I recently spent a couple of hours at my local chief’s camp, waiting for some document.
Now, my local chief’s place just happens to be the borderline between some middle class apartment complex, and an informal slum.
(In case you are wondering what’s a ‘formal slum’ – it is where the hovels are organised; like some in Soweto, South-Africa, and those in Sao Paulo, Brazil).
‘Generali’ Mulinge, that’s my chief’s name, was dealing with life-and-death issues.
There was a Luhya guy from Khwiserio who needed a travel permit to transfer his brother, who passed away last Saturday, across borders for burial.
There was a woman wailing about her landlord having ferried away the corrugated iron roof of her house, leaving her and her kids in the cold "ati kwa sababu sijalipa rent kutoka March, yet yeye anajua very well kuna Covid-19 kwa nchi ya Kenya."
There was an elderly woman, allegedly a notorious chang’aa brewer in the slums, brought in for ‘warning’ for the umpteenth time.
The 70-something-year-old was bold and brazen when I followed her to the gate to ask if she will repent and never cook the illicit brew again: "Nisipopika hii kitu," she shrugged, "ni chief atalisha wajukuu wangu, na kufanya vijana wa mtaa wasahau shida zao?" These grand-people born after 1950 are just ‘gangster!’
Then there was the boda boda man, aged about 50, whom corona had locked out of the city since Easter, but just last Sunday, he managed to sneak back using a ‘panya route’ with his motorbike.
The reason he told the Chief this without realising he is admitting to a misdemeanour (that could end up with him in quarantine) was because he was in too great distress over his Sunday discovery to care ... Apparently he’s been living with, and supporting, a woman in her mid-20s called Ndinda.
For the last three years, using the monies from his dawn-to-dusk motor-biking to buy furniture and pay rent where they live (they have no offspring, maybe from boda-boda heat induced male infertility). But that’s not today’s tale.
‘Nilipata while hi half mbeen ha-way,’ the man moaned, ‘Ndinda as mbrot ha-natha man ome.’
Turns out her new man is a virile 30-year-old motorcycle buddy of our 50-year-old cuckold. And the 30-year-old has taken over our older man’s roles as supporter, bedmate and housemate of Ndinda.
Our man wanted the Chief to send some APs to bring his ‘wife’ to the camp by force, "ndio tutatue hii mambo, Generali."
"Why don’t you call her and ask her to come yourself?" I asked, with my usual umbele.
The ‘mzee’ explained that every time he’d tried calling her since Sunday, she’d insult him.
If it was past curfew, she’d hand the phone to her new man, who’d then threaten our mzee.
"Hata nataka u-charge huyo kijana mdogo na death threats to my life," our mzee told Generali.
The Chief, quite wisely, asked the man why a ‘mzee’ like him, who should be worrying about the grown children he has back in the village (with a neglected older first wife) should be worrying his head, and wasting his time, with a woman half his age.
"Ni mimi nilimtoa kutoka slums," our man persisted, "na nikamweka vizuri kwa nyumba ya mawe."
The chief patiently explained that perhaps it is about time he moved on from that relationship, "because ni clear, this Ndinda has found another man to pay her rent na kumchunga vile anataka, na hakuitaji anymore."
In short he was being told to cut his losses and walk away from more heartache at that table.
Because love is a gamble in the Casino of Life.
"No!" our mzee snapped. "Hi cannot just ngo like nthat, and leave ah with hall my vanny ja!"