Please observe the image above. Look at it keenly and wonder, where did Kenya Bus go? Pause for a second and think of the changes that have gone through the transport sector in a decade. Remember the days when PSVs resembled the accentuated waist of a bumble bee, the yellow stripe and all… Then think through the debate concerning graffiti in the matatus. Let this cause you to think about our relationship. Yours and mine. Ours. Hopefully, this will lead you and me, both, into an epiphany.
All personal relationships are morally governed. In other words, before you decide that someone is worth trusting, you have seen their moral conduct and you approve. People trust those who have given their word and kept it. This is why proverbs like ‘Never trust a politician’ are endorsed. We watch them give us promises while they ask for our votes and then we watch them break every one of them once we have given that vote. I know people who have seen this for so long it stopped breaking their hearts, now, it is just another necessary evil, like corruption, like those touts who won’t stop touching every lady who passes by in the name of doing their jobs.
And what is the deal with them anyway? They must imagine that we wake up, perform our morning routines and get out of the house without knowing exactly where we are going. Then we reach the stage and look to the loudest, roughest looking tout to tell us where we want to go. They say that we want to go to Railways, Nairobi. Because we love physical touch so much, we stand there and wait for them to assault our hands, backs and chests. When we ask them to let us be, we do not mean it, we are just being coy, you know, playing hard to get, when really what we want, is to be touched more, by strangers, by other touts with sweaty palms who think that Kiserian is a better place to go to.
And you know what our favorite part is, finally choosing the quietest moving disco of the available insane choices, getting into the vehicle only to be met by a sneer from the woman seated at the front as though to ask ‘ulikuwa unaringa nini, si umeingia‘, or the man in a loud suit who you seat next to and he feels the need to touch your thighs because the touts did not do such a good job. As though his suit is not offence enough! Besides, a girl like you, deserves so much more.
I have been through so many of these incidences, I have watched friends not know how to react when in the face of such harassment, I have been with young men who just walked ahead and did nothing even though they saw this happening, I have watched other ladies laugh at this when it happens to them as though they enjoy. Maybe they do. I have struck conversations with some of you and it breaks my heart that you seem to think that all this is normal. And I think, that is the most dangerous opinion to hold. Well, second to those of you who have nothing to say.
I am writing to you, the young man who looks on to the lady you walked to the stage being thus manhandled with indifference because they are just a girl you were with in a meeting, and you have no responsibility to her. What if that were your sister? What if that were your wife? I am writing to the woman or young lady who sneers at the lady that won’t let her dignity be stripped away. What would you have them do? Say thank you? Is that what you do when the tables are turned? I am writing to the people without an opinion on this, I know we cannot expect you to have an opinion on all things, but please, if you will not be bothered enough to want to form your own on this, feel free to adopt mine. And if I am being honest, I am writing to touts out there, maybe one of you stumbles upon this blog, and you share with your friends. Please tell them to STOP!!!
I am writing to a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a child, a Kenyan. I am also writing to myself. Every time we let someone get away with it, we covertly endorse it. So next time you see your girlfriend flinch because you held her hand and it reminded her of how those touts manhandled her, maybe it will spur you to action. Maybe when your sister feels insecure when she sees a group of men in broad daylight and you want to tell her to ‘man up’ you will wonder whether it is a ripple effect. Maybe when you are tempted to drop your sweaty claws on the thighs of the unsuspecting stranger seated next to you, you will remember this article and burn with shame. Or maybe not.
Whatever the case dear sir/madam, please remember that society comprises of you too, and the ripple effects of your choices will trickle down to the cave that you choose to bury your head in. It will flood, and you will be flushed out. Hopefully, it will not be too late. Hopefully, we will not be suffocating in moral decadence.