MAN IN THE HOOD: Why I'll never ride on a boda-boda again

Wednesday November 28 2018

This wasn’t the first time I had fallen off a nduthi. It has happened several times.

This wasn’t the first time I had fallen off a nduthi. It has happened several times. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH 

PHILIP ETEMESI
By PHILIP ETEMESI
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I am a simple, laid-back human so I really don’t understand why drama keeps tracking me everywhere I go.

I always try to avoid trouble as much as possible but it seems trouble has a major crush on me. Trouble keeps following me the way four-day-old ducklings follow their mummy duck.

Maybe God has put it this way so that I’ll keep having lots of stories to write. I don’t know. In the words of Khaligraph from the song “Ngori”: “My life is like a movie, wacha niwapatie chronicles.”

I’ve decided to never ride on a nduthi again. I’ll tell you why. Let me start from the beginning.

On Sunday evening, I was busy listening to Wu Tang Clan when I got a call from my buddy Nick. I ignored it. Even my parents and siblings know not to disturb me during my Wu Tang time. Anyone who tries to interrupt my Wu Tang time gets Wu Tang ignored.

He kept calling and I figured he might be in big trouble. Maybe it was another love triangle. He has always found himself in a couple of those.

DISTRAUGHT

Nick is one of those guys that you don’t introduce your girlfriend to. He is an expert at successfully pulling off coup-d’etats, if you know what I mean. Maybe he should consider being a guerrilla in African countries with dictators, such as Burundi and Cameroon, so that he can put his skills to better use.

Anyway, I finally picked up the phone after his fourth attempt at calling. He didn’t even say much. He just asked if I could pass by his house immediately. He sounded distraught.

I left and made my way to his flat, which was some kilometres away. When I arrived, his place was a mess. There were broken things all over the floor. I wondered what had transpired. To my surprise, he was also crying. I had really never seen a grown man cry anywhere other than at a funeral. When I asked him what was wrong, he narrated a rather interesting story.

Nick is a photographer. He has no official studio so he converted his sitting room into one. He takes pictures of girls only (I don’t understand his gender bias.). Nevertheless, he is good at his job. As a result, he usually has a never-ending string of photo-hungry Instagram addicts knocking at his door.

So, he said he was taking pictures of a specific girl that evening when a man claiming to be her boyfriend stormed into his house. Someone had given him a tip. The man thought Nick was doing some fishy business with his girlfriend and the fact that he found her doing the photo shoot in a bikini seemed like damning evidence. Mr Angry Boyfriend went on to break everything in a fit of rage. He broke Nick’s photography equipment and the laptop as well. The expensive cameras and the stands were all on the floor.

Nick’s face was swollen too. Apparently, he had tried fighting off the jealous boyfriend but he was given a heavy punch above his right eye that almost knocked him out. He immediately reconsidered his decision to engage in all-out warfare and just pleaded with the guy to leave.

I now understood why he was crying. He had been put through all this anguish yet he was innocent. I felt sad for him. It took me more than an hour to console him. I advised him that the best course of action was to report the matter to the police. I then left and pledged to check on him again the next day.

Little did I know that the craziest part of my evening was yet to come.

BODA-BODA RIDE

Since I was rather jaded and wanted to get home quickly, I approached a couple of nduthi guys that were waiting for customers. I picked the swaggiest motorcycle and sat on it. I hadn’t even settled when the boda-boda rider rode off at full speed like he was in a Grand Prix competition. I almost fell back.

A few metres away, two police officers who were standing outside their vehicle waved at him to stop. He did. I had heard that there was an ongoing crackdown on boda-bodas that weren’t complying with the law but I was yet to experience it first-hand. This motorcycle appeared to be in perfect condition so I figured the police will let us go in no time.

Mbona pikipiki haina side mirror moja? (Why is the motorcycle missing one side mirror?)” one asked.

The fella didn’t answer. He just gave the police officer a cold, one-minute stare and to everyone’s surprise, he took off. Yes, he just sped off. Madness!

Unfortunately for us, the police officers were in the mood for a good chase too so they quickly got into their vehicle and began pursuing.

I had never been that petrified in my life. What if they thought we were criminals? I now had an idea of how the likes of John Kiriamiti used to feel when they were being chased by police officers. I begged the fella to just stop but he ignored me. Instead, he increased the speed. Worse still, he took a different route and not the one to my house. I contemplated jumping off the boda-boda but I figured I might injure myself badly.

Whenever he would squeeze between two vehicles to overtake them, my heart would stop. The ventricles and atriums would pause. I prayed in repeat. I said everything, from the Apostle’s Creed to the Lord’s Prayer. I just wanted to get out of that scenario in one piece.

POLICE CHASE

I have to give him credit though for the way he navigated the alleys of the estate. He was an aficionado.

In the movie Mission Impossible: Fallout there is a scene where Tom Cruise is chased by police officers in the streets of Paris while riding a motorcycle. Critics have called it one of the best ever motorcycle chase scenes in movies. That’s exactly how this felt. I bet if someone was filming, a Hollywood director would buy the footage and use it in his project.

On a good day, this nduthi guy might have skedaddled to freedom but the driver of that police vehicle was Lewis Hamilton on the wheels. In layman’s terms, he was with us bumper to bumper.

In a classic hunter versus prey pursuit, the more pressure the hunter puts on the prey, the more likely the prey is to make a mistake. That’s what happened. The nduthi guy decided to squeeze the bike in an alley between two buildings but he hit a wall and we both tumbled to the ground. My arm was bruised but luckily it wasn’t such a terrible injury. This wasn’t the first time I had fallen off a nduthi. It has happened several times; and I had now had enough.

The policemen expeditiously jumped out of their government automobile and asked us to remain still. They yanked off the rider’s helmet, grabbed him by the collar in typical law enforcement fashion and took him to their car.

I was afraid they would arrest me too. I pleaded with them in a million sentences, explaining that I was just a passenger who had been caught up in an unfortunate mess. Luckily, they were the understanding type.

One of them quickly frisked me to confirm that I was no kiriminoo. After a brief tête-à-tête amongst themselves, they let me go.

Uko na bahati sana wewe kichana. Siku ingine angalia kama piki piki iko na kila kitu kwanza kabla upande. Ama tutakukamata. Sawa? (You are very lucky. Next time, ensure the boda-boda is in proper working condition before taking one, or we will arrest you too.)”

Sawa Afande!” I responded obediently like a primary school pupil answering the headmaster.

I was a long way away from home but I decided I was going to trek anyway. There was no way I was going to hop on another boda-boda. In fact, there is no way I am taking a nduthi ever again. Wacha ikae!

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