Oh! Why couldn’t Mrs. Mureithi just let me write about anything? We don’t even have a dog or a cat that I could talk about!
Kali continued to stare at her book hoping that an idea from heaven would jump in to her mind so that she could get the composition over and done with. Whenever she placed the pencil on the page all she did was draw some banana trees that grew outside her house. She really liked to sit and play by the bananas. They grew in her mother’s garden. They were green and their bark was covered with the nice brown banana fibers.
She looked outside the window to see if it had stopped raining. There was no more rain now but she could hear the rain drops falling from the tree leaves and the roof of the house to the ground. The sun was slowly emerging from the clouds. Kali decided that there was no point of sitting in the house while she could go play outside. The composition could wait till later.
The grass was wet and soft on her feet. Kali went and sat in the wet grass and began to pretend that she was a hair-dresser and the grass was the hair of her customer.
“Unataka lines gani? Unataka mosodo? Haya, lakini mimi huiita banana. That is the right way to call it. Haya, kaa vizuri.” She imagined the conversation with her customer and what style she would plait her customers hair.
She whistled a play song as she ‘made the hair.’ “ Banana, banana banaaaana. Mandizi mandizi mandiiiizi. Marigu marigu mariiiigu……..” on and on Kali sang her song. She had made it up so that she could will the ‘hair’ to look good. The ’hair’ appreciated good singing and would look good and the customer would be happy.
Her banana song made her long to eat some bananas after a while. Kali looked at the banana groove in her mother’s garden and wondered if there were any ripe bananas that she could pluck and eat as she played.
She told her customer to sit and wait for her as she got some bananas for them to share. She walked to the clump of bananas that she loved. When Kali got there she realized that the banana trees were taller that she had thought they would be. There were ripe bananas on one of the trees but Kali could not reach them. She looked up at the delicious bananas and wondered how she would pluck them.
Kali looked up at the tempting yellow bananas and wondered if a stone would enable her to reach them. She searched all around for a stone that was big enough for her to stand on. As she was looking, Kali noticed that it was dry under the clamp of banana trees.
“Haiya, it is like a house under the bananas. The rain did not come here!”
She looked up at the bunch of ripe bananas again and noticed the banana leaves. They branched from different banana trees in the clump and come together over her head. But they looked as if they had been arranged by someone. They came over each other perfectly and formed a beautiful green roof. No wonder it was dry under the bananas, the leaves formed a perfect roof and kept the rain out. Kali was amazed at all this and promptly forgot all about her ‘customer’.
As she was busy scrutinizing the bananas, Kali noticed a small door on one of the banana trunks. It was brown like the banana fibers but Kali could see the outline of the door. Kali’s heart raced as she moved towards the door. She wondered whether the door would open and if it opened who she would find behind the door.
“Maybe it will be a….a…aa… rabbit or aaaaa….aa a mouse. A rabbit or a mouse. I will probably find a rabbit or a mouse,” she guessed.
Kali really hoped it would be a rabbit since she found mice to be very disagreeable. They chewed on her books and her clothes especially during the rainy season when they came to the house to escape the rain.
Kali tried to open the door but it would not budge. Maybe it wasn’t a door. Maybe her imagination was playing tricks on her. There would be no door at the banana tree in the banana groove for Kali. But Kali was not one to be discouraged so easily. If it was a door it probably required a key. Kali therefore decided to look for a key hole on the door. There it was! But how would she get the key to open the door?
Kali sat down and thought and thought and thought. The key hole was too small to fit in the key from the door of their house. Maybe she could wait for the owner of the banana to open the door, but Kali did not feel like waiting. What if she shared her secret with another person who would help her?
Kali walked out of the banana groove with all these thoughts in her head. She decided to share her discovery with her best friend who lived next door.
“Njeri! Njeri! Njeri! Kuja uone kitu!” Kali excitedly ran to Njeri’s house with her news. Njeri did not understand at first but she followed Kali anyway. She had also just given up on trying to do her math homework.
“Ona mlango kwa mandizi!” Kali announced to Njeri- who was not impressed since she could see no door on the banana trunk. Kali, however, insisted until she had to look again and then she also noticed the small door on the trunk of the banana in the banana groove. Njeri had not seen it at first because the door was also brown like the banana fibers.
The two girls had to sit down and decide on the best way to open the door. The key to Njeri’s house was also too large to fit in the keyhole. So they sat and thought and thought and shared until an idea struck Njeri. Why not use a hair pin? She had seen her brother use one to open the door once when they had lost the key to their house.
