A transformer was stolen in our hood when we were growing up. In the exact same way houses were being ‘obtained.’ One early Saturday morning, in broad daylight. And we were accomplices. But we didn’t know.
In the 90s in Eastleigh, if you ever wanted to steal anything significant like a car, a house help, a bicycle or a transformer, you stole it on a Saturday morning. Between 6:00am and 10:00am. Because at that time, mostly, all parents were deeply asleep from the troubled economy they were struggling in. And the kids were letting it out for being in school everyday five days back to back. Man, cars would be stolen whole, or just a specific part, or completely just be stripped bare. Tyres, windows, seats, batteries, bolts… anything that can go, will go.
House helps could also be stolen. House helps were being stolen. House helps were free agents, and would be in your house in the morning, in someone else’s at lunch and in the evening, she would be in another house. Bora ufike bei.
Transformers were the real deal, though. If you had a transformer, I think, you had the power. So many guys got electrocuted draining oil from the transformers and so many guys got caught stealing that oil, but nobody, and I mean nobody, ever got caught stealing a transformer.
So this Saturday morning. All the parents in the hood are asleep as expected. ALL. Some from a tiring week, others from drinking the week’s woes away the previous evening. If kid’s ever wanted to take over a country, it was meant to be on this Saturday. But we squandered it, playing soccer and bano. And eating mabuyu.
Because Saturday’s had no parents, and the minders were washing the white-now-turned-black bits of uniforms back to white, and teachers were receiving their next week’s brief from the devil, Saturdays were the best days on earth. Kama kawaida, breakfast pale; Chai kwenye mkate and as soon as you finish house help is like, OUTSIIIIDEEEE. I want to clean the house.
Saturdays we would go and play sooooooo hard, you only came home after your skin was way darker than your sins. And there were only 3 best places to play.
Number 1 Place to play, the Moi Airbase Fence as you counted Airforce Planes taking off and landing.
Number 2 Place to play, was Shauri Moyo grounds, because it was far, and adventurous, and it had a river where you could fish tadpoles thinking they are fish dumbos.
Number 3 and favorite place to play was that clay center court soccer stadium in the heart of California Estate, The Field of Dreams. DEZA!!!
Man if you have not played soccer in Deza, you have not played soccer. It doent matter if you called Toyoyo home, or Mbotela, or Shauri or MYSA. Deza was the Holy Grail. If you wanted to get into your primary school soccer team, just tell them you have been to Deza. Straight inside. No need for auditions.
In Deza we saw the great Diamond Okusimba, his sister, Julia ‘Caesar’, the Idris Hamisi, the Musa Mohammed and his brother, Harambee Stars’ the Jamal Mohamed. The eclectic midfielder, Kabochi. King Monday, and my very own brother Khaduli. Watching the soccer teams play was like watching desperate souls being saved from wretched sin into eternal salvation. It was wizardry at it’s best. And then there was the Coach Masanta. By the time I was meeting Baleo, I had seen it all, and then some more.
Deza. That’s where we are going to play.
The secret to playing soccer in Deza was you went early, and you played as hard as you could before the bigger boys came and kicked you out of the field. And they played as hard as they could before the much bigger boys came. When a group older than you showed up, you simply vacated the field.
So of course you go picking each other one by one, and by the time you get there, there’s a crowd of 40 of you.
We get to Deza, but as soon as we get there, an older group of boys appear, and they have uniforms, and soccer boots, and tote bags, so we vacate and have to let them play. They are more important. We play on the sidelines, and then older boys come, so we have to vacate the sidelines too.
Katika pilka pilka za kujipararisha, a creamish pick up appears on that road. It is unusual, because the road we are playing on has a dead end and cars never ever go there. We are pissed off, because now they are taking a much bigger space so we have to squeeze in our slowly dwindling space for play.
