TWISHA Part 2

I snapped out of my sour line of thought to see the woman beckoning for me to follow her. Well, I was in a foul mood and would have walked on if it wasn’t for her demeanour. I couldn’t put my finger on it but she had somehow called me over with no guile. Following her seemed like the most natural reaction. Or was it the fact that she was carrying a child on her back?

For whatever reason, I took a few steps forward and realized that she had a basket of merchandise on the ground in front of her. And she proceeded to ask,

Kaka, naomba unitwishe.”  (“Brother, please help me lift this”)

And I did so without hesitation! She thanked me with a cheerful smile and walked away. I was left standing by the side of the dusty road with a small smile of my own and my melancholic thoughts behind my ears.

Source: Dhana Sena (pexels)

I continued my now short walk home thinking about my assignment. I needed to find a fascinating Kiswahili word and write an essay explaining why. There were many possibilities of course, but nothing I would call fascinating. I was still thinking of that when the woman’s sentence replayed in my head,

Kaka, naomba unitwishe!”

She had used the word TWISHA! I found myself thinking of the word for the rest of my walk.

TWISHA, which can also be alternated as TWIKA is a noun. It means the process of helping someone bear or lift a burden. It is usually done by two (sometimes three) people. The most common form is for people who want to carry something on their head, but the item is too heavy for them to lift it all the way up.

It starts with the two people, (a carrier and a helper), bending to pick the heavy item and here they all bear the same weight.

Then they lift it to the upper abdomen level, after which the helper will bear all the weight briefly so that the carrier can shift positions and lower their heads by slightly bending.

The helper will then place the item upon the carrier’s head, who will slowly straighten and proceed to carry it to its destination.

If done by three people, there will be two helpers and one carrier, the helpers will lift the item and swiftly place it on the carrier’s head.

This is such a simple word that needs a long explanation in a different language! That fact amazed me as I kept contemplating. The person who helps can be said to act out the noun TWISHA or TWIKA, and the one being helped will call the complete tense of the act TWISHWA or TWIKWA. The opposite of it is the word TUA which basically means the reverse, putting down the carried item. Both TWISHA and TUA can also be performed by the carrier alone if the burden isn’t too heavy. A close translation of the two words; Twisha and Tua, would be; burdening and unburdening.

It occurred to me as I neared home that I had found the perfect subject for my upcoming paper! I could use this word to tell a story! I reached my room and could finally kick or peel off the terribly pinching shoes and start writing. My mood was considerably lighter, and I was shocked to realize that it lifted right after I helped the lady with her selling basket…

I was up until meeting her feeling drained and tired from people always wanting something from me. I wondered why that was since she had also wanted something from me. She had asked for my help on the road, and I had obliged with no qualms. I was willing to stop from the moment she called out… why was that?

And the lightbulb! An incredible moment was when I realized that she had simply called out for assistance. And her call was so light and easy to respond to because it had no strings attached. See, when you TWISHA someone, you bear the burden for just a few seconds and then you swiftly set it on the owner’s head. You do not lift their burden and transfer it to your own head, then proceed to ask them where to take it and if they’d like to chat away while you carry it for them. You do not take ownership of other people’s burdens! And that is why of all things that weighed me down that evening, the woman’s basket wasn’t one of them!

I froze with my pen paused when this realization hit me. And I suddenly saw and felt the weight on my own head in all its saddening glory. I don’t TWISHA. I NEVER TWISHA! Instead, I have been lifting other people’s burdens; emotions, finances, opinions…; and placing them all on my own head. The heaviness that extended through my chest all the way to my knees was from walking around with the burdens.

I had carried my uncle’s disappointment for him for as long as I could remember. I’ve been lifting all the responsibilities and expectations of my relations and neatly placing them on top of my head. I have added a pile of heavy bills from a few distant relatives to this burden. Then topped it with the confusion and manipulation I lifted from a pretty girl who didn’t bother to study for her papers. I have been lifting other people’s burdens and piling them on myself instead of helping them carry them on their own. And as a result, I was dwindling into a tired Old-Man-Boy with a prematurely receding hairline and a sour expression. I was so weighed down that there was no space left for my own dreams. I travelled home every evening so heavy; with a swollen brain, heart and even bladder but a hollow empty chest.

I needed, for the first time in my life, to TUA all these burdens from myself. No, actually, I need to find some people and return their burdens! And that very night when my phone vibrated with a call from my uncle and a text from the fruity-scented girl, I picked it up with a smile. I was ready to refuse me some burdens and return old ones that I had unfairly claimed as my own.

Pride, and a Gilded cage.

This is what happens when a self-assured human meets a colorful proud bird:

Imagine this: A man who is so assured of his place on the planet comes by a beautiful flutter of color and feathers. That being a gorgeous, bold bird of color and song. The colorful bird turns out to be proud as well. And is so assured of its swiftness of flight, powerful wings, and the strength of its shrill whistle. Man will stop to admire the sight. Bird will fly nearby in a dance the man will find daunting and flirtatious.

In his pride and high opinion of himself, the man will watch the bird’s graceful flight and listen to its inborn melody. After getting over his awe, the vanity that is so characteristic of man will deem him worthy of more than admiring beauty. He will consider himself deserving of possessing that beauty. He will call it, taming. And he will set forth to capture the bird who was too confident in its swift flight and powerful wings and was therefore too slow for the clever trap set by man.