Kali was so happy with the idea. She was sure it would work. She ran to the house and got a hair pin from her bedroom. She went back and gave it to Njeri who would know how to use it better than she would.
Njeri took the hair pin and then looked for a stone to flatten the tip. Then she tried it on the key hole and voila, it worked. Kali and Njeri could help but scream in delight.
“We did it! We did it!”
Just then they heard Kali’s mother call out for her. She was concerned that something had happened to them. Kali’s mum told them to stop screaming and ordered them away from the bananas in case there was a snake there. The two girls kept quiet for a while till Kali’s mum went on with her chores and then they continued with their adventure in the banana groove.
Now they would find out who lived in the banana trunk. Kali said it would be a mouse or a rabbit because they both loved to feed on banana leaves. Njeri said it might be a snake and that they should be careful. She had heard her mother say that snakes loved banana grooves. Njeri’s precaution did not seem to ring at all with Kali and so she was the first on to enter through the small door.
It was much bigger in the banana trunk than she had expected. It reminded Kali of her church because the roof was high and tinted with green. This was because banana leaves formed the roof just like kali had seen earlier when she had been looking at the delicious bananas. Floor was made of banana fibres. It made Kali conscious of her muddy feet. It was so clean.
Kali popped her head out and called Njeri to join her.
“Njeri kuja uone. Nikupoa! Na usisahau kupanguza miguu kwa nyasi!”
Njeri wiped her feet and walked in and also got mesmerized by the beautiful room in the banana trunk. She admired the high green roof made of banana leaves and the walls and floor made of banana fibres. Wow! What a big airy room in a banana trunk.
“Mnafanya nini hapa! What are you doing here?” a voice hissed from somewhere in the room. Kali and Njeri froze where they were in fear. What was that horrible voice?
Kali and Njeri stood still for a while before they tried to move. They had not even moved their feet before the terrible voice boomed again.
“Si mseme mnataka nini?”
“ Tu..tu… tuli..tuliona mlango tukaingia,” Njeri managed to stutter out.
There was a sound of footsteps approaching from another place. The banana trunk had many other rooms. In fact there were other doors that Kali and Njeri had not yet discovered before the terrible voice began its questions. It would have been an amazing discovery had Kali and Njeri not been afraid of the approaching footsteps.
One of the doors on the farthest end of the room opened slowly with a squeak. Kali and Njeri were holding each other’s hands tightly in anticipation. Kali remembered Njeri’s warning about snakes and wished she had never come here.
A scaly foot slid forward and out came a………..unbelievable. A small bird with brightly colored feathers stepped into the room. He had a beautiful luminous blue crown on his head and his feathers were green, orange, red and yellow. Kali and Njeri could not believe their eyes. How could such a small and beautiful bird have such a terrible voice?
The bird flew above their heads and sat down on a high point on the roof. The girls followed him and waited for their fate.
“Hello little girls what can I help you with?” The girls had to stifle laughter so as not to offend the bird. They found him funny because he talked like Mr. Karanja their math teacher.
Kali contained her laughter better and so she spoke. She told the little bird their names and how they had found the small door by the banana trunk in the banana groove.
“Light light. You have come to my school by accident but now that you are here you must go to class. We teach birds here but it is nice to have some humans. Welcome, welcome. I hope the alarm did not scare the young girls.”
The bird really sounded like Mr. Karanja. It really did. Like how it said “light, light” instead of saying “right right”. The girls asked the bird for its name and it said it was called Birdie Kanyoni though it preferred being called Kanyoni.
Kanyoni led Kali and Njeri to another room which led to a large compound that was surrounded by a fence made of banana trees.
“Now girls we shall have a music lesson. I have a few songs we could sing but feel free to share any songs you know” said Kanyoni as he busily arranged his feathers for the lesson.
“Me, me, me! I have a song I learnt yesterday from my cucu,” Njeri eagerly offered.
“Now, young lady who asked you for a song. Let’s now sing the song I have in mind”.
Kali could have sworn that it was mister Karanja instead of Kanyoni who rebuked Njeri.
“Haiya he is just like mister Karanja. He told me the same thing in our last lesson when I offered to explain what a poem was. He said now young lady who asked you what a poem is? Let’s now write the definition of a poem that I have in mind.”
“ Kanyoni ka ja Kanyoni ka ja gakuguwa nja na mitheko
Ndakoria atiri, ndakoria atiri, wamicore watinda ku….
“Girls, girls why are you not singing along?” Asked an exasperated Kanyoni.
