D-day will finally be here. Culminating a series of family and friends meetings all for the sake of ensuring this day turns out to be a success. As I’ve said previously in this blog, as weddings are huge to ladies so are dowry occasions to men. A man who goes ahead to pay dowry, is not a small man. In actual sense, in his circle of peers, he stands to cement his territory for having ‘fully complied’ with traditions. It’s important to also appreciate; the occasion is financially draining at this day and age, coupled with a commercialised aspect in between. So any man who commits to go full throttle deserves a pat on the back.
You being Stevo’s (Stevo is the dude paying dowry) insider cum confidant, you’ll have been sneaked to this Whatsapp group of his inner circle which essentially deals with the nitty-gritty of the big day and ensuring all plans take shape. Meanwhile for Stevo, he’ll leave nothing to chance. From text messages to lengthy phone calls, a total of 200 friends, family members, colleagues, business partners, acquaintances and so forth will be invited to these endless evening meetings. Mind you only half the number or less will turn up. You’ll gather, deliberate and raise money. For young lads it’s never in vain. In fact, if you never show up in such meetings, nobody will show up when you’ll be in the same situation. Talk of Karma! But more importantly, it’s more fulfilling being part of your friend’s life achievements especially when it requires of you to support.
According to my kienyenji research, three out five ladies from Embu are paid for dowry. I’m even sure most of my readers have attended a dowry thing in Embu, meaning there is something special about Embu ladies. The jury is out. We leave it at that. So, on this day you’ll be embarking on a journey to Embu. This gets so exciting for guys living in Nairobi, for no good reason though. Putting a bunch of crazy friends in a convoy of cars, to transverse up country with all the fun that comes by, becomes too costly to miss. You’ll be cruising along Makuyu stretch, on this first Saturday of the month, nodding to some good hip hop music from the talented Khaligraph Jones. There will be heavy traffic but this will be overshadowed by smell of fresh air outside of Nairobi (pun intended). Observing humans all the way from Thika Road to Makutano Junction busy selling their wares across the highway, or far in their farms tilling, brings out tremendous patriotism within us.
You’ll make it to Embu town some minutes after noon and pull off at an agreed rendezvous. Here, you’ll finalise logistics as you sip quick tea and as you await souls from the rest of the country which then you’ll proceed as one longer convoy. It never gets this blissful. As all these unfold, you’ll quickly fall in love with Embu town. Apart from realising natives here speak with ‘heavy tongues’; you’ll savour the clean air and environment. The roads will be up to standard too with hardly any street family in the vicinity. Before long you’ll again embark on the final part of the journey after conducting some short prayers, seeking blessings for what’s ahead.
Embu is beautiful gosh!! From the very green forested farms, to the range of sleeping hills, to the smell of fertile and rich habitat. Rivers will be draining quietly to the lowlands as bulls pulling carts make headway to the highlands. And this will be such a big deal. Your bunch of friends will scramble to take pics of bulls pulling carts. It never happens in Nairobi you know! And funny still, not in their up country either. That work is done by donkeys. The day will be chilly but won’t erase the joy drawing from your faces. The atmosphere will be akin to Limuru Road heading to Gigiri. Birds will be chirping in this fresh ambiance with beautiful roads that meander through the calm and serene locations.
After one hour or so drive, cars ahead will start hooting noisily with their hazard lights all out screaming, “The visitors have finally arrived”. Why do Kenyans do this! hehe. Waking an entire village from car hooting. Again you’ll realise Embu people don’t fence their homesteads. At least for many. After further prodding, you’ll be reminded there is a relatively low criminal rate in Embu. In other words, Embu, Meru and Kirinyaga people have a history of strong belief in traditions of not trespassing nor pilfering. You don’t just go stealing, you’ll be made to regret.
Anyway, the turn up will be impressive going by the number of excited assemblage and variety of cars parked outside this homestead. And that’s how you judge a man. By how many friends and family members he commands….. Few minutes after, women will lead the pack in traditional songs suggesting the visitors have arrived while making their way to the gate, carrying baskets of shopping, mainly food stuff. In Africa you never visit empty handed. (This shopping is shared among the welcoming women, it’s not part of the dowry price.)
The guests will be ushered to the preserved tents and once settled will be invited to queue for buffet to calm their murmuring stomachs. Appreciate that the man paying dowry entirely foots the food budget of the day. Speaking of food, it’ll be a combination of traditional foods like Mukimo (An Agikuyu traditional meal), Nyama choma, fries, pilau, plain rice, black beans aka njahe, peas, fruits and veges. There will be sodas and mineral water too in plenty. This will be followed by family preambles conducted by this fairly young MC with a heavy accent too.
Interestingly, as this happens Stevo will be directed to a certain room to identify his wife from a group of 15 ladies divided into three groups and tied with lessos from head to toe. If he makes a mistake of identifying wrongly, he’s penalised a colossal amount. Luckily for him, he manages to identify her from her shapely hips and the fact that he had entered into a deal with her to pose in a certain way, makes things easier for him. (This is a top secret amounting to corrupting the system and punishable if discovered.)
The day becomes more eventful when Stevo and the wife change to traditional attires and are taken through more activities. The highlight turns out to be when Stevo is served porridge from a calabash but not before a series of other theatrics according to Agikuyu traditions. (The husband doesn’t just accept porridge. The wife must sooth him by polishing his shoes, combing his hair, cutting his nails etc..).Later all the guests are served this nutritious porridge as close family members from both parties make way to a highly guarded room for dowry negotiations.
This will take an hour or two before the white smoke is seen coming out of the hut, signifying a deal has been arrived. Part of the negotiations will involve Stevo’s side officially delivering items demanded by Wazees from the other end. This include five FAT goats, ten crates of soda, five crates of beer, a 90 kilogram bag of sugar, a 20 litre bucket of fresh honey, two pairs of bed sheets, a blanket for Stevo’s father in law and the icing on the cake; hefty loads of money. Meanwhile for the guests, it’ll be time to catch up, exchange pleasantries, network and move around while taking dozens of pics from the picturesque view to flood the IG later amid some good entertainment and more drinks. (Again it’s important to appreciate no matter how long the negotiations take place, the visitors aren’t supposed to spend the night in their laws homes.) The hallmark of the negotiations will result from donation of one crate of beer to the visitors as a sign of appreciation.
By now, it’ll be minutes to 7pm when you’ll power your engines back to Nairobi for the After Party where you’ll get down all night celebrating a life’s achievement.