because you never forget that funny smell

The djin at Chalbi

We can play around with a story that a young friend told at a recent reunion party. My version is kidogo twisted but pay attention because we will ask questions at the end.

Three travellers sat idly in the sun by the dusty roadside in the middle of the day. The matatu in which they were travelling has just died nearby. The engine had siezed, the tyres were busted and a viscous black fluid oozed from under the mat’s belly flowing onto the dusty road.

Our friends were in the middle of the Chalbi desert, one of the hottest and most fearsome places in Kenya. Earlier on their mat had been making good progress and the travellers expected to be in Turkana by early evening. The miraa chewing driver was the only one awake when the old Nissan suddenly let out a loud, desperate scream which cut short our passengers’ dreams.

Thick black smoke poured out from under the bonnet. Orange flames were now licking at the windscreen. The cool, expert driver brought the vehicle to a halt, commanded everyone to jump out and pulled out his small extinghuisher to tackle the flames. Next moment the passengers and touts were struggling to put out the flames that had caught the driver’s jacket.

Whilst all this was happening a military helicopter was landing nearby whipping up a mini tornado of sand and dust that choked our travellers. They asked if there were any casualties. There were none. The helicopter could not accommodate everyone. The helicopter captain agreed to take the mat driver and his 2 accomplices and 18 passengers to seek help at the nearest town or settlement. The soldiers gave the 3 stranded passengers a large bottle of water and a small tin of Golden Virginia rolling tobacco and a small revolver with several rounds. The helicopter then took off in the same cloud of dust, sand and awe and within minutes had disappeared from site or sound.

Now that had been some three long hours ago. Our travellers were all unacquainted with one another. Now they chatted away to pass the time and they wondered aloud how long it would take for help to arrive. What if the driver and his boys had just abandoned them. It became clear that their position was quite a mess.

As they talked it was also readily apparent that all three hailed from different parts of Kenya. Each man realised how little he knew about the others’ communities except what stereotypes were passed on and yet they all lived in the same country. In talking each man reflected upon how they all had the same aspirations, expectations and fears.

They shared the water but none was a smoker so the first man said smoking was disgusting and ungodly and they should throw away the tobacco. The second man said they should keep it incase they could use it to trade for food or water.

The third man agreed and asked to see the tin. As he rubbed the dust off to read the list of ingredients on the side of the tin an amazing thing happened. The lid flew off and a tiny djinni jumped out of the tin. The djinni made the customary thank you for releasing me speech and promptly granted one wish to each of the three men who by now were the best of mates.

The men gratefully accepted the djinni’s offer and the first man made his wish. He had only ended up here because someone had promised him some precious stones. He said that he would like to be back at his home town where he owned a small bar-cum-nyama choma joint. He wanted to sit at the counter and watch the drinkers spend and spend. His wish was granted and he was instantly whisked away.

The second man asked to be allowed to go back to his home. He missed his wife and children dearly and he wanted to be with them and to provide for them a comfortable life. The djinni granted the wish and the man was on his way.

The third man thought long and hard before making his request. The djinni was getting impatient. finally the man said “All I want is for you to bring those two friends of mine back here…..”

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  1. i was reading with the expectation of a deep and meaningful moral at the end of this tale. Kumbe… 🙂 Nicely done sir.

  2. What moral did you take away with you, Alex? Thank you for dropping in 🙂

  3. Was there a moral to be had? I thought you were just telling us a tale, Woolie, such as you do. Ha! Moral of the story: don’t go rubbing strange tins.

  4. Aah but I was really replying to your important point up top…aren’t you asking for a moral, Alex? Well it was at an old friends’ reunion thingy. I suppose we could read that the 3rd man valued friendship above everything else 🙂

    If I was really pushed I might even say that on the whole the KDF must continue be seen as a force for good in this country.

  5. This is what happens when you write a funny tale, Woolie, I’m too busy laughing to look beyond the punchline. Apologies, I shall now deconstruct.

    The KDF bit clearly wasn’t an accidental inclusion, and neither were the three men of different tribes. You are an optimist sir, especially in these days of ‘accept and move on’. Should we maintain the integrity of our army, in light of recent revelations/allegations? We’re trying not to lose faith, but they’re making it very hard, unfortunately. And should we look beyond our differences to see our similarities, especially when suffering? We should, but we often don’t.

    Like I said, don’t rub the tin. 🙂

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