Owning a phone before we completed high school was breaking the law. Due to obvious reasons, my dad initiated the Unwritten Laws, code named Must Be Followed which was established through Executive Order No. 001, Cap. 42B and was legally grounded on the Gwada Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, 1986. We were well aware that any breach would result in disciplinary action. An action which included, but was not limited to guidance, counselling and/or thorough beating. Most of the times it was all of the above. I was down for the rules. Not that I was a law abiding citizen but because going against them meant someone would die, or wished they had. I was not about to let that someone be me!
So when I did, finish high school I mean…not break the law, my dad automatically got me one through Quebz. Don’t bite your tongue trying to pronounce that name, try Kebz. Damn you slow human still struggling! Let’s try Mary, her first name. We good? Okay. The deal was to have a phone of my choice that was not anything more than four figures. I didn’t know shit from shinola about phones then, so I just told her to get me a nice phone within that range. She did. She was our phone expert. Our to go to person whenever we had phone related issues. If you wanted to know the latest model, the best brand, a good charger…name it, she was a phone call away.
Fast forward to this date.
I have come across or rather seen a variety of converts. Females who have converted to male and males to female. Muslims who convert to Christianity and Christians to Islam. Blacks who convert to white, let’s call it skin lightening. If we say bleaching they will throw stones And now when I thought I had seen it all the white adulterates can now melanize! Insert a Nigerian exclamatory phrase. However, I am yet to come across an Indian who converted into anything. I know they are somewhere around the world but none has ever crossed my path. The norm changed when I met Sadhu Sundar Salvarej. This is the last hard name you’re going to come across today, I promise. Not physically but someone I saw on YouTube through Quebz. Sorry Mary!
I don’t know about the rest of the world but for normal people who take 6-8 glasses of water on a daily basis, waking up for a wee wee around 3am is kinda routine. So every time I woke up to enact the normalcy, she would be seated in a yogi meditating position. Like those Chinese, or are they Japanese? They have small eyes and are relatively short so we’ll just go with it, shrinks in baggy and funny clothing usually devoid of color and would take forever ching chonging before taking in another patient. Her earphones hang loosely from each ear to the plugin and it is like the whole world is kept out with one of those black magic voodoo charm. Other times we would be returning home from somewhere and she would be on her phone not doing anything crazy but listening to that same guy. Resist the urge to think she doesn’t appreciate family time. It was because this Indian guy preaches were aired live and deleted as soon as it ended. So you miss it, it’s gone forever. Prolly the reason you have no idea who he his. I was there.
Time for some tea.
Somewhere in the heart of Mombasa town. A few metres from KNLS lies Swahili Dishes. A restaurant for common mwananchi, which as the name suggests, serves dishes such as mkate wa Kisu, katlesi, mbaazi, kibibi and some other foodstuffs whose names sound like Bongo dance moves that were used in old Tanganyika. The real deal with this place is their tea. Java has nothing on them! No, am not paid to do this. Anyone who has been there please attest to this before these people think am going bozo. I was here the previous day for a book exchange and today my gang and I are catching up as we sip the cold away. And don’t be surprised to find me here tomorrow for a business meeting. This is to say I wouldn’t mind if my fiance dunked an engagement ring in this melancholic cup of pure bliss. Not to give him any ideas but that is how much I adore this hotel’s tea.
It is at this particular time when a decently groomed lady approaches us about some insurance job. First of all interrupting me in the middle of gulping this divine beverage is like attending the Oscar’s without an invitation. Which that leads to my second point that regardless of how elegant you look, your welcome was overstayed the moment you arrived. And lastly there’s no good time or place to be told about a job that 100% of people who have engaged in it talk ill about. But regardless of the bother brought by her presence, I will not do anything crazy. I owe that not only to my folks but to my next employer who might be sitting on the next table. I wouldn’t want to walk in an interview and have a conversation like;
You look familiar do I know you from somewhere?
Urm, I don’t think so.
