I was listening to my taxi driver narrate the heartbreaking story of the woman whose car sunk in the Indian Ocean with her child on board and nothing was immediately done to save their lives. This incident had triggered the driver, who for the purposes of this piece we shall call Zamba.
When Zamba picked me up he looked unsettled, which is unlike him. After the usual greetings, he asked if I had been following the news.
I told him I was a bit behind and he took a deep sigh. Zamba wanted to hear my thoughts on the regrettable accident that cost a woman and her little child their lives and its representation of Kenyans whose safety needs are not prioritised by the state. He said that watching the captured video of the Likoni incident where the car slowly got into the water before sinking fast reminded him of the many things Kenyans go through in the full gaze of unconcerned folk. One example was his own battle with the inefficiency in the healthcare system.
Zamba lost his mother to cancer three years ago and he says the disease started as a slow sinking and then with uncontrollable haste, consumed what was left of his mother. The heartbreaking symbolism of how Kenyans are literally holding on to life in a country that prefers sending condolences and sympathy messages brought up his past pain. His face changed to gloom and his voice turned low, especially when he went back to this past place in his life. “Kenyans need those in leadership to stop being sorry and start doing what needs to be done when it comes to serving us”, he said.
Zamba remembers his mother’s diagnosis and how strong she was at the time, being the matriarch that she was. She was certain that they were going to beat this disease but as we all know beating cancer is dependent on so many things — one of them being finances, something the family did not have.
His mother kept on telling him, “I will not sink into the helplessness of this disease” and as if the cancer was determined to prove a point, it became more aggressive. This is why the sinking of the vehicle had triggered him because he could see people literally watching the car sink and disappear just the way he watched the mother he knew disappear. He remembers how doctors, relatives, religious people, siblings and even strangers watched as his mother withered away and nothing could be done. They’d run out of money and couldn’t afford treatment.
Kenyans are walking wounded people and this is one example of the many instances where our hidden wounds manifest. The rest of our trip was filled with silence not because there was completely nothing to say but because pain like this doesn’t need continuous dialogue. Zamba, like many Kenyans, is living in a reality of unhealed pain while trying their best to keep their heads above water because, figuratively, drowning in a world of spectators is a mere headline. We need a better Kenya.