Thursday, 9 February 2017

A TASTE OF PRISON LIFE

EDWIN KIPTANUI CHIRCHIR edchirchir@yahoo.com edchirchir85@gmail.com

PHOTO CREDIT: pixabay.com

Two months ago, my two good friends Okong'o and Kinuthia invited me to participate in some Nation building activity. The activity involved painting a house of some hardworking Kenyan citizen. I am not saying that if you do not own a house you are not hardworking.

The invite was actually a challenge, since Okong'o and Kinuthia seem to think that I am so lazy that the only thing I can do in this world is to use my mouth to teach. They seem to think that  teaching is not a manly job. A manly job according to their mental dictionaries is anything that involves intensive use of muscles. They do not seem to understand that teaching involves intensive use of your brain.

We eventually finished painting the house, but then, the job did funny things to my muscles, thanks to long hours of standing and always having to keep my hand raised, to support the brush, while the other hand supports the tin of paint. Of course I could not complain, since each of us received some hefty compensation. 

You might also like: THE EX-CONVICT

As usual, during such a windfall, Kinuthia and Okong'o wanted to express some gratitude to their hardworking limbs and they could only do that by swallowing a few pints of alcoholic beverages. On my part, a half a kilo of goat intestine would go a long way to sooth my weeping muscles, which had just escaped captivity in Babylon(for those of you who do not like goat intestines, you can roll your eyes until they give up on life). Nothing could dampen my spirits. Not even my aching joints and muscles. In fact, to drive the point home. I sang along to the following song, playing from my long suffering KaDuDa phone:

By the rivers of Babylon
There we sat down
Ye-e ah we wept
When we remembered Zion

I think, along the way I got carried away and sang so loudly that my good neighbours next door started questioning my sanity.

"Kwani nini mbaya na yeye leo?" (What is wrong with him today?) I could hear the lady ask the house-help.

Back to Kinuthia and Okong'o, instead of these guys looking for a self - respecting pub, where they could irrigate their throats, they went looking for illicit brew, somewhere in the nearby informal settlements. 

Unfortunately, the police were very much present. It seems there was some kind of crackdown on illicit brew, which was threatening to degrade the the lives of youthful and productive members of the society. The police struck, just when Kinuthia and Okong'o had ordered their stuff and were preparing to pay homage to the drinks before them.

Thanks to that crackdown, my two friends found themselves receiving free accommodation from the government, having been booked in as guests of the state, for the offences including idling, causing public disturbance, engaging in some disorderly behaviour and behaving in a manner likely to cause breach of peace. The main offence of indulging in illicit brew was not even recorded.

They were booked in the police cells on a Friday and that meant they were to stay put until Monday in order to appear in court. For that reason, they were to spend two agonizing days in a cell where close to seventy people occupy a room fit for twenty people.

Finally in court, they pleaded guilty of all the charges and were sentenced to two weeks in prison or a fine of Thirty thousand Kenya Shillings each. They decided that two weeks would not kill them. There was no way they were going to waste such an amount of money paying fines. They had already paid enough taxes. Come to think of it, the only difference between court fines and taxes is that the former is a cost you incur for a crime you probably committed, while the latter is a cost you bear, for the crime of being a legal citizen of your beloved country.

Two weeks dragged by at a snail's pace and eventually came to an end. Once they were released, I wanted to know one or two things about prison and they were willing to talk, but not before they gave me a verbal beating for failing to visit them while in prison.

From what they told me, I have concluded that prison life is not a walk in the park. Being a successful prisoner is hard work and by successful I mean a prisoner who completes his or her jail term without committing suicide.

I am not sure whether this is exaggerated or not, but according to the two jailbirds - Yes, now they are jailbirds. No matter how many times Okong'o and Kinuthia take a shower, they will remain Ex-convicts - breakfast in prison is served at 6:00 a.m, one slice of bread and milk-less tea (Human rights activists, where are you?).

Come 11:00 a.m, they were required to go for lunch and on the menu was, not more than three mouthfuls of cabbages and beans. I think I am already traumatized. I need counseling pleeeeeease!! How on earth do you serve lunch at 11:00 a.m? And to add insult to injury you serve cabbages and beans? I can excuse the cabbages but beans? No wonder it is difficult to sleep in a cell. How do you sleep with all that gas, from several people who have ingested beans? Not even police teargas can compete with gas resulting from consumption of beans.

After that miserable lunch, they were required to engage in some hard labour thereafter and come back just in time for supper, served at 2:00 p.m. On the menu was of course a very small slice of 'Ugali' and beans' soup .............Oops! What was that? Beans again? Did I hear someone mention beans? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrghhhh! ----Okey it shall be well with them.

Immediately after supper, they remained locked up until the following day.

That technically meant, their night time began at 3:00 p.m, to 6:00 a.m, the following day. Fifteen hours of rest, but how do you rest on an empty stomach, the lice and the stench from the nearby waste bucket and sweaty bodies?

To survive, they had to narrate various stories, but the dirty ones were most preferred. The kind of stories, where men narrated about the women they have conquered in their lives, whether real or imagined. The description had to be vivid, to keep the curious, idle and dirty minded guys in the room, engaged. Trust a dirty story to make the hours fly past with the speed of light and before you can say dirty, it is already 6:00 a.m. What a life!

The two jailbirds are hoping never to set foot in prison again and so do I. Okong'o is now carrying a small bible wherever he goes. A bible he voraciously reads sometimes, especially when Kinuthia is around, probably to avoid temptations. He might soon accept Jesus as his personal saviour. Kinuthia has promised to only indulge in drinking milk, though he is not yet into the habit of carrying the the small bible.






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