Tear gas Mondays are not for old timers

By - Jan 1st 1970

My uncle happened to have some biashara to do in town last Monday. Unknown to him, Jakom had declared the day a public holiday. This didn’t register in his mind when the Murang’a matatu he had boarded at Kenol announced that it won’t be venturing beyond Ngara.

Uncle alighted there, then lit a stub of home-rolled kiraiku which had been tucked above his ear. He then walked on towards Grogon, a hood he remembers with fondness. Shortly, he was in River Road where all his youthful memories are buried.

His first port of call was Bamboo Bar, an ancient tavern with peeling paint and a whiff of the seventies hanging in the air. If you looked carefully at the walls, it is scribbled somewhere ‘Wakinyonga was here’. Wakinyonga was a swashbuckling gangster from the seventies, who is said to have robbed half of the banks in Nairobi.

To uncle’s dismay, the bar was closed which is unlike it. But that didn’t deter him so he headed to Rwathia Njogu-ini Bar-another antiquated hangout where he boasts to have brawled with some infamous thugs of that era. The joint was closed too. He loudly wondered what happened to the entrepreneurial spirit of the folks from the hilly county for them to close businesses on a Monday.

Uncle’s stomach was now rumbling so he headed to Riverside Hotel where they serve the best ‘engine’ as my uncle refers to the head of a goat. It was closed too, so he went to the only hotel that was open that day and asked for tea and a fancy chapati that had some tangy pieces of meat on top. Since he is used to buying chapati at twenty bob in the village, uncle forked out a brown note expecting some change.

‘Pesa imeisha mzee’, the cashier who hid behind a grilled counter told him. Uncle raised a ruckus and threatened to deal with the pretty cashier ‘perpendicularly’. The manager was called and calmly told him that one pizza costs nine hundred bob and a cup of tea is a hundred bob. Had it been terrific Tuesday, he was further informed, he would have gotten two pizzas for the same money.

Penniless, and with his shoulders falling like teardrops, uncle hit the streets. His only option was to walk to Mlango Kubwa and spend at his cousin’s place. The area around Kariokor was deserted, but on he walked with the determination of a man without a coin and nowhere to sleep.

Suddenly, an angry crowd appeared from the side of Juja Road singing songs he couldn’t comprehend. Some young men carried rocks in their hands, while others blew trumpets that almost burst his ears. A convoy of big vehicles was snaking its way through the throng, with men sited on top of them. Before uncle could make sense of all this, he heard loud gunshots and held his worldly possessions close to his chest.

Then, some white smoke engulfed the area. Uncle hobbled towards Mlango Kubwa, almost coughing his lungs out along the way. Later, he arrived at his cousin’s house minus his safari boots and his trusted kabambe phone which some Kanairo ruffians had helped themselves to.

The old man is yet to recover from ‘tear gas Monday.’



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