At your table are, besides you, three other guys—Mark, Sele and Frank—plus two ladies. We’ve just polished off a huge tray of mchemsho of Kilimanjaro bananas accompanied by a whole kuku wa kienyeji and we’re now busy washing down the meal with drinks, each with their choice brand. If you ask Wa Muyanza, there’s nothing in the Bongo culinary scene to beat bananas from Kilimanjaro (ndizi za Moshi), cooked tender with indigenous chicken; haki ya nani!
With a stomach happily filled, your warm “Castro” Lite is unusually enjoyable. And you can bet it’s the same case with Mark with his Safari Lager, Frank and with his big Serengeti and the ladies with their Savannas. Oh yeah, Savannas.
No formal, comprehensive intros have been done, but, thanks to body language, it soon becomes clear to you one of the ladies (call her Salome) is Mark’s “something” while the other (call her Chiku) is Sele’s. The two, therefore, are shemejis to us guys, for that’s how it goes in Bongo. When a young woman is romantically linked to you, even when the romance is just imaginary, that one, to herself and your friends, is your wife!
Which is to say, we’ve two couples here: Mr and Mrs Mark plus Mr and Mrs Sele. Ha! Ha! Ha! It’s no wonder, that in the Kiswahili media, we’ve so many otherwise intelligent scribes who write of so-and-so’s “mke wa ndoa” (i.e. so-and-so’s wife by marriage)!
Everything goes on well, very well actually; until one of our tablemates, Chiku, grabs her purse and rushes out through one of the many exits of this open air grocery. No goodbye, no excuse me, no nothing!
And she’s so fast that we guys didn’t get the chance to ask: shemeji vipi? Nor did Salome manage to ask: Shoga’ngu kunani? Even Sele didn’t get a chance to ask: wife vipi?
We soon know. Sele’s “wife by marriage” is standing by our table, hissing and puffing! Anatoa povu, we say. It means Chiku, had seen her “co-wife” coming before any of us could. Our genuine sister-in-law, seething with anger, can hardly say anything coherent:
“Sele! You, Sele! You mean, this is the Morogoro you told me yesterday you were travelling to for an official meeting, eh? And that slut who has run away like a thief is the board chairperson who you claim ordered that you travel even when your daughter is admitted to hospital? You! You!”
We are all mum and have problems looking at Mrs Sele. One man’s shame is every other man’s shame, the Waswahili say. And then, in one quick move, our genuine shemeji bends down and in one swift move, she overturns the table. It’s all we can do making sure we don’t end up on the floor together with our beer bottles, mobile phones and Salome’s purse.
Grabbing her husband by the scruff, the enraged woman grabs our poor friend by the scruff and leads him to his car.