The other Wednesday I was reading The Daily Times, one of the two main dailies in Malawi. The techno-junkie that I’m, I flipped through the first few pages in a mad rush to read Computer Cross Talk, Marshall John Mdeza’s weekly column. Boy, wasn’t I shocked! According to Marshall, and I’ve no reason to doubt he had marshalled all his facts correctly, I was a wanted man way back in 2003. Apparently, whole editors were out looking for me.

You bet, I’m flattered. But shocked, nevertheless.

In fact, I’m so shocked I can’t write. Luckily, a friend of mine, Bakili Muluzi says he has something to say to you. So as I scamper off to the Capital Hotel bar for some chemotherapy in the form of a cold Carlsberg Light, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls and everyone in between, here is…Dr Bakili Muluzi, the former President of the Republic of Malawi…

                                                                                                                                ***

My name is Dr Eleson Bakili Muluzi, the former President of the Republic of Malawi.  But as you’re probably aware, I’m not overly fond of my first name.

My enemies have sullied that name just to score some cheap political points. Do they think I wouldn’t have managed to wow Annie had I not given myself an extra six Pounds pay cheque? Don’t they know that in the 60s being a court clerk in a rural area was on its own enough attraction.

Be that as it may, I prefer to be known simply as Dr Bakili Muluzi. And at this particular point in time, I should add, I’m one very amazed Dr Bakili Muluzi. Yes, I’m surprised that an insignificant number of misguided Malawians are making noise about the budget, or rather the lack thereof, let me hasten to add. Imagine a few foolish ones are even leaving their spouses for days on end to camp at the War Memorial in Lilongwe.

For what?

You see, budgeting and me have always belonged to opposing parties. I remember before I became president, many of my cheques, some of them as small as K2,000, would boomerang to me with the words “Return to Drawer” inscribed on them in red ink. What cheek. Who told them I was an artist specialising  in drawing cheques?

Anyway, the point is, I used to give away too many cheques. But bankers, an uncharitable lot that they are, didn’t appreciate my philanthropy. So they would bounce some of them. With hidden political agendas, of course. Otherwise, how did some of those cheques end up decorating the front pages of the country’s newspapers?

 

Unluckily for them, I still became the chief custodian of the nation’s coffers.

When that happened  budgets became even more irrelevant and bankers more accommodating. Not that they had a choice. After all, I had the phone numbers of everyone with keys to the state’s cash vaults.

But I digress. What I wanted to tell you is that I don’t care about the government budget. After all, what benefit do I derive out of it? As you know, they’re only giving me a seven figure monthly allowance to subsist on. Yet month in, month out, I’ve to pay the Mpasus of this world and thousands of other hangers-on.

What they also seem not to get into their tiny government brain is that even men like me, men who don’t rely on Viagra, can’t operate on charm and reputation alone. We need constant cash transfusions to worm our way into the skirts of beautiful women. Now if they give me a pittance like some beggar from Kapoloma, how do they expect me to survive? Start raping?

Which reminds me. I hate child rapists, perhaps even more than I hate my successor Bingu Wamtharika. I can’t understand why a whole man would want to rape a child. Why not its mother?

But again I digress. What I was saying is that the allowance the tight-fisted government gives me isn’t enough for me to be doling out 50s to my troupes of praise singers. You may recall that in my hay days, I would give out envelopes of crisp new 50s. But with the alms I now get, it’s hard for me to continue conjuring illusions of wealth for my praise singers.  What the government doesn’t realise is that by depriving me, they’re also denying their own poor citizens their once in a life-time shots at virtual wealth. Never mind the fact that these poor Malawians have pitifully short life times.

Did I mention the word virtual? It’s an interesting word that, with lots of interesting possibilities. It’s one word that, with a more techno savvy crop of advisors, would’ve opened doors to untold wealth. I would be totally independent of this joke of an allowance.

Yes, I would’ve been rich because I would’ve patented virtual reality.  I invented it.

Oh, yes!

My enemies think that when I was a tenant at State House the only thing I used to do was surf sports channels on DSTV. Rubbish! Fosteki! Once in a while I would do some thinking, too. And these thoughts would’ve nothing to do with images of naked women or newly minted money.

