Seeing how the kids of today are coiled up in sofas in front of television the whole day can worry the hardest hearted parent. I don’t know about you but, personally, I envy the life of a peasant farmer. I’d go till my land any time rather than live as an urbanite who is breeding ‘spoon-fed crawlers’.
I call the city kids of today ‘crawlers’ because it is rare to see them on their feet. You’ve seen them get up from their bed early in the morning only to go and lie down again in the sofa.
Then it is the TV screen until evening as they watch films, music shows or play games. Meanwhile, they will be waiting to be spoon-fed.
If you are the rich parent and you’ve bought your kids computers, from ‘spoon-fed crawlers’ you’ll have created ‘spoon-fed no-budgers’!
It should not surprise you if you constantly hear noise emanating from their room: they are doing that watching and playing on the laptop and will have no use for sleep and none for a sitting room.
Poor you, however, you are condemned to living as an urbanite and to breeding ‘spoon-fed crawlers or no-budgers’. Having lived in foreign lands for the better part of your life, you have no land to lay claim to.
The ‘madoa-doa’ pieces of land returned to you in the name of your family land do not begin to tickle your farming instincts.
And so you content yourself with dreaming about the halcyon days of your childhood.
Days were when we never knew the ‘shape’ of our home and only knew the general area where we lived. I say the “shape of our home” because sometimes it was a round hut, while other times it was ‘mgongo wa tembo’.
Interestingly, I never knew the meaning of that ‘tembo’ until we moved to ‘Belgian’ Congo as refugees. While ‘umugongo’ was clearly ‘a back’ in Kinyarwanda, it was not until we learnt Kiswahili that we were able to tell that ‘tembo’ meant ‘an elephant’, thus denoting a house shaped like an elephant.
We didn’t know the shape of our home because we hardly ever stayed or ate there. It was like this: suppose it was water-fetching day, we’d get up before cock-crow and pick up our water pots and head for the lake.
If there was any left-over food from yesterday’s supper you shared it, but most times there wasn’t and that didn’t worry anybody.
From Nyarusiza near Mount Muhabura in Bufumbira to Lake Cahafi used to take us the whole day, as we did not necessarily run straight to and fro. We took time to look for food and, indeed, we used to enjoy a variety of meals.
Of course, you could not tell whether those meals were breakfast, lunch or supper but what the heck? Food is food!
We picked whatever we could get from any field.
Luckily, peasant farmers of the time were not as possessive as those of today and every field was ours for the taking, as long we did not lay it bare.
Therefore, everybody picked from a different field and then we shared, with everybody taking a piece of everybody else’s pick. So, by the time we reached Lake Cahafi we’d have eaten to our fill, from sugarcane to cassava, sweet potato to inopfu (‘spoilt sorghum shoot’).
The wild fruits served as dessert, including ‘inkeri’ (wild berry), ‘inyanya’/‘impuhu’ (wild tomatoes) as well as some wild roots. Once at the lake and thus satiated, we’d fill our pots and put them aside.
And then it was time for vigorous play, after which we’d put our pots on our heads and set on the trek home. Midway, we’d have gathered an appetite again and we repeated the feeding ritual so as to reach home in the late evening as ‘satiated’ as Nyamaturi and as sleepy as a bat at mid-day, and ready to drop off and sleep until cockcrow again!
I remember thus coming home one late evening, only to realise I was lost, as the house had a door. Ours had an open doorway, as was recently described by a journalist, and so I resorted to calling out my mother’s name in order to find our house: “Nyamukecuru, weh!”
Fortunately, it was perfectly normal to call your parents by their names, unlike today. Imagine if it were today, where the ‘crawler’ has to call out: “Mummy!” Who in the village would come to his help thus: “That is Surushefu’s son! Come, ‘sha’, I will show you to your father’s house”?
A passing villager had recognised me and he led me home, safe and sound.