At night when I have finally retired to bed, and I am all sprawled up inside my covers, I allow my mind to wander away as I beckon sleep to take me over to slumber-land. My mind always takes this cue and wanders freely out my room like an uncaged bird, flying through the half opened window and into the bliss of the cold dark night. It flies undisturbed, marveling at the glowing neon lights that paint the streets a bright yellow.
Night time is usually peaceful, and the cold air ever smells like freedom, fresh and unpolluted by human activities. Eventually, my mind finds its way into Nairobi city. Nairobi city at night is bound by no rules, it remains defiant, refusing to go to sleep even when the rest of the nation is snoring its way into dreams and nightmares. Music keeps blaring from entertainment spots along Moi Avenue, and street urchins with tins filled with glue hanging from their mouths and pockets are constantly dancing along, and their well-choreographed moves are a grim reminder of how talents are wasting away in these streets. Revellers stumble out of such entertainment spots even up to 3 in the AM, with only about two hours to catch some sleep and get back to the city for their day jobs.
Nonetheless, even in the dark, Nairobi still deserves to be called the city in the sun. It is utterly beautiful and breathtaking. A sight for sore eyes. From here, my mind often meanders through the streets and alleys to the quieter parts of the city and finally perches on top of KICC. If you have been on the KICC helipad, you know that this place offers stunning views of city and beyond. During the day, this peculiar city looks like a beautiful miniature town, with buildings of all shapes and sizes spreading beyond the horizon and reeking of untold prominence. Nairobians on the other hand, always look like little colonies of ants in search of food, even as they enter in and out of the aforementioned buildings. An array of vehicles fill up the inner roads, where the traffic jams are almost unending, such that the city almost always looks like a large parking lot especially during peak hours.
Often when you are on the top of a building as tall as KICC, you get to experience something much more beautiful and profound than the views of the surroundings. You get to experience a change in perspective. Yes, perspective. It is tempting to look down upon the rest of the city and its inhabitants, as they go about their day to day hustles, all the while worrying about the past, or the present, or even the future. As a matter of fact, it is easy to slip out of reality and get caught up in this moment, forgetting that you are no different from the people down there, that even you yourself often indulge in helpless worry over things that seem mundane and trivial from a high point of view.
And sometimes all we need to solve our problems is a change in perspective, to realize that our problems are only as big or as small as we decide them to be. That even though from the ground the grass always looks greener on your neighbor’s side, from up there, the lawns all look the same, just that they are watered differently. That even though we might have differing political, religious or ideological views, these differences only exist in our minds and have no basis in the real world. That despite our position in the social ladder, or the amount of wealth we have managed to amass, we all look the same from up there, more like little creatures united in our (in)significance in the grand scheme of things. That when you are looking from above, the upper part of the city, which boasts of posh restaurants, sophisticated bureaucratic structures and tastefully designed sky-crappers that reek of corporate excellence, is no more beautiful than downtown Nairobi, with its fair share of garbage heaps lining up its streets and poverty lurking in the alleys.
That the inequalities that are deeply entrenched in our social fabric, (sometimes depicted by the helpless impatience of motorists who are forced to stay put in traffic for many hours as ‘more important’ members of our society move from one part of the city to another all the while being escorted by a convoy of high end guzzlers with sirens blaring like it is the end of the world, and sometimes depicted by the humility of slum dwellers checking into their shanties at the end of a long day in the sun as their more wealthy counterparts go to sleep in posh residences with acres of greenery and well-manicured gardens), all occupy the same grammatical position in the same sentence written on a canvas by a budding writer like myself.
Isn’t it intriguing then, that from up there, everything is meaningful and meaningless at the same time? Do you also think about these things, or are you always simply enjoying the view, unhampered by a myriad of thoughts?
Nonetheless, the good news is that just before morning arrives, my mind always finds its way home like a teenager sneaking back after a drinking spree. And at the crack of dawn, as I yawn and kick off the covers to kick-start my day, I remember these simple truths, as dogmatic as they seem, that sometimes, it is always about perspective.