How else would I’ve conceived virtual reality? OK, let me be truthful for once. I borrowed the idea from the paymasters in my education ministry who used to have thousands of virtual teachers who they faithfully paid in real money every month. What's more, these virtual teachers received real pensions when they retired.

Having seen the possibilities this idea offered, I commandeered and perfected it. That’s how I came up with the brilliant idea of giving my poor teachers and policemen around the country, virtual wage increments. That’s how I gave every poor Malawian a pair of virtual Italian shoes.

I built virtual hospitals as well as virtual schools all over the country. And to demonstrate that real life and virtual reality can co-exist, each one of these virtual schools had real brick-and-mortar wall fences. Stroke of genius that, eh?

Heh, I even gave my people in Chitipa and Karonga a virtual highway to link the two districts. The country was literally littered with donor funded virtual projects.

Did I get credit for it?

No! Instead there was a donor outcry. And a few misguided Malawians called me all sorts of names, including long ones like kleptomaniac. By the way, I used to love that name until Willie Zingani…or was it Ken Lipenga?...spelt out what it actually meant.

Yet again I digress. It’s virtual reality we’re talking about. And, of course, the opportunities I lost by not patenting the idea. Today there are such whole virtual worlds such as Second Life (http://secondlife.com), There (http://www.there.com) and Active Worlds (http://activeworlds.com). And I can't sue them for breach of patent.

What a loss!

I understand these days there’s a scramble for virtual property on Second Life. As a politician I’ve told many lies in my life. In my first life, so to speak. But believe me, people are paying real money to acquire virtual property. Ironically, even the donor countries that used to raise eyebrows at my virtual projects are now spending thousands of dollars opening virtual embassies on Second Life. I’m told even real life for-profit entities are setting up virtual shops in the make-believe world and virtual currency is being exchanged for real green ones.

Wow! If only I had the foresight, I would be laughing all the way to an offshore bank. Most likely Bill Gates would be my neighbour. Or better still, Bill Clinton. At least we’ve one thing in common with Bill. Lesser men call it a weakness. A weakness?

In any case, I would be so far from Malawi, I wouldn’t have to be force-fed all this nonsense about an unpassed budget. Not only that, I wouldn’t be living this nightmare of every few months having to pack an overnight bag because of rumours that I’m about to be hauled to prison for spending real money on virtual projects.

It seems technology has passed this government by. But let them arrest me. With no DSTV and only ugly women prison warders to feast my eyes on, I’m sure I can come up with other ideas in time for my next tenancy at State House.

Oh, yes!


This is your new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.

 
 

All the big hotels in Malawi have satellite TV. However, for some reason which I’m yet to understand, their subscriptions tend to be mini-bouquets. This can be frustrating when something you want to watch is on a channel that your hotel doesn’t subscribe to.

Incidentally, that’s exactly what happened the other day.

A fellow Liverpool fan got livid when he realised the hotel he was staying in didn’t have ESPN, a channel that would later that night broadcast a live Champions League game involving his beloved team.  He got so incensed he summoned the manager on duty and berated him thus: “Why should a big hotel like this one, with I don’t know how many stars,  have TV yotapitsa when at Kamba bottle stores, none of which has any stars, we sit on crates but are able to watch whatever sports channel we want?”

Not getting a satisfactory answer, he promptly checked out.

I’ve also had some problems with these channel challenged mini-bouquets. Just like this other day when I had to spend a night at Mzuzu Hotel. One of my favourite programmes is Top Gear Extrawhich is broadcast on BBC Prime. I had missed the mid-morning because I had been travelling  but I wasn’t worried because I knew the show would be rebroadcast later that night. So I rushed through dinner and went up to my room. I was all geared up to have my weekly dosage of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May when to my horror, I discovered that BBC Prime wasn’t on offer on the malnourished bouquet that the hotel subscribed to.

No, I didn’t get angry let alone check out. But I was mighty bored. And what could a bored yours truly do besides sauntering downstairs to the sports bar downstairs?


