By Wakini Kuria
My shopping centre goes by the name Murengeti. Literally, this means a blanket. This has nothing to do with the chilly weather, just mere coincidence. A story goes of how an old shepherd died while out grazing in the fields along the highway, leaving behind not only his sheep but a blanket that everybody found taboo to touch. The old man took a nap never to wake up again. Passengers would instruct the driver to stop at ‘murengeti-ini‘ and the name stuck.
This is that place where you get your eyebrows turn white with cold droplets. Comedians crack the joke that, Limuru is chilly in the mornings, because the people there sleep with their mouths open.
Before, residents didn’t put up gates to keep out thieves, but rather, the many donkeys that were let loose by their owners and were only collected when they were needed to run errands. The beasts of burden were left to roam freely and should they be lucky to enter your garden, they would eat everything green and leave fresh ‘sponge’ in their wake. Nowadays, the beast has long been replaced by nduthis though.
The sluggish centre boasts of only a handful building harbouring a few shops, one pub, a clinic, some rentals and a few kiosks.
Located along the busy Nairobi-Nakuru highway, I grew up witnessing weird cultures such as people from ruguru, who would take out a human corpse, beat it up for refusing to go home from Nairobi.Ruguru is the name our people use to denote Western Kenya.
The vehicle would probably have broken down or ‘refusing to start’ and after the thorough beating the corpse would ‘agree’ to go home.If the person in their lifetime had refused to ever go back home, they would cheat him by placing the corpse with the head facing towards Nairobi. Believing that he was headed towards Nairobi and not home, the corpse would agree to go. No more car breakdowns.
All the while, from a safe distance residents would be watching in horror as the relatives worked on the dead man with clubs and sticks, instead of fixing the faulty vehicle.
Road carnage claimed too many lives on the busy highway, but the statistics reduced drastically with the introduction of the Michuki (God bless his soul) laws. An ordinary day would turn tragic, marked by a loud bang that would see residents rushing to the scene, not necessarily as good Samaritans, but to salvage whatever the victims had in possession.
Today, fewer pedestrians are knocked to the next world as this has been left that to the nduthi guys. They get snubbed like flies. These nduthi ninjas are known to be notoriously reckless.
For one, they don’t go for professional training. A guy will just show up, ask a friend to let him ride up the Kuria wa Gichui hill. On his way downhill, the-now-expert will be carrying a passenger.
If one of them happens to cause an accident, the entire nduthi community will come out in multitudes carrying petrol and burn to the ground the vehicle that killed one of their notorious own.
My grandfather whom everybody referred to as ‘ndagitari’ owned one part of the shopping centre. He ran a clinic at the feet of his homestead and drank half the liquor in his pub christened Solidarity.
It is here that I would go to get him. His patients knew where to find him if not at home or at the agro-shop. They would ask: “Watoto wa daktari, wapi daktari?”
We would then stop playing and rush to The Solidarity to get him. There was always a reward for it. You either got a bottle of soda or mutura from the butchery-cum-pub.
He was ever there for them. More so the December season where he helped boys transition to men. Half, if not all the men in the neighbourhood became men by his hand.
I remember how the-boys-now-men would leave bouncing away, walking with a spring in their swagger, wearing a grin that spelt, I-am-now-a-man especially to us little girls playing in the compound separating the clinic from the homestead.
Today, nothing much has changed. A big number of men still idle at the recently built bodaboda shade from sunrise to sunset. They pounce on ‘new arrivals’ as they alight matatus demanding for handouts “Si unafanya Nairobi? Nunua chai” should you come driving, the demands hikes double.
Thats my shopping center for you.
About Wakini Kuria
Wakini Kuria is a writer, editor and journalist. A book enthusiast who likes to curl up with a good book and a hot cup of chai to beat the cold Limuru weather.One of her favourite quotes is Never let life beat you into submission.