In the late 1970s and the 80s, we had something called bia za ruti, whereby beer distribution trucks belonging to the one-and-only brewery, the TBL, would be driven along some specific routes and deliver crates at selected wholesale outlets. Bar owners would be waiting to be sold a couple of crates, but if one was smart, or able to “speak nicely” to the salesman, one could be sold an extra crate and two.
During this period of our history, drinking was a big deal. You’d arrive at the bar to find that all beers have been sold out to those who came earlier. People with money—money that was also a rare commodity to many—would even bribe the akaunta to be sold a whole crate for themselves. See? Beers didn’t come easy, so the very act partaking of it was considered a mark of importance!
Then came liberalisation, thanks to the Rukhsa administration. The market got flooded with virtually everything, including beers. Remember Stella Artois cans? Or those short, little bottles from Kenya, Tusker Export, which were normally sold in twos? Mbili-mbili kama kawaida.
Under Rukhsa, more and more people acquired real money, including the erstwhile very miserable civil servants—even if in some cases the cash sources were dubitable. Nini shida?
With Rukhsa came a sub-culture called kutesa kwa zamu—enjoy big in turns! And, while you enjoyed, everybody should notice it; otherwise, what’s the use? Hence, the proliferation of open-air “groceries”. And, as you enjoyed—read drinking and eating nyamachoma and mchemsho—you bragged and made lots of unnecessary noise. The idea being, to make passersby turn their heads to where you are, check what’s going on, so that they die from envy!
Old habits die hard. Despite the many changes that Bongo has experienced after the Rukhsa ended the dreadful bidhaa adimu scenario, there’re still many within the drinking fraternity who consider drinking something worthy of showing off.
More so, those who drink only once in a long while, like at the month-end. Or, after clinching some deal, clean or otherwise, and want to show you aren’t a small person as some misinformed people tend to think. Ninazo, we say it in Kiswahili. I too have cash to burn like other real men.
It’s a familiar thing in many groceries you patronise, like this one which isn’t far from where you live. When you enter the joint on this other day, you notice a table occupied by two guys and a young woman. There’s so much beer before them that you can’t see the surface of the table. The lady and one of the guys are smoking, blowing rings of smoke into the air, like in the years of yore when smoking was fashionable.
It’s hard to understand why drinkers should order so much beer at a go when there’s absolutely no fear that stocks will run out before they get drunk! However, my guess is, there’re persons who are keen on showing to all and sundry that wanazo!