By Yunita Cole; Nairobi Kenya

  “Conductor. Mbona umetuletea dereva amelewa?” an authoritative, albeit high pitched voice sought to know why the driver was drunk.

Daniel turned to catch a glimpse of the courageous lady. She appeared to be in her late twenties or early thirties. About his age or younger. Daniel was duly impressed but forgot her almost immediately, eager to pick up from where he had paused reading his novel.

Before he could find the exact paragraph to continue, he heard again, “Conductor, unaninyamazia na dereva amelewa? Ona vile anaendesha.” The young lady was not to be easily ignored. He started getting uncomfortable, wishing the young lady could just keep quiet and let the trip be. After all, aren’t most drivers usually drunk anyway?

But the lady was relentless. “Conductor, si wewe utuendeshe? Unajua kuendesha? Mwenzako amelewa kabisa, atasababisha accident”, she persisted that the conductor take the wheel, now to Daniel’s chagrin.

There was unrest in the matatu as passengers started murmuring to themselves. Daniel couldn’t tell what they were saying, but there seemed to be mixed feelings: There were those who were getting irritated by the complaints like himself, and those who shared the lady’s concern. It was late. He was tired and just wanted to get home. It wasn’t such a long distance, after all. One can always tolerate a little inconvenience.

“Unajuaje amelewa?” One passenger asked Young Lady how she could tell that the driver was drunk.

“Si ninasikia kile anasema!” The driver had been muttering things in his ethnic language and it appeared this lady could understand it. “Hata tu vile anaendesha hebu ona”. She said, pointing out the way the matatu was being driven.

By that time Daniel was wishing that the lady would just drop the case or alight and let them commute in peace. He was concerned that panic would break out in the matatu at that late hour, and there was no telling what could happen as a result.

Young lady, I admire your courage but please just shut up! What if you’re wrong? Thought  Daniel. She kept talking until a few passengers seemed to have been won over, and they too started asking. At some point, the matatu seemed to sway from side to side.

“Conductor!” She went again, even more assertive. The tout started to collect fares. As Daniel reached into his wallet, he realised to his horror that he was ten shillings short of the fare. Young Lady went again. “Conductor! Kama hutuletei dereva mwingine mimi nashuka.” The lady wanted to alight. Daniel was relieved. “Pesa buda”, the tout asked him for fare.

Wewe conductor hebu shukisha saa hii!”, a male passenger commanded, arising from his seat, “Huyu mama anakuongelesha unamsnob!”

Hata mimi nashuka”, piped another. And then another. And another. Finally, the driver had to stop. All passengers alighted and Daniel hadn’t even paid fare!

The next matatu he got into charged them exactly the amount he had in his wallet! It was an encounter that left an indelible mark in his memory.

@ Yunita Cole


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