Late in the evening.I don`t know whether the sun was setting, you can`t see the sun from this place.Its dark, dark as the story of the country we live in.The nearbly nairobi river swoshes away in silence, troubled with sewage and murk. Silence, again.
When you meet my guy, a mechanic in one of those dinky streets between shops on Kirinyaga Road, you might take a step back for a moment.
He`s not anything big to feast your eyes on. He doesn`t have muscles that tweak at every one step as you would expect of a Luo man. His shoulders are hunched, most of the time, possibly from the weight of insults that runs amok in this side of the town. His lips are red, like he woke up and smeared a respectable amount of his girlfriends`s lip bum in the morning. But is not the red that you admire, not the red that makes you feel like going home for a kiss, no. It is the red of wild mapera found in Koru, botched red. Like wine with breadcrumbs in a clear glass. Red painted by months of drinking Gibson Gisore`s `Cheap liquor`
`I have a degree, in Mechanical Engineering.`
For a moment I am taken aback, shocked with the cold cadence he says this statement, as if in distaste. He spits the name `Mechanical engineering` out with a little pain, the pain of one who spent years hunched over books at UON,only to come out and realize the magnitude of reality. He feels like It`s wasted time, the five years.
” I came out with big dreams, but they were crushed. I have no uncle somewhere high in an office, and no one takes your papers if your `uncle` is not there to push it through, or your pockets are not deep enough to oil the hinges of job givers.And if they do, they file them together with the others, where they will gain dust like accolades of failure.”
His English is oiled, smooth. It comes out through the scarred lips like bottled water, like Musa Amoke when he is not amok. They call him `professor` down here. He knows every edge of the car like a wife knows her husband`s vests.But it didn`t get him through the countless job interviews he has been to, or the number of times he has had to borrow a tie from one of his many friends,to walk into the big offices up the town where you can see the sun settle into its sleep. Even with a nice degree, the clients can only call him the despicable `Mekanika.`
He tells me of his neighbor, an architecture graduate who sells smokies in Town.I will check that one soon. I almost cried, but I never really cry when I am seeking stories.
We talked long, but in every other few minutes when we would crack a joke over the cup of tea whose preparation I had reservations about, he would say `Cha muhimu ni uhai.` His loss of hope with life was almost palpable. It hurt, it seared my heart to some level of tears. It burned like cheap alcohol down the river had burned his lips.
He made me question the value of schooling, once again.
Last week I shared my sympathy with the dreams of those who were graduating. This time I think I will send my condolences to those who have no big `uncles` swinging their armchairs in any office. Unless God works his wonders, you are in the same murk with my guy.
See, employment for the youth has been a campaign issue for as long as I have been alive. It is almost synonymous with the WiFi in the hostels that my campus chairperson promised akina Sheila Kimeu and Jepkorir Joan Sang. It is the joker in the game, the one that tricks you into believing you will win, but you never do so.
Whenever you wake up anywhere in this country, young men and women with degrees, torn shoes and all are trying to make ends meet. Their leaders promised them jobs, but the jobs were like money from AIM Global, they never came. Today we happen to be commemorating a year since WE brought the government back, with a promise of 100,000 jobs for the young men of this country. But continuously the story has changed. Since they are not into pleasing you anymore, they are telling you to `Employ yourselves` and `make employment for others.` The rationale is bad, the logic stinks. We have all played into the hand of Charles Dickens`s `The In Between Country.`
My guy calls all of us students Schlemiels, a clever euphemism for stupid. I had to google that word immediately after our conversation, when the cups of tea we were talking over had run out, and the `Mathe` was throwing us glances of hatred. I almost wanted to ask her where she reached in her education. But my guys boss called, he fished into pockets and removed a well worn phone, one who`s screen had been shattered into a cobweb of lines, as if a representation of the kind of zigzags one has to go through to get work in this country. Work was calling.
This is one of those stories that should never be completed. They should be left in the drift of our drafts of thoughts, wafting away and back so that we remember the truth. We are all blind, those who have seen a little light are our guides, and they are keen to lead us into the dungeons again. We are Joseph Conrad`s characters in Heart of Darkness, or the prisoners in Plato`s famous allegory of the cave.
One day I will wake up, and walk the street of Nairobi talking to the hawkers. I know each of them has a story to tell, how jobs are scarce like good, well maintained kanjo cars. All of us can`t wait to be pushed to the brink of life, to reach my Proverbial Nairobi ya maisha.
That`s why when men of honor like Kelvin Keter decide to take us back to the farms, I will role up my sleeves for the job, because there is no other job. Unlike Nairobi, I know home is not shamba la mawe.
Let not our futile dreams urinate on the reality of life in Kenya