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.

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