‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!’’

But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified and their shouts prevailed.

                                                                                          Luke 23:18, 23                 

‘You Mr. wheelbarrow-guy, Mr. Gravedigger, Mr. carpenter, Mr. father-of-eight-children, you Mr. school-cook, Mr. Cobbler, Mr. Sheikh, yes! You too Mr. many-wives, my dear friend Mr. posho-mill-guy, Mr. new-comer-to-our-village, and all your Mrs-es and sisters too- all of you, for the purpose of this evening and for the many to come have no names- aye? No! you are as good as only your pathetic profession dictates and as for me Mr. jobless I will be Mr. University-degree-  mr. first-university-degree—emphases the ‘first’.

Hic!

‘Aside from Mr. sheikh-guy and Mr. new-comer-to-the-village-guy all of us went to the same school no? We were in the same class, no? We all passed through the hands of Mr. Dead-and-buried-teacher, no? We were in the same class with Mr. political-leader-sir! Mr. CDF-manager, Mr. governor-Wetu too. Yes! We all were.’

Hic!

‘Ooh don’t lie to me or yourself or your children, I remember like it was just yesterday- the mucus on your nose sliding down to your lips and how you would pull it back up with one quick inhalation- I remember it all- the dirty long nails and how at the morning assembly we would cut them up with our teeth, before the cane could snap at our numb fingers-how painful- I see it all the bare feet, all of us standing in a row at the dusty assembly ground, I even remember the patches as the years wore down our school shorts- Mr. wheelbarrow-guy remember the white lines of string on your brown shorts? How artistic it was…’

Hic!

‘Time stands aloof and our history laden with memories but our now and our present humiliation usurps the beauty of yesterday and rapes the memorable. The worries of today makes now and tomorrow very real and yesterday just another era of misery to be forgotten, to be discarded with its entirety but look deep, look keen it holds answers to today, to the present murk- if yesterday, last year or even 15 years ago you asked from life more than it gave you- today and your now would be different. Did we ask more? We were almost asking until something happened- some trivial weakness. Eventually we didn’t ask for anything.’

Hic!

‘The same school that gave Mr. fancy-pants, Mr. political-leader-sir, Mr. our-landlord, Mr. your-employer all who incidentally happen to be your classmates -the very barefooted, mucus sucking, patchy shorts and randy village neighbor of yesteryears now the demigod, order barking master some status and you his scrawny dog, wagging its tail whenever he passes in his big car.’

Hic! Hic!

‘Oh why hath life been generous to some and so unforgiving to some? Why not reward the backbreaking efforts of the many with the generous rewards it deals the shoddy work of a few?’

Hic!

‘How stupid to emotionally ask these questions now? in old age, broken dreams and misery laden. The question is older than humanity. It is the same question that led to the release of Barabbas-the murderer and the crucifixion of Jesus-the savior.’

Hic!

‘Stupid flies….you too want to kill me now?’

Hic!

‘To them it is effortlessly done, the many years of killing dreams, to me and you it’s a life time of holding on, of hoping tomorrow would be different, the simple machinations on their side but life will on our side to stay afloat.’ Hic!

‘From standard one in the same school, the same class the battle lines were drawn and the teachers were on our side on the side of the good but what do the bad do? Lean on the good and destroy them, slowly, completely conscripting them into the legion of the goons!’

‘Didn’t we have discipline in our class? Mr. Gravedigger, if you want honesty- Mr. Carpenter-man, looking for humility? Mr. Wheelbarrow-guy, innocence? Mr. Cobbler. Hard work? Mr. father-of-eight-children. Brilliance? Yours truly- jobless me, Mr. First-University-degree.’

Hic!

‘We had it all- the good and the bad and the teacher the referee. Jesus, Barabbas and Pontius Pilate. The team of the bad; the thief- Mr. Fancy-pants, the sly-Mr. CDF-manager, the cheating-Mr. Political-leader-sir! The arrogantly rude? Mr. Landlord.’

‘And if I‘m making this up, let this tree fall down on me and save the world of my lies. Didn’t the now very old and very skinny Mrs. class-teacher-madam put one evil with one good on each desk? Didn’t she? Weren’t each of you rewarded for your obedience? Were you not instructed to liberate and save your desk mates from self destruction? That was where the bad leaned on and stamped their feet on the heads of the good, eventually conscripting us all into destruction. The tricks on teachers, always cheeky and arrogantly rude scenes- the good and bad never took sides anymore…we became one. The good now copied all their homework from the cunning, the liers and we all became cheaters. There was a blurring line between what was good and what was bad; good and bad flowed into each other seamlessly.’

