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Why Covid-19 has been a blessing in disguise for majority of Kenyans

By Njoki Kaigai | May 10th 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Historians will have a field day documenting 2020 and Covid-19, the year in which the human race was changed forever. Sociologists will also have a field day examining and writing about how human beings changed the way they socialise and behave thanks to this pandemic.

Based on what we have seen in the last couple of weeks, I do not believe the tales will be all doom and gloom. A closer examination will reveal some good things and habits that are emerging out of this situation and we hope they stay with us forever.

Let us start with the positive changes and attitude towards our houses. Kenyans have since time immemorial heavily invested in their homesteads.

Our insatiable need for plots and shambas is driven by our hard-wired desire to live in the ‘perfect home’. In recent days, we have seen Kenyans go overboard and sink tonnes of money to build massive mansions to announce to the rest of the world that they have made it. 

They have been stopping at nothing as they plaster, tile, paint and carpet the houses and then top it all by saturating every pace with all manner of furniture.

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What is baffling is that even after all this hard work and investment, Kenyans go to great lengths to be anywhere else but home.

Men will expend a lot of energy and cash to create the perfect thingira (mancave) and garden then leave all that behind to spend countless hours in in those smoky, squashed nyama choma joints in Kamakis or in those tiny shebeens in the estates.

Women have been incurring massive debts to have the perfect kitchen, cookware and crockery only for them to be forever out of the house in the name of coffees and drinks with the girls.

The good, the bad

Thanks to the coronavirus, Kenyans are now getting a full appreciation of their houses - the good, the bad and the ugly. Men who in the past have been saying that the only place one can watch football is in the sports bar are now discovering that their TVs and home theatres system can pretty much deliver the same result.

Others notorious for mysteriously disappearing on weekends are discovering that the mattresses and bedrooms in their houses are just as cozy.

Women are now getting an accurate assessment of the number and condition of their dresses, crockery and cutlery. The best thing is that finally people are getting a chance to fix the broken taps and the leaking roofs that they usually fail to notice since they are never in the house.

Pre-Covid-19, most families were always busy and in a hurry forcing them to leave their homes way before sunrise and return long after sunset. Parents had resigned themselves to their fate and handed over most of the parenting duties and responsibilities to their nannies and domestic help.

Children had become accustomed to this state of affairs and opted to find refuge and validation from social media, peers, parties and even mind-altering substances. The long hours at home and the 7pm curfew have forced families to bond and to be in each other’s faces.

Suddenly, families are unearthing hidden talents, shared interests in games, books and movies. Some family members are also having to confront some harsh realities and ugly truths - about communication, finances and even addictions. By the time all this comes to an end, some families will emerge better and stronger while others will fall apart.

One of the most commonly accepted facts about Kenyans is that despite being famous for running, we are really not into matters health and fitness. We do not believe in exercises that cause us pain and that leave us sweaty and breathless - we prefer exercises like the bar bicep curl of transferring a glass of tipple from bar counter to our lips.  The only cardio exercises we give attention to are those that involve loud music featuring words like pandana and tetema and that eventually culminate in bednastics.

We consider wellness to be the ability to enjoy a nice greasy kafry (often with kapilipili ka mbali) topped up a fair amount of alcoholic beverages. We consider ourselves to be progressive since we know which fast food joints deliver super fast; which ones have the largest buckets of drumsticks and which ones have the best buy-one-get-one-free (BOGOF) offers. 

Gift from gods

We Kenyans believe that potbellies are a gift from the gods and so we disregard all talk about obesity and Body Mass Index (BMI). It is therefore a welcome relief to see that Kenyans are now getting out to take walks, to run and some are even going online for work-out classes.

It is also refreshing to see that Kenyans are now cooking more since they realise that fast food options are limited, possibly unsafe and also hard on their wallets. The fear of hospital visits in this season, has seen Kenyans dropping their hypochondriac ways to eat more greens, drink lots of water and make home-made dawa concoctions.

Maybe at the end of this period we will have managed to halve the massive acreage of potbellies and adipose tissue that sadly had become a part of the sights and sounds of this country. So I guess, that the historians will also write that in some ways covid-19 ended up being a blessing in disguise for most Kenyans.

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