Diaspoman: Remembering days of village boxers

My tour in Burundi has taken me to the furthest corners where poverty glares its ugly head. Claude has been driving me all around as I try to explore some ICT opportunities which I may hopefully translate into lucrative contracts for my boss in Kigali. 

My tour in Burundi has taken me to the furthest corners where poverty glares its ugly head. Claude has been driving me all around as I try to explore some ICT opportunities which I may hopefully translate into lucrative contracts for my boss in Kigali. 

I have seen children on dusty roads running behind our jeep in an excited mood. Their images just took me back several decades ago when I was child in similar circumstances.

 

 In the villages, we (children) never had the privilege of wearing panties. Unlike today’s’ dot.com kids who have Spider-man and superman branded panties, ours was an entirely miserable state.

 

In our days, there was this kid who happened to be a class apart. He was the son of the village tailor. That is why this boy had a unique type of panty which he showed around to everyone as he bragged off. 

 

He would be seen all over the school compound showing off his red underwear. That is also why he developed this idea of visiting the toilets and then always forgetting to button up his fly. During those days, school going boys dressed up in pair of shorts which never had zips. Those were the days when zips were regarded to be special products for the rich alone. As for the poor folks, their shorts were decorated with several multicolored buttons to keep the fly shut.

But for this particular boy, the buttons that were meant to protect his fly were always open for everyone to see. In fact, he even got to an extent of simply plucking off the buttons so that the color of his underwear could shine bright. 

So, as he boasted around the school compound, his friends became envious. They felt left out by their colleague who had taken a serious leap forward by abandoning the “original” panty that all the other lads were used to.

The “original” panties that I am referring to were in a form of boxers. The material used was Nylon, which was sometimes referred to as ‘Solome.’ Those were the days when the only shopkeeper in the village used to import rolls of Nylon tissue all the way from Mombasa. Apparently, this shopkeeper also hailed from that coastal town and he was so famous for his Nylon sales that he earned himself a nickname, Mr Solome. 

Villagers would trek from all corners of the village to Solome’s shop so as to buy themselves a few meters of the Nylon cloth.

It was not every day that the villagers visited Salome’s shop for Nylon tissue. Their calendar was well known to Solome and that explains why his shop was always out of stock during the months of January and February. 

Then in March or April, Solome stocked his shop with more Nylon as the Easter days approached. Thereafter, the shop would remain half empty until the Christmas days came knocking at the door. 

I believe that if Mr Solome was still alive and kicking, you would find a long queue of people at his shop. Having saved some cash for the past nine months, the villagers cherished the month of December. This was the time for them to dress up in style. So, they would carry their Nylon rolls from Solome’s shop and cross the valley in a bid to visit yet another monopolist. 

This other monopolist was none other than village tailor who happened to be the father of this proud boy.

Here, the tailor would wrap the measuring tape around the villagers so as to arrive at the right sizes. And for us kids, it was real fun visiting the tailor. He would play with us as he measured the size of our waists and our small bums. Then he would patch up some makeshift panties for us. 

The tailor thought that a boy’s underwear should stretch all the way to the knees. He claimed that such fashions hailed from America. That is why our panties resembled boxers tied from one end to another by a set of strings…

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