There are not many things that move the members of the Thanda Maria’s committee of throat irrigation affairs, not even the risk of death. Kamítí, as members of this umbrella organisation call it, consider the moisturizing of their tonsils with suspect liquids of the intoxicating variety to be paramount. Where the wetness of their throats is threatened, death is acceptable collateral damage.
Take, for instance, my friend the Hungry Tiger. He has the third or fourth driest throat in Thanda Maria depending on the day and who you ask. He is an expert in alcohol poisoning and has nearly gone to heaven many times.
I once found him at the infamous Kímura-iní corner located within our local Kíharu stadium. Kímura-iní served as the de-facto headquarters of Kamítí and also doubled up as the designated recuperation facility for members who became overwhelmed by those suspect fluids. As a recuperation centre, it was also known as casualty; or Kashotí.
The Hungry Tiger was putting up a performance of imaginary karate moves for a very disinterested audience comprising of very thirsty members of the Kamítí. This was standard operating procedure for him; he loved showing off his dubious martial artistry when his tonsils became sufficiently moist. The Hungry Tiger was, and still is, a very arrogant man who is almost always broke.
He claimed to have learnt these sketchy Karate moves from a local black belt Karateka by the name Bakari Yusuf, who used to hold classes at the nearby Múrang’a Country club hall. Even to a casual onlooker, the moves appeared dubious at best. Though he had never enrolled for any classes because all his money was always directed towards hydrating his perenially arid throat, he claimed to have picked up the moves while watching through the window.
When he saw me, he cut short his performance and came towards me. He informed me that he had a throat emergency that he wanted me to help him with. He proceeded to ask me to buy him a bottle of Santana ready to drink vodka at an adjacent watering hole, the infamous Sportsview bar.
His request caught me by surprise. Two days earlier, five villagers had lost their lives in a village called Kambírwa not far from Thanda Maria after allegedly consuming the notoriously potent Santana drink.
I asked him whether he was aware of this. He informed me that he was fully aware of the unfortunate turn of events at Kambírwa; but he told me that he had it on good authority that the deceased gentlemen had succumbed to causes other than irrigating their throats with Santana.
He argued that a standard crate had 25 bottles of Santana, while Kambírwa, a village of seasoned drunks and known lovers of the dirt-cheap Santana, had only recorded 5 fatalities. He argued that at the very least, there should have been a minimum of 25 fatalities because everyone at Kambírua drank Santana. He further argued that the people from Kambirúa were so fiscally challenged that they cared about nothing; not even life.
He concluded by saying that the five had died after eating poisoned mangoes that were meant for a monkey eradication exercise.
He arrogantly told me to cite other reasonable excuses, like poverty, for not buying him a drink. When he realized I was not interested in hydrating his throat, he reached into his pockets and drew a 500 bob note which he waved in front of my face. This was strange because the Hungry Tiger rarely had money. He then walked with considerable difficulty into the bar and came out with a warm bottle of Santana. He gulped the bottle down in 5 seconds right in front of me while calling me a poor man between swallows.
He was unconscious in under 10 minutes and spent the night outside in the bitter cold at the Kashotí. He was relieved of whatever money and valuables he had on him by the members of the Kamítí who were present in line with the standard operating procedure at the Kashoti. Being relieved of any money on your person was part of the terms and conditions of accommodation at the Kashotí.
After the untimely demise of Tevez; a pioneer member of Kamítí, from what was initially assumed to be an over-hydrated larynx, the Kamítí convened to discuss his passing. Because the members claim to know many things; various theories as to how he met his end were discussed over the same lethal beverages that were being whispered to be the cause. Members of the Kamítí were not the kind to let a fatality stand between them and a wet throat.
When the postmortem examination revealed that he had died at the hands of a wayward piece of a boiled egg; members were quick to register their displeasure. The executive committee concluded that that was a very pedestrian manner for a paid-up member of Tevez’s standing to go out. Some went as far as requesting that his name be struck off the register of past and present members. They claimed that while it was standard operating procedure to go out after having one drink too many; or having one that was unfit for human consumption; going out after being choked by an egg was totally unacceptable.
It is customary in Thanda Maria to dig the grave of a deceased person early in the morning of the day before the intended burial. Every able-bodied man in the village is usually expected to be there with a digging tool. I have participated in many, many such exercises up to this day. The women are usually in the deceased’s homestead preparing food to be eaten by the men. The food is contributed by every home in the village.
On the eve of the day we were meant to prepare a grave for our fallen friend, Tevez, members of the Kamítí met at the most popular watering hole in the village, the Kommittee of Experts pub. It was agreed that all members of the Kamítí would show up bright and early for Tevez’s Irima.
One highly decorated and perennially poor member, Mùtùra, was displaying uncharacteristic liquidity that night. Snake, as Mùtùra was more popularly known, was famed for having very dry pockets but an even drier throat. He was a few years ahead of me in St. Mary’s primary school. That night, he downed three full bottles of the highly potent and borderline radioactive Diamond ice ready to drink vodka in under an hour. He did this out of his pocket which was highly suspect and very out of character. One of the members of the Kamítí, and Snake’s friend, noticed this and hatched a sinister plan. He offered Snake his three-quarter full bottle of Diamond ice.
