It was midday, sleepy, hot and still. Nairobi was alive, breathing life as the hardworking men and women of the estate, or business people - that’s fair - sweated to make ends meet.
The streets were crowded, stalls were bustling full of noise and activity, a day after the President vacated the nationwide curfew. It was pleasant and interesting seeing smiles on residents' faces.
After nearly two years of closing businesses at 8 pm, most of them would now work tirelessly to revive the economy and later head home to rest with their families and even watch a movie.
The roads shimmered in the full blaze of the midday sun while the storey houses pierced the hot, blue sky. As always, rogue matatu drivers had parked their vehicles in the middle of the road, creating an unnecessary traffic snarl-up.
Tiny specks of dust danced in the shaft of afternoon sunlight as water vendors pleaded with commuters to buy a soda or water.
“Put your mask on!” a traffic officer shouted at a small boy who ran across the road to sell a soft drink to a PSV driver who was stepping on the accelerator, ready to speed into the city which, after reopening of the country, was a hope for many Nairobians seeking daily incomes.
I passed by a supermarket and ordered a soft drink as the attendant smiled. Was she smiling at me or smiling that the curfew had been vacated. I still don’t know. Haa! But she smiled and I smiled back. I feel that by now we should always answer every greeting with “no curfew”.
Like. Good morning Jordan - oh my name is Jordan. Sorry I was lost in this free world without a curfew.
Answer. Good morning to you too. No curfew. Haa!
I gulped the soda, paused in between to listen to the swallowing sounds, tossed around the bottle to read its contents while enjoying the serenity.
However, my attention was drawn to a quickly approaching crowd that had occupied nearly the whole highway, causing a commotion and at the same an excitement within the estate.
I felt I was idle and needed to join this group. I didn’t know their intentions but I felt I was attracted to them in some sort of an unexisting kinship and camaraderie.
“Those idle boys are just celebrating the curfew. Look how every business has stopped as everyone is rushing out to watch them,” the supermarket attendant who was by then standing near me stated.
I was tempted to stay and revel in the fragrance of her perfume, but the nature of being a curious onlooker was way more than my urge.
Was this really a demonstrating or a celebrating crowd? I didn’t think so. No banners, no organised way of movement, no songs.
A woman was leading the crowd, but she was elegantly dressed in a Kitenge and wrapped her head in a scarf like the late Orie Rogo Manduli. The large headscarf covered her hair, ears and left the face and earrings exposed.
But why was this crowd walking behind her in this scorching sun? I joined the crowd and it didn’t take long to find out.
“She is looking for her husband. I heard they just relocated to this estate a few days ago,” a young light skin lady stated.A pedestrian crossing the road at Valley Road roundabout along Ngong Road, Nairobi on Wednesday, March 4, 2020Kenyans.co.ke
I could see rumours written all over her face as seen in her grin. These are those types of people who love hearsays. They sit in salons discussing people and reading tabloids, laughing at a celebrity who lost a gig or whose hairstyle did not fit well.
But I was here in the crowd, I, another rumour monger … haa! I laughed. I was just curious about the event.
“Why is she searching for her husband? Is he lost? Has she filed a report at the station?” I asked.
“No, I hear they are rich and today they have guests. The daughter’s suitor is supposed to pay dowry today and the husband left for the kinyozi and has not come back. She decided to fetch him herself… no driver.. Just her,” the ‘salonist’ explained.
“So where did you all come from?” I asked.
“My friend, go and ask her! Aren’t you here?” She vented her frustration right into my face as a group of youth burst into laughter.
“She promised a few of us fat tips if we escort her, but most people here thought she is a politician campaigning for the 2022 General Election,” a jua kali artisan explained.
Oooh. I now understood why they were calling her ‘Mhesh’, short form for mheshimiwa or honourable politician.
We stop at the Kinyozi and the lady walks in. I had squeezed my way to the front and I managed to follow her in before the barber closed the door.
“We still have a pandemic! Social distance… What is it with this huge crowd,” he lamented.
At the corner, this elegant man, smelling money and dressed in a purple kitenge shirt and white Khaki. He matched with the strolling lady.
“Why are you delaying us?” the lady asked in Swahili.
The husband, the barber and a few guys in the kinyozi burst into laughter. The woman stared in silence.
“She just burst in like the lady I was telling you in that movie,” the barber added as they laughed again.
“My wife. Calm down. Jacob’s story had me frozen in this seat and I was just about to rush home,” the husband explained.
“What stories yet we are to prepare for the visitors who are coming home,” she asked, holding her waist.
“Tell her Jacob… Tell her,” he shifted the podium to the barber.
“I was sharing with him some movies I watched on Netflix. Netflix launched a free plan in Kenya where we can all sign up for free. The free plan allows you to enjoy Netflix ad-free on Android mobile phones in Kenya. When you sign up, no payment information is required.”
“All you have to do is enter your email, confirm you are 18 or over and create a password. Then you can sit back and watch many of Netflix’s most popular series and films, as well as enjoy their personalized recommendations, parental controls, and profiles (including kids).”
The husband added that he had learnt that at Netflix, one can enjoy the suspense of Blood & Water, the romance of Bridgerton, and the adventure of Army of the Dead — completely free of charge. And if you like what you see, it’s easy to upgrade to one of Netflix’s paid plans/subscriptions so that you can enjoy their full catalogue on your TV or laptop as well.
“You could have told me straight away honey,” the woman who had by then broke into laughter as well stated.
“Our kids have been enjoying this Netflix free plan since three days ago. How should I even be mad at you,” she added and called the driver to pick them.
The crowd outside, by then had learnt that she was not a politician but a regular in the estate and walked away laughing.
“Back to life,” I heard the ‘salonist’ shouting.
“Can you assist me to sign up for the free plan?” I asked the barber who obliged.
As I walked home that evening, I bought some popcorn and another soft soda at the supermarket ready for a night on Netflix. The attendant smiled again. The perfume was still fragrant. I smiled back.
The setting sun had cast long shadows on the ground. Its slanting rays gave a warm orange tinge to the sky. That night, I planned not to wait for the pale crescent moon to shine like a silvery claw in the night sky. I had Netflix at hand.