The two young men walked leisurely along one of the busiest street in Nairobi. The city popularly referred to by most people as the – city in the sun. It was around nine in the morning. And it was their second week in the city, having come all the way from down coast.
Omari and Sudi had really enjoyed their stay, and had toured various places of interest since their arrival. Everything they saw to them was amazing. The people hurriedly walking to their destinations and somehow, minding their own business.
Unlike Lamu town, where they came from, Nairobi was absolutely different. They were overwhelmed by the many cars they saw, moving mostly along the three lane avenues. A sight they were not used to back home. This made them even have difficulties, when crossing the roads. For back home, the mode of transport they were used to, was mostly the mules carrying heavy luggage on their backs, striding on narrow streets.
“Oh, look at that car,” Omari said, looking at a sleek Mercedes car passing by. It was a very long one, and a rare one to find where they come from. It was the type usually used by presidents. His face, beaming with great joy, he slowly shook his head in amusement.
“This is wonderful,” his companion, Sudi said. “I’ve never seen this before. This is quite a rare car to me. This is great.”
They both stood to see it pass. It moved on slowly in the midst of the other vehicles. The traffic at that morning hour was so heavy. They watched it as it moved slowly, until it was out of sight. And they turned to go on with their walk.
“Let’s visit one of the markets today,” said Omari , putting his hands in his hip pockets. “I want to see how they are, and see what I can buy.”
“Aah, why can’t we go to the library,” said Sudi, “we can try the markets in our final days here.”
“What is there in the library?” queried Omari.
Sudi looked at him with a smile. “At least we can go and look around, see what magazines and books they have. I love libraries, you know.”
“Ooh,” Omari said with a jeering smile. “I see no point in your view. I don’t see why we should come all the way from Lamu, just to while our time in a library. You see, we are here on a real tour. Not to visit libraries.” He paused. “So far, I know we have visited places, in the one week we have been here. And we still have plenty of time.” He looked at his friend, who had been gazing down, as they walked along the pavements.
“I think libraries will be the last places to visit in our last days here. That is once we are through with all the other places.” Omari concluded.
Sudi did not see any use, arguing with him. Furthermore, it was him who financed almost everything in their tour. It was him, who took him as a companion in the tour to the lovely city. And he saw it wise to side with his suggestions, without any argument.
“Okay,” he said, patting him on his back, “you are the boss,” he smiled, facing him. “I have no objection, we can do as you wish.” He knew, as the people always say; the boss is always right.
They walked in silence for a moment. Crossing the wide roads and streets here and there. Everything they saw was beautiful, and they really liked it. They enjoyed everything. Indeed, this was the real city-in-the sun.
It was a relief to them, when they arrived at Muthurwa Market. They had really had a long walk, and they were tired and very thirsty. The market was jammed with people everywhere. Everyone looked busy doing something. They settled to a nearby kiosk to relax, and have some drinks.
“Hey, hey, hey, this place is far,” said Omari, sitting on a stool with a bottle of soda. They had both ordered the drinks to quench their thirst, and the kiosk owner had served them well.
They relaxed, sipping their drinks as they watched people going around the place. Muthurwa Market was a very big place, with all sorts of businesses. Most traders there, were small time people; in other words, they were the young and up-coming business people, starting with small businesses. They sold almost everything – farm produce, clothes, utensils, and many more merchandize. There were those who sold their wares in the kiosks, scattered everywhere. But most traders displayed their goods on pavements. Some were mobile, moving about with all types of assorted goods, selling them to people all around on their way.
“I think we can now move around, and see what the market has,” Omari said at last, paying their bill. They had relaxed enough and had gathered enough strength to move on.
They slowly left the kiosk, thanking the owner for his service. They moved on. The sun was now slowly taking over the chilly morning. But it was still cool and the two-some, seemed to be on their grounds, and very well relaxed, enjoying themselves. They were indeed so happy with what they saw in the market. Everything to them was so peculiar, and quite different to what they were used to back home in Lamu.
Soon they were at another kiosk, that sold mainly T-shirts, and men’s trousers. And Omari was really moved and attracted by a T-shirt, which was well placed there.
“Let’s have a look at these T-shirts,” he said to Sudi. There were an assorted type of T-shirts, very well arranged in order. “They look so nice to me.” They calmly moved on to the kiosk, and the owner welcomed them, with a very wide grin. He looked so friendly, cheerful, and no one could suspect him of anything.
“Oh, young men,” he said, “You are very much welcomed.” He stepped aside to let them in. He was a huge man, with a protruding belly, gentle and with much respect.
The kiosk was really big, and very well stocked. It had a variety of T-shirts, most carrying the names of big English Premier League soccer teams, well printed on them. And Omari was very much attracted with the red one, with the name of his favorite club —Manchester United. He really loved it, and it was of very good quality.
“How much is this?” he asked the owner.
