Uswaz “outside catering services” should not conjure up images of eateries of the rich that serve sumptuous morsels from the moon. No! In this cockroach and rat-infested Uswaz, ‘outside catering services’ comprise chicken heads, intestines, claws, cow ‘socks’ (makongoro or hooves) and dagaa served on the dusty roadsides. Dr Winchinslauss Rwegoshora (PhD, BA, MA, Dip) compares the two lifestyles – of the rich and the poor. Poor survive on meals unsuitable for dogs in Oyster Bay while the rich gorge themselves with morsels made in heaven. That is neither here nor there.
Years ago, when I was not sure whether I was a boy or girl, since my face was smoother than soap, and I hadn’t developed hoarse toady voice, Mama, for the lack of better explanation told me that food is ‘ground’ in our stomachs by machines. Indeed, I lived imagining that inside little belly there was a ‘Lister diesel machine’ busily grinding away food. The digestion process was explained that way because in those days I had goat-brains instead of proper brain. Kids are these days born with extra-sensory abilities such that my ten-year old can accurately explain that babies are not bought. They can explain the entire process of reproduction with precision of an embryologist.
Anyway, as I said earlier outside catering services have been the culinary mainstays in Uswaz. As soon as the local Muezzin calls for prayers in the local mosque, Mama Mwakilambo is seen fanning reluctant fire to prepare kaimatis, and chapattis, tears freely flowing down her cheeks from acrid smoke. While at it, a car buzzes by, blowing a cloud of dust that settles on the food to be eaten a few hours later. This is not as bad. Sample this; Maimuna has been unsuccessfully warding off reluctant flies from heaps of deep-fried fish. As Uswahilinites pass by, they “feel” fish by touching one heap, then another. By the end of the day, the fish will have been touched by hundreds of people – a true recipe for diarrhoea. Since ‘machines’ inside us have been accustomed to ‘grinding’ almost anything that comes in their way, we somehow survive the ordeals.
On several occasions, however, my stomach goes bonkers as result of eating the Uswaz culinary. In such situations, my belly starts rumbling as if a regiment of some insane Makonde drummers have moved in there. I perceive some movement too. Although, I have never been pregnant, it feels like there is eight-pound fetus doing mad acrobatics in there. I know that I am done for - that I should quit roadside food. Indeed, I ought to have learnt from my one-and-only Bisho Ntongo who is so squeamish of the things that go into her mouth.
The result is that I become a permanent resident in the passport size toilet-cum-bathroom lest I mess myself up. In this Uswaz, and as if by coincidence, whenever you need to use the ‘passport’ size latrine-cum-bathroom, someone else is also raring to do the same.