Mbo notila khuyo, aba olinge owambile lichabungwe esibuno nono solakanyala ta! Meet the Bukusu proverb on sacred cows.
A newspaper editor once said: “To determine the true rulers of any society, all you must do is ask yourself this question: Who is it that I am not permitted to criticize?”Daily Nation “Sacred cows exist; question is, should they be slaughtered?”
To show that he’s ‘the man’, he made contact. The bartender indicated by pointing at him that the tab of the drink I had just downed had been taken care of. I saluted back with an uncomfortable thumbs up. But he need not to have bought a drink, as everyone seemed to be extra aware, making extra concessions for Waf. Like when he’d walked in possibly half an hour gone by, and insisted on a hug greeting with the lady catering to us. He had held on too long. Her face had betrayed her displeasure.
A discomfort which she didn’t voice otherwise. Waf had made a spectacle of it; and it ended before we could make if she was just shy, embarrassed or harrassed. Then life ebbed on as it can in a den like this one. A Makuti roofed space tucked in the outskirts of a town in Mulembe, walls painted yellow, air washed by rhumba music, stocked with beer at RRP and perfumed by Ugandan girls.
Then there was the entourage – Waf’s. Like him, too young, too mowhawked, behaving like little omwamis and ripped jeaned for this spot. In my opinion – this thesis proved right as the night wore on – a gang with an imbalanced sex ratio. In my days, I’ve observed that at a certain age, it’s never well when on a night out if the female: male ratio is so skewed. For different reasons too less females or too many males always leads to bar brawls.
Back to Waf and his entourage. It started with skirmishes over rights to the females, but didn’t end there. It ended with broken bottles and liquor wasted on the floor. In between the start of mating rights skirmishes, grown men had sat on their tails as Waf’s delinquency reigned. It had been all Waf, then an elder brother to the little delinquent entered the scene. Nyongs mere presence was enough to ruffle the young cock’s feathers. It had been a game of fake smiles and uneasy kiss-your-tails laughter up to until then. But with this uninvited turn up, it had transformed into a territorial tiff between two chiunwas.
The Maragoli say that says that you could never spit out all the blood when you bite your tongue. Brothers who fight can only destroy whatever it is they find so revolting in each other to such a point. Beyond which they will have to turn on themselves as the vice they can’t stand in their brother invariably is in traces within their make up. This is not the lesson for the day. Nonetheless the Maragoli saying explains why the two brothers found each other so revolting. It educates us on why everyone else sat on their nerves with Waf’s deliquency. And why Nyongs had missed that memo.
Kamachabungwe and the Bukusu proverb on sacred cows
It all comes down to a phenomenon the Bukusu term Kamachabungwe. The kamachabungwe are the last borns. Heirs whose sole occupation is being pampered as they await the death of the patriarchs. They are the only children. The illicit khalinjolas, vimeremende, mboga, secretaries and personal assistants. Not to leave out the co-conspirators in loot, plunder and other games of power. They are Waf.
Waf’s brother repeatedly chose to heed the advice of the Bukusu proverb on sacred cows that warns about fiddling with lichabungwes. Not to be touches like your father’s or mother’s esibuno. Lichabungwe are dangerous to touch as they are touchy. So touchy that even the innocuous appears a threat. I later came to learn that I had saved myself having to deal with a lot of busilu/ujinga/stupidity by acknowledging Waf when he had made contact. Otherwise, he would have manufactured a situation to burst the lid on who ‘I think I am’. You know the types? The brats who stepping on their toes, translates to a stump on the foot of the ‘boss’?
Esibuno and the Bukusu proverb on sacred cows
A brother he might be, but that’s the thing about lichabungwes. In beautiful Lubukusu, lichabungwe is surprisingly a fruit and not an animal as thought by many. The confusion arises from the reference to nether parts (esibuno) in this Bukusu proverb on untouchables. Lichabungwe is a solitary fruit that is naturally very sweet but changes its taste to very bitter immediately its navel end is touched.
This chemotaxic reaction is designed by Wele to discourage attack by animals given it is a very fleshy fruit. So if you were to harvest lichabungwe, you are advised to plug it from the fruit stalk end. The ebweni or anterior end. Thus the saying if you touch the fruit at its posterior end, you won’t feed on it.
Society has always had sacred cows. They are in our families, in political parties, serving in government, the public sector and even in businesses and private corporations. Being touchy, step on them and Omwami’s bottom goes sour and quickly things may go wrong for you. Have you ever found yourself on the wrong end of a lichabungwe? Or better still, are you somebody’s lichabungwe?