“That goes for five hundred shillings,” he said, moving towards him, smiling.
“That’s too much,” Omari said, holding the T-shirt, and examining it closely, turning it on both side and feeling the texture with his fingers.
“Oh, my friend,” the owner said, “This is of very high quality .You can hardly get it anywhere, apart from me. This is imported stuff, not the locally made ones you find in most places. No one else here in this Market has this kind of stuff. This is original material, young man.”
“You see,” he continued, holding the other side of the T-shirt. “You can feel the quality yourself.”
“What is the last price?” Omari finally said, a grin on his face, absolutely satisfied with the stuff. It was really good.
“That’s the last price, young man .In fact, I reduced the price just recently, they used to go at eight hundred.”
Without hesitating, he took his wallet, and got the five hundred shilling note the seller had asked, and handed it to him. The man took the T-shirt from him, and immediately moved to an inner room, partitioned by a large curtain. “Let me go in and wrap it for you.” He said.
It took him some minutes to do so. He came back with a hard brown paper, neatly wrapped, and handed it to Omari.
“Here is your property, young man,” the seller said, jovially.
Omari was so much pleased with the man and his service, and took the well wrapped parcel from him. He didn’t even bother to look at what was wrapped. He confidently knew that what was wrapped in the paper was the T-shirt he had bought, and nothing else. He thanked him so much for his service, and they left.
They went on with their rounds in the city. It was now some hours after they had left the Market, and they decided to take a break. It was past noon.
“I think we can have some lunch somewhere,” said Omari, looking around to spot a cafeteria nearby. And as they walked, they spotted one across the road, and they hurriedly crossed towards it.
It was a fine cafe, and the waiters were busy serving people. They settled down at a table near the door, close to the cashier’s counter. And as they waited to be served, Omari decided to have a look at the T-shirt he had bought. He slowly and cautiously opened the tightly wrapped parcel. By that time, the waiter had turned up, and was waiting for them to give their orders.
Omari didn’t believe what he was seeing in that bundle. “What is this?” He said to himself. There in that bundle, was a bunch of green vegetables, and not the T-shirt he had bought.
“Ooh, my God!” he exclaimed a bit louder his eyes wide opened in disappointment. “Do clothes in Nairobi turn out to be vegetables .What is this?” He slowly removed them from the hard brown paper.
The people around the café, were all looking at him, wondering what could have happened to the young man. The waiter still stood, waiting to serve them. He himself couldn’t understand at that moment, what the young man was up to or what could have happened to him.
“What’s the problem young man?” he asked him, looking at the green stuff Omari was holding. His companion, Sudi watched with his mouth wide, disappointed and unable to understand what could have gone wrong .He couldn’t believe what he was seeing himself.
“I thought we bought a T-shirt,” Omari said, his mouth slowly shaking in shock.
“Of course we did,” Sudi replied, slowly shaking his head. “I can’t believe what I am seeing here.”
“What happened?” The waiter insisted.
“We have just come from the market at Muthurwa, where my colleague here, bought a T-shirt. But what we have here is unbelievable.” Sudi said, trying to explain the situation. “How come the seller gave us the vegetables?”
At that moment the waiter, going by his experience with life in the city, understood what had happened to the young man. He was a longtime resident in the city. Such occurrences were not new to him, and were very common. He understood that the young men were new in Nairobi. And the seller must have taken advantage of that fact.
“You seem to be new here in the city, are you?” he asked them to confirm that fact.
“Of course we are?” Omari replied, his hand still shaking with the green stuff. “We are here on tour… we are touring.”
The waiter and everybody in the café, felt sorry and pitied him a lot. They knew the boys must have fallen victims to the very notorious games of the city.
“You see, we happened to be at a market, when I saw a very nice T-shirt that attracted me so much,” Omari tried to explain the incident. “The man operating the kiosk was friendly, and welcoming. I didn’t expect him to do such a thing at all to me.” He paused and bitterly swallowed hard.
He continued, “I asked for the price and without bargaining much, I paid him five hundred shillings, he had asked for. He took the T-shirt from me, and entered an inner room, partitioned by a large sheet, telling me that he was going to look for a paper to wrap it for me.
“We waited for some minutes, and when he came back, the package was tightly and neatly wrapped. I never bothered to look at what was wrapped at that time, for I precisely knew it was the T-shirt I had bought —
“Young man,” an old man, seated next to them interrupted him, “That was the worst foul you made. This is Nairobi, you must remember that. Such happenings are common here. You only need to be cautious when dealing with people.”
“But the seller —” Omari tried to say something. But he didn’t know what he really wanted to say, for he was completely lost and buffled with what happened to him.
“Where do you come from, young man?” The old man inquired calmly, a feeling of pity all showing on his face.
“We are from Lamu,” he replied. “Down Coast. We are here on holiday This is our second week here.”
