|Nyayo tea bushes in Irangi|
It is that time of year again, my rural home of Kianjokoma on the foothills of Mount Kenya is awash with anxiety, excitement, and trepidation all rolled in one. You see, the bonus has come! As per Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), small scale tea farmers countrywide will this October receive a total of Ksh 30.5 Billion as second payment otherwise known as bonus. Kianjokoma will share in this windfall, yeah!!
These couple of months leading unto Christmas was a most exciting time to visit Uma and Gaka (grandfather and grandmother) back in the village. Oh the air was festive. I swear the air was different, it was fresher it was tepid. Goats and sheep lost their lives as people gave thanks to their bodies. Christmas in the village was something I looked forward to all year. The chapatis made during that time were the tastiest ever, they still are. I kid you not. I honed my cooking skills from bonus related festivities, my chapatis are legendary. Oh Bonus!
|a plate of chapatis|
Before it checks in though the bonus is met with anxiety and many trips to the factory or bank to check on whether the money has been deposited in individual accounts. There is also anxiety over how much per kilo the tea sold and woe unto any farmer's representative who happens to be on their path. He will be queried and badgered about the fall in prices, the delay in the deposits, he will be threatened with no re election in case the prices are not satisfactory, explanations about the Mombasa auction, frost and what have you just don’t wash. I hear this year the prices have fallen, unfortunately for the farmer’s representatives i.e. directors it is an election year. But I digress.
|part of this writer's family farm in Kianjokoma|
It is not odd during this season to see old men clad in ill fitting suits and of ill discomposure hanging out in restaurants and bars (the kind with neon signs that scream 'bar and lodging') in the major towns, mostly Embu town, Meru, Nyeri, some even go as far as Thika. More often than not, draped on their arms will be a woman who reminds you of Clementine the one Lawino shares her husband with;
The beautiful one aspires;
To look like a white woman;
Her lips are red-hot;
Like glowing charcoal;
She resembles the wild cat;
That has dipped its mouth in blood;
Her mouth is like raw yaws;
Tina dusts powder on her face;
And it looks so pale....
Please note that these Clementine look-alikes are rarely locals, bonus brings with it local tourists from far parts of Kenya. Thus the trepidation from the long suffering wives and children who have spent all year being beaten by the bitter cold of the region endangering their health as they pick tea every day. In fact some are known to hang on the patriarch’s coat rails as he goes to collect the bonus so as not to miss out on this annual boom. Without a doubt if you miss to catch him, the smell of chapattis in your homestead over Christmas will be a far fetched dream. If this delicacy does not grace the plates, the silly children will always blame the mother who will take it because she can never discuss their father’s misdoings. In fact to the children he remains a hero until death. The sons aspire to be like him even when they have no school fees in January after the bonus boom. The coolest thing for them is to wake up every morning survey the land boundaries and then disappear to Kianjokoma town center. The daughters aspire to marry a man like their father and hopes to God not to end up like their mother whose back has bent from the heavy duties and on whose forehead there remains a permanent furrow dug by the heavy tea basket that she has to carry as she picks tea and as she takes it to the collection center.
|Two leaves and a bud|
It therefore is no surprise that the women grow fat, more beautiful and vibrant after they are widowed. They can now access and control the means of production and on top of that the whole family can benefit from bonus.
To the good men gone ahead of us and those still around that ensure the Christmas chapati smell will not die in the villages of Kianjokoma I say cheers.
Photos courtesy of: Kianjokoma wako online https://www.facebook.com/groups/Kianjokomaonliners/?fref=ts