4 Worlds in 3 Hours
by Boboh Posted on 07-06-2018
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Sounds weird but I love being held up in morning traffic, provided I don’t get to work late. So every morning I ensure I board a not-so-loud Umoinner and secure a window seat next to someone who is not likely to build rapport, the best ones being ladies. I term it absurd for a lady to strike a conversation with another lady, not unless it’s an issue concerning an activity in the matatu, like a rude conductor, the driver bumping you up and down or a seemingly like crossing competition between the matatu and the Dandora train at Mutindwa railway crossing. A guy is allowed to start a conversation regardless of what is happening in the matatu, their famous line being, “nitalipa” when they see you fumbling for your 80 shillings. This is the point where I kindly say “its okay, I got it” and proceed to pay both our fares (catch me dead!!) any who, he pays and it’s talk the whole journey dreading the time when we get to Muthurwa because there he will start requesting for your number, well I give them my shoe number.

I press my head hard on the window, wanting to capture everything happening outside. I look at the cyber attendant cleaning his shop, the supermarket attendants waiting for opening time, the pot bellied man exiting the ATM,  the mitumba guys setting their wares, the woman locking her apartment door, and  a picture starts forming of the life Eastlanders lead. Being a middle class estate, most people are able to afford three meals a day and decent housing, may it be a single room, bedsitter, two bedrooms, some even have houses of their own. We stop at the Buruburu junction and some school going children hurriedly cross the road to a waiting school bus, some are accompanied by their parents and from the Bata toughees to the well pressed uniforms; you can tell theirs is a comfortable life. We can’t take Jogoo road “kumeshikana”, shows how personal cars have dominated the famous road, we eastlanders can afford to spare some coins for luxuries, well I’m not included yet but clearly headed there.  We take some shortcut through Kimathi and my mind starts toying with the idea of how soon I’m going to get my own car.

 The music in the matatu stops abruptly and this brings me back to reality, I can’t locate where we are at first. I look around and see sprawling mud and mabati shackles on either side of the road. A pungent smell engulfs the air leaving everyone gasping for breath in the matatu. Outside, people are going on with their business; they don’t seem affected by the smell. A half naked boy runs out of one of the shackles with a piece of ugali in his hand, he is followed by a middle-aged woman with a child strapped on her back, “rudi hapa haraka” the woman shouts, the boy continues running and disappears in a crowd of women and young girls carrying jerry cans. Young men with sweaty foreheads compete for space on the road for their heavy-laden mkokotenis, they “drive” them with such expertise only they can pull. A bell rings and frail looking children run barefoot to its direction. I squint my eyes and manage to make out “Majengo CDF primary school” on the gate leading to three well-constructed but poorly maintained buildings. This is Majengo slums and from the look of things, life here is not easy. 

There is no much traffic here and soon we are at Muthurwa. Imagine if I had sat next to that guy at the back, I’d be crossing my fingers hoping he doesn’t ask for the number. We snake through the slow traffic and get to Tusker, everyone starts alighting and the conductor is still shouting “mwisho, mwisho, mwisho” I never understand why they keep reminding us of such a basic. I turn to Tom Mboya Street and head towards Odeon to board my second and last matatu. Something common with Odeon matatus is that most of them are in bad condition and many a times they get stuck on the road and have to be pushed around by the male passengers.

I board one that looks a bit well kept and secure a seat next to the driver. We take Ngara road, then Limuru road and all the way to first Parklands. Blocks of apartment with secured gates and armed askaris line both sides of the road. A black shiny Land cruiser emerges behind one of the huge gates with tinted windows making it difficult to identify the occupants. There are hardly any pedestrians on the road and the number of matatus plying this route is few. This is a high-end settlement and almost every resident owns a personal car. We get to Oshwal Academy and have to wait for some time to make way for the Premios, BMWs, Mark Xs and even a Hummer, It’s a school morning and parents are hurriedly dropping their kids to the prestigious school. A cosy looking, small, pink school van drives past us. Inside it’s full of kids, one small boy waves at me smiling and I wave back. I love Asian kids; they look so adorable and sweet. I see a few “For sale” boards outside some apartments and being in the real estate industry, I can tell they cost a fortune. Life here is a bit prestigious, the kind we all thrive to achieve.

The Matatu stops right at the office gate. I heave myself out and head towards the black gate, I snap the latch open and let myself in. A client in need of a house is already waiting in the boardroom. He goes through our listing and settles for a Villa, he needs to view the house. I run upstairs to collect the keys as he steps outside. Once outside, I can’t seem to locate him, “ako pale” the askari points to a grey metallic Range rover Sport with red number plates. I head towards it obviously awed. He politely opens the front passenger door and signals that I should get in. “Tunaenda wapi?” the driver asks, “Runda” I answer as I put the safety belt into place. After a few minutes drive, we get to the evergreen suburb.  The environment is serene and peaceful. Mansions, Villas, Townhouse, Duplexes are all I can see. I look at my watch, it’s only 9.30 am and already, I have been to 4 different worlds.