How uncle Habakkuk is keeping up with pandemic

Monday, March 30th, 2020 00:00 | By
My increasingly popular uncle, Habakkuk Wachira Mugua Hari (literally he who falls where things are) is a troubled soul, what with the coronavirus issues unfolding every day.

My increasingly popular uncle, Habakkuk Wachira Mugua Hari (literally he who falls where things are) is a troubled soul, what with the coronavirus issues unfolding every day.

Just two days ago, he called me, sounding like a hen that is just about to lay eggs, asking if he could come to Nairobi.

Concerned about his increasingly controversial but dramatic life, I asked what the matter was, to be met by the terse response that things were elephant.

In my mother tongue, when an adult tells you things are elephant, it means there is trouble, and it is not about to go away.

Habakkuk said he wanted to come to Nairobi to be tested for coronavirus, as he believed things got done not just fast in Nairobi but with little or no fuss.

And he would hear nothing of being tested in Nyeri, where he believed things were slow and most doctors are “little more than youths” who could not be entrusted with his advanced age.

“The last time I entrusted my life to a young doctor, I was in school and the chap gave me Aspro. Later this was changed to aspirin. I decided to buy Kapchus (capsules as they were referred to back then),” he explained.

Long story short, I told my fussy uncle he could arrange to drive his rickety pick-up truck (I didn’t use those words!) to the city as soon as he was ready.

His trip to the city was without drama, as he told me, until he was stopped in Thika at a roadblock yesterday.

Apparently, his pick-up was smoking a little more than the cops liked and he was asked for his driver’s licence. His wife of 40 years, Nereah, stared blankly at the (young, again!) cops as one of them stretched his hand inside the car.

Habakkuk could not trace the well-worn document, first issued to him somewhere around 1964, a fact of which he is fiercely proud and does not hesitate to tell anyone who cares to listen.

After fumbling for a few minutes, and as the cops got increasingly impatient, Habakkuk decided to step out of the car to extend the search.

It was then that things got thick, quite literally.

He was stuck between the driver’s seat and the steering wheel but edged out of the car somewhat, heaving with the effort.

The awestruck police officers looked at each other, then at him, then stepped back. Habakkuk resembled an eskimo. He was dressed in two sweaters and three jackets. He had worn three pairs of trousers but this was his little secret. As he reached into the bowels of these many clothes to locate his licence, a thin film of sweat broke out and one cop asked if he was okay.

“I am alright young man. I was just being careful about Nairobi’s treacherous weather and I am not taking chances,” he said.

 Finally, he located the document in the inside pocket of a jacket worn inside of another. Of course the cops could not be seen from 10 metres away, thanks to the plumes of smoke the car was belching into the overcast skies.

So, 40 minutes later, Habakkuk arrived at my maskan looking like an astronaut.

I asked in bewilderment what was happening and that was when he let me in on his little secret. He has seen cops batter hapless fellows out of their wits just for violating curfew hours.

“My son, I am not as foolish as you think. Suppose my car broke down on the way and the curfew hour found me on the road? I take precautions!” he exclaimed proudly.

Not even his wife knew why her husband had put on enough clothes to last a week if they were worn separately. She laughed in tears.

He excused himself and went to shed off some of the excess clothing, and emerged looking not just leaner but obviously pleased and victorious.

“Just a moment,” he said and went to the pick-up. He returned with a crash helmet, which he was to put on in case the car broke down and the curfew found him on the way.

“By the way, do the cops keep the social distance yule mtu wa Corona amekuwa akisema?”

Mtu wa Corona turned out to be Bwana Mutahi Kagwe, as Habakkuk explained. “And are their rungus sanitised ama wanakaa kienyeji tu?”

I replied that I reckoned most cops just heard of sanitiser a fortnight ago.

As we speak, Habakkuk is still around, waiting to be tested.

Have a suspicion-free week, folks!  – The writer is Special Projects Editor, People Daily

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