A few days ago, I was on my way to town seated in a two-seater in the matatu with no other passenger beside me.
No problem there.
We get to the Nairobi school stage on Waiyaki way, and more passengers board the bus.
No problem there either
One person sits beside me and adjusts themselves on the seat, a common action in the matatu especially by those who sit on the aisle seat. I barely lift my head to glimpse at who sits next to me because on the book at hand -Half of a Yellow Sun- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is giving a description of Eberechi’s perfectly rounded buttocks according to Ugwu. Before I soak in on how the buttocks rolled rhythmically, the lady who I now notice is she that is sited next to me nudges at my side to get my attention.
“Why are you carrying an old lady’s bag?” she asks
It’s then I notice we are carrying similar bags. She also has salt-and-pepper hair, so naturally, my tongue holds back just as I am about to voice buttocks and verbatim draw her a picture of why she should mind her own business.
Instead, I smile and blabber shyly how the bag has enough space for my books ensuring they do not get tattered edges.
Just as I am about to get back to the buttocks, she says “I forgive you.”
Surely, even the ancestors agree to this I should give a response, right? Wrong.
I let my eyes do the talking because, in instances where my mouth fails me, my eyes communicate more effectively. The lady notices this and before I get to ask why she continues, “Because you are reading a book and I also love reading”.
I continue smiling.
In the ten mins, before she waves bye to me and alights at the Chiromo stage, the lady was judge and jury to my choice of bag, and me as a person I would think and my best response was a smile.
Which got me thinking, I presume the reason why there are so many young people behind bars is not whether they committed a crime or not but on their encounter with old judges handling their trial.
Hear me out.
From a young age, It’s instilled in us that we should not speak back to old people. We hold further to a high reverence those old citizens that stare hard at you with spectacles hanging at the tip of their nose. Which means when you encounter such a judge, your goose is practically cooked. You can barely return the stare nor can you give any coherent answer which could as well be an explicit admission of guilt.
To the people of Bata Kenya, kindly label for us what bags belong to what age groups, to avoid similar or more embarrassing instances. Can you imagine what having to disrupt an engrossing description of buttocks to get accused of carrying the wrong bag (by an old lady for that matter) does to you?