Celebrating East African Writing!

CATCHING A PICKPOCKET by Waliaula Lukamba Patricia

Damn! I hate pickpockets! Last month, I had the ‘privilege’ of riding in the ‘prestigious’ city buses and got the shocker of my life!

I witnessed a neat-looking, cleanly-shaven, merciless young man, clad in a suit skillfully and stealthily steal out of an old woman’s handbag!

It being the usual city norm for people to board already full buses, the old woman and young pickpocket found themselves standing alongside each other on the bus aisle, with each having boarded the bus from different points.

Just before nearing the city centre, the now gratified man rang the bell to notify the driver to stop at the next bus stop and alighted as if nothing had happened! I could swear I saw him smile and wink at me!

I was shocked, outraged by the fact that several of us on the bus witnessed the incident but no one dared talk or alert the old woman to ‘chunga mizigo yake’!

I alighted at the city centre clutching, even tighter, my purse determined not to become the next pickpocket victim.

I vowed not to use public vehicles for a long time and my mechanic was not lucky at all as I personally supervised him as he did repairs to my vehicle. A process he had said would take a whole three days, took less than five hours! I have since then had to change mechanics!

Sitting in my richly furnished lounge, I recounted the day’s events wondering how people could be so self-minded, which in my opinion is politer than the word ‘selfish’! What about the shock on the woman’s face upon realizing that she had been pick-pocketed? I can only imagine! Something or someone had to do something to teach the brats a lesson.

There is this one incident that makes me laugh to date. A sister of mine, a self-confessed cosmetic addict, has this particular habit that works almost every time.

Lyn loves cosmetics and when I say cosmetics, do not be mind boggled to limitation of lipstick, facial powder, eye pencil and mascara only, but be enlightened today to accommodate nail clippers, razor blades, nail files, needles and thread of various colors! Weird? I tell her so!

However, I came to see the other positive side of carrying an ‘accessorized’ handbag!

My sister and I were caught up late in town one evening, having lost track of time while window shopping. Rushing to get a matatu back home, we were pulled into a number of stampedes as people scrambled to board vehicles that came with passing time.

Getting a hang of the ‘scramble for the matatu game’, we forcefully made our way to an arriving vehicle and struggled to get in.

During the commotion, I could feel opposite tagging forces against my handbag and at one time could swear I felt someone ransack my pockets. This was followed by a loud “Ouch!” And a sudden ease to slip into the matatu.

When we arrived home, a very excited Lyn narrated to me that her experiment had worked. “Remember the groan of pain that we heard while we were boarding the matatu? Well guess what? I taught those lousy pickpockets a lesson!”

I was a little bit confused until she emptied her handbag contents on the sofa revealing the most incredible of assets; a hairbrush in need of cleaning, grey mascara, red lipstick, lip gloss and now the catchy part…a blood stained razor blade and a pin cushion with inverted pins!  Yikes!

She had intentionally placed a razor blade and pincushions with inverted pins, in the most strategic-easy-to-reach parts of her handbag so that whoever tried to get to her items, had to encounter the reinforcement first! Call that craziness but I call that tactfulness; my long time solution heroine!

I now never leave my house without ‘accessories’!

Living in a technology drenched society, am hoping new and at least less harmful methods are created to help catch pests of pickpockets!

For instance, instead of matatus donning flat TV screens displaying obscene and absurd scenes, why not install these matatus with cameras showing all activities happening in the vehicle? Ha?

What about touch-sensitive-alarm-go-off bags that have internal settings like a handprint(only known to the bag owner) and which bags scream or screech when touched by any other person other than the bag owner?(Now am thinking!)

Until someone comes up with a more brilliant way of catching a pick-pocket, watch out all yea for my sister’s razor blades and pins! Carry fewer valuables with you, be your brother’s keeper and always be alert of your environment.

And finally…let your creativity for the remaining part of this year roam on how to nab a pickpocket! Best regards!

٭The writer is a 23 year old law graduate of Moi University Annex Campus School of Law. Currently she is enrolled in an internship programme with World Vision Kenya. Her hobbies include reading, writing and traveling.

© Waliaula Lukamba Patricia 2009

If you would like this piece to be the Story of the Week, please vote below on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak, and 10 being excellent. The numbers will be tallied on Friday 24th July and the story with the highest figure shall be Crowned Story of the Week. Be sure to fill in your name and verifiable email. You can include your critique/comment after the vote.


8 comments on “CATCHING A PICKPOCKET by Waliaula Lukamba Patricia

  1. Mwenda Joseph
    July 20, 2009

    I would give the story a 3/7. The title as much as it is attractive,is failed by the whole prose. The story reads more of a commentary than a creative piece.


  2. Mjete Tim Mjete
    July 21, 2009


    The fact that the main story is inhoused in another story does not in anyway deny the fact that the story is well carved out with careful choice of words and yes, it has a moral to the society and the reader.


  3. Clifford Oluoch
    July 21, 2009

    Not really a story story but a commentary of pick pocketing. The writer has a very good command of language and this should not be translated into a story. Pick on one incidence and make a story out of it.


  4. Alexander
    July 21, 2009

    Smoothly written, albeit a bit too rambling (but that’s okay for a feuilleton). What I liked is how the authoress distances herself a bit from her (somewhat spoilt) dramatic persona. The narrator ego is constructed ambivalently: selfish, moralizing yet unhelpful (she did not move a finger to help the old woman, but now complains loudly after the fact, the ideal city slicker), a bit brattish, and wannabe worldly. Nice job. I like these shades, they are so human.
    No “grades” (hah), but an encouraging thumbs up; please write more and explore.


  5. Martin Muratha
    July 21, 2009

    Thumbs up for the lawyer. I rate the story 5/10. Pardon me though because i think the method used in ‘catching a pickpocket’ is rather primitive. Even the owner is not immune to injuries which can be infectious.


  6. Doreen Mukoya
    July 22, 2009

    I love your command of English!!


  7. kitoo
    July 22, 2009

    nice lesson, pray that you don’t absentmindedly dip your own fingers into your own accessories. it will be your turn to scream waauuuiii!!!!!!1


  8. kitoo
    July 22, 2009

    nice lesson, pray that you don’t absentmindedly dip your own fingers into your own accessories. it will be your turn to scream waauuuiii!!!!!! 8 is the score from my side.


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