The 1500 PK makes AG a convict
Yesterday I got this special craving for a PK and since in the supermarket I hadn’t seen anything particularly tantalizing, I decide to shop at the Odeon stage before hopping into a mat. Little did I know that this would cost me 1500, lots of credit, dignity and my entire day!
I proceed to the stand where I usually buy (ok, mistake # 1). As I muse over the displayed variety of sweets, a huge man grabs at my right hand. The simple looking hawker does not seem moved or alarmed or about to help or warn me. I let out a frail scream as I try to run away- mistake #2. On taking one (false) step, another huge, muscular guy with a tough face holds my left hand. Now I’m a bit in mid air, trying to scream, shout, and ask what’s up- mistake #3 (You know the rule, what you say can and will be used against you…” But no, don’t be deceived, no one says such things in Kenya when they arrest you. At least they did not tell me that.)
Then it dawns on me that maybe I shouldn’t be shopping there. I tell them I didn’t know that. Deaf ears. “Kwani you’re not supposed to sell here?” Gosh. Eh, leave me alone.
Come, let’s go to the car. By now we’ve crossed the road, or better still, they’ve crossed me the road. “Twende kwa gari.” Er, I’m thinking it’s a proper navy blue car for the plains clothes policemen. What! A small face-me you-look-familiar I’ve-seen-you-somewhere van. “Ingia.” Where? It’s full, no space. And if you don’t enter, you’re “helped” in. So I enter, turn, face the door, together with the other 7 or so standing/bending passengers. I hold on to the window grill for dear life as some lady cop orders us to “chunga” wallet. What? That now? I have flu, so I reach out for my tissues. Chunga bag! She gives me a head-to-toe assessment, I’m sure she’s raising my bribe amount in her mind.
Nchi ya kitu kidogo….
One man expresses a desire to get out and is harshly rebuffed. The cop looks away, the man slides a 500 shilling note into her hand, and then she shoves him out for ‘disturbance.’ I get a chance to sit, finally. More people hold on to the window grill, and I wish for some fresh air. Shall I spray my perfume? The van goes round enough times for everyone to get out, ahem, buy their way out. I fight the temptation hard; this is when I have to stand as a Christian of integrity. But what kind of Christian gets caught?
A few more do that, and get out. My hawker guy goes scotch free. Gosh! How I wish I could get out too. Now I’m getting late for my 7 o’clock work appointment. What were you caught for? A PK? Wow. I was going into a hotel, I was caught. Her purple lipstick, overly done eyebrows, manner of talking makes me think she looks like a ‘toot. It’s confirmed when she points at her companion. “Kwani hata masaa ya @#$* (excuse me, I have every intention of keeping my job) imekatazwa?” They feel they have every right for that. People talk bad.
We get to the all dreaded City Hall and as our names are registered, I wonder if to use my real name. No way! So I give one name. Now understand this, my full name ordinarily brings controversy, not to mention that it’s hard to pronounce. Too much hassle. I secretly hope they’ll hear my last name badly and write it wrongly. The last thing I want is a record of me in these places.
Then we are called to line number 2. I talk with James, a young man who’s curly hair and fair skin clearly tells he’s from the northern part of Kenya, but he has given a fully Kamba name. I ask if he gave his real name. He says yes, why not. I chuckle inside. Yeah right, James Mutinda Musyoka*! We’re taken to court, called out, and led to the front of the courtroom…did I say front? Those stairs lead to quite some dingy cells in the basement!
The men are taken to one place, more like huddled and forced in. I am the only lady. So I am taken to my own cell. I decide to ask the cop what’s going to happen. Surprisingly, he’s kind to me, and explains very well. That’s when it hits me that this is nasty. I huff and snuff, then compose myself. I had earlier sent a flimsy message to the office, “Caught up in town, I don’t know when I’ll be through here then I’ll come.” Lol. I ‘d thought by 9 I’d be out, go to the office, and let the day go on as usual, without anyone knowing what had happened. Hehehe.