“Why didn’t you check the package when the seller handed it to you?” the waiter standing by, asked.
“Aah I trusted him, and I didn’t expect him to do anything silly like this.” He glanced at the bundle of vegetables he was still holding.
The waiter slowly shook his head, and again he really felt sorry for him. Other people around the cafe felt the same, having comprehended the nature of the problem he was already in.
Omari was now in deep thought, figuring what to do. He could hardly believe on what was happening to him. He sadly looked at the bunch of vegetables still held in his hand. Is this real? He thought to himself, shaking his head.
He abruptly said, “Sudi let’s get back to that market and see that stupid man again. He must give me back my money, or I get my T-shirt.” He almost stumbled as he tried to get up.
“Aha, my friend,” the waiter said, stunned, “Do not dare, young man. Don’t do that. It can be fatal.”
“Why?” Omari queried in bewilderment. “How can it be fatal? I must get my money back!” He yelled. “I can’t let it go just like that.” He was so bitter.
“As I’ve said, it could be fatal to do that .You may end up losing your own life, young man.” The waiter kept on saying.
“But how?” Omari wondered, his eyes wide opened. He just couldn’t understand, how his action of going to claim back his money from a rogue businessman, could be fatal. He was really confused, and in great anguish.
The old man, on seeing where the argument was heading, decided to be of some use to him. Much as he had so far known that the young man was new in the city, he thought it wise to explain to him about the situation he was in.
“You see, young man,” the old man said. “What this gentleman here is trying to say,” he glanced to the waiter’s direction, “is that you may go back there, and find yourself still in more problems than you are already in.” He paused, looking at him.
“You see,” he went on, “I can tell you a story of a certain man, who happened to be in the same situation just like you.”
“A man went to buy a trouser at a market. But as the seller tried to wrap the trouser for him, the man pardoned himself, and went to buy a cigarette at a shop, just across the street. When he came back, just in a couple of minutes, he found the trouser already wrapped in a paper by the seller. He paid the seller his amount, took his package and left.” Almost everybody in that café, listened to the old man.
“Hours later,” the old man continued, “the man returned and in a very furious mood.” He paused, “You see, here in the city, most thugs work in cahoots, with other people, and in particular those doing business like the ones you saw at the market you’ve just come from. The markets are full of them.
The old man went on. “The man came shouting that the seller had sold him rags, and indeed it was true. The seller did not wrap the trouser he had bought. Instead, he had put rags in the package. This is a very common game here, especially to visitors like you.
“The man did not believe on what happened to him, next. A mayhem broke out, and no one wanted to listen to the other. A fight followed, and the other people around, mostly idlers, sided with the seller, calling the man who came with the rags, a thief. The man was rounded up, and beaten mercilessly. As we are talking now, the man is not alive. He died hours later, when the police who happened to be patrolling around, came to his rescue.
“That’s how it is here. You may go back there, and find yourself in a similar situation. And it can be too bad.” he paused a bit, looking at the young man. He could see a state of panic and anxiety, all on his face.
He continued. “What I can say to you, and this is for your own good, is that take what has happened to you easy. Don’t risk your life. Some of these places are extremely very dangerous. Just leave whatever has happened to you to God, and He will take care of everything.”
Omari was now at a cross-road. The old man’s story was so shocking to him, that he could feel a terrible fear taking control of him. He just didn’t know what to do at that moment. But the old man’s words, of leaving all that has happened to him to God, really touched and consoled him. The story the old man narrated to him was terrible.
He looked at his friend, Sudi, and he could see him having the same mood just like him. He regretted, why he did not heed his suggestion of going to the library that day. At least, he wouldn’t have found himself in such a terrible situation.
Oh, my God, he thought. What is all this?
They quietly gave their orders to the waiter. And as they waited for their meal, they could both be seen to be in a very irritating mood. They hurriedly ate their meal, and left, leaving the green vegetables on the table.
To Omari, it was a very devastating experience that he had undergone. And as they walked back to the hotel they were staying, he sadly tried to think about it.
How could such a thing happen to me? He thought, all throughout his life, such a thing has never happened to him. He tried to figure out the man who had sold him the T-Shirt, but he could not even recall his image. His looks faded, immediately they left his kiosk. Even if they were to trace their way back to the place, they could hardly find it, for they were so many of them. The man had been calm and very friendly. He could hardly imagine him to be a con.
“You know what?” He finally said to Sudi, who had been calm all throughout the way. “Once we are back at the hotel, we shall pack up, and travel back home.”
“Today?” Sudi said, puzzled.
“Of course, today” Omari said. “I cannot keep on staying in a place where people are conned in broad day-light. This is foolish.”
Once back in their hotel, they calmly gathered their belongings in their bags, paid their hotel bills. And immediately left – the city in the sun, back to their ancient town of Lamu. The land of mules, narrow streets, and the vast beautiful Indian Ocean.
– END -