Ours is a country of great paradoxes…
- June 07, 2018
MY teacher said a paradox is a contradiction. I don’t question the wisdom of tutors. Neither should you. So yes, ours is a country of great paradoxes.
Let’s step a measly few months into the past. The calendar reads February of 2018 and the sun had been baking the region with unbridled impunity. The resultant effect was a terrible drought, one of the worst to hit these sides of the equator.
The relentless sun had left a trail of starving, dying and dead on its wake. It was now doing celebratory dirges around carcasses, empty farms, and hungry populations, as ill-prepared governments scrambled to salvage whatever little they could.
Now picture Lentilalu. At 11, he should have been in a classroom getting the fabled ignorance evicted from his young head. Instead, he stood surrounded by a restless flock. Both boy and animals were wondrously thirsty. The ruthlessness in the sun’s shine had ensured that.
Yet, they were standing in the middle of the mighty Ewaso Nyiro. Trouble is, Ewaso was mighty no more. In fact, Ewaso was no more.
But Lentilalu would dig in the sandy riverbed. He would hit the much-sought wetness when the hole was as deep as he is tall. The liquid would lap at his soles with alien coolness as slowly, the water collected into a muddy pool around his feet. He would greedily scoop some of the brown liquid into his avid mouth and tell himself the animals can wait, as he spit out the debris filtered by his lips. Lentilalu is Kenyan.
Yet 300 kilometres away, another Kenyan lives inside an imposing wall in Nairobi’s Muthaiga estate. On the manicured lawn, 14 expertly spaced sprinklers dutifully rain on grass, flowers and worms of the privileged. They had been doing the rhythmic circulation for two hours, dumping hundreds of litres of purified, medicated water on the grass.
Not that the plants are great fans of this sort of pampering. Nope! And that’s because used this way, the chlorine in the water becomes a mass murderer, not a trained assassin. It doesn’t distinguish between the waterborne germs it is created to pacify, and essential microbes in the soil. It kills all!
And that’s not all. Because the reservoirs in Ndakaini were dangerously low in volume thanks to the unusually prolonged drought, many parts of the city were going thirsty for days. Others have never known piped water.
That’s how come a Kenyan woman, nursing another nearly Kenyan in her belly, was filling a mtungi with whatever broth was flowing through Mathare River, just three kilometres from the pampered lawn.
Yes, some plants get water meant for humans, water that could harm them, while some humans are forced to drink nuclear waste. Ours is indeed a country of great contrasts.
Now let’s step forward into the future. The rains we so terribly missed and prayed for have since arrived. You would probably assume that after such a terrible spell of thirst, we would be ready to harness any drop that falls out of the confounded skies. Well, you assumed wrong.
We were in even worse s@#t (excuse the language). The rains brought with them more destruction, death, tears. And we hated them.
We really are a peculiar country, where the rains are terribly loved when they miss –and hopelessly loathed when they show up. And in the city, the hate comes from multiple quarters.
Just watch our girls. Nairobi slay queens will sashay through a cloud of tear gas chatting on multiple WhatsApp groups, totally unfazed, fully in control. But a single drop of wetness from the skies will shatter that coolness like a glass on tile.
If only they aren’t so lazy at their work, leaving the waters idling on our streets and highways instead of leading them into the oceans?
And the men of the city dislike the rains too. It makes them late to the bar and the game. That’s because instead of showing up alone, the rains bring with them colossal traffic jams.
However, the snarl-ups come about because our cars, too, detest the wetness. They hibernate at the worst of junctions whenever it rains, causing the gridlocks. The cars are not entirely to blame, though. It’s just that they can’t swim.
Most fault falls on our drains. If only they aren’t so lazy, leaving the waters idling on the streets and highways instead of leading them into the oceans? But they won’t. Instead, they will be found hosting all manner of litter; from plastic bottles to old garments and human waste.
Even our electricity hates getting wet. It doesn’t matter that most of it is created using the liquid’s brute force. Those waters from the heavens are not tolerated.
So, a great part of the rainy seasons are spent in darkness as our electricity retreats for shelter. Not that the bulbs will be lit all through the sun-shiny season anyway.
Then, the electricity will not be sufficient because, well, the water will be insufficient to make the electricity. It is a queer paradox, the tongue-twisting sort, you must admit.
Not that we are very fond of the sun either. It kills our crops, pastures, dries our rivers and is a massive (in)convenience to politicians, especially if it gives birth to starvations. It also messes our women’s makeup (and therefore mood) when it makes them sweat. And when the girls are unhappy, no man will be.
Yet, as we install power-thirsty AC systems to combat the heat in our poorly designed houses, Germany, a country whose winters get colder than your freezer, is harvesting most of the limited free energy it gets from above. It is the global leader in solar energy.
We will curse disruptive floods as millions of cubic litres of water drain into the sea, then two weeks later, line up with mitungi’s in frantic efforts to acquire the suddenly precious liquid.
Our city of Kisumu is built on the shores of the world’s second largest fresh water lake, Victoria. Yet, it is one of the thirstiest urban areas in the country. We would rather use the lake as a car wash and a dump for toxic wastes. We are indeed a strange people. A people of great contradictions. And we will blame anyone, anything…but ourselves!