Melodies of singing birds at Uhuru Park soothes my soul after half a day of job search, walking from one office to another with a swollen brown envelope full of my Cv and degree certificate. Watching the birds sing reminds me of my primary school days when we, through the songs we used to sing, were made to believe that life after good education, which basically meant getting a degree would be fabulous, in fact, heaven on earth. I am wondering what has changed or maybe it was just to make us work hard in school.
I lie down to take a nap. Why should I be this sleepy at this time of the day? Oh! I remember it is the developing insomnia. Could it be because of the overindulgence in some drugs? Maybe. Or it might be because of the stressful life I am leading; walking to town every day, living with other five jobless fellows in a single iron sheet walled shanty in one of the biggest slums in Africa, going for days without proper meals…I will take a whole day listing my woes. Maybe the sleepless nights might be because of discomfort as the old foolscap size mattress that I was given by a friend who, out of city-life frustrations went back to his ageing parents in the countryside having tried here and there, but in vain, to get a job.
City council askaris chase some hawkers who were moving around the park selling sweets and biscuits to the frustrated lot passing time here. Why should they be bothered this much? After all they have not stolen from anyone. They are just struggling to have at least one meal a day and maybe take their kids to school with hopes that they would one day change their lives. Maybe my parents too did the same. Am I useless now that I can’t help them and instead at times ask them for support in paying our rent? They played their role perfectly as they gave everything they had to see my other six siblings and I complete our education.
The kanjos chasing and beating the hawkers up reminds me of an incidence where after saving two thousand shillings that I got from casual work in a construction site, mjengo as it is referred to here, started selling pirated CDs and DVDs. They came, destroyed my stock and beat me up after failing to pay them some cash which sincerely I didn’t have by then. I don’t want to say that they shattered my big ambitions of being self employed while creating jobs for others whom we could have had same ambitions with.
It starts raining and I remember I left my only remaining presentable shirt on cloth line. I doubt if I will get it intact as it is known that some take advantage of the rush before rain starts to fall to steal other people’s belongings. In the rain, I start the two kilo-meters walk back to the residence clutching my heard earned degree certificate under my shirt to at least protect it from damage by the rain as I will in the following day as usual walk around with it in different offices with hopes of one day securing a job.
To check if it got wet, I remove my old phone that I was given as a present back in campus when I emerged the overall best student in our lot. Coincidentally, Jeff, my childhood friend calls me to go and pass time with him in a pub just around where I live. Jeff dropped out of school in form three after both of his parents perished in a road accident. He inherited his parents’ wealth as he was the only child to Mr. and Mrs. Okello who both worked at National Bank of Kenya. His invitation comes at the right time to me as I have basically nothing to do back in our house.
As usual, rounds and rounds of cheap locally brewed liquor follows. I wonder where this bar owner gets them from as the government of Kenya has launched a countrywide crackdown on the same, destroying and closing bars found to be selling them. While here ‘enjoying’ not knowing that I am ruining my life, a nightmare follows. “The police are here,” Jeff says while sipping the last drop of his alcohol before dashing through the back door. I try stager towards the same direction but it is too late. I am arrested and taken into police van which was waiting just outside the pub.
In the van, the police demand a five hundred shillings bribe which all other people whom we were arrested with, including the bar owner pays but I fail to because I don’t have any money with me. I am then taken to central police station and in the following day to the court. I am fined five thousand Kenyan shillings which my father after selling a goat sends me to set me free.
While being arrested, I forgot to carry my papers with me. I wish you could know how Kenyan police harass when arresting. I go to the pub straight from the hands of the police but a heartbreaking news slaps my face. The waitresses who served us tells me that she swept and burnt all the ‘waste’ she found in the bar. Hungry, weary and tired, I crumble on the floor frustrated and giving up in life. I collect myself and goes back to our room to nurse my pain. A number of ideas crisscross my mind. Good and bad, one being giving up and taking my life but a sound in my mind yells at me telling me never to think about such a cowardice move again.
Without my academic certificates, as getting them from National examination council and my campus would not be a walk in the park, I decide to move on. Recruitment into the armed forces is in a week’s time and I have to try my luck since physically I am fit having been playing for both my university team and high school teams.
It is six o’clock in the morning and I am already in the queue with hopes of at last landing on a job. I am actually not passionate enough to be soldier but I believe I have no any other option. We are over two hundred but only 8 are to be selected. Rumors have it that some of us had bribed earlier to be selected. Kevin, my primary school friend is at the tail end of the queue. He is HIV positive, having dated a sugar mummy for three years, right from when he was in his third year in campus. I wonder if he would be selected and if he would, would he make it in the training that I hear is very rigorous?
I am eliminated on grounds that I did not carry with me my academic certificates. Kevin, among other hundreds are eliminated for various reasons including not having 32 teeth. I wonder if those with less teeth would never handle guns or are they going into a battle field to bite?
Back in the city, with little or rather no hopes in life, I join a gang who rob people at night. I am trained on how to handle a gun and though I had never thought of leading such a life, I become one of the leaders of the gang which terrorize Nairobi residents. During the day, we spend most of our time in bars and other entertainment centers while we ‘work’ at night.
A number of our squad members are gunned down but we see them as unlucky. We live our lives to the fullest knowing that we could as well be the next victims. Ndule, our main leader is a womanizer. He has girlfriends right from primary schools to those in campus, working class as he calls them to new jobless graduates. He boasts of having more than 20 kids with different ladies. I wonder if this is something to chest thump over. Children whom he cares less about as he doesn’t take any responsibilities as a father. I really pity those short sighted ladies who are so desperate for money to an extent of having unprotected sex with ‘monied’ men. This must be the reason as to which there is a steady increase in the number of single mothers in Kenya.
All the gang members having been killed in a failed operation which I missed due to illness, I resolve to quit my ‘job’. I join a church in town which spiritually guides me refreshing the staunch Christian I was while growing up. I am later elected as the church secretary, a position I serve up to now. I am recommended for a job in town which I land on. Now with a beautiful wife blessed with two kids, I thank God I am past my twenties.