I have read in the papers of the opening of Scallaz Café, a new oiling joint a few hundred metres from Kwacha Roundabout in Blantyre.
A long time ago, that place used to be the Shelter Club, a famous rendezvous for our fathers.
In the last days of Shelter Club’s fame, I was in primary school and staying with my Mum and late Dad in Chinyonga.
So close was the club almost every day my friends and I strolled to the club’s rubbish pits, innocentlyscavenging for bottle tops and cigarette packs from which we wouldstyleour toys and games.
Our going to shelter club was a big crime at the hands of our parents. It was utterly wayward for kids to go near beer selling or drinking places.
So when one day a house helper at a friend’s home came running to Shelter Club to fetch the friend, we trembled like tall pine trees caught in a whirlwind.
‘Junior, fulumira tidzipita. Akukuyitana Amayi!’ [Junior, let’s hurry back home, Mum sent me for you] the emissary said.
Possibly the boy’s parents had discovered our unscrupulous trip to the club.
We all headed home as sad as widowed doves and stuck around the friend’s home to get first accounts of what was in store for our friend.
When the boy came out, itwas a relief it had just been a normal errand; to set up the television for visitors who had come from Lilongwe!
In those days, homes with TV screens were privileged and respected.The trendyTV screen was a big rectangular ‘box’ with wooden sides and metal-rimmed corners, proudly placedon a trolley at the sitting room’s prime area.
Inside the week, the trolley was wheeled to the parents’ bedroom, only brought out at the weekend or at the hosting of ‘special visitors.’
To show offto the visitors, the host parent would call the ‘most brilliant’ child of the house — often the last born — to operate the ‘delicate machine.’
At a parent’s call, the last born would come running from outside the house and proceed to the ‘technical area’ accommodating the TV screen and ‘other electronics.’
‘Samala doiloyo,’ the parent would affectionately instruct the little one on carefully taking off from the television screen that decorative piece crotchet-knitted from fine twine.
With a smile across the face, the parent would switch eyes between the child and the ‘anticipating’ visitor, with a sense of pride that literally said tothe guest‘now see what my bright child can do!’
Having practised this routine a million times, the child would be all confident as he plugged and turned the television and VHS decoder on.
‘Kodi ya Mbilia Bel abweretsa a Chandilanga aja? [Have the Chandilangas returned the Mbilia Bel cassette they borrowed?]’ The parent would ask.
‘Ayi, pajatu amafuna tikatengenso tokha[Don’t forget all they know is to borrow and never mind to bring back.’]
‘Ikani ya Sarafina [Let’swatch Sarafina then’],” the parent would instruct.
The boy would watch the VHS player swallow the cassette and wait for a few moments to see if the screen had not lost its cue. If at all it had, the boy would go ahead and perform ‘wonders’ in ‘tracking’ a fine picture.
Voila and all would be set. The host parent would now, at least, wait for the visitor topraise the kid’s brilliance.
Good old days!
So, for me, the mention of Scallaz Café might not arouse the dead drunkard in me, but a past so innocent and sweet! n