The next part of the encounter sees the man standing by a gilded cage that contains the bird. He is quite pleased with himself for having captured beauty and satisfied that he now has the bird for himself. He might even congratulate himself for supplying such beauty to the eye, forgetting that he did not create it. The bird upon realizing its new position shrieks its outrage and flies upon the cage battling for its freedom. But the strong wings and sharp beak that were shields of confidence and might in a jungle are useless against metal. The bird will only come to accept this reality after painful collisions. What started as cries of outrage slowly turn into pleas and even prayers sent to the heavens for release.

Man will watch the bird’s fight in the cage and find the noise unpleasant. So, he will think of what to appease the bird with or at least get it to cease the endless flutter that’s denying him peace to observe the colorful view he covets. So, he will decide to limit the bird’s struggles by snipping the tips of the feathered wings. He will also find nuts, fruits, and seeds to appease the bird and control the screeching and the scratching. And he will call this discipline. He will call this teaching. And he will be pleased with himself.

The bird after consoling itself with the treats will understand the bribe. It will notice that the treats come to appease its cries. So that the cries that were once of outrage and prayer turn to demanding shrieks. It will soon teach the man what treats are pleasing by cawing in anger when the least favorite ones are given. The proud bird will tell itself that it still makes the choices on what it wants to eat and when.  It will now crack away on the nuts and hop around the cage under an imaginative vapor of its glory days. And it will call that freedom. It will be pleased with itself.

We’ll reach a point that man and bird face each other.

Man is now bent by the spine feeding a bird just to keep it quiet and peaceful. He looks at the now docile bird and wonders why he can’t see those beautiful colors and graceful movements anymore. It sometimes occurs to him that the colors are hidden under the flightless wings. And sadly still, the graceful swings of the bird are rusty from restricted hops and limps within the cage. He will search his memory to reconcile the fascinating creature he met with the now defeated but still proud one in the cage. He will feel wistful, but we don’t know if the man could one day set his self-importance and pride aside. We don’t know also if he will come to admit and understand that there’s no beauty in a confined bird but just the responsibility to feed it. Or if he’d come to the humbling conclusion that beauty is not his to tame or possess to begin with.

Bird is now crippled, ill-tempered, and entitled. After consoling itself with being in the cage by thinking it was being served and pampered, its plight reveals itself with time.  We don’t know if the bird remembers the days when it had true freedom. Or if it’ll convince itself that it had a better view and provisions that outweigh its choices. We don’t know if it bothers to caw for its treats anymore. We don’t know if songs burst from its breast from the lightness of its flight and rising of the sun.

It is at this point that man and bird face each other. Their pride stares on the surface mingled with slight regret, morose, and nostalgia. Man looks at bird, bird looks at man and this goes on and on until we don’t know where man ends and bird starts. We don’t know anymore which is bird and which is man. We don’t even know that they are two entities anymore as their demise swirls and coils into one messy structure.

And this, my dear, is what happens when a self-righteousness man encounters a colorful proud bird.

How are you?

It has been a while, readers! This title seems appropriate after the long silence. I write today wondering how everyone is. How is 2018 looking so far? Are there any major changes in your life? Did anyone’s hair grow? New pet? Back pains? …?

I’m always curious about the people around me or those that interact with my life in one way or another. And even end up making up stories about them when I need entertainment. Like, the man I sat next to in the bus could be a primary school teacher with a wife and a little seven-year-old girl. Or the moto-guy could be trying to date the girl who tends to the grocery store in his neighborhood. Basically, I’m interested in people and have been meeting a lot of them recently after moving back to my old town.

I notice something every time I meet a new person these days. After the usual introduction, there’s a question that comes almost instantly. For example, after the initial: “Hi Dada. Pleasure meeting you” part, there’s a good chance that the next sentence is: “And what do you do, Dada”? Which I usually need a few seconds to answer. What do I do? Is it acceptable to say I cook? Or I wake up and use the bathroom? I crochet occasionally?

The person obviously wants to know what I do for a living aka my job or whatever project/source of income that pays my bills. If it is in a corporate event, that person wants to know what gives me the right or legitimacy to be there. And sometimes the answer would determine exactly how much attention or decency the person should invest in me. Am I an interesting contact, potential client, potential employer or investor? Our interaction will now be determined by that question. And this goes so far that even simple flirting or friendliness will depend on the answer to the ‘what do you do?’ question.

We are in societies and situations where, “what do you do?” has replaced, “how do you do?” and “who are you?” comes before “How are you?”. This is a sobering realization for me. It’s sad to think that I have to know who you are before how you are matters to me. And we try to explain it away with logical, practical reasons. “I obviously can’t care about everybody”. “It IS a corporate event! I’m not here to find a new best friend”.  “Eerm, hello! I have bills to pay and a job to do…”. “You save yourself a lot of time when you mind your own business”.
Those are all valid reasons, or not. I don’t write today asking people to walk around throwing rose petals and marshmallows. I don’t ask you to start robotic “how are you, today?” conversations with everyone you bump noses with. I am not telling you to throw away practical reasoning and go give free hugs at the town offices (which could actually be fun). I am writing today asking how you are.

Did you take a moment to think of how you really are? How does it feel being you today? How do you feel with your human interactions?  How is your neighbor? How is your sibling? How is your boss? How is your driver? How is the noisy kid in your street? How is your maid? It may be a good idea to look into yourself and around you and ask. Who knows? This could be the answer to keeping in touch with ourselves and being happy.

So, my dear readers, “HOW ARE YOU?”.