By Marry Simbi
Marry Simbi's stories

I was sleeping in my room when my brother knocked on my window for me to help him open the door.  He came in late, it was 10 pm, and the main door was closed. When I opened the door, he fell down right away and smelled badly of alcohol. I realized that he was very drunk. I thought of telling our parents but after last time, he had requested that I keep it a secret between us. I was worried about how I’d be able to lift him and get him to bed alone. I tried my best to lift him though it was hectic. It took almost three minutes to reach his room. He was unable to walk nicely and I had to be patient enough for him to walk slowly and reach his room. This is why my neighbors call him “chimbayambaya” or “chidakwa”. These two local names in our Chewa language are for the people who love alcohol more than anything else in this world. My brother now looks like he is a lover of beer, a chimbayambaya.


What surprises me is that my brother always becomes top ten among the students in his class. He is always serious with school and this makes me wonder which kind of a person my brother is. When it comes to the way our parents perceive him, it is like they have accepted the reality that my brother is an alcoholic. What they always tell him is to focus on school and the rest will be provided by them. This makes me feel like they are spoiling him. Our parents do not offer me the same promise. They are a bit strict with me as the oldest child in the house. It is not that I am jealous, but I feel this way because I care so much about my brother. I feel like if our parents would be strict to him, he would not be the way he is. I do not support the freedom that my parents give to my brother because one day, he might lose control and go off track.


The chidakwa names that the people in the community call him make me feel so bad. There was a time I was in the salon to make my hair. I overheard two ladies gossiping about me at the veranda of the salon. I overheard them saying that, “Oooh… the girl who is inside here has a chidakwa brother. Eeeh her brother is a shame to the family.” Hearing this turned off my mood but I had no choice but to stay since the one fixing my hair was almost done. My mind was telling me to go outside and insult them but I did not since it would not look good and my reputation would be ruined. However, my brother is dirtying the family’s reputation and this affects me emotionally. 


When I went back home from the salon, I was so mad because of what I overheard. I went straight to bed to have a nap. When I woke up after two hours, I was a bit better. However, I promised myself to avoid going back to that salon next time since the people there are gossipers. They might say bad words about my brother again and it would make me angry.


Sometimes, my brother walks zigzagging when coming home on the weekends. I remember one day I met him on the road, I almost passed him because I felt ashamed of him. This was around 5pm and I was coming from the market with some tomatoes to prepare dinner. I saw him from afar and I had a long time to deliberate over ignoring him. But blood is thicker than water, and it was hard for me to just pass my brother without helping him. I let him lean on me to walk him home. This was a very tough decision for me but I had no choice but to support my blood. This was hard for me to do since I was carrying a plastic bag full of tomatoes. I used my right hand to carry the tomatoes while the other hand was helping my brother.


I do not hate alcohol but I hate how alcohol tries to control my young brother. I wish that he could at least reduce the amount of alcohol that he takes because I am afraid to lose him. Not everyone in the community is our friend and some people who might be our haters can do bad things to him on his way home. Others in our community have been attacked during night hours while drunk. This once happened to our neighbor. Her husband went to have some alcohol with his friend but when he returned back home around 9 pm, he was attacked by unknown folks. Fortunately, he was taken to the hospital by strangers and he managed to survive.


When I talk to my brother, he does not listen to me. He thinks that I don’t love him when I tell him to reduce his alcohol consumption. The morning after he came home late and fell at my feet, I spoke with him again . It was 9 am, and I entered his room before I started to mop the house. I told him, “Please my brother, I really beg you to stop consuming too much alcohol because it is not safe for your health. I don’t want to lose you because of alcohol. Please reduce it.” He told me, “I cannot stop or reduce alcohol and it is none of your business.” I regretted that I had not passed him by the time I saw him drunk on the road. 


No matter how long it takes, I still have hope that one day my brother will change his alcoholic behavior and become a good boy at home. I always make him food that makes him stronger. There is a meal called “Maungu” in our culture. When a person is drunk, they eat Maungu and get better quickly. Maungu takes 15 to 20 minutes to be ready and needs only a few ingredients: pumpkin, fresh water, salt, and pepper.  However, for it to look good, there are certain steps I need to take. First, I cut the pumpkin into pieces before cooking it. Then I boil water for 5 minutes. After boiling the water, I add the pieces of Maungu in the pot together with pepper. After another five minutes, I add some salt then leave it to boil for 10 good minutes. After those minutes, it’s ready to be eaten. 


The funny thing is that my brother likes too much pepper. He always tells me to add too much. But I enjoy seeing him eat the food that I have prepared with an appetite for health.

7 July, 2023