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How to survive during a burial in shags

Columnist Beryl Itindi

Here’s a list of things to look out for when attending a burial in my ancestral home

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Eye signal

This is one of the most important things to look out for during a burial in my home area otherwise you will go back to where you came from, both hungry and thirsty. My friend, if you see a woman walking from behind any structure winking or pointing towards a certain direction (using her lips), rise up and go in that direction. While at it, do not alert anyone, just start walking as though you know where you are going and trust me what awaits you in that direction is a heavenly meal. I repeat, do not ignore an eye signal even if it points towards a pit latrine, kesi baadaye! Believe you me, behind every structure in the homestead is a makeshift kitchen if not a dining hall.

Small groups headed the same direction

The next time you are attending a burial in my backyard, watch out for small groups of people walking in one direction. They say good things come in small packages and trust me, these small groups are a Godsend. At the end of your walk, there shall be mineral water and assorted soft drinks to quench your thirst. This is how people operate in my region. Do not sit pretty and wait for someone to alert you through the public address system to go and have a meal or drink unless you travelled from Nairobi, Mombasa or you are an in-law in that homestead and arrived on the burial day. One more thing, even if you arrived on the D-day and some little Satan within you made you change into more comfortable clothes and sandals, you are doomed! I tell you for free, you will not eat or drink from the visitors well. Maintain your travel attire and keep the sleepy face intact. Approach the ‘dining hall’ with a cheerful smile at your own risk. You will be pulled aside and told “Watu wa nyumbani watakula baadaye.”

Sitting positions as the night falls

Verily verily I say unto you, unless you drove there and parked your machine where you can easily access it, do not sit on a rock thinking someone will guide you to your bedroom when night falls. Dear mourner, mosquitoes will bite you, monkeys will undress you and dogs will snatch your shoes from your feet during your sleep. Even if you are attending a burial in one of the biggest mansions in that area, always ‘book’ your sleeping spot using your sitting position. In our culture, people don’t sleep after the burial, they dance, sing and talk till morning. We also bury very late, so don’t lie to yourself that you will bury someone and hit the road back to the city. Chances are, you will miss the bus and end up in the lodgings around. There, bats will slap you and termites will build their empire on your shoes; yes, they can build an empire overnight! In short, when looking for a place to sit after the burial, choose a place you can survive through the night.

Watch out for whispers at dawn

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Again here, if you are the kind that sleeps like a fully fed python, by the time you wake up, everyone else will have taken not just a shower but had breakfast too. These people start showering as early as 3am the day after the burial. Remember the many ‘kitchens’ in the homestead on the burial day? That’s where the real deal will be the next day. Very hot water for bathing being dished to ‘known’ people. Now the problem is not where to get a bathroom, the problem is where to get a container to carry this hot water. Five basins in a homestead and around 50 people hoping to take a shower at the same time! So the next time you hear whispers at dawn after a burial in my homeland, grab your towel and follow the whisperer. Make friends with them and help yourself to a hot shower and heavy breakfast.

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