Caveat: just when you think this story is getting on a high slope, it dips down again but then gets back up high, it’s a fishy story. You’ll only get the pun if you read the highs and dips.
I’m in class as I tap through Instagram stories like every other student in the room when I come across the chocolate man with a big forehead’s page. (For the millennials I’m talking about Biko. Jackson Biko). It’s quite encouraging how far he has 35 to 40 something years and using Instagram with a great following too. I bet he doesn’t call his daughter to ask her how to upload an Instagram story. On the screen is a picturesque fish, some potatoes, a lemon and cutlery. His lunch, a good meal for a man from the lakeside. One hour later the picturesque fish is now completely disembowelled in a rather perfect way. Like he had meticulously planned how he was going to eat the fish, with a knife and fork at that. It speaks volumes when a man is able to handle his fish like that a skill benevolently awarded to my lakeside brothers and sisters.
Having grown up in a household of Warus, mukimo and njahi, food did not have character, it did not dare you to eviscerate it with perfect craftsmanship. Not like a fish does, it seats there staring at you and smiling as if daring you to show your prowess. The same smile it had offered to the fisherman when he provided the bait. It reminds me of a time I spent in a Luo restaurant in the heart of the city when I ordered fish …don’t get me wrong it’s not like I’ve never eaten a fish before, but a whole fish. Never. It challenged me, coaxed me to it slowly lest I fall into the mishap of a bone in my throat. I had to chew the clinically recommended times, yes you should be chewing at least 25 times before you swallow. A Luo man seated across stares at me and busts into laughter as the light hits his eyes in an orange reflection. A deep laughter, the kind that makes you want to fall in step next to him and laugh too. A kuyo woman seated across handling a fish like his toddler would. “You should start from the side then lift up the tail and flip, the meat falls off and its so much easier to eat” he would chime in. And I would nod in quick agreement (okay, that conversation happened in my head but you get it.)
To watch an okuyu eat a whole fish is like watching a toddler who’s just learning to hold a spoon. Messy. Messier than that burger on a first date. Handling the fish for hours till it becomes cold. My friend from the lakeside frowns at this. Fish should never be allowed to get cold. It should be enjoyed smoking hot and with charisma.
Rech ok onengo owee bed mang’ich
I like my friends from the lakeside, how brazen they are, how they get in obsessively loud referring to each other as Mkubwa, Mheshimiwa and speaking the dainty details of an otherwise dull day you’d think they spent their day in an action movie. It’s funny how their character discredits them makes them seem like they cannot handle fish but they turn out to be the masterminds. Have you ever seen a Luo man gut a fish, its mesmerizing to watch.
So where I’m I going with this fish recital you ask, well just as the fish posed a challenge to me this week I’ll pose a challenge to you. Are you able to slow down and chew your food in life at least 25 times, to appreciate it and handle it with care lest you get stung by the consequences? How well do you take the challenges thrown at you. As I sit here holding down an Instagram story and thought of what post is going live here today, the ghost of the fish hang over me and the laughter from the Luo man with Iridescent eyes echoed in my brain.
Proviso: this article is not a stereotype, I love my Brothers and sisters from the lakeside and what I wouldn’t give to spend a day as one , revived with energy for everything, to be in Kisumu and watch the fishermen throw their nets in the water early morning as they listen to traditional songs. To go to a bar and laugh vibrantly with friends as we slap each other on the back and order beers. Oh what I wouldn’t give.