So I text my family and office with the most accurate news possible. I try to keep it simple. I’m not sure they can contain their concern. This flow of love and prayer would keep me texted and called all day. What concern! Rupert (my hubby), his dad, his mum, his sister, my mum, my boss, my colleagues, and my friend who would end up bailing me out. My baby sister sends the funniest text messages, and I decide to play along. No need to dampen her evidently humorously happy day. And no responding to work or other messages. That can be done later.
The writing on the wall
I read the walls, hee, the stuff written there, I cannot write here and hope to keep my job (or church membership). I don’t want to stand next to a wall. I can’t lean. So I clutch at my handbag, and begin to imagine Paul and Silas rejoicing in such a place. The huge, moist crack on the floor gets my attention. That’s where that hockey player developed his skills in his mind and emerged a hero. John Bunyan penned Pilgrim’s Progress in such a place. Nelson Mandela believed in his cause in such a terrible place. And this is where people grow mad or wise reflecting on their lives. So I decide I’m going to think good thoughts, invest in my life, and not worry. Now I’m getting lonely. If there was company at least I’d have an idea of what really happens in here.
I decide it’s better to read, but I’m frightened by the thought ‘cause I don’t want to be harassed for it. I don’t want to double or triple my bail.. I wonder if the men will break out from their cell and come do the unthinkable. And the cops? Gosh, the stories I’ve heard. What if they bring equally weird lady-jailees? Smile. I decided to anyway read, after all, it’s my time I’m wasting or investing. I’m glad I’m reading because it talks about Eph. 2:8, how God has saved us through grace. Gosh, God must have shown to us so much grace, to deserve such harsh punishment (ok, much worse) but instead he offers us love. And then He gives us salvation from hell – much worse cells with no ventilation and full of darkness, fire and great stench. I am grateful for salvation.
Fire in the basement
Then a large crowd is brought in. I understand they had spent the night in a cell at Kamukunji. Reveling stories are told. The food at Kamukunji is awful, and gives stomach-aches. It is served by equally dirty people. The tea and ugali are half cooked. Some chose not to eat, including the girl now borrowing my phone to call her friend so she can hopefully bail her out. Her friend happens to be in jail on account of her mother, who stole in her name and used her daughter’s ID card. Others borrow my phone, I’m cautious. I beep for them, text, receive calls, and clean my phone every now and then. Some are anxious, desperately hoping for their calls and smses to be responded to, for some hope of being bailed out. They don’t want to go to Lang’ata Women’s Prison. It’s dreadful. Some don’t care.
Then there’s fire in the basement, and the men in their cell are screaming. The girls in my cell begin to scream. Some cop comes to the window and talks down on us telling us it’s going to be ok and so not to worry. Then she comes to the door and does the same. The girls scream. Now this is could be our last day, and in a cell………….!
Poor homeless girl
Then we’re called to court. We wait for like forever for the judge to come. There are all sorts of characters and stories. I just listen. The girl next to me is hungry for not eating for 2 days. She has no parents, is 19 and got a B- in KCSE about a year ago. She spots a tardy Mohawk and is dozing on me. I want to believe her but I can’t be so sure. She tells me stories of the other ‘inmates,’ warning me not to share my stuff with certain characters. Now in retrospect I wonder how she knew so much if this was only her first arrest, as she says. But to give her the benefit of the doubt, I decide that since she’s been in the cells for two days, she must have learnt quite a lot.
More fake names
Then I meet Jane Wangui Kamau*, a pretty young girl apparently caught for “ukahaba.” But she says she was just going home. I can’t tell whether it’s true or not, you just listen to sympathize, empathize, out of curiosity, and most of all to occupy your time. Now every name here with an asterisk signifies a fake name given to the policemen. But I won’t use those ones, in case they get wind of this and follow those up!
Apparently, only we on a certain side of the court had been ‘caught’, and the rest were lawyers, guides a lady who says she was caught after escorting her brother. She might as well have been really escorting. Wrong. Just about everyone has been ‘caught.’ The judge is tough, procedures long and tedious. And I decide against some legal actions I wanted to take.
