Don’t Be Swept in ‘Charity’

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If you are living in Kenya, you have to be very cautious. When you come to Nairobi from those other parts of the country, learn to be sceptical. Suspicion might be a great key in saving you from getting broke within the first hour of your arrival.


I’m not talking about hawkers, please sponsor them however much you can. Be keen not to dig too deep into your pockets then remain stranded.


Am I the only one who grew up reading stories of con artists? For those who didn’t, the plot went: village person arrives in the city, at the bus stop or a few metres away men (mostly three) device ways to rip them off and by the end of it all, the new city boy or girl had nothing in their possession.


You came across that, no? The moral of the story was, don’t trust strangers. Usidanganywe na nyimbo ati Perfect Stranger.


It is after these stories from books and parents verbal but stern and repeated warnings, I see men and women alike crowded at a pata potea spot. Usually, it is located conveniently near bus stations such as the Machakos Country Bus. Easy prey.


Pata potea. Doesn’t that name even trigger some senses into you?


The younger women are dressed in pleated knee-length skirts coupled with those short-sleeved coloured tops. The skirts come in black, the tops could be white striped with some colour or the other. Matching game, the art of colour blocking will follow.


They are normally wearing two-inch platforms of some sort with the shiny strapping all around. They meet at the ankle to join the buckle. You have to be dressed accordingly coming to Nairobi. A heavily loaded bag on their backs or a small suitcase by their side.


The mothers and cucus’ skirts come just before the ankle. The accuracy of their tailors is to be applauded. They are wearing Ngoma rubbers. Black originally but after being strewn in dust have taken a reddish-brown appearance.


The men are in material trousers or these ‘fashionable’ jeans splashed with paint, a decent T-shirt and a sweater or jacket thrown over their shoulders. They are keen. You would think they are reading from a medical manual. Every bit is crucial.


The chap CONducting the service, who at the end of the day is sure that he and his assistants will walk with a couple of thousands safely put away in their pockets, has a cap on. Those ugly ones they call snapbacks.


He is a fast talker. He would definitely pass for a rapper. He is practising to beat Eminem in rapology. Meanwhile, he is raising the funds off (PS. Not from but off) these ‘investors’.


A short demonstration with his assistants chipping in the cash (from their previous ‘conquests’) and winning. With the hasty directing from the ‘Master’, you decide that 200 note will multiply to 1000. You have 5x to gain. 5x, similar power to Panadol killing pain.


What you don’t know is that there is an association in play here. Those who have been winning are not your fellow citizens, they are Conizens.


A card of the three is flipped. He mixes them up, he is efficient, like a disc jockey. You win and win. I can end up building a house from this! You clear your wallet/purse and taraa, you lose the final round. Hits you like a tornado.


The flimsy explanations from the CONtroller won’t stop you from putting your hands on your head. A familiar Naija scene plays in your mind.


It all happened too fast. Caught up in the web. When you blink continuously contemplating on whether the Utumishi kwa Wote body will help in the matter, the perpetrators have vanished.


A few minutes later, they are setting camp elsewhere. To suck from the new city dwellers. And the old ones. The naïve. The parasite you have hosted.


Amongst the onlookers, a well-trained pickpocket with an experience that could land him a position with the cartels, took your phone. You cannot call your aunt to come pick you as in the world you have landed in definition, you have already been picked.


Trouble has been brewed for you.Minutes after arriving in the city under the sun.


As for the ‘robbed’, you find them at OTC, the girl is shedding tears of her lifetime to the passersby. As a typical Kenyan, you want to know what is causing the scene. Must have something to say when you get home, don’t you?


Huyu ameibiwa, tumchangieni.


And you CONtribute. She counts around 6k, the mchango person takes 500 shillings for his rounding up people skills. In cases where the robbery is staged, the money is divided equally between the actors.


A man walks up to me. He is well dressed. A suit (non-matching) and nice official shoes. He is carrying a backpack in his right hand. It seems fully packed.


Nisaidie na hamsini“, he says. His left hand made into a fist, indicating to me exactly how much he meant.


I know my math, I want to scream at him but decide it’s not worth it. A middle-aged man asking of me money that could build my future.


I’m taken aback. No, I am flabbergasted. 50 bob! Those are ten shillings, on each finger of my one hand. I shake my head. He gets the message.


He makes the same request to a man who is waiting to cross the road, using his signature gesture as I can tell from where I’m still standing. The man searches his pockets and hands him a twenty-shilling coin. He lifts his hands in appreciation and walks away.


How many more people will he stop? If he manages to stop 50 people and half of them give him 20 or 10 shillings, he will make way with more than 500 shillings.


That is more than the mjengo guy earns on a daily basis from his sweat.


Be wary in this city. As you give handouts thinking yourself generous, you are busy adding to the riches of somebody!


Trust no one. Operate carefully. It is only then that you can reach your destination safely. Don’t let ‘experts’ in the field of life sway you.


Don’t let down your guard. Anywhere. Nairobi is only but one of the many.



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About Rehema Zuberi

Teller of 'taboo-d' tales.

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