Previously I had met a local model, Thando and taken her on a romantic date to go see a sunset over the City of Blantyre from a hill in Chinyonga. As we looked onto the beautiful site and exchanged a kiss, we immediately found ourselves surrounded by robbers at the hill top.
Thando quickly dropped to her knees and extended her smart phone out in both hands like an over polite Japanese gesture and begged, “Chonde musatipweteke, tangotengani mafoniwa (please don’t hurt us just take our phones).” I had never seen a human being crumble so fast. This was the second time in my life I was being mugged. The first time I got mugged was on the Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg and that was at gun point. The thing about being robbed, if you have never experienced it, is that it always starts off as a joke. Only half way through the robbery do you start to come to grips with the fact that you are really getting robbed. Unless you are decked with a punch or assaulted from the get go. Your mind does not quite know how to accept that you are indeed being mugged. Here in laid a dilemma, faced with an uncooperative Talumba Chirwa a small tussle begun between me and one of the thieves who had attempted to wrestle me to the ground.
The third guy flanked me from behind and begun to go through my pockets as I continued wrestling with the guy in front. By God’s grace he didn’t find the keys to my mom’s bus, but he took my wallet and my brand new Black Berry Torch that I had gotten though ngongole at work (through a loan at work) that same month.
I could have gone down easily, but for some reason I decided not to. He went low to my knees to execute a tackle and I reacted by lowering my hips close to the ground reducing my center of gravity and pushing against his advance like I had seen in UFC Fights on TV. “Chonde Talumba usalimbane nawo (please Talumba don’t fight with them)” Thando cried. I wasn’t trying to fight. I am not a violent guy and I have never been in a fight my whole life. I am more martial arts philosopher than warrior. I was just trying to buy time so I could figure out how to get out of this situation without getting killed or badly hurt. Split second decisions in a life and death situation are wild. Everything around you slows down just like in the movies and your thoughts travel close to the speed of light as you take in every single detail.
Here is what I was dealing with; three men, could take the one in front, but handicapped by a completely terrified girl held by the other one on my left. Had I been in this situation with any of the stronger females I know we would have evened the odds, of this I am sure. We are isolated at the top of a hill, at a time where there is very little human traffic and daylight is starting to fade. I am surrounded by stones and rocks on uneven ground. If I escalate the situation very likely someone will grab one of these stones and hit the other person in the head with it. Most importantly, I cannot endanger this lovely girl that I have brought to this little misadventure further. If they become angry they could hurt her or do the worst. But these guys didn’t seem like professional thugs either, they came off more like opportunists.
The third guy flanked me from behind and begun to go through my pockets as I continued wrestling with the guy in front. By God’s grace he didn’t find the keys to my mom’s bus, but he took my wallet and my brand new Black Berry Torch that I had gotten though ngongole at work (through a loan at work) that same month. The guy I was wrestling with for some odd reason started telling me, “gonja, gonja (give up, give up).” Which only strengthened my resolve because, I began to sense weakness. I mean what is this, we are asking people we can’t subdue to give up nicely during a robbery now.
I looked over my shoulder to my right and that’s when I saw a certain gentleman walking by the main road. I didn’t’ hesitate, I shouted, “Zatithandizeni pano! (could you come give us a hand here)” To which all three guys mugging us went, “mmmmh!” Shaming me like there was some macho code I had to uphold during a mugging. The guy from the side of the road read the situation very quickly, grabbed a stone and started climbing up the hill. Things had changed, I pressed the advantage. The robber on the left let go of Thando and bolted. Each one of them headed in different directions. I chased after them through the maize fields whilst throwing stones. I followed my attacker all the way into an informal township called Fede, where I lost him. After I looked around for a while I headed back to Thando at the junction because, it was now dark.
The nerve of this girl, I was now being held hostage like a two year old.
She was in a panic, she kept saying my phone my phone. I tried to reassure her that the most important thing was that she was okay. In what has proven to be my induction into the hall of wack experiences with local girls she through in a curve ball, “You don’t understand my boyfriend said he would call at five o’clock. He is probably calling now and I am not answering, he is gonna think I am out somewhere with some other guy.” I paused and said out loud in my head, “but you are out somewhere with…” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but I suppose every pile of dog poop deserves a cherry on top. So she continued, “I promised him I wouldn’t do this again, I promised. I even promised God. This is punishment I know for sure.” She lamented covering her mouth with both hands. I just listened quietly completely gob smacked.
I felt terrible for everything that had happened. How could I have been so careless. Such bad judgement, what was I thinking? These white people tendencies of mine were going to get me killed. I didn’t know Malawi wasn’t as safe as it was when I left for varsity. I felt even worse because, of the issue with the boyfriend. When I had gotten her number at the office, I did ask my work mates whether she had a guy or not. They mentioned there seemed to be some sort of guy in the equation, but they weren’t sure how serious it was so I should just try my luck. But now the situation was bad, it involved promises to God even and I was making her break them. Made me sick to my stomach. I didn’t want any parts of it, perhaps this was a punishment indeed or a warning shot for me not to get involved from the universe itself.
We finished submitting a police report and I drove her home. When we got to the turn to her house, I came to a slow stop and switched off the engine. I apologized to her repeatedly and felt ashamed this date had gone so horribly wrong. She said it was alright, but I couldn’t stop apologizing. The adrenaline had worn off, I was back to my senses and realized just how dangerous the situation had really been. She assured me it was alright. I thanked her, wished her a good night and told her I would call the next day to make sure she was alright. To which she said, “no you won’t.” and promptly refused to disembark.
I was flummoxed. She proceeded, “I know you are not gonna call, because of what I said about…God… and my boyfriend and stuff.” I thought to myself “You damn right I am not!” But I needed her to get out the car. It was late now, I was exhausted and I just wanted to go home and rest. So I said, “don’t worry I’ll call you tomorrow, promise.” She didn’t believe me and refused to get out the bus. The nerve of this girl, I was now being held hostage like a two year old. I spent the next five minutes pleading with her to get out, almost losing my temper. Despite everything she still wanted us to keep seeing each other.
So I ended up calling her the next day like an idiot. There is something about seeing someone’s actual life and death reflexes that is very intimate and as profound as knowing their nakedness in minute details. We shared a bond, but I have never been a thief of other people’s girls knowingly nor have I ever been the sort of guy that could trust a girl that had been stolen. This wasn’t my cup of herbal tea. When I went to the DStv event in Salima I remember asking her, “So how does this work?” Because she clearly had done this a few times before and knew the rules to the game. She said, “Well I guess we keep going till we get caught.” I didn’t understand why I would want to do something like that.
We arrived in Blantyre after a long drive from the event and I concluded this sort of relationship wasn’t for me. It had just been three weeks since the mugging, and I knew I didn’t need this in my life. This wasn’t what I was about, so I made peace with myself, decided to let go and let it die a natural death. I parked the company car at home after I had dropped off everyone. Went straight to my bedroom, closed my eyes … and slept.
… Black, all the best movies end in black said Lego Batman.
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Image Source: Financial Express, Muggers getting smarter to defend themselves. Nilratan Halder, 24 August 2018 & https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-to-survive-a-mugging/