“I wake up at 7 a.m hoping that I will get some work” Njoroge says. Ever since the elections, things have been unpredictable. “My son passed his exams, I don’t know how I’ll raise school fees. I already work hard. I don’t know how much harder I have to work” he says. If we went by the old maxim “Hard work pays” then Njoroge would definitely be a millionaire living in a mansion with no worries about money.
“I am stressed. I don’t feel like I am a man anymore. I can’t provide and I feel like I have failed my family. I had big dreams growing up, but now those dreams are a distant memory”. His eyes tell a story on someone who has given up. Someone who is hoping that somehow, someone will save him. His coping mechanism to deal with all the pain and the burdens of reality is cheap liquor.
“For an hour or two, I can forget what a shithole I am in. The feeling is great”. Njoroge is broke but also one sickness away from being detained in the hospital. “If I fall sick today, I don’t know what I will do. It’s a miracle that I am alive”
Across the street in the suburbs is Jim. A senior executive with an investment firm. “My dad made sure that I attended the best schools. He was buddies with the former president… here are some pics” He smiles as he gladly shares them. Throughout his school days he was referred to as ‘Mtoto wa nanii’. “I never asked to be born in to this family to be honest, this last name is powerful”
He never had to work hard for someone who seemed entitled to having it all “I deserve this good stuff he says”. Jim shares a habit with Njoroge. His is just more expensive. “Sometimes I feel like I’m living my dad’s dreams. I really wanted to be a pilot growing up. I hate myself for pursuing this career but its too late to change” he says as he sips his whiskey. “This is Bourbon…. It means that it came from America. The finest of them all”. Whiskey seems to fuel his activities “I find that I’m more confident when I have had a few shots in the morning and after lunch. It also helps me sleep at night”
Jim is one major disease from wiping away his life savings. The only thing that separates him from Njoroge is the little finances which he could easily lose. They both choose to escape from reality and need some empathy. They have both become slaves of circumstance.
Both represent the crisis of manhood. The need to measure up to certain ideals. The inability to say “I am partly responsible for my fate as a Nairobian”
There is nothing wrong with Jim or Njoroge, the only problem is with how we choose to judge them. We have made it unacceptable for them to admit “Hey, I don’t know what I am doing. I am lost”. Maybe its time we accepted that everyone we see in the streets is lost in their own way and its okay.