Hic!

‘At the assembly ground everyday in the cold the goons led us in prayer- the whole school, eight hundred…Eight…One…two…three…eight hundred clean shaven heads and well plaited ones, row after row of eager little faces answering the prayer in unison like the bleating of sheep!

‘Ooo Goooddd blessss awa parents- every Monday

Eeeee Mungu ubaarriki waaazaaazi weeetu’

 

‘Meeeee!  The bleating of human sheep!’

The laugh was more than thunderous; it was unintended and very spontaneous! Clapping of hands jovially, then a slight murmur. He momentarily paused.

 

‘Who laughs there now? You?  Mr. wheelbarrow-guy?’

 

‘O God bless our country, Kenya- on Tuesdays

Ee Mungu ibariki nchi yetu’

 

Hic!

 

‘O God bless our leaders-on Wednesdays

Ee Mungu ubariki viongozi wetu’

 

‘O God bless our teachers- every Thursday

Ee Mungu ubariki waalimu wetu’

 

And on Friday we said a special prayer.

 

Hic!

 

‘God……………….god….. sat up above like Nero! Ever-present, all-seeing, all-knowing enjoying this theater of children, laughing in heaven at the chorused prayers of innocent souls raising their voices high, so that the prayers may reach His doorsteps.’

‘And you all remember that day I brought 40 clean and squarely cut pieces of kerchiefs and each one in the class got one piece. Remember how you were saved from the canes and your noses cleaned of mucus? I had to tear up my mum’s newly bought bed sheet. Mr. political-leader-sir! Also the class monitor of course passed by my parent’s house in the evening and reported me. I was killed that day, the next day- you all remember I was almost buried in front of 800 of you- they tied me to the flagpole and beat me in turns Mr. Serious-face, Mr. dead-and buried and Mrs. Class-teacher-Madam. Of course I refused to cry-my jaws set and eyes unflinching bore the canes. They tried hard- cane after cane but there was no tear from me until I remembered Jesus at Calvary with the lashes and wounds- ha-ha strange thing to remember. I saw delight in many eyes, in the faces of 800 people- the sniggers and taunts like Goliath’s mocking insults to David. That’s when they came out, hot, large drops, each rolling down my face, down with the reflection of the little smiley faces of all of you. Their canes had a fill of me and their brows bristled with sweat and you all learnt not to mess with your parent’s things and never to make any effort at being practical or communal. They instilled fear in you and planted suspicion amongst us.’

Hic!

They stood silently listening, Piteous and contemptuous sneers, some sad and even teary. The number kept growing and many more were crowding in. Both old and young.

Hic!

‘Remember, too, that day when we were oppressed beyond comparison, when teachers turned tyrannical and they stopped speaking with compassion but only had cruel smacks and canes on the ready? When revolt was our only solution against their inhumanity? We stood up and organized it, laid out elaborate plans for execution of the pupils strike- unfortunately they nabbed it and our plans distorted- again our very own Mr. Political-leader-sir! was the deceiver. We were killed; he was patted on the back. From those days he had nothing like community or joint effort left in him- good for nothing snitch. He tamed you into submission – copying his homework conditioned your reactions.’

Hic! Hic!

Hic!  ‘Ha-ha and you have the guts….stupid votes…’ Hic!

Hic!

‘Today you languish in poverty, you eat your shit and bark when Mr. political-leader-sir! coughs. I’m happy…I tried where I could…my conscious is clear but you….you…..pathetic dead men… just listen this one last time…no time—never ever!!…shall the best, the bright, the brilliant, the ethical, the morally upright, the simple, the humble, the practical, the innovative never shall they rise above the schemes of the opportunist schemers, the liars, the stealing, the uncouth, the goons….kill the goons let not their vile ramblings shout down constructive dialogue and practical people.’

Hic!

Hic!

‘………………do not weep for me…Weep for yourselves and your children!

Hic!

They stood around him for a while longer and dispersed just as they had gathered- uninvited. He hiccupped for the last time, chewed and swallowed like is the habit of all the drunk and snored off, the white shirt and well pressed trousers and shiny shoes in the dirt. With the shadows growing longer and the evening sky turning to a streak of orange. A cold chill came with the wind and the leaves of the mango tree rustled noisily.

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