Really? Then I guess I have you mixed up with someone. Actually no, I remember. You are the lady from that tea joint!
My apologies, Swahili Dishes! The one who almost fought with another over a cup of tea!
My brain would commend him for acknowledging the drink and mad at the same time because we didn’t almost fight, I just chased the uninvited guest. But my mouth will say it was just a small misunderstanding. And maybe I will get the job, maybe not.
Mary’s first job was an insurance. She is part of the mass that helped me form a negative opinion about insurance jobs. Since salary is based on commission, one is bound to be paid very little or nothing at all. Imagine walking around all day long being ironed by heat from a sun scorching as the one down here at the Coast. To add salt to injury you receive cold treatment from the havoc that is humanity all in the name of looking for clients then end up with nothing! So I made a personal decision that if city life ever got unbearable, I would squeeze my belongings into my two suitcases and head to the location behind my identity card. So if you don’t hear from me in a while just know I am somewhere in Kisumu county helping my grandma milk cows. Making tea, not as grand as that of Swahili Dishes,
now they ought to pay me, but great all the same because the milk will not be having whatever chemicals technologists will pluck from the periodic table . I will be eating greens laced with cream sauce and drinking mursik stored in calabashes. Imagine how fat I will become!
Are you done imagining?
From zero earnings, she graduated to a salary of forty shillings. Not thousands or hundreds or anything just plain forty bob. She used to stay in Manyatta and worked in a simu ya jamii that was posted near the county government offices. She walked to and from work because fare was a luxury. She had been hoping from one house to another due to incapability of paying her own bills. But you know how living with people is. Issues just start from nowhere. They’d get home from work and deposit the day’s stress on you. Their kids would score a D and that is somehow your fault. Or when the electricity bill shoots your phone which is the only gadget you have will be held responsible for chewing tokens more than the electric kettle. And even if you chip in, voluntarily or otherwise, it is never enough. The insults, the accusations, the bad eyeing and the whispers behind your back never seem to stop.
Mary is the traditional definition of a slay queen. She is a light, slender and very beautiful woman with a sense of fashion. This explains why government officials and other dignitaries used to eye her as they came to purchase credit. Tempting as it may sound some of us just don’t want to end up abandoned in a ditch somewhere with our faces all over media outlets in an unexplained death saga. One good thing about working near the county offices was that people would ask her to keep change. Out of goodness of their heart or in a bid to show off. It really didn’t matter. The extra cash surpassed the actual earnings.
Months later she lost her job under questionable circumstances because apparently someone started getting jealous. But who is God? She got a place at a Safaricom agent that neighboured her previous hustle the following day. See what happens when you have good relations with your neighbors! Apparently they used to admire her hard work and taking her in was not that big of a deal.
It is at this point that she decides to move in to her own place. It doesn’t qualify to be called a house but at least it had four walls and a door. It had no bathroom nor a toilet. She had to bathe outside after dark had crept in and for the other problem she made sure she helped herself while she was away during her hustle. But whenever the urge came she made a temporary one, call it a flying toilet. Life on her own terms officially began.
Her siblings were not any better. They had lost touch with each other following the post election violence. In a bid to bring them all together she brought her younger sister from home to her single roomed house. So in a small room without a toilet lived three people. Her sister had a child and later on added another. But here is the most testing part, both kids were, and still are, celebral. That means their needs was way above her pay grade. She understood why they are called people with special needs. Diapers for the kids alone could eat all her salary. But no matter how worse things got she never gave up. She worked tirelessly. Ten times harder. People had to live. Survival became their slogan.
It wasn’t long before she landed herself on better jobs. She even opened up her own shops and managed her own business. They stopped surviving and were now thriving. They even moved to a two bedroom apartment. She found love got heartbroken and moved to an even bigger apartment. Business continued to spring. They ate three course meals, bought nice clothes and went on vacations once in a while. They say when it rains it pours.