There was sound science behind this uncharacteristically philanthropic move. Only Mbía, the most feared user of drinks of the intoxicating variety in Thanda Maria could down four bottles and not almost die. Snake was not one to turn down a drink even when he was clearly in uncharted waters. So he downed it, and in less than 10 minutes, he was unconscious. The generous member continued to relieve him of all the money on his person. The Kamítí had no permanent loyalties.
Mùtùra was quickly whisked to the outdoor open-air recuperation centre where he spent the better part of the night.
When he woke up late in the night, he wasn’t sure what time it was. The bar was long closed and the only people present were other recuperating victims of alcohol poisoning none of whom were conscious. He woke up with great difficulty and staggered all the way to Tevez’s homestead since he thought that it was just before daybreak. He assumed that the grave digging exercise would be underway shortly. He somehow managed to get to his destination but it was just around 1am; he was at least five hours too early.
When the digging party arrived a little before 7 am, Snake was found unconscious amongst some nearby banana plants. He was woken up and the whole digging exercise went smoothly. There was the usual banter of which member would die next and Snake was being touted as the next member in line because he was displaying very little concern to his well being in pursuit of a moist throat. Most projections had him passing before the year’s end.
After we were done, prayers were offered by a still intoxicated Snake. He mumbled many incoherent things about his friend Tevez, and he closed by blessing the food that we were about to eat and the lethal Karikari he intended to consume later. Karikari was a blanket term for suspect drinks of the intoxicating variety.
Food was then served at the homestead of Tevez’s mother. A standard Irima menu was basically a huge serving of rice and beans. This huge serving usually posed a monumental challenge to many members of the Kamítí, specifically those that struggled with a condition famously known as Dishera. This was a situation whereby the stomach of a prolific user of throat irrigating fluids of the suspect variety could no longer tolerate food. A stomach of someone that had Dishera only had enough space for Karikari.
Dishera was a corruption of ‘dish error’. You see, members of the Kamítí were serious football fans, and they were well acquainted with DSTV. Whenever there was poor reception; a ‘dish error’ message would appear on the screen. So whenever a member’s stomach would consistently display an error message after being given any dish because of alcohol, he would be promptly diagnosed with Dishera. It varied in its severity and a few members had succumbed to it in years past.
At the feast, Snake was accused of having Dishera, a fact he vehemently denied. He was served with a mountain of rice with beans and he was dared to redeem himself from those accusations. After a few spoons, he began sweating and the exercise seemed impossible. The experts cited these as classic end-stage Dishera symptoms.
A man by the name Ndegwa claimed that Snake did not have the stomach for the task. As an incentive, he offered to buy Snake two bottles of Diamond ice if he cleared the plate. Because of Snake’s poor reputation with food, two other members offered him three more bottles. They were all sure that Snake had terminal, stage IV dishera.
This offer tipped the scale in Snake’s favour. He became rejuvenated and asked for a jug of water. Because Dishera effectively meant that he had strong gag reflexes when he saw food; he started using water to force it down. He started swallowing rice like capsules. A crowd formed and started cheering him on. After what seemed like an eternity, the plate was cleaned. The food was too much for his constricted stomach and he nearly suffered a hernia.
The Kamítí members present did not tolerate roadside declarations that went unfulfilled; so they insisted that the five bottles be paid immediately via Lipa na Mpesa. They knew The Kommittee of Experts’ till number by heart. This was done immediately at the threat of violence.
Later that afternoon, a very broke Snake made his way to the pub. When he got there, he demanded that all his five bottles be laid out in front of him. He proudly proclaimed that he had earned the right to display his wealth. When the bartender argued that no-one on record had ever drunk five bottles of Diamond, Snake countered by saying that no-one on record had ever eaten the kind of rice he had eaten that day. Since the customer was always right, they were laid out in front of him. Members of the Kamítí cheered him on.
In an hour, there was nothing left. Very soon afterwards, he became unconscious and wet himself. He was swiftly whisked by management to the outdoor recuperating facility. Two hours down the line, he started breathing rapidly and he was foaming in the mouth.
The experts on throat irrigation affairs and alcohol poisoning said that Snake would not make it. They claimed to have seen cases like his many times before. They advised anyone who had unfinished business with him to make peace with him. The cheering crowd distanced itself from his actions.
The management panicked and organized a bodaboda to take him home so that he could meet his maker away from the premises surrounded by family. There was also the risk of criminal culpability so he had to go. Snake was bound to the body of the rider with ropes and his friend Gachiri steadied him from behind.
They took him home, a kilometre or so away and dumped him there. The management would call every hour to check if he had transitioned to the afterlife.
A fact-finding mission was commissioned by the Kamítí early the next morning that went straight to his house. Everyone had written him off and many expected him to have expired. They went and found him being fed porridge in bed to regain motor function but he had no memory of the previous day.
He spent the entire day in bed with the most complete hangover in history as the rest of the Kamítí buried Tevez. He had missed death by a whisker. Death at a funeral was averted by the slimmest of margins.
Snake was back to reckless drinking the very next day. Out here, no one cares about anything.