If you are like yours truly and grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, you will agree with me that a boy’s life was one long rollercoaster full of fun. Other than the beatings by our primary school teachers, the rest of our life was full of bliss.
One can argue that we lacked many modern amenities; heck we did not have a care in the world that we did not have a pair of underwear to our names! But who cared? So long as we were happy, that wall all that mattered. It did not matter that our bottoms were exposed like a VW Beatle's headlights, for all and sundry behind us to view. Nobody took notice of the many “chapatis” decorating our shirts and shorts. Girls were not left behind either; their skirts and dresses were a mishmash of different clothes, viraka, as they were aptly known. It was sometimes difficult to tell the original cloth or the color of a girl’s dress or skirt!
Food was kienyeji, and sometimes we would go to school on an empty stomach and then come to lunch for githeri sans maharagwe, or githeri mzungu, as we had baptized it. But in all, we cared less, because everyone in the village was in the same predicament. I have to remind you that sometimes one would carry a piece of ugali inside the front pocket of the school shorts to teremsha with maziwa ya Nyayo. Memories galore!
But it was the weekend and school holidays where all the fun was packed. Saturdays were meant for laundry by the river or getting firewood from the forest. Every household would be represented by the river in competition for the best rock or spot to dry clothes. As our elder sisters did laundry, us boys and girls would be swimming nearby without a care in the world, ndithi. Did we have swimming costumes? Wharrathose?
In the afternoon, the village posho mill would rumble on and on. The queue would go round and round until everyone had their corn turned into unga namba tatu for ugali that evening and the days to follow.
Sunday had its own activities. A group of boys would gather in the road junction with their best village dogs on tow. Everyone would also come out with a very old and overused panga. Some would carry their “fair”; mission, not to go to a war, but to go hunting for rabbits, antelopes, warthogs, ndush, and many other small critters that we could find in the bushes around.
By the time we got back home in the evening, each one of us would be happy grilling a piece of whatever game meat we had captured that day. Sometimes we were not so lucky, or the dogs that caught a rabbit would maul it long before we caught up with them. But at the bottom of it, we had fun.
After class eight and KCPE, the month of December was an important season when boys would be turned into men. It was the time to face the circumciser’s knife, making a clear break between boyhood and young adulthood. The transition did not end until a boy had built for himself a “cube.” It did not matter if was grass-thatched or one’s dad was benevolent enough to supply at most seven mabatis for the roof.
From then henceforth, one was expected to start behaving like an adult. Tiga mitugo ya kihii! (Stop acting like an uncircumcised boy!), we would be admonished by the elders anytime we were found wanting in behavior.
In our cubes, life was good. We could learn smoking Rooster cigarettes, hide a gourd of milk after milking mzee’s cows and turn it sour for our enjoyment. We could sit on our rickety beds and compose love letters to our dear girlfriends from the other ridge. The same girls would also visit the cube on Sundays when our parents went to church. We could make for the girls some nice fried eggs with ugali. The eggs we would have gathered from the chicken that used to lay them by the fence during the week, if course without mother’s notice. Some cubes also had whole banana bunches ripening under the bed. The cube owner would munch them as nacks now and then.
As young men in that our semi-independent lifestyle, we slowly turned into men. This we did even as we continued chewing books in village “Harambee” secondary schools or boarding government schools in far off districts.
We therefore grew up in a world where the adults in our lives thought we were innocent and naïve, but deep down, we hid our mischievous lives right under their noses. But I suspect our parents knew we were up to no good when occasionally we would come home late in the night a little tipsy from the muratina parties held in the village. But they almost never interfered with our development and socialization.
However, today’s helicopter parents are stifling the growth, development and socialization of their boys. Today’s parents are not allowing the young men to find their place in the world. Why do I say this?
Maybe because of the way life is nowadays, or because our boys are growing up in the suburbs, or there is no land to build a cube for the young man. It is not uncommon to have a college bound youngster with a bedroom next to his parents. Those that fair better have the basement to themselves.
Living in such close quarters with ones parents definitely has adverse effects. Whatever the young man is up to, the mother would instantly know. Whenever a boy would write a love SMS to his girlfriend, the mother would just know just by scrolling down the boy’s phone. Boys no longer have their privacy. There is bound to be a lot of conflict between them.
Be that as it may, I feel pity for today’s boys and the kind of men they will turn up to be in future.
By Mzee Moja | firstname.lastname@example.org