I eat in this offbeat place in Westlands sometimes. Its smack in the middle of Safaricom and Lion Place. Young elegant fellows from these big offices come to eat here—exchange banter, ogle a waitress or two and blow off some white collar steam. When you’re approaching it, you might mistake it for a construction site because of the machinery parked outside, but the aroma that burns your nostrils as you near the joint will tell you there’s more to the place than meets the eye.
The place is too involved: it has a car wash, an auto-repair, fruit court, choma zone and an M-Pesa booth. I highly suspect it’s owned by a Kuyo. The startup gabfest probably went something like this:
“Hey, Ndung’u this kasmall plot of ours hapo Lion Place si tupande thara tuweke Ng’ombe za maziwa?”
“Ah, Njoro, si hapo ni Nyairofi, unathani kajo wataitikia?”
“Ah, Ndung’u kwani hujui hii ni sirikali ya kitu kidogo. Ukiwapaka mafuta watawacha ufuge hadi Simba.”
“Eh, ati Simba?”
“Eni. Thiba, Muruthi.”
“Ah, Njoro si ungesema hivo. Si unajua mimi masomo ilinikata. Kiswahili nilichapa D minus.”
“Ho Ho Ho Ho, ama tujenge Nyuba za mafati hapo, kama kifao hivi? Tukichukua rent ya two thousand kwa kila nyuba, kila mwezi, si tutakua Chris Kirufi?”
“Ho Ho Ho. Njoro wewe ulipata C plus. Wewe ndio mwerevu kwetu rakini unafikiria kama Kondoo tu. Nimekwambia hapo ni Nyairofi, yaani taoni. Icio nii business buildings cii hau urenda kurehe gicagi? Thirikari ni ruhi igukuhura wee.”
“Ah Ndung’u, unasema ati sifikirii na wewe hakuna idea umetoa? Ebu toa moja tuskie?”
“Eh Njoro, mimi nikaulizwa naezasema tuuze tukure hio pesa hapo Hotel Nokras, Murang’a na tuteremushe fobe wazee hukubuka lakini juu najua mathe hawezi itikia hio stori naona kakibanda kataweza.”
“Na Kiragu ure cousin yetu, ure aliachia shule standard four, si ni mechanic? Pia yeye murushe kwa hio business pran.”
“Eh, Ndung’u anga ni wiciragia. Lakini umewacha macousin kadhaa: Nyabu, ule mwenye alipata mtoto akiwa form two na pia Kinuthia wa bushari na Ciiru mwenye alifukuzwa college kwa sababu ya kuiba mkate?”
“Ah Njoro, hio ni solution rahisi sana. Nyabu wacha auze tufruits, Kinuthia naye choma zone na Ciiru hapo M-pesa.”
“Eh, Njoro. Ciiru hatuwezi muweka hapo M-pesa for obvious reasons wacha tuwaswitch na Nyabu.”
“Ah, Ndung’u hapo umefikiria kama kuku ishirini. Arufu sisi tukue masupervisor, eh? Tunaingia runch kuonja thufu na kuchukua mbia.”
“Eh. Njoro, hau na ho. Wacha nikimbie niambie mathe si unajua yeye ndio mwenye mbia?”
“Ah, Ndung’u. Kabisa! Kibia, si unajua wewe ndio favourite. Mimi nikienda atanifukuza na mwiko aseme ati nitakunywa ciothe.”
“Ho Ho Ho, rakini si hio ni ukweri tu Njoro.”
“Ho Ho Ho Ho, (Pauses to hold kitambi) Hi Hi Hi Hi.”
And that’s how I find myself seated on one of these avocado green Kenpoly chairs eating choma and Ugali. And I am not eating it in that pretentious way foodies do. The way they take a bite, close their eyes and freeze for a moment as if they have been electrocuted. As if letting all the calories in the food hit every inch of their body down to the small toes on their feet. The way they move their jaws gingerly as if trying to feel if their palate can locate a taste of their grandmother’s exotic sauce. No, I’m doing it the old fashioned way: Pinching a portion of ugali, dipping it in soup, taking a bit of sukuma and finishing off with nyama.
I love how they serve their food. Whenever I eat here, which is often, I usually order Matumbo ugali or choma ugali and they usually bring it in four plates: ugali, Matumbo/choma and two tiny plates one with stew and the other sukuma or cabbage and you feel like a medieval prince dining on all these different plates with all these divergent salmagundi to sample.
I’m eating my food when I notice these two guys whispering to each other like love birds and laughing self-consciously. One is in an orange T-shirt with a rugged beard. He is built like a bull. He looks like a man who lifts pool tables into moving trucks for a living. The other one is clean shaven in a glucose white shirt; adorable even. He looks like the kind of guy who excuses himself in the middle of a heated boardroom meeting where an instant decision is required to go consult his stay-at-home wife. They’re talking and egging each other on then continuing to crane their necks in one particular direction. I look in that direction and I get a picture of their object of desire.
A waitress, bright-eyed and garden-fresh in a blue top, tight faded jeans and black rubber shoes. Ndung’u and Njoro must have crossed counties because this one doesn’t look like a Nyambura or a Wanjiru. This one looks more like an Atieno and she’s built like an hourglass. Her curves dance softly from her delicate shoulders down to her small pointed breasts then a big, round firm ass jumps out into a Mugithi rendition (probably not the most romantic genre to describe a woman) as you go down her wasp waist.
But what interests me is not the woman per se but how the chap in the orange T-shirt is leering at her with no shame and how the clean shaven chap has his hand on his forehead, chagrined, probably thinking his wife will smell the ogling off him when he gets home. The Orange T-shirt chap has his eyes wide open scanning her dirtily like stagnant sewer, peeling off her loincloths with his eyes then leaning on his chair and proceeding to follow her every move with his jaw on the floor. The only thing missing to complete his hyena outfit is drool dripping from the side of his mouth.
“Wachana na Wasichana wa Nairobi, hao wamefinywa na kila mtu. Huyu ndio mambo yote.” He says almost falling off his chair while trying to get a better view. (Nairobi girls, what do most chaps have against you? Are they intimidated by your smoky eyes, short frocks, six inch high heels or the way you kiss a napkin after you apply too much lipstick? Or have you made it your sport to punch their patriarchal egos flat every time they try to get close?)
I give her another glance and wonder how she feels with all those eyes swarming around her, not because of the sauce she serves but because of the sauce she has (Haha). Does she get home and immediately jump in the shower and try to scrub off all those dirty looks from all those men that have been caressing her all day, half of whom she wouldn’t give the time of day? Maybe she’s married because there’s always more to things. A masked part that you only get to see when you get to know a person. Or does she enjoy it, arch her back a little bit more when serving a transgressor? Take her tips with glee and thank her Chi for bringing her to Nyairofi?
I also wonder how much the owner makes out of these chaps who come over, not necessarily because they’re hungry or they want their car fixed but because they want their lust fixed. Those chaps who swing by with braggadocio, dangling Subaru keys because they want to leer and strip search her with their eyes. And in a move to impress they order a deluxe meal and have their cars serviced. I wonder if this is a business strategy. I also wonder where our people draw the line when it comes to making mbeca.
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