One normal Monday morning I settled down to write my column. My work day started early at 6.30am and I wrote until 10am before I decided to take a break from my desk. To stretch my legs, I went off to buy the day’s newspaper at the corner kiosk about 500 metres away.
On my way out, I noticed a young woman hurriedly walking in the opposite direction. She had a baby strapped on her back and wrapped in a lesso. She must have been running late for something. I did not stay long at the kiosk. When I returned down the same path, I noticed the woman I had passed 10 minutes earlier lying face flat on the dusty foot path across the road, motionless.
Was she dead? Had she been lying down for 10 minutes on a busy road, without a single person stopping to check for life? Didn’t anyone notice the baby? Was this normal?
I hurriedly crossed over for a closer examination. Her baby was still strapped to her back and alive. I felt for the mother’s pulse and she was breathing. The priority was to unstrap her child, just lying peacefully, with her head turned to one side as though consoling her mother. Her mothers’ body had cushioned her fall. Had she fallen awkwardly, the baby would probably have not survived the fall.
Two administration police men ( APs) and another two security guards who guarded the German embassy who had been watching the events curiously from down the road joined me.
We released the little girl, all of about 2 years as the band of good Samaritans turned the mother to her side, so that she would not choke. She started coughing which was good sign but she was still not fully conscious. The little one remained totally oblivious of the ongoings and we were glad for it.
A few drivers slowed down, lowered their windows, appeared mildly concerned and then drove on. I held the little girl in my arms and started to swing her around to distract her as the two APs struggled to revive her mother.
The little one was in a state of innocent bliss and became preoccupied in getting hold of the guard’s baton. Her mother would need urgent medical treatment. Another good Samaritan, a woman wearing glasses joined us and relieved me of the baby girl as a taxi driver offered the use of his car. We asked around for the nearest medical facility to take her to.
One of the guards quickly suggested that most sensible option was to take the woman to the resident doctor in the nearby German embassy. Everyone agreed and the woman who fainted, with three volunteers were bundled into the car to the adjacent German embassy in search of a doctor. The APs and Security guards followed in tow.
I was denied entry at the gate because of security protocols. A few hours later, I inquired about her condition and the watchman reported that the lady survived and was taken to hospital. He suspected it was exhaustion from dehydration. Or something like that. She had not drank any water. Did she have name? He did not ask.
I wondered what would have happened to her child if her mother had not fallen so close to the German embassy with manned personnel. Would she have gotten the intervention in time?
Normal is a word we use to cushion against trauma that we experience frequently.
When I told my friend about the incident, he remarked, “She was very lucky you guys were around. You did not behave like a normal Kenyan who would have walked or driven past. You cannot trust anyone these days, even when they look dead”.
These are normal times we live in.
Normal is that familiar, controlled environment of steady living with tolerable disruption or discomfort. Kenyans would say, “shida za kawaida”, the same old problems. A morning commute to work that leaves one idling away for an hour to cover a distance of 5 kms becomes a normal frustration.
It is normal because everyone endures it and they seem helpless to do anything about it. It is acceptable to act like total moron behind the wheel. That is normal too.
An uber driver once told me that is because of radicalisation. Every driver starts out driving in Nairobi with good intentions but after a few new near misses with matatus and recurring obtuse behaviour displayed by some drivers on road, you realise that they are no prizes given for courtesy and a little aggression is what gets you moving in this city.
Normal is a word we use to cushion against trauma that we experience frequently. A normal robbery is getting held at gunpoint, losing your valuables but not your life.
Anything that makes one feel defeated must be tempered with normalcy. Hunger for the marginalised in Kenya is a normal occurrence. Student burning dormotories is normal. Land grabbing of public land. Very normal. Electrical power blackouts are normal. Water shortages are normal. Potholes on the roads are normal.
Corruption is normal. Those in power who steal for themselves are acting normally. Election violence has become a normal thing. Political expediency is normal. A politician can say anything on a campaign trail and renege on every promise afterwards because it normal to lie to get votes.
Normal has become what we see most of the time. We have stopped challenging the norm and accept suffering as the status quo.
We seem to have arrived at that unconscious state of existence as a country where we can’t seem to tell that what we call normal, isn’t normal at all.