I had finally had it with Mother Karua. I was done. Fuck this shit, I must’ve muttered to myself. It was the last day of August holidays and as usual, that was the night I chose to start the holiday assignments. But she wouldn’t listen when I told her that I was busy. She sent me on an errand to her friend’s place.
I said no. But even before I could finish saying the words ‘holiday homework’, her palm, fueled by the fiery energies of the sun’s flame, landed on my cheeks with the fury of a disrespected African woman. I did not see it coming. The same way I did not anticipate the next four or five slaps.
I ran out of the house. I did not know where I was going, but to hell with this angry woman juxtaposing herself as a mother. I was gone, baby, gone! In fact, I had everything all planned out. I would run away from home, become a street kid for a while, then find a mzungu to whom I would sell a sob story of child abuse. And voila! I would be on my way to America!
One problem though. I had not factored in one very important detail. I was in 12, in Std. 7 and I was scared shitless of the dark. I managed to walk from Migosi to Kondele praying that some janeko would not peel itself from the shadows and have my ass for dinner. My poor ass. It trembled with every step, shaking in morbid fear like the truth in the presence of a politician.
The fact that I am still in Kenya, jobless, shows you that my brief stunt went tits up. My brother Nimrod found me somehow and took me back home. A few lashes later, I still hadn’t done any holiday homework that was due the following morning to Mrs. Owinga of M.M. Shah Primary School. Which meant one thing; I was still fucked.
My plan to become a chokoraa didn’t work out. The best laid plans of mice and men.
But what if it did?
Would I be in America? Or would I be at some dark back alley in Westlands where street children gather every 7.30pm to receive food donations from Mwalimu Clifford Chianga Oluoch? Hell, would I even have made it past Nyamasaria?
I have tried to imagine how life would have been had God blessed my ambitions to become an urchin. I picture a moment when I have hit the rock bottom of desperation that I scoop my own feaces and walk around Khoja roundabout with it. Holding people at ransom with my shit, threatening to give their faces a fresh coat of paint (or for women, another layer of makeup) if they do not grease my hand with Ksh. 100.
Perhaps I would be the kind that waits along Haile Selassie Avenue at 5pm when traffic is a mess, preying on unsuspecting Rongai, Langata and Madaraka ladies fiddling with their smartphones, perhaps on Instagram, constantly blaming themselves for not uploading the other selfie that showed more boob. I would sneak up on them and snatch their phones and disappear, leaving these mannequins of vanity screaming their throats to a sore.
Being a chokosh, I’d have no use for a Tecno from that Rongai girl; I would sell it, and use my hard earned keep to get myself another bottle of sniffing glue. If by chance the stars aligned themselves properly enough for me to I get a half toothed Langata Bachelor, and manage to get away with his S4, I would get myself the good stuff.
Crack. You mix it with weed and granules of Rocket cigarette, roll them all into a nice blunt and smoke that shit. That cocktail would take me so high that God would be studying me with a telescope from his living room window in heaven.
Food? Who needs food? Wait, what is food? I have glue. An appendage on the inner part of my upper lip. A fixture sending fumes into my body to make me ignore my hunger, and give me the reassurance everything is great. Just dandy.
I do not see myself being the nice kind of chokoraa. I would be a lethal vermin. Not the type to beg for money. No. The kind to take it. It’d be true manifestation of all that things they’d say about us. But not guilty as charged, I am guilty as trained.
Streets school people to be tough. To be a different kind of real estate merchant. The kind that owns a street, or a corner, where nobody is allowed to ask for money from pedestrians. Nation Centre area on Kimathi Street would be my spot. Drunkards would pay me good money to help them reverse from Tribeka parking. If they do not pay, well, I will have to call the auctioneers. My boys. They will unplug the side mirrors and tail lights faster than they called the shots of vodka.
At night when the dregs of the night wake up to hunt, in the name of City Council askaris, I would make friends with them. So that when they rape the female beggars and put them in the family way, I would just mind my own business.
Of course this is just a hypothetical situation. But that does not mean that there are no such street children. People who lost their way when they were younger, caused their parents explosions of headaches, who after a while just said enough is enough. Parents and guardians who, with heavy hearts, lost faith these kids- their own flesh and blood- and wrote them off as bad debts.
I have never been a parent, but I imagine that it takes an impossible depth of despondency to point the door at your kid and say “To hell with you.”
There are other too. They were born here, on the dark alleys of Nairobi. For all they know, Tom Mboya and Moi Avenue are home. These ones are a whole different kettle of fish; the most difficult to rehabilitate. Homeless of Nairobi, spearheaded by Shamit Patel (@just_sham_it), have been trying. But when you sever these kids from the streets, they get lonely. They feel cut off from their reality. Alienated.
Last week, out of curiosity, I asked Clifford, “Mwalimu, can I join you for one day in feeding these kids and then perhaps write about it?”
“One day is not enough. Come for at least a week,” he said.
I have been joining him this week. It all begins in his house in Parklands. Here, he sits on his dining table after work, together with his wife, daughter and other volunteers. With their little dog, Bella, sniffing people’s toes under the table, they spread margarine on bread donated to them by Festive Bread. Pack it all up together with milk and then head out to Westie to feed these street children.
They wait for him at 7.30pm opposite Sarit Centre. We find them already lined up, waiting for the bread. They have developed an expectation for this bread and milk, such that Mwalimu Clifford cannot fail to show up.
After the meals, they all circle Odijo’s (that’s how they call Mwalimu Cliff) white saloon car and start stating their problems. “Odijo bana me nadai kurudi shule. Nigetie ka school fees.”
“Odijo haki nilirudi chuo but sina rangi ya viatu.”
“Odijo anagalia mkono. Nilikatika, nahitaji kufika hosi.” He brings his deeply cut wound, volcanic with blood and puss, to Mwalimu’s face.
“Odijo kuna madhe alikuwa beshte yetu sana. Alikufa na hatuna pesa ya kukomboa matatu kumpeleka mazishi.”
“Odijo asante sana. Kesho si utarudi?”
“Odijo ule dame ulikuja na yeye jana leo ako wapi?”
Odijo. Odijo. Odijo. It is depressing list of demands. They view Mwalimu as a messiah who will take care of all their problems. To them, he is a god who will drive away in the evening, and come back the following day with a bag of miracles to distribute. Then their worlds will know peace.
But it never happens like that. Every day Mwalimu drives away, only to come back in flesh and blood, carrying only bread and milk.
I have wondered how he has managed to do this for a whole three months. Just him, Shamit Patel and four other volunteers. I have wondered why they give a damn so much. But then when that question pops in my head, another question arises.
“If they do not give a damn, who will?”
Kibali Moreithi and I joined this initiative recently. We took it upon ourselves to help sponsor the feeding for March (it is our birthday month). Other March babies, and Pisceans in general, are welcome to join us. We cannot raise the entire monthly budget of ksh. 75, 000 just the two of us.
So we are looking for financial assistance.
If you can book a day in March to sponsor that would be great. It would cost you 2500 kende. But to the kids, it is a lifeline. It would be a lovely bonus if you came and helped in feeding the kids on the day your are sponsoring.
On Tuesday when I first joined Mwalimu and his family in buttering bread, I found his wife doing an interview. I didn’t catch the line of questioning, but this is what she said about her husband “This feeding program has not changed Cliff. Not at all. It has just revealed who he has been for the 28 years I have known him.”
I do not know whether my wife will ever say such words about me. If she does, I doubt she will mean it.
P.S: You can also help with publicity. Tweet something. Instagram something. Facebook something. Blog something. Share this post. Just use the hashtag #HomelessOfNairobi