PHOTO by Mutua Matheka((Nairobi29.com)
The first rays of the sun were out again and some warmth started to build. An ugly, grey haze hung in the sky over Nairobi’s industrial area but the powerful rays tore through and got to the CBD. The clouds were high in the sky but the brown puddles of water from the previous day’s downpour had not seeped into the ground yet. It was Monday and everybody rushed about in a frantic dash as they tried to beat the bosses’ deadline. Men and women in suits walked briskly to be fast and first at work I guess they worked for Dr. James Mwangi. Others in semi-casual wear walked about at a slower pace as they tried to show others that self-employment means less stress. Most walked with the lethargy of a lifetime after road tripping and binging the whole weekend. I joined the crazy rush from Kirinyaga road and escaped being trod over by a matatu from Baite land. I was rushing to nowhere in particular but there is a good feeling when people point fingers at you and whisper,” Where does that gentleman with a smile on Monday work?”
And another would reply,” I have no idea but it must be a very cool place that has an office with a view.” They would talk in low tones which depict respect and admiration.
I decided to take a stroll down River Road to old OTC. Businesses were opening up for the week and the loud banging of doors echoed the silent grumbling of workers. Their employer will always be a man from the slopes of Aberdares with a potbelly, a bald head, one big bunch of keys and separate Toyota Wish Key. The navy blue car will be parked outside the shop and the owner will give it a closer check and notice a dent they got on their way from upcountry and after a quick calculation, it added up to three thousand shillings and a trip to Girogon. They will also be supervising the cleaning and opening up of the shop as they wives labored inside to reconcile the financial accounts from Saturday as a timid looking cashier looked on. The cashiers of River road are all alike. They wear a royal blue dust coat, complete Mukurino regalia inside and creamed up with a holy, spotless-white Kiremba. The once straight from Ithekahuno wash them in Bururu and they sparkle blue, the colour of honesty and Cashiering. Outside the Indian Shops in downtown,River road and Inda , several Kaos hang around,shared occurrences of the weekend as they awaited the Indian to show up for the week.
“Wivoo Kasee, wona kiveti cha Nzambani gikutavia ati,” Kioko would start.
Inside the shops the Indians burned incest to scare away demons as files of customers filled outside to receive the famed first-customer waiver.
I was outside Tusky’s OTC, the one opposite Salvation Army Church, when a heavy hand landed on my shoulder and the first instinct were to zoom off but this hand was different from either the police’s or that of Kanjo. It smelled of something that I could not make up but which drove memories from their caves of exile. I turned quickly; fist clenched but unclenched it and forced a smile when I saw my mistaken adversary. He was in a thigh high beige coat with the zipper pulled to the sternum to expose a 1998 Manchester United Jersey, wore a yellow Barbed Wire advertising cap that had seen the better part of this millennium (it read Senge ni ombe but initially it was Sengenge ni N’gombe), a pair of dress trousers and exquisitely laundered and flour polished Saharas.
“Nyina ici Safari boti nicio ndirathi nacio Nyairobi wiki ino ingi thambiria niguo cigatumwo ni njamba iria ya Kamanja Mun’getho,” he told his wife the previous week as the journey was being planned. Translation. Labored Woman, clean those Safari boots for me am travelling in them to Nairobi next week and make sure Kamanja’s son mends and polishes them for me.
The man’s name is Charles but everybody calls him Chaosi so we shook hands with Chaosi, he was utterly happy to see someone he recognizes in the City. I was happy too as good word would reach home and father would hear it.
“Niwona Kihii kia Mwarimu giki twiriga gutwara university (ii) gii kiio muno. Ndirakionire giukirite tene muno guthukuma na ngakena ndamenya Nyakieni wakwa e hakuhi kurikia cukuru,” Chaosi would preach and the people would respond unanimously, “Amen.”
He was in town with a whole list of errands to run; to fetch a Bodaboda motorbike number plate from Times Tower, to buy some material for dress making from Eastleigh, sorry Isrii, and to clear the hospital bill for his deceased grandmother (the one who died at ninety with all her teeth and used to eat githeri), and he made sure to repeat that part of the story as it is always a miracle. I tour guided him to the Tax Man building, NHIF building at Community and Kenyatta Hospital but he was fine with Eastleigh.
Elsewhere on Pumwani Road, a Nyamira Express bus rolled quickly towards Country Bus Station. The passengers inside looked scared and fatigued like actors in the train ride to Sobibor. The look on their faces betrayed their main fear,’ where do Nairobians run at night with all these traffic and buildings? Do the doors open when they you hit them with your butt?’ The bus was stuffy with all kinds of smells. A young man was on jabber the whole ride and the stale taxi yellowing in his mouth smelled like a slaughter house, the morning bad breath from seventy plus mouths, an old man with a loose bladder had let it lose, a child; fed with cooked bananas, roasted bananas, ripe bananas and a banana shake to drive it down had thrown up on the seats. When the bus failed to stop over at Maai Mahiu because some Maas were protesting failed rains and fences being put up in the plains by Ole Kariuki, many people could not hold until Machakos Bus Stop so most let it free. The mixture of odors in the bus, escalated by the closed windows due to the cold, could create an atomic bomb.
The bus did final stop at Country bus stop, hawkers, mkokoteni operators, conmen and pickpockets swarmed around; business was ripe, the Dala race was in town and needed all sorts of services and welcome. The City Council toilet was crowded with men, women and children all seeking the services of a washroom. The attendants worked briskly and cautiously; you might be slowing down a professor in his line of duty. A boy of around eight passed by where I stood; trying to keep up with the pace of the mother and looking out for KICC to confirm that they were actually in the city. The boy wore a stylish jacket, Nike sneakers and was almost handsome with his kinky but proudly worn hair, steady gaze, dark complexion and ultra-dark soul. Okay this is how I knew he had a dark soul.
“Mine gi jii te gin Wakamba gibiro Nairobi neno kodh?” (Mother are all these Kaos who have filled the city so much here to see rain?)he asked the mother. She blushed and scolded him . And all I could pick out was,”ichiyo nade” as it was morning. That is a dark, corrupted soul in an eight-year-old boy. But heck, that’s a good observation. Fish Factor and politics. The boy has only encountered with Kambas in the books of history as long distance traders. They are sun beaten, short with long feet, and loyal. You cannot use the adjective tall to describe a Kao. They are five-feet, not five feet tall, as tall comes in when you get to five feet six inches. The boy also overhead they wear conspicuous multi-colored clothes. So when they are trans-navigating the country selling baskets, pots and Ndengu you can spot them from far and prepare your cash or run away from paying a debt. But for your own safety and pride, do not steal from a Kao.
The town was full of activity and obtaining normalcy but buses from Juja still added to the inflow. Where do all these people from Juja go to once they alight in town? None of my friends have friends from Juja who work anywhere in town but they keep coming in. It is even incorrect to say,” Hi, I am Patricia from Juja and I work at Safaricom.” Maybe they come to see Hilton and pay tribute to Kimathi for standing there for so long without shooting at Tom Mboya a few yards away. Perhaps they could all be students of JKUAT coming to confirm their HELB from Anniversary Towers and see girls. The traffic was down again, it was eleven o’clock so I could walk back to my crib, wiser and richer. I forgot to say, Chaosi left me a five hundred note bill. I hope it’s not a bait he is going to include it in his daughters’ dowry.