Celebrating East African Writing!
The route I take home everyday is always prone to traffic jams and this has rendered us commuters who make long, winding queues helpless to the whines and whims of beggars and preachers, save for the occasional weekend when we are saved dramatically from such occurrences because the average working Kenyan will not be caught dead going to town on a weekend (But then the high-pitched voice from the “makanga” cuts the commuter’s sleep short as he begs loudly for them to board the matatu!)- But I digress…
The Bling Bling Beggar is not your average beggar – He is always smartly dressed in a crisp, clean shirt, a clean pair of shorts (he has to wear shorts, otherwise ho would you know that he is physically impaired?) His head registers a cap from one of the famous (or not) exhibition stalls, and he tops it all off with a pair of blinding studs –diamonds, perhaps? As if this reversal of roles is not enough to contend with, he still kneels on the same spot daily, and respectfully asks for money from the aunties, entreating with his hands. He constantly checks on his gold watch (Business must be good.), as if we were wasting his precious time, as if he had a begging appointment elsewhere.
The Man From Ruiru comes begging but with a message from the Good Book, his mouth is full of froth as he preaches a message filled with calls for repentance lest we burn in fire and brimstone, sometimes the spirit catches on so much that he breaks into song in his hoarse and cracking voice (Talent here, is not an issue- especially when doing God’s work.) He then launches into a fitful prayer , where he occasionally speaks in tongues, pauses in mid- sentence, then prays that we will have mercy on him and give him fare back to Ruiru where he can continue with the work of God- ( But only five and tens please, he says aloud, no use spending the whole night here counting coins, he thinks ) A weary woman or two drops a coin into his open bible, upon which he shouts the amount that is left for fare to reach shilingi mia moja tu …Then launches into a song that lacks both rhythm and direction…until the deed gets done. Tomorrow he will come also.
The Double- Standards – Bible – Interpreter usually comes in the mornings, his favorite part of the bible is that which tells women not to wear trousers, he tells his story so humorously that we laugh at him, not with him, he is meticulously dressed in his checked suit, and calls upon ladies watoe sadaka, and did we know that the only reason why we women wear trousers is because of the mercy of our Lord Jesus? Otherwise we would be struck dead by lightning for trying to be like men!!!!!!!!At this point the men and women that subscribe to this school of thought nod in agreement, as they feel their pockets in readiness to give. He also preaches about the ideal Christian family- Apparently, in the ideal Christian family, all the daughters sing in the choir (?) Then comes the sales pitch “Toa sadaka as if it is the last day on earth, and you are going to meet your maker, what will you tell him? That you left his servant naked? And how do you expect me to come back tomorrow if you don’t give me money? – At this point, the souls guilty of listening to his sermons feel their pockets for change…
The Blind Intellectual is my favorite beggar. He conducts his begging biashara in the Queen’s English, carefully getting his aitches and tees right, and counters every ping and pong in his little bowl with a word of prayer, then launches on to a hymn as he makes his way carefully between the winding queues, as he separates the small monies from the big monies by carefully feeling with his hands. At the end what is seen in his bowl is a few “Worthless “coins. The real money is safely stored in his pockets, away from any ambitious chokoraa, away from the eyes of any potential giver, who may think twice about giving if he sees a full bowl. The Blind Intellectual stops to pray for each giver, never at any point falsely raising the giver’s hopes about riches waiting for him in heaven for being such a generous giver. This one I like.
The Beggar in the Yellow Rob is from the Lego Maria Sect, he conducts his business in a long, yellow rob, coupled with a flowing cap, and two walking sticks. He is barefoot. A humongous crucifix hangs on his neck, and his hair is a lice habitat (Do not destroy natural habitats). He limps from one commuter to the next, stares at them straight in the eyes , eyes that looked possessed and asks for ten shillings ( He is very particular about the amount that he asks for .The ladies, disturbed, hastily dig into their bags for the fated ten shillings, as the possessed man limps on, mission accomplished.