I have special memories of ‘Kanengo’.
You see, Kanengo the place slothfully lies on the outskirts of the Capital City along the Lilongwe Kasungu Road and today one could easily cruise past it without any serious regard.
But during its chorus )and that high has been elusive recently), Kanengo got the Capital flowing with cash. Chiefly, the fame was from the tobacco market season of plenty when even ‘clever’ thieves, night queens and all sorts of vagabonds and social vultures tailed tobacco farmers who temporarily succumbed to the merry-making after sales.
Rest houses, bottle stores and any businesses in between made a fortune.
Today, tobacco sales are hard and the life of people and businesses that depend on the tobacco market has taken a downward spiral.
Kanengo was a busy beehive from which, at some point, also operated factories and storerooms for shoddy products some unscrupulous traders let out to the unsuspecting buyers. These won Kanengo a bad name.
Malawians are quick and no mean with tags. Subsequently, any cheap or fake product came to be known as ‘Kanengo’; that is thalauza ya Kanengo, mabatire a Kanengo or filizesi wa Kanengo.
Everything fake or phoney was Kanengo. So, even some marriages were Kanengo!
Around that time I had this classmate who came to school in a new pair of shoes. By the time we knocked off, he only had the uppers—the sole was completely finished. Kanengo!
He looked really silly in his ‘peels’ of shoes but he was so muscular none of us dared to contort our mouths in a laugh or any public show of mockery.
But hungry hyenas don’t give a damn dying for their meat. Our naughty circle of friends devised ‘safe means’ of getting happy about his misery and behind his back, we called him Kanengo.
One day he learnt of our naught and beat the crap out of us.
I am happy to say I met Kanengo this week, all grown up! He was in the company of a lady who looked like was in a hurry to leave. They sat side by side on some concrete slab by the road to our ghetto.
My friend was bare footed. At the other side of the woman was a nice pair of men’s shoes, albeit old.
After about five minutes of the friend and me catching up on the past, the lady blew off her fuse and started to beat the friend.
‘Musanditayitse nthawi. Mundipatse ndalama zanga—ngongole ya nsapato mpaka miyezi ingati?’ the woman lashed.
If it were not for my helping him out, he could as well might have lost a limb.
I watched him thankfully put his shoes on and remembered how mighty he once was. Just like Kanengo the place, Kanengo the man is out of his sauce.
He looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. We had gone back to a mutual moment in time — when I was the one getting a beating over shoes! n
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