By S N
Our caretaker recently resigned, or got himself sacked. It is not clear.
A middle-aged Kamba man, he was not without his flaws. He talked too much for a man, and was too gossipy, and I’m not sure how he knew about everyone in the plot, and not sure what he used to tell people about me.
His small room at the ground floor, was rather dirty, rank with cigarette odour, made the worse by the poor ventilation.
Ironically, he cleaned our apartment, making it easily the cleanest in our estate.
Whatever his shortcomings were, his zeal, optimism and diligence for work was unmatched. He had worked as a caretaker or our apartment for nearly nine years. He has been a sole fixture in the neighbourhood for the five or so years I have been staying there.
He loved life. Despite his age, he woke everyday by 6, and by 7 a.m, he would be cleaning the windows on my floors and by 9 a.m, he would have mopped clean the whole apartment, and will sit on the parking lot fixing his bicycle. He was always fixing his bicycle. While fixing the bicycle, he would be playing some late 1990s
When you run into him, if you are the impatient type, he will frustrate you. Because, man, he talks.
Judging by his demeanor, he was probably a high school dropout. But he was full of wisdom. Any time we talked, he always dispensed that manly wisdom that comes with age. That comes from having been there, done that, got the medal.
He went about his duty with a zealous affection. Once done, in the evening, he would stroll into the nearby slum, drink some cheap liquor, then buy food to come and cook on his stove. Often I met his from his escapades in the slums and we would walk back home and talking to him was a revelation.
After the Maraga ruling he started calling me Maraga, on account of Maraga being a Kisii.
“Maraga, unafaa kuja tutembee kijiji, ukutane na mandugu zako, hata tukunywe chang’aa.”
It was a genuine a plea. He knows the fake lives we live in these apartments and the sense of community in slums makes more sense to him. I have lived here for five years but I don’t even know my neighbours. It is a fake life.
Some time in March, his wife was sick and admitted into some facility in Eastern Kenya. It really hit him harder and he kinda lost it a bit. It really stressed. He used to ask every tenant to donate something for him, and he spent most of his time in the village.
Not sure that is why he wanted a pay rise. If he was working for me and he wanted a pay rise that got him sacked when he insisted that they should pay more than the Sh 10,000 he has been pocketing for the last nine years he has been working here.
When I recently bumped into him and he narrated his ordeal, it got me thinking. Here was a man, so dedicated to his job and for seven years he has never had a salary increment. He has a family, his children are now in high school. The wife is sick and he can’t even afford to keep her at the hospital. Our apartment rakes about Sh 600,000 monthly, could adding him some Sh 3-4K really hurt the landlord?
Now, he is gone. He gave his best, but to the capitalist owner, it wasn’t good enough.
And such is life. We gave our best where we work. Sometimes we get too dedicated to the job assuming that we own a stake in the firm. But when the time to kick you out comes, it happens so mercilessly, you wonder why you used to wake up at 5 and work your ass so hard.
As we grow older we learn it is never personal, but business. The day I met the caretaker, he was resigned to fate, but his eyes told a story. The betrayal sucked. If he could cry, he would. May be he was regretting. He used to make some extra buck, washing cars of tenants and carpets. Maybe he was regretting about the opportunities but he seem to have accepted the fate.
Life is all about accepting our situation. From there it becomes to deal with it.