The patronage wasn’t bad although it was dominated by women. Beautiful women of all shapes and sizes. Shapely women in jeans or skirts so tight they appeared painted on. Women in tops that effortlessly displayed the wares of their bosoms. Women in short sleeveless dresses that left me wondering why it was I was feeling cold under my winter jacket. Women clad in, …well, almost literally nothing skirts.

Now those of you who’ve met me in the flesh know that I’ve never possessed a visa to handsomeness. Furthermore, with the passing of the years and the long grey hair resulting from the infrequency of my visits to the barbers, I look positively ancient and unattractive. Yes, where women are concerned I lack a certain je ne sais quoi.

But apparently those women had their own criteria of what constitutes an attractive man. I wasn’t drinking anything besides the local Carlsberg Green. The clothes I was wearing were a couple of years or so beyond their expiry date. Being the shy type, I wouldn’t say I was oozing confidence. There were also many better species of men in the bar.

So how does one explain the mini pageant they put up for my benefit? They paraded to and from on an imaginary catwalk that took them as close as possible to my seat. Yet I was sitting nowhere near the route to the washrooms. They had to make conscious detours in order to parade right by my seat. Each time they did, they would throw surreptitious come-on eyes at me.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t attracted; that I didn’t shift in my seat and crossed my legs once or twice in discomfiture.

Like I said, all of them were gorgeous women and very sexy. So while outwardly appearing nonchalant, I would evaluate each one’s merits as she paraded in front of me. I would also go further and imagine peeling or rubbing off her minimalist attire and then waking up beside her in the morning and taking the first good look at her. Would she, in my hangovered sobriety, still look the same as she did now? Or would she, in the cruel morning light, with layers of makeup caked and the cheap perfume sweated off by the nocturnal exercises, be revealed as some monstrosity from a science fiction movie?

Of course, I never made an attempt to find out. It would’ve been very unlike me to have done so.

Perhaps I’ve been scared off such trade alliances by the horror stories I keep hearing of satiated men waking up in hotel rooms long after their partners have vanished. With everything!. There’s also the risk associated with the morning logistics. I once bumped into a friend in a hotel corridor as he tried to make his previous night’s  “takeaway” disappear. You should’ve seen his discomfort on seeing me. I definitely wouldn’t want to find myself in a similar situation.

But above all, even though I've already lived several years beyond the life expectancy of a male Malawian, I still want to live a few more years. Or at least die of others causes, if you see what I mean.

By the way, have you ever tried to imagine how the mothers who bore these women of the night look like? I don’t know why but I always picture their mothers as women who wear ankle-rubbing, luminously bright yellow, green, pink or orange dresses. Women to whom gender equality is a concept concocted by frustrated old maids.

In other words, typical Malawian women.

I imagined one of these mothers waking up at the first hint of dawn to sweep the yard before going to draw water I don’t know how many kilometres away. She comes back to prepare porridge for the children before dispatching them to school. Then it’s off to the field to work at coaxing some reluctant yield out of the family’s very tired piece of land.

Meanwhile, the hangovered husband draws the beddings closer around his contented self and snores on. He’ll join her at their garden. But not just yet. He has to squeeze as much sleep as possible out of what remains of the early morning.

Later in the day the couple leaves the field but the woman can’t go home just yet. First she has to go and find some food. When she gets home, she prepares a bath for the husband, cooks the family meal, does the dishes, then she’s off to fetch firewood. She gets back and makes one or two trips to the well. After taking a quick bath, she goes off to a dance practice since the president will be campaigning in her area the following week. She comes back in time to prepare the evening meal and do the dishes. But she can’t rest just yet. She has to pound at least half a bag of maize, winnow off the husks and soak it. At last she’s ready to lie down, but not before making sure all the children have gone to sleep.

Mind you, she can’t sleep too deeply because the husband is still out. And sure enough, the husband will stagger home in the small hours of the morning demanding not only that she prepare him a fresh meal but also, of course, that she serves  him his conjugal rights.

Poor Malawian women. They are born and bred to serve.

Like computer servers, you might say. And like computer servers, women have their specialities. One woman may be well known in her village for her chigwada, another may be famous for the way she brews thobwa, while another may have no equal in the art of distilling kachasu and yet another’s fame may be based on her expertise in shining mud floors or on how expertly she gyrates when dancing.