6 guys come out of the truck in what looks like Kenya Power uniforms. Overalls. They look shifty – shifty. Hiding their faces from us. Constantly looking down. They size up the crowd and the guys playing soccer, and they take their chances. They put up a wooden ladder and start climbing. Of course that kind of engineering is really exciting to small children. So the whole lot of us comes to see what is actually going on.
One of the guys asks us to step away. We stare at him. He takes a stick, chases us and then when he goes back, we run back. It’s a nice game. We are loving it. He eventually gives up, and they have to mount the thing off with so many guys watching. I approach him;
Me: Niaje buda. Nikikutolea hawa watoi hapa utatuwachia mangapi?
He loves the idea.
He negotiates and we agree that he will buy me and my 5 friends Fanta Madiaba, and half a super loaf each. His only request; At least 100 meters distance. We gave him 1 kilometer.
Man, have you seen where the President is security is super tight? We cordoned off the area. We put up a security radius. We chased kids around. It was a full US President grade cover. We even created our own walkie talkies. Over and out. Looking like we are protecting Obama when he was in town. Tulichapa watoto mangoto na mateke.
Soon, they remove the whole thing, and put it up on the pick up after about three to four hours. Then it was time to get paid. The guy calls us to go to the Kiosk. We get there and then he tells us to order what we wanted. We ask the old man selling at the shop to give the six of us half a litre Fanta and half a loaf each. We sit down. Sasa ni kujibonda. Tukajibonda. Tukajibonda.
Si you know how cold Fanta donjos with fresh bread?
The kids we were chasing around see us eating and were too jealous. They were like 6 Judases. We didn’t care. Kidogo the pick up is reversing and then moves forward slowly. ‘I am like, ALA?’ I rush to the road to remind them that they have not paid for the soda and bread.
HIM: Tunarudi tu saa hii. In fact, just order another set, we are just going to the office in Madiwa, we are coming back with a new transformer.
ME: Ah. Ok. Hiyo ni sawa. Na wewe utakunywa soda gani?
HIM: Ata sisi Fanta na Mkate.
I turned back to the shop, and order a new set for the six of us, and some for the Kenya Power guys.
One hour goes by. Two hours go by. The shopkeeper is asking for the money but we are telling him to calm his grey hairs down.
ME: Si ukuwe mpole Gukaa. Doo zako zinaletwa.
So it’s three hours. You need to be home by 2:00pm, because my mother. And the thugs are not coming back. So we decide we are going to run away in 7 different directions. So we count. One. Two. Three.
But we all scatter in one direction. Our way home. As we are running away, we see another Kenya Power pick up in the area. We go to them and ask them when the other guys are coming?
THEM: Which other guys?
ME: The guys who took the transformer and are going to replace it.
THEM: Ai. Ebu show us where.
Because I am super confident, I accompany these real Kenya Power guys and show them where the transformer was.
THEY ARE SHOCKED!!!
They make calls off a sort-of-phone in their cars, and the guys on the other line know nothing. They say, I should go with them, to report because the transformer has been stolen. They will bring me back up. At that point I remembered my mum warned me about talking to strangers, getting in strangers’ car, and drinking sodas and eating loaves bought for me by strangers. Mimi nani? They zuba kidogo and I am King Eliud Kipchoge.
Please remember, a transformer is stolen, and that means the whole of California Estate is in a blackout. Secondly, I am Witness 001. An accomplice. Aiding, and abetting. And thirdly, I owe the shopkeeper near the mosque, 18 half-litre sodas and six loaves of bread.
I run for dear life and enter a crowd that’s coming from the Madrasa classes and I potea in between. The guys gave chase but gave up. I go home, change my clothes and even apply on some Vaseline. Everything looks calm. I even go back to Calif in the afternoon. I check out the shopkeeper and he is ok. Not moved. The empty soda bottles are still on the counter. Nobody is bothering me. I go back home.
My mom comes home in the evening. She is carrying 18 empty half-litre sodas bottles and bread paper bags. She is singing so loudly and passionately. The song is Sura Mbaya Remmy Ongala’s Kifo Haina Huruma.
I just saw the bottles and died.