There was once a fad that set many young men going crazy. It was called, ‘The Man Bag.’ Or ‘menbegh’ I owned one, a fake one, and realized it in the middle of some trouble.
Please, jump into my office.
Me I am not a guy for ati fashion trends nini nini. Zero. Me I am more functional, than, uuhhmm… fashionionable. I can live in T-Shirts and jeans for the rest of my remaining 45 years in this life, and I would be least bothered. I do what I gatsa, bare-minimum, and we are good to go. Always, all the time.
Please people, eh, I wore a suit at my wedding and that should count for something.
Before that, I wore one when I went Nyomboing. Nyomboing is that time when boychild goes to the Hague, your wife’s ancestral home, to officially ask for her hand in marriage. There, Ocampo, their family representative of the father and the older men, and Bensouda, representing the mother and the aunties, talk nonstop. It is you asking but you don’t even talk, bana. How is that asking?
Imagine, you are in a brand new suit, it is you event, and you don’t talk. You just sit there. They have prepared tents and sits, and you sit at a strategic front of the table. They have prepared food for you. They serve you like the King you are, but you don’t talk. You shut up, or you talk to your brand new suit with your mouth closed. Your mother is seated right behind you, to make sure you don’t talk. She has locked in an incomplete pinch right below where your rib is missing, that you have come to fine. She is pinching you incognito saying, ‘Aki ukiniaibisha, Ochieng’, kwa mashemeji, leo ndio utajua mimi ni nani.’
Some chap like Con Omore who are not wearing suits are the ones yapping about how their small brother is a good fit for the daughter of the chief. I am like, I can do this all by myself, but the rules of the game are, ‘keep quiet.’
Before that, you had on what looked like almost a suit when you went to their ancestral home, Nairobi Branch, with your boys, to tell the girls’ parents that they own a flower, and you would like to pluck it, with their permission, and go plant it at your home, in Gem. Gem the great.
But you also don’t talk there. They also don’t talk. Mostly they listen. And then a very harsh uncle who also happens to be the father of one of your favorite peoples on earth tells you, ‘The conversation you are starting cannot be done here. If you are asking, come and ask properly in Seme.’
And you want to stand up and ask him, ‘Are you the father? Who are you? Can you go and wait for me in my office? Why are you procrastinating this thing?’
But you can’t, because you will burn the photo for yourself, and you really love this woman. And if the photo burns, now you might have to go get yourself a wife from elsewhere, like Ugenya. Or Sakwa, Or even Gem itself. Cheiii… God forbade.
My seeming aloofness to matters fashion does not undermine my ability to set global trends though. I have personally set a few global trends, myself, if you ask me. Before dirty jeans was a thing, I had really dirty jeans. Those jinaz were so dirty, my friend, my mum burnt a few. True story. No lies.
Anyway, back to Menbeghs.
Some heathens we were with pale Daystar, convinced me to go to Blankets like this. I go. Tukifika pale wale ‘my guy’ wanatesa na menbeghs.
Trend imeshika. Mens are carrying vibetis all over town, looking like they are looking cool. I am wondering many things. I have so many questions.
What is this gadget?
What does it do?
If I carry this thing, will womens fall at my feet?
Will the one I loved hardest and longest come back to me? (Aki that one really hurt me, I will tell you one day).
Will I have the strength to get hurt again?
How much is it from Kariobangi to Ngummo in a KBS?
Those kinda questions.
Pale blankets kamenuka. I mean boys are looking like hawkers. Ni kama tuko Gikomba ya menbeghs. It’s a man bag festival, in there, with chance of great musical performance. Boys have that bag, a dog on a leash, colored or checkered shorts, loafers sans socks, white cotton t-shirt. If it’s a shirt, it’s white and short sleeved with only the two bottom buttons ties. And some sunglasses. The talk too, is menbeghish. I’m eavesdropping. Umbea haitaki uzembe.
First guy. ‘You guy bana, si me I tumad my siz and she letead me this one from Dubs, I say. Si you know she had kwendad for that conference with her jobo at Standard Chartered. Costed me a whole 5 Grand. Pure leather my guy.’
