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.

TWISHA – Part 1

I was on my way home yesterday when something incredible happened to me.

I should start by clarifying that, “HOME” is too ambitious of a word for the place I live. It’s what I call the shared room with two mattresses on the floor and a basin for a kitchen. I live here with my friend who owns a small shop nearby. It is nothing much, we have our sleeping spots and the basin we fill with plates, pans, cups and spoons. We cook outside on our trusted single gas burner and only iron our clothes on Sunday. We also charge our phones once a day to save on our power bill.

I know that it’s not much, but the dream is to work hard on this degree, publish a great book of my village stories then build it into a series of cultural awareness books for schools and young adults. I can see it all so clearly although it seemed so far away as I walked home yesterday.

My phone buzzed noisily with a call as I walked. I ignored it after seeing my uncle’s name on the caller ID. See, my uncle disapproves of many of my choices and maybe even me as a person. He disapproved of my “girly” preference of reading storybooks to tree climbing and racing. He made it very clear that I used too many words for a boy-child and was just too soft for his liking. Real boys and men, raced each other, wrestled, got in the dust and mud, spoke briefly and gruffly. They did not, according to him, sit under trees and write short stories.

It is easy to be a disappointment to someone who disapproves of everything that you are. But I kept reading, I kept writing under the tree. And as a result, I passed my A-level exams and got accepted for a study loan. I chose to study Kiswahili literature, which my uncle thought was a waste of education, and that I would never dream of getting a respectable job with this degree. He was sure to call me and express his sentiments once I had packed and left my village. He went ahead to offer manly advice for me to “man up” and at least study accounting or finance.

So, there I was, after almost two years of studying, barely affording to feed myself as I applied for one internship or part-time job after the other and feeling all the sting of a broke student. There I was walking home on a stiflingly hot and dusty day after fighting for a seat in the crowded bus that takes almost two hours to get to my stop. From there I would have to walk at least thirty more minutes to my place because cheaper accommodation is always furthest from the main road.

I shoved my phone back into my pocket with an irritated groan as I walked on. My mood was sour, from my empty stomach, the pinch on my feet (because the bargain shoes I bought last month are a size too small but make me presentable during interviews), and just bone tiredness. I was tired from spending the night preparing to meet the professor who needed an assistant but turned me down after two hours of sorting his papers.

I was tired from the late afternoon job as a supermarket cashier that pays for my room, food, and transport. I was tired because despite expressing their disappointment in my choices, my uncle and relations still constantly call me for support. It’s always someone’s illness, project, or school uniform that I needed to pay for. And I must scrape every cent I can spare to send home for my peace of mind. Still, my peace of mind is a myth because if I don’t send anything, there would be endless nagging. And if I do, even though it’s all I have, it’s received with dissatisfaction, and I end up feeling robbed. Now that I think of it, my issue is that I’m just so tired.

I am even tired of the pretty girl from my class. The one that smells like foreign fruits. She says we are friends and organizes our study sessions together. I could not believe my luck when she called me asking to meet after our first semester. She declared us study-buddies and gets me to go through all her essays. I don’t mind correcting or even rewriting most of them. Although she did score two points higher than me on a paper I had mostly written for her. That’s probably because I only got to work on mine the night before the deadline after finishing hers.

She usually disappears when we don’t have assignments. There’s another paper due this week and she has been calling me. She even started referring to me as, “Boo”. I know she doesn’t mean that in any intimate way. She clearly wants another A and not to hang out with me or visit my place with my shopkeeper roommate.

“Oh, I am just tired of people always asking, always taking and wanting something from me!”

I was thinking this exact thought when the woman blocked my path calling out to me,

“Kaka, could you please HELP ME?”

And I thought,

“Please God. Please somebody,… anybody…make it STOP!!”

———————————————————————— to be continued

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.

Tracing Chalk Doors

O, hello there stranger! Hello, you fascinating passerby who so randomly wandered by my home. It’s incredible how life brought you here today of all days. I also find it remarkable how among millions and millions of paths and courses, yours and mine connect at this point. This point where I stand inside my home staring out through the window and seeing you. Hello, bright eyes. Hello, friendly smile.
I want to get to know you. So, we talk to each other. We stare at each other and share our stories. And as typical to us humans, we share a lot in a short while of finding a connection. In the little time since you walked by my home, we have shared smiles and laughter. Our smiles shy and secretive at first, then slowly broadening to bright acknowledgments of each other. Our laughter before controlled and secretive is now a burst of mirth that throws our heads back and waters our eyes. We are connected, we are kindred spirits. We want more…
I reach out through my window and grasp your reaching arm. We stare, smile, laugh, and touch. We both wonder if there could be more. Could we dance to the same music, for instance? Or, would we walk with equal steps? Also, would our silences be light if we sat in a quiet room together? There must be more to a connection, don’t you think? We need to make a move to broaden this connection…

Let me tell you what I’m going to do:
I’m going to excuse myself and run to search in my home. There I will find my welcoming chalk. The same chalk I used to trace the boundaries of my home. Then I will walk back to the window and wave it gleefully. I’ll proceed to trace a door large enough for your form, right next to the window. And then with a warm, hopeful smile, I will welcome you into my home. You will walk right through my chalk door and join me. Oh! What a joy!
We’ll sing, we’ll dance and we’ll be as merry as can be. And with time we’ll want to know and feel more. So, we’ll share much more than smiles and laughter. We will share our tears, pain, sadness, and much more of the deeper complexities of ourselves. We’ll learn that we cry when our happiness bubbles through our chests and sometimes we smile when it’s too sad to cry and too hard to fight. And being true to our nature, we choose a name for this connection among the many nouns for linked beings. We’ll call it something like: friendship, love, family, kinship. And we may start describing each other as friends, sisters, brothers, lovers.


We can go anywhere from here, dear stranger:
You could find belonging in my home and me in your being. And you would then decide to get your chalk and trace the boundaries of your own home within mine or right by it. and together we’ll have a home and be.
You could miss your wandering because you are a floating being who carries your home with you. And so, you would invite me to carry my chalk, walk away with you, wander with you and maybe someday we will trace our home together in a fantastic new place and build it there together.
You may also find the solid brick of my home too heavy for your wanderlust and bid me a sad but much-needed goodbye. And I will watch you walk away and wonder what great adventures await you.
You could also enter my home with muddy shoes and leave dirty traces all over my clean floor. And then proceed to dance and make such reckless merry that you broke my treasures and shook my home. You wouldn’t even be considerate enough to try and replace the chalk door with a permanent structure. So, one day I would realize that you are a threat to my home. That you did not come to build with me. That you are a fleeting wreck who sees not the value of my home boundaries. Then I shall remind you that you do not belong here. I will escort you to the chalk door and let you out. Then I will thoroughly wipe the traced door so that you would only hurt your forehead if you tried to walk back in. After storing my chalk and duster, I will walk back to the window and watch… and wait… and hope…
But you see, all these are just musings of what I am going to do and what may come out of it. just thoughts from this person tracing the boundaries and creating space for a home. I stand here with my chalk hoping that you know I have the absolute power to let you into my home, and the complete authority to let you or even push you, right out. At the same time, I hope you also understand that you have complete freedom on whether you want to come in, stand by the window, or walk right by. I truly wonder what your stand is in all this, oh, dear stranger.
So, go on and tell me:
What sets you wandering and venturing? What did you do to set fate upon our paths crossing? Do you carry your home with you? Will you dare to pause and see this world with me? Do you intend to live in goodness and be human?
Hello, there stranger! Hello, there bright eyes! It’s incredible to see you here… Don’t you think so?