Photo | Mahara
As long as you are still utilizing God’s free air, you’ll meet different types of personalities. There are those you’ll sit next to in a matatu on your way home but all through the journey, you will exchange no single word – not even a fungua dirisha statement, not because you don’t care about their existence, not because they look like they haven’t taken a bath or brushed their teeth for the last three centuries, but because from the mood they are wearing, it’s almost outrightly evident that they have so many worries of let’s say, a huge bank loan that they have to settle within the next 48 hours, or they have several class work assignments that they must hand in before midnight, or they look like they are nursing a serious breakup (I mean a serious breakup, not a termination of a two-weeks relationship), but because they look so moody that they won’t give a damn to a mere greeting cause after all what will a greeting do? Will it settle their huge bank loan? Will it do those assignment? (I can now walk around town shoulders high for having successfully penned such a long sentence).
And there are these colleagues that you will ask for their phone number and they will tell you “take it from our WhatsApp group.” You will then look them in the face and ask them “who does that?” Which they will not comprehend, so you will waste another two hours explaining how it’s bad manners to ‘steal’ folks’ phone numbers from WhatsApp groups, especially when you have that person here to give that number to you themselves. And by the way, it’s not like you are asking for their number ati because having it is a direct entry to heaven, or that they have a golden arse, or that they poses the most round tits, or ati juu they have Beyoncé’s face that pull you to them. No. It’s just that you want their number because maybe you’ve realized that they can make good secretaries in your company, or because you realized that their English and grammar is so poor so you want to help them improve, or because they resemble your ex. So by the time they finally type that number in your phone (after you have used a whole two hours to explain all that), you’ve already lost all the interest to have it. So three days later, when you hear your phone vibrate as a result of a text message, when you check the text and realize it’s them saying “hey sasa, you were to call me…”, and you are tempted to reply “I’m good, but wait I’ll tell you once I find time to take your number from our WhatsApp group” but then you remember that that’s bad manners too. Hang on a bit, there is this type too, these persons you tell “you look sharp today, or you look gorgeous, or you look good, or you are smart.” And instead of them taking it as a compliment – something supposed to boost their esteem, they take that chance to advance their so to say silly emotions.
Hehe, I have missed such intros.
You meet this story on your way to Westy – Westlands, not Western, to attend a buddy’s after-graduation party. It’s four o’clock, you are running down Mfangano street towards Koja roundabout where you expect to hop into a matatu. You don’t do cabs or Uber choppers for the obvious reason that you aren’t financially stable yet. And also because you are never in the kind of hurry that a one minute late arrival at any of your destinations may deny you a flight to Europe or India or to Busia, or even to Kawangware.
So while on Mfangano street, you come across a mid-aged man begging for alms. The man is so collected he drives you to want to know why he found himself here- begging. So in a bid to gratify you curiosity, you stop by his side, pull out a five-hundred shillings note from your pocket and hand it to him. The chap then shakes your hand, his face brightens and his mouth utters several “thank you so much my son, God will bless you.” You then decide to use that chance to quench your thirst to question him all your concerns. (Some of the below questions and responses have been translated to English for easy understanding).
“Mzee, my name is Ken*. I am a young business man. Unaitwa nani?” You see, the good thing with money is it instantly buys people’s attention and initiates friendships. Like you don’t expect to give such a guy 500 bob and not have his attention.
“Oh my son, I am James Mwede (Mwende). Mugu akubariki zana,” he replies.
“Amen. atanibariki, I almost mistook you for a Luo by your fluent English.”
“Hahaha, hata sisi tulienda chule, msituone tu hapa, nyinyi ni watoto wa jana hamjui mabo.”
“Sure, I frequently use this street but I’ve never seen you here, ama ndio umeanza kukaa hapa?”
“You have just never been keen, I always sit here.”
“Ooh, it’s possible, sasa do you also have bad days (as businessmen call them)?”
“Hizo dio nini?”
“Pole, I mean are there days when you come sit here for a whole day and return home empty-handed?”
“Uh-uh, apana, Nairobians are good people. They always drop coins in this my tin.” Before he completes his sentence, one lady drops a 20 bob coin in his tin. “You see” (gesturing).
“I see, and how do you get here?” I ask.
“Haha, bona? Because I cannot walk?”
“Exactly, nani hukuleta hapa?”
“Aiii! Nikubushe jina yako tena.” I remind him my name. Then he goes on to explain how he moves from his house in Riruta to this place. Later, he manages to confide in me how he ended up a beggar in these streets. He tells me how he used to work as a driver in a government agency that we have no need to mention here. He adds that he wasn’t born a cripple. This is just a condition he developed later as we are just about to see.
So Mr. Mwende is on official duty – supplying commodities for the government organization, when suddenly a train sweeps his vehicle away. He’s rushed to hospital and gets well in a two months period, only he can’t walk again – the medics say. His legs had to be done away with. So that’s how our fellow never walks again. You think his company settled his hospital bills? Well, it didn’t. Our Mr. Mwende had to use his earlier savings plus several fundraisers money to fund his hospital bills. He lost his job as soon as he was discharged from hospital. That was the hardest time for his wife and the two kids since he was the sole bread winner. So as the man of the house, he had to sustain his family which is why you will always find him here – at least for the next two weeks or so. “Life proved too hard at first but with time I caught up,” Mr. Mwende affirms. He adds that he’s soon starting a business after which he’ll never be on the streets begging from people who some even have more teething troubles that he has.
By the time you remember what brought you to town, it’s 5:58 p.m. so you give your new friend Mr. Mwende transport, wish him good luck and leave for Koja street. Just after crossing the rounda to the other side, you run into a young hiphop-like couple (a boy and girl probably in their second and first year in college respectively). The boy is in rugged black jeans, a very huge vest, black rubbers, a NEW YORK hat and several chains both on his hands and others dangling from his neck. The girl is in some tights, a very brief top that hardly goes past her bosom probably because she has to expose the shiny pin just above her loins, after your engagement you also come to learn of the pin on her tongue, the other pin under her lips (of course her mouth lips), other two pins just below her eyebrows, and about 12 other pins on her both ears. So just after you’ve crossed the rounda, that boy decides to convert your expensive shoes into a road. He steps on you for the first time and you ignore cause you know he didn’t do it intentionally. He does it again and again while you standing there waiting for a matatu of your choice. NB: You just don’t jump into any vehicle. So you make two steps back and still the boy is on you, this time his missus joins him. His girlfriend eventually strikes your left cheek and hurls a million insults at you. That’s how they end up arousing your rage and waking all your ancestors who died when they still wanted to enjoy life, and you see my friend, when I’m angry I don’t talk, the hands always swing in action and do the talking.
Luckily, your mind quickly informs you that these two folks must be high on something. So after that guy’s girlfriend slaps you, you again move back. Hardly moved back, that nganya hoots in and your two adversaries struggle in. it is within that commotion that a 1000 shilling note slips from that hiphop-boy’s pocket. And as anyone else could have done, you pick it just before getting in that mat. Later in the matatu, you see the conductor and the young adversaries engage in some confrontation, the boy stands from his seat and dips his arms in his pockets in search of something that he doesn’t seem to find. So you wear a smile when you learn that the 1000 bob that dropped from his pocket while boarding this vehicle must have been their fare. The confrontation soon shifts from the conductor to the young couple – they again turn against each other and almost engage in a fight. All that time, the conductor is still demanding for his right – the fare. The music has stopped playing and all passengers are enjoying this ‘live show.’
Finally, you and that boy’s eyes meet and you realize tears forming in his eyes.