Second guy. ‘That’s coolo bana. Me I chukuad this one pale duty free when I was kujain from Europe manze. Si you jua I wanted to attend that Liverpool vs Galatasaray Champions League game at Anfield. But my mdosi was like I come back. Some urgent jobo for Baks that State House insisted I’m the one to fanyaa.’
And then they laugh, menbeghishly, holding their hand bags and their borrowed dogs that are already so bored they want to run off to America. Ok. They didn’t speak like that, but they straight up said those things.
So I say, maybe I can do this. Maybe I can show these guys at Blankets moto faya. I am actively looking for a bag at exhibitions. I have only one chance to show these guys, who rules in the Kingdom in Menbeghia!
I do window shopping in tao exhibitions. WHAT?? Ati Short is 1500. You know those checkered shorts? Loafers 3,500, T-shirt is 1500. Shades 3,500. There’s still pedicure, manicure, tweezing and waxing, coz dressing like that is akin to being hafu-naked. And you really didn’t want yengs wa geti to see those tujweres.
Can you hear just how crazy it was for me to try and carry a man bag package?
Nikapiga mahesabu zangu Toi na Wadhii, and I just said… ‘Aaaahhh.. hapa 800 bob itaweza.’ Sasa ni kuitafuta.
God sends me help from Zion. A guy asks me to write him a proposal and gives me Kenya shillings 8K bob. 8 Sauzand. Sina Bibi. Sina mtoto. Sina majukumu. Blankets inakaribia.
I pray to God, and tell him, ‘Thank you. Guide me now, Oh Thou Great Jehovah. I am going to shut this festival down once and for all.’ Nikaingia wadhii na kiburi. Nikainama zangu, nikachukua collections. Nikaita Akinyi akazifua akazianika.
PS: Nilikaa kwa balcony mpaka nguo zikakauka. I was not taking any chances.
Siku ya Blankets comes. Oo Ee, Oo Ee. Church kwanza na Sunday best kurudisha ahsante. Nika rudi home, lanji, preparation. I am out. My boy Mark had promised to lend me his dog for the day if I pay for him. I told him I’ll pay him and his dog. What is money?
Hii Blankets nilikuwa nailaza, aki ya nani. My nails had been did. The locks cleaned. I was ready.
N’kachukua number 4, shortly Pumu, Kariokor, Riverbank, Downtown Nairobi. A few minutes into Luthuli Avenue, the mat breaks down. Everyone gets out easy, we are technically in tao, already, anyway. Kumbuka I am wearing shorts. It looked like a cue lot, by the way. It is the first time I am wearing loafers. So os courfe nimeparara kiasi na dust ika-settle juu ya ile Vaseline nilipaka. Matatu za Madiwa ni chafu. Chafuuu. Stains on my white shirt. I am sweating but at least Nivea roll on is on duty. Ata spray spare iko kwa bag. The only thing that held together that day was that Roll On, by the way. Bless them, those Nivea guys, Lord.
Man bag iko na uzani. Niko na njumu spare, sweater, picnic blanket, roll-on na ka-spray, lip balm and lip gloss, THE WORKS. Don’t ask me, guys, please. Even me I don’t know.
Sasa natembea nikienda Kencom nichukue Mark na wagido twen’zetu. Shortly naskia mkale Fulani akiitana, ‘Kichana, ebu kuja gipande hii.’
He repeats loudly. ‘Wewe kichana na handbag, kwani masgio iko chini ya miguu? Nimesema kuja kipande hii.’
I turn. It’s a cop, he’s leaning on a wall, has a dog I could have sworn I had seen somewhere. It looked mad. Some other cops are harassing other guys around. A few are seated on the floor.
I assume it is not I. I mean, why me?
‘Ebu kwanza salimia afande?’ He says, gesturing towards the dog.
‘Hi. Doggy?’ I say it with an accent.
The cop and the dog bark are shocked. They shout at the same time. ‘Ati?’
I’m so confused. Si amesema nisalimie doggy? Ala?
