He puts her up in a one bedroomed apartment in Westlands. It is a hamlet compared to his grand matrimonial home in Karen. She doesn’t mind it- she has accepted her place in the food chain. Many girls wouldn’t mind stepping on toes to get that kind of house regardless of their status anyway, so she has learned to accept and move on. He pays all the bills in advance, ensures that she has enough pocket money for her hair, make up and what not. But at the end of the day, he still has to go back home in Karen. He will always be on time to have dinner with his wife and kids. She timidly understands that she is the other woman- the temporary solution when blood seasonally flows south and Karen is too far away. So he stops by her place to ‘snack’. Sometimes he stays for her to make supper- but she will always be the dessert.
For five years, Martin and Eva have been clandestinely having an affair without his wife’s knowledge. They even have a daughter together. But he is a Member of Parliament. Lying is his job description and his tenure in office has made him a maestro of the art.
Martin is not the only thing that Eva does. She is also a designer. She is fascinated by kangas, and has even developed a cloth line called Kanga Kulture. It’s the latest fad in town that is slowly kicking out skinny denims out of business. Personally, I think it is overdone. Some designers even make shoes from maasai shukas and then make people believe that it cool to wear blankets on your feet. If you look carefully, you might spot a few kanga panty lines rearing their heads above the belts.
She is thinking of opening up a stall in town soon. Perhaps in Village Market, The Junction, Sarit Centre or Prestige Plaza. You know, the kind of malls where shopping sprees leave a gaping crater in your budget. But until then, she uses her bedroom. Martin doesn’t like the idea of her using their bedroom as her stall, but just like any other politician, he hates the idea of spending money even more.
For some twisted reason, Eva believes that Martin will someday leave his wife of two decades for her. That is the folly of love, it poisons your senses. Drowns your intelligence in dreams that will never come to pass. It has blinded her from seeing the way Martin breaks into hives every time she utters the word ‘commitment’. After five years, she still sews the missing buttons on his shirt, and dreams of a magical wedding. Martin on the other hand does not share her fantasies. He prefers the status quo. She is just his recreational walk-in closet where he stuffs his unmentionables and insecurities. So he hides her under behind locked doors and bed sheets.
There is club on the other side of town. This is no ordinary club where teens come to drink twerk retch and fight. It is exclusive- members only. At the centre of the club there is an oval shaped lounge where gentlemen drink and make pacts, with sinfully beautiful girls stroking their bellies. This is the kind of place where deals are brokered over glasses of whiskey and sealed with handshakes. It is lit with dim blue lights, but the girls’ thighs lighten the place up like neon signs. This club is run by a Rubenesque lady who everyone calls ‘aunty’. Her real name is Ama. She does not care much about the girls so much as she cares about her make up. She auctions them off to the highest bidder, though not in the fashion that the pimps at Sabina Joy or Sirona do. This is high end whoring. Ama calls it ‘fixing’.
At the far corner of the club sits a girl who radiates even brighter neon thighs. Her little blue dress attempts only to hide the areas of her body that civility would be offended if she exposed. Her dress is so short, there is no point in trying to figure out what she is up to after all. Her pose is the kind that Rudy Fransisco says would make an atheist believe in God just long enough to say ‘God-damn!’ With her legs crossed, she patiently waits for the first white man who will pay for his drink with a Discovery card.
Her name is Mariam.
With the mentorship of Ama, Mariam has realised what shrinks like referring to as ‘her full potential’. She’s learnt to measure her self-worth in Obama currency. She knows how weak men can get when they see skin like hers exposed bare. When she parades her silky thighs, she is indeed fishing. Tolerantly, she waits for some wealthy man with debauchery stability issues and hooks him, then bleeds him dry of his money. It usually ends up with the man paying for her bills for the year and then taking her on a shopping spree. He charms her existence, all in the hope that someday she will let him lick from her honey comb, but it never happens. They never get to snap her bra strap in the dark. They will have lunch and perhaps dinner once in a while; but never breakfast in bed. By the time the man realizes he has gotten a raw deal, he will be flaccid broke. And she will be gone.
Mariam and Eva are intricately different people. They have nothing in common. They are like chalk and cheese. They are parallel in their beliefs about the stories of the birds and bees. One is a dreamer, hallucinates about the idea of getting married to a man who already got a woman. It is ironical how she hangs on to this idea of love when she cannot weed out the Lotharios. The other has been around long enough to know that marriage is a culmination fictitious princess fantasy so universal it created Disneyland. But their individual fates are designed to cross. They are to become best friends.
Unfortunately, I do not know how their story ends. It is not mine to tell. In fact their story is still being written by the folks down at Spielworks Media. Last week, two days before the Mujahideen hogged headlines, I was invited to a première of their story that has been encapsulated into a TV Show; Sumu La Penzi. The phone call had been terse and with little details to chew on.
“Magunga Magunga, what are you doing at 6pm?” It was a little past 4pm.
“I had nothing planned, why?”
“Could you make it to the office then? There is this shindig going down.”
“Cool, I will be there.”
I thought it was just one of those regular meetings. When I got to school, I simply changed into a humble T-shirt, sneakers and khaki pants. I didn’t expect anything major, but when I got to the office, it was brimming with pompously dressed people and pickets of celebrities. This was the kind of crowd that lives for the spotlight, loves cameras and mentions. I felt squeamish, my nerves get cramps when I am in such crowds, but the free cocktails proved a good panacea. In the crowd was that lady who judges at Sakata, Nameless and Malonza of the Tujuane fame. I really wanted to ask Malonza what happened to his face. He has this scar that looks like the crux of a great ordeal about contretemps with life’s scythe. I didn’t, in fear of being invited to Tujuane.
The best part was the tour round the set. I have only tried my hand at stage acting, so I am green when it comes to TV production. So pardon me when I confess that for as long as I have been watching TV shows, it has never occurred to me that some of those houses they act in are not real. I know I say that at the risk of sounding blonde, but it was a revelation. And then there is the part where we broke bread with some of the actors, and one thing is for certain- the personas they are on set and the people they really are, have nothing to do with each other.
There are certain aspects of this show that surprised me. Like for one it is in Swahili. It is waaaaay too classy to be in Swa. Nobody saw that coming. Secondly, they did not regurgitate the same old faces we see every day. Imagine DNG is in the cast; some fresh blood.
This show is a lot of things BUT it is not Afro-Cinema! There are no juju doctors here to demand black chicken, yellow cows and blue maize to concoct love potions. This is not a love story either, rather a story about love and our different misconceptions about what it really is. It is a Kenyan story that depicts Nairobi’s typical life, culture and people. It is a tale of four ladies prowling the city for wealthy men, and while at it, giving their wives a run for both their money and affection.
Like I said before, I do not know how the story ends; but I do know this: Sumu La Penzi airs every Monday and Tuesday on Africa Magic Swahili. If you are curious to find out how the story goes, then you need to follow it.
Time to grab yourself a decoder and some popcorns.