Perhaps, it’s understandable that some of their daughters, wanting no such part of what passes for a life, end up merchandising themselves in the shop windows of hotel bars.

Oh, I forgot to mention that my favourite type of server is the proxy. I’ve always likened a proxy server to a girlfriend. The proxy “sits” between a client program, usually a Web browser such as Internet Explorer, and another server to filter requests, block unwanted traffic, improve performance and share connections, and so on.

Similarly, a girlfriend “sits” between a husband and his wife, blocking unnecessary affection for his wife and family. She attends to his entertainment needs, and willingly rends a hand to relieve him of the heavy burden of his pay cheques but carefully lets such mundane tasks as washing the man’s clothes filter their way to his wife.

 
 

Let’s start by explaining the acronyms that might crop up in subsequent paragraphs:

ABP – Alcoholic Beverage Provider (and you thought only techies have providers, eh?)
CHCapital Hotel, the biggest hotel in Lilongwe, and a popular spot for a quiet drink. Since I live just across the street, you’ll sometimes hear me say, “I’m going to the neighbours.”
Drinkage – How much drink you can squeeze out of a Kwacha, the local currency in Malawi, or any currency for that matter
DROANDrive Only At Night, a vehicle you only drive at night partly because you’re afraid of the traffic cops but mostly because it’s the sort of wheels you don’t want to be associated with during the light of day
ESCOMThe Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi, the only supplier of electricity in Malawi
Flash Disk Humana - a talisman or amulet believed to possess potent charms that grant wealth or provide some form of protection to the bearer, and so own
MSD – The Minimum Staggering Distance, that is the walking, …er, the staggering distance between where you live and the nearest ABP
SDI – Strategic Drinking Initiative which can be applied in various ways. For example, some people have the urge to visit the bathroom only when it’s their turn to throw a round while. In order to maximize their drinkage, others drink  at the cheap ABPs in the early part of the evenings before graduating onto the expensive ones
SDRSpecial Drinking Rights allowing you to drink and pay at a later date.

Now you should have no problems following the rumblings that follow.


                                                 ***
Colleagues, acquaintances and even friends have often wondered why I frequent the CH. The more presumptuous have even conjured their own theories explaining the phenomenon. Not conspiracy theories, mind you, but theories or the same.

For instance, I’ve heard it rumoured that because I don’t own a car, not even a DROAN, I make sure I only frequent ABPs that are within my MSD. There could be some uncomfortable truth in that but it doesn’t tell the whole story.


I’ve also heard it loudly whispered that I frequent CH because, in the spirit of good neighbourliness, the CH and I have drawn up bilateral agreements granting me SDRs that I sort out at the end of each month.

What utter rubbish! Granted I’ve never managed to stretch to a full month the wage deemed by my employers as being fair compensation for my buckets of sweat. But even I can afford a couple of drinks between two new moons, can’t I?

Those who know me well know that I love listening to people converse. That’s the main reason I like drinking at quiet places such as my neighbours’. There conversation doesn’t get drowned out by loud music. As you know, cheap ABPs and non-shouted conversation don’t really, shall we say, drink from the same glass.

My age is also a factor in my choice of where I drink. Many rains have gone by since I first announced my arrival into this world with a loud cry. I therefore, er, steer clear of ABPs that cater to a young clientele. I don’t enjoy being at drinking joints where immediately I show up, the average age of the patrons present doubles, triples, or whatever.

I’m also a very rarely sited species where barbers are concerned. I’ll normally let my hair grow until it becomes too difficult to comb. So being one who normally avoids attention, I tend to keep away from places where the hair length of the male patrons is practically zero.

Talking of hair length, I’ve never understood the young men’s obsession with hairlessness. Why the craving for baldness when some of them need only wait a few years for it to come to them naturally? In any case, some of them don’t even have the heads for it.

By the way, have you ever wondered whether the other normally bushy parts of their anatomies are as bald as their unnaturally shiny heads? Or are such prime real estates maintained in natural growth? I wouldn’t be surprised because I’ve heard it said that lots of men pursue environmentally friendly policies when it comes to places in the nether regions.

