The Power of Alcohol

No, no, this is not a story to praise the firepower, but a sad tale of someone’s uncle. Never mind the brain cell theory that I’ve heard around- that alcohol kills the useless cells of the brain, leaving only the active ones hence you become brighter.

The uncle should be around 35 or so, doesn’t really matter. He probably began drinking around 12 or 15 years ago. Those days, he used to go around cursing “shit, shit” and the only thing I understood was sheet as in bedsheet and wondered why someone would go round saying that. He also used to say something close to praryfakiu, which I later came to understand meant “bloody eff you.”

He used to live in the hut that his brothers built, which was never swept and cigarette butts were littered all over. He drinks and smokes all the time. I think when he gets money, he goes to a home where they brew chang’aa and drinks until it’s over then goes back home. It’s not surprising to see him beg for 10 bob so he can buy a cigarette from his nephews and nieces. Imagine a thin, dirty and rugged 35 year old with an outstretched hand for 10 bob. It’s such a pity.

So where does he get the money to drink from? Considering he doesn’t work, though he did get educated to form six (maybe past..am not sure.) Well, he cut and sold just about all the trees that were planted on the farm. Next he started selling bananas, maize and any other produce, even when it’s still maturing. In the beginning, he actually used to go to the shamba and dig and stuff, but these days he doesn’t even bother. He also used to bathe, wash his clothes and hang it on the flower bushes that surrounded his hut. I doubt he cares very much for personal hygiene these days.

One day, in a bid to get money, he started burning charcoal. Now, I don’t know how charcoal makers do their burning, but I doubt they do it inside houses. He decided to do it in his house and up in flames it went. Nothing was salvaged.

So he moved into his brother’s iron sheet roofed house. He is the only one who still lives in the village, you see. When you enter that house, it’s like walking on a soft carpet of dust. Cobwebs hung precariously from the roof and fleas are in plenty.

Another time, a relative came visiting from abroad, the land of dollars so to speak. He gave him 500 shillings. Not much, but consider a reasonable bottle of 90+ % alcohol changaa goes for 20 bob or so. There is also plenty of marijuana grown on private farms by rogues traders.

He does get unruly sometimes. Then he will fight his mother calling her all sorts of ghastly names. She denies him food for a while and he goes harassing neighbours for food. Eventually, she resumes feeding him.
What hasn’t been done to him? The chief has been called and administered many of his whips to no avail. ( Alcoholism cannot be cured by whips of course, but it was the name-calling of his mother that got him ‘disciplined’). He can’t walk for a week and when he is finally able to move, he crawls back to the changaa dens and comes back to harass his mother. People have talked to him, respected members of the family, his uncles, all those good old relatives; oaths have been sworn and put down on paper, appended by signatures. Even before the ink is dry, he’ll be smoking and cursing everyone in sight.

Marriage you say? He doesn’t want to marry, the better because what woman would be willing to live with him? And who will bring up his children? Educate, feed and clothe them? Some ‘wise’ elders felt it wise for him to marry to keep the family name going. So they got him a wife (and you thought arranged marriages are no more). He just sat there during the bride price giving ceremony saying little. What could he say?
Later when he got drunk, he told them they could keep their wife. Let’s just say she never even stepped in his house, and I don’t think he even spoke two words to her. After a few months, she left and went back to her parent’s place. What a waste of bride price. Two lovely cows gone to waste.

Now? He just there. Still smokes, still drinks, still thin, doesn’t talk much. Just stretches his hand in greeting then continues to mind his own business.

Useful member in society? I don’t think so but perhaps as a warning to other not to tread his path.

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