His name was Nzokhi. We called him Nzokhi dogo. A junior but he wasn’t one in the true sense of the word, so a small Nzokhi worked. His older brother, Stephen, was called Nzokhi mukulu. Their father was also Nzokhi.
I don’t know what Nzokhi means, I’m not even sure about the spelling of the name, but from what I saw of the dogo and mukulu Nzokhis, it was terror.
Nzokhi dogo was a teen when I still thought the content of a runny nose tasted better than table salt. I was about five. Nzokhi took pleasure in bullying and had more scars on his body than a victim of a porcupine attack, thanks to his constant fights with age-mates. His head was always shaved clean.
For a while, we wondered how adept at holding a safety razor blade her mother was until one day when she caught Nzokhi molesting kids. Mothers those days excelled in punishment and we knew Nzokhi was done for the moment we heard her say ‘Soki Po.’
Soki Po was how she pronounced Nzokhi dogo. Calling out the name and adding ‘Ishah’ (which was how she pronounced itsa – come) was a signal for a proper beating. Trust the kid in us, we followed to their home as the mother dragged the bully by the ear through the back door to the bailey.
Shortly after, the mother stormed through the flight of steps leading to the open rear terrace of the main house to the backyard banana plantation. She rummaged through rubbish until she found it. An old Teem soda bottle. Teem was the brand back then before these things children of today call soda happened.
The mother cracked the bottle on the floor and picked a few pieces and walked back into the bailey. You could feel her rage as she ordered us to be gone.
Just for a moment, we did. But we returned to peep as soon as her back was on us. She was working Nzoki dogo’s pate with expert abandon. A few slaps here and there and Nzoki extricated himself from her grasp and attempted to flee. The agile mother grabbed him in mid flight.
Hotsa wye? (where do you think you’re you going?)
Itsa nano! (you come here)
Yehalowas! (sit down)
Pwaat! Pwaat! Pwaat!
Holias? (why are you crying?)
Pwaat! Pwaat! Pwaat! Pwaat!
When Nzoki dogo came out that day, his clean head would have made a monk offer her mother a lifetime barbing contract at the shaolin temple. Granted, there were a few bruises here and there but that could have as well been down to the rage or the many slaps served in the course of the shaving.
We later learnt that Nzoki’s mother never wasted Shs5 to buy a razor. That was money for kendo ya uto (a sort of measurement of cheap cooking oil). She used broken bottles.
There were certainly many mothers that used broken bottles, others razors. What was remarkable is that they did a great job with these sharp objects.
Now men are in a lockdown. Some have hair clippers but no one to barb. A nosy few have resorted to calling in mobile barbers for in-house haircut.
Imagine having a clipper and your wife cannot even use it. The only time women today can hold a razor is to shave off their eyebrows only to render a graffiti up there with eyebrow pencils that leaves them looking like those illustrations in Song of Lawino.
Would I choose today’s mother or Nzokhi dogo’s mother? I certainly would endure her slaps for a clean broken bottle haircut, especially in this lockdown.
By the way, have you picked a few Lumasaba phrases to impress upon a Gisu belle with during imbalu festival when this stupid virus is gone?