Me, I need a good mop on my head. How else do I reduce the erosion of whatever little intelligence still remains in my head thereby accelerate the onset of senility?


Ok. Ok. Let me confess. My keeping my hair unfashionably long isn’t a nod to the greens (nor, by the way, is my lack of a car). I can also confirm here that it isn’t part of a charm for keeping my job, as some people have intimated. If it were that, wouldn’t I’ve resorted to carrying an inconspicuous flash disk humana somewhere on my person or even planting one in one of my cluttered office desk drawers? 

The reason I wear my hair long is in fact very simple. Escom.

Yes, it’s Escom that put me off going to barber shops. You see any barber shop worth its cut, uses electric hair clippers. Yet  Escom’s power supply is notoriously erratic. It’s also prone to surges. Now imagine being at the other end of an electric shaver during one such surge. Mmm! Not me, thank you. I’m definitely not overly fond of risking my head getting barbequed in aid of a fashionable haircut. As it is I’ve seen enough electronic equipment charred to uselessness because of such surges.

By the way, Escoms’ power has become so erratic there’re e-mails going around claiming Escom’s new slogan is Here to Today, There Tomorrow.


Talking of black outs, don’t you think Escom has double standards? When there’s a “blackout” in the payment of your electricity bill, it promptly charges interest and embarrasses you by disconnecting its erratic supply on a Friday afternoon. The result is that even if you’ve got money, you can’t get reconnected until the following Monday. Not that it makes much difference, mind.

Why shouldn’t you as a consumer have recourse to blacking power is not “Here Today” at very inconvenient times?

Imagine you’ve finally managed to bring her home. The wine is chilling in the fridge. The two of you are expressing your horizontal intentions by dancing to some real slow numbers coming out of your Hi-Fi. As the mood approaches the point of no return…cut!


How much should Escom compensate you for the lost opportunity? Would 20% of your monthly bill be fair?

Suppose you’ve at last managed to borrow that must-see new movie on SD DVD or Blu-Ray disc and have invited your friends to come and watch it with you. After all, there are some bragging rights at stake here. None of them has a 50” 1080p plasma screen and their home theater setups are a miserly 5.1. Yours is 7.1!

In any case, drinks are flowing as some steaks sizzle on your electric grill. Then…cut!


Factoring in the partly cooked steaks, the sweating beers in the now warm fridge, and the interrupted movie which you’ve to return the following morning, to say nothing of the lost face, would it be unfair if you held back 60% of your monthly bill in compensation?

Now consider this. Your prospective clients are in the boardroom. Your electronic presentation is going great guns. You can tell because your boss is furtively smiling some encouragement at you. But before you can bring your presentation to its climax…cut!

How much should Escom cough for the loss of business? And how much for the embarrassment?

How about this? You’ve a scoop and your editor is waiting for the story before he can put the paper to bed. You’re frantically typing away on your non-UPSed computer. Because of the excitement, you don’t remember to save. You’re about to finish typing when…cut!


What amount of money can compensate you for the berating you’ll get from your editor for failing to file the story?

Man, there are several scenarios you can think of: partly charged cell phone and laptop batteries (some of which have memories which means the next time you charge them they only get charged to the extent that they were previously charged), spoilt food, lost business opportunities, unfashionable hair styles, etcetera, etcetera.

In general, by what percentage should Escom be decreasing the bills of its customers for each second of power cut? Or how much?

But better still, can’t Escom give us power that’s free of blackouts, brownouts and those surges that are so fatal to electronic equipment.

I’ve a personal interest in the improvement of Escom’s power supply, you see. It would enable me gain the confidence to be visiting barbers more frequently.


 
 

It doesn't just make sense. As you pass through airport security, they take knives, scissors and even nail clippers from you. But have you wondered how it is that when you're being served the lousy fare that passes for a meal, the cutlery you're given is definitely not plastic.

OK. OK. It's against terrorist code of ethics to use airline cutlery as weaponry. In fact the captain would laugh at you were he to see you brandishing an airline table knife.  But show him just a hint of your nail cutter and he'll readily take the plane wherever you want.

 

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