As we head towards the end of the year, we enter an interesting period in the mountain region-the dowry payment season. Every other Saturday, some young man is taking dowry to his in-laws, lest they decide to recall their daughter and make him a bachelor once again. It's a busy time for certified dowry negotiators, kitenge fundis and all that ecosystem around the dowry payment process.
Apart from the dowry negotiators, the next important person in the dowry process is the aunty who vets whether the in-laws have landed at the homestead in a style befitting their daughter's dignity. If they come in a manner that suggests that the girl is cheap, she can demand that they drive backwards for miles so that they come back with their vehicles hooting. That way, the entire county will know that a well-brought-up girl has brought goats to her clan.
If the in-law's party turns up in cars that she doesn't like, she can close the gate and fine them several rolls of kitenge so that next time they come with cars befitting their daughter's stature. No one is exempt from this rule-even Baba Ngina experienced such when he took some goats to Kangema during Maggie's ruracio.
Ceremony of the year
Last weekend, a young man in Kirinyaga attended a ruracio in a way that challenged our long-established traditions. As expected, his in-laws had cooked tantalizing mukimo and aromatic pishori rice from Mwea.In addition, they had prepared riparian stews since Kirinyaga county has lots of rivers. It sure was going to be the ruracio ceremony of the year.
In the mountain region, you don't land in your in-law's home early, lest the women cheekily wonder whether you are the one being served. This is also a trick to ensure that by the time you are done eating and start discussing the dowry price, it will be dark, and your in-laws will let you go easily so that you don't get late.
Thus, at around 2 pm, the women who were the official welcoming team for the visitors tightened some lesos around their waists and headed to the gate to wait for the in-laws. Their leader was ready with an edict to send them backwards for a mile to come back with their vehicles hooting.
Suddenly, the skies above were torn into pieces by powerful blades. Shortly, a shiny metallic bird landed in a field nearby-from which emerged the in-laws. Then, another chopper landed carrying friends of the groom.
The woman who was to order the vehicles to go backwards scratched her head uneasily. Finally, she decreed that the choppers go backwards and then come back hooting. Some Nairobi girl whispered to her that for a chopper, that might mean going all the way to Wilson airport, and might cost several hundred thousand. Which might anger the rich groom who might decide not to come back. Thus, the team was ushered in without that dramatic part of ruracio payment. As the ceremony progressed, the owner of the shamba where the choppers were parked demanded payment for parking fees. We are waiting for Kikuyu Council of Elders to give direction on how in-laws who come for ruracio in choppers should be handled in future.