Last Friday I called on my brother at DTB (Diamond Trust Bank) Center on Mombasa road. I had gone there specifically to remind him to sweet talk his bosses to get me a job — as a country we’re at a place where you have to beg people to get you Industrial Attachment, let alone a job — and also he wanted me to meet Jimmy, a guy I last saw years ago when I was just a kid. The last time I heard of him, he was studying in Russia but now he’s working there at DTB.
The moment I stepped over the desk at the entrance, the female guard started smiling at me. I quizzically checked myself just in case I had my shirt inside out, or had alighted from the matatu with some lice. God forbid!
“Here to see your brother, right?” She asked, still smiling.
“Yea, how did you know?
I already knew how she knew but asked nevertheless, pretending to look astonished. And I had become quite a frequent visitor at the place that most of his colleagues knew who I was — an ever smiling guy makes lots of friends.
“I noticed you look exactly like him, and smile just like him.” She replied.
That’s the problem with looking like carbon copies of each other. You might be killed for someone else’s mistake. Thank God we have very few trouble makers among my brothers.
Anyway, after jotting down my details, she gave me the red and white ID card with a blue strip that identified me as a visitor which I quickly tucked in my pocket and took the elevator up to the fifth floor in the company of some bald-headed Somali man in a creamy kanzu with a pair of sandals. Being a Friday, he was obviously coming from the mosque. We just nodded at each other and nothing more. We were just two total strangers confined in a small space for a moment. I noticed we were both headed for the same floor.
My brother spotted me immediately I stepped out of the elevator, followed by my elevator-mate. It was during lunch break and he was standing in the company of some other people; mostly black guys, two Indian men and one white guy staring through the window, and they were discussing the coming weekend football matches. He supports Manchester City, and they hardly agreed with Manchester United fans (me included) — he had introduced me to almost all of his Manchester United fanatics friends at the place.
“Wewe Oria! Unafanya nini na ndugu yangu?” My brother shouted in swahili, obviously at the Somali guy covering my rear.
“What?! Sikujuwa ni ndugu yako walai bilai!” The guy cried back, swearing in defense.
My brother laughed and after greeting both of us, did a quick introduction and it was then that I realized we were not quite strangers, I had met the man before. It was during the last maize scandal in the country when maize floor was scarce and people physically fought for a packet. My sister’s shop in Pipeline had no unga, not even a single packet since most wholesalers were hoarding the precious commodity at the time. And as it happened, the Oria guy have a store somewhere in South B and fortunately had a stock of maize floor.
When my brother got wind of it, he quickly alerted my sister who immediately made an order and by next day evening, a pickup full of bundles of flour pulled by the shop. The driver, the man who came into the shop led by my brother, was the same man I was in the elevator with.
After Oria had left, I went ahead and greeted some of the guys that were there. Got introduced to many more, including that pretty Indian lady in a short miniskirt that exposed a pair of creepy tattoos — looked like a crocodile, then like dragon when looked at from another angle — on both her legs and a pair of stilettos that looked like was made from snake hide. The first thing you notice about her, even before the other distinctive features, is those tattoos.
Later on as I chatted with my brother about our family while we watched a family of zebras, giraffes, antelopes grazing down there in the Nairobi National Park, some few metres from the fence (the DTB Center borders the Park), I decided to tell him about my business idea. Of course it was after I had handed him a cold drink I had picked him in a store across the road at the Airtel Plaza. I hate visiting people empty handed. Mama taught me that, and the habit has stuck. She also taught me to always remember to carry at least two handkerchiefs with me; one for myself, and an extra one for a lady in distress. And never take it back.
My brother was interested, wanted to know what I had in mind. Told him of my grand plan to set up some sort of boutique here in Nairobi, just in case I fail to a secure a job. He stared at me for a moment and then asked me just like a dad would.
“What do you want in life little brother?”
“All I want is a place I can sit and write all day with minimal interruption.” I said lightly. He laughed before continuing.
“You are talking about your blog, that place you keep telling strangers about our family. Of course I read your posts, or have you forgotten I subscribed!”
I felt a little ashamed of myself. Feeling like a thief who has been nabbed at long last, or a cheating partner caught in the act. So he had been reading my twisted poems too! In other circumstances I would have felt jubilant but not when it was about our family. Maybe I should try some moderation in the future.
“Actually it’s nice stuff, maybe you are a writer after all. Keep writing, you might become as famous as Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who knows!” Said my brother.
I felt relieved, felt like hugging him but I hold my ground. Hugging has never been part of us and we are okay that way. At that moment he took his phone to call who he said was Jimmy, the childhood guy I told you about at the beginning. He was one of the outsourced IT team working on a project downstairs but their office was in Upper Hill — seems like nowadays almost every important office in Nairobi is based here. Jimmy’s mother worked as a nurse in the same hospital as my step mother.
As we waited for Jimmy to come up, my brother told me about two people: one was this stout short man he had earlier on joked with. Apparently he was one of the senior managers at the bank. He had a very beautiful home worth millions somewhere in Utawala in the outskirts of Nairobi. He had money. The other one was Lord Aga khan, a very wealthy man and the main owner of DTB and main shareholder of the DTB Group.
“You still have all your life ahead of you brother. You can still be either of those two men. You can be the manager, an employee, managing someone else’s business. You get paid and be contented with the salary. Or you can be like the owner of this place, Lord Aga Khan, an entrepreneur. Start a venture and see to it that it grows into a reputable business and then employ others to manage it for you.” He paused.
“As for you, you can start that boutique… I’ve never imagined you as a fashion guy by the way!” He continued looking straight into my eyes like searching for any evidence connecting me to fashion.
“Nowadays people are fashion conscious, big brother, and I’m already working on a business plan. After I finish up with the details, I will bring you a copy.” I said.
“And I can get my computer and write from there as I serve customers.” I continued ecstatically.
It was part of the bigger scheme to squeeze some start-up capital out of him. I knew my savings alone wouldn’t be enough and I doubt any bank will lend me money. He said it was okay. And I felt good. My main mission, forget the job reminder, had been accomplished.
“You don’t have to wait until you fail to get a job so as to start a business. The earlier you start the better.” He added.
It was a nice place to end the matter. I was now looking forward to meeting Jimmy. In the meantime I busied myself with watching game, hoping I would see a lion.