“We do not know the song” Njeri told Kanyoni.
“What do you mean you do not know the song? Everyone knows the song! You, where do you come from?” Kanyoni asked Kali.
“I live just outside the banana groove,” Kali happily answered.
“Outside the banana groove? What kind of a place is that to live in? Anyway I was asking where your grandparents came from. Where is it?”
“My grandparents live with us just outside the banana groove”. Kali was now getting confused by Kanyoni’s questions. At least Mr. Karanja did not ask such strange questions.
“This one has defeated me,” Kanyoni was sounding like Mr. Karanja again. “Where do you come from young lady? I hope you also do not come from outside the banana groove for I have never heard of such a foolish place as that.”
Njeri did not know how to answer the birds question for she also came from outside the banana groove. She kept quiet and hoped that Kanyoni would teach them the song instead.
“Ah! What kind of students are you? You do not know a simple song and come from a place called outside the banana groove. I am fed up. Class dismissed!”
The two girls did not know where to go now that class had been dismissed. They looked outside the room made of banana fibers and saw some young birds happily playing. They went to join them.
The sun in the banana groove shone green and it never burnt hot like the hot yellow sun we are used to. It was just right. You could play all day here without getting tired. The thought excited the girls and they were glad class had been dismissed. They could go play under the green sun.
Kali and Njeri did not know how to approach the young birds so they stood looking at them for a while before deciding what to do. The young birds noticed them and invited them to go play.
Now, the birds were flying around as they played what looked like their version of kati. Kali and Njeri could not join in since they did not have wings and nor did they know how to fly.
“Oh you do not know how to fly? It is wery easy and we could teach you” said a bird called Dush.
“Really?” the two girls looked at each other and squealed in excitement. Thank God Kali’s mum did not hear them squeal again. She would have given them a good beating for not following her orders.
The birds sent one of them who was called Sokko to go find wings suitable for the two girls. The wings as the girls were told were kept in a great store in another part of the groove village. Each bird got his pair of wings as soon as he got initiated. It was not allowed for anyone to have wings unless they were birds that had been initiated. The bird was therefore going to steal wings for the young girls since they were not birds in the first place.
The two girls felt very privileged. They both imagined the nice stories they would tell their classmates on the following Monday. Their friends would wow in envy as they waited for class to start. Njeri just hoped she would be able to hold her laughter when Mr. Karanja would walk in class.
Sokko finally brought the much awaited wings and girls put them on, however they had to learn how to fly before they could play kati with the birds.
“Just relax and flap your wings and soon you will be flying. Follow what I am doing,” a bird called Ziki told them.
The girls found that it was not as easy as Ziki had made it look. The wings were very uncomfortable at first and felt very heavy. However the girls were very determined and soon Njeri was hovering in the air. Kali was still struggling to flap her wings and felt very jealous of Njeri. This made her very determined to hover in the air as well so that she could have as much fun as Njeri was having.
Njeri tried to fly as soon as she started hovering in the air. She was very excited but she soon learnt that hurry hurry had no blessings. When she tried to fly she dived straight at the ground and nearly hurt herself very badly.
“Are you okay? It is good that you are learning to fly very fast but be very careful,” the young birds advised Njeri.
Kali hovered to where her friend was and expressed her sympathy. That was all soon forgotten as the girls learnt how to fly properly soon after. They could now play kati with the birds.
“I will play in Dush’s team and you will play with Ziki,” said Njeri to Kali. The game and play began and everyone was having so much fun. If you were there you would hear happy laughter, cheers and delighted squeals. Everything was perfect.
Everything was very nice until Kanyoni appeared and to his horror saw two girls who were not birds flying around.
“Nyinyi mnafanya nini? What are you doing?”
The happy game immediately stopped and it became very silent. The young birds and their new found friends stood in the green light of the sun looking very shame faced.
“You two trouble makers should go back to where you came from. You have broken very scared rules of the groove village and you are not welcome here anymore,” Kanyoni harshly uttered. “Now, the rest of you should follow me.”
“We are sorry,” the two girls quietly apologized as they made their way back to the banana fiber room and back to the land of outside the banana groove.
They were surprised to find that it was late in the evening in the land outside the banana groove. Oh no! Their mothers must have been very worried.
“Kali I have to run home. Pray for me that my mother does not spank me for going home late.”
“See you. Pray for me as well.”
And so the young girls ended their wonderful adventure in the banana groove village. I am sure they had lots of stories for their friends at school though I am not sure whether Kali got a story to write about her house.