was nine the first time I was caught up in a corruption scandal. My mother sent me to the British Petroleum (BP) filling point near Ndurarua Primary to buy paraffin and I let myself be used by the forces of darkness and evil.
I was walking with my jerrycan, holding it close to my person. Mother had been very clear that if I lost another jerrycan, she would skin me alive, and from past experience, I knew she was more than capable.
I got to a fork on the road, one way led to all that was good, and correct – BP and paraffin. The other, smoke-filled from all the firewood used to cook, led to the sellers of ‘mutura’ (roasted, stuffed meats) samosas with contents that the makers fancied like chapatis, fried pastries and things I couldn’t afford without living beyond my means.
Samosas, my Achilles?
I stood at the intersection for a good amount of time, asking myself what I got from being sent to BP if not tired fingers and only a verbal thank you from my mother. I approached the samosa seller, a fat man whose formerly white lab coat was now the colour of a healthy flamingo. He was shooing away the smoke with his grubby fingers when I handed him the hundred shilling note and asked for a samosa ya viazi.
I hurriedly put the purchase I made with proceeds of corruption, as hot as the two samosas were, in my shorts. Those were the days of true lifestyle audits when a mother could ask where you got money to buy toffees and if your answer wasn’t pleasing, you’d get a beat down regardless of where you were.
A while later, I pulled up to the paraffin pump attendant, a tall spindly man, holding a water bottle, who looked at the boy who was buying paraffin worth 90/= while stuffing his mouth with oily samosas. If he had any questions, he didn’t ask them, just pumped until the dials stopped at 90, fastened the cap and attended to the next buyer. He was far ahead of his time, drinking water and minding his own business.
The altar of temptation
Bad habits are easier to get hooked on to, than good ones, and I was soon a regular at the samosa joint. Under the cover of darkness, I’d chew the samosas, my conscience numbed by the taste of fried potatoes enclosed in a casing of crunchy wheat.
As with most thieves, I became greedier. One time I was sent to buy paraffin worth 300/= and unaccustomed to such huge purchases I splurged at the altar of temptation and debauchery. I was buying samosas, mandazis like a deranged Arabian Prince in a Rolls Royce Showroom. I even bought a smokie, when buying a smokie was news, back when they sold them in shiny grey hotpots.
If a hardened consumer like me was reformed with slippers and pinches (not threats and excuses of lack of evidence) then we can win the war on corruption.
I got to the paraffin attendant looking more bloated than usual my cheeks shiny from eating the proceeds of corruption. I proceeded to hand over 230/= and even he knew there was no hiding this time. He tugged at his water bottle and I am sure as I walked away, he knew my proverbial 40 days were up.
Midway between BP and home, I panicked and my stupidity, mixed with the impending fear of being caught, had me add water to the jerrycan. I knew mother would have made me go back to the pump with her in tow if I attempted to pass off 230/= paraffin as 300/=.
I was caught a week later when the flames consumed the pieces of cloth that acted as a conduit between the paraffin (which was by then water) and the heat. After my mum was done with me, my head was clear. I was no longer swayed by corruption or anything that looked, smelled or tasted like it.
I am a reformed consumer of the proceeds of corruption, and if a hardened consumer like me was saved, (with slippers and pinches not threats and excuses of lack of evidence) then we can win the war on corruption.
Who knows where I can get samosas with potatoes/peas in them? I need to see what about them made me risk life and limb.
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