It’s March, the month of my mother’s birth. It got me thinking a lot about motherhood and maternal abilities. And of course, how I often compare Nairobi to an evil step mother from a Disney cartoon. But I am beginning to rethink that. Perhaps Nairobi, like Rumpelstiltskin, she is misunderstood as to her intentions. And I am here to correct that misdeed.
Nairobi cares about your health. That’s why she has most of her chemists in one side of town which is difficult to access and often annoyingly hectic. The ones in the more civilized side of town are exorbitantly expensive and she knows and understands this. Which is why she had the more affordable chemists right there where the bus stands are. So if you have a mind numbing migraine, all you have to do is alight, walk from your stage to the other stage on Moi Avenue or lower and in the long run, the exposure to all these migraine inducing factors of noise and smoke and dust will help boost your immune system.
She also has a very erratic team to help with her lights. But there is a reason for this. They are not inept, incompetent, lazy or uncaring. No. They are trying to teach you vigilance. Just because the Esther Passaris Adopt-A-Light things are only working on one end doesn’t mean that the rest of the city council street lamps have to be on. That would not teach you vigilance in the case of insecurity. It would not make you fix the broken head lamps of your A110 or invest in a mulika mwizi[i]. Their thoughtfulness is helping the kabambe[ii] and other torch making endeavours to grow.
Don’t be so quick to harshly criticize Nairobi’s traffic jams. Shameless joining a bandwagon on car seat critics who are the quickest to start a #Let’sBitchAboutNairobiTraffic trend as though that will miraculously clear jams. It won’t. Because it is a cunning plan by our city. She doesn’t set up traffic jams because her
roads can’t handle the ever-increasing number of cars. She doesn’t do it because she has inexpert traffic officers who seem to have a universal goal of setting some kind of “lowest average speed in the world” record. No. She does it because she wants to teach you patience. When you end up stuck in a gridlock, she expects you to calmly and quietly wait it out. And like a mother who knows best, she will reward you hours later, with free flowing traffic when matatus overlap and go use panya routes[iii] once NTSA officers have abandoned their plans to detain drivers who are using the wrong licence to transport commercial materials in a sedan.
Nairobi even has help. Together with power supply companies, she has scheduled black outs. This is usually for maintenance or load shedding purposes but sometimes the blackouts are because the transformer was stolen or vandalised. It will take a while to fix it and this isn’t usually because of mismanagement or miscommunication or unavailability of engineers. It is to help you learn to live without power. To look for alternative sources of entertainment unlike your internets or Netflixes and those confounded programs Ezekiel Mutua is always trying to fix for the sake of the moral upbringing of our children. It is to make sure you invest in a generator. How else is the generator industry supposed to grow when everyone has reliable power? At least candles do well because people like lighting scented candles in their toilets. They come in very handy when fishy Uncle Nathan comes for his weekly visit after a night out with the boys where he ate muthokoi[iv], mutura[v] with avocado and muratina[vi].
You will visit an office with an askari[vii] who has the enthusiasm of a scorned prison warden. He will treat every entrant as though they were seen on a news report as a suspect suspected of suspicious activities. You will be frisked, searched, wanded, have a dog sniff up your bottom, your bag’s contents upended and will have to take off every singular metallic item you have before you are allowed through the scanner. They even expect you to remove the iron from your blood- if you are so inclined. Their vigilance comes from an urge to make sure the building’s residents remain safe. And again to teach you patience. You have to learn to be patient and gentle. To the extent of being mistaken for a doormat. Even receptionists have volunteered to teach this lesson. They usually have pinched faces with their permanently pursed lips and scowling foreheads as their default setting. They talk to you dismissively and couldn’t be bothered to help you. They give you directions reluctantly as though they were promised a waterboarding for helping any visitors. But you shouldn’t be upset about this. It’s all in Nairobi’s master plan to teach you to be a better person.
Her environmental officials are usually happy to collect periodic payments from you like you’re a monthly subscriber to their inexistent newsletter but they won’t do anything about the blocked drainage, the overflowing sewers, the dumped trash along the road, and the unique Nairobi smell of expensive shit that permeates certain estates outside of the major suburbs. It teaches you resourcefulness. You have to carry a clothespin to ensure you don’t get affected by the noxious fragrances. You also learn to hold your breath to the standards of a professional deep sea diver. And that’s always a good thing. Right?
All these inconveniences and abject inconsideration of the people who live in or manage our city are pragmatism masquerading as malice. We should gather together and thank Nairobi for taking so much time and putting in so much effort in helping us better ourselves. I, for one, now feel like I could handle anything.
So can anyone who can handle the smells from the Kawangware dumpsite. We deserve a medal for not popularizing rural-to-urban migration. That just stinks!
[i] Small phones with torches. Phrase directly translated means: shed light on a thief.
[ii] Small cheap handset without many features
[iii] Short cuts that are often illegal to use
[iv] Traditional Kamba dish containing beans and maize
[v] Black pudding
[vi] Traditional alcohol popular among Kikuyus
[vii] Security officer
Gif from Tumblr
Traffic Jam photo by Daily Nation
PS- Ezekiel Mutua is the boss of the Kenya Films Classification Board.