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BORN TAO: Memories of swimming in muddy water

by kenya-tribune

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Dufo Mpararo was our hood version of a swimming pool. It simply meant a seasonal river that formed every rainy season on the peripheries of our estate.

Dufo Mpararo, we all used to say, was what separated men from boys because we had to swim with mudfish and tadpoles.

There is a clear distinction between a dufo mpararo and a swimming pool swimmer. In dufo, backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke styles are not entertained, we had krokodile style, swimming like the alligator, and we could even navigate corners. 

was recruited into the dufing club when I was in Class Three.

It was on a Sunday afternoon after attending Sunday school classes that my friend Shei suggested that we pass by dufo.

My mother had issued a stern warning against ever swimming on seasonal rivers, but for a curious boy, rules were meant to be broken. 

Our friends Marto and Ngash joined us. Back then, dufo was an boys-only affair, just like kati was a girls-only game. We hurriedly took off our clothes, everything including the inner wears placing heavy stones on them in case the wind blew them into the water.

Dufo mpararo was thirty meters long, fifteen meters wide while the deep end was five meters and the shallow end was one and half meters deep. The colour of the water was dark brown like tea tossed with over brewed tea leaves. 

Shei was an expert swimmer, a shark to behold. He dived through the deep end and after 20 seconds emerged at the shallow end. We were amazed by his skills.

A foolish but brave Ngash also dived in right after Shei but landed on his stomach. He cried in anguish as he flipped his arms, desperate to save himself from drowning because he had zero swimming skills.

Shei laughed out loudly before he dived right in helping him out of the water. Ngash has gulped several glasses of the murky water.

Ngash dressed up and left for home after vomiting his guts out. We were extremely afraid to get into the water but it was then or never. We entered by the shallow end, the water was flowing by our waistline. Slowly, we gained courage and I jumped into the slightly deeper end of the pool, hurting my leg in the process because I stepped on sharp glass. I bled profusely and had to be carried away.

My friends had to carry me all the way home and we concocted a lie to tell my mother about how I got the injury but as we got ready to leave, a swarm of bees attacked us and we jumped back into the pool fully clothed!

For a few seconds, we remained submerged in water. We must have gulped about two muddy glasses of water but not Shei because he had mastered the art of holding his breath in water.

We couldn’t go home with soaking wet clothes.

Shei the expert was forced by circumstances to play a little man like the rest of us. He asked us to keep a watchful eye for Obonyo, the estate bully who hid the clothes of dufers and demanded ten shillings in return.

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