The Smiles and Twinkles of Githurai, Nairobi

Written by 
Bird's eye view of Githurai, Nairobi Bird's eye view of Githurai, Nairobi Photo by EN Gitonga

Seated at my usual spot on the bus, I look up from my book to find the bus conductor staring at me with a semi agitated look. I notice that he’s probably five 5 feet 10, with a stark build and wearing a 5 O’clockshadow. Given that he towers over me, I gather my wits and return the stare with a lift of my brow .It then dawns on me that he had approached me earlier on while I was engaged in Steve R. Covey’s book acquiring tips on seven ways to being successful.

It is clear to him on the source of my divided attention and after handing me my balance; he acknowledges my book and wants to find out whether I am a lecture or something. I lift the book to show him the cover of the book and reply that I am more of a reading enthusiast then he scurries to the next passenger to ask for bus fare.

No sooner had I picked up from where I left off than the bus comes to a standstill. For let’s face it, my read gave me insights into grabbing success and I was not going to give that a pass with frequent checks through the window to ensure I had arrived to my destination. The evident shuffle of feet by the rest of the passengers to alight is a clear sign that I have arrived home. Home. This is neither east nor west but somewhere I feel content, my nest of rest if you like. This had not been the case at first.

The year is 1999 and the duo team comprising of Mr. Googz and Vinnie Banton release a hit about a town situated along Thika Road. I had heard of the place before, an area marred by robbers that came close to rivaling Wacucu and Wanugu, Kenya’s most dreaded criminals of all time. Listening to a bunch of upcoming musicians showering praises to a town which in my view was tainted, I was not convinced.

A few years later, my parents arrived home one day with the good news that they had acquired a piece of land and as perceived in Kenya, owning this type of property guarantees one financial security. The day set to view the place had arrived, as this would be where the family would later set roots.

On arrival, we were greeted by a packed town, people scurrying about with determination etched in their faces. I later came to the realization that that this was a way of life, that despite the difficulties of life they kept hope alive. On the far right corner from where were we stood the market were uncoordinated sounds of people marketing their goods could be heard. In addition, a stench emanated from a nearby heap of garbage, a clear indication of how filthy the town was. It was clear that my first impression of the town had been signed, sealed and delivered that I would never consider this home.

From the market, I take quick steps towards the G-Mart supermarket, the pioneering market in selling ready meals for locals and visitors alike. I look forward to getting my usual kilo of minced meat among other products. Taking a look at the butcher’s section I see Maish, a young man of mid-twenties, with a scruffy look and adorning his trademark hat is seen negotiating with a customer over the price and quantity of meat ordered by a customer. never fails to crack a rib or two as he gets my order.

As I approach him he grins at me and asks, ‘’Niaje Superstar?”(How are you?) .”

Poa sana mzito”(I am great) I reply.

He never fails to crack a rib or two as he gets my order. This has been our opening banter for the past two years since I became his loyal customer. He asks me about my day and I go on and explain a funny story that had happened along Kenyatta Avenue as I walked to work. We chat for a while before three other customers come after which we say our goodbyes.

After grabbing other stuff, I make my payments at the cashier’s and head out for the door. I meet my Church youth coordinator on my way out, exchange a few pleasantries then part. Being a Friday, I head towards Mama Stacey’s to book an appointment with her for the following day. Upon arrival, a wooden seat is set out for me to sit. She goes on attending her present customer as I explain to her the nature of my visit.

There is a trendy hairstyle that I would like for her to achieve with my hair. Upon outlining the intricacies she nods her head with understanding dawning on her face. I admire the progress she’s made on her customer. Since being referred to her by my neighbor, Mama Stacey has worked on my hair, a meticulous hairdresser whose result is a work of art.

Having fulfilled the task at hand, I cannot hide my delight. I picture the comfort that awaits me as I will get to unwind after a day’s work. I walk towards the footpath, making quick steps towards the tarmac road leading home. On the way a ruckus is playing out, with people surrounding a guy at the centre, whom one would confuse for a circus man. He lifts a set of clothing from the medium pile set before him, and he goes ahead and announces the price of each item, the announcements coming out as a sequence of musical notes meant to entice passersby to come closer.

From afar the clothes looked trendy that the fashions icons of our times would approve. After debating with my inner self I decide to bend and sample the goods. I get my hands on a yellow t-shirt from Githurai’s finest fashion trends that have caught my eye. A girl of medium height standing close to me agrees with me that the t-shirt fits me perfectly. I pay the seller for it and walk away making a mental arrangement of how I would match the t-shirt with my floral print skirt bought from another seller settled two meters away from where the first seller was.

Making a mental note to not make another pit stop, I hurriedly rush home to take my much needed rest. A walk of 30 minutes is all that takes to get me to my destination. I come across a group of children: 3 girls and 1 boy jumping rope, sheer joy expressed in their moves as they sing along. Kui, a girl of around four feet with braces on her teeth notices me and alerts the rest.

They all burst into a graceful run eager to approach me and narrate to me the highlights of their day in school. Nancy, the youngest of them all reminds me of her upcoming seventh birthday and I am reminded that I should attend her birthday and come dressed in fairytale dressing akin to Cinderella’s. In unison they run back to their area and resume their game of jumping rope and I proceed to open the main gate.

It dawns on me that I am finally home, that despite the first impression the second one showed me a brighter side (excuse the cliché).It is evident that home is where your heart is content: neither the infrastructure nor other people’s view rather individual conclusion after a holistic approach. Githurai is not east nor west but home.

Latest from Njeri Gitonga

Login to post comments