The pub: Too early for booze? You don’t know us

Monday September 28 2020


By Wa Muyanza

It’s a weekend okay, but then, the time is only 8 o’clock or thereabout. This makes you wonder why some guys are already drinking at this roadside grocery close to where you stay.

What wouldn’t surprise you would be seeing persons having on their tables, bowls of soup, because this meal is reputed to be a hangover killer, something that, you bet, can be scientifically verified.

Yeah, if you wake up with a head the inside which is full of noises of hammers hitting against metallic objects, it is widely acknowledged, you eradicate the torture with a bowl of soup, especially utumbo (intestines) soup.

But now, these guys are drinking. Yeah, and they aren’t drinking soda or juice; they’re partaking of beverages of alcoholic nature! And that, at this early hour of a Sunday, the time when those who profess the faith brought to the world by the son of blessed Mary of Nazareth, head to houses of worship.

Dada Manka, a lady who’s neither too young nor too old—the very one who serves as proprietor, barmaid as well as a leading drinker, all rolled into one—hails you as you pass by, urging you to join fellow men “kutoa loki”.

For the uninformed, we’ve this drinker’s expression which, you believe, only exists in Bongo’s unofficial Kiswahili lexicon and not in Kenya, Rwanda or elsewhere in East and Central Africa where the language is the lingua franca. In full English, it means, “to release the lock”.


This Bongo drinkers’ lingo suggests that after a long night of indulging in serious boozing, your head and indeed, your whole body gets muddled and sort of locked up in a mess of discomfort.

You therefore need to unlock…or to be precise, get rid of the lock, to free yourself from the demons that are introduced into you by alcohol.

In the years of yore, we used to talk of “kutoa heng’ova”—that is, to get rid of a hangover, which would entail, as it’s the case today, resuming drinking as early as seven in the morning.

However, you can bet, that’s just an excuse to connect yesterday’s drinking with a new session of boozing. From your observation, those who visit the grocery very early in the morning to unlock with “one or two” beers end up drinking on and on…sometimes till evening.

On your way back home after buying newspapers, you find that the three guys who had been releasing locks are still here at Dada Manka’s grocery. One of them is clearly drunk, and it’s not even 9am!

Manka tries again to lure you to join her customers-cum-fellow drinkers. You tell her you need to deliver the newspapers at home where others are waiting for them.

“I will be back very soon,” you lie as you increase your pace lest you get enticed by an offer by one courtesy of the early hour boozers, two of whom are sort of friends to you.