And talking about my indecorous ways of digressing into politics, let me return to my familiar turf of ancient causerie.
Which ‘ancient causerie’, when stripped of that high-sounding, false aura of respect simply means ‘old-man’s blabber’, or ‘old man’s idle talk’.
So, I’ll revisit an episode of my life that I’d forgotten until I read a story in ‘The East African Standard’ of Kenya: the life of jiggers.
For your information, I read that the two feet of a Kenyan young boy were going to be amputated due to the deliberate negligence of his parents.
According to the newspaper, the father and mother of the boy subscribe to a religious sect that forbids seeking any form of medical attention, believing that all form of healing comes from God.
When jiggers infested their son’s feet, therefore, the parents removed the jiggers but did not care to take him for medical attention.
And when police was alerted by the neighbours, it was too late because the feet were already too gangrenous. The feet had to be chopped off. Otherwise, the legs, and eventually the whole body, would be infected.
That is how our sad African continent still wallows in misery.
Either we have no medical facilities at all or, when we have them, we carry a load of borrowed beliefs that does not allow us to take advantage of them!
Which facilities wouldn’t have been necessary in this case, anyway, with a little dose of good old traditional knowledge.
At the slopes of Mount Muhabura in the 1950s, ‘jiggered’ feet were the order of the day. In fact, we relished the ticklish feeling and the expertise of removing them.
With a safety pin and a dab of cow ghee, it was goodbye to any fear of gangrenous threat. Or any pain at all, as long as, with your ‘igihandure’, you steered clear of the vicinity of ‘uruhira’ (burnt grassland)!
However, I’ve been accused of talking in tongues before and, in this case, I might be.
For, as I’ve found out, you cannot find the word ‘jigger’ in the English dictionary! Our African English refers to something that the English would rather call ‘chiggers’.
It refers to the ‘chigoe fleas’, scientifically known as ‘Tunga penetrans’.
Which is as well, considering their destructively penetrative power! And, with no allusion to gender bias on my part, trust them to be female, like their anopheles mosquito counterparts!
It’s the malicious female chigoes flea that burrows into your skin to lay eggs, although it does not live long enough to delight in the intense irritation it causes you! On releasing its eggs, the poor flea dies and is sloughed by the host’s skin.
Within days, however, the eggs will hatch and the next generation will be mature in two weeks, with the females ready to haunt you yet again…..
Talking of which females, why shouldn’t we take a sworn female on her word? If the South African teenage track sensation, Mokgadi Caster Semmenya, says she is female, it’s because she is.
And if she is not, why should it take weeks to establish the truth? In fact, I’m told it can only be established by the combined expertise of internal medicine specialists, gynaecologists, psychologists, geneticists and endocrinologists.
If you think ‘endocrinologist’ refers to any of the notorious rapists of South Africa, you’ve got another thing coming! Nor does it refer to our very own “imfizi y’Umurenge” (prize bull of the area) – you know, the ‘magistrating’ home-construction expert!
No, an ‘endocrinologist’ is a specialist in the determination of secretions in internal glands and hormones, who can tell if those secretions are female or male.
I’m informed it’s not enough to let Semenya lie down face-up, as the Kinyarwanda saying goes (“Uhakana”…..in this case, “ubugabo”…..). It’s said the naked eye cannot tell a man from a woman.
As recently as 2006, there was a case of an Indian woman who, when tested, was found ‘not to be woman enough’.
For that, Santhi Soundarajan was stripped of her 800m silver medal at the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar.
Like in Semenya’s case, Santhi’s physical appearance forced athletics officials to ask for a sex test. When it was performed, she was found not to “possess the sexual characteristics of a woman” due to a genetic condition.
And so, woe upon you if Dr. Endocrinologist were to come visiting and do a check-up on Mother-of-your-brood, or Mama watoto.
There you are, legs on side table and beer mug in one hand, when the good doctor emerges from the room to report that Mother-brood is not a woman because she does not “possess the sexual characteristics of a woman”!
Don’t laugh, because I’ve heard that an individual can be of female sex and yet be of male gender, and vice versa!
Watch out then, you might be two papas in there, when all along you thought you were the head honcho of the house!