Hi folks. Is it just me or has insecurity and general suspicion killed the African benevolence that most of us have been brought up with? You see, where I was brought up, somewhere in a small village in Tharaka Nithi, a stranger would casually walk up to my grandmother’s house and ask for water. My grandma would give him water plus a cup of tea. By the time he finished drinking the tea, my grandma would be knowing where he came from, his lineage both ways up to the fifth or sixth ancestor and whether he was related to us. I need not tell you that most of these strangers turned out to be our relatives. More often than not, their grandmother’s mother had been married to the brother of the mother of the man who had married the sister to the mother of the man who married my great grandmother’s elder sister. Simple family tree. But I digress.
This Friday I happened to tour some parts of Kiambu county. Everyone in the matatus behaved rather well so I had no story to tell you. Ok fine, just a little thing. The roads to Gachie and Karura Kanyungu look like they have been specially designed to remind you of vocabulary such as “Payslip” “KRA” NYS” and “Youth Fund”. The crater-like potholes make you calculate the difference between your gross pay and net pay at a speed that would have baffled your mathematics teacher strongly enough to arouse suspicions of thievery. After all, your brain does not have a reputation of doing magic.
Anyway, after a day of experiencing these roads I was dead tired. As I headed home, I was seated next to a lady friend who was telling me her experiences of the day. Thank God she is the type who is happy to go on and on with a mere grunt here and there from my side by way of encouragement. That gave me the freedom to switch off my mind and put it on autopilot. Make no mistake, my mother says I will make an excellent husband. This is because when on autopilot I will actually passively hear everything that is said and reproduce it word for word in the event that the female species in question becomes suspicious and forces me to take back the controls of my mind. The girl should know. I have autopiloted on her like a zillion times in the course of my 26 years. The only problem is that she catches me each single time. She knows me a bit too well. In fact I think I should sue the midwives at Nkubu Hospital for malpractice. I suspect they did something fishy when severing my umbilical cord so that my mother is able to get intel on me through out my life.
Anyway, this lady on Friday either didn’t suspect a thing or just didn’t care as long as I was making my obligatory grunts. Tiredness was not the only thing that pushed me to autopilot. There was a crisis inside of me that was increasingly escalating into a mutiny. In the central region, pangs of hunger were causing street demonstrations that were becoming more and more violent.The other regions were on a go slow.Their message was simple: Can’t cook. Wont cook.
So as my friend went on and on about the difference between gospel artists and worship leaders, how awesome the two guys and one girl she had spent the afternoon with were (see, I heard every single detail), I was hammering a compromise deal of going to Janet’s food kiosk to eat so that everyone would be happy. It wasn’t an easy decision though, as the results of the aforementioned arithmetic were still fresh, thanks to the potholes on Gachie. Anyway, I struck the deal and went to the food kiosk after alighting at my stage.
As I quietly enjoyed my meal, enters Mr. S. Mr S is my neighbour, a man with a ready smile. We have said “hi” a couple of times but I didn’t even know his name. “Hello bro!” he greeted me cheerfully. I summoned my reserve energies and engaged in the niceties. Then he asked if I was walking home. I replied that yes, upon finishing my meal, I would walk home. Then he said he would wait for me. That caught me off guard. I couldn’t help but think, are you crazy? As you can see, I am just beginning my meal, and I have a mug of tea on the standby. Besides, I hardly know you.
By the way in case you were wondering, I did say I am from Tharaka Nithi, and it wasn’t a typo. But I have a couple of Maragoli friends who nonetheless insist that I guzzle more tea than the both of them combined. I should swear an affidavit. Anyway, Mr S waited until I finished taking my meal and we walked home together. It turned out that he is a really nice man. He just thought that we shouldn’t remain strangers especially because we are neighbours.
When I finally settled in my house, I did ask myself several questions. Why did I find it odd that a neighbour would be friendly even to the point of inconveniencing himself? Have I become so individualistic that I would rather keep my distance and judge people based on my prejudices and preconditioned biases without making an effort to understand them? As a christian who advocates for people to be treated nicely the christian way, I will admit I was very embarrassed. I did repent and asked God to forgive me and give the grace to make an effort to understand people, so that I don’t just judge them from a distance. Oh and to the womenfolk in my life, if I am grunting in a conversation, I am not necessarily on autopilot. Maybe I am just dazzled by your intellectual brilliance. I can see a couple of you rolling your eyes and giving me the “oh please” look. Don’t judge me without understanding me I beg.