly recall where I had read about Marconi, it must have been in one of the history books, but I happened to know the story of his childhood and Njaga loved hearing it. We called him the “radio man” because any attempt to pronounce the name left one with the impression that you were trying to talk while chewing a hot potato.
“When he was born” their Shamba boy said “look! He has elephant ears” I would almost always start off, and then I would tell about how he grew up hearing voices that other people could not and how he loved fumbling with wires and stuff like that, how everyone said he was mad and the boys at school laughed at him and how the Italian government failed to sponsor him yet when he became famous in England the king of Italy sent for him and gave him a hero’s welcome. When I reminisce of those days I tend to think that Njaga thought of himself as a simple man who would one day grow to be famous, even then I definitely knew Njaga had big dreams.
On this particular sunny afternoon I noticed something about Njaga that spelt out he had some wild ideas, he always would have a mischievous sparkle in his eyes when he was to no good, the moment I mentioned that we skive the math lesson, the sparkle beamed like a pair of headlight, I was not to know why until we got to mungetho corner.


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9 Feb, 2013
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