On the day the world ended, there was no light flashing across the sky, blinding the eyes of those who had lived to see it. The heavens did not acquire a scarlet red hue. The clouds failed to morph into angels or giants as it had been prophesied by the Most Revered Apostolic Prophet, Wanjala Maono of End Times and Beyond Ministries. Fire and brimstone did not descend on the gays and the incompetent honchos at the Ministry of Lands. It was a slow, subtle end. It was like watching a seasonal river fade after the rains had given way to the scorching sun. We knew it was happening, we were simply too busy to prepare for it. It started with the talk shops in town. The suits and briefcases who spoke fluent ngo-ese were on every channel. They took over the sleazy shows that colored our mornings with the sordid details of marital woes. Pare pare was replaced with yawn inducing terms like climate change, global warming and desertification.
We rolled our eyes and switched our dials to avoid dealing with the morbid details only to stumble into hourly announcements about the expansion of the Sahara desert. We sought relief in the bland morning shows but they had acquired some taste. Our favorite host, the curvaceous Sheila, had a new diet: herbal cakes, eco-friendly bacon served in plates made of banana fibre. Our men were worried that her new diet would emaciate her; yank the eye candy right from beneath their noses. Billboards plastered with Photo Shop adjusted smiles were gradually replaced with grim warnings about water conservation and air pollution. Elephants and lions had their share of the spotlight on Twitter as we regrouped the troops in order to win the latest tweef between Kenyans and South Africans.
We were busy; servicing lives that glittered and chasing our dreams. A soap opera was unfolding on the Kile Peeps page. Another bastard had been caught with his pants down. The furious wife had contracted a gang to deal with him. He had lived to tell the tale, rather his plastered body told the tale. His photo was doing rounds, attracting sympathy and loathe in equal measure. It was so sad, we thought as we shared the photo of the hapless chap for the umpteenth time. We had our share of greenhouse gases to emit as we sat in traffic on our way home after another family fun day. We held on to our steering wheels as we endured another ‘package’ induced snarl up.
We rolled down our windows and tried small talk.
“This traffic is crazy.”
“Yeah, we might as well convert our cars into beds.”
“I heard the ‘package’ is an hour away. Why are we stuck?”
“Third world problems, my friend.”
The stories died after a while. Watching slimy No.3 at the Annual Snails’ Marathon began to seem like a better use of our time. We crawled in our three lanes and quietly laughed at the rogue who thought it would be prudent to ‘cut’ the line. We watched him cough up a little something, to appease the irate potbellied cop. He crawled back into his lane, tail squarely between his legs. We got home eventually, to dry taps and skeptic spouses. We did homework in the dark, cursing Kenya Power for the countless black outs. Our rage coalesced into yet another hashtag on Twitter that only attracted the classic response:
Kindly DM your details. Blah, blah, blah
We moved to other neighborhoods for the sake of our children and our techno dependent sanity. The revving engine of a generator become the melody of the city- from Kile to Doni. The less privileged among us mourned the demise of stima ya uradi and moved on; carrying the scent of soot and sweat. We accepted it and moved in and out of neighborhoods. The M.D of Kenya Power finally gathered the courage to give us a much anticipated explanation after a black out that lasted a fortnight.
“Our capacity to produce hydroelectric power has been severely affected by the erratic rains,” he said. Then, he paused to soothe his dry lips with a sip of sparkling bottled water. He swallowed hard then went on.
“We have presented our supplementary budget to parliament. We are working tirelessly to harness alternative sources of energy,” he added. The room was packed with a marauding gang of journalists, angling for a juicy morsel for their story.
“Why didn’t you do this earlier?”
“What measures have you put in place to keep hospitals running?”
“Will you cut back on your staff?”
“How many megawatts will the alternative sources add to the national grid?”
“Does State House experience black outs? “
“We are doing everything we can to address the problem,” replied the MD as he hastily left the podium. The next day, the head of state addressed the nation. Every media station interrupted their “program schedule” to bring us his address, “live from State House.”
“My government is committed to the sustainable development of our nation. We are working with other nations in the region towards integrating our power production efforts. We have already reached out to our development partners. We are in the process of drilling boreholes in every county at a cost of 70 billion.”
He went on and on, glossing over real and imagined commitments to solving our water and power problems. Highlights of his speech were circulated on social media. By then, our techno relations had gone sour. We were more like former one night stand buddies, occasionally meeting for brief recollections of pleasure. Eventually, the city highways were dotted with jerrycans and donkeys. Piles of donkey shit lay everywhere. We hopped and skipped past it on our morning jog. A bottle of water became more costly than a beer in those uptown joints that bill you for sniffing the air. We bought it anyway, shared a bit with our children and traded our souls to earn the money to stay afloat.
Our weekends morphed into affairs that atrophied the neurons. Watching a toddler’s tooth grow became a ‘thing’. Petrol could only be found miles from our homes. By the time you got to it, your engine was sweating and cursing you. The swimming pools at the local family-themed restaurants became acid pans due to the sweltering effects of the sun. SPF 15 and its derivatives had nothing on the ravaging effects of the sun on our skins. Progressives flaunted their wrinkled bodies on Instagram, protesting notions about ageism, sexism and other -isms that were crawling up their nostrils. We cared not for their skins or -isms because we had to hang on to life by the folds of our skins.
The streams and paddles of sewage in Kile dried up, leaving their mark in the form of choking scents and black trails that marked their course. Reports of food riots began appearing on tabloids then eventually made their way to mainstream channels. The first food riot took place in Marikiti, on a chilly Saturday morning. According to the visibly shaken reporter who was ‘live at the scene’, traders had arrived at the market at 4am as usual. They had barely began eating their porridge when a group of irate youth surrounded the market from all sides. Attempts to scream were met with brutal beatings. Every path in and out of the market was sealed. Warehouses were plundered. A human conveyor belt moved the goods from the market to the neighboring estates- Maringo, Jericho and Kaloleni. Rival gangs fought to control the pipeline. Mothers sent their hungry children to beg for food. The adults stared at their hungry faces and kicked them aside. A kick was met with a blow then a full-bloodied fight followed.
For days, no one ventured into that part of town. Bodies piled on top of each other by the road side. Alliances were formed. Trucks ferrying dried food stuffs were ambushed. The drivers were killed, their bodies left to the vultures. Overnight, a packet of milk went from 100 shillings to 1000 shillings. The GSU, the Navy and police reservists all trooped to the troubled spots to quell the riots. They did not disappoint. They took their share. “Utumishi kwa wote, chakula kwa wengine’ became their new motto. On our end of town, offices remained closed. Nannies and watchmen were too hungry to show up for work. We had to deal with running noses, the heat and stay in houses we were only previously acquainted with.
Satellite TV became a memory. We found ourselves struggling to have conversations with estranged spouses and pesky children. We turned to food, the time tested remedy. Our fridges stared back at us, empty and frigid. The souls we had traded could no longer afford us three decent meals. Our despair stank to the high heavens. We fought back fiercely, putting on a brave face as we wasted away. On the last day, my neighbor and I had a quick chat along the corridors of our stinky apartments.
“You are good?”
“What good is left in this world?”
“We are still alive, you know.”
“Our families are still intact.”
“We can still put some bread crumbs on the table.”
“It is only a matter of time, my friend”
“Only a matter of time.”