But then again that same rain can beat you in a not so good manner. That instead of falling just enough to water crops, it comes to flood and destroy everything. It started when orders she paid for stopped arriving in time or at all. Friends took loans and refused to pay. But the queen of all disasters began her reign when thieves broke into two of her shops and stole almost everything. Property worth 2m vanished. It was hell again. She had her own debts of a hundred thousand plus and as soon as she fell they started knocking. Everyone wanted what was theirs. Nobody cared what she lost.
It became unbearable. Debts hanging over her head. Bills wagging it’s tail like a dog at her and a family to take care of. She heard depression calling out. She tried hanging on a little longer but gave in to the voice because it was getting too loud. She couldn’t even go out for fear of running into someone she owed. She ran off to Nairobi. Stayed with another friend but the calls followed her. Abuses were being thrown left right and centre. People went to camp at her sisters place just to talk ill and curse her for what she’d done. She then changed her contact and waited for a miracle.
While at the capital, she went crazy thinking about her siblings and everything that was going on. She didn’t eat for days. All she did was cry and ask God questions. She even wrote a book I Want To Go To Heaven. I can see you running off to google, it’s yet to be published. She made a deal with God, get me through this and I will serve you with all my heart. Then she saw something that looked like an opportunity. And she grabbed it with two hands. A friend connected her with an agency that took people to other countries to work. She accepted. Since she had nothing they they processed her passport and took care of her flight ticket on account that it will be deducted from her salary when she started working.
Everything was taken care of and before she knew it, she was in a flight to Beirut. It didn’t take long before she realized it was a scam. She didn’t go to work as was promised. All she knows is that her papers were seized and the next thing she was a house help in one big mansion in a foreign place.
This is the point am supposed to tell you how some species ended up in homo sapiens in stead of Serpentes. I don’t know how to make people believe something I can’t believe myself. But since you have started making ugly faces at me, I’ll try. Life was…urm, it’s not working. I can’t do it!! How about you just go to YouTube and search for documentaries on how bad house helps are treated in Foreign countries, especially the Arabian nations! Speaking of Arabs, is that the reason you wanted Senegal to win so bad the AFCON? I feel you! Because believe it or not, am still trying to fathom how she managed two years beneath those demons. I’m still piecing together the puzzle because knowing Mary, and yes she’d had a few setbacks here and there and survived. But this! This was the extreme end of the curve bell.
The second year she says was a bit bearable. She had known her way through the house and was doing things even before she was asked. She mastered their broken English. Stairs meant ladder, white glass was ice cubes and their nod was a no and yes meant no.
It is during this same year that she dedicated her all in to this salvation thing. At night after finishing her chores, she would read the Bible instead of sleeping. Sometimes her morning alarm would ring while she was still going through the word. It took her two months to complete the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation she had read word for word. All her questions and misunderstandings were taken care of and now she wanted was nothing more than to serve her Lord. The quarrelling and abuses from her hosts drastically dropped and she found new strength to help her through. It’s all God, she reminiscences with pride.
When it was time to return, they begged her to stay. They had gotten too comfortable and accustomed that they didn’t want to let her go. They went back and forth with the authorities in a bid to make her change her mind but she stood by her word that come what may. Even if it meant deportation. Who would want to go back to a country with such shitty humans anyway?
On returning, she made peace with everyone. Paid all her debts, had fun with the earthly things one last time before going away to the mountains. Today marks three weeks since she left. She wanted to go and have some alone time with her saviour. To tell God that she was ready to work for Him. She wants God to use her to bring hope to the world. It scares me that she doesn’t even know when she will return. When we asked her, she said until she gets the answers she needs she will be off the grid. No contacts whatsoever and no giving up. Honestly, I hope she finds what she is looking for. After all she has been through and more, it is only fare she does.
PS. If you want the insurance job. Feel free to contact Irene from CIC 0724 413804. If asked about reference, you know the drill. Just tell her it’s the lady from Swahili Dishes.
Also, quit calling me Chepchai/Nyachai/Tea girl koso koso…remember I know how much you love sleeping but do I call you Aluoch Kanindo?