One day a few years ago, long before Roberto Baggio had missed a penalty kick that gave Bebeto and company a deserved World Cup victory, my grandfather gave me the best news that I honestly, was not looking forward to- He would take me with him on a trip to. All I knew about Nairobi was summed up in tales in tales as told by the national broadcast, Idhafaa ya taifa. I was excited!
I did not sleep that night. How could I? Well, I was not being true to self because the next thing I heard was grandpa waking me up. I took a nice ‘karai’ bath and dressed in my Sunday best-a pair of ‘Tokyo-’ brand trousers and a T-shirt with the label “Diego Armando Maradona.” The look could not be complete without the favorite “Josebu mbebia” shoes.
My grandfather had one of those “Face Me” matatu christened, that he had baptized “Mukurima Shambani Baricho (MSB)” and operated on the busy Baricho-Kagio route. MSB’ driver was nicknamed Madawa and the turn-boy was nicknamed Ngotoko (he took over from Karabui wa Senga). Ngotoko had been head hunted by grandpa from Sakaku’s matatu. Word went round that Sakafu was not amused!
It was about 6 in the morning when grandpa stepped on the accelerator, and finally we were on the way to Kagio. The plan was to leave the matatu at Kagio, where Madawa and Ngotoko would pick it later. From Kagio, grandpa and I would connect to Nairobi either by Gathanga, Marura, Juhudi, Snake or Overland. If the worst came to the worst, we would have to settle for Riakanau Proper
As grandpa navigated the slippery road, just after the connecting road to Kiandangae (Locals know it as “Gwa Karume), I could see another vehicle coming in the opposite direction. It was still way far, and one could only make it was a vehicle because of the beaming headlights. However, in about 10 seconds, I could no longer see the lights. I thought it was a bit weird but nonetheless, I kept thinking about trip ahead. But my grandfather had also seen the vehicle, and at this point he interrupted my thought process by asking if I had seen any car approaching, to which I replied in the affirmative. Then there was silence and he drove for another half a minute; as we navigated a downhill stretch, just before Kamurugo, we saw a vehicle on a ditch, wheels facing up. My grandfather pulled over, and told me to follow him.
I recognized the matatu in the ditch. It belonged to Sakafu, the same man who was angry with grandpa for luring Ngotoko away from his matatu. I could see Sakafu inside, and he did not look okay. Curious onlookers started gathering and they helped grandpa pull Sakafu out of the vehicle. He was conscious, but looked to have suffered a concussion. Grandpa administered first aid on, and then gave me the worst news I could have imagined, at least on that day; “I have to take Sakafu to the General Hospital in Kerugoya so that he could get additional checkup.” How could he do this to me!
I was disappointed. I pouted like a Billy-goat in the month of November. How on earth does my trip to Nairobi get curtailed like this? How does a dream to ride in Gathanga or Marura be killed in its infancy? We got Sakafu to the General Hospital and because of the bureaucracy and its attendant delay, it was too late to make the Nairobi trip. I started crying. My grandfather was side-eying me and I think he understood my predicament. To calm me down, he narrated a story that will forever be stenciled in my little mental sheets:
“3 months ago, I hired Ngotoko as a tout. Sakafu was not very happy and he took it personal. I did not think it would be that big of a deal, but I was wrong because the following Friday after I had hired Ngotoko, and as I waited for passengers to board so I could transport them to Baricho, Sakafu happened to pass by the terminus, and when he saw my vehicle, he pulled over and without any warning, went on the offensive. I guess he may have consumed a few rounds of Makabo, because all of a sudden he was hurling insults at me. He uttered every insult a Kirinyaga man would have in his vocabulary of insults. I did not respond to him. I was a little scared. I thought he may attack me. People stopped to watch-they stared at Sakafu, and then their eyes balls would stop at me. It was a nightmare for me. But I had done nothing wrong to him, to warrant all that.
I was so angry and wanted to take vengeance on Sakafu. I did not know in what form. I felt like I could strangle him. But you know, I am an old man. He is powerful than me. Being a Christian and a church elder, I decided the best I could do was pray. That day, I found myself praying not for my family, not for myself, but for Sakafu. I told God that I did not want to be enemies with Sakafu. I pleaded with Him to remove any hatred that Sakafu had towards me. Today, when I saw Sakafu in his condition, I did not want to help. I wanted to go on with my trip. But something more powerful compelled me to be human. I know you are disappointed, but we shall still go to Nairobi, but not today. “
As time went by, grandpa and Sakafu would become two great friends.
Nothing is powerful as seeing your perceived enemy, first, as human. Only love can cure and heal the world.