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LIFE BY LOUIS: Life as a junior fundi

Monday May 18 2020

A young poultry farmer attends to chicks in a coop.

A young poultry farmer attends to chicks. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 


I have just completed a small project whose idea I hatched during this period of self-quarantine and working from home. I am determined to be a major seller of eggs when all this pandemic is over and done with. To achieve this dream, I have been expanding the coop where I rear a few hens, with the hope of increasing the headcount to ten by the end of the year.

It got me reflecting on my younger days. I am not new to the construction industry although my stories from the industry are not all that illustrious.

I was still a hairless youngster and speaking with a squeaky soprano voice. My biceps were like small sticks and my potential to sire children was still at a negative double digit.

Tea bonus that year was bountiful and my grandfather decided to build a house made of stones.

The former house made of hewn timber was getting dilapidated and there were holes on the walls that were big enough to fit in a human intruder as you slept.

Those days the architects and structural engineers only dealt with the likes of KICC and Hilton Hotel. 



They did not find it worth the effort in getting themselves engaged in the design and construction of a small bungalow in the village.

As a result, my grandfather just walked around the site scribbling the plan on the soil with his walking stick. We dug thirty centimetres deep trenches and construction started on the four-bedroom bungalow.

The tragedy of this project is that he unanimously appointed his age mate as the Chief Contractor. By executive orders, I was appointed his casual labourer and the acting Deputy Contractor.

If young men of nowadays think that they know anything about adult beverages and enjoying life with a big spoon, they are kidding themselves. This Fundi as I respectfully referred to him spent all his life high as a kite. He was also single, and the ravages of this life had left his body frail. 

However, his accuracy of eye was on point, and he never required a pendulum to keep the stones straight.

The only problem is that he could not carry big stones. He nearly killed me with work when the project got to the higher levels.

He would arrive to work at 10am and perch himself on the top of the walls as soon as the structure got off the ground.

From there he issued instructions like a top guy who works in a big parastatal.

"Bring me that stone," he would instruct as he pointed at a heavy boulder that required the force of a prime mover to get it moving.

I would sweat as I hauled it up. He would size it up and take some measurements, look at it with disdain and drop it off.

"Bring me that other one", he would go on and on as I hauled endless stones up the shaky scaffold.


During lunch break, my grandmother would make stew and invite me to pound the ugali, from which I would eat a small mountain and wash it down with copious amounts of tea. That is what kept me alive.

I was not on the payroll because old men of those days were just like that. I was assumed to be doing what I should have been doing in the first place.

But my muscles bulged and I learnt a lot from Fundi regarding construction and the art of mixing concrete. Luckily for me, I did not learn to misappropriate all my earnings in one night like he did.

The project went on well without many hurdles, except for a few times when the Fundi disappeared for days and only reappeared when his pockets were empty again.

My hands became rough and my crush probably thought that I walked on all fours like a gorilla or I dug graves as part of my industrial attachment. I was however not yet of marriage age; therefore, my physical appearance didn’t seem to bother me that much.

We completed the structure but the end product was a travesty of modern day architecture. However, no one was checking and we all agreed that it was a masterpiece.

When I was building the coop this weekend, Brian and his younger brother were peeping at me from the comfort of the sofa as they caught up with the latest cartoons on television. They couldn’t even help with handing me a hammer or some building materials.

They probably think that I am a miracle worker to be putting up such a structure. They have no idea that I am a survivor of hard labour and historical injustices.