MAN IN THE HOOD: When a cobbler fled with my sneakers

Thursday December 13 2018

Anyway, moving on from the loss of my sneakers wasn’t easy but eventually, the grief subsided and I bought some new sneakers to replace the lost ones. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH

Anyway, moving on from the loss of my sneakers wasn’t easy but eventually, the grief subsided and I bought some new sneakers to replace the lost ones. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 

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This past weekend, 21-year-old American rapper Desiigner (not sure why he decided to put a double ‘I’ in his name) got a churlish shock as he was performing in Nairobi. He forgot that this is Africa and not Atlanta, so he attempted to crowd-surf through the human sea of his fans.

Instead of getting the mad love he envisaged, a quick thief pulled out his sneakers. Another thief almost made away with his costly wristwatch too, prompting the ‘Panda” hit-maker to stop the performance and pour out his lamentations.


 “This is not cool at all ya’ll, I came all the way from America to sing for you and someone out here is trying to take what he didn’t work for. That is not how we do things,” he said.

He then had to ‘panda’ back to the stage while barefoot to continue rapping “Panda……Panda…..Panda”.

In as much as that incident was hilarious, it reminded of my own experience last year. A fundi wa viatu in my hood decided to flee with two pairs of my sneakers. I was as traumatised as a foodie whose smoothie had spilled on the floor. I couldn’t believe it. They were cool Jordans and even fake Jordans don’t come cheap. Why would someone separate me from my dear Jordans?

I recall that day very well. My cousin had come to visit me. As I was picking the attire to wear in order to escort him, I noticed that minor gaps had formed on the soles of two pairs of my sneakers. As we were leaving, I took them to the fundi wa viatu for repair.


He was a scary and strange-looking man but he was also quite friendly. I had no reason to doubt him. His long hair hung in broad Samsonic dreadlocks about his raddled face. His skin was full of root-like veins and bore the pleats that develop with age.

 He was quite slim but study muscle on his body gave him the appearance of a warrior nevertheless. His oval-like face had multiple scars and on his sharp nose, there was a bandage. His eyes were as brown as the rivers of Africa and they seemed to study me with conniving calculation.

“Mtu wangu, umepotea sana,” he greeted me.

Me? I had never even sought his services before. This was the first time. I don’t know how he came to the conclusion that nimepotea sana.

“Niko tu. Mashughuli ndio mingi,” I responded as I played along to his conversation. I could see him almost salivating as he stared at my sneakers.

“Hizi si ni kama zile kina Lebron James huvaa?” he asked.

“Ndio hizo sasa,” I responded with a nod.

“Ulibuy pesa ngapi?” he kept the questions coming.

When I told him the price, he was really impressed. Little did I know that all his questions were meant to fatten me up for slaughter. He told me to come and pick the shoes in the evening at around 6 pm.


When I went back, he was nowhere to be seen. I asked a woman who was selling smokies nearby whether she had seen him and she said he just packed his things in a sack and left. Maybe he had a personal emergency so he had to close early? I consoled myself and went back home.

I came back the next day but he still wasn’t there. I kept coming back or the rest of the week but he never showed up. That’s when it hit me that the fundi had actually fled with my shoes. I was devastated. I swore if I ever met him, I would crush his rough head with my bare hands.

This fundi had now made it to my FBI, most wanted list. FBI in my world stands for ‘Foolish Backward People’. Like I mentioned in one of my previous stories, I always keep lists of various kinds of people in my life. I have a list of my favorite people, annoying people, good but unreliable people etc.


Anyone who makes it to my FBI list is usually a really despicable human. To put into perspective, another person on my FBI list is a pretty girl called Desma. She once told me to send her fare so that she would come over but when I did, she switched off her phone and eventually blocked me. Most guys can relate.

I’ve never repeated that rookie mistake again. Today, if Beyonce or Bernice Burgos requested for fare to come, I wouldn’t send it.

Anyway, moving on from the loss of my sneakers wasn’t easy but eventually, the grief subsided and I bought some new sneakers to replace the lost ones.

Three months later, the most unexpected thing happened. I went to see a friend in a neighbouring estate. Before I got to his place, I decided to pass by a phone accessories shop to buy a charger.


There were a lot of people waiting to be attended to so I waited behind them. Behind the counter, I saw a dreadlocked man who appeared familiar. I looked closely and guess who it was? It was the fundi that had fled with my shoes. He was selling phone accessories now. He had rebranded himself with a complete career change.

I stared at him in disbelief for a few minutes, my body filling with rage. I thought about confronting him but I felt that it wouldn’t be a good idea to do it alone, since he might deny. I figured that the best option was to go and come back with backup, specifically my cousin because he was more no-nonsense than me and he had seen the fundi too.  

As I was leaving, our eyes met. He stared at me as if trying to figure out where he had seen me before but I just looked away and quickly walked out. Immediately, I called my cousin and asked him to come over the next day so that we could raid the phone accessories shop.

The next morning, he showed up early then we made our way to the neighbouring estate. We approached the place stealthily, so that we wouldn’t raise any suspicion. However, upon arriving, the door was locked. He was not there.

I went into a clothes shop just next to it and asked the woman there whether she had seen him.

“Huyo ameenda. Naskia alihamisha vitu zake usiku. Amekaa hapa tu siku mbili na hata hakuambia landlord ati anaenda. Landlord ameteta sana leo asubuhi,” she said.

And that was it. The guy had fled again. My heart sunk. It was now clear that he was an expert fugitive. I just gave up and went back home.

One of you is probably donning my sneakers right now. You might have bought them without knowing they were stolen property. It’s okay. Just take good care of them.

In the words of Desiigner, “This is not cool at all ya’ll. Someone out here is trying to take what he didn’t work for. That is not how we do things.”


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