You wake up very early in the morning. You do not own a Rooster but if you did you would have said that you woke up at its first crow. To make up for the missing Rooster you have set your alarm which shrieks like a strangled cockerel. See what urban living has turned us into? Anyhu, you are woken up by another beautify sound that calls to something more noble; the sound of the Muadhin reminding the faithful that prayer is better than sleep.
You pat yourself on the back because you consider yourself an early riser. The early bird catches the worm, they say, and you are all psyched up to get yourself out there hunting for that elusive, wiggly worm. You make your way to the stage and hop into a Matatu with a shabby conductor dressed in a maroon uniform full of patches it almost looks like a tailoring experiment gone wrong. You cannot tell whether his pants are sagging because of the numerous coins he has in his pocket, lack of a good belt, fashion or malnutrition. Could be all of the above for all you care.
He is shouting himself hoarse calling for passengers who seem the very least interested in where he is heading. Some approach him and ask some vague questions;
“Soko pesa ngapi?” a woman with a bunch of sacks tied together with a sisal string asks.
“Blue, ingia twende,” he says.
She looks inside the Matatu, “Aaih, hii itajaa saa ngapi?”
“Saa hii tu!” maroon commando answers.
The woman clicks and walks to another Matatu probably to inquire about the same while peeking inside to see whether it has other passengers. You are wondering where the logic in that is because ultimately she realizes there are no other Matatus heading her destination so she saunters back into the first one and drops her heavy body next to yours. She is big, very big and you are tempted to ask her whether she could have jumped in initially if the conductor had charged her two shillings less.
You maintain your cool because market women are an irate bunch. Maybe it’s because of the daily cumbersome routine they go through or maybe it’s because they are just naturally irate. Being irate is second nature to them perhaps because they deal with a lot of scrupulous men in the market and the only way to survive the cut throat game of genders is to be irate.
The Matatu laves the stage and she keeps complaining to the driver to drive faster instead of stopping at every other stage where the conductor pokes his head out of the window to call passengers. She is reminded that they too, the driver and conductor are working and theirs involved calling for people to board their ride.
“Ata mbuzi mwataka kumbeba pia!” she protests.
“Bora pesa yake Mama!” the driver answers. Miss Irate sacks clicks and heaves heavily. Anger released, calm restored. Fair enough. Twende kazi!
You arrive at your destination, Kongowea market which is a beehive of activity that early in the morning. People wearing dirty clothes and plastic sandals and gumboots rush around as if there was a deadline or something. Women with Kangas tied around their waists are there too, running as fast as the men in this melee of commerce. Everyone seems to be shouting something to no one in particular. It’s like a symphony of sorts and Mozart would have had a swell time composing a spectacular piece out of it.
“Bei soo, bei soo!”
“Ni ya leo ni ya leo…..ya mwana ni ya leo!”
“Nyumba ya nyonyo fefte…fefte bei ya nyonyo…fefte fefte!” throwing a few bras around.
Run, bay run seems to be the order of the day.
For a moment you find yourself wondering why they have to run like that. Why not wake up five, ten or twenty minutes early to save the running. I mean, you are sprinting that early in the morning yet you still have an entire day to face. You just might be totally burnt out by mid morning! And then it hits you like a bad joke; maybe, just maybe, the price of the particular goods they are rushing to buy rises after every sixty seconds so one has to rush to beat the hike. Or maybe the goods flick on and off like lights in a horror movie and you have to catch them before they flick out. Smells and tastes like dystopia.
You snake your way through the crowd elbowing stagnant bodies on your path, leaving a trail of angry victims. You care less, this is the market place. Insults don’t matter here. You stumble on a stall hawking crumpled male boxers at an extremely cheap price. They look like they had been chewed by camels earlier. Another stall is selling an assortment of female underwear which the hawkers, for reasons unbeknownst to you, wear on their heads while mixing others in a big bunch. Several women surround the bunch, grabbing and holding them by the edges using their index fingers and thumbs to see whether they fit.
You make your way into the muddy food market which is just chaotic. You learn several things here;
When you hear someone breathing like a pressure cooker, plaster yourself to a nearby wall or duck low because the sound emanates from a kawaida Homo Sapien doing a forced reverse evolution thing courtesy of a sack of potatoes more than twice his weight balanced on his shoulders. As a result, he hobbles under the weight, sweating heavily as he forces his way through the multitude of wananchi. These are men you do not mess with because if by any misfortunate act you knock the heavy sack from their back, you will shat your intestines trying to lift it again.
There are thousands of people in the food market and you realize that what you call early is late to someone else. You see a short, heavy set man with a paunch peeping from under his shirt. The buttons look like they will bust anytime. He has a dirty, navy blue dust coat, an ill fitting cap and muddy gumboots. In his right hand he hold a bunch of notes which seems to be no less than fifty grand and you wonder how one is able to make this much money while ninety nine percent of the populace in Mombasa is still sound asleep.
Then you here the pressure cooker and you duck because the closest wall is meters away, only you duck to late and the edge of the potato sack hits you smack on your tummy…..
And you watch as the thin man grimaces, ribs stretching his dark, sweaty skin, trying to balance it. He wants to cry, but if he does he just might shat himself. So he struggles to regain balance while giving you a devastatingly pitiful look. Then the sack falls with a thud. He is too weak to grab and squeeze the life out of you so you just prepare to shat yourself lifting that sack!