A few days ago, I visited Mama Mwihaki (mum) and in her kitchen, there was this odd looking yellow jerrycan. For as long as I can remember, there has been a red one. Within reach. Right next to the kitchen sink. It has been there for so long the kitchen seems incomplete without it.
I always told her we did not need one in the kitchen, especially after water was piped to the house, but she would always reply, “You wouldnt know the importance of a jerrycan” In Kiuk that sounds worse. Somehow any statement in kiuk can have a dash of rude sarcasm. So little me would always shut up and keep keeping it.
On seeing this ghastly yellow can in its place, I ask, “Kwani kamtungi ka red kako?” Terrible language. I know. Looking at this picture (above), I’m not even sure the damn thing is red, but it has always been our red kamtungi.
Wait. What? Kalitoboka?
The jerrycan whose mouth my hand used to effortlessly fit in one day right to my elbow. I don’t know why any sane human would want to do that but as a child you derive pleasure in little things.
This jerrycan we used to fetch water to put in the house for overnight use. This was before we upgraded to a house with inbuilt taps. We had this hundred litre container that we would use to store the water. For about an hour, three of my siblings and I would attempt to fill it but we could never. Funny thing is only five jerrican-fulls would suffice. But no. We just couldn’t.
This Kamtungi that made me think Mama Mwihaki was a superhuman. (I still think she is) In my eyes you needed to be hulk to lift it, full of water. And she would do it so effortlessly. Like a little feather in the wind.
This jerrican that we used to water our Kei apple fence. Everyone has a kei apple fence where I come from. The thorny bush attempts to keep chicken and goat thieves away but they always seem to find a way through. The annoying rounds of fetching water over and over again every morning and evening until the little shrubs are strong enough to tap water themselves.
This Kamtungi that has been part of every Easter, Chrismas and ruracio in Mama Mwihaki’s home. These are the days most water is used while cooking. And its not just for the soup.
This Kamtungi now leaks. After a lifetime of service, it leaks. And it has already been replaced. I thought it would always be there. I thought wrong.