MAN IN THE HOOD: Things I learnt at the estate ‘base’ - Daily Nation

MAN IN THE HOOD: What I learnt while hanging out at the estate ‘base’

Wednesday March 13 2019

There is a common base in my hood that I’ve always avoided. But yesterday, I found myself there.

There is a common base in my hood that I’ve always avoided. But yesterday, I found myself there. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH 

By PHILIP ETEMESI
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The base – it is a designated area in the hood where a group of men sit just to pass time. While there, they talk about things, a lot of things.

To outsiders, these men are idle, lackadaisical, work-shy humans. They are the bad company we have always been warned about by every well-meaning elder.

But the base-frequenters themselves don’t see it this way. They believe they are having a really good time, living la vida loca (the good life). And it’s hard to convince them otherwise.

Women hate the base because of the ogling that emanates from it. I can understand. Imagine a collection of pupils, irises and corneas all trained on your body every time you pass. It must be really uncomfortable.

Whenever a woman strides near the base, she is normally subjected to acute scrutiny. The men stare at her like she is a UFO (Unidentified Flying Object), descending at a steady velocity of 40 km/h from the skies. They discuss her like she is a trending topic. Sometimes they even direct misogynistic remarks towards her.

For focused men, the base is no place to be. It’s usually seen as a contaminated hang-out spot that is only cherished by losers. Men who want the best for themselves never sit at the base. Some never even walk near it because they have inbuilt intellectual GPS systems. They’d rather take an alternative route to wherever they are going than pass near the ‘high traffic’ road that passes near the base.

DIFFERENT PERSONALITIES

There is a common base in my hood. I’ve always avoided it but yesterday, I found myself there. It was not by choice. I was rushing home after purchasing my daily dose of avocado when I was summoned by one of the base fellas.

Buda!… Kuja tu dakika moja (Hi, please come),” he roared.

I wasn’t happy. My displeasure didn’t come from the fact I was being forced to join them. My issue was that I really wanted to get home, and quickly, so I could eat the avocado.

Remember when I wrote an article about avocados? Well, right now I can even write a whole book because my love for them has grown to inordinate levels. I adhere to a ‘1 x 3’ dosage while taking avocados. It’s like they are antibiotics. Whenever I get my salary, the first item on the monthly budget is the avocado.

Anyway, the guy that had summoned me was someone I had bumped into a couple of times before. He always said ‘hello’ so I felt it would be discourteous not to go.

It turned out he just wanted me to show him how to operate a certain app on his phone. Good to know that I look nerdy enough to be asked for technological assistance by strangers.

As I helped him out, I got to hear the conversations of the men at the base.  I must say, they were interesting. They actually delved into addictive topics. This made me understand why some men keep going back to these spots again and again.

The guy that had summoned me was being referred to as ‘Nebu’. Strange name! When I asked what the full version of that unique name was, I was told it was Nebuchadnezzar. Apparently, this was a nickname given to him because of the way he chewed mogoka like a real herbivorous creature. He chewed it with much psyche, the way the biblical Nebuchadnezzar chewed grass after being punished by God.

There was Ras too. He was a proper Rastafarian. He provided entertainment to the rest of the group by playing old school Reggae jams on his phone. His dreadlocks were long, hard and dusty. Even Delilah would have required a power saw to cut them.

Ras spent most of his time tutoring the others about the mighty Haile Selassie. He also criticised the government a lot by bringing up very factual points. I bet he would make a good activist. However, he bore no dreams of being a Boniface Mwangi or Okiya Omtatah. He preferred to keep his activism by the base.

Timo seemed the most delusional. “Mimi naamini nitaokota one million siku moja na life yangu itabadalika (I believe that one day I will get Sh1 million and my life will change),” he said at some point. The others burst into laughter but Timo was serious. He told his buddies to just keep laughing but when it finally happens, they shouldn’t come near him. 

Then there was Mo, the conspiracy theorist. Every five minutes, he would come up with the most outrageous theory. Mo claimed that the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 that recently crashed had a hidden story. He said it was shot down by a US military jet because it was carrying a rogue NSA agent who was going to sell sensitive information to a Chinese diplomat in Kenya. Madness!

In fact, Rasta was so angered by this sociopathic fantasy that he slapped Mo hard on the back of his neck. Apparently, Rasta is always sensitive about Ethiopia because that’s the land of Haile Selassie.

WHAT I LEARNT

A guy called Shaq was present too. He seemed bitter with everything and everyone. He defended himself for being jobless, saying that his friends only had good jobs because they were sycophants who worshipped their bosses. And whenever he saw a female driver in a car, he argued that the car had been bought by a sponsor.

Dan was the joker of the group. He would make people laugh every time he opened his mouth. I asked him if he had tried auditioning for Churchill Show or just doing comedy vlogs on social media. He said those things don’t pay well. He was waiting for something that pays well. He wasn’t ready to start small.

Lastly, there was Jeremiah. He appeared depressed. I talked to him briefly and he told me that he had qualified for an environmental course in campus but his father insisted that he wanted him to be an engineer. So his dad enrolled him to a Civil Engineering course via a parallel programme. However, when he was in third year, his dad could no longer afford to pay the fees. He had to drop out.

“Why couldn’t he just let me do my environmental course?” he lamented.

Jeremiah was only at the base because that’s where he found solace. It was the only place that gave him a little happiness.

Eventually, I got up and left them. In that brief moment, I had learned a lot about the base.

Some are there voluntarily. Some are there out of ignorance. Some are there because this tough life has put them there.

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