“You shall not steal.” (Exo 20:15, NIV).
That is the 8th commandment that God gave to the Israelites as they crossed the desert on their way to the Promised Land.
This commandment has set precedence to the way in which we should all live today.
Today being a Thursday, I would like to share a memory.
It was back in the summer of ‘99. We were living in the center of town, close to a certain supermarket. It is the nature of kids to partake in window-shopping each moment they accompany their parents to supermarkets.
“Mummy ninunulie hii!!” “Daddy nataka hiyo!”, Kenyan parents and kids will understand.
I had a childhood friend. He was a class ahead of me. We went to the same primary school. He had an older brother and sister. They all acted as my guardian angels, taking care of me and helping me adapt well to the school routine. I got to learn a lot of things from them. It is from them that I got to learn what TV was (back then we had Kisogo Kubwa Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TVs), what a VCR was (back then we used to refer to it as video until we got enlightened), and also the difference between textbook and exercise book and a story book.
Old 21 inch Sony Triton T.V.
So they had this guardian who used to buy them chocolate especially fudge and mintchoc brands. Any kid who ate fudge and mintchoc back then was perceived as the coolest on the block. I wanted to be cool. I could not ask my parents to buy me the same as such request would be met by ‘Funga hiyo mdomo ya bata haraka! (Can you shut your Donald Duck-like mouth!)’ followed by an electric slap. You don’t want to know the moments of coveting I had to endure. To make matters worse, my efforts to ask for a bite of the same from my friend often landed on deaf ears. This prompted me to come up with ways of getting the chocolate.
Fudge and Mintchoc
At the supermarket, these two brands of chocolate were being sold at the cashier’s counter just before the exit door. I tried to figure out how I could just enter the supermarket, grab one of the bars and run away unnoticed. Each night I used to go outside at the balcony and get a view of the supermarket’s exit. I would then picture myself grabbing the chocolate bar and running away fast like a gazelle that has just crossed the King Lion’s path. I figured out all the possibilities and impossibilities and at last the mission’s plan was complete. All that was left was for me to execute it.
But then, a thought crossed my mind just a few days before I could execute my plan. However young I was, my conscience pleaded with me. The ‘what if’ questions began to cloud my mind. What if the proprietor catches you? What if after you are caught your case is reported to your parents? What if your mom reports that case to your class teacher? What if your class teacher reports the case to your head teacher? What if your head teacher chooses to discipline you in front of the whole school during the parade? I could not find the answers to all these questions.
Moreover, the thoughts of scripture also came into my mind. We were always told to observe the ten commandments in our Sunday School.
Usiue! Usizini! Usiibe! (Do not kill! Do not commit adultery! Do not Steal!)
I can still remember the way our Sunday School teacher used to insist these three commandments as they were the shortest and easy to memorize and these words rang in my mind loud enough to give me migraines.
Despite my conscience pleading with me to abandon the mission, I did not heed to such pleas. To make matters interesting, I knew where mum kept her money. I figured out that it would be better to steal the money to legally acquire the chocolate bar rather than stealing from the supermarket. I was also sure that mum would be easily convinced that she lost the money under circumstances unclear to her and that she would not easily know that I was the one who stole from her. I was also convinced that it she would think that it was dad who took the money to cater for an emergency.
So I went into her purse and picked up a brand new ksh. 100 note (note:back then there used to be Mzee Moi ksh. 100 notes in circulation). There were 7 ksh. 100 notes. You know that feel of a brand new note, don’t you? The only moment I had come close to the notes was when when I was going through the pages of the daily newspapers with my main area of interest being the pictures. After this mission, I did not proceed to buy the chocolate right away. I decided to buy time to determine how long it would take mum to recognize that one of her notes was missing. Day one passed and no complaint was raised. Day two, still no complaint. Day three, everything was the same: no complaint. But then, I was so restless. I needed to get past this feeling and so I decided to execute the mission once and for all in day four.
Old ksh. 100 Moi note
The evening came and I was ready to set out and accomplish my mission. Back then, a bar of fudge chocolate went for ksh. 10. I was so dumb simply because in planning my mission, I had not inquired about the price. All I did was grab the fudge chocolate bar and then I handed the cashier the ksh. 100 note. I didn’t even wait for the balance and there I was, darting fast through the exit. I made way as fast as a deer to my chill spot: the balcony. Indeed, the forbidden fruit tastes sweetest. You can’t imagine the way I was feeling as I took large bites of the bar, the way it felt as the crushed bar came into contact with my lustful throat. Oh! What a great feeling it was!
Girl and Baby enjoying chocolate
My life then took a turn. The morning after, guilt and anxiety visited my house once again. It all began when we were at the breakfast table. Mum asked dad whether he had seen any loose ksh. 100 note lying around. Dad answered in the negative.
Jasho jebamba lilinitiririka uti wa mgongo! (A cold chill ran down my spine!).
But then, she did not ask me anything. Of course I could not be a suspect then since I had never stole anything from the house before. What a relief it was for that moment, but still I was not at ease because I knew pretty well that in one way or another, sooner or later, I could be found out.
Oh my gosh! Neighbours! Neighbours! Neighbours! Why can’t they just keep their mouth shut? Unaware to me, we had a neighbour who worked as an attendant at the same supermarket where I bought the fudge. Her name was Janet. I am forced to say that she snitched on me! (This is not meant to bring out all Janets out there as snitches. Also it is not that I have a beef with the Janets, I love them so much). I am saying so because that evening as she was talking to my mum at the water point, she told her that she had seen me pick the chocolate bar and pay for it using ‘big money’ after which I failed to collect the balance. Case closed. Need I say more? I was the culprit.
I do not want to recount how that evening went. I saw death! I received a thorough beating and was called ‘big’ names that made me wonder whether the person delivering the punishment was really my mum. I felt like a step son for the few days that followed (not meant to perceive all step mothers as heartless). I was branded a thief. Any time mum called me or instructed me to do something, she would not fail to add the word mwizi (thief) to my name. My friend heard of the story and instead of sympathizing with me, all he did was laugh at me (how heartless of him)! To bar me from ever stealing again in future, mom threatened that she will report the case to my class teacher. In order for me to earn remorse from her, nilikunja mkia ( I took the humble pie, did everything she wanted extraordinarily). Oh well, she never reported it. I must say that I learned my lesson the hard way.
Lemmie take you down the memory lane. Do you remember them days when watching the Commando, Rambo and Chuck Norris movies on VHS was the in thing and when KBC was the only channel on TV? When we had a great dose of wrestling entertainment on TV from Saturday to Tuesday (RAW and SmackDown)?
Those were the days when your dad had a red Greatwall TV covered in a yellow kitambaa that your mom took ample time to knit was considered the boss of the block. It was only switched on when he came home in the evening. You were considered filthy rich if you had coloured T.V.
Old Greatwall T.V
Those were also the days when Badi Muhsin and Kimeli arap Kemei used to just keep you glued to the screen during the 7pm bulletin.
Badi Muhsin on KBC Channel 1 back in the days
They were also the days when kids on Saturday morning used to be treated to a mini-cartoon network (I call it mini because the cartoons being aired were not in the real Cartoon Network channel) where Beast Wars, Sonic the Hedgehog, Donald Duck and Danger Mouse were some of the cartoons on display.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Well those are just of the memories of the late 90s and early 2000s for today’s #TBT column. More to follow.