The clock has just struck 5 in the pm and the sun is almost going down in the west. Within no time, men and women start flowing from their offices and into the streets. Some check into Java for a coffee date. Or a late lunch. Others, too tired after a long day of service in the corporate scene, trudge wearily through the heart of the city hoping to beat the eternal traffic jams and find their way home.
The rest walk into bars for drinks promising to have just one for the road before heading home. Obviously, promises are made to be broken. At midnight, these folks will still be at the bar calling out ‘Waiter, niletee ya mwisho’. They will go on having one last drink, then another, until 3am when there is no money left to buy another and then they will heave their drunk selves up from the bar stools and stagger out, swearing to never walk into a bar after work again.
So anyway, back to our story.
The clock had just struck 5pm. Now its 5.05pm. Somewhere in the topmost floor of a towering sky-crapper in Upperhill, a meeting is ongoing. The setting is an office bar, an architectural marvel complete with leather couches and a fully stocked liquor cabinet. To the left is a large window offering breathtaking views of the Nairobi Central Business District. The city looks beautiful. Even in the eyes of all beholders. But the men in there are not viewing the city. At least not in that way. They are seated on the leather couches, sipping single malt whiskey as they discuss money matters in low tones. That is how they view the city, through the lens of a capitalist system. It’s nothing personal. Just business. If you happened to listen closely enough, maybe you would finally know what happened to the Eurobond after all. But you can’t, these kind of meetings are held inside closed doors. When the men are done, and a deal has been struck perhaps, they will all rise to their feet and hold hands while chanting their favorite slogan – Kazi kwa vijana, pesa kwa wazee.
Meanwhile, their chauffeurs are outside at the parking lot inside posh cars, high end guzzler machines with fully tinted windows. They are waiting for their bosses, and in the meantime, they are dreaming. Dreaming of the time when they too will become bosses.
In downtown Nairobi, on the other hand, a different world exists. A world of struggle. Men and women with money on their minds and none in their pockets go about their daily grind, hoping to get just enough for supper.
Hawkers, with their wares spread on the ground like red carpets, are calling for potential customers…and hoping that the County Council askaris don’t show up instead. Goons with predatory instincts, hardened by a life of crime, are wandering around with their bloodshot eyes, scanning the populace for a potential target. Their dreaded antagonists, trigger happy flying squad officers with G3 rifles hidden from the public eye, are also roaming around, watching and waiting for an opportunity to fire.
This is the true depiction of the city life. Here money talks and the streets listen. You can get anything as long as you know where to find what. From guns to drugs. From essential household goods to unnecessary luxuries. It is said that money makes the world go round – the wheels probably come from River Road. Or Kirinyaga Road.
This is Nairobi, City in the Sun.