In my primary school, it was a tradition that students would gather for an assembly every Monday and Thursday. One ritual that the teachers on duty carried out was to inspect whether the boys and girls looked the part, you know, as true ambassadors of a school whose motto was “discipline and hard work for a better future.”
The next phase during the assembly involved singing praise songs. We would call out the devil and his partners. On this day, the selected song was “Humble yourself before the Lord he will lift you up.”
As the song grew on the entire school, I looked to my left and I saw my friend Ardan. To my right was Cyrus and to the extreme right was Kajim. We were all in the mood to humble ourselves, in praise and in action! We wanted to humble ourselves and mean it!
And so we begun to add flavor to the song, a flavor that would prove costly!
With every line, “humble yourself before the Lord,” we would thrust our bodies to the ground, and momentarily lay down, to demonstrate how humble we were! It was funny and other students started laughing. With every laughter, with every new line, we would send our little bodies to the ground-humbling ourselves even more; but, for only a while.
Can you think of a teacher in your primary school whose sight made you shiver even when the sun was freaking hot; the teacher whose sight was enough to make you confess all the sins you had committed in maize and coffee plantations? In our case, it was the headmaster; Mr. Maina! He was a tall no-nonsense man whose favorite color was brown. He was also a bit muscular, not because he was a regular at the gym, but because his biceps had formed as a result of moving them up and down in the process of caning naughty students.
On this day, I don’t know where Mr. Maina appeared from, but as we rose from the ground, after the humbling moment, we were welcomed by his sight. He did not mince his words. He ordered the 4 of us to go kneel down outside his office. It was a walk of shame; but this was nothing compared to what was in store for us.
No sooner had the assembly been dismissed, than Mr. Maina came to honor the appointment with his subjects. What made us strong as we awaited this judgment, was the humor by the seemingly unmoved Cyrus. Amidst our fate, he would crack a joke and say: “abai, aba mûmie nduria biû:”( you got to tighten your muscles so as not to feel the impact of the whip….”)
After a few minutes, Mr. Maina called us into his office. We trooped in and huddled to a corner. He then locked the door and at that juncture, I realized it was no longer funny. We were in for a treat. Then he made an announcement that caught us by surprise:
“Rutai thurûarî…teremsha. Teremsha kaptula……” meaning ‘boys, remove your shorts…” We all stared at each other. Nobody dared to go first. And it was obvious why. Back in the day an underwear was alien, a luxury; and if he was asking us to remove our shorts, it meant being left with nothing but the emaciated bum!
Mr. Maina was a clever man! That is why he was the headmaster and I was a student, in trouble! He must have done his calculations well, and with a little imagination, reached the conclusion that for the cane to properly serve its purpose on the rascals, it must get in direct contact with the skin!!!!
Kajim, who was standing next to the headmaster was shaking like a rained-on chicken. I would lie if I said my condition was any better. Being that he was closer to him, it was expected he would go first. He hesitated and Mr. Maina repeated his instructions. At that point, Kajim decided to bare his heart out..
“Mwalimû ndî na kosi….”eh, teacher; I don’t have an underwear.”
This did not move Mr. Maina. He was getting agitated now and warned Kajim not to waste his time. Kajim had no other option but to let the shorts go-to drop them to his knees!
When the first cane sunk in, it must have complicated matters for Kajim because he let out a loud mannerless fart-“ndwiiii…” Before Mr. Maina could realize what was going on, Kajim let out an even bigger one: “ndwiiiii..
So pungent was the fart that Mr. Maina had to dash to the door, and open it so that at least the room could welcome some fresh air. That was the moment Arden, Cyrus and myself made a dash for our lives. We left Kajim in there……..but what would it mean to the three of us?