Every village has the shop. Please note my use of the definite article, ‘the’ because this is the ultimate shop. It’s the one shop that if you miss an item there you don’t bother to go to the other shops because they’ll definitely not have the item. This shop is almost like a supermarket. Coincidentally it’s also the place where boys used to lay in wait for the girls ‘who had learnt how to bathe.’
In my little village on the slopes of the mountain, this shop was known as ‘the shop of down’ aka ‘nduka ya kianda.’ The shop was run by a brother who upon ‘kuomoka,’ would move to town and leave the shop in the hands of the next brother.Talk of a clear succession plan😂😂
It was during those days that the hurricane lamp otherwise known as ‘tawa wa Kahara,’ began to loose her popularity and was slowly being replaced by the all so lofty pressure lamp in the dynasty households. Also at the time Jonathan Kariara had not yet written the story about the coming of power, so obviously power was yet to visit many a villages. The closest we came to seeing electrical power was hearing the radio advert of,’ mimi niko na ready kilowatts’ during the ‘yaliyomo’ show on KBC radio.
Most often than not, kids tend to play without realizing that darkness has arrived and only remember later on that they had some errands to run like going to the shop to buy batteries for Mzee’s radio. Back in the days the radio was the reigning king of the evening airwaves. The old and the young together held this gasget in such high esteem that forgetting to buy the batteries was a felony only equal to treason. By the time the batteries were being replaced with new ones they had been recycled severally and jointly which involved putting them on hot ash to recharge them 😂😂. Imagine how I felt on joining high school and learning that alkaline batteries cannot be recharged.
So upon remembering that I’d been sent to the shop, I start running at the speed of lightning in a hurry. It’s not too dark yet so I can still see the path clearly. Soon enough thanks to my agility I land at the ‘shop of down.’ There’s a queue since Ndīritū has been pumping the pressure lamp to no avail. We wait until the lamp comes to life blinding us so we have to cover our eyes to avoid a blindness. Soon enough Ndiritu has managed to clear the queue and I’m holding a pair of eveready pakapower batteries in my hands. Just as I turn around to leave the shop, I realize that the darkness has tripled. You see the eyestake time to switch from cone mode to rod mode and for a moment there I feel like those maīī mahiū revellers who were saying, ‘ ona mwahoria Thitima no tūkūmīnyua.’The only thing visible outside are the bats that are coming out of the shops ceilings in hordes and are now competing for the few night insects.
I try to focus but my cones have still not come to full functionality so I walk ‘dheeme dheeme’ trying not to sprain my legs by falling into a ditch. The corn leaves are whistling to the wind blowing by and my brain is on alert mode. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing to full attention. Now I’m not only focusing ahead, but I also have to look from sideways crossing my fingers and silently praying to the keeper of the stars to ‘take me home’ and by home here I mean my earthly home not the heavenly home. The prayers seem to work and somehow I find myself at the narrow and path. This is where Becky, my uncle’s dog and I usually have our usual predator stalk prey games. Now I have to move forward while looking behind for any traces of Becky. I was once told by a KWS warden that an animal is able to store your scent for a lifetime so I wonder why Becky used to always stalk me. Or maybe Becky was just trying to, ‘country roads take me home to a place I belong.’ Now that I’m looking behind more than infront, I soon bump into a ‘Gathukīmūndū.’ No sooner do I bump than I am screaming at the top of my lungs and bolting like a warthog that has sensed a python in its den. The batteries and change fly out of my hands and when I reach home everyone is outside trying to get to grips with what is happening. I collapse and mama has to use her leso to fan me back to life. I narrate the reason for my distress and my elder brother is assigned the duty of searching for the batteries. I have to accompany him though and we take a gīcinga to light our way since the torch can only see one inch like a housefly. Now Mister moon what would it cost you to light our way. Did you have to be on the other side of the globe when I most needed you? By the time we locate the batteries Yaliyomo is over. We haven’t heard which part of the world is torn. But maybe you could enlighten us, ‘ulimwengu umepasuka wapi?
The name Gathukīmūndū is a concatenation of two kikuyu words gathukī-means the part of a tree that remains when it is cut mūndū-means ‘human being’.The two words together now mean a tree remain which resembled a human being.This came from the colonial days whereby the tree remain used to scare the colonialists and in fact in most occasions attacking it thinking it were maumau fighters.