I just feel like ranting! 1st, my name is Wanjiru. 2nd, which you should have gleaned from the aforementioned fact, I am Kikuyu. 3rd, I do not know how it is that people still get surprised about me and my issue with mother******. This is where it all began:
In September 1986, a happy couple welcomed into the world a beautiful, baby girl. Swaddled in her 1980’s baby finery, she brought much joy into their world, and probably not so much to her elder sister, who had for seven years enjoyed the pleasures of being an only child. The couple named their daughter Wanjiru, a name passed on to her from her maternal grandmother, who had a beautiful smile. Although Wanjiru did not have the same straight teeth as her grandmother, she grew up to be a pleasant young girl, who shared her smile readily despite being repeatedly told by her mother that she had teeth that reminded her of maize kernels.
Wanjiru’s parents lived in Nairobi, and decided to raise their growing brood in the country’s capital. Soon after, Wanjiru and her elder sister were joined by more siblings, four more to be exact. Despite being Kikuyu they were raised like most city children; speaking English and Swahili to their parents. But unlike most city children, they addressed their grandparents in either English or Swahili. And they were happy.
Fast forward to today, and Wanjiru now speaks English and Swahili, as taught by her parents. She’s never been one of those people who immediately pick up languages, so even after four years of studying French in high school, she now speaks the French of a three-year-old dyslexic French child, and she’s proud of it.
Ok, see that Wanjiru I just told you about? That’s me. My parents never taught me mother******. So I do not use mother******. I don’t think it amounts to profanity. On the contrary, I think mother****** should be used at every opportunity one gets! See the watchman, direct some mother****** towards him. That also applies to the tout, the grocer, the doctor, heck, even your boss! But do not judge those who decline to use mother****** just because it rolls off your tongue easier than it does for them! Judging is so 2,000 years ago, even Jesus said not to do it. Keeping with the times is what it is.
Anyway, sometime in December Mr. Nice Guy mentioned that a Kikuyu play would be showing at KNT. Now, being a sport and always up for a good time, I said I would like to go. He probably hadn’t expected it, but I was not going to back down! My reason? I figured since I enjoy Zahara’s Zulu songs and have no idea what she’s singing about, I should be able to enjoy a Kikuyu play even if I don’t understand everything. Never mind that I couldn’t even pronounce the name of the play.
So I met Mr. Nice Guy at KNT. We hadn’t even entered the theatre; we were still in the queue, when I started wondering what the hell had possessed me to do this! But in my head, I’m a super hero, I cannot show fear or intimidation! Hard to do when everyone around you is literally rapping in Kikuyu. Very loudly. Immediately, I felt like an outsider. I have never felt like an outsider anywhere, but I felt it there, in that queue.
Anyway, we go in and Mr. Nice Guy is already laughing. He knows I’m in trouble but won’t admit it. He’s also laughing because I’m complaining about the lack of freshly popped popcorn, which is a must when watching anything in a dark, public place.
I look around and everyone is excited. I’m acting brave, even laughing with Mr. Nice Guy about this being a very interesting way to start the weekend. He points out a white chick in the audience and tells me at least I won’t be alone. He’s funny that my boyfriend.
The play starts. And guess what? I’m understanding about 70% of the Kikuyu! I’m even laughing with the rest of the audience! I laughed for half an hour, 45 minutes tops. That play must have been two hours long. It seemed to me that either the actors started Busta Rhyming in Kikuyu, or I was going deaf, or becoming slow, but for some reason I got to a point where trying to listen, understand and catch up with the rest of the audience’s reaction became torture. My French KCSE orals were more enjoyable than that, and please note that my French teacher had the heaviest Kisii accent I had ever heard.
Needless to say by the time we left I was proper bored, and to top it all off, Mr. Nice Guy found my torture hilarious, and couldn’t hide it. The man laughed at me for half an hour straight afterwards! I found it a bit funny at first, then I became livid, then I adopted my passive aggressive defense, telling him he seemed to enjoy the play very much but to kindly find another date next time, as I would be chilling with my fellow city children, the non-Kikuyu speaking ones. We almost got hit by a car at a junction, and I remember thinking I wanted to cuss the punk out but Mr. Nice Guy would probably judge me if I couldn’t cuss in Kikuyu.
Moral of the story? I may be Kikuyu but I do not speak mother tongue, and chances are I may never be fluent. I’m not extremely proud of that, and I wish I did speak Kikuyu fluently, but you know what they say about treating old dogs new tricks: it doesn’t apply to me. That may make me less Kikuyu, but you know what? I don’t really care, I’m Kenyan before Kikuyu anyway.
So to those who speak fluent mother tongue, good for you! We’ll get you medals. You can inscribe them yourselves, in your respective mother tongues.