What you need to know:
- Our old school mothers had this all figured out. They tied a string around their newborn baby's waist to track and measure their health.
- They knew there was a correlation between the girth of their baby's tummy and health.
Forget all the complicated calculations economists do to measure a nation's health. Forget all the data that's needed to arrive at such conclusions.
There's an easier formula to do this math. It's a method that even a person who's never set foot inside a classroom can crunch faster than those darn mental sums, which Mr Githaiga drilled into our little heads way back when in Martin Luther Primary School.
It's through a belt. And, to be specific, the belt of the man of the house. Not just any man, but the breadwinner; the responsible man.
Our old school mothers had this all figured out. They tied a string around their newborn baby's waist to track and measure their health. They'd never been to nutrition school. Still, they knew there was a correlation between the girth of their baby's tummy and health. This was one way for them to track their baby's developmental milestones.
A man's belt isn't just a fashion accessory. It also a tell-all item. A msema kweli. Problem is, nobody pays attention to what the belt is screaming, even when a man's on his last punch hole.
When a family is facing harsh economic times, and they have to do without essential provisions, it's said that they have tightened their belts. But in most cases, this sacrifice falls on the man of the house.
Behind closed doors or curtains, a man surreptitiously adds another hole on the inner side of the strap. This hole stands out from the others that came with the belt when it was new, as the man roughly drills it with a nail, screwdriver or knife.
It's not a neat hole, cleanly measured and made by the punch of a cobbler. It's a dirty job. Dirty like a makeshift grave that's been dug by fingers to hide an unwanted burden. Come to think of it, that's what the man is trying to do; hide the fact, in plain sight, that he's struggling under the weight of this enormous responsibility.
Each makeshift hole in a man's belt represents a grave that has buried part of his weight so that his family can be hale and hearty. Sometimes it has buried his lifeline so that his family can savour a luxury.
Each makeshift hole is dug subconsciously. No man wakes up one morning and goes: “Drum roll! Today is the hole-digging day. Babe, where's my flat head screwdriver?”
Stuff just happens. Many times, a makeshift hole is punched after the man has tied his belt and realised that there's a need for a new hole. Several times, because there are no readily available tools to punch a hole, a man uses the pin in his buckle to do the job.
Most men don't watch their weight. They watch - (again, subconsciously) - the makeshift punch holes in their belts. The shifting of the holes and buckles will tell them all they need to know about their health. Which, when macro-compounded, will roughly estimate the general health of the nation.
My father had one old black leather belt, which he wore with every outfit. Over the years, the belt developed a patina and spiderweb-like cracks. It also had easily identifiable folds and creases, at certain holes, made by the tongue. Which were "markers" telling the various sizes of his waist - much like the strings our mothers used - at different times of his life.
I never thought much about dad's belt. Never thought much about the holes, either. If I could turn back the hands of time, I'd love to see the makeshift holes when he was struggling with a mortgage. Or school fees. Or when he was shot, at point-blank range, in the head.
It's all in a man's belt, folks. Look no further.