‘Sasa kijana,’ he says in a very sad-pleading-woishe-almost-crying-Kale voice, ‘Shida igo wapi? Agi shida igo wapi? Nielesa chamani? Tumegosea nani tuombe msamaha saa hii. Leo ni Chumabili, si ntio? Tumeamga, tugaoga, ata hatuchakgunywo chjai, tukgaingia kgasi, alafu umeanza na matusi? Vfita ya nene? Kgwa nini unaita ofsa toggy, mbwa? Hiyo si ni makgosa kupwa chameni? Epu gaa chini.’
I‘m in white shorts. I have a bag. Wearing loafers. Sweating. Cop wants me to sit down.
Me: Pole afande. Nisamehe?
Cop: Afadhali ungeniita mimi, mimi personally, a tog! Unaita afisa ule hata hana hatiya, ata sio yeye amekuita, unamtugana. No… Tat is an offence. Tafadhali kaa chini.’
Me: Nisamehe afande. Ata niko na haraka.
He doesn’t want to listen. So I sit. Down. ON. THE. FLOOR.
They do their thing reaaaaaaally sloooooooowly. Ni kama wanafanya add and drop. Wanaongeza watu wakitoa. In that one hour, the 50 people I had found there had all been replaced. Finally they call for a lorry on their radio.
It’s past 3:00pm already, I was meeting Mark and the dog at 2:00pm, na bado sijaonyesha dunia man bag yangu. Simu yangu nimezima, bacause everyone knows, Eastleigh Usilie!
The cop calls me.
Cop: Wapi huyo kichana ako na matusi kubwa kubwa?
Cop: Ala, wapi ule kichana aliita afande ‘Toggy?’
I stand up and approach him.
Cop: Nataka uchitetee, nataka uchitete haraka upesi. Tunafunga kazi, na tunafunga hawa.
Me: Nisamehe ofisa.
Cop: Unaitwa nani?
I tell him.
Cop: Unatoga wapi?
Me: Hapa Eastleigh tu.
Cop: Woiwoiwoi… hii judge ata akisikia unatoka wapi, ujue unawekwa ndani na Stroke 2. Robbery with violence.
Me: Pole afande.
Cop: Uko na bibi ama watoto?
Me: (SHOOK) Excuse me.
Cop: Hii handpack ni ya nani, hii ni yako ama ya pipi yako?
Me: Aaahh… hii ni yangu. (I mock him). Sina pipi.
Cop: Hii ni yako? Ulitoa wapi?
Cop: (Bursts out laughing). Ulijinunulia ama kuna mtu umeona mahali?
Me: Hii ni yangu, mkubwa. Hii nataka kunyorosha nayo vijanaa pale Blankets.
Cop: (Cant stop laughing). Kipruto ebu njoo. Hawa watoto wa Eastleigh wamegeuka. Kukiendelea hivi wizi itaisha Nairobi.
Kipruto comes. Cop one explains to him what is happening. They are all laughing. Even the dog. The other prisoners hear what is going on, they laugh too. They are having a good time.
Kipruto: Ebu fungua bag tuone.
I open the bag, they check it out. They see I have some cash they take it, like 300 bob. They leave everything else.
Kipruto is like, you have the wrong bag. This is not a man bag. This is a handbag. I tell him it’s a menbegh, for his information. He calls me aside, next to some alley. He tells me, kijana ebu angalia wale?
Guys, some chicks had the exact same bag I had. It was a handbag.
Kipruto tells me, ata usiingie town, utaitwa mwizi. He gives me 20 bob from my 300, and tells me to get a mat home. The other prisoners go to jail. Hahaha. Who is laughing now.
Finally, I get home, mchafu mchafu kama kawaida. I get a text from Mark saying some cop had impounded his dog hapo Luthuli Avenue, and that he tried reaching me. He had gone home to get his dad so that they can get the dog back, but his dad had not come back. So date cancelled.
Hiyo handbag… I burnt it. Alafu the mat that broke down, niliipiga na mawe, mayne.
I have never attempted to a Menbegh, again.