Matatu Ride Turns Dramatic: Matatu Culture

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matatu in kenya
Source: MatwanaCulture

It’s one of those days you get a call at 3.00AM and receive it with bated breath. Your little brother in college is sick and has been throwing up the whole night. Like the first born you are, you ask all the reasonable questions.

Could it be something he ate? Where is the pain exactly? (so you can gauge what the problem could be with your little google knowledge). You then advise him to take warm water and try to sleep you will take him to see a doctor the next day. The matatu saga happened to me on that day.

I woke up, texted my boss that I had a family emergency and would be coming late then rushed to the stage and catch a Matatu to meet my brothers at a hospital we had agreed.

Ever noticed how the universe conspires against you when you’re in a hurry. All matatus that stopped were full. I decided to board one after the conductor promised me there’s someone alighting the next stage a few metres away. Against my better judgement, I boarded and shared his seat with him, something I always swore never to do.

matatu on kenyan roads
Image: Kenya Car Bazaar

The Journey

All this discomfort and I’d still have to pay the same amount as the person seated in their own seat, comfortably. Alas, we passed the said stage but no one alighted. I looked at the conductor but he quickly opened his window and hung half his body outside to avoid my questions. I was cursing my unlucky situation, not knowing it was about to get worse.

A few kilometres into the drive, the conductor’s head finds its way back into the matatu:

Conductor: “madam inama! Karau… Tuko excess.”
Me: Gives him a look implying I would not do what he had just asked.

Conductor (Now angry and agitated): “aargh madam si uiname…tutashikwa, na sio mimi tu, pia wewe utashikwa,”

I panicked but my head refused to go low. Me, to crouch in that tiny space? No. My pride didn’t allow me to.

Before we knew it the cop had stopped the car. He went to the driver’s side first, as usual, checked insurance, then came to the conductor’s side and asked him to open the door. The conductor was reluctant.

matatu in kenya
Image: Kenya Car Bazaar

Conductor: “Afande kuna shida?”
Cop: “Wewe fungua mlango”

The Drama

The conductor then grabbed the door handle in a bid to open the door and even before it was completely open, a lady seated beside me grabbed my head and lay it on her shoulder. I was shocked by this unexpected turn of events. “Wewe lala hapo tu,” she whispered patting my head. Next thing I heard was…

Cop: “Mbona umebeba excess? Madam, mbona unakubali kubebwa excess?”

Before the conductor and I could even think of a remotely favourable reply, the woman with my head on her shoulder interjected; “Aki huyu ni mtoto wangu na ni mgonjwa. Nampeleka hospitali.”

I could not believe my ears, though I remained still.

Cop: “Anaitwa nani?” Hoping the lady would starter but she seemed to have thought her little ruse through and without batting an eyelid she replied; “Njeri”

Remember, I’m still lying on her shoulder quietly. I still wonder why I stayed quiet to this day, it’s so unlike me.

The cop immediately asked me to alight and sternly said;
“Nipe majina tatu yenye iko kwa kitambulisho.”

I had heard enough cop stories to know they do not like smart mouths and that you stand a better chance by being humble and truthful where you can. So, my three names stumbled out of my mouth like a choir verse.

I had to explain what I was doing in an already full matatu. I told him I was rushing to the hospital because my brother was unwell.

“Ni wewe mgonjwa ama ukona mgonjwa hospitalini?” he asked, sizing me up.

I affirmed the latter and went on to add, “ukweli ni sijui huyo mama na sijui mbona alifanya hivo.” This whole time the lady who had decided that her deed would save the day was silent.

The cop then looked at her and said “mama wewe ni mzee sana kudanganyana hivi”

She still remained silent. The cop surprisingly told me to get back into the matatu. We drove off in awkward silence.

Then out of nowhere, the lady shouts. “Nilikua tu najaribu kusaidia” and I Just stared at her in disbelief.

The Happy Ending

This frustrating drama got me thinking, if I had a car I’d not go through all this drama. This ordeal made me think hard about getting financing and importing one through Timam Cars.

Drama aside, I got to the hospital on time and my brother was attended to, and yes he is very well.

Feel free to share some of your most memorable or dramatic matatu ride on the comment section.

Annah Kalahi
Content Creator at Cheki Kenya.