As this Miss Lady calls out, she giggles when the judge looks away, smiling at colleagues, like it’s no grave session. She seems to be the only one enjoying this session. The lady on the right hand side of the judge, seated facing us, is another story all together. She sneers and chews both lazily and “attitudiously.”She flashes her red painted nails and gold jewelry. Black eye shadow, black eye pencil, black lip liner, I wonder if she has some unresolved childhood vengeance problems she needs to resolve as she rolls her eyes yet again. Our eyes almost meet, but I decide not to indulge myself lest I’m kicked out for “contempt of madam.”
Honor the judge
I notice that people are making a little bow as they enter and leave the courtroom. I’m pressed, and I gotta go. Have been is more like it. I wonder if I should go and make the little bow too. Must I? Then I realize that I might well be airlifted again if I don’t. Yep. Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess…
God must be a much “terribler” judge ‘cause not everyone was bowing in this courtroom. When it comes to Him everyone has to. Then I think that perhaps I shouldn’t bow. I should make a little court’sy. I’m a girl, right? And I learnt that a long ways ago, in nurs’ry school judge, perhaps you’d let me court’sy for you? I’m a girl, pretty please with a cherry on it? I can do it real well, see….I picture in my mind.
Then I decide against it as the long court session is almost over, save for a guy who asks for 5 minutes and the judge takes his word literally. He’s so frazzled. His advocate comes in…..and my mind drifts.
The girl on my right leans on me in a rather jerky manner. She’s hungry, sleepy and has a headache now. She tells me bits and pieces of her story.
Then we begin to be called out. So and so “for walking in town with an intention to ‘toot; for selling without a permit; for shouting and making noise about goods you want to sell without a permit; for littering; for buying from a hawker…. “
Now if you look at who’s being accused of the first offence, you wonder what they were selling. Dirty, disheveled, unruly hair, worn out nail lacquer (cutex), and the shoes are not even dainty! They are dingy! Wh…wh…whaat! The clothes are not particularly attractive either. Well, perhaps “beauty” is indeed in the eyes of the beholder.
“…1500 per offence, you 2000, you 4500, you community service for two days.” “James” leans over and asks me whether I’d be able to do community service. I remember my “Comm. Service” days in high school and decide I can hack it. But when I think of being away from my daughter, I hope it’s not what I’m given. Then my name is called out, and a fine is read. 1500. Fyux!
I wish I’d bought my PK
Back to the cell. We are now more than before, and based on the hunger, thirst and general lock-up discomforts, PK’s would have been a treat for the atmosphere. The girls are not sorry, and continue with the same bravado they had shown to the judge. They tell tales of how they’ll get their way out by dancing with the cops. They have such strong conviction about what they do. Is mine strong enough to counter theirs? A girl comes almost crying from the facilities. She says the sulphuric acid gests into the eyes in a nasty way. I hope I’m going to be bailed out soon. I walk around. I gotta go.
Funny waiting for bail…
My boss and my other friend tell me to invest for the kingdom of God as I wait for bail, and show the devil that “he a liar, hallaluja!” Ok, that’s not exactly what they say, but you get it, I know. I decide I’m not Paul the evangelist, I’m me, and I’m doing a one-on-one love – listening, helping with calls and smses, telling them Jesus loves them, one at a time. Wishing they’d know Christ. Wondering what the parent-forsaken girl would do if released, and thinking that she’s better off in jail than out roaming the streets with ‘toot friends. Gosh, how can I help? But I can’t bail her out. And I can’t ask my peeps to. It’s been tasking enough for me.
Rupert’s dad calls me and laughs. I ask him whether he’s laughing at me, he says no, then laughs again. And that is what Martin does when we meet, and what GS does when he calls me Ex-Convict for a PK. And my mother in love tells me that she, too, laughed after the initial shock of the news, and so did Rupert’s sister. When my hubby finds me at home having taken 10 showers (only necessary), his first reaction is to laugh. “No, sikuchekelei. Nairobi huwa hivyo, unaona,”Rupert’s dad explains, amidst even greater laughter. The cop comes in and I have to hang up.
My name is called out. Then Colleta, who’s been waiting since before 1pm to bail me out, meets me at the court door, holds my hand, rubs my back; even takes me to buy lunch and waits till I have safely boarded a matatu to go and thank my savior of